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! 

Thursday 1 July 2021

Homeward Bound

I don't really have a snazzy title for this post...

This past weekend I was down in Kingsville for a bioblitz (perhaps more on that later). On Sunday, after waking up from some much needed rest after mothing until the wee hours of the morning, I began my drive back home to London. Since the weather was quite nice, I decided to make a few stops along the way. 

My first destination was near Tilbury. I knew that were were some rare sedges found here, and I wanted to see if I could find them. I needed my sedge fix! I was sort of disappointed by the lack of sedge diversity on the bioblitz. 

Almost immediately, I found a nice little "honey hole" by a pond. One of the species that first caught my eye was Muskingum Sedge (Carex muskingumensis). This is a somewhat rare sedge in Ontario, ranked S3, although it is listed as common in Essex County. It is a member of Carex section Ovales, which can be a pain to identify. Thankfully, this one is quite distinctive, as its spikes are elongated. 

Another species I was extremely pleased to see was Ravenfoot Sedge (Carex crus-corvi). In Ontario, it is only found in Essex and Lambton counties, and it ranked S1, the rarest of the rare. This is a species I have long wanted to see in the flesh. It is a member of Carex section Vulpinae, and is told from the others by its crazy long-beaked perigynia. There are four species from this section in Ontario, all of which I have now seen! 

There were a few other more common species of sedges growing in the same area as well.

Swan's Sedge (Carex swanii) is typically fairly rare,
but common in the area!

Hop Sedge (Carex lupulina)

Greater Straw Sedge (Carex normalis)

Necklace Sedge (Carex projecta)

Blunt Broom Sedge (Carex tribuloides)

Another species of sedge restricted to the Carolinian zone is Shoreline Sedge (Carex hyalinolepis). This is another species that is actually common in Essex County, despite its rarity everywhere else. Although I didn't stop to look for myself, my understanding is that is grows in the roadside ditches with frequency! It is similar to Lake Sedge (Carex lacustris), which is quite common. Both of these species of sedges are host plants for the Dukes' Skipper, although it seems most of Ontario's Dukes' Skippers (that I know of) are found where there is Shoreline Sedge present. 

This is Bracted Sedge (Carex radiata). It is quite similar to Rosy Sedge (Carex rosea), but has thinner leaves, and the stigmas are coiled differently when present. There is a rare similar species known from Essex, Reflexed Sedge (Carex retroflexa), but the beak of its perigynia isn't toothed, as you can see is the case here. I am not sure the last time Reflexed Sedge has been seen in Ontario, but I am hoping to one day come across it for myself! 

One last interesting sedge I found was this one. It gave me a bit of trouble, but I eventually settled on Bronze Sedge (Carex foenea), although that still remains a bit tentative. Bronze Sedge is a bit of a weird one in that it is a native species further north in Ontario, but is introduced in the Carolinian zone. This would be a new record for Essex County if my identification is correct. 

I spotted a Racket-tailed Emerald at one point, which certainly seemed odd for this far south in the province. I am not sure of their status in Essex County.

After I was done there, I went up to Reid CA north of Wallaceburg. Here I was in search of Oak Hairstreak butterflies, a rare species in Ontario. I knew it was getting to the end of their flight period, but thought I would give it a try.

There were tons of hairstreaks. Most were Banded, but a couple Striped were mixed in. I would estimate there to have been easily over 100 in total.

Finally I managed to find a couple Oak Hairstreaks, looking a bit worse for wear.

I walked around a bit more. I spotted a few interesting species of dragonflies.

Four-spotted Skimmer

Royal River Cruiser

Racket-tailed Emerald

I also saw a Slaty Skimmer and a Spot-winged Glider near the entrance, but I didn't get any photos. As I was walking back, I had a dragonfly go over I am fairly sure was a Somatochlora emerald, likely Mocha, but I lost it. I still need Mocha Emerald, so file this under "disappointing misses". 

Since I was in the area I popped up to McKeough CA and looked for Pronghorn Clubtails. I found one right away. 

Still too early for Flag-tailed Spinyleg I imagine! 

On my way north, I made a quick stop into Moore WMA to check on a population of Davis' Sedge (Carex davisii), another rare (S2) sedge in Ontario. This species seems to be mature and finish up quickly! 

One last stop before going home was to check on some Dickcissels. I went to the field at the corner of Winter Drive and Sexton Drive, and found a couple of singing males, as well as a third bird that I was unable to sex. They were singing from a wheat field, so who knows how long they'll last.

Great way to cap off the weekend!