Thursday, 31 May 2012

Pipevine Swallowtails and Little Yellows

While all of Ontario seemed to get hit with the Red Admiral invasion this spring, it seemed like only Point Pelee and extreme southwestern Ontario was having all the fun with rare sulphurs and other migrants from the south. Well, Norfolk County has finally got some interesting migrants as well. Pipevine Swallowtails have really shown up in large numbers this week at Long Point, as well as further inland. This is probably the largest immigration of this species ever! On the 30th, at L.P.P.P., there were at least a half dozen all in view at once nectaring on Hoary Puccoon. Equally exciting was coming across two separate Little Sulphurs. While Pelee has already gotten a bunch of these this year, this is the first I've had this year, and a butterfly I encounter much less frequently than the pipevines. Also at Long Point I saw my first of the year Common Buckeye (1), and Variegated Fritillary (1).

 Pipevine Swallowtails nectaring on Hoary Puccoon.

 This Pipevine Swallowtail was one of several seen on the 31st laying eggs on Dutchman's Pipe at South Coast Gardens on Front Rd. near Turkey Point.

 Little Yellow sulphurs were easy to spot despite their small size.

At a site further inland I had my first of year Northern Cloudywing (1) on the 30th.

First of year Long Dash Skipper at a South Walsingham roadside with wings closed (above) and open (below)

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Delta-spotted Spiketails

Today while out looking for reptiles (found yet another Hog-nosed), I came across two Delta-spotted Spiketails. Spiketails are large black and yellow dragonflies that breed in small woodland streams and springs. These streams would seem to be too small to produce such large dragonflies, but they do! Spiketails can be found along the small waterways where they oviposit, or along forest edges and clearings. I often find them foraging along forest/field edges due to the abundant insect life available for them to feed on.They will hang from vegetation quite low to the ground and in my experience are quite approachable. Hopefully I can find a few of our other Spiketail species this summer. They are fairly easy to identify to species if you get a good look at the yellow patterning on the abdomen.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Carden Challenge 2012

I participated in my second Carden Challenge this past weekend with our team the "Lagerheads", made up of myself, my brother Matt, Gregor Beck, Biz Agnew, and Steven Price. For those that don't know, the Carden Challenge is a 24 hour birding competition / fundraiser that raises money for land preservation in the Carden area. For the second year in a row we finished second - this year with 128 species. This was a personal best for our team and hopefully we can break the 130 mark next year.

Just like the Jamaica wedding that interrupted my May birding pursuits, this weekend was also interrupted by a wedding. My brother and I could only participate up until about 12:30 Saturday before racing back to Port Dover for our cousins wedding! We left at about 121 species, leaving our teammates about 5.5 hours to mop up some missing species.  They did great to add another 7 and I doubt we could have added much more even if we were able to stay til the end.

This year we were able to do quite well with waterfowl and shorebirds but missed some forest birds and other common birds. For example we found tough birds like Black-bellied Plover, Dunlin and Green-winged Teal, but dipped on Sandhill Crane, Common Tern, and Caspian Tern! Those latter three species were all easily found on Friday before the official counting began, but we were snake bit when it mattered. This is the way of 24-hour birding competitions.

 Upland Sandipipers are a fan favourite up on the Carden. Hard to find in much of Southern Ontario they are fairly easy to find on the Carden Alvar.

 This family of Sandhill Cranes was a neat find on Friday (before the count start at 6:00pm), but were nowhere to be found on Saturday when we tried to relocate them.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012


My interest in dragonflies and damselflies (collectively referred to as odonates) has grown a lot over the past few years - in part due to the many great field guides that are now available. I think this is a growing trend among birdwatchers/naturalists. I'm going to photograph some of the species found in and around Norfolk County and put them on this blog. Perhaps this will encourage others to get interested in odonates as well! I'll be putting up photos of common species as well as any that are more hard to find.

The following 4 photos are all of immature females. I don't think too much should be read into this as I saw males, but just didn't get any good photos. It would make sense they aren't mature since it's early in the season.

Eastern Forktail - immature female. Probably our most common damselfly and highly variable in colour. Imm. female features: orange in colour, black shoulder stripe, dark abdomen that lacks any blue or orange on last segments. These were at a boggy area at Turkey Point, May 23/2012.

 Fragile Forktail - immature females. Fairly common; look for the broken pale shoulder stripe.
 Top one from Turkey Point, May 23/2012. Bottom one from Long Point Provincial Park
May 22/2012.

Skimming Bluet - male. Common bluet found in a variety of wetland habitats. This is a "black-type" bluet meaning that its abdomen is predominantly dark. Abdominal segments 8 and 9 are blue, and segment 2 has a unique, wavy blue marking. Turkey Point May 23/2012.

The following photos are all unidentified bluets belonging to the "mostly-blue" group of bluets. They are either Familiar Bluet, Hagen's Bluet, or Marsh Bluet. For identification, one needs to use a hand lens on males, or a microscope for the females. I did not go to those lengths this week. I suspect they are Marsh Bluets, but I can't be certain. All were photographed at L.P.P.P on May 22/2012.

 Males above, females below.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Cherry Gall Azure

The problem with azure butterflies is that they are all very similar looking and the best ways to differentiate them are by flight season and by host plant association. In Norfolk County it would seem that with the early spring we just had, the Spring Azures (Celastrina ladon) had an extra early flight period. I actually haven't seen any azures recently suggesting that they have all died - or at least any surviving members of C. ladon should be rather tattered looking. This past weekend fresh-looking azures starting popping again and I didn't give it much thought until talking to Bob Curry about the possibility of these new ones being Cherry Gall Azures (Celastrina serotina). The reasoning follows that Spring Azures, are followed by Cherry Gall Azures, which are then followed by Summer Azures (Celastrina neglecta). Given the weather this year it would seem that the Spring Azures are gone, while it`s still too early to be seeing Summer Azures. Ergo - we are seeing Cherry Gall Azures currently in Norfolk County. And for the record, there is no shortage of cherry galls (on which the larvae feed). As far as I know there aren`t good field marks to separate these species so we kind of have to trust our judgement. It`s like being scientific while not being so scientific. The Spring Azure complex of species/subspecies is anything but clear so if anyone can shed some light on this group of butterflies please do!

Possible/probable Cherry Gall Azure on sand near the Wilson Tract

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Duskywing sp., and a Hog-nosed Snake

This post is kind of a catch all for the past few days. First I'll start with a Duskywing I photographed in dry oak habitat at St. Williams. Several people were out yesterday and came up empty when it came to finding Sleepy Duskywing - an early flying butterfly. It was suggested by Bob Curry that perhaps due to the warm spring their flight period was already over. There were lots of Juvenal's Duskywings flying about but I managed to pick out either a Dreamy Duskywing or a Sleepy Duskywing. Based on habitat I'd lean towards Sleepy, but I don't have a lot of experience with these guys, so if anyone can look at the photos and give me a definitive answer I'd be very grateful!

Also present were many American Coppers, and the Lupine was in full bloom.

Down the road from St. Williams I photographed this female Common Whitetail.

 As well as this male Beaverpond Baskettail.

Today while walking my dog I came across this monster of a Hog-nosed Snake basking on the side of the road. I moved it off the road so hopefully it doesn't get squashed.
Not only did it flare its neck and hiss when I approached it, it also tilted its neck towards me in order to make itself look as large as possible. It also lifted it's head and neck quite high off the ground - very cobra like! They are of course harmless and not poisonous to humans.

Monday, 14 May 2012

May Butterflies

I figured with bird migration in a bit of a lull recently I would venture out and try and photograph some of our earlier flying butterflies. I've shamefully neglected this group of butterflies for many years mainly because they fly during peak spring bird migration and by the time I shift my attention to butterflies I've already missed their flight seasons. It doesn't help that the warblers are in the tops of trees, and many of these butterflies are low to the ground in localised areas. This year I was bound and determined not to miss them.

The following 3 photos are of Eastern Pine Elfin. They fly from May to early June and are usually found near pines. Pine trees were not overly abundant at this location, but the moist sand is what attracted these guys.


Below is a Juvenals's Duskywing - flight period from May to late June. Duskywings can be challenging to I.D., so if anyone suspects I made a mistake, let me know!

Below are photos of a Harvester - one or two generations per year, so can be found in summer as well. This butterfly is the only Canadian butterfly with carnivorous larvae! The caterpillars feed on aphids.

Below are photos of Silvery Blue - May to early July in our area. A more northerly species, this is the first time I've noticed them in Norfolk although I know people had them in a few locations last year. 

Common Sootywing - two generations per year. Fairly distinct little guy.

This guy below is not a butterfly at all, although it does resemble an Azure. It's actually a day flying moth - Bluish Spring Moth (Lomographa semiclarata) #6667. If you don't have the new Peterson Field Guide to Moths you are missing out! Get it now!

Can anyone identify this Baskettail from the photo? Ì suspect it`s just a Common Baskettail.

Six-spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicindela sexguttata) for good measure. Most often seen as a flash of green flying along a woodland trail ahead of you.