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13 September 2011 @ 08:48 pm
Presqu'ile Part II: At Owen Point  
The first place we visited was Owen Point. Deb and I decided to do this trail first because the light was much better in the morning; when we visited Presqu'ile a year ago, we had left it until last and found that we were looking into the sun most of the time. This time the morning sun was behind us, which made for a much better experience.

There weren't a lot of birds along the trail itself, but we did encounter quite a few other creatures that were equally interesting. There were lots of flowers in bloom along the trail, particularly around each lookout. This meant lots of butterflies - Clouded Sulphurs, Orange Sulphurs, Eastern Tailed Blues, crescents, Least Skippers, a beautifully fresh Question Mark with a delicate pinkish-violet underside and, of course, Monarchs.

There were lots of dragonflies as well, though I only identified a couple of species - Twelve-spotted Skimmers, Common Green Darners, and lots of mosaic darners which never came close enough to catch, let alone identify.

We startled a couple of Garter Snakes along the grassy path, and this large toad hopped out of our way along one of the side trails. He must have been camera-shy, for he kept his back to us!

American Toad

And, of course, there were shorebirds! There seemed to be fewer this day than during our OFNC trip a few weeks ago. There were lots of Semipalmated Plovers, Sanderlings, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers and White-rumped Sandpipers, and that was about it. David Bree, the park naturalist, pointed out four distant Black-bellied Plovers; however there were no yellowlegs, Pectoral Sandpipers, Baird's Sandpipers, Killdeer, Dunlin, etc.

Least Sandpiper

Then David pointed out a Ruddy Turnstone walking along the shore. To our delight it started walking toward the viewing area right where we were standing! It approached within twenty feet of us, and we got some amazing views of this wonderful bird. Although I'd seen them at MacGregor Point and the Casselman sewage lagoons earlier this year, they were very distant. It was fantastic to finally see one up close.

Ruddy Turnstone

A second turnstone followed the first, but never came quite as close.

Ruddy Turnstone

While watching the shorebirds, a small, orange skipper landed on the patch of flowers right in front of the viewing area. David Bree was still with us, and I said to him, "There's a skipper I've never seen before." We both pulled out our cameras and started photographing it; fortunately it was very cooperative and stayed for a minute or two. The flowers made for a pleasing background:

Fiery Skipper

David said it was a Fiery Skipper, which was a fantastic discovery for me and a life butterfly. This species doesn't breed in Canada, but sometimes migrates north from the U.S. where its preferred habitat includes roadsides, old fields, marshy meadows, lawns, and gardens. It is abundant in the southern states where it flies all year round. In late summer and fall the Fiery Skipper migrates north, often reaching Point Pelee, sometimes in good numbers, and infrequently traveling as far north as Presqu'ile Provincial Park. Ontario sightings have historically occurred between the 30th of July and the 29th October. Although they have been observed mating in Ontario, our winters are too cold for the larvae to survive.

Fiery Skipper

Once the skipper left the area, Deb and I did, too. We proceeded south to the tip where we observed a few Herring Gulls, five Mute Swans, several cormorants, and more shorebirds.

Semipalmated Sandpiper

White-rumped Sandpiper

The channel between Owen Point and Gull Island looked a bit too rough, too wide, and too deep to cross, so Deb and I turned around and returned the way we had come. We weren't too disappointed to miss this experience as there was no Whimbrel out there this time to tempt us into making the journey! On our way back I caught and photographed a male Spotted Spreadwing.

Spotted Spreadwing

Someone else pointed out this Wood Frog next to the path, and I took the opportunity to photograph him as he was the first one I'd seen all year. There were none at the Bill Mason Centre this past spring, most likely due to the abundance of highly predatory bullfrogs which had infested the vernal ponds.

Wood Frog

It was Deb who spotted this rather large moth resting on the trunk of a birch tree. We had heard a tree frog calling from somewhere in the vegetation next to the path, sounding as though he were right in front of us, so we stopped to see if we could spot him. We didn't, but Deb's discovery more than made up for this failure. We later learned that it was a Yellow-banded Underwing, a species with brown hindwings separated into two halves by a curved yellow band.

Yellow-banded Underwing

Another terrific find was this Grey Comma we spotted fluttering down the path. At one point it flew at me, landing on my hat, and I had to ask Deb what it looked like as I wasn't yet sure whether it was a polygonia species or a nymphalid. Not being the butterfly enthusiast that I am, Deb didn't know how to reply; fortunately he left my hat and landed on the vegetation close by. I knew it was a comma (polygonia) species right away, but it wasn't until he closed his wings that I knew which one.

Grey Comma

The silvery comma in this species is is small and shaped like a check mark, tapering at both ends. This was the first really good look at a Grey Comma that I've had since one visited my garden in 2007.

Grey Comma

We stopped at a couple of lookouts on our way back to the parking lot, but no new birds had I arrived and the dragonflies were proving uncooperative. I took a couple of pictures of the monarchs nectaring on the goldenrods before leaving. Although David said that they were "sparse" this year compared to previous years, there were still lots along the Owen Point Trail....and certainly more than I'd seen in Ottawa all season long.


By the time we left the fabulous Owen Point Trail we were quite hungry, so we drove over to our next stop, the day-use picnic area along the shore to enjoy our lunch.