Sunday, 11 September 2016

Afternoon in Mitchell


There have been some interesting sightings reported lately at the West Perth Wetlands in Mitchell and today my nephew and I decided to take a look.  Recent reports included an american bittern that had been offering some good views and a red-necked phalarope.  The phalarope had only hung around a couple days but the bittern had been reported at the wetlands for some time now and I was hoping to finally get a good view of a species that has only offered me one brief glimpse in the past.

Arriving at the wetlands I promptly discovered that I had forgotten  my camera.  All that I had was my phone camera and a scope with which I could maybe use to do some digi scoping.

Lots of monarchs are showing up now and many were seen throughout the afternoon.

The large numbers of shorebirds that had been around also seemed to have moved out and although there was some decent variety, I was expecting a bit more. Likely a lot of that had to do with two cells being almost completely dry.

 Lots of yellowlegs, pectoral, least and stilt to sort through.  No killdeer today for some reason.
Stilt sandpiper doing 'sewing machine' action.
A northern harrier made periodic flyovers and was later observed feeding on something out in the soccer field.
Duck variety was quite good today including several first of the fall species for me. 

The bittern did not make an appearance today, but it was an enjoyable afternoon regardless.  The lagoons will be changing daily as fall migration continues. I hope to be back again soon and hopefully next time I will remember my camera.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Shorebirding in Perth and Oxford.



I spent most of my day along with members of the Stratford Field Naturalists checking out the shorebirds.  The plan was to start at the Mitchell Sewage Lagoons in the morning and after lunch check in on the birds on Wildwood Lake outside of Harrington.

I arrived at the lagoons at 9 am and we began our search.

 The leader of the day was skilled in picking through the birds and we found killdeer, lesser yellowlegs, solitary, least and semipalmated sandpipers in a quick sweep of the first cell.

 Further along, a northern harrier flushed the birds and when they landed, we found spotted and baird's sandpiper.

Ducks and geese were also present in good numbers.  Good numbers of blue-winged and green-winged teal along with a few shovelers, a single black duck and the numerous wood ducks and mallards.

Several snapping turtles showed themselves.

Many butterflies as well.  Plenty of monarchs and the odd viceroy.
viceroy
After a lunch break, those of us that had the time headed over to Harrington to continue the shorebird studies.

Great Egrets

The group leader discovered the first stilt sandpiper of the day.  It was mixed with the lesser yellowlegs but almost everyone managed to see it.  We also managed to find pectoral sandpiper and greater yellowlegs, two species that we had missed in Mitchell.  The shorebirds were not close enough for great photo opportunities, but I managed a decent shot of the two species of yellowlegs earlier this month.
Great weather and a great day to be outdoors.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Canoeing Algonquin Park

I returned on Saturday from a very busy but enjoyable canoe and portage trip through Algonquin Park.  My friend and I were gone for six days and during that time we covered a lot of ground and saw a lot of amazing sights.

Our Route (distance by water taxi not included).  Red dots indicate our campsites.
We left early Monday morning and arrived in the park around mid morning.  We planned to take a water taxi across Lake Opeongo to allow us to cover as much ground as we could in the time we had.
Water taxi ready to go.
The ride was rather rough as we bumped over the waves and about 20 minutes later we arrived at the far end of Opeongo's north arm.  Upon being dropped off, we re-organised our packs for easier carrying.  We had 73 lbs of supplies to carry along and we wanted to make it as easy to transport as possible.  With the bags ready to go, we set off on our first portage.

The portage dropped us off at Proux Lake for the first night and I was immediatly captivated by the stillness and serenity of the lake.


We made our camp for the night on Proux.

And made sure to hang our food sack up high.  It would really have messed up our plans for a bear to have raided our supplies.

This family of common mergansers swam along the edge of our camp that evening, providing some great views.

We started bright and early the next morning paddling through winding marshland.


Along the way, we found numerous birds including a family of black ducks and one of wood ducks.  A beaver appeared near the canoe briefly which was great to see.  The songs of hermit thrush, white-throated sparrow and common yellowthroat rang out in the morning air.



A fire tower on Big Crow Lake caught our attention.

We flushed a ruffed grouse as we walked over to the tower.  I watched a kestrel doing its aerial acrobatics as well.
We took our first decent length portage from Big Crow to Hogan, a distance of 3.75km.  We arrived at Hogan early afternoon where we had lunch in the canoe and watched the loons swimming around us.
Later on in the afternoon, we paddled past a bald eagle being harassed by a crow.  It is a bit blurry, but I found it difficult to hold steady in a rocking canoe.
The next morning dawned cool and foggy from our camp on Philip Lake.  We heard splashing and my friend saw a moose and her calf wading along the far side of the lake.  However by the time I got looking, they were out of sight and I did not see them.

We continued up the winding Little Madawaska River, stopping to portage occasionally.  An american bittern flushed up in the marsh as we paddled and ravens croaked around us.  I found a garter snake along one of the portages, but not much else of note.

We spent our third night at our farthest point on the trip, at Radiant Lake.The next morning we headed down the Crow River.
Eastern Painted Turtle
We spent our fourth night on a beautiful island campsite on Lake Lavielle.  Connecting lakes Hardy and Dickson are closed to camping due to a blue-green algae bloom, but much of Lavielle remains open and we were glad be be able to stay there. 

Big red pine.
The next morning we headed on to our final campsite on the East Arm of Lake Opeongo.  Passing through Hardy Bay and Dickson Lake, the water had a murky green look to it, likely due to the algae blooms.  Our longest portage of the trip (and the longest in the park) was a 5.3 km portage from Dixon to Bonfield.  It actually went better than I expected, likely because we were getting more used to that type of physical activity.  By mid afternoon we were back on Lake Opeongo where we camped on a small island on the East Arm.  We enjoyed the sound of an overnight thunderstorm from the comfort of the tent and by early morning were ready to paddle out back to our starting point and back to civilization.  The trip was quite a workout, but was a great experience.  Algonquin has so much to offer and sometime I hope to return again.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Headed to Algonquin Park

This year's trip of the summer is a bit different from previous summer vacations.  A friend and I are leaving on Monday for a six day canoe trip into Algonquin Park.  I have visited the park once back in 2012 but only checked out the short trails just off the highway.

I am really looking forward to seeing the Algonquin Park interior and hopefully seeing some of the various life that calls the park home. 

I hope to put out a post when I return, but until then here are a few photos from the 2012 visit to the park.
Spruce Grouse on Mizzy Lake trail
Gray Jay on Mizzy Lake trail

View from the visitor centre.




Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Rearing Caterpillars

I have been having some good luck this year so far in rearing several of Ontario's butterfly and moth species.   I enjoy trying at least a few each year.  Rearing caterpillars can increase their chance of survival immensely.

Probably the most familiar of butterflies around here, is the monarch.  For the last few years I have reared numerous monarchs to adulthood.  If I'm lucky, I will collect them as eggs.

About three days after being laid, they hatch.  The larvae are extremely tiny and lack the bold colouring of an older caterpillar.


The larvae go through five stages or instars in which they shed their old skin for a new larger one.  In the photo below, the larvae on the right has just shed its skin.


They grow rapidly and go through a lot of milkweed.  Finally there comes a day when they stop eating and look for a spot to hang and go into the chrysalis stage.  The one below found a safe spot under the window.


In the past when I had more free time, I used to raise as many monarchs as I could find.

About a couple weeks later, the adult butterfly becomes clearly visible inside the chrysalis. This is a sign that it should be hatching within the next 24 hours.


When they hatch, I let them hang to allow their wings to pump with fluid and expand. 

Gorgeous colour.

Last year we found this unique caterpillar on a small english walnut tree.


It is the larvae of the cecropia moth, a member of Ontario's giant silkworm family, also including the polyphemus and luna moths.  They can be tougher to raise, but I decided to try it anyway.  These moths are big and very showy, but because of their nocturnal activities they are not frequently seen.  The one that I raised fed on walnut leaves all summer and created its cocoon and spent the winter that way, emerging just a couple weeks ago.

It's wings were still expanding when I took the photos.

You can tell this is a male from the large feathery antennae. 
The black swallowtail is another species quite easy to rear.  Gardeners may not appreciate the caterpillar's habit of chewing through their carrots and parsley but they are great to see around anyway.  The one below was also from last year and overwintered. 

I'll conclude with a hairstreak feeding on milkweed nectar.
Striped Hairstreak.  Thanks to those who helped me confirm my identification.