June 15 - Balsam Lake, City of Kawartha Lakes
June 16 - Innisfil area, Simcoe County
June 17 - Bala area, Muskoka District
June 18 - From Bala to Elk Lake, Timiskaming District
June 19 - Elk Lake to Fraserdale
June 20 - Boreal Butterflies and Woodpeckers of Fraserdale
June 21 - Smooth Rock Falls to Hearst Birding, Matachewan Mothing
June 22 - Matachewan to Hilliardton Marsh
June 23 - Purplish Coppers in Parry Sound District
I awoke to the sounds of birdsong after a fitful night of sleep next to Hilda Lake. Many of the previous night's mosquitoes had found their way into my car, and my pre-sleep killing spree took out only 3/4 of them, leaving the rest to feast on me during the night. Oh, the things us naturalists put ourselves through.
I birded some around the burn, hearing the Vesper Sparrow as well a Brown Thrasher. Over the next hour I drove along the rough logging roads back to Highway 560, stopping periodically to listen for birds and to look for butterflies. If it were not for the biting insects, the boreal forest in the early summer may be one of my favourite places. I did not find any truly rare bird species this morning, but the typical boreal birds are always worth paying attention to. And the solitude that one can find on a logging road, far away from any paved track, just cannot be beat.
By late morning, I found myself at the Hilliardton Marsh. I was ready to stretch my legs and explore this vast, constructed wetland. It was a hot and sticky day - not great conditions - but I headed out on the dykes anyways.
Several ducks were in attendance such as this female Common Goldeneye, pictured above with part of her brood. Hilliardton can be an excellent location for rails; I tallied two Virginia Rails and five Soras. One of the specialties at the Hilliardton Marsh are the resident breeding Black Terns. I found a pair with a nest, though they were too far for good photos.
I tallied 45 bird species during my short visit, including four that were "county ticks" for me: Virginia Rail, Black Tern, Eastern Kingbird and Bobolink. I quickly made lunch on my one-burner and jumped back on Highway 11, hoping to make up a lot of ground.
The open road was largely free of vehicles and I enjoyed some podcasts as the hours passed. Bird sightings were few and far between given the sweltering weather conditions, and to be fair, I was not scanning the roadside trees with much intensity. As I passed a large wetland somewhere west of Cochrane, I noticed a pair of Bonaparte's Gulls standing in a dead spruce.
I currently live in Niagara Region, and it is very easy to see large numbers of migrant/overwintering Bonaparte's Gulls nearly every day from September through April along the Niagara River. They are a common feature of the landscape. It is easy to forget that this species feels just as much at home in a bog in the taiga, perched in a Black Spruce. Greater Yellowlegs and Solitary Sandpiper are two other species that can be found nesting in similar habitats at this latitude, a fact that may come as a surprise for some southerners.
I planned to explore some areas north of the town of Smooth Rock Falls during the afternoon/evening. In particular, I was hoping to catch up with one particular butterfly species. Searching for butterflies is all about timing and habitat; if both are correct, you will most likely find your target. My timing was a little late for some of the early spring species, and a touch too early for some of the others, but I was bang on for Western Tailed-Blue.
The Eastern Tailed-Blue is a ubiquitous species that can be found across much of eastern North America and, in Ontario, they are numerous in the southern third of the province. The Western Tailed-Blue is its western counterpart. In Ontario, it is more common west of Thunder Bay, but there are populations across the boreal forest in central Ontario. Compared to an Eastern Tailed-Blue, the Western Tailed-Blue looks very similar but typically has much less orange on the undersides of the hindwings, among a few other subtle features.
I searched for the butterflies along a transmission line cut directly east of Homuth Lake. This is about 41 km north of Smooth Rock Falls.
At this location, the Silvery Blue was the most common species of butterfly. I watched quite a few Silvery Blues, waiting for them to land, before finally laying eyes on my first Western Tailed-Blue. Here is a photo of one of the Silvery Blues. They are distinctive enough when at rest, and with enough practice, they could be picked out from the Western Tailed-Blues when in flight.
It was an extremely hot and muggy evening and so I called it quits once I had had my fill of the Western Tailed-Blues. On my way back to the car, this sphinx moth-lookalike nectared on some nearby flowers - a type of bee fly (tribe Bombyliini).
My anticipation level was high that evening as I waited for dusk to arrive and the mothing activities to commence. I had never set up my sheet this far north before. On top of that, the weather conditions were excellent - temperatures in the high 20s, a band of rain that cleared by dusk, and minimal wind.
I drove to the area known as Fraserdale, which is a stop along the railway about an hours drive north of Smooth Rock Falls. The main landscape feature near Fraserdale is a large bog. It was at the edge of a cleared area that passes through this bog where I set up my sheet. I had partially recharged my powerbank during the day as I drove, which gave me about 2.5 hours to run the light. I sure wished that I had brought a second powerbank with me on this trip.
I think my favourite moth of the night was this beautiful species, known as the Bog Glyph (Deltote bellicula). This particular moth isn't too rare in Ontario (in fact, I have since seen it at Sudden Tract in Waterloo Region), but it was my first ever sighting, and a species that is pretty specialized in its habitat choice. As its name indicates, it prefers acidic bogs.
The Ruby Tiger Moth (Phragmatobia fuliginosa) is a common species throughout Ontario, one that I have seen in quite a few different locales. At least a few found my sheet this evening, along with the much scarcer Large Ruby Tiger Moth (Phragmatobia assimilans).
Grass-veneers are one of my favourite groups of moths, as I have mentioned in previous posts. I scored a really "good" one in Fraserdale - the Diminutive Grass-Veneer (Raphiptera argillaceellus). This is a species rarely collected in Ontario, and I think this may be the most northerly record ever of this species.
As expected, sphinx moths put in a good showing. By this point in the trip I was finally beginning to become desensitized to these flashy moths, and so I paid them less attention. Below is a striking species, the One-eyed Sphinx (Smerinthus cerisyi).
Several Pyrausta moths appeared at the sheet. I think this is Pyrausta borealis, a rarely reported species in Ontario (but I could be wrong). Again, this is likely because of the lack of moth surveying that has been done in the north.
I love the patterning on these next two! First, a Many-lined Carpet Moth (Anticlea multiferata) followed by a Renounced Hydriomena Moth (Hydriomena renunciata).
I only photographed a few "non-moths" this evening. First up is a Yellow-faced Swiftwing (Volucella facialis), a type of dronefly, followed by a stonefly in the genus Isoperla.
I'll finish this post with a few other odds and ends from the evening. Unfortunately, I had to end the night earlier than I would have liked, but I still came away with a few interesting sightings.