Friday 31 December 2021

Ontario Big Year in 2022

No, this isn't me making ground breaking announcement about my attempt at one of the most grueling ventures in birding, but rather me highlighting two individuals who are about to undertake this exciting task. Starting tomorrow, two of my good friends Ezra Campanelli and Kiah Jasper will begin their Ontario Big Years, and attempting to achieve a new record. These two will be joining forces for an attempt that has been in the work for some time now...and it is finally time to act. Using never before seen tactics, these two are sure to excel. 

Ezra Campanelli

Kiah Jasper

Although in my younger days (yes, even younger than I am now), all I could dream of was doing a big year, I no longer have that desire. Plants have really changed me it seems, That being said, I still love the strategy and excitement behind it all, so I for one am really looking forward to following along with these two. I'm sure I'll get roped into some adventures along the won't take much convincing. 

Ezra and Kiah will sure have a great start to their year, if all goes to plan, as there are a number of lingering rarities that appear as though they will make it to the new year. Some of their top priorities which will keep them occupied for the first few days, at least, include a long staying Black-bellied Whistling Duck and Razorbill(s) in Niagara, Harris's Sparrow in Hamilton, Golden-crowned Sparrow in Toronto, Mountain Bluebird in Wellington, and the possibility of a Prairie Falcon in Durham (and literally as I was writing this, news of possibly even an Arctic Loon in Algoma). Of course, they would certainly take that Glaucous-winged Gull in Barrie if it were to ever pop back up! Townsend's Solitaire and Varied Thrush are two species that are also of high interest, and there a couple options to choose from for both.  

Once they get a number of these rarities, their attention will turn to some of the harder winter species in the province, such as Gray Partridge, Purple Sandpiper, finches, sea ducks, and northern owls. 

Northern Hawk Owl (Cochrane District, March 2020)

The current big year record for Ontario is 347, set by Jeremy Bensette in 2017, so it will not be an easy feat, but it sure will be a rewarding one. 2021 was a super year for rare birds, with Geoff Carpentier seeing 343 species (and not starting his serious big year attempt until May!), so here's hoping that 2022 is even better. 

If you wish to follow along with their big year progress, check out Kiah's blog and Ezra's website. If you are social media savvy, check out Ezra's big year Instagram account @bigyearbirdxbird where he will be posting photos of each year bird he sees. 

Best of luck to you both, and Happy New Year to all!!!

Sunday 19 December 2021

Christmas Bird Counts 2021

Time for my annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) blog post, which shrinks in content and length every year since I hardly carry a camera anymore...that's why I have friends who take pictures! 

I arrived in London late Friday night, and was up early the next morning for the London CBC. This is my fifth year doing this count, and my route covers about a 5km stretch along the river. Some years it can be dynamite, but others, like this year, it can be quite poor.

It was so poor in fact that I got my lowest species total ever on this route with 28 (average 32), and lowest individual total with 323 (average 685). Averages are only based on five years of data, but still...

Highlights? Not much! A couple Winter Wrens, nine Swamp Sparrows, and 47 Northern Cardinals were all nice. Lots of misses though. I did add Great Blue Heron to my all time list for this route. 

eBird checklist here:

Today I got to do a slightly more exciting count, the Rondeau/Blenheim CBC. This is my sixth year doing this count. This time around, I was joined by Nathan Hood and Ezra Campanelli. 

We started with a lakewatch at the VC beach access (which apparently is beach #10, never noticed the number before). It was slow at first, but quickly picked up. Highlights were Surf Scoters, White-winged Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, and lots of Red-breasted Mergansers. Took a bit for the loons to start, but ended up with 47 Red-throateds and a Common. Although I guess the place to be was off South Point because Blake had 217 Red-throats! I'm happy though, my perfect streak for Red-throated Loon on this count continues!

Eventually we had to pry ourselves away from the lake, and begin walking up Lakeshore towards the campground. Lots of redpolls around (we ended up with 95, a new Rondeau bird for me). Tufted Titmouse and several Carolina Wrens were real treats for me, having not seen either in months. A Fox Sparrow that was pished in was another real highlight for our trio of dedicated counters. 

A quick check of the beach at the traffic circle revealed a Great Black-backed Gull, a new one for our list. 

After walking the maintenance loop, which was pretty birdy, although nothing really of note, we began our way down Harrison. I thought for sure we'd get a Pileated Woodpecker, but it was not to be. What we did get however was a pair of singing Great Horned Owls, the screech-owl along Bennett Ave, and a flyover Eastern Bluebird at the group campground. 

We finished our route with 45 species, which we were quite happy with. Nothing too rare, and plenty of misses, but that is to be expected on a CBC.  

eBird checklist here:

After finishing our area, we went to walk around the campground for a bit. Although it was covered by others earlier in the day, always a good place to look around. It did not take us long to locate several Yellow-rumped Warblers, and the Blue-grey Gnatcatcher that has been around. The gnatcatcher is new for the Rondeau CBC if I am not mistaken. 

We scoped the bay before leaving the park. A few Canvasback among other ducks were nice to see.

One last stop was Keith McLean's CA to look for a couple lingering birds. After a bit of searching, we spotted the continuing Nelson's Sparrow. As we were in pursuit of the sparrow for a better look (which we got), we also saw the continuing Least Sandpiper, another new species for the count. The sandpiper also has the honour of being the only photo I took all weekend.

Rondeau has so far recorded 117 species this year, a very high total. It is still a developing situation, and will be interesting to see what the finally results are.  Edit: final tally is 124 species, setting a new record for Ontario if I am not mistaken 

And that just about wraps it up! An enjoyable weekend birding back in Southwestern Ontario. As much as I love Algonquin (to which I am just about to begin my journey back to), I sure have missed these locations! Although in past years I have only done these two counts, this year I have the Algonquin CBC coming up on January 3rd.

Today it was Least Sandpiper, Nelson Sparrow, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, and Red-throated Loons, tomorrow its Evening Grosbeaks, crossbills, Pine Grosbeaks, and Canada Jays...

Monday 13 December 2021

Barrie Birding

Last Tuesday I ventured back down to Barrie to search for the Glaucous-winged Gull. I felt a little bit robbed after only seeing it for a few seconds my first time, so I wanted redemption. Barrie is only about two and a half hours from where I'm living, which is certainly one of the shorter drives I've done on my days off as of late :)

I got a late start to the day, as the weather was a little bit iffy. There were also a couple of delays on 11 heading south. As such, I didn't get to Barrie until a little bit after noon. I certainly didn't need to be in a rush however, because the Glaucous-winged Gull wasn't there when I arrived!

I spent the next freezing few hours watching gulls the and waiting. There certainly was some nice variety, with a few Glaucous Gulls and a couple Icelands, including two Kumlien's and a Thayer's. 

Thayer's Gull

A couple nice wintering passerines made an appearance in the form of a White-crowned Sparrow and Yellow-rumped Warbler. 

Finally, just past 4:30, the Glaucous-winged Gull flew in. I don't know enough about cameras to have photos turn out in such low light, nor was I keen to play around too much as my fingers were frozen solid. At least it proves I saw it!

Nice to get out of the park every once in awhile to see some birds! Although, perhaps I shouldn't venture too far until I have that pesky Merlin that has been hanging out around the Old Airfield on my winter list! :P

I'll be back down home this weekend for a couple of Christmas Bird Counts that I usually do. Will be nice to see some rarities (House Sparrows). 

Wednesday 1 December 2021

One Long Drive, Two (?) Lifers

Yesterday, I drove back down to London from Algonquin to visit home for a couple of days. On my way south, I made a couple stops to look for some ongoing rare birds.

My first stop was the Barrie waterfront, where I was going to look for the putative Glaucous-winged Gull, first found on November 27th by Justin Peter, Peter Mills, Lyndsey Friesen (and I'm not sure who the fourth observer was). This is the second record for Ontario, pending acceptance. Out west, where this bird is from, they hybridize widely with a few species, most notably Western Gull. There is some concern that this bird, a second cycle, may be a hybrid, although several gull experts think it looks within reason for a "good enough" Glaucous-winged. Justin collected a stool sample to sequence the DNA, so we'll see what that turns up. Given the extent of the hybrid mess out west (coming from someone who hasn't been there before), I won't be the least bit surprised if its great-grandmother was a Western Gull.  

I very briefly saw the Glaucous-winged Gull on the docks shortly after I arrived, but as soon as I took my eyes off it to get closer, it disappeared into thin air. I think I may have saw it flying away, but the bird was quite distant, and certainly not getting any closer. No doubt the individual in question, but I sure am bummed not to have gotten any pictures. 

Regardless of what it "turns out to be", it is a gull that came from the west coast, so that's pretty cool! 

A few hours later, I pulled up to a Rufous Hummingbird stakeout in Lambton. Within a few minutes, the bird appeared at the feeder, and I was able to get some photos. With at least three Rufous Hummingbirds in the province this fall, I'm kind of feeling desensitized to this species (even though this is the first one I have seen haha).

I looked in vain for a Cattle Egret on my way home from the hummingbird spot. Would have been a nice county bird, but oh well.

Nice to see some new birds. Its been a pretty great fall for lifers for me. I saw Razorbill in Ottawa, Black-legged Kittiwake in Algonquin, Barrow's Goldeneye and Say's Phoebe in Ottawa again (right place, right time for that phoebe, I was literally right around the corner from where it was found), and of course Glaucous-winged (??) Gull and Rufous Hummingbird, as detailed above. I'm certainly not huge on chasing birds, but its fun when it works out! 

Sunday 21 November 2021

Species Spotlight: Powder Gun Moss (Diphyscium foliosum)

I was recently walking one of Algonquin Park's trails, when I looked down and spied something I had been long wanting to see—Diphyscium foliosum, perhaps better known by its common name of Powder Gun Moss. 

This is a very distinctive moss, as I am sure you have noticed, due to it's unique capsules.

The capsules are believed to be shaped in this manner to aid in spore dispersal. Whenever a rain drop hits it, spores would be emitted from the capsule in a cloud that can reach as far as a few centimeters. 

The perichaetial leaves, the leaves which surround the base of the capsule, of Powder Gun Moss are lawn awned and also quite distinctive. 

The vegetative leaves are not quite as showy, and are no doubt overlooked by even the most keen observer. Their blunt leave apices (leaf tips) separate this species from the other North American species, Diphyscium mucronifolium, which is found in the southeastern United States. Diphyscium mucronifolium is an Asian disjunctive species. 

Powder Gun Moss is found throughout Eastern North America, as well as parts of Western North America. Keep an eye out for it on soil banks and soil on forest floors. 

Sunday 31 October 2021

Atlantic Birds in Ontario: October 2021

Not your usual post on natural history or an outing, but rather my attempt at a compilation of the sightings of birds normally found on the Atlantic Coast that found their way into Ontario's waters over the past month. I've gleaned these sightings off eBird and the Ontario Birds Discord, and have very likely missed some.

Over the past few weeks a number of birds that aren't really supposed to be here...are here. While there doesn't seem to be a definite answer as to why they are where they are, some theories have suggested a famine, as well as weather patterns. It is important to note that this "invasion" wasn't really noted until about the 10th of October, with the arrival of Razorbills in Ottawa. It was another couple of weeks before alcids and larger numbers of kittiwakes began to appear on Lake Ontario—although I think it is reasonable to speculate that they were on Lake Ontario that entire time, but perhaps just weren't moving/visible to onshore birders.  

Of interest, a large wreck of alcids in the UK back in September:

In no particular order...

Black-legged Kittiwake

October 5* - one, juvenile (Van Wagner's Beach [VWB], Hamilton)

October 6* - one or two, juvenile(s) (VWB, Hamilton)

October 25 - one, juvenile (VWB, Hamilton)

October 26 - one, juvenile (Point Edward, Lambton); one, second cycle (Lake Opeongo, Algonquin Park, Nipissing)

October 27 - one, juvenile (VWB, Hamilton)

October 28 - nine, juveniles (VWB, Hamilton); one, age unspecified (Point Edward, Lambton); one, juvenile (Bronte Harbour, Halton); one, juvenile (Morpeth, Chatham-Kent)

October 29 - four, juveniles (VWB, Hamilton); two, juveniles (Burlington, Halton)

October 30 - one, juvenile (Burlington, Halton), two, age unspecified (VWB, Hamilton); one, juvenile  (Lake Opeongo, Algonquin Park, Nipissing)

* likely not related to this Atlantic event


*harder to differentiate numbers between locations, so will give high count at county level* 

October 10  - two (Ottawa)

October 11 - at least four (Ottawa)

October 12  - at least 9 (Ottawa)

    Because I was there this day, I will offer some commentary. I believe that there were no less than a dozen Razorbills on the river that day: at least two at Constance Bay first thing in the morning, nine flying past Andrew Haydon Park downriver soon after, and then one off Britannia Pier at mid-day. 

October 13  - one (Ottawa)

October 14  - three (Ottawa); one (Prescott and Russel)

October 15 - October 29 - 2 (Ottawa)

October 29 -  three (Durham), one (Toronto), one (Peel), one (Hamilton)

October 30  - two (Hamilton), two (Durham), two (Niagara)


Alcid sp.

October 29 - two (Frontenac), two (Hamilton), two (Durham), three (Peel)

October 30 - four (Hamilton)

As previously stated, the above numbers for both Razorbill and Alcid sp. are county high counts for each day, because it is hard to judge just how many birds are around because they are moving around constantly. The big take away here is that there are a lot of birds! 

Northern Gannet

October 17 - one, juvenile (Ottawa)

And this doesn't even include the kittiwakes and alcids they're seeing in Michigan, New York, and Quebec! 

Atlantic Puffin in Montreal:

Apparent adult Black-legged Kittiwake in New York (no photos):

Five kittiwakes on October 27 in New York:

Black-legged Kittiwake in Michigan (across from Point Edward):

I'll update the list if I learn of anything I missed from this time period.

Fun stuff. What's next? 

Thursday 28 October 2021

Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty...

Man, I love birding in Algonquin Park.

This past week, I kept religiously checking the weather on my days off, and it was looking like the conditions would be adequately horrible. As such, I made plans with Jeff Skevington to do some birding in Algonquin Park on Lake Opeongo and Lake Travers. It turned out that the weather wasn't nearly as bad as I was expecting, but the birding sure fell into the "unexpected" category! 

I met Jeff early Tuesday morning to start birding at the Old Airfield. Nothing spectacular was seen, although we did have two Common Goldeneye fly over, a new park bird for me, and weirdly the only ones we saw on our travels. A fair number of Snow Buntings as well, new arrivals. There was also a selection of some lingering birds, such as Rusty Blackbird, Swamp Sparrow, and a Double-crested Cormorant.

After making a quick loop of the Spruce Bog Boardwalk (nothing of note), we went to the Opeongo docks, where we loaded up Jeff's motorboat, and set out on the water. The lake was a bit rough, but nothing we couldn't handle.

It wasn't too long until we saw our first good bird of the trip, a Red-throated Loon flying by. This is quite the rarity in Algonquin Park, with only a handful of records. 

We continued to make our way up the lake, keeping an eye out for anything out of the ordinary. There really wasn't all that much going on, although we remained vigilant. A large (for Algonquin) concentration of gulls on the rocks near the weather station gave us hope for something unusual, but alas, nadda.

Herring Gull

As we reached the North Arm of the lake, we did spy something interesting though. On the water some some Ring-billed Gulls there was a slightly smaller, darker mantled (backed) gull. After some choice words, we reached the conclusion that we were looking at the first Algonquin Park record of Black-legged Kittiwake! (!!!!!!!!!) The title of the post makes sense now, right?

The bird was not in the typical juvenile plumage that is often seen in Ontario, but looked rather adult like in its second cycle (I think, don't really have many gull resources at my disposal in Algonquin lol) plumage. As such, not only is this Atlantic Coast gull mind boggling for Algonquin, but this sighting is fairly significant for the province because of its appearance. 

The bird left at one point, and we thought that in typical Algonquin fashion, it had bailed, but to our surprise, it came back! It hung around for some time, often flying within a few feet overhead, and in the end, it was us that left it! 

As I mentioned above, this is a species of the Atlantic Coast. It is pretty much annual in Ontario, but of course, not in this plumage. It is worth noting that this bird was observed during a period of northeast wind. Perhaps it is associated with the large "invasion" of Razorbills, another bird of the Atlantic, along the Ottawa River that has occurred just a couple of weeks prior. My view of the Razorbill I saw in Ottawa earlier in the month was rather poor, but this made up for it! 

A pretty spectacular bird. It was a lifer for me actually—funny that I got it in the least likely of places!

We motored around the lake for a bit longer. Of course we couldn't top that sighting, but we did come across a Peregrine Falcon, a second Red-throated Loon, as well as a very late Bonaparte's Gull. 

Red-throated Loon

We got off the lake mid-afternoon, did some more birding, and then made the drive to the east side of the park, to Lake Travers. We ended up arriving to the access point around 9 PM, and paddled into our site in the dark. 

The next morning, we didn't have to go far. Right from the campsite, we saw such things as Long-tailed Duck, White-winged Scoter, and Lapland Longspur. Plenty of Red-breasted Mergansers as well. Snow Buntings were constantly flying about.

We hit the lake, and before long has found such goodies as Northern Pintail (rare in the park), both scaup, a large flock of Ring-necked Ducks, and a personal highlight of the day, Bohemian Waxwings feeding on Ilex, the first in the park this fall. 

We set up on a sand spit at the north end of the lake, and watched the skies, hoping for raptors. I should mention that before we even got out of the canoe, a Rough-legged Hawk flew over! It was not too long before we got our first of two Golden Eagles. Other things were moving too, and we tallied 13 Red-tailed Hawks and an additional Rough-legged, as well as a migrant Bald Eagle. All in all, a pretty good movement in Algonquin standards! eBird checklist

Not too much more to add, other than seeing a Northern Shrike on the drive out along Barron Canyon Road were a tornado had caused some severe damage. It is a slam dunk every time on the east side!

It was nothing short of an epic 48 hours. I tallied 10 new park birds, and had a great time in great company. Not once did I ever even feel sad about not getting to see that Groove-billed Ani...I think we put that bird to shame anyways. If you put the work in, it pays off. 

Saturday 16 October 2021

Shorebirds of Algonquin

Been awhile, eh? 

Alright, I'll say it. Algonquin Park is notoriously bad for birding. Sure, there's some good things to be seen here and there, but you (usually) have to work very, very hard for it. I can't tell you the number of times I have walked around the Old Airfield over the past several weeks and the best bird be an American Pipit. 

However, despite how bad it is, many birders, myself included, absolutely adore birding in the park. Why? Well, when the work you put in pays off, it really pays off. 

Back in the summer I was joking about doing a little naturalist table on the "Shorebirds of Algonquin", which was quickly kyboshed when I realised that we only had like four (4) shorebird specimens. As you can imagine, Algonquin is not exactly the most "productive" place for shorebirds. Rocks? We got em. But we lack many of the sandy beaches and exposed marshes that are required for these migrants to touch down on.

There is however I very special place in the park that sometimes harbours shorebirds, you just have to maybe get rained on (after all, rain drives down the birds). That place is the magical East Side, specifically Radiant Lake and Lake Travers.

I only first set foot on the shores of Lake Travers this past summer, but have since made an effort to get back there as much as possible (which unfortunately, due to certain logistics, hasn't been super often). This is a very special lake in that is has a decent (for Algonquin) sized marsh with decent (for Algonquin) mudflats when the water is low. Many rarities have been found here over the years, and each time I go, I hope to add to that legacy (spoiler: no mind-bogglers yet).

Radiant Lake is another special lake in that it is very sandy, and very shallow. It is possible to wade pretty much right across the lake when the water is low enough. The sandy bottomed lake also translates into expansive sand bars that are sometimes exposed. 

30 species of shorebirds have been recorded in Algonquin Park, and I have seen 13 of them. Anyways, here's a few pictures of the ones I have encountered. 

On September 10, I went on a work trip to Lake Travers and Radiant Lake. Our best bird was a White-rumped Sandpiper (something like the 14th record for Algonquin). We also had Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, and a couple Greater Yellowlegs. 

White-rumped Sandpiper

Semipalmated Plovers

Least Sandpiper

A couple weeks later, I was on a camping trip to Lake Travers with Peter Simons, and we had a great time in the rain with a mini (emphasis on mini) shorebird fallout. We each got a few park shorebirds, such as a Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral Sandpiper, and Dunlin. 

Our eBird checklist is a sight to behold. At least, I think so :-) 

Annnndddd...that's it. Yup. A couple exciting instances for shorebirds is all you get! No fallouts of Hudsonian Godwits were observed (sadly). Water levels rose very quickly after that late September trip, and when I returned in early October, there were no exposed flats anywhere! A flyover Greater Yellowlegs is all I got...

I suspect my shorebird season is over in the park, but I'll still holding out for a Northern Lapwing in the airfield...

Saturday 31 July 2021

An Assortment of Algonquin Odes

These past few weeks in Algonquin have been rather rainy, but there have been a few good days mixed in. Odes, short for odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) are an obsession shared by many of the Algonquin Park naturalists, and we have tried our best to see as many as possible. I am quite fond of my Algonquin Park ode list, which is currently sitting at 83 out of the possible 110+ (don't have an exact number) species in the park, with some more hopefully on the way (perhaps even this weekend!).

My first "park ode" of the summer (excluding the ode count on July 2), was a Dot-tailed Whiteface which we found in a culvert on the side of Barron Canyon Road located on Algonquin's east side. This is a rare species in the park, only known from a handful of records, many of which are from along this road.

From this same ditch we (Henrique Pacheco) located a Fragile Forktail, another species with only a handful of records from the same area. It was only first discovered in the park in 2011 by Peter Mills and Reuven Martin. 

Of course the main highlight from that trip were several Arrowhead Spiketails, a new species for the park that had just been discovered the week prior. This was a lifer for me as well. A stellar catch by Pete Simons allowed for close inspection. 

In a nearby fen we caught Clamp-tipped Emeralds.

Also in this fen were two more park odes for me, Emerald Spreadwing and Twelve-spotted Skimmer.

Emerald Spreadwing

Twelve-spotted Skimmer

Later that day outside the park in Petawawa we caught Ocellated and Fawn Darners, as well as we saw several Broad-tailed Shadowdragons, a lifer, all of which were too high up to catch. 

Ocellated Darner

The day prior to that amazing trip, I was in a fen looking for Kennedy's Emeralds, but instead caught several Incurvates, ironically the rarer of the two. I got to observe a couple females oviposting (laying eggs) which was pretty cool. 

The following weekend, I came across a couple more species of Somatochlora emeralds, although neither were new for me. 

Lake Emerald

Brush-tipped Emerald

That's about it for my good photos of odes, but some miscellaneous finds included Slender Spreadwing, Saffron-winged Meadowhawk, Black-tipped Darner and Fawn Darner, all new park odes (funny how I got Ocellated Darner before Fawn Darner!). At the VC parking lot I saw a suspicious darner flying around that looked a lot like a Lance-tipped, a rarity in the park, but I flubbed the catch (after running inside for a net), so I guess I'll never know for sure...

Hard to say what August will bring as the peak of ode season is behind us. Hopefully some darner swarms...

Sunday 18 July 2021

Some Algonquin Orchids

I have now been living and working in Algonquin Park for a little over a week. I have managed to get out a bunch to look for things, with one group in particular being of interest—orchids. 

There is a fen across the highway from the staff house which I have visited a couple of times. Clubspur Orchid (Platanthera clavellata) is quite abundant here. I photographed this on my first visit before the flowers really started to come out. 

There was a second species of Platanthera in the fen as well, Ragged Fringed Orchid (P. lacera), which was a new one for me. I only saw one plant on my initial visit, but on my second we found two.

We also made a trip to the east side of the park in search of Arrowhead Spiketail, a new species of dragonfly for the park that was found the week prior. We were very successful on all fronts with that trip as we found the spiketails (and a few other "park odes"), as well as some orchids, many of which are rare in the park, and all of them were new for me.

Lesser Purple Fringed Orchid (P. psycodes)

Green Adder's Mouth (Malaxis uniflora)

Auricled Twayblade (Neottia auriculata)

Checkered Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera tesselata)

I also saw another new species of orchid today while exploring the old airfield, Slender Ladies Tresses (Spiranthes lacera), but I haven't taken the photos off my camera yet (typing this on my phone using photos I downloaded from my iNaturalist observations!).

While it appears the peak of orchids may be behind us, I am sure there are still a few species out there waiting to be seen! 

Sunday 4 July 2021

Algonquin Park Ode Count 2021

On Friday, we made the trek to Algonquin Park for the annual odonate count. This year, I was assigned Area C, which includes the Big Pines Trail, Spruce Bog Boardwalk, Beaverpond Trail, and surrounding area. Due to regulations regarding social distancing, counters were not really able to mingle, so I had the entire area virtually to myself. 

Our first stop was Big Pines Trail. This was one of the two spots I was asked to focus most of my time on. I spotted a few odes along the way, but the main attraction was a large open bog/meadow, and I spent a good hour at least tromping around through it. 

I found a couple clubtails of note pretty quickly. Beaverpond Clubtail is a somewhat local but widespread ode in Algonquin Park. It has a pretty restricted range in Ontario, making it a specialty ode. I believe the species was first discovered in Ontario in Algonquin. As is typical with female clubtails, you need to check genital plates to confirm identity.

The other species of note was Harpoon Clubtail. This was my only one of the day.

The deerflies (Chrysops spp) were absolutely horrendous. I didn't wear any gloves at Big Pines, but later at Spruce Bog I found a pair of rubber gloves to put on, which certainly helped! The next morning when I woke up I found that one of my eyes was actually swollen shut as a result of the fly bites!

Chrysops montanus

My main target in the bog was Ocellated Emerald, but I was unable to find any. Nevertheless, I still found a few interesting odes. I flushed a female Common Green Darner at one point, which is a scarce species in Algonquin during the summer, a new park ode for me. From what I gather, Bat Lake is one of the only reliable spots to see this species, and sure enough, a couple were seen there on count day. As well, one was seen at the pond at the logging museum. 

Record shot

There were a few baskettails around of three species. The only one I was able to net and photograph was Spiny Baskettail, but there were several Prince Baskettails flying around, as well as some Common Baskettails, which are easy to pick out as they have extensive dark hindwing patches in this part of Ontario. 

Spiny Baskettail females have long appendages

A new butterfly for me was Two-spotted Skipper. I saw a few on this day.

After failing to find any Somatochlora emeralds in the bog and donating a quart of blood to the insects, I made my way back to "dry land". Of course, as soon as I did that, I spotted one of these elusive emeralds. I managed to capture it (thank goodness, no one wants to miss a swing on a Somatochlora), and it proved to  me a Williamson's Emerald. This is on the early side for the species, and proved to be a decent one for the count. 

Next up was the Spruce Bog boardwalk. All of the good areas I was to check were off trail, so it required some bushwhacking. One of the first odes I caught was another Beaverpond Clubtail.

I also caught a fritillary, which proved to be an Atlantis Fritillary. I believe I saw a Silver-bordered or two as well.

I came across a couple Dragonhunters, which are quite the beasts. I wasn't really expecting to see any, so it was a pleasant surprise. 

Finally I spotted a Somatochlora emerald, which proved to be a Ski-tipped Emerald when I netted it. I saw three in total. 

The "ski tip"

There were a couple of darners flying around, which I netted.

Canada Darner

Springtime Darner

I was on the lookout for Subarctic Bluet, but it appeared to be too late in the season for them. I did however find a Taiga Bluet, which is getting late. Another new park species for me.

An attractive species of orchid found in the bog is Rose Pogonia (Pogonia ophioglossoides).

I moved to a different section of the bog. I spotted an emerald, but it was too high up to try and catch. I have suspicions it was a Delicate Emerald though. I also spied this Virgin Tiger Moth, which was a new one for me.

I worked along the little creek that ran through, and picked up another Ski-tipped Emerald, as well as a Sphagnum Sprite. I spotted a large dark dragonfly at one point, and netted it. I was absolutely flabbergasted when I pulled out a Harlequin Darner! 

Ever since I had first read about this species five years ago in my Algonquin Park odonate field guide, it was one of my most sought after odes. The only trouble is that it is an early flying species, and for the most part is done by the beginning of July. As such, it is not every odonate count that it is recorded (I don't have an exact number, but I think it might be around only 20% of counts it is observed). Since it is an early flier, I have not had the opportunity to go and try to see one. There are spots in southwestern Ontario where they occur, but I really wanted to find my first one in Algonquin Park, since that's sort of where it all began. My highlight of the day for sure. 

I left Spruce Bog very happy, and made my last major stop of the day at the Beaver Pond Trail. I had only ever been to this trail once before in September a few years ago, but it is a pretty neat place.

Before I even got down to the pond, I spotted this orchid. It is the flavida form of Western Spotted Coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata var. occidentalis). I haven't seen very many coralroots myself, so it was quite neat. 

Another interesting plant was White-edged Sedge (Carex debilis var. rudgei). This was my first time seeing it, although I undoubtedly have overlooked it in the past. 

I didn't take a single picture of an odonate at this spot, but I added Elegant Spreadwing to the day's list. I'm basically positive I also had a Swamp Spreadwing, which is uncommon in Algonquin, but I wasn't able to confirm it. Oh well, at least I already have it for my park list! In lieu of ode pictures here is a consolation sedge. 

Bronze Sedge (Carex foenea)

I made a quick stop at Costello Creek before heading to the Opeongo Docks for the compilation. I added a couple Eastern Forktails to my day list, but not much else. 

After the compilation (70 species tallied), we had to begin the drive back home to London. I made a quick stop at Pewee Lake just before leaving the park. I was hoping for Swamp Spreadwing (I had some here last year), but no luck. I did see a few Vesper Bluets, which was new for the day. 

I spotted a new sedge for me, Northeastern Sedge (Carex cryptolepis), which can be similar to Yellow-green Sedge (C. flava), but is smaller and doesn't have dark edged pistillate scales. 

Another one that was interesting was Blue Ridge Sedge (C. lucorum), which is undoubtedly underreported. It is very similar to Pennsylvania Sedge (C. pensylvanica), but has longer beaked perigynia. I have also heard that Blue Ridge Sedge has rougher (scabrous) culms than Pennsylvania Sedge, but that may not be entirely reliable. 

These plants were infected by a smut fungus, potentially Anthracoidea caricis.

You can also see the long beaked perigynia! 

Great day in the park doing what I love!