Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Three Eastern things: Phoebes, Commas and Bluebirds

For those of us that love nature - that love being outside --- this is a great time of year. Each year at this time we get our "FOY" or "FOS" birds and nature observations.

Today after work  I went to Black Oak Heritage Park for a bike ride. I did two laps around the northern part of the park - and then did a third lap on a trail that winds along the interior of the Black Oak Savanna habitat.

I was happy to see some great birds - nothing unexpected but still some nice first of year (foy) birds.

I saw my first Eastern Phoebe flycatching and foraging in the savanna. Always an exciting FOY observation.
Eastern Bluebirds, Chickadees, WB Nuthatches, Tufted Titmice, Robins, Song Sparrows, Blue Jays, Dark eyed Juncos and Turkey Vulture were seen.

This past Saturday - I got my first butterfly for the year - An Eastern Comma. As of right now (2019), I think I'm the #1 E-butterflier in the province of Ontario!... But I'm sure my latitude is helping me out with this.

Good birding!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Fort Myers Birding and Butterfly Watching - Part 2 Birding (Part 2 of 2)

Part 2 Birding

I had planned on lifering 10 extra species on this trip... In particular - Snowy Plover .... But I got skunked! No new lifers for me!

These were some of the birds I was hoping to see:

  1. Mangrove Cuckoo
  2. King Rail
  3. Backmans Sparrow
  4. Saltmarsh Sparrow
  5. Snowy Plover
  6. Least Tern (arrives late march)
  7. Scissor Tailed Flycatcher
  8. Short tailed Hawk
  9. White tailed Kite
  10. Monk Parakeet

Still... The birding wasn't a complete letdown. There were some decent sightings. Some photos below:

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Fort Myers Birding and Butterfly Watching (Part 1 of 2) V2

Part 1 - Butterflies 

I am fortunate enough to have been able to make a last minute trip to Fort Myers Florida - Which is in the Southwestern corner of the State of Florida. I have not been to Florida for at least 4 years so I figured it would be nice to go again.

Butterfly watching in Florida is always fun because many of the butterflies that you will see there (if you are from Ontario or the Great Lakes Region) will be life species. My butterfly watching efforts were much better than my birding efforts so I will start with them.

Butterfly watching is just as exciting as birding - but it can be painfully frustrating to photograph. Much patience is needed!

One of my top butterfly goals during this trip was to see a Little Metalmark species. This species has a little history with me because I had read that they used to live in Southeast Michigan (Swamp Metalmark), as well as Ohio - but they have since been extirpated. I had even made a trip to Cedar Bog in Ohio a few years ago, hoping to see Swamp Metalmarks and the local naturalist told me that they hadn't been seen since 2009. The Little Metalmark is not endangered in Florida as there is lots of habitat to support its foodplant - Yellow Thistle. I was butterfly watching at Babcock Webb WMA for one morning that I had budgeted to going - and I was running out of time. The clock was ticking towards 11am and I needed to meet the family at noon. I stopped my van along the road to followup on a nice Palamedes Swallowtail and found myself in a roadside slough. The Swallowtail posed nicely for photos and to my utter amazement, a tiny, fluttering orange butterfly - smaller than an Azure butterfly fluttered by me. I waited patiently for it to land on a plant, and sure enough ... I had found my target species. Amazingly - while I was photographing it ... An interesting plant caught my eye... It was a Ladies Tresses Orchid! I did some research online while waiting at the airport and my best guess at identification is a Spring Ladies Tresses Orchid.

Little Metalmark - Babcock Webb WMA 

Another really neat story in my butterfly watching efforts was that I was at a municpal park in Fort Myers. In between splashpads that the kids enjoyed, and train rides that the park offers... I had noted some butterflies flying along the flowering weeds in the lawn. Again - lots of new species to behold. At one point, I had seen a small yellow butterfly - and it was fluttering above the grass and seemingly never stopping to land. I had assumed it was a "little yellow" or maybe a "dainty sulphur" so I was suprized to realize that the photo I had taken of this butterfly was neither! Another lifer... but what was it? Again, some research online indicated that it might be a Barred Yellow.

Other butterflies seen at Lakes Park include: Phaon Crescent (Phyciodes phaon), Mallow Scrub Hairstreak, Gulf Fritillary, Common Checkered Skipper (or Tropical Checkered Skipper), and Monarch.

Going back to Babcock Webb WMA - I had lifered some other species as well. They were: Palamedes Swallowtail - Papilio palamedes, Red-banded Hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops ),

Butterfly Lifers from this trip 

120 - Barred Yellow
121 - Pheaon Cresent
122 - Mallow Scrub Hairstreak
123 - Red banded Skipper
124- Little Metalmark
125 - Twin Spot Skipper
126- Palamedes Swallowtail

*** New for Version 2 of this posting - some photos that I was late in identifying:
127 - Monk Skipper
128 - Whirlabout Skipper
129 - Palmetto Skipper
130 - Southern Broken Dash
131 - Eastern Pygmy Blue (trying to salvage from deleted photos)

Yellow Milkwort - Babcock Webb WMA

So, in closing - butterfly watching is a wonderful way to spend time out in nature. It offers lots of learning, identification, photography, exercise and just sheer appreciation of beauty, habitat, biodiversity, botany, mental health .... the list could go on.

Babcock Webb WMA Inaturalist Species Page:

My butterfly Life List page (which needs to be updated)

Good butterfly watching!


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