Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Dion Skipper - Life butterfly at #119!


Dion Skipper
This morning I went for a bike ride along the Essex Country Greenway bike path. I was hoping to find some sedge patches that might host one of the last species in Southwestern Ontario that I hadn't really seen, photographed or "lifered". Oddly enough, I feel that I've been out on some butterfly counts where "Dion" was mentioned but I didn't really get a chance to observe the field marks or photograph it.  I had seen "several" sedge skippers this morning but none were convincingly "Dion" - the most common Sedge skipper in Essex is probably the Dukes Skipper, which is a little bit of a provincial rarity that is endemic to Essex County.

Dion Skipper's host plant is: Carex lacustris (Lake Sedge)
Mulberry wing Skipper's host plant is: Carex stricta (Tussock Sedge)








Along that greenway I has spotted some other butterflies and moths as well. They include:
Snowberry Clearwing Moth on Catnip
Horace's Duskywing
Red Spotted Purple
Eastern Comma
Monarchs
Giant Swallowtail
Common Buckeye
Duke's Skipper

Some birds included:
Brown Thrashers
Baltimore Orioles
Indigo Buntings
among many other common birds

Later near Oxley, I noticed a Northern Mockingbird on a wire - they are a little more common near Kingsville it seems. Still - a pretty cool bird to spot while driving.

Good birding!








Monday, July 16, 2018

Mulberry wing Skipper - Finally!



Mulberry Wing Skipper - Rondeau Provincial Park  


Well, its only taken about 5 years to find this little guy! Mulberry winged Skippers are one of the last butterfly species in Southwestern Ontario that I have yet to see or photograph. My butterfly list is "fluttering" at 118 species. The only remaining species in Southwestern Ontario that I have yet to photograph is Dion Skipper - which I still might be able to find this year.


It was amazing to finally find this species because I've never seen it before and I heard that is can only be found in large sedge patches in July. It was neat to see this species because I saw so few other butterflies that afternoon (Sat July 14th). When I saw the skipper, it was quite close to the path. I immediately tried to photograph it - but as you might know - its hard to photograph anything in a sedgy area as a camera's autofocus has no idea what to focus on. Through the viewfinder of my SLR camera, I was able to make out the "airplane" markings on the underside of its wings that distinquish it from the other skippers.  The butterfly took flight and briefly landed on a small white flowerhead for just a few seconds and then disappeared from my sight by slowly flying away from me into the sedge patch. The flight style of this species is something to behold in itself as it flies "weakly" above then in between sedges.

While riding my bike to see this butterfly, I noticed a Helliborine Orchid along the path - which is always nice to see. This species is not a native orchid species.

Further reading on these two species:

Mulberry Wing Skipper:
http://www.cbif.gc.ca/eng/species-bank/butterflies-of-canada/mulberry-wing/?id=1370403265698
http://www.ontariobutterflies.ca/families/skippers/mulberry-wing
https://wisconsinbutterflies.org/butterfly/species/148-mulberry-wing
https://www.butterfliesofmassachusetts.net/mulb-wing.htm

Helleborine Orchid:
http://ontariowildflowers.com/main/species.php?id=93

Good Leping!
Dwayne





Monday, July 9, 2018

The Grand Canyon of Essex County - The Cyphersystem Greenway in Amherstburg + Recent butterfly watching efforts




Recently the Essex County Field Naturalists did a walk along this beautiful biking and hiking corridor. It is part of a network of abandoned railways that have been converted into hiking paths. I had seen a recent social media posting about this location so I took my son for a quick bike ride to see it! Just a quick note - a local naturalist who had walked this trail nicknamed this stretch of pathway the "Grand Canyon of Essex County" - but of course, its not a canyon - its a low lying waterway and floodplain with a vantage point perhaps 20m above it (from an old rail corridor).

This photo does not quite do the scene justice. But - does it ever?


Some birds seen and heard during this walk were:

  • Red Headed Woodpeckers
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Indigo Buntings
  • Northern Rough winged Swallows
  • Caronlina Wren
  • House Wren
  • Baltimore Oriole





I also did a walk with a few Butterfly Naturalists on Saturday July 7th. I joined Blake Mann, Paul Desgardins and Jeff Larson who faithfully do this butterfly count every year.

It was a pretty good day at Brunet Park in Lasalle - as we had seen perhaps 60 or so Hairstreak butterflies with the majority of them being Hickory Hairstreaks. Banded Hairstreaks were seen as well .  We had seen Dukes Skippers in pretty good numbers with three seperate sightings.  At one point of our walk - Blake pointed out a birdcall that I was mildly familiar with - the call of a Hooded Warbler! Later on, in a completely seperate part of the park, I heard another one or two more singing! A pretty good bird for Essex County!

Good birding, lepping, and botanizing!

Dwayne















Saturday, June 30, 2018

Heartbreaking Herbivory of an Endangered Species


Two weekends ago - I ventured into a tick-ridden tallgrass prairie habitat that I had previously found three flowers of Fringed Prairie Orchid. Last year, I had found them a little past their ideal flowering stage [click here to see last year's posting], and I made a note of returning this year a little earlier to photograph them in their peak freshness.

So on my first visit, I walked around and only found one Eastern Fringed Prairie Orchid - but it was in a pre-blooming stage (see photo above). The flowers had not emerged.  I figured I would wait about a week and go back. Unfortunately, I went back this week and had a hard time finding the orchid from the previous weekend.  I knew something was wrong when I couldn't "see" the orchid in its expected spot. 

I think this plant might have been victim to herbivory - the act of a plant being eaten by animals. There were deer and racoon tracks around the area. Its disheartening to see herbavory and phragmites infestation take place in this habitat.  Hopefully, this plant gets a better chance next year if its roots stay intact. 







I've included a few other photographs from that habitat which was being taken over by Phragmites. Collicroot and some unidentified sedges and rushes that were noted.

Good botanizing!
-Dwayne








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