Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Misery Bay Provincial Park and Bruce Peninsula in Early July - Birding, Butterfly Watching, and Botany!

The last 1.5 weeks was pretty exciting. We had a family vacation that essentially circled Lake Huron! Some stops on the trip included:

Greyling MI
Traverse City MI
Mackinaw MI
Sault St Marie
Lake Superior Provincial Park
Manitoulin Island
Bruce Peninsula

Of course, many of the 7 areas mentioned above has many sub-destinations that related to nature appreciation but the family vacation wasn't all about nature. Still I had several new lifer species of plants, frogs and butterflies. Interestingly, one stop that I made in the upper peninsula of Michigan had recent reports of Sharp tailed Grouse and Lecontes' Sparrows - both of which would have been lifers, but I was unable to find either. I still had some pretty great birding moments throughout this trip such as a singing whip-poor-will outside of the cottage in the Bruce Peninsula, as well as a Pileated Woodpecker that flew along the highway corridor near Lake Superior Provincial park. Also, aside from the natural history observations and highlights, this was my first time in my life to see the beauty of Lake Superior, the tranquility of Manitoulin Island. The views, habitats, the smell of the air were amazing to behold and difficult to capture on camera.  A two hour canoe ride down the Au-Sable river near Greyling MI, the smell of vanilla and smoke from standing near thousands of acres of pine trees, or the excitement of discovering a new frog, butterfly or orchid species is hard to put into words. I took 2000+ photos on this trip and rounded down to the best 200.  My blog posts typically focus on my own personal highlights so many species and observations that were made are typically not mentioned.

Misery Bay Provincial Park in Manitoulin Island

Misery Bay PP is featured as one of the top 10 or so butterfly watching locations in the province of Ontario (according to the ROM Buttefly Field Guide)

I was hoping to get three Fritillary species on this trip but I think I have only two: Atlantis Fritillary (above) and Aphrodite Fritillary below. The Atlantis is distinquished with its blue-grey eyes, and the Aphrodite has yellow-grey eyes, as well as some obvious dorsal spots that distinguish it. It seems there are less and less butterflies around in the last year or two. I hardly saw any on this trip!

Some interesting plants seen at Misery Bay include: Prairie Smoke, Pitcher's Thistle, Lakeside Daisy (Manitoulin Gold), as well as Spotted Coralroot Orchid! I found two seperate patches of Spotted Coralroot - one that was past its prime and one that was not yet at its prime. Some reading that I've done hinted that there are two species of Coral-root in the park: and eastern that blooms earlier and a western that blooms later. I may have found both ... but I'm not sure.

Spotted Coralroot

Birding at Misery Bay was pretty good. I had noted a Pine Warbler singing at one point, a Red breasted Nuthatch along with many American Redstarts.

Bruce Peninsula Tour - Singing Sands Beach & Fen, Petrel Point Fen & Bruce Peninsula National Park

I don't think I realized how special the Bruce Peninsula was until this particular trip. I tried to really get out and hike some of the trails, which gave me views of some new plant species that thrive in Fen Habitat.  Some include: Grass Pink Orchids, Rose Pogonia, Tall White Bog Orchid, Lesser Purple Fringed Orchid, and Alaskan Rein Orchid, Sundew, Bog Cottongrass, Swamp Candles and more. No new bird species but I did spot a Common roadside Skipper - giving me a total of 8 new butterfly lifer species this year for me.

Lesser Purple Fringed Orchid

This plant below was curiously familiar. Its very similar in structure to the "Spotted Wintergreen" that I discovered at Ojibway Park last summer. This plant is a related species called Pipissewa and is distinguished by its pink flowers and non-mottled leaves. I was able to ID this plant from Irene's Botany field guide that she gave to me. Thanks again Irene!

Lesser Purple Fringed Orchid

Swamp Candles!

Sundew - See video at the bottom of this posting!

Common Roadside Skipper

I must have seen 6-7 different waterfalls on this trip but there was a really pretty one on Manitoulin Island. I took a photo of the falls with normal settings in Av (aperture priority) mode, then remembered a cool trick that some photographers do when they photograph waterfalls. Stop down the lens to F22, then lower the ISO to 100. This makes the shutter stay open for longer. With a long exposure the water starts to look like cotton candy due to the movement of the water. See below for the effect.

There will probably be 1-2 more parts to this series so stay tuned!

Good Naturing!

PS: Did you know that the Sundew plant and Pitcher plant are carnivorous plants! Check out this video below that shows how sundew captures insects. Pretty cool. Please note that this is not my own video.


  1. I had a chance to explore Lake Superior as well! Quite awesome up there! (and hey, I saw a couple new birds and butterflies too!)

    1. Yes, your northern blue photo was amazing. Its similar to the karner blue!

  2. Glad you got to Misery Bay, and enjoyed the Bruce. We've been going there for 50 years, and were involved in the original establishment of Misery Bay Park. Wonderful places!

    1. Fury, amazing to hear -- and thanks for playing a role in perserving that area. Thanks for the comment. You must have some amazing stories and sightings with all those trips! -DM

  3. Quinten, thanks for the comment. I look forward to hearing about your trip and yes, I noted your ontbirds posting about dipping on the GV Swallow. Blake, thanks for the compliment! More to come. Furry - thanks for the comment and thanks for helping in establishing Misery Bay does seem to be very special, and you are lucky to have visited there often. I imagine you have many great nature sightings to share. This is basically my first time there... -DM

  4. Yep...there is a lot of neat stuff once you get away from the southwest. I just wish it was a bit closer so as to explore it more often.....

    You brought back some fond memories, Dwayne....thanks!

    1. Allen, thank you - you've been a major influence to appreciate plants. Find these various fen and alvar plants was exciting. I can only imagine how great it is in the earlier part of summer when the more showy orchids are in bloom.... -DM



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