Friday, July 29, 2016

Dorcas Copper Butterfly & Bruce Peninsula Roadtrip

Dorcas Copper Butterfly - Singing Sands Fen  Bruce Peninsula


Over the last few days, I spent some time in Owen Sound with my in-laws. The trip was not nature focused as there were 5 children ranging from ages 1-9. There were still a few nature highlights /  observations from the Bruce Peninsula area worth sharing.

1. Sauble Beach -
2. Waterfall Viewing -
3. Bruce Peninsula National Park (Boat Tour) -
4. Bruce Peninsula National Park (Singing Sands Fen) -
5. Macgregor Point Provincial Park - A brief visit on the way home.

1. Sauble Beach - Is a beautiful beach on Lake Huron just south of the Bruce Peninsula. We stopped here for a few hours as a main activity.  I actually went swimming in Lake Huron - which was surprisingly warm and comfortable.  I looked at the north end of the beach for the Piping Plover habitat and sadly, I was informed that the adults left early as the fledglings were all predated (eaten) by gulls and crows. From a botany perspective, I noticed Big Bluestem and Little Bluestem grasses as part of the dune plant makeup.





2. Waterfall Viewing -
Owen Sound has an abundance of Waterfalls to visit, but I tried to visit two: Jones Falls and Indian Falls. Both falls were "dry" leaving my relatives a little disapointed. I will post two photos here that are both disappointing but will leave this link to a photos of  JonesIndian Falls by Harold Stiver.



3. Bruce Peninsula National Park (Boat Tour) -

The clear waters of Lake Huron and specifically the Georgian Bay are amazing to see. Photos can't do justice but I share a few for fun. Of course, Flowerpot Island with its two "flower pot" shaped rocks were pretty cool to see.

Flowerpot Island "Flower pot" rock formations. 



4. Bruce Peninsula National Park (Singing Sands Fen) -

I really wish I had more time to visit the Singing Sands Beach area. Blake and many other nature enthusiasts have really endorsed this location and it was my first time there, but sadly, I had about 20 minutes to explore it. I stayed on the Fen Boardwalk just at the west end of the parking lot. Amazingly, I found a life butterfly that was well reputed for being here: the Dorcas Copper butterfly. This butterfly lifer was exciting because I didn't think I would see it but ... it turned out that they were abundant. I must have seen 20 of them on the first 20 meters of the Fen Boardwalk. Late July is right in the middle of their flight time in Ontario according to the ROM butterfly field guide. I think I obtained really nice ventral photos of this beautiful butterfly, but my dorsal photos were lacking. Occasionally, I did get to see an amazing colour sheen on the (dorsal) male Dorcas Copper - its hard to describe but you could get a range of Blue - Purple - Pink in certain sunlight angles - amazing. Pitcher Plants were abundant here as well and are a lifer plant.








Dorcas Copper Butterfly - Singing Sands Fen  Bruce Peninsula


5. Macgregor Point Provincial Park - A brief visit on the way home.

Another park that I've never been to but is really well reputed is Macgregor Point Provincial Park on the shore of Lake Huron, just south of Port Elgin. I only spent an hour here on my way back to Windsor and I figured I would to to the visitor center, the beach, and the Huron Fringe Boardwalk. I wish I had more time to explore the park but even in my short visit, I see how so many other Ontario bloggers love this place. On the way out of the park, I noticed an orange butterfly that hinted at being a Fritillary species but I was unable to stop for it...




In conclusion, I had a pretty good trip with my family. I would have liked to have more time to explore some of the natural history aspects of the Bruce - but all things considered, I had some good sightings. One thing is for certain - with its crystal clear waters, 40+ orchid species, waterfalls and and mixture of forest, alvar and wetland habitat - the Bruce Peninsula is a special place!

Good Nature Viewing!
Dwayne

Friday, July 22, 2016

Wheatley Sedge Skippers and Grassland birds




One of my butterfly watching goals this summer was to see a Dion Skipper - a sedge skipper that looks like a Dukes Skipper but with only one, not two "rays" on its lower hindwing. Alan Wormington suggested that I visit some good sedge habitat - and informed me of this small area on the north end of Wheatley Provincial Park. I arrived at the prescribed location, an unassuming country road in Wheatley, the road dipped downward as the land had a little valley where a small river was passing under the road. I pulled over and found this scene above, beautiful in itself. Chickory and Red Clover along with Common Milkweed were found along the roadside. Belted Kingfishers, Great Blue Herons, Willow Flycatcher and Accipiter raptors were noted.  Its hard to tell, but at the back of the Sedge floodplain, a small waterway meanders by. To the left of this photo, a large swath of Phragmites is choking out the vegetation and the view. One has to wonder if this sedge floodplain will be consumed by Phragmites in the next few years?

After walking around for a few minutes, I did note skippers flying above the sedges but too distant for photos. I took some photos of the sedge habitat with my cell phone with "HDR" (High Dynamic Resolution) enabled --- with some cool results.

Sure enough, I found some sedge skippers around a nice roadside patch of Common Milkweed. I don't think I found a Dion Skipper (Or Mulberry Winged) - but Dukes Skippers were pretty common. I took some photos of the Dukes Skipper tapping into some Common Milkweed.





Being in Wheatley, I stopped by the Campers Cove area - a birder is obliged to visit here when passing through Wheatley.




At campers cover area, I almost immediately heard a Grasshopper Sparrow, (perhaps two) singing.  Some other expected birds present were Dickcissels, Bobolinks, Indigo Buntings, Song Sparrow, Northern Flicker, not to mention other common birds.  Some nice grassland / old field habitat here includes lots of Dark eyed Susans, Showy Tick Trefoil along with other weeds such as Milkweeds and Goldenrods which havent yet flowered. 




Good Birding and Naturalizing!
Dwayne

PS: Some local media has been talking about the increased traffic that the new "Mini Mall" plaza will bring to Ojibway Park. Talk of Closing the main bisecting road (Matchette Road), roadkill, natual corridors and Fragmentation are being thrown around, which is nice to see.  The artist for the paper Mike Graston made this cartoon recently which I couldn't help but share. An opinion piece was written in support of Ojibway and in closing Matchette --- which I will give a link to and  paste below.

Image Source: http://windsorstar.com/gallery/mike-grastons-editorial-cartoons-for-july-2016

The Windsor Star Editorial can be found here: http://windsorstar.com/opinion/columnists/jarvis-windsor-can-cut-the-death-toll-at-ojibway-and-make-it-truly-great  or (Evernote Backup)

Monday, July 18, 2016

Mid-July Moth Watching at Ojibway Park


The Windsor Essex Field Naturalists had a Moth -Watching event this past Friday, and I made it out for the last hour between 11pm and Midnight. Local moth expert Maurice Bottos hosted two "light traps" at Ojibway - one near the visitor center and another in the Tallgrass Prairie across the road. 

I will just post the photos and hold back on commentary - although I should just mention that you are getting two posts in one here --- The second half of this posting was an old, unpublished posting from mid-July in 2014. 












My friends who visited Friday night declined on moth-watching but sent me this photo Saturday morning.  They requested an ID. I think its a Pandora Sphinx Moth.





(Older Post from 2014 --- Never published till now --- Originally titled: Mothing Debut)






Moth watching is a natural progression for birders, butterfly watchers and naturalists... The beauty and biodiversity of moths is incredible for those who make the effort to see them. Blog readers might remember my first chance sightings of Clearwing & Sphinx Moths last summer. This along with my growing interest in butterfly watching and other bloggers who described moth watching  ignited my interest.

Local birder Steve Pike recently invited me to join him to tag along with a moth-researching biologist who often sets up sheets at night around the Ojibway area to census the moths in this area.

Some moth species that I took note of were:

Virginia Creeper Spinx Moth
Saltmarsh Tiger Moth
Leconte's haploa moth


Ilia Underwing
Ultronia Underwing




I was hoping to see an IO moth or a Giant Leopard Moth but I did get to see some beautiful species on my first mothing outing. I will try to join these moth outings as the summer progresses and hopefully I can document more interesting species.

Good Mothing!
Dwaynejava

Friday, July 8, 2016

Southern Ohio Roadtrip


This past weekend, my family and I went on a whirlwind Ohio roadtrip. The trip was initiated by my desire to go see a swamp metalmark at a natural area called Cedar Bog. Our trip would continue with  a stop in Columbus and another stop at Shawnee State Park. Sadly, this particular trip was a little bit of a dud - it rained almost constantly while we were at Shawnee.


Cedar Bog (its actually a Fen) was really nice. Just the plants in the parking lot alone were so beautiful, it almost justified the duration of the drive to get there. There was a small visitor center, and after paying a modest fee to go in, I noticed on the photocopied map that there was an X and some directions written in handwriting to the location of a Purple Fringed Orchid. Grass pink Orchids were still blooming in the Fen area which was really nice to see as well.













Cedar Bog was good for birding as well, but the most noteworthy bird was a Carolina Wren, which was singing its distinct four-part "Fee-Bay-Fee-Bee" song. You might be wondering --- did I find my target butterfly species - the Swamp Metalmark? No. I met up with a local lepidopterist as I was leaving and he hinted that my target butterfly has sadly been extirpated for the last 7-8 years. 

At Shawnee State Park, it rained for two straight days. Shawnee is a huge forest, 60,000 -70,000 acres of protected area. Just like my first trip there two years ago, it was almost pointless to see butterflies. Oddly though, there were a few nice nature sightings. While driving around, I heard Prairie Warblers singing near a recently clear cut area. A Louisiana Waterthrush was a cool find, as it was on the road (perhaps picking worms out of the puddles) as I was driving at one point. Other breeding warblers at Shawnee include Kentucky, Chats, Worm eating, Cerulean, Yellow throated and more.  Yellow fringed Orchid is reputed to be in some of the powerline clearings of the park but... did I mention the rain?




On our last morning of our trip, an employee at the Shawnee Nature Center suggested that I check out the Edge of Appalachia nature reserve, and specifically the- Lynx Prairie. This 18,000 acre natural area is almost adjacent to Shawnee and is privately owned by the Nature Conservancy. Of course , on the day that we were leaving, the sun broke out a little and we enjoyed a nice hike through a forest and prairie habitat. Upon arrival, just the parking lot alone revealed some nice butterflies - Several Pipevine Swallowtails and several Variegated Fritillaries among others. The prairie areas were a little quiet with a single worn Zebra Swallowtail, a single Banded Haistreak and two Juniper Hairstreaks. Whorled Milkweed and what I think is Scaly Blazingstar are two new botanical lifers. 



Seeing this in the Lynx Prairie might have been the nature viewing highlight of my trip. 






Its good to be back home though. I have been buried in home renovation projects and they have kept me from birding an botanizing as much as I would have liked to. Still, I've made some noteworthy sightings in my limited walks and I will leave that for the topic of my next posting.

Good Birding!
Dwayne

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