Wednesday 22 June 2011


I haven't been doing much birding lately, and the little I've been doing has been almost entirely distracted by butterflies and dragonflies.

But I do have one bird photo for you! Some of you may recall my escapades with taxidermy earlier this year. Well silence on that subject doesn't mean I have given up. In fact I'm now doing taxidermy for the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum). My most recent taxidermy for them was a Swainson's Thrush. Here are 3 photos from start to end:

All bundled up and ready to be stored away with the thousands of other birds at the ROM.

Some of the recent dragonflies I've been seeing:

Dot tailed Whiteface:

Black Saddlebags:

And this young frog was one of many at a small pond:

Common Ringlet:

Twelve-spotted Skimmer:

Check out this blog about Spoon-billed Sandpipers:

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:

Sunday 12 June 2011

Back to the Carden

On Saturday I once again joined many birders to count birds around the Carden Alvar. As mentioned previously this is one my favourite places to explore in Ontario and every time I go it gets better! Even though we didn't see anything different or unexpected I still really enjoy being out there wandering around the grassland.

To get there shortly after the sunrise means waking up at 3am for those of us in Toronto. But it's worth it.

Soon enough we're all organized into our teams and we are trucked out to our locations and the birding begins!
Before my group even started we had found 3 Golden-winged Warblers singing:

The counts resulted in the highest counts of Grasshopper Sparrow and high counts of Brown Thrasher:

While doing counts we also take time to observe any other eye catching animals:

And of course butterflies and dragonflies/damselflies are sought after:
Common Ringlet:

American Copper:

Damselfly of some sort... a female Violet Dancer perhaps? :

And many species of flower are evident there:

especially Prairie Smoke:

and Indian Paint Brush:

Never a dull day when you're out exploring the outdoors!

A field of Prairie Smoke:

Close up on a patch of Prairie Smoke:

An individual Prairie Smoke flower:

The Carden plains:

Golden-winged Warbler singing into the sun:

Monday 6 June 2011

Recent wanderings

Haven't been doing much intense birding recently. I've mostly been day dreaming about my upcoming plans and I've started studying pelagic birds in hopes of finding some decent birds in Newfoundland during my week there in August. August is a good time to find some rarities like Common Ringed Plover, Fea's Petrel and maybe add a new bird to North America such as Zino's Petrel! I think I'm just going crazy.

Last weekend I was in Waterloo where I heard more birds than I saw and found more butterflies and dragonflies than birds. It's that time of year to switch gears, it gives me a good opportunity to learn bird songs and learn about the other things in life. In fact I've finally learned my first few dragonfly and damselfly (D&D) species! They became exciting all of a sudden when I realized there were over 150 D&D species in Ontario.

Common Whitetail (imm. male):

Unidentified damselfly as of yet (Aurora Damsel?)

And my favourite (despite it being insanely common and this being a terrible photo) the Ebony Jewelwing:

We also found this young Eastern Red-backed Salamander:

Laurel Lake is looking very different from when I last saw it in December. It was a perfect shorebird habitat for a while in the autumn but now it's full of water again attracting a few waterfowl including 3 Ruddy Ducks plus the other usuals.