Great Egret

Great Egret

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Summer ends.......autumn begins

Summer is ending, but it is still a magical time of year with so much to see. The weather is more pleasant for getting out to explore, in my opinion.

The brisk winds ranging mostly from the northeast to southeast these last few days made it enticing to get to the east beach of Rondeau, hoping that some of those rare waterbirds show up, such as jaegers or Sabine's Gull. So I spent a bit of time hanging out at the Dog Beach Access at Rondeau scanning the lake. With all of the wind and wave action, even the gulls weren't spending much time on the water. There were at least 3000 gulls within view, mostly Ring-bills and Bonaparte's with a handful of Herring and Great Black-backed mixed in. A few Common Terns and Caspian Terns were there as well.

A small portion of the mass of gulls
 One gull, the one in the centre of the next image, looked a bit out of place here, and it was surprisingly aggressive towards the nearby Bonaparte's Gulls from time to time.
 After scratching my head for awhile, I am convinced it is a Bonaparte's Gull in a plumage that I don't often see here at this time of year. It appears to be a bird passing from the juvenile to first winter plumage.....the black nape was particularly noticeable, but the size, shape, black wing bar, pink legs and dark bill all point to a young Bony. The bill is actually a bit lighter towards the base, but isn't all that evident in this photo due to back lighting. In looking at the other Bonies in the group and elsewhere, I did not see another one quite like this.

It is quite possible that there was a rarity or two tucked away in the mass of gulls, but they were so jam-packed together and the light was a bit harsh, I just couldn't pick out anything rare in the group.

Late summer wildflowers are always a good place to find some action. New England Asters don't get a lot of respect by us humans, since they are so abundant, even weedy at times. But they are a bonanza for many insects. Pollinators love them!
New England Aster
Peck's Skippers are still around in good numbers.

Goldenrods also are favourites with many pollinators. This member of the Paper Wasp group is large and easy to photograph. When they are nectaring on flowers, I find they are more interested in the flower than they are with a camera, macro lens and flash right up close.....but I try and remember to move slowly.
Paper Wasp (Polites sp)
 Along woodland edges and opening, one can find Rattlesnake Root, a.k.a. Smooth White Lettuce (Prenanthes alba), another member of the Compositae family.

 In the grassy areas, one can find a fragrant orchid, the Great Plain's Ladies'-tresses (Spiranthes magnicamporum). It is one of the last orchids to bloom each year, and some are just starting to peak.
They have a scent somewhere between vanilla and hot plastic! The arrangement of flowers, as shown in this next image from the top, is distinctive.
Plants show individual characteristics, as this next Great Plain's Ladies'-tresses was taken just a few metres away on the same day, but it is clearly about a week farther ahead in its blooming as the lowest flowers are already brown and even the upper most ones are showing signs of being past their best.

Milkweeds are always worthwhile to check for invertebrate activity. There are still Monarch caterpillars munching away. I hope this one has a chance to make it to Mexico!

And this looks like a Red-banded Leafhopper convention....or is it an example of the three-on-three rules the NHL is going to use in games that go into overtime beginning in 2015?

These developing pods of Purple Milkweed below are prime spots for a gathering of the Large Milkweed Bug clan. There are various ages represented here, and on the lower left of the left side pod, one can see a few of the remaining exoskeletons of bugs that have recently shed. On cool mornings, one can see tightly grouped critters all trying to take advantage of the morning sun.

Berries are always important sources of food for migrating birds, especially thrushes, thrashers, catbirds and warblers. These brightly coloured berries of the Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) stand out against the dark doubt they will soon be consumed. It is an uncommon plant at Rondeau.

While investigating a small patch of trees and shrubs to find out what bird was making some chip notes, I got side-tracked by this brightly coloured Eastern Gray Treefrog resting on a leaf of a Green Ash.
 As you can see, it really isn't gray at all in this case. This species has the ability to change its colour to blend in with its surroundings, although it usually takes several hours to change completely.
Eastern Gray Treefrog
Nearby, in a puddle along the parking area, was this Green Frog. Note the partial tire track right in front of it.....I guess he likes to live dangerously! Fortunately there isn't a lot of vehicle traffic during the week this time of year.

Green Frog

A day or two before, I was in a large natural area in north Lambton. One of the highlights of the trip was to discover a new location for a rare gentian: Stiff Gentian (Gentiana quinquefolia). It is S2, meaning there are between 6-20 locations known for it in Ontario. However even some of those populations have disappeared, so it is an increasingly rare species, although not legislatively protected yet. I have only seen this in the past on the prairies of Walpole Island First Nation.
Stiff Gentian
Even at known locations, its numbers may vary from year to year, as it is a biennial species.

On the return from northern Lambton, I stopped at a section of the Sydenham River passing through northern Chatham-Kent. Although the sun was low, there were still a few odes moving about, including this beautiful American Rubyspot.
I got a quick glimpse of a Smoky Rubyspot, as well as a large dragonfly cruising along the bank, but the latter never stopped long enough for me to get a good look at it.

And so summer is about over, but a new season begins.
Chenal Ecarte sunset

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