Wednesday 30 June 2021

Middlesex Biggish Year: June Update

 June has just come to an end, and as such we have come to the approximate halfway point of my "Middlesex Biggish Year". I ended up seeing two new species for my year list, putting me at 226, which I think is pretty swell! This beats my total from last year, and becomes the second or third highest year list total in Middlesex history (recorded, anyways), and we're only 6 months in! The one bird I was kind of hoping to find this month was Marsh Wren, and I actually went out to the sewage lagoons on a few occasions to try and find the ones that were sporadically reported, but no luck. I will have to cross my fingers for the fall!

The breakdown:

Code 1: 129 species

Code 2: 60 species

Code 3: 23 species (1 new)

Code 4: 9 species (1 new)

Code 5: 4 species

On June 11th, I saw one of my most sought after breeding species for the year, a Prothonotary Warbler in southeast London. We thought that the habitat looked pretty good, but the next day, it was gone. Who knows how long it had been there before it was reported. 

My other new addition for the month was a code 4. On June 1st, the day right after I had wrote I was giving birding a break for a bit, I got an alert for a Common Tern in south London. I skedaddled right over there, and found that it was actually a Forster's Tern, which was soon joined by a second while I was there. Despite being a bit more expected, it was a new Middlesex species for me, so I was happy anyways! I'm up to three tern species this year in Middlesex, which is pretty nuts. Still time to make it four...or five. 

I'll more than likely not be in Middlesex much over the next couple of months, so I will take this up again in September! The only thing I can think of maybe missing (barring rarities) would be Baird's Sandpiper, just because of how unpredictable they are in the county to begin with. I guess time will tell! 

Tuesday 22 June 2021

Early June Insects

Early June is always a great time of year to go out and look for bugs. I have gotten out on a few occasions to try and nail down some of my target species for this time of year. I have compiled some of the more notable sightings into this post.

Back on June 5th I went to Lambton Shores in search of some of the neat insects that call that place home. I didn't see too much of interest when I visited The Pinery, other than a Cyrano Darner and an Eastern Pine Elfin butterfly on a dock. Its not an insect, but these Northern Sunfish were just off the same dock! 

I visited the MNR parking lot and the Ipperwash Dunes and Swales in search of my main target species, Dusted Skipper. This is a very range restricted butterfly, and I believe that Lambton Shores may be the only place it is found in Ontario. It took a bit, but eventually I found some. 

I also ended up seeing another lifer butterfly in the form of a Common Roadside Skipper.

Several species of dragonflies were around as well.

Racket-tailed Emerald

Slaty Skimmer

Belted Whiteface

Lancet Clubtail

Beaverpond Baskettail

A couple of neat flies were seen too.

Bumble Bee Mimic Robber Fly

Golden-backed Snipe Fly

I next visited Fossil Road on the Ausable River, since it was more or less on my way home. I always enjoy stopping here, as it seems you never know what you will see!

I was mostly focusing on dragonflies, and came up with two species of clubtails, Midland and the rare Rapids Clubtail. I saw a couple Rapids about 4 kilometers up river last year.

Midland Clubtail

Rapids Clubtail

I also saw a Common Sootywing, a somewhat uncommon butterfly species.

A couple days later on June 7th I was back out to the Ausable River in search of a rare species of clubtail, Green-faced Clubtail. I worked the section of river near Rock Glen CA. It took a bit, but I finally managed to find a few Green-faced Clubtails, a new species for me!

There were a few males patrolling the river, and I caught a female later on.

One of my most notable sightings wasn't even of a live dragonfly. I spotted a dead Twin-spotted Spiketail caught up on some grass! This may be the first record of this species for the Ausable River, and perhaps Lambton County. On the 5th I had seen a spiketail sp. briefly while I was on Fossil Road, which is in Middlesex. If it was the same species, it would have constituted a new county record for Middlesex. Due to this individual's proximity to Middlesex, I can only assume they are present there too. 

After I was done at Rock Glen, I made another stop along Fossil Road. Completely different than just a couple days prior in that there were no clubtails flying around! I did however find an Eastern Red Damsel, a new one for my Middlesex list.

On June 10th I decided to check out some areas close to home for odonates. I figured it was about time for a visit to the Sifton Bog, so that was my first destination of the day. 

I was quite pleased to see that there were several Spatterdock Darners, which I first found here in 2019 (first Middlesex county record) out over the pond, indicative of a breeding population here. None came close enough for a swing with my net, other than this one when I only had my camera in my hand! At least I got a nice photo :)

There were many Painted Skimmers as well, including a couple pairs in copula and an oviposting female, also indicative of a breeding population. The only Painted Skimmer I had seen prior to this was also at Sifton Bog in 2019. Absolutely gorgeous dragonflies. 

My first "in hand" Carolina Saddlebags were seen as well. Another breeding species here.

There were a few damselflies of interest as well.

Azure Bluet

Boreal Bluet

Amber-winged Spreadwing

Boreal Bluet was a new Middlesex species for me.

I made a visit to Komoka Provincial Park next. Here I was in search of another potentially new species for my county ode list, Delta-spotted Spiketail. After a long and grueling hike, I eventually spotted one, but was only able to get off a quick photo. 

There were also quite a few of these cicadas around as well, Say's Cicada (Okanagana rimosa).

I made one last stop at a storm pond in North London, where I found an unexpected county lifer ode, Lancet Clubtail.

It was an enjoyable few days of tracking down insects! Not much else to do these days :-P

Saturday 19 June 2021

Sydenham Saturday

Today I was down in the Alvinston area for an odonate (dragonfly and damselfly) survey on the Sydenham River Nature Reserve (SRNR) for Ontario Nature arranged by Blake Mann. This reserve is one of my favourite sites in the area, and its a shame I am unable to visit it more often! For the past couple of years, I have partaken in a breeding bird survey on SRNR, and each year we have spotted some cool odes along the way. 

I got up early to head down and do some birding before starting the survey. My first stop was the Strathroy Sewage Lagoons. There was not much of note here in my loop of the south lagoon. I did count over 90 Wood Ducks, several broods, which is always great to see. Another interesting find was a pair of Northern Shovelers. It is likely nothing will come out of it, but you never know. On Tuesday I had a pair of Green-winged Teals here, but they were nowhere to be found this morning. 


I decided to get some point counts done in my Lambton atlas square (17TMH34), and succeeded in completing twelve over the course of a couple hours. Point counts happy pretty fast, so no photos! I recorded over 50 species of birds from these counts. One of my best stops was in the field near the corner of Calvert Drive and Kerwood Drive. Here I had a couple singing Dickcissels on territory (one had been present for about a week now, and a second one seems to have joined it), a pair of Upland Sandpipers, and perhaps most exciting, a family group of Common Ravens which flew over just as I started the point count. Pretty eventful five minutes! 

I eventually got to the SRNR around quarter to ten. The area I was to cover was the Buttonwood Drive side, which is on the east side of the river. This is typically not the most "ode-y" side, but I was more than happy to do it—someone has to! 

I began by walking the field to the south of the parking area, skirting the forest edge. It was not nearly as eventful as I had imagined it to be, and for the longest time, I only came across a few Common Whitetails, a pair of Twelve-spotted Skimmers, and of course several Midland Clubtails. It wasn't until I got down to the river I added Powdered and Blue-tipped Dancer, as well as several Stream Bluets and more Midland Clubtails, to my list. 

I was a bit surprised to see some Banded Hairstreaks, my first this year. There were tons of Hackberry Emperors, as well as a few Tawny Emperors, as well. 

Quite a few of these Haploa moths as well. I think they are LeConte's Haploa moths.

While walking at the far end of the field, I was somewhat surprised to hear a Hooded Warbler, the first time I have encountered one at SRNR. Other breeding birds here included Mourning Warbler, Yellow-throated Vireo, Red-headed Woodpecker, Wood Thrush, Scarlet Tanager, and Blue-grey Gnatcatcher. A couple weeks ago I had a Cerulean Warbler here as well. 

I decided it was time to cut into the forest and head towards the river. As I did so, I came across a fairly fresh Black-shouldered Spinyleg, my first for this property. 

I bushwhacked to the river through seemingly endless patches of stinging nettle, a reoccurring theme for the day. As much as I like SRNR, the one thing I am not a fan of is all of the stinging nettle! Although you can't get "zapped" through jeans, today I was wearing my quick-dry field pants, which apparently offer no protection! I found minimal success with side-stepping through the patches, being careful to flatten the plants down before your legs made contact. 

There was less than expected by the river, just a bunch of Ebony Jewelwings and American Rubyspots. I did have a single female Swift River Cruiser and a Fragile Forktail, but that was it for new species. I continued quite a ways upriver, before crossing over and going to the other side. I walked downriver for a bit, and ended up almost to the other entrance for the reserve. Not much to report on ode wise! A long walk in the hot and humid conditions with an abundance of stinging nettle—fun times! (I actually did quite enjoy myself, doing this beats sitting around at home)

I found myself turning my attention to plants quite a bit on the quiet stretches, although I didn't stop to take very many photos. This is the first time I have seen Broad-leaved Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum canadense) in flower. 

Michigan Lily (Lilium michiganense) is always a fun one to come across.

I saw a number of sedges as well. Since this is such a rich forest, I was hoping to come across some rare species, but it was not to be. Nevertheless, I still came across some high quality species. The diversity of sedges you can find in any given area is something that really appeals to me.

Hitchcock's Sedge (Carex hitchcockiana)

Sprengel's Sedge (C. sprengellii)

White Bear Sedge (C. albursina)

Nerveless Woodland Sedge (C. leptonervia)

Inflated Narrow-leaved Sedge (C. grisea)

Eastern Rough Sedge (C. scabrata)

Drooping Sedge (C. prasina)

Smooth-sheathed Sedge (C. laevivaginata)

Fringed Sedge (C. crinita)

The walk back to the car was largely uneventful. I was quite happy to get back and out of the stinging nettle! 

I had planned to go to Reid CA near Wallaceburg afterwards to look for Oak Hairstreaks, but the sky was threatening rain, so I opted to head back home. Perhaps some other day I will go look for this rare butterfly. 

Overall, a very productive day, even if odonate diversity was lower than I had imagined it would be. I expect to get the results of the survey soon, and will update this post once they come out!