Great Egret

Great Egret

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Butterflies, birds and a new location for a rare plant

It was an almost perfect day for a butterfly count this past Sunday....sunny, hi temp of about 28C and not much wind. The only thing that was missing was the abundance of butterflies that everyone was hoping for! Of course the very dry conditions over the last couple of months, with the exception of the last week, was undoubtedly a factor.

Regardless, intrepid butterflyers headed out to their respective territories in the Rondeau Provincial Park area. My territory included areas in the Erieau McGeachy Pond/Rail Trail area, as well as various old fields, pastures, etc around Blenheim.

There were lots of flowering plants for nectaring, including:
Common Milkweed
Bird'sfoot Trefoil
Common Sow Thistle

Crown Vetch
Wild Bergamot
Swamp Milkweed
Only the milkweeds, Yarrow and Wild Bergamot are native. The rest are not, but butterflies and other pollinators don't seem to know the difference.

Cabbage Whites ruled the day, at least in terms of numbers.
Cabbage White on Sow Thistle
 Sulphurs weren't far behind.

Skippers were not plentiful where I was, but Silver-spotted were the most common.
Silver-spotted Skipper
 A few Northern Broken-dash were recorded.

Where Common Milkweed was common, one would find a few Monarchs. I haven't found them very abundant this year, but more so than last year so far.
Monarch on Common Milkweed
I noted a single Black Swallowtail.

There were lots of Common Wood-Nymphs. Normally their bouncy and erratic flight makes them impossible to photograph, and when they land, they are usually in a heavily shaded or vegetated area so also next to impossible to photograph. Fortunately (for me) these two were busy and let me get a couple of shots.
Common Wood-Nymph

Little Wood-Satyrs were not as abundant as I found them in the past week or two, but still were around in small numbers.
Little Wood-Satyr
 There were a few Great Spangled Fritillaries, but often were rather worn like this one.

I only saw a single Question Mark.

There were a few Eastern Tailed Blues around.

The butterfly highlight of the day for me was Common Buckeye. I saw one while I was walking the road along a railroad corridor and small wooded area along Fargo Road north of Blenheim.

Of course while out looking primarily for butterflies, there were a few other things that caught my eye from time to time. Along this same Fargo Road I came to a soon-to-be-harvested wheat field, and I noted two brown ears sticking out a little higher than the grain.
It got a little nervous with me aiming my camera at it. Undoubtedly the short train that rolled past behind me at this time, increased its nervousness, so off it bounded for cover. The light wasn't the best, but you can see some white spots, indicating it is this year's fawn.

Wild Turkeys are fairly common across the landscape these days, but one doesn't see them as often this time of year with all the vegetation cover. This one scooted across the road fairly quickly, giving me only one shot.

Another highlight for me along Fargo Road was discovering a new population of a Species At Risk plant: Climbing Prairie Rose (Rosa setigera). It is designated as Special Concern in Canada and Ontario. In Canada it is most common in Essex County, but also occurs in good numbers scattered across the western part of Chatham-Kent. There are very few records of it east of Chatham-Kent. I noted at least 30 clusters of plants, most of which were just a bit past their best.

Climbing Prairie Rose
With all of the shrubby, old field type habitat I was walking through, I noted the usual shrubby, old field habitat type birds, including Gray Catbird, Willow Flycatcher, Song Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, American Goldfinch, etc.

American Goldfinch male

Eastern Pondhawk is one of the more distinctive and striking dragonflies, in my opinion.

While at the Blenheim Sewage Lagoons, keeping an eye open for birds is recommended. The sprinkler cells that were bone dry all spring, have now been repaired and there was lots of water in them. Shorebirds were fairly plentiful too, for the season. I noted a couple of Greater Yellowlegs, probably 30 Lesser Yellowlegs, and several dozen small sandpipers, most of which were either Least or Semipalmated, and the usually abundant Killdeer. The least expected shorebird species were these two Short-billed Dowitchers.
Lesser Yellowlegs (l); 2 Short-billed Dowitcher (r)
So while it wasn't a banner year for butterflies in my territory, it was a good day to be out, and there is always something of interest.