Saturday 27 June 2020

Ode Ausable Channel

On Thursday my dad and I went for a paddle in our canoe in the Old Ausable Channel, in Pinery Provincial Park. There have been some good odonates seen there lately, and I was hoping to see some of them! The channel is quite beautiful.

Upon arrival to the canoe lauch, it sounded as though it was raining. But it was clear! The sound was a result of the Gypsy Moth caterpillars, which were nosily chewing. They were way too common! Gypsy Moths are an invasive and very destructive species. 

There were a few Hagen's Bluets near the canoe launch, as well as some Northern Sunfish. Northern Sunfish are an uncommon species in Ontario, and were somewhat recently split from Longear Sunfish.

Hagen's Bluet

Northern Sunfish

And we were off! My first lifer dragonfly of the trip was a Cyrano Darner, but I couldn't catch or photograph it! We didn't get too far before having to portage up a flight of stairs and over the road, but after that minor glitch, we were back on the water. 

I spotted a couple Lilypad Clubtails, another lifer. Again, no photos could be taken! Soon, we hit a patch of waterlilies. I saw some Skimming Bluets, which are pretty common. Then I spied a larger damsel, that had the tip of its tail pointed down resting on the lilypad. Could it be? It was! Lilypad Forktail! A few individuals of this rare species had been found a few days prior, so it was on my radar. A new one for me, and one I have been wanting to see for awhile.

They ended up being fairly numerous, and while I never caught one, I did get some nice photos.



I was quite pleased. We continued down the channel. We popped into a little marshy "inlet" to see what was there. I caught a Racket-tailed Emerald.

I didn't pay as close attention to plants as I would probably normally have, but still noted a few things. The channel is full of aquatic plants. This is a somewhat difficult group of plants, but I am quite fond of them! I'll have to go back just to look at those!

Flat-stemmed Pondweed
(Potamogeton zosteriformis)

Whorled Water-Milfoil
(Myriophyllum verticillatum)

A couple of sedges that are very similar in appearance, Bristly Sedge (Carex comosa) and Cypress-like Sedge (Carex pseudocyperus), were also found. They differ in the length of the teeth on the perigynia.

Hardstem Bulrush (Schoenoplectus acutus) was fairly abundant along the channel.

Okay, back to odonates.

We hit a little "pocket" of action. There were several Prince Baskettails, Common Green Darners, and even a couple Slaty Skimmers. As with the rest of the channel, Common Baskettails, Dot-tailed Whitefaces, Blue Dashers, and Eastern Pondhawks were common. Also a Cyrano Darner, with its distinctively arched abdomen.

Cyrano Darner

Prince Baskettail

Slaty Skimmer

 There were a couple birds of interest seen, including a Common Raven and a Sandhill Crane. The crane was likely with a colt (baby crane), but we couldn't confirm.

A bit further down the channel, we noticed several Elegant Spreadwings.

After awhile, we reached where the channel meets the river in Port Franks. Here we had considerable luck with clubtails.

Black-shouldered Spinyleg

Lancet Clubtail 
Lilypad Clubtail

Unicorn Clubtail

A few bluets of interest were also seen. I probably could have turned up some more species if I had netted them, but still ended up with Stream, Hagen's, Skimming, Orange, and Rainbow.

Rainbow Bluet

Skimming Bluet

After five hours or so, we tallied 32 species of odonates, which I think is pretty good! 

On our way home, we stopped at Fossil Road in Hungry Hollow. The river was higher than the week prior, which I think is why there were no dragonflies to be seen! I was a bit disappointed, but oh well. Here are a couple neat plants.

Dichanthelium lindheimeri

Three-sqaure Bulrush (Schoenoplectus pugnens)

Troublesome Sedge (Carex molesta)

Friday 19 June 2020

Ausable Afternoon

Yesterday I spent a few hours in the afternoon along the Ausable River near Arkona. This place has been of recent interest after James Holdsworth found a good number of clubtail dragonflies, including the provincially rare Rapids Clubtail and Green-faced Clubtail. I was hoping to mimic his success.

I first stopped along Fossil Road, which is actually quite a neat little spot, alongside the Ausable. I had intended just to stop quickly for some plants, but realized there were odes to be seen! 

Several Swift River Cruisers and Midland Clubtails patrolled the river, with a couple other species of clubtail I was unable to catch and identify. 

Midland Clubtail

Swift River Cruiser

Tons of damselflies too! Lots of American Rubyspots, Powdered and Violet Dancers, and Stream Bluets.

Stream Bluet

In case you were wondering, I did some plants of interest. I saw a new species for me, Emory's Sedge (Carex emoryi), which turned out to be the dominant sedge along the river. It apparently enjoys calcareous areas, so this fits the bill! 


I went up to the Mystery Falls Trail, where I intended to access the river. There are breeding Acadian Flycatchers here, but I didn't hear any. I did have a singing Cerulean Warbler though. When I reached the river, I realized things were going to be much more difficult than I was hoping, since the river was much deeper than I wanted to wade in. I began to bushwack down the shore.

Of course I stopped to look at sedges (are you really surprised at this point?).

Handsome Sedge (Carex formosa)

Smooth-sheathed Sedges (Carex laevivaginata)

Bur Reed Sedge (Carex sparganoides)

Woolly Sedge (Carex pellita)

Finally, I reached a point where I'd be able to get into the river and wade. Shortly after I saw a suspicious looking clubtail with a narrower club than the Midlands. I netted it and confirmed it to be my lifer Rapid's Clubtail. My 120th species of ode for Ontario!

Rapids Clubtails are considered endangered, and were the first species of dragonfly to be put on the endangered list. This is a completely new population, and a new river for where this species is found. I saw mine on the Middlesex side of the river, so a nice addition to my county list. This population represents the first record for the county since 1989, when they were last seen near Putnam on the Thames River in the southeast portion of the county. 

I was quite happy after my success. I continued to wade down the river towards the Rock Glen Conservation Area. I was forced up onto the bank a few times. At one point I was walking and spied a spring fed creek/seepage area from afar, I thought to myself "That looks like a good spot for Carex prasina", and sure enough, I got closer and there were a few clumps! Drooping Sedge (Carex prasina) is an uncommon species on Ontario, and a new one for me.

Something I haven't seen during the summer before is American Bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia).

There were a bunch of Twelve-spotted Tiger Beetles in a sandy part of the river bank. A new species for me. Tiger beetles are pretty cool.

I walked about 5 kilometers in total, a good workout. A neat little area, will have to check it out again.

Friday 12 June 2020

Early June Jaunts

I've gone out a couple times over the past few days. The weather hasn't been the most cooperative, but still managed to see a couple neat things.

On Tuesday, I went up to the Parkhill Conservation Area. It was my first time going to this place, and I have very limited time, so I didn't get to explore it to the fullest extent. The little area I did explore was somewhat productive. I saw my first Red-spotted Newts.

I had been hoping to see some of the uncommon sedges in the area, but only managed to find one new species for me, Handsome Sedge (Carex formosa). It is fairly similar to Graceful Sedge (Carex gracillima), but the lower stem (leaf sheaths) are hair, and the spikes are shorter.

Handsome Sedge

Graceful Sedge

Another species of sedge I saw was Hairy Sedge (Carex hirtafolia), its hairy leaves are quite distinctive. Hammer Sedge (Carex hirta) also has hairy leaves, but the fruiting spike looks quite different.

There was a lot of Sweet Vernal Grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum) along the trails and road. This is a non-native species.

I was surprised to find Cream Violet (Viola striata), which, while ranked S3 in Ontario (21 to 80 locations where it is present), seems to be somewhat common in Middlesex county. I have seen it in several locations. Usually, it seems that this violet is found along rivers and creeks, but this was on the middle of a pine plantation beside a power cut! 

A couple odes were seen. Several Common Baskettails, an unidentified clubtail (I missed my swing!), and my first Marsh Bluet of the year.

Common Baskettail

I stopped into Weldon Park in Arva on my way home. It is a neat little place, and I have turned up some interesting things there. I saw several species of sedges. I think in total, I had nearly 20 species of sedges in total on this day.

Dewey's Sedge (Carex deweyana)

Narrow-leaf Inflated Sedge (Carex grisea)

James' Sedge (Carex jamesii)

Hitchcock's Sedge (Carex hitchcockiana)

Rosy Sedge (Carex rosea)

James' Sedge (Carex jamesi) again

Retrorse Sedge (Carex retrorsa)

Bristle-stalked Sedge (Carex leptalea)

Porcupine Sedge (Carex hystericina)

I saw a couple odes of interest, including my first Eastern Pondhawk, Widow Skimmer, Skimming Bluet, and Orange Bluet of the year. A few Snowberry Clearwings (moth) as well.

Snowberry Clearwing

Eastern Pondhawk

I saw this odd aquatic plant, which is actually closely related to algae.  

Common Stonewort (Chara vulgaris)

Fast forward to yesterday afternoon. I went out to the park down my street on a whim, hoping to maybe see some Unicorn Clubtails, an uncommon species of dragonfly. I have had a few at the pond there for the last few years. At one point I looked up, and saw a couple black birds of prey. I figured they had to be vultures, but I was quite puzzled by their flight pattern, which was made up of snappy wing beats followed by short glides. I was certainly regretting not bringing my binoculars! I caught flashed of silvery wing tips as they flapped, so naturally Black Vulture crossed my mind. But that would be nuts! I only had the small lens on my camera (55mm!), but with nothing better, I snapped photos. As they passed overhead, I noted the stocky wings, short tail, and silvery wingtips. I couldn't believe it, they were indeed Black Vultures! I managed to snap a few record photos.

Needless to say, a new bird for my neighborhood list, and what seems to be the fifth record all time for Middlesex county. This may be the first record with more than one bird, but I'd have to check. Perhaps they are a product of the hurricane that moved through. They're no Sooty Tern, but I was quite pleased! 

Always something to see!