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.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Eastern Fringed Prairie Orchid at Ojibway Park + Butler's Garter Snake and Other Stuff

Things have been busy but even still, I've attempted to go for a short hike after work at various areas of the Ojibway Complex almost daily over the last few weeks. Summer is so short that one needs to make serious efforts to get out in nature to witness it. Highlites over the last week or two include a few species FOY Hairstreaks, and some cool video footage of a Butler's Gartersnake!

My best sighting was a from a hike I took this afternoon. I found two Eastern fringed Prairie Orchids at Ojibway! I must have walked 10 km over the years to see these but finally found some habitat at Ojibway that has a few. Sadly, just like the last time, they are a little past their peak freshness but still I was pretty excited to see these. These photos were just taken with my cell phone so exposure and quality are a little lower than what might be expected with the old' DSLR.

Edwards Hairstreak and Coral Hairstreaks are pretty easily found in the Springarden area.

This Butler's Gartersnake was on a path that my mother-in-law and I were walking on near South Cameron Woodlot. It stopped just at the edge of the path and allowed me just enough time to record it with my cell phone! Check out the video below. Josh V informed me recently that the Butler's Gartersnake is not a subspecies of the Eastern Gartersnake but rather, its own distinct species. The redish brown colour along the sides is one of the fieldmarks for the Butler's. This species is at risk or even endangered in Ontario. Its range in Ontario is restricted to the Southwestern Ontario. Read more at these two links:

I had a brief look at a Baltimore Checkerspot nectaring on Purple Milkweed at Ojibway Park. This was seen in the Provincial Tallgrass Prairie Reserve. 

I think this heart-shaped leaf and vine is from Wild Yam. This is pretty easily seen at Ojibway.

I read recently that just one small section of Ojibway Park - the city owned tallgrass prairie heritage park has 540 plant species. Amazingly, about 20% of those are endangered, and I wanted to make a better effort to document those plants.  My goal is to identify 250 plants at Ojibway this summer! This is going to force me to pay more attention to things that I would have simply ignored or walked by... Such as this Spotted St John's Wort. Common, but never acknowledged until now!

Spreading Dogbane - again - the first time I've acknowledged it on this 7-year old blog. I need to pay more attention!

Good birding, lepping, mothing, herping, and botanizing!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Northern Oak Hairstreak at Reid CA in Wallaceburg ON + ... wait for it... FOY Dickcissel in Lambton!

Northern Oak Hairstreak at Reid CA

Those that read my end of year summary (published back in Jan) might recall that one of my nature viewing goals this year was to finally catch up with the Northern Oak Hairstreak.  I must admit that I have tried at least once or twice for this butterfly in the past with and dipped. So this year, I made an honest effort to go see this butterfly in the middle of its flight time (June 20?). Kit and  I left Windsor at an ambitious time of 7AM and arrived (still early) at Reid Conservation Area, on the shores of the Syndenham River just a little ways north of Wallaceburg. It was still quite brisk and perhaps the butterflies were still warming up as we arrived. After searching for over an hour, I started heading out to the road. But, as luck would have it, an older couple arrived, and I figured I would see if they could have better luck finding this nickel sized fluttery beast. Also, a text message from Blake suggested to "be patient".  So... after about ten minutes with the older couple, I found a hairstreak walking along a stem several inches below the flowers of an Indian Hemp plant. This is my fourth buttefly lifer species this year, and I think I am at about 120 species photographed.

Northern Oak Hairstreak

An interesting thing about the Northern Oak Hairstreak is that there are two major types within the species. The primary type was called a Southern Oak Hairstreak, and when the northern species was added, they thought of calling the northern one a "Northern Southern Oak Hairstreak" and the southern version a "Southern Southern Oak Hairstreak". Now, they just call it an Oak Hairstreak and locals can add Southern or Northern as they like. 

Another interesting thing about this butterfly is that (as far as I know) there is only one population known in all of Canada - north of Wallaceburg, and it was Blake Mann who discovered it. Imagine looking at the field marks of a hairstreak butterfly (with its large white "M") and saying: "what is this? this isn't in any field guides!". So a special shout out to Blake for his keen observation and his leperodoptic contributions to Ontario and Canada butterfly watching.

Reid Conservation Area

*(note: as I write this posting tonight, I am listening to an Indigo Bunting singing in my back yard, with distant Wood Thrushes, Song Sparrows, Red bellied Woodpecker, House Wren and occasionally a Great crested Flycatcher! (ebird checklist)  Also, there are House Sparrows chirping... this is Windsor after all...)

Other butterflies seen include about 3 banded hairstreaks, lots of Common Wood Nymphs, Eastern tailed Blue, 1 Question Mark, 4 Eastern Comma, lots of small European Skippers, 1 Red Admiral and of course, 1 Oak Hairstreak. 

European Skipper on Indian Hemp

After seeing the hairstreak butterfly, Kit and I met up with Lambton birder Sean J who was checking out a hay field not far from Reid CA. Upon getting out of our car, we heard the songs of Dickcissel (FOY!) , Bobolink, Savanah  Sparrow, Eastern Meadowlark and more.

From this point, we had a decision to make - go to Strathroy for more grassland birds (Upland Sandpiper) or perhaps head back towards Windsor and stop by Rondeau and perhaps try for an Acadian Flycatcher (both of these would be lifers for Kit). We ended up going to Rondeau to try for the Flycatcher.

Good Birding & Lepping!


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