Tuesday 28 July 2015

A Weekend in Algonquin Provincial Park

I spent the last weekend with my wife Caitlyn in Algonquin Park to celebrate our anniversary, and it was a fantastic little visit!  I have shared some photos of our trip below.  It being Caitlyn's first real canoe trip, it was only three days, and we didn't go too far in (just to Little Doe).  Nonetheless, Algonquin Park delivered another stellar performance.

A familiar scene, launching the boat at Canoe Lake
Little Doe Campsite
We were really happy with our campsite selection, particularly after we passed on the site on the point across the lake.  Our first night we were awoken to the sound of shouting and clanging pots, as our neighbors on the point tried to scare off a large Black Bear that was trying to get into their food packs.  This bear had clearly had success in the past getting into campers food.  We talked with the guys the morning after and apparently it had been able to reach their food bag hung 7.5ft off the ground, a reminder to hang your food high in Algonquin!  Needless to say, no one slept well on Little Doe that night!

Our tarp shelter that came in handy during the thunderstorms on Saturday
I was happy to find Caitlyn her first Moose ever, on Blue Jay Lake.  It was a perfect scene, we had the Moose and lake all to ourselves right before the sun was starting to set.  This big bull allowed us to get quite close.  We left after getting great views and the Moose continued to feed on the lily pads and aquatic plants.

We also enjoyed the family of Common Loons out on the lake in front of our campsite.  The two babies followed the parents around squeaking for food most of the day, almost as needy as my parrot!

A friendly Snapping Turtle stopped by our campsite and we got great views from close range for quite a while! He was so close we could hear him snorting as he expelled air out his nostrils!

A wonderful trip to Algonquin, I can't wait to return in a few weeks with my brother and dad!  This time we will be heading far into the park interior.

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Migration is Underway! Stilt Sandpiper

Although we may be currently settling in to the warmth of mid-summer, fall migration has already begun, with many shorebirds on the move!  Today on my way home from a work site I stopped at the West Perth Wetlands, AKA the Mitchell Sewage Lagoons.  I was rewarded with hundreds of migratory shorebirds that have already bred in the boreal forest and the Arctic coastlines and migrated southwards yet again.

West Perth Wetlands
The most common shorebird here were Lesser Yellowlegs.
Lesser Yellowlegs
I also saw some of the small "peeps" including Least Sandpiper and Semi-palmated Sandpiper

The highlight of the visit was undoubtedly this Stilt Sandpiper, the first of the year for me and a nice adult still in breeding plumage.  It is hard to tell from the photo since it was so far away, but I could see the reddish cheek patch in my scope.  The Stilt Sandpiper is the bird on the right.  Note the white eyebrow and curved bill.

Stilt Sandpiper (right) and Lesser Yellowlegs (left)
As much as I do love summer, this gets me excited for fall migration!

Sunday 12 July 2015

Snowy Egret - Hamilton

I was down in Hamilton for work this past week and I decided to try to see if I could find the long staying Snowy Egret that has been hanging out at Windermere Basin for the past month.  I arrived and was told that it had just been visible but may have flown out of sight.  I moved away from the viewing platform to try to see around some of the islands and found it foraging in the shallow waters at the back of Windermere Basin!  I got decent looks through my spotting scope, but unfortunately it was very far to get any good shots.

It was a birdy morning in Hamilton as I also had a male Hooded Warbler singing at a woodlot in Dundas along with Scarlet Tanagers!

Snowy Egret
Snowy Egret

Friday 10 July 2015

Gems of Essex County - Butterflies and Plants

I spent the better part of this week in Essex County, Canada's far south, and was able to track down a few rare species including some that barely make it into Canada!  We visited some sites near Windsor including Ojibway Prairie.

Here are a few of the highlights.

Hickory Hairstreak were found in a few locations, this species is designated as Vulnerable in Ontario.

Hickory Hairstreak
Hickory Hairstreak
Definitely the highlight of the trip was catching this Duke's Skipper! It landed on my leg and I quickly captured it with my net for a closer look before letting it go.  This species is designated as Imperiled within Ontario and occurs from only a handful of sites, so it was needless to say a thrill to find!

Duke's Skipper
Duke's Skipper
We also saw several Silver-spotted Skippers, not rare by any means, but a nice one to see!

Silver-spotted Skipper
Banded Hairstreak were the most common hairstreak species we saw on the trip.

Banded Hairstreak
At Ojibway prairie we came across this Cecropia Moth sitting on the trail! This is our largest moth species and it was nearly as big as my hand!

Cecropia Moth
Cecropia Moth
The prairie plants were also exciting, even for a non-plant guy like me!  My friend Andrew Dean pointed out the significance of each with enthusiasm! 

This was my favourite, Ohio Spiderwort! Apparently outside of Windsor it is nearly unheard of!

Ohio Spiderwort
I never get sick of Butterfly Milkweed either, common as it may be!

Butterfly Milkweed
And although this plant doesn't look like much, it was the rarest of the bunch. This species is called Slender Bush Clover and the tiny clearing where we saw it is the only spot in Canada where it occurs!

Slender Bush Clover

Saturday 4 July 2015

Baltimore Checkerspots!

This week, a friend and I stopped by a spot near Cambridge known to have Baltimore Checkerspot butterflies.  We didn't have to look very long as several were flitting along the stream banks as we arrived!  This species feeds on Turtlehead plant as a caterpillar.  Baltimore Checkerspots are some of our most distinctly patterned butterflies, and I was happy to have brought my camera!

Baltmore Checkerspot

I also saw this small skipper butterfly, called a Little Glassywing!

Below is a photo of the habitat where we found these butterflies, quite a scenic little place.