Saturday 27 July 2019

Back to the Bay

Tomorrow I depart back to the coast of James Bay to once again volunteer for the James Bay Shorebird Project. After having such a blast last year, you'd be crazy to think I wouldn't be going back! In fact, I don't think a single day in the last ~350 days, has gone by where I haven't thought about the bay and getting back!

The purpose of the project is to record the species and numbers of shorebirds that use the coastal flats of southern James Bay. About 25 species of shorebirds are found here during migration, and with any luck, I should come across all of them (I missed Stilt Sandpiper last year, hopefully this season!). While many of these shorebirds are found in southern Ontario during migration, it is the large numbers and concentration of these species, especially the uncommon (in the south) ones, such as Hudsonian Godwits, Red Knots, and White-rumped Sandpipers, that make the coast so special.

This year, I will be on the coast for a month, with my time split between two of the camps. For the first part, I will be at Little Piskwamish Point, located around 45 or so kilometers north of Moosonee. Then, in the latter half of August, I will head north to Longridge Point, where I was last year, which is about 60 kilometers north of Moosonee. Since I will be going for a period which was a bit earlier than last year, I should have a shot a Yellow Rail, which we missed singing by only a couple days.

Should be a lot of fun! See you in a month!

Hudsonian Godwit - one of my favourites
LeConte's Sparrow

Monday 22 July 2019

Eight Down, Two to Go

As you may recall, last August I published a post about my quest to seeing all of Ontario's Meadowhawk (Sympetrum spp), which is my favourite genus of dragonfly. Of the ten species, only eight can really be expected to be seen by any given enthusiast, as the two other species, Blue-faced and Red-veined Meadowhawk had only been recorded a couple of times each, at the most.

Back then, I had seen six out of the ten species.

Autumn Meadowhawk

Band-winged Meadowhawk

Ruby Meadowhawk

Cherry-faced Meadowhawk

White-faced Meadowhawk

Saffron-winged Meadowhawk

After my excursion on James Bay last summer, I picked up a seventh species.

Black Meadowhawk
Black Meadowhawk is arguably my favourite ode!

Finally, a couple weeks ago, I caught up with my eighth species of Sympetrum. Variegated Meadowhawk in Toronto. Unfortunately, it was not very cooperative.

It was pretty exciting to complete my set of the expected Ontario species. The hunt is on for the rarer ones now! (Or in a few years when I have the time and resources)

Sunday 14 July 2019

Algonquin Park Moths

Last weekend I went to Algonquin Park with some of my friends. During the day, we focused on finding odonates (dragonflies and damselflies), but once night fell, we turned our attention to a passion shared by all five of us: moths.

We spent two nights in the park, at two different campsites. Canisbay Lake the first night, and Pog Lake the second night. We chose these two campgrounds due to their difference in habitat. Canisbay was largely deciduous, dominated by maples (Acer spp), whereas Pog Lake was largely coniferous, dominated by pines (Pinus spp). Pog Lake also had some nice understory with plenty of honeysuckles and Beaked Hazelnut (Corylus cornuta), as well as many ferns.

If I had to guess, we had over 200 species of moths over the two nights. Here is a selection of photos of some of the more charismatic species we encountered.

Rosy Maple Moth

Mottled Snout

Bent-lined Gray

Wavy Chestnut Y

Chocolate Prominent

Walnut Sphinx

Northern Pine Looper

Eastern Panthea 

White-dotted Prominent

Modest Sphinx

Yellow-shouldered Slug Moth

Yellow-necked Caterpillar Moth

Putnam's Looper

Laurel Sphinx

Little Virgin Tiger Moth

Fragile Dagger

Luna Moth

Black Zigzag

Twin-spotted Sphinx

Harris's Three-spot

Blinded Sphinx

Northern Apple Sphinx

Rose Hooktip

Waved Sphinx

Cecropia Moth

Polyphemus Moth

Orange-barred Carpet

Silver-spotted Fern Moth

Thursday 11 July 2019

Algonquin Ode Trip July 5-7

Hopefully I will get around to writing about some of the other activities from my recent trip, but for now, I will just copy and paste my writeup about the ode (dragonflies and damselflies) portion of the trip from the google group, Ont-Odes.

This past weekend, myself, along with Owen Strickland, Riley Walsh, Ethan Gosnell, and Jack Farley, departed for Algonquin Park, to spend our days looking at odes, and spend our nights looking at moths. This was the first time any of us had had a chance to properly look for odes outside of "southwestern" Ontario (south of the shield), with the exception of the five of us having done the shorebird project in southern James Bay last summer, so we were all looking forward to a bunch of lifers!

 Our first stop upon our arrival in the park was the Whiskey Rapids trail. Almost immediately, we found a bunch of odes foraging out over the river. The first to be caught was Twin-spotted Spiketail, which proved to be the most common species at that location. We also netted a few Swift River Cruisers and a Stream Cruiser. In addition, we netted three species of clubtail; Ashy, Mustached, and a single Harpoon. A fourth species, a teneral Eastern Least Clubtail, was seen on the shore with its wings damaged. There were a couple Springtime Darners patrolling the river, as well as a few Ulher's Sundragons. Both Ebony and River Jewelwings were spotted.

Harpoon Clubtail

Mustached Clubtail

Swift River Cruiser

Twin-spotted Spiketail

Uhler's Sundragon

 Continuing down the trail, we were able to add a few more species to the list, including the incredibly common Chalk-fronted Corporal, and a female Hudsonian Whiteface. At a small pond along the trail, we netted Frosted Whiteface, Four-spotted Skimmer, and Calico Pennant, along with a couple of Marsh Bluets. We netted a female Ashy Clubtail here as well. Racket-tailed and American Emeralds were also netted along the remainder of the trail. 

Ashy Clubtail

Four-spotted Skimmer

Belted Whiteface

Next, we went to the Tea Lake dam. A couple of new clubtails for the trip were found, including a female Lancet Clubtail, and a Rusty Snaketail. A Common Basketail was flying around. Over the river, we caught another Springtime Darner, as well as a Hagen's Bluet. Hagen's Bluet was the most common bluet all weekend, and it took us until late Sunday afternoon to net a bluet of another species! We caught another Uhler's Sundragon here as well.

Springtime Darner

Common Baskettail

Lancet Clubtail

 Our last stop before supper was the Peck Lake trail, which proved to be pretty quiet. Tons of Hagen's Bluets, as well as a couple American Emeralds. The most noteworthy odes were a couple of Crimson-ringed Whitefaces.

American Emerald

Crimson-ringed Whiteface

 After dinner at the VC, we checked out the Highland Backpacking trail head. Here we were pleased to net a Spiny Baskettail, as well as a Delta-spotted Spiketail. The "surprise" of the night was a female Ski-tipped Emerald. All of us had seen very few Somotochlora emeralds prior, myself having only seen Williamson's, so we were quite happy with the catch.

Ski-tipped Emerald

Spiny Baskettail

Delta-spotted Spiketail

 The final stop of the night was the Lake Opeongo access docks to look for an ode that we all really wanted to see. Around 9 pm, I caught the first Stygian Shadowdragon of the night. In total, there were about six individuals, and every member of the party was able to catch them. Be warned, however, the blackflies were pretty bad. I also briefly saw a Vesper Bluet skimming the water.

 After a night of mothing, we awoke the next morning after a few hours of sleep, and headed back out to look for odes. We stopped again at the Highland Backpacking trail parking lot, this time successful in our search for Beaverpond Clubtail.

 Next, we went to the Big Pines trail. There was a large swarm of baskettails right at the parking lot, and we added Prince Baskettail and Beaverpond Baskettail to the trip list. We were all pleased when I was able to net a pair of Eastern Red Damsels along the stream near the parking lot as well. The most noteworthy ode along the trail was a female Beaverpond Clubtail.

Eastern Red Damsel

Beaverpond Baskettail

Beaverpond Clubtail

 Afterward, we went to the logging museum, where we saw a pair of Harpoon Clubtails, as well as a Canada Darner and Elegant Spreadwing. Here we finally found our first, and I believe only, Dusky Clubtail of the trip.

Elegant Spreadwing

Dusky Clubtail

 Right after the logging museum, we went to the Cameron Lake logging road, off of Opeongo Road. We had considerable luck here, with a Dragonhunter right off the bat, followed closely by a Black-shouldered Spinyleg, two species we had just been commenting on how it had been weird it was how we hadn't seen any yet. After many, many, Racket-tailed Emeralds, I finally was able to net a Somotachlora, which proved to be a Brush-tipped Emerald, one of two males we caught on the road. We managed to catch two other species of Somotachlora, a couple more Ski-tipped, and a nice female Clamp-tipped Emerald. On our way back, we netted a Stream Cruiser. 


Black-shouldered Spinyleg 
Brush-tipped Emerald

Clamp-tipped Emerald

Stream Cruiser

After dinner, we headed to the Hemlock Bluff parking area in hopes of Harlequin Darner and Lake Emerald. We struck out on Harlequin Darner, which was one of three misses (the others being Cyrano Darner and Subarctic Bluet) over the course of the weekend. We risked life and limb to try and net odes as they flew around the marshes on either side of highway 60, and eventually, after several Common Baskettails, I netted a Somotochlora after a brief chase. It proved, however, not to be a Lake Emerald, but instead a female Williamson's Emerald. A while passed, but eventually, I spotted a Lake Emerald, hovering just out of reach, but it flew off before the others could see it. We were unable to find another the next evening. 

That night proved to be another great night of mothing, and we saw several species of sphinxes, and four species of silkmoths (Cecropia Moth, Luna Moth, Rosy Maple Moth, and Polyphemus Moth). 

We spent our last day looking for some of our final target species. After a morning in the airfield looking at tiger beetles, we went to the Spruce Bog Boardwalk in hopes of Sphagnum Sprite, but were only able to turn up Sedge Sprites. A few other species were flying around, including Prince and Common Baskettails, as well as a few Common Whitetails. 

Prince Baskettail

Sedge Sprite

Afterward, we headed to Eos Lake, hoping for Subarctic Bluet, but, as previously mentioned, we failed to find any. We did, however, luck out and find a few Sphagnum Sprites. After two of us fell through the sphagnum mat, unfortunately, one being me, we decided to head back. However, just as we were leaving Owen was able to net a male Elfin Skimmer, a very nice surprise. They are truly very tiny!

Belted Whiteface

Elfin Skimmer

Sphagnum Sprite 

 Our last ode stop of the trip was late afternoon at the Bat Lake trail. The buggy, and somewhat uncomfortable for us with wet shoes, walk was made worthwhile when we found many Amber-winged Spreadwings, Northern Bluets, and a single Boreal Bluet (which was let go before I got a photo, argh!). Also of note were many Crimson-ringed Whitefaces and a Lake Darner.

Amber-winged Spreadwing
Lake Darner

 It was an excellent trip. In total, we saw 56 species, 53 of which we were able to net. Many lifers were seen by everybody, myself having seen 30 personally. Special thanks to Henrique for answering our questions in regards to odeing in the park!