Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Spring is over for another year


Today is officially the beginning of summer! And now the days begin to get shorter.....

Over the last precious few days of spring, I have enjoyed a few forays around various parts of Rondeau. The summer visitors have not yet arrived in great numbers, so the trails are relatively quiet. So quiet, at times, that other forms of wildlife are found using them. Many birds have been busily nesting, and I have had some success photographing a few of them, but that will be the subject of another post.
Six-spotted Tiger Beetle


A walk around Tuliptree Trail on Thursday turned up both male and female Prothonotary Warbler at the usual spot. They delighted us with close views, but were constantly on the move searching for caterpillars. Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Scarlet Tanager and Wood Thrush were all calling or put in a brief appearance as well.

Along the South Point Trail, there were lots of butterflies flitting about in the sun. Lots of Spring Azures (difficult to separate from Summer Azures for the most part, but according to the reference books, it is still more likely to be the flight period for Springs rather than Summers, and given the lateness of this spring, I will defer to calling them Spring Azures) plus various other species.

Spring Azure

Hobomok Skipper

Little Wood Satyr

Northern Crescent
The extra dark line on the right wing of the Northern Crescent is a shadow from a grass stem just above the butterfly.

The highlight lep for me was to discover a Pipevine Swallowtail, along the Lighthouse Trail offshoot of the South Point Trail. This species is considered fairly rare in Ontario. It was busily feeding on puccoon, but never actually lit on the plant. Instead it semi-hovered as it sipped nectar, so getting a good shot was next to impossible. I did manage the following record shots which show the single row of orange spots on the underwing, in a slightly iridescent blue patch, and the lack of much colour on the upper wing other than very dark bluish black. The butterfly being backlit didn't help my photographic efforts.



Another highlight was getting some decent shots of a Painted Skimmer, a species which is not common in southern Ontario, but seems to be seen regularly in various places this year.


As I continued out along this trail to the lake, several Killdeer and Spotted Sandpipers voiced their dismay at my presence. No doubt they had a nest or young nearby, but I didn't go looking.

Killdeer


Some other hikers who ventured out along the lake beyond the washout reported they saw several large Eastern Spiny Softshell Turtles just off shore. June is the prime month for turtles to come ashore to lay eggs, and the softshells of the Rondeau area favour the sandy beaches for their egg-laying.

Back along the South Point Trail, I noted an immature male Common Whitetail.

Common Whitetail

A very large American Toad was along the trail. It never moved while I was in the area, and even the occasional cyclist didn't seem to bother it much.


The lush growth of this Carolinian Forest Zone was evident throughout the forest. Vines in particular are taking advantage of some of the extra light available due to the death of ash trees from the effects of the Emerald Ash Borer. Virginia Creeper and Poison Ivy are particularly adept at climbing and making use of the supporting structure of such dead trees. Although such vine growth can sometimes shade out and even kill some living trees that are not shade tolerant, the good news is that such lush growth of these vines results in a profusion of berries which will provide nourishment for warblers and other songbirds as they return on their southward migration later this season. Some warblers such as Yellow-rumped Warblers may linger well into the winter if enough berries are available.

Virginia Creeper




2 comments:

  1. An interesting post! Those would definitely by Summer Azures at this point. They are usually out by early June.

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  2. Thanks for the comment and input, Blake. I would like to know how this is determined. Apparently flight periods are the main way to tell the two apart, since they are next to impossible to ID in the field with binoculars. Some butterfly guides indicate that in Ontario, Summer Azures don't occur until July. While Ontario is a huge place, it is likely that there are variations. But at the same time, Rondeau normally has a much more delayed arrival of spring due to the cooling effect of Lake Erie. This was exacerbated in a big way this spring. For example plant flowering times at Rondeau are normally a week to ten days behind their flowering period inland just a few kilometres, and this spring some species were up to two weeks behind. It was unusual to see any butterflies at Rondeau until about the second week in May, and I've been seeing Azure sp all the time since then, with no break in a flight period. It is quite likely that Spring Azures remained later, and perhaps even overlap with the emergence of Summer Azures.

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