Great Egret

Great Egret

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The summer begins

The season is merrily rolling along. By the date, summer has been underway for a few days now, although one cannot tell all that much by the weather. I try and choose my days to visit Rondeau this time of year on weekdays, as the crowds are less. On Monday I started out walking the South Point Trail, and immediately had this Gray Catbird greet me. I'm sure he wasn't singing just for my sake, but to let his presence be known to any competing catbirds within hearing range.

The vegetation is dense and lush, almost impenetrable in places. Peeking through the greenery were things like Wood Lily, which served as a place of refuge for its tiny companion at the base of the flower. Midges are abundant, and although they look like giant mosquitoes and even hum like them, fortunately they do not bite. The regular mosquitoes are bad enough!

This Hedge Bindweed below is also appearing here and there. It doesn't have its own upright stems, but weakly twines around adjacent vegetation for support.

Silver-spotted Skippers were around, not as abundantly as many of the other butterfly species mentioned in my previous post, however. These are large butterflies, at least for the skipper group, and are easily identified by a large white patch on the underside. It isn't quite so distinctive when viewed from the top side, as shown in the second photo below.

Butterfly wings are fragile, as this one shows. Generally butterflies don't live long after becoming adults. The adults of many species only live 2-4 weeks, although there are exceptions. Some adults actually over winter! But during this season, the wear and tear on their bodies as they flit through the vegetation, or the likelihood of them being eaten by a predator or ending up on the grille of a vehicle all contribute to an early demise.

I noted the usual Painted Skimmers and Common Whitetails dragonflies, and had a brief look at what appeared to be a spreadwing type of damselfly, but I never got a photo. Some darners were patrolling the more open sections of the trail, but never landed within my sight.

At the lake, several fishing tugs out of Erieau were busily hauling in their catch. Their diesel engines could be heard easily even if they were out 2-3 kilometres. By contrast was this sailboat, using wind power and gliding gently and silently through the slight chop.

There were quite a few gulls loafing along the Southeast Beach, conservatively at least 400. Most were the usual mix of Ring-billed, Herring and Bonaparte's Gulls of various ages, but there were also a few immature Greater Black-backed Gulls and a single immature Little Gull.

Along the Lighthouse Trail offshoot of the South Point Trail, where I had been photographing the Wood Lilies, this male Rose-breasted Grosbeak was giving alarm calls, indicating an active nest or fledged young nearby. I didn't see any other birds of that species, and I have been down this trail several times recently so I don't think there is a nest close by. It was likely recently fledged young that he was concerned about.

The grosbeak was fairly high up in the tree, and usually backlit against a bright sky, so it was definitely a challenge getting a photo of any kind.

I stopped briefly by the Visitor Centre area, where I photographed the Common Hop-tree. In spite of its name, it is not common, at least in Ontario. It does occur abundantly on Pelee Island. On the mainland, at places like Rondeau and Point Pelee, it is not common at all, and there are very few other places in the entire country where it occurs. It is officially a Threatened species in Ontario and Canada and therefore protected by Endangered Species legislation both provincially and nationally.

Its fruit will be wafer-like upon maturity. The three leaflets are characteristic, much like Poison Ivy, but if you note on the hop-tree the central leaflet does not have a longer petiole/stem like Poison Ivy does.

Near the VC parking lot were several Barn Swallows busily gathering mud and fine bits of vegetation with which to build their mud nests. Each year there are usually several nests under the eaves of the Visitor Centre.

It may come as a surprise that Barn Swallows, which used to be extremely common, are undergoing a decline and are a recently designated Species At Risk as well. They are legally ranked as a Threatened species, as are an increasing number of insect eating birds.

I hadn't been around the Spicebush Trail in the last few days so decided to check it out. The heavily overcast sky and calm wind made it conducive for some forest photography. I stopped along Bennett Ave and captured this view of a slough. This particular one has had a Prothonotary Warbler singing in it over the past few weeks. I didn't hear it this day, but hopefully it found a mate and has benefited from the higher water levels this spring. Even so, the water appears to have dropped at least a foot in the last few weeks. Once the trees and other vegetation get growing rampantly, they suck up a lot of the water in the sloughs in spite of the recent rains. It may not be too many weeks before they are mostly dry!

Spicebush Trail always has something of interest. On this day, it was a profusion of ferns. I will be photographing them in earnest one of these times, but this day I only took time to capture the delicate Maidenhair Fern.

There was no one else along the trail, at least of the human realm. I did have many other fauna wanting to visit me, however, but I declined their persistent quest to sample my blood. In fact I confess that I actually killed a few of was either them or me! This bench looked inviting, but I decided using it would only give those pesky blood-sucking mosquitoes more opportunity to take advantage of me.

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