Saturday, 15 August 2015

Busy Times...

Saturday, 15th August

It's been too long, way too long since my last post and there's really no excuse. Except that I'm now gainfully employed (seasonal contract mind you) at Murphys Point Provincial Park (near Perth, ON), and that I've now moved out to Wolfe Island, and that I've become somewhat obsessed with moths and odes...

So, I think this one will be more about the insects in my life and the joys of hunting them down! It started with the odes and the opportunity to help out on surveys being conducted in the park. So with a new field guide, the highly recommended Field Guide to The Dragonflies and Damselflies of Algonquin Provincial Park and the Surrounding Area and a home-made dragonfly net I set out with the help of local expert Bev Edwards to tackle the more tricky aspects of identification - mainly conducted by close examination of exceptionally tiny genitalia, particularly the damselflies.

Twelve-spotted Skimmer (male) - Fallows, Murphys Point Provincial Park, ON
The larger dragonflies are in general easier to identify, with some being boldly patterned like this Twelve-spotted Skimmer. Others, the the following Slaty Skimmer are also easy, but in this case due to their uniform dark colouration.

Slaty Skimmer (male) - Staff House, Murphys Point Provincial Park, ON
A passion of many ode hunters is finding swarms of darners - we haven't seen too many this year unfortunately but I have managed to pull of the only record of Black-tipped Darner seen so far this year in the park - not really a big deal but still not bad in my first year...

Black-tipped Darner - Staff House, Murphys Point Provincial Park, ON
And so to the moths - to my great delight no-one has ever really done much mothing in the park and I have already more than doubled the park list in little more than a month or so. Considering that the list started at just 56, and that there are literally thousands of species in North America, that wasn't really such a hard task...

I guess I did get interested in moths way back when I was growing up in the UK but years of living in countries with little or nothing in the way of field guides quelled that interest. Now proud owner of Peterson's Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America, a home-made moth-trap and the encouragement of Mike Burrell, I have taken up a new summer pastime! Having a digital camera capable of 'macro' shots is also beneficial but mine is nothing special; just a Canon SX40 'bridge camera'.

One of the commonest moths in my trap (at the staff house at Murphys Point) is the Painted Lichen Moth. I have seen the more vivid Scralet-winged Lichen Moth just once. It's kinda weird but I was super-excited to see it - just like birding but with lifers coming in thick and fast!

Painted Lichen Moth -Staff House, Murphys Point Provincial Park, ON
And here's the more vivid Scarlet-winged Lichen Moth.

Scarlet-winged Lichen Moth - Staff House, Murphys Point Provincial Park, ON
A nice one that I found a couple of days ago is the Pearly Wood Nymph. It's to be expected of course but all these moths are highly seasonal. The Tent Caterpillar Moths, Sphinx moths and various Datanas from earlier in the season (just 3-4 weeks ago) are no longer coming to the trap.

Pearly Wood-nymph - Staff House, Murphys Point Provincial Park, ON

It's great fun - get out there and do it.

Till next time,


Thursday, 15 January 2015

An Afternoon on Wolfe Island

Wednesday 14th January 2015

Once again, it has taken me far too long to get around to this but since I had such a successful afternoon on Wolfe Island, I thought it was time for an update. Most of the following photos were taken on this outing and are therefore of dubious quality so I've included a couple of extras to 'enhance' the story along the way.

Great Blue Heron (immature) - Hwy 96, Wolfe Island, ON
After a prolonged period of cold, I awoke to find that it had happened - Lake Ontario had frozen over and was now solid as far as the eye could see. However, this immature Great Blue Heron was hanging out not too far from the ferry in a small stream that seems to flow year-round. Unfortunately it looked a bit screwed - not sure how long it'll last, I'm afraid.

The last couple of days had been bright and sunny so I was hoping that a known Eastern Screech-Owl would be out sunning itself. Unfortunately, I didn't get out to the island until the afternoon by which time clouds were beginning to roll in, so I went straight for the owl and there it was; a red morph Eastern Screech-Owl.

Eastern Screech-Owl (red morph) - Wolfe Island, ON
Pleased with things so far (2 year birds for the list), I popped over to Horne's Ferry to see if any water was still open between Wolfe Island and the States, as this is the route that the Great Lake Freighters (Lakers) use. Definitely no open water, though 4 Tundra Swans and maybe 800 Canada Geese were way out on the ice. In a nearby wood, 4 Bald Eagles and 6 Common Ravens were making a fuss.

My next target was Lapland Longspur (or as we call them in the UK, Lapland Bunting). I'd been given directions to a 'hot' location, where at least 3 had been seen the day before, and Bingo!, there they were, now numbering 4 birds. They were performing very well just feet from the road but unfortunately the camera felt a bit phased by the whole episode and let me down somewhat (not my fault of course). These shots are OK but considering how close I was, I'm definitely a little embarrassed.

Lapland Longspur - 5th Line, Wolfe Island, ON
Lapland Longspur - 5th Line, Wolfe Island, ON
Lapland Longspur - 5th Line, Wolfe Island, ON
It is interesting to see how these birds hug the ground, dropping right down onto their bellies when feeding. And onto the next bird, Snowy Owl. Now, I must admit that I've been somewhat spoilt over the last couple of winters, with 2 good invasion years, so I don't search for them as well as I could but this one was right up on a post beside the road. In total I saw 6, though I am aware of another birder out at the same time who recorded 22. Something like 60 were recorded on the Christmas Count. Talking of Christmas, this bird looks like it's enjoyed a little too much of the Christmas spirit...

Snowy Owl - 4th Line, Wolfe Island, ON
And the afternoon continued, with perhaps the most 'unlikely' bird of the day, Savannah Sparrow. However, I saw not 1 but 3. Two on 4th Line and another on 3rd Line. These dainty little sparrows should not really be here over the winter period but every year one or two are seen. Superficially similar to Song Sparrow, this species is identified by a number of features, the most obvious being the yellow lores and fine streaking on the flanks.

Savannah Sparrow - 4th Line, Wolfe Island, ON
So still missing a couple of target birds for the day, I thought I'd give the extreme west of the island a bash before having to get back for the ferry. Here I encountered well over 200 Wild Turkeys, the largest flock numbering 120. As the second of these photos shows Wild Turkeys do fly.

Wild Turkeys - Baseline, Wolfe Island, ON

Wild Turkeys do fly - Baseline, Wolfe Island, ON
My last 2 'year birds' were Snow Bunting (didn't manage to get a photo as they were very flighty) and Horned Lark (= Shore Lark in UK) of which I obtained a couple of very poor photos. So here is a (poor) picture of a Horned lark I saw at Cressy Point, Prince Edward County last March:

Horned Lark - Cressy Point, Prince Edward County (March 2014)
...and these Snow Buntings are from Amherst Island in December of 2013.

Snow Buntings - Martin Edwards Reserve, Amherst Island, ON (Dec 2013)
Not a bad afternoon, with 23 species recorded in 2 1/2 hours bringing my Ontario 2015 Year List to 79, my KFN Circle List to 79 (I know, I haven't been anywhere else yet), and my Frontenac list to 64. 50 weeks until it starts over again in 2016...

Till next time,