Sunday, August 30, 2015

Shorebirding at Pointe Mouillee in Late August

Buff breasted Sandpiper

Just a quick post for tonight. I birded Pointe Mouillee State Gaming Area on Saturday morning. Pointe Moo-yay[link][map] is a 4000 Acre wetland habitat along Lake Erie's Western Shore. It is a wetland nestled between the Huron River and the Fermi Nuclear Power plant... Just across the river from Holiday Beach in Amherstburg. I had about 50 species but some highlights were:

Buff breasted Sandpiper
Yellow headed Blackbird
Marbled Godwit
White rumped Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper

Many birders I had met had also seen: American Avocet, Whimbrel and Red Knot but I did not see these excellent species. In fairness, there is alot of ground to cover when you are at a 4000 acre wetland!

How to get there from Windsor

Marbled Godwit

Yellow Sweet Clover

The mudflat in Cell 3 could be measured in square miles... Its contaminated river bottom dredgings from the Rouge River and local shipping channels.

Stilt Sandpipers and Short billed Dowitchers

I've attempted to make an annual trip to this great site and look forward to visiting again next summer. Just a note that it is closed to the public on Sept 1 - Nov 15 for duck hunting.

Good Birding!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Backyard Nature Observations

I'm having a blast observing nature in my back yard! Just today I was working on my deck in my back yard an low and behold... a male Ruby throated Hummingbird was hovering in the air just 10 feet away from me. It was looking at wasps which seem to have found a home in the sophet above my back porch. A Dove alighted gracefully on my rear fence and quickly shot off... Coopers Hawk blasting by. At dusk, a peenting sound from above ... two common nighthawks. Incessant Catbird, Indigo Bunting and Song Sparrows calling. Screeching Red tailed Hawks... I could go on!

I've noted two rare plants recently just near my house... Prairie Dock (SRank: S1) and Sullivant's Milkweed. Both Prairie Dock patches have been recently mown (...moan). That is the conundrum though with prairie plants... They need fire, or lawn-mowers to buzz by every now and then because succession will eventually create a forest. I've created a small native wildflower garden in my backyard with some of the following plants: Dark-eyed susans, Coneflowers of various colours, butterfly bush, Oregeno and Rosemary, heal all, Catnip plant?, and my latest addition: Gayfeather (aka blazingstar)... Which I bought from Lowes just yesterday. Yes, I have Blazingstar in my backyard!

Prairie Dock. Botanist might also note the presence of Wild Carrots

A little black butterfly caught my eye the other day, and sure enough, Common Sootywing in my back yard! I had to take a photo with my cell phone (I had lent my camera out), which was nearly impossible because Sootywings do not let you approach too closely. Common Checkered Skippers are resident in my back yard and any quick stroll will surely stir one up. I've had some great good butterfly walks at Ojibway recently and there does not seem to be a butterfly scarcity issue here in Windsor, although there are a few species I have not seen that I have seen consistently over the last few years ex: broad winged skipper. On the other hand, Common Ringlets seemed to have invaded Essex this year... perhaps from the north?

Common Sootywings are not very common. A SW Ontario rarity if I'm not mistaken!

Three last notes:

1 of 3 -  I found that my grade entrance might "trap" a toad every now and then ... usually after a good rain, so on occasion, I will "rescue" toads with a little plastic container, and recently,,, I thought it would be a great learning opportunity for my son to rescue the toad and release it back to the environment. It was a teachable moment for two boys to help them appreciate and have compassion for nature.

2 of 3 - My son pointed out a caterpillar on our front porch and ... not knowing what species it was, I quickly found the species (Black Swallowtail) and asked my son to compare the caterpillar from two catterpillars in my ROM Butterflies of Ontario field guide. After noting the various colours and patterns, my son made the right identification and was proud to do so. I helped my son see the joy of identifying things by making observations... another great teachable moment. The crystalis never emerged, it may have been 'pecked' by a bird or maybe parisitized by a wasp?

3 of 3 - I noted that the house next to me had nesting rough-winged swallows in an exhaust vent as the house was being constructed. One day, I noted that the Mechanical Company had installed the vent covers, "trapping" the nestlings inside and locking the parents out. I had a heavy heart, as I noted that the parent birds would perch on a nearby window sill, as if to say "where did our vent / home go"? Then, a day or two later I noted the Mechanical Company back, fishing out the baby birds and leaving them on the ground. I suggested that we create a temporary nest cavity (as opposed to just leaving them on the ground), right next to their old vent opening, and maybe, the fledglings could be fed, and resuscitated by their parents. I'm glad to say that we saved the birds ... the parents found their fledglings and fed them and they fledged (3/4) just a few days after this took place.

 Note the newly covered vent, the makeshift nest cavity, and the thankful bird in the foreground!

Good birding!

PS: Below is a list of some birds, plants and butteflies I've seen from simply sitting in my backyard and looking around.

Summer 2015 Nature observations at South Cameron Woodlot....

Indigo Bunting
Ruby throated Hummingbird
Song Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
House Sparrow
Common Nighthawk (the last few days, dusk only)
Red tailed Hawk
Coopers Hawk
Grey Catbird
American Goldfinch
Wood Thrush (occasionally)
House Wren
Northern Flicker
Northern Rough winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Chimney Swift
Ring billed gulls
Bald Eagle (once)
Downy Woodpecker
Black capped Chickadee
Turkey Vulture
Mourning Dove

Common Checkered Skipper
Common Sootywing
Least Skipper
Pecks Skipper
Black Swallowtail
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Cabbage White
Orange Sulphur
Clouded Sulphur
Question Mark

American Toad

Prairie Dock
Sullivants Milkweed


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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