Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Killarney, French River, and Mashkinonje Provincial Parks then to Ottawa

Yellow bellied Sapsucker at Killarney Provincial Park

 A recent trip gave me the opportunity to discover some of the central and northern reaches of Ontario. As the title hints, we traversed between Alban Ontario (Killarney, French River and Mashkinonje ) - then moved east along the Ottawa River Valley through North Bay, Petawawa, Perth/ Smith Falls then finally Ottawa! Although I was happy to go to these various parks, I must say that I was often disappointed that I did not encounter more butterfly, botany and perhaps even birding highlights. I did specifically attempt to look for orchids in various areas but did not find any on this trip - with the exception of the Pink lady's Slippers seen at French River.

Some trails work wonderfully with a young family and others... Are just too long and arduous for anyone but the most ambitious, energetic nature enthusiast.

I have some point form thoughts (and some photos) about some of the locations visited below:

French River - I was a little disappointing that this park is basically a boating park and there are no roads to traverse into its vast territory. Perhaps its good as the natural ecosystem would have less disruptions from humans traversing the park. The visitor center was nice, and one 3km trail offered gives views of a rapids.
Pink lady's Slippers at French River

Mashkinonje Provincial Park  - This is an interesting park - which basically gives access to wetlands along the very western edge of Lake Nippising. My family and I had attempted to walk a 3km trail to view the large fen/bog complex that the park features but found that the viewing opportunities were... a little disappointing. As I often find in natural areas, the trails were overgrown, poorly marked, and inhospitable for anyone that is not 100% motivated. I walked the 3km trail, but my wife and kids stopped after the first 500m.

Killarney (Chikanishing Trail & Canoe Ride)- This park and trail were absolutely beautiful, and perhaps the highlight of our trip. The views of Lake Huron from the pink granite rock barrens was breathtakingly beautiful. Some warbler species were noted (Pine, Chestnut sided, Black throated Green, Hermit Thrush) but I did not bother with photography beyond the general views of the lake. The Yellow bellied Sapsucker at the top of this blog posting was working some trees along the parking lot I had parked in and gave wonderful looks as the Male and Female sapsucker harvested bugs (for their nestlings). At one point, I had seen a Ruby throated Hummingbird that seemed to be trying to get some of the sap from the sapsucker's tree well.

West Duchesnay Falls Trails  (North Bay)-  This stunningly beautiful string of rapids and waterfalls to the west of North Bay was excellent. My kids loved exploring along this waterway with its many waterfalls and rapids. The water was low, so we were able to walk onto dry rocks to get better looks at the waterfalls.

Cranberry Fen/Bog Trail - North Bay /Callander ON- Another tough 3km walk. Black flies were swarming and at the end of the walk - the view of the FEN was a little disappointing.

Petawawa Falls - Nicely observed along with a pleasant municipal park.

Petawawa Terrace Provincial Park - This park was small but nice. It is located in Petawawa ON- and is found along the Ottawa River. The park starts out a an old Pine Plantation but then "drops" down to the lower level of the Ottawa River - giving looks at forest and wetland habitat.

Murphy's Point Provincial Park - A pretty nice little park. I had to go ... It had my name written all over it. On the day that I went, they had a native canoe builder building a birch bark canoe. We watched him take cedar logs and process them down to thin cedar shims. The park also features an old homestead and farm of Irish Immigrants who obtained the land after the war of 1812. A small Mica Mine is also featured and you can walk into it. (demo video of a steam donkey link )

Burnt Lands Alvar Provincial Park - Burnt Lands Provincial Nature Reserve is just a few square km's of alvar land that has been turned into a provincial nature reserve. I was hoping to see some butterflies (ex: Silver bordered Fritallary) on the afternoon that I visited but it was a little cool and overcast. Still - its always nice to visit an alvar.

Carp Hills Crazy Horse Trail (Carp ON)  - Some orchid species seemed to be promised on this trail but I was not able to see them. It was quite flooded in some places making it difficult to traverse - but still - some interesting nature to observe. Wet, boggy beaver ponds are here for you to explore. One noteworthy skipper was this Broad wing Skipper.

Mer Blue Bog (Ottawa) - This trail is always beautiful. The walkway lets you really get out into the bog, with many other bog trails seem to fall short on.  Bog Laurel, Bog Rosemary, Rose Pogonia, Tamarak Trees, Blueberry plants were all well seen. Perhaps its too much of a perfect bog and some of the classic fen/bog plants such as sundew were not seen. No noteworthy butterflies or birds seen.

So - in short - over the last 1.5 weeks - I made a trip between Toronto to Ottawa - and I took the scenic route. I would like to come back to these areas and spend more time observing the natural history of the various areas. It amazes me that in all this natural area - I did not see a moose or a bear - nor did I see any orchids that I was hoping to see - but --- sometimes you can just enjoy the experience without needing to see all the rare species that an area can provide.  Perhaps I can linger in these areas when I retire!

Good birding, botanizing and Butterfly Watching!

Monday, July 1, 2019

Butterflies and Orchids at Ojibway Park - Late June

I had a chance to walk at Ojibway Park lately, and one of my target species was Eastern Fringed Prairie Orchid - of which I was happy to find three plants this year. Last year, I had only found one and it was victim to a cruel case of herbavory [link]. 

Some recent butterfly watching efforts resulted in finding my first of season Banded Hairstreaks, American Painted Lady, Long Dash Skipper, Silvery Checkerspot, and Monarchs. I had also seen some skipper butterflies that were difficult to ID (Little Glassywing or Northern Broken Dash?).  Some checks of my favorite butterfly watching spots has turned up low numbers and low diversity - which seems to be the theme this year. Perhaps things will warm up as the weather warms up. 

I noticed a small flowering plant (weed?) which I was not familiar with this week. I think it was a Carolina Horsenettle - at least that's what I-naturalist suggested based on a photo of its flower. This plant seems to be a little bit of a noxious weed. It is poisonous for any animals that eat it, and it makes a tomato-like fruit - earning it the nickname "the devils tomatoes". 

Good nature watching!

Purple Milkweed with Monarch Caterpillar (can you find it?)


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