Tuesday 14 June 2011

and then Back to the Spit

Well after birding Point Pelee for 3 weeks and having been to the Carden Alvar a couple of times during the past month most people would find the Spit rather dull. But not me! It has become my short-term local patch and I haven't been there for almost 2 months (except the OFO trip - but that's different) to explore it at my own pace! So I was eager... but not quite eager enough to wake up at 5am to catch the first subway like I did all winter. I'm too old for that now.

It's quite a beautiful place despite being so close to downtown Toronto. It really is just as green as the Carden Alvar ...

...except that large cigarette-like towers that tend to get in the way of a nice view.

But you'll find wildlife almost anywhere and Leslie Street Spit is no exception.

Sunday I was in pursuit of more than just birds, my main loot was going to be butterflies! Particularly Monarchs. I am helping collect data (i.e. catch and kill) Monarchs for a study being done at the University of Guelph. I'm limited to 5 Monarchs a week so that I don't completely decimate the population. The first Monarch I saw was on this flower:

I was a little surprised when I first saw it because I honestly wasn't expecting any to be here yet. My immediate instinct was to catch it! So I put on the chase with my butterfly net. I ran, ran, ran, swiped, swiped, ran, ran, ran some more swiped again and the Monarch continued on its way over the bushes and trees. I couldn't help but feel so stupid! Why was I so eager to kill that beautiful butterfly that likely just migrated across the lake to enjoy itself in our warm weather... So I was a little happy that I didn't catch it but also a little embarrassed. If I can't even catch a butterfly what good can I possibly be to society!

But within 2 minutes I had found another Monarch and my hunting instincts kicked in right away and I was on the run again! Eventually I actually caught this Monarch and quickly stowed it away before my emotions kicked in and make me decide to be a hero and release it. Soon enough I was running around wildly through the fields once more. At first I felt bad that I was happy to kill every Monarch I could find, but by the end of the day I had seen 18 so I didn't feel nearly as worried that the population would be totally wiped out.

I used to be obsessed with butterflies when I lived in Newfoundland (of all places!) I didn't pay much attention to the birds around me as I was always eager to find a new butterfly. I'm one of those rare reverse crosses of a butterflier gone birder rather than a birder gone butterflier!

After catching by bag limit for the day (5 Monarchs) I started concentrating on the other wildlife around me:

Virginia Ctenucha moth (why do they insist on choosing names we can't pronounce!):

This caterpillar was strolling across the trail so Mira and I helped it along to try and avert the destruction we had already caused.

We soon found its adult form:

At this point in my life I'm starting to wonder (and worry) whether I'm an adult yet. Running around chasing butterflies like I did 8 years ago made me feel really young and immature again (a great feeling) but at the same time I wondered (worried) whether or not I was still just as good at running and catching butterflies...

It's funny - I used to never tell anyone that I loved butterflies. I remember I was out catching butterflies when I noticed my grade 8 teacher coming down the trail. I quickly hid away amongst the bushes because I didn't want anyone to know about my embarrassing habits! And right through highschool I didn't tell anyone about it until it all came out as I saw my first Monarch in Newfoundland (and my first one ever in fact) while out hiking! I didn't have a butterfly net so I chased it and caught it (which seems like a minor miracle considering my inability to catch one with a proper net now) with a plastic bag right in front of friends!
That's when I became a total outcast.

And if you're totally bored by this post why don't you go buy this:

Wearable Hummingbird Feeder

Viceroy I photographed last year at the Spit...sort of looks like a Monarch - in fact I originally thought it was: