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30 April 2011 @ 09:55 pm
An Afternoon Adventure  

Field Sparrow After lunch I went back out to look for butterflies.  It was still warm and sunny, and I started my trek with a quick stop at the Richmond Lagoons to look for waterfowl. There wasn’t much around; I saw very few ducks and perhaps three Tree Swallows gliding through the air, searching for bugs.  Although I did manage to photograph one of the swallows perching in the tree near the Purple Martin house, the only really noteworthy sighting was that of a muskrat swimming in the middle cell.

Instead of stopping by the Moodie Drive quarry ponds, I decided to check up on the Osprey nest along the Jock River.  There I found the female sitting in the nest atop the tall platform overlooking the water.  The male, who spends most of his time hunting for fish rather than incubating the eggs, was sitting in a tall tree on the opposite side of the river in a perfect spot to take some photographs.  While watching the Osprey, I noticed another muskrat swimming along the river and my second mink of the day running along the opposite bank!

Richmond Lagoon 553 (2)

I also saw a few Canada Geese feeding on the lawn and a White-breasted Nuthatch ambling along a tree trunk.  After taking my fill of photos, I left the park and drove over to Jack Pine Trail.

Osprey (male)

The parking lot was full of cars, which wasn’t surprising given how lovely the weather was.  The OFNC feeders were still up, although the only birds in the vicinity were about a dozen Dark-eyed Juncos.  I searched for Fox and White-throated Sparrows among the flock but didn’t see any.

Dark-eyed Junco

The birds were quiet and, to my disappointment, I didn’t see any butterflies.  I was hoping to see some Compton Tortoiseshells  or Mourning Cloaks.  on my walk but the woods seemed barren of life.  In the marsh, however, I heard a few Swamp Sparrows and Song Sparrows singing, and saw a couple of Blue Jays flying over and many Red-winged Blackbirds on territory in various corners of the marsh.  Then, in the cattail marsh at the back of the trail, I heard the welcome and long-awaited call of a Virginia Rail.  I played the call back using my iPhone, and was delighted when the Virginia Rail scuttled out of the reeds and onto the trail!  He disappeared into the vegetation on the other side of the trail, but then as the call repeated itself, he came back out!

Virginia Rail

It’s amazing just how small these rails are, once you see them right at your feet!  I wasn’t able to get any decent photos due to the position of the sun, but in this one he is grunting in response.  I decided I had agitated him enough; I turned the iPhone off, and he wasted no time in returning to his original spot in the marsh.

From there I proceeded to the alvar-like meadow where I saw a Turkey Vulture flying over and heard a couple of White-throated Sparrows singing…and, in the background, a Field Sparrow!  I tracked down the song to a small shrub, where I found the Field Sparrow flitting about.  Eventually he hopped down onto the grass, walked over to a puddle and began bathing!  I was too far away to get any good photos, but I enjoyed watching the little sparrow bobbing in the water and shaking himself out like a dog.

As I headed back toward the woods, I came across a much larger puddle right in the middle of the path.  To my surprise, several Water Striders were gliding along the surface.  I took a closer look and also saw a dark beetle about the size of my thumbnail walking along the rocky bottom of the puddle.

Unidentified Beetle

I was pleased to find at least a couple of interesting insects on my walk, and came across a few more in the woods:  the beautiful golden-orange Honey Bees in the same wet spot where I had first seen them a few weeks ago.  I was optimistic that, with all these insects going about their business in the warmth of the sun, a butterfly would cross my path as well, but no such luck.

Honey Bee 
Wildflowers, like butterflies, have been slow to emerge this spring, so it was something of a surprise to find a tiny patch of Hepatica with only a couple of flowers blooming.  These pretty flowers come in pink and blue as well as white, but white seems to be the predominant colour of the flowers at Jack Pine Trail.


On my way back to the parking lot I caught a glimpse of a Fox Sparrow as I was leaving, making it a six-sparrow day along with Swamp, Song, Field and White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Junco.  The best part of my walk, however, was enticing the Virginia Rail out into the open and seeing my first Field Sparrow of the year.  I suppose the butterflies will have to wait for my next outing.

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Soul Diasporasoul_diaspora on May 3rd, 2011 04:39 am (UTC)
That's neat that you were able to coax a rail out of the cattails. They're usually pretty shy!