Great Egret

Great Egret

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Prairie patch action, #1

Prairies are great places to explore, for all kinds of reasons. Unfortunately there aren't many left! So sometimes small patches of vegetation that appear somewhat like prairie have to do instead.

I've been to a few of those lately. One place is a narrow strip along an active railway line just east of Thamesville. A few posts ago I highlighted some of my findings. As I was in the area recently, I decided to check it out again. Not surprisingly, the Ironweed that was dominant and highly attractive to butterflies at my previous visit, was just about finished. But as often happens in the natural world, another species takes its place. This time it was Prairie Thistle (Cirsium discolor).

Prairie Thistle is quite uncommon in Ontario, being ranked as S2. It is a much paler purple than the abundant, and not native, Bull Thistle (Cirsium arvense).
Prairie Thistle
And the butterflies loved it! This first image is of a very tattered Giant Swallowtail visiting an equally tattered Ironweed. I was impress by how easily this worn individual could still fly. I am sure that it must have been much more taxing given the lack of lift these wings could provide.
This is another Giant Swallowtail, not quite as tattered as the previous one. During my previous visit I had as many as eight Giants, but there were only about three this time.
 There were at least a couple of Great Spangled Fritillaries around.
Great Spangled Fritillary
And several was hard to keep track of their numbers as they moved around constantly.

This next image shows not a butterfly, but a day-flying moth known as a Hummingbird Clearwing. In flight it very much resembled a hummer.

Other winged invertebrates included a few damselflies, such as this Eastern Forktail.

But butterflies were the main attraction, and there were the usual common species, such as Viceroy, Black Swallowtail, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and this Peck's Skipper on the much darker Bull Thistle.

I also visited a friend's family farm north of Thamesville, where several hectares have been planted into various mixes of prairie grasses and forbs. There was much the same mix of butterflies, but I lucked out and got a couple of rarer ones, such as the not-so-common Common Buckeye....
Common Buckeye
.....and the even less common Common Checkered Skipper. It has been an excellent year for this species. I have seen more this year than in all my previous years of looking for butterflies!
Common Checkered Skipper
Where there are wide grassy roadsides in rural areas, there are often a few least until the predators get wind of them!

Even more recently I have explored some prairie patches and restoration areas in Lambton. I will be highlighting them in a future post.


  1. Hi Allen,

    is this site publicly accessible? If so, what are the directions to reach this site? Thank you. Alfred Adamo

    1. Hi Alfred. I am not at liberty to give out the location of the private property, but if it is the RR prairie, it is as follows: from the main intersection at the traffic lights of Thamesville (Longwoods Road/Victoria Road), take Victoria Road north to the edge of the village to Jane St. Follow it east and north of Thamesville to where it becomes Jane Road/Chatham-Kent Rd 23. Within 2-3 kilometres you will get to the Fairfield Road intersection. The RR in question actually crosses that intersection. The best bit of prairie wildflower vegetation is along the west side of the intersection. The RR line is active, so be aware of the trains as they go through the area fairly quickly!