Sunday, September 27, 2015

Grey Hairstreak and other Recent September Migrants

Grey Hairstreak at Point Pelee

[Editor's Note: This posting is a hodge-podge mix of like three separate nature viewing hikes. My last posting about Fringed Gentian Wildflowers merited its own post so this one covers the last two weekends.. Thanks... ]

Seeing this Grey Hairstreak last weekend was a nice recent nature viewing highlight.There are years when I don't see this so it is somewhat rare in my opinion.  Shortly after seeing it, I was informed that a Funereal Duskywing was seen at the tip of Point Pelee --- but the small group of butterfly enthusiasts that I was with could not re-find it. The Duskywing and Crescent species below are sometimes confusing to identify but the time of year helps with their identification. 

Over the month of September, I've had amazing birding in my back yard.  Palm, Nashville, have been the most common, but Common Yellowthroats, American Redstart, Wilsons have been seen in lesser numbers.

Today at Pelee, I walked around with the family, and noted few birds.  At one point, Blue Jays were going crazy near the tip, and looking up, it would easy to see 5 sharp shinned hawks and even a Peregrine Falcon! A few Sanderlings and a group of about 10 Surf Scoters flew by in the short time I was at the tip.

Last weekend, I joined Jeremy Bensette for an OFO guided hike at  Point Pelee. It was pretty birdy and one of my personal highlights was Grey Checked Thrush, Winter Wren and a nice assortment of Warblers. A perched Carolina Saddlebags dragonfly was a nice find.

Hermit or Grey Cheeked?

I've seen many thrush species in the month, but have questioned myself ... I think I'm seeing Swainson's Thrush and Grey Cheeked... but what about Hermit Thrushes?

Good birding!
Tall Boneset? It was over 5' tall. Growing in the sandy soils of Black Oak Heritage Park.

Sarah R in the news

VW Accused of fooling emissions tests with software

2015 On Pace to being the hottest year in the last 140 years

Asian Carp found in Lake Erie:

Friday, September 25, 2015

Fringed Gentian at Ojibway Park

Fringed Gentian at Ojibway Park
During a recent dinner, I mentioned to my wife that I wanted to go for a walk at Ojibway Tallgrass Prairie --- to look for a rare flower  .... The Fringed Gentian! My wife looked down at her plate and cleared her throat. "First birds, then butterflies... please tell me you are not getting into plants...".  Lol, she was kidding around but kind of serious.  I reminded her that I refuse to get into dragonflies or other insects ...but there are so many interesting plants to discover at Ojibway --- Just around the corner!

 So today, after work, I headed out to the Spring Garden area and finally crossed paths with this beautiful native species. I must have walked 10km for this blue botanical beauty. Nature appreciation, if nothing else, is good exercise!

In researching this plant, I came across a reference to them in Windsor's Coat of Arms! Even Windsor's Coat of Arms features a nod to our local botanical endowment in our tallgrass prairies. A rose, trillium and a fringed gentian grace the bottom portion of our coat of arms.

"On a grassy mound rising above the waters of the River are two floral sprays celebrating the varied and multicultural character of Windsor's population: the rose, the trillium, and fringed gentian. The gentian also honours a unique part of local natural heritage: the unusual plants and flowers of the tall grass prairie. "( Source-

Its ironic that Windsor's Coat of Arms pays homage to its natural history by featuring this plant. Even the moto of our city: "The River and the Land Sustain Us" has a certain irony. Windsor and Essex county are at 5% natural coverage when its understood that an ecosystem needs over 15% to remain functional. Our city politicians have blindly encouraged a local paving company to build a strip mall adjacent to the Ojibway tallgrass prairie. I have even heard recently that when the province (OLG) shut down the Windsor Raceway, it was quietly sold land to the Coco Paving company, which is well known to have liberal ties. Coco also owns the (Ambassador) golf course on the other side of the road, so the adjacent property, along with its proximity to Lasalle make it a desirable development property.

I cant end this posting on a negative, political note, so I leave you with this poem instead:

To the Fringed Gentian
William Cullen Bryant

Thou blossom bright with autumn dew,
And colored with the heaven’s own blue,
That openest when the quiet light
Succeeds the keen and frosty night.

Thou comest not when violets lean
O’er wandering brooks and springs unseen,
Or columbines, in purple dressed,
Nod o’er the ground-bird’s hidden nest.

Thou waitest late and com’st alone,
When woods are bare and birds are flown,
And frosts and shortening days portend
The aged year is near his end.

Then doth thy sweet and quiet eye
Look through its fringes to the sky,
Blue-blue-as if that sky let fall
A flower from its cerulean wall.

I would that thus, when I shall see
The hour of death draw near to me,
Hope, blossoming within my heart,
May look to heaven as I depart.

Good Birding, Herping, Leping and  Botanizing

PS: Along with today's botany highlight, I had some nice views of some late butterflies.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Phoebe You Say?

Say's Phoebe in Blenheim?

After work today I had read that this beautiful bird was within an hours drive of Windsor and --hesitantly-- twitched it. This wasn't a life bird for me as I had seen it out west in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley region [link].

 I realized tonight as I wrote this post that I did not really obtain great photos of the bird because I had my "butterfly watching" lens (55-250mm) instead of my 400mm prime lens that I usually use to go birding with - so the few photos that I did take are quite heavily cropped. I really just tried to enjoy the bird through my new binoculars*, and also through Jeremy B's scope. Of course, through the scope, you can really savor the intricate colours of this bird, its cute demeanor and just the overall 'gestalt' of the bird. Jeremy H and I had noted that as it was flying at one point that even the way this bird flapped its wings was interesting to observe. Most of the time that I was watching the bird, it was fly-catching quite aggressively.

Luckily, this bird really seemed to like this area and stayed in the same spot all afternoon long -- even with substantial disruptions. At one point, two farmers towed the tobacco trailers that it was perched on - but it still remained in the same field, perching on the ground or other nearby trailers, tractors and trees. It seems that lots of birders from near and far had a nice chance to see this little avian gem - if only other vagrants would be so obliging!

Good birding!

I picked up a new pair of Binoculars - Nikon Monarch 5's --- 8x42. More on the new optics later.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Late Summer Birds, Plants at Ojibway Park, South Cameron Woodlot

New England Aster
I've had a few more cool birds show up in my back yard this week:

Wilson's Warbler (first for the year!),
Nashville Warbler,
American Redstart,
Swainson's Thrush,
Great crested Flycatcher,
Northern Flicker

Nothing super rare but still, nice birds to be looking at from one's back porch--- whilst bbqing.

Wilson's Warbler - A new yardbird!
Drama at the Hummingbird Feeder
Can you find two warbler species in this Golden Alexander Plant
Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillar
The tallgrass prairie at Ojibway, and behind my house has peaked in terms of the late summer wildflower show. I've attempted to photograph and label some of the species at the tallgrass prairie that I recognize.  Some botanical highlights this week are:

Tall Ironweed (7' tall)
Tall Sunflower (8' tall)
Prairie Dock (common along the edge of South Cameron Woodlot)
Bottle Gentian (aka Closed Gentian)
Big Bluestem
Prairie Cordgrass
Indian Grass
White Boneset
Nodding Ladies Tresses
Joe-Pye Weed
Smooth False  Foxglove

Bottle Gentian (or Closed Gentian)
Nodding Ladies Tresses - Ojibway Park
I've walked through the tallgrass prairie at Ojbiway for years, and always found this time of year to be enjoyable. An ocean of colour from the late summer wildflowers and lots of tallgrass to walk through. This year might be the first year I've attempted to photograph and ID some of the grass species that are present. One tallgrass plant that I did not seem to locate yet is little bluestem. I will keep an eye out for it though.  

Indian Grass


Big Bluestem

Prairie Cordgrass

Joe-Pye Weed

Sneezeweed or Swamp Sunflower

White Boneset

Smooth False Foxglove

I must admit that I derive great satisfaction at looking at a plant and knowing its name, and perhaps a little about it. Plants can have their own story as well. The Indian Potato above has tuberous roots that you could prepare like Potatoes. Boneset used to placed in peoples casts as they thought it would help heal broken bones. Bottle Gentian is a flower that never "opens up" only a few insects that are willing to wrestle themselves into the flower will exchange polinating services for nectar. 

I have two last bontanical goals for the year: Fringed Gentian and with a little luck ... Great Plains Ladies Tresses!

I'm open to corrections on any of the species identified here!

Good Birding, Leping, Herping and Botanizing!

Bottle Gentians were featured on the 1 cent stamp in 1977

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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