Saturday 29 August 2020

Rainy Rondeau Day

Yesterday I went down to the Rondeau area, in hopes of catching up with a couple of birds, one of which being the juvenile Purple Gallinule found by Steve Charbonneau on Tuesday, at the Blenheim Sewage Lagoons. This is apparently the first record for Chatham-Kent. 

It rained most of the way there, and upon pulling up to the lagoons, there was quite a bit of lightning. It was decided that standing out in the open on the lagoons with a metal tripod was probably not in my best interest. So instead, I opted to go to Erieau first. There were quite a few gulls, terns, and cormorants on tbe pier, in the trees, and on the beaches. I picked through them, but was unable to turn up anything good. I had about 250 (probably more) Common Terns, which is the most I had ever seen at once. Hardly any shorebirds, other than three Sanderlings, and a few Spotted Sandpipers. I flushed a Black-crowned Night-Heron from the base of the pier, which seemed like a really odd spot. My first for the Rondeau area.

Afterwards, the rain seemed to let up a bit, so I went back to the sewage lagoons. The sky seemed sort of threatening, so I left the camera in the car. It took a bit, but finally the Purple Gallinule made its appearance. Quite the pretty thing, even if it wasn't an adult. It hopped up onto some Phragmites and sat and preened itself. It was up high enough we were able to have it at eye level!

We checked the sprinkler cell, and found lots of Semipalmated Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, and yellowlegs, as well as a few Baird's Sandpipers, Pectoral Sandpipers, and Stilt Sandpipers. 

Afterwards, I went to Keith McLean. The birders from the lagoons also ended up there! It was raining, so again no camera!

The water is quite high, so we couldn't go too far back. We heard a Common Gallinule, which made it a two gallinule day. There was also a nice Baird's and Stilt Sandpiper together feeding quite close to us. 

I was joined by Ezra Campanelli, and we walked along the road to where my target bird was seen feeding. It took a couple minutes, but soon the Red Knot was spotted! A beautiful juvenile. Knots are probably my favourite bird! There was also a gorgeous juvenile Short-billed Dowitcher. 

Ezra and I then headed into the park. I didn't really know what to do, so we decided just to do South Point Trail and see what we could see. On the way, we decided to hit the beach access off the VC. There was a Red-headed Woodpecker there upon parking, which was nice. We noticed a large flock of loafing gulls and terns, so we started our way down the beach to see what was with them. The reoccurring theme of the day was that there were no good gulls to be found! As we walked back, we came across a group of three Ruddy Turnstones. They were a FOY for Ezra, and one we had hoped for, so that was a success. 

Next up was South Point. Not too much to be seen. We went out to the beach at the lighthouse, and along the way I caught a ribbonsnake, a lifer for the both of us. 

Again, we saw a huge group of gulls, so we went after them. Nothing to be seen! We ended up walking up to Dog Beach, where we cut in and walked back to the car along Lakeshore. Ezra had to leave back to Hamilton, so we parted ways. By this point the skies had cleared (finally), and I had noticed some cool plants along the walk, so I decided to retrace our steps, and see what I could see along the way. 

One of the highlights was this. I am pretty sure it is Yellow Flatsedge (Cyperus flavescens). It is an S2 in Ontario, and considered rare in Chatham-Kent.

Another highlight was Small-headed Rush (Juncus brachycephalus). I admittedly am not super good at rushes, but I am pretty confident in this ID! 

At one point I noticed a number of caterpillars feeding on Small-flower False Foxglove (Agalinis purpurea parviflora), which turned out to be Common Buckeyes. I had seen a number of adults of this species as well.

The host plant.

I also saw a Five-lined Skink. Always a treat. This is a juvenile, note the blue tail.

A photo dump of some of the other plants I saw.

Trailing Fuzzy Bean (Strophostyles helvola)

Northern Evening Primrose (Oenothera parviflora)

Redwhisker Clammyweed (Polanisia dodecandra)

Seaside Sandmat (Euphorbia polygonifolia)

Tumbleweed (Salsola tragus)

Cylindrical Blazing Star (Liatris cylindracea)

Golden Sedge (Carex aurea)

And of course, the mystery prickly pears (Opuntia sp.) of Rondeau. They are not native to the park, and I don't think anyone really knows for sure their species or origin! 

I cut inland, and went to the washout. Very little bird-wise, so here are some more plants :-)

Matted Spikerush (Eleocharis intermedia)

Blunt Spikerush (Eleocharis obtusa)

Straw-coloured Flatsedge (Cyperus strigosus)

I pished up a storm on the way back, and got a bunch of vireos (Red-eyed, Warbling, and a Philadelphia), a couple warblers, and some flycatchers. I am pretty sure I had a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, but it managed to hide behind the leaves!

Just before leaving, I head a Black-bellied Plover calling out towards the lake from the South Point parking lot. A bit unexpected, but welcome!

Overall, a very successful day in Rondeau, despite all the rain! 

Friday 21 August 2020

South Lambton Specialties

On Wednesday I ventured down to southern Lambton County in search of some of the uncommon odes that call that area of Ontario home. 

I started at Moore Wildlife Management Area, getting there shortly before 9am. I was hoping to find Mocha Emerald here. The trail here is not at all well kept, with the ragweed towering over everything. It is a shame, as this is actually quite a neat place. Soon after my arrival, I found a rare sedge in Ontario, Davis's Sedge (Carex davisii). Unfortunately, it was well past its prime. 

Continuing on, I noted another uncommon plant in Ontario, Lizard's Tail (Saururus cernuus). It was locally abundant along the river. Seems I have missed it in flower.

I eventually reached the creek that the Mochas apparently like to fly around. Upon my arrival, I didn't see any though. I walked along the creek for a bit, and eventually found myself coming out into a grassland type area. I imagine it was likely restored. There were some neat plants, and I saw a Wandering Glider, as well as some sort of darner.

Dense Blazing Star (Liatris spicata)

Stiff-leaved Goldenrod (Solidago rigida)

Culver's Root (Veronicastrum virginicum)

Showy Tick-Trefoil (Desmodium canadense)
Virginia Mountain Mint (Pycanthemum virgnianum)

Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum)

I bushwhacked back down to the creek. Still no emeralds, but I did see a couple of neat flies.

Tabanus calens

Virginia Giant (Milesia virginiensis)

I also saw this next plant, the Lanceleaf Frogfruit (Phyla lanceolata), also known as the Lanceleaf Fogfruit or Northern Fogfruit. I don't know much about this plant, other than it is apparently rare in Ontario. 

I called it quits at Moore after almost two hours, and went to check out McCallum Line, near Booth Creek. It turned out to also be a bust for emeralds. There is a stewardship project there, and it might be interesting to check that spot out again. 

Chrysops callidus

Giant Foxtail (Setaria faberi)

I next went to the bridge at Thamesville. This is a well known spot for another species of odonate that was high on my list of things to see, the Smoky Rubyspot. Upon my arrival, I quickly found many. It is a stunning ode. My 129th ode species for Ontario.

As I was walking back, I noticed a clubtail on some ragweed. I netted it, and was surprised to pull out an Elusive Clubtail! These clubtails, true to their name, are quite elusive, and rarely seen as adults. While they are fairly widespread, not many people get the chance to see them, and they usually require a special effort to see. I was definitely not expecting to see this species today! It was certainly a great ode for #130!

After my success at two lifers in short order, I went up to the town of Florence. Several clubtails were out over the river upon my arrival, but they narrowly managed to avoid my net (I had one interesting one hit the bag and bounce out, no idea what it was!) I had a few likely Arrow Clubtails, but since it would have been a lifer, I was hesitant to count them without catching them or a photo. I did end up catching two more Elusive Clubtails though! I am not sure if anyone had ever recorded them from this location before, which is somewhat surprising given this spot gets a decent amount of attention. Odes sure can surprise you!

There were also several Black-shouldered Spinylegs, Blue-fronted Dancers, American Rubyspots, Ebony Jewelwings, as well as a single Swift and Royal River Cruiser. I also found one male Dusky Dancer. I hadn't seen this species in a couple of years, so that was nice.

Next up was the Shetland boat launch. I was considering skipping this location, but decided to pull off at the last minute. Good decision! I saw four species of dancers here, including my lifer (#131) Blue-ringed Dancer. Both species of spinyleg were here as well, including the rare Flag-tailed.

Blue-ringed Dancer
Flag-tailed Spinyleg

Blue-fronted Dancer

Stream Bluet

Violet Dancer

My last stop was just up river, off Mosside Line. Not much here, other than some more dancers, a Royal River Cruiser, and a Black-shouldered Spinyleg. Here is another Blue-ringed, I quite like this species.

All in all, a great day! I ended up with 5 out of the 6 dancer species found in Ontario (missed Blue-tipped), both rubyspots, both spinylegs, and both river cruisers. Three lifers total! Summer is starting to wind down, but hopefully I can still milk a few more things out of it...

Saturday 15 August 2020

Neighbourhood Odonate Count: Round Two

 A month ago (July 14), I did an odonate count around my neighbourhood (results and comments here), so yesterday (August 14), I decided to do one again, to see how much has changed in a month's time. I followed roughly the same route, and conditions were more or less the same (it was quite windier yesterday though). The biggest difference between the two dates (other than the results) was the change in habitat. One location which was a pond last time was now all dried up, with only a small stream running through. I was actually able to walk across what was once the bottom of the pond! There is some Phragmites management/wetland improvement going on here, so will be interesting to see how that changes over time. On the flip side, a wetland that I was able to easy walk around due to low water levels, has completely flooded because of recent rain. The increased water level resulted in a loss of shorebird habitat, but wasn't completely bad. 

Prior to this count, I had recorded 43 species in my neighbourhood, and that number still stands. I managed to find 26 species on this day (compared to 27 on July 14). The numbers of individuals was also down in comparison to July, with 917 individuals recorded, compared to 1388 individuals last month. This difference in individuals is not entirely surprising however. It can be hypothesized we are past the peak of the odonate season for the neighbourhood. 

Anyways, the results, and some notes. The total from the July 14th count are included in parentheses. 

Broad-winged Damsels (Calopterygidae)
Ebony Jewelwing - 1 (33)
    - one individual in an odd place, zero individuals in the ravine I usually see them, so perhaps they have dispersed? 

Spread-winged Damsels (Lestidae)
Slender Spreadwing - 11 (147)
    - surprisingly low numbers, I wasn't able to access the area where I had the bulk last time, but still way fewer individuals in accessible areas than last time

Narrow-winged Damsels (Coenagrionidae)
Familiar Bluet - 167 (101)
Azure Bluet - 4 (0)
    - recent addition to the neighbourhood list when I found a couple individuals on August 8th. This is a species that is quick to colonize new areas, and I think that perhaps the recent flooding contributed to their arrival. The individuals found on the count were throughout the wetland, indicating they are spreading out. 
Marsh Bluet - 1 (6)
Stream Bluet - 2 (2)
    - pair in copula, as opposed to two males on July 14, indicates breeding
Skimming Bluet - 1 (0)
Orange Bluet - 1 (42)
    - starting to get late, higher water levels resulted in less emergent vegetation for this species to perch on, where they are conspicuous 
Enallgma sp. - 3
Fragile Forktail - 71 (118)
Eastern Forktail - 211 (420)

Darners (Aeshnidae)
Lance-tipped Darner - 1 (0)
Shadow Darner - 1 (0)
Common Green Darner - 46 (14)

Skimmers (Libelluidae)
Halloween Pennant - 2 (0)
    - second record for the neighbourhood, first for location
Eastern Pondhawk - 39 (68)
     - with one location having next to no water, skimmer numbers were down
Widow Skimmer - 46 (25)
    - only one location with this species, making the count excellent
Twelve-spotted Skimmer - 66 (45)
Blue Dasher - 87 (89)
Wandering Glider - 1 (0)
Eastern Amberwing - 23 (57)
Common Whitetail - 47 (80)
White-faced Meadowhawk - 10 (2)
Ruby Meadowhawk - 19 (8)
Band-winged Meadowhawk - 16 (68)
     - no evidence of large numbers like in July, still a few individuals and pairs
Autumn Meadowhawk - 12 (7)
Black Saddlebags - 28 (14)

Total Species: 26 (27)
Total Individuals: 917 (1388)

I once again divided the checklist into the four locations. Quite a striking difference to last time!

Virginia Park
Species: 7 (14)
Individuals: 81 (138)

Northbrook Park (decreased water level)
Species: 18 (24)
Individuals: 244 (620)

Uplands North Wetland (increased water level)
Species: 22 (17)
Individuals: 587 (621)

Uplands Trail
Species: 3 (4)
Individuals: 3 (9)

Misses from the first count:

Emerald Spreadwing - not all that surprising, as I don't normally see this species during the summer. The individual in July was in a part of the wetland that is now inaccessible.
Violet Dancer - I'd consider the individual from the first count accidental.
Tule Bluet - another apparently accidental individual on the first count.
Sedge Sprite - it is late for this species, I checked several areas where they were in July with no luck.
Unicorn Clubtail - late for this species
Dot-tailed Whiteface - this is a seemingly rare species in the neighbourhood, the location where I had an individual in July is now dried up.
Four-spotted Skimmer - uncommon to rare species in Middlesex. The spot I had three in July is now dry. I had one individual at another location on August 8th, but could have just been stopping in.

Other notable misses:

Northern Spreadwing - not sure where this species is this year, have not seen one since July 13th.
Spotted Spreadwing - I have only ever seen one in the neighbourhood (August 4th, 2018), but this is a later season species, so could easily occur, and I just haven't found it (since I was gone for all of August 2019). I have seen several individuals in a park directly to the north of the neighbourhood.

There really weren't all too many surprises. A species I was quite pleased to see was Halloween Pennant, which represents only the second record for the neighbourhood. I am still on the lookout for Calico Pennant!

I was expecting to see more meadowhawks than I did. Numbers of three species (Ruby, White-faced, and Autumn) were up, but Band-winged was down drastically. I suspect that they were done breeding and have since dispersed. 

As mentioned prior, Azure Bluet was a new addition to the list last week. I am hoping this attractive species sticks around and gets a little population going.

I was expecting to see more Wandering Gliders, but still happy I got one.

Unsurprisingly, Common Green Darner and Black Saddlebags numbers were up. These species congregate in numbers before migrating in the fall. The darners were swarming in the evening while feeding. I didn't have much mixed in, save for a Shadow Darner.

Overall, a pretty good day. Any day out looking for odes is a day well spent! I think it was quite interesting to see the contrast between the two dates. I think the biggest surprise was how many species I saw, since I had been expecting quite a few less than in July. I will have to see what I'm up to in mid-September!