Monday, September 7, 2015

Biking & Canoeing Pinery Provincial Park

Leonard's Skipper at the Pinery
I took the family out this weekend --- but wanted to go somewhere a little more special ... a little further afield. Last year it was noted that Leonards Skippers were seen at Port Franks at around this time and I had made a mental note of going this year. Yes, we took at trip to the Pinery Provincial Park on the shores of beautiful Lake Huron.

Upon arrival to the area, we took a quick stop at the Karner Blue Butterfly nature reserve in Port Franks (sadly, the Karner Blue is extirpated from Ontario). I thought it would be easy to pick up Leonard's Skipper here but there was very little insect or butterfly action happening. One insect I did note was a cute white and black fuzzy caterpillar that I had read about in the media [link]. Its the famous Hickory Tussock Moth Caterpillar; It was in the media because there were some outbreaks a few years back, and there was a warning not to touch them because, the barbs on this caterpillar are like the barbs on a Porcupine. Animals that ingest this caterpillar will note that those barbs are not nice on the old digestive tract... an interesting protection strategy!

We did spend a little time on the beach --- which was beautiful but heavily populated with people.  Coming up over the dune habitat from the parking lots was breathtaking. The crystal clear waters of Lake Huron were actually pretty warm at this time of year! After a quick romp at the beach, we decided to take our bikes to the Pinery Restaurant and also visit the Pinery Nature center.

The bike path from Beach 7 to the Visitor Center was amazing. It was the Savannah Trail - which travels perpendicular to the beach -(west-east)- over dry sandy dune habitat featuring Pine and Oak Savannah.

At one point, I had noted a sparse group of Rough Blazingstar flowers, which alone was worth stopping to look at. But sure enough, my target lepidopteric species was noted- Leonards' Skipper! My older son and my wife waited patiently as I attempted to photograph this new species of Butterfly. As I photographed this little rufous gem I thought to myself that there could be thousands of people visiting the Pinery today, but I might be one of the only people that would seek out this little butterfly and just appreciate the beauty of the habitat that supports it and its nectaring plant.

Moments later, along the same path, I noted a snake that I had not seen before --- I had to ID it from a book in the visitor center --- an Eastern Hog nosed Snake! I'm not one to seek out snakes, but somehow I did see this guy because I had gotten ahead of my family and randomly stopped along the path with this guy slithering just along the side of the path. Reading Josh's excellent blog over the years has really helped me appreciate snakes so a shout out to him!

One sign I had read noted that Hooded and Cerulean Warblers nest at the Pinery, as do Pine Warblers and Red headed Woodpeckers --- and sadly Prairie Warblers used to breed at the Pinery. Loss of Juniper Habitat could have been one of the factors in losing the Prairie Warblers. Of course, this park is the location that I had seen my first Pileated Woodpecker - an amazing lifer back in the day. Bird-wise I did not make too many observations as I did not even have my binoculars with me. I did note a Bay breasted Warbler but not much else that was noteworthy.

Biking the Savanah Trail, Canoeing the Ausable River, exploring the beach, eating lunch at the park store,  and visiting the excellent nature center is an amazing way to spend a warm sunny day. I'm going to try to visit and bird the Pinery next summer.

Good Birding!

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