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14 August 2010 @ 09:41 pm
Nova Scotia, Day 5 - Harbourville Wildlife  

On Thursday the sun returned. I was left to my own devices at the cottage while Doran went to pick up a friend in Halifax, so I decided to make the most of my alone time and go exploring. I was curious to see where the road that led up the hill behind our cottage went, and if I could find a way down to the creek that ran down the hill into the harbour. There were plenty of wildflowers blooming along the road, too, and I was also hoping to see (and photograph) some insects. I had seen numerous white butterflies in the fields along the highway while driving back and forth from Greenwood, and I wanted to find a place where I could examine and identify them.

Aphrodite Fritillary

The creek crossed beneath the road in two places, but when I checked both bridges there appeared to be no way down to the water, just a vertical four- or five-foot drop from the top of the bank. I checked for damselflies and dragonflies perching along the rocks and found not a single one.

The Harbourville Creek

With no way to get to the water from the road (a number of private properties edged the creek but I didn't want to trespass), I followed the road up the hill to look for insects in the flowers along the roadside instead. I saw a couple of sulphurs and lots of Cabbage Whites fluttering among the blossoms. A single Mustard White was nectaring on a thistle right beside the road, so I stopped to photograph it; according to Blake Maybank's Birding Sites of Nova Scotia guide (which contains comprehensive lists of not just the birds of Nova Scotia, but also butterflies, dragonflies, mammals etc.), the Mustard White is a rare butterfly in Nova Scotia, unlikely to be encountered casually. If it weren't a common species in Ottawa, and one that I'm now used to seeing, I might not have looked twice at it.

Mustard White

A new butterfly for me is this lovely Aphrodite Fritillary. It looks a lot like the familiar Great Spangled Fritillary that I often see in Ottawa, and I had to ask expert Ross Layberry to identify it for me. He said that the pale submarginal band (the one inside the last row of spots) is too narrow for the Great Spangled Fritillary, and that the white spots in the sixth and seventh cells, counting from the front of the hindwing, have the diagnostic a halo around them. I wish I'd been able to get a better photo of the butterfly without the sunlight shining through it to better see the differences between the two species.

Aphrodite Fritillary

I heard a Red-eyed Vireo singing somewhere close by, and saw a couple of birds foraging in the tall, shrubby vegetation next to the road. One was a flycatcher of some sort; the other was an American Redstart. There were also a couple of chickadees vocalizing cheerfully as they plucked insects and berries from the bushes.

The most interesting find on my walk was another insect, a large female Elm Sawfly.

Elm Sawfly (Cimbex americana)

Related to the bees and wasps, the Elm Sawfly is the largest North American sawfly with larvae reaching a length of almost two inches.

Elm Sawfly (Cimbex americana)

I also saw quite a few of these lovely Tricolored Bumblebees. These were the most common bees that I saw, outnumbering the black and yellow bees by a large margin.

Tricolored Bumble Bee (Bombus ternarius)

A couple of large dragonflies, probably darners, were patrolling the area above the road. However, neither of them landed where I could find them, so I was unable to either photograph or identify them. I had really hoped to see some odonates on my trip, but so far the only ones I've seen have been in flight.

When I got back to the cottage I found the Song Sparrow near the feeders. He really liked the suet Doran's sister gave me, and came to the feeder daily. He flew away from the feeder when I opened the back door, but landed so close that I had to take a couple of pictures:

It was such a great day to be outside after all the rain we had, and I was happy to have finally found some interesting insects!