Monday, August 10, 2015

Ottawa Area Nature Viewing + Butterfly Scarcity?

I recently visited relatives in both Ottawa and Montreal and tried to fit in some nature viewing opportunities. Some areas that I attempted to see were:
  • Mer Blue Bog
  • Gatineau Park in Quebec
  • Ottawa Airport Grasslands
  • Larose Forest near Limoges ON
  • Burntlands Provincial Reserve (didn't make it)
  • Richmond Fen (didn't make it)

Mer Bleue Bog
I vistied Mer Bleue Bog [link] with high expectations and arrived with perfect, sunny skies, 80 degree temps and no wind. I was thinking I would see some interesting butterflies but I was surprised to not see much birdwise or butterfly wise. I may have seen a small moth and a few dragonflies but hardly a single butterfly, with the exception of a crescent-like species that I had noted in the parking lot.

Gatineau Park in PQ

Gatineau Park [link] is just a few minutes from Ottawa - just across the Ottawa River in Quebec. Wikipedia states that the park is 361.31 km2 (89,280 acres).  I thought this would be an excellent location to see butterflies but I hardly saw a single butterfly, even in weed field patches of forest/roadside habitat --- it was uncanny --- and a online thread has started on the ontario butterflies forum discussing butterfly scarcity [link or see below] from different parts of the province, but particularly in the ottawa area.

Ottawa Airport Grasslands

The airport grasslands, have been reputed as having a great number of sparrows, but by early august, some post breeding dispersal may have been taking place. I saw Grasshopper Sparrows last time I visted the site easily from the side of the road but not this time around.  I did happen to see a few Savanah Sparrows and juvenile Common Yellowthroats. Butterflies were alarmingly absent. But with some searching, I did find a single Monarch and a single Common Ringlet. This monarch might be the only one I've seen in 2015!

No butterflies ???

Larose Forest near Limoges ON
My recent ROM Butterflies of Ontario field guide has 14 excellent butterfly watching areas, and one of their featured locations was Larose Forest near Limoges Ontario [link]. This is a huge forest, and I was only "passing through" on my way from Ottawa to Montreal. I simply drove down a main road (Indian Road) that passes through the center of the forest with my family in tow.... stopping occasionally to see if I could find anything interesting.  I was hoping to get a few Fritillary species, Compton's Tortoiseshell, and maybe a Leonards Skipper. Again, almost a complete shut-out of butteflies. I did get lucky enough to get one lifer species - A Meadow Fritillary. I saw two Milbert's Tortoiseshells and a few GS Fritillaries. I heard a few bird species: Goldfinches, Song Sparrows, Cedar Waxwings, Crows/Ravens, and perhaps a Perched Olive sided Flycatcher... see image below as I may be mistaken.

Milbert's Tortoiseshell - Dorsal and Ventral Composite

Olive sided Flycatcher? Or Eastern Wood Peewee?
Good birding!

PS: Below I've copy/pasted a recent discussion thread from the Ontario butterflies forum. Some very distinguished and experienced lepidoterists are noticing an unusual drop in numbers and diversity. I've copied some of the thread for to highlight the point --- I hope that is not a problem. I've anonymized the email addresses in hopes of not having any "bot" email harvesters from obtaining people's addresses from this blog.


Butterfly scarcity P Hall
Aug 08 01:12PM 
 Hi folks: Like Ross, I have been seeing fewer butterflies than normal for this time of year at many of my usual sites in the Ottawa area. I reviewed my early August records from recent years and in the better locations with a variety of habitats I would expect to see from 10 to 20 species in a half day. This year, the highest number of species I have seen in any spot so far in August is nine and I actually had several hours in a prime location and saw no butterflies. And the numbers of usually common species at this time of year are down - few Clouded Sulphurs, single Monarchs, single Great Spangled Fritillaries, etc. Until the late July heat wave (up to 34 degrees) butterfly numbers for me were more or less average. Later summer butterflies, such as Leonard's Skipper, have also not emerged yet when they are normally out at the beginning of August. Cheers Peter 

Twitcher : Aug 08 08:20PM -0700
 I am out in the Frontenac Axis area daily and have absolutely noted the lack of butterflies to which several have referred to. The diversity and abundance here has been pitiful and of course very few Monarchs as well. Andrew Back to top

Scarcity of Sightings of Butterfly Species In Ontario? David K
Aug 08 05:12AM -0700
 I had a similar experience of walking through excellent butterfly habitat and not seeing as many butterflies as I would’ve expected. I was in the Carden/Kirkfield area last weekend and over the 3 days I saw 20 species across 10 locations. It was hot on Saturday and the fairly windy on Sunday and Monday, and I thought that was contributing to the low counts, but I’m curious to know what others are seeing. Those locations were spread out over approximately 15km so there was a lot of driving and walking to hit that figure. Even then, I only saw single individuals for 10 of the 20 species over the entire weekend (Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Black Swallowtail, White Admiral, Question Mark, Viceroy, Pearl Crescent, Orange Sulphur, Summer Azure, Least Skipper and Columbine Duskywing). At the other end of the spectrum, my only double-digit count was 10 Dun Skippers at Sedge Wren Marsh, the next highest count was 5 (Monarchs and Northern Pearly-Eyes). Monarch numbers continue to be thin, although every one that I saw last week was very fresh. Similar to Ross, I did not see an Eastern Tailed Blue or a Ringlet in areas where I normally see them. On the upside, I did see Aphrodite Frits and American Coppers. David

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