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28 June 2009 @ 09:28 pm
Marlborough Forest, Part II  
When I arrived at the Cedar Grove Nature Trail on Roger Stevens Drive it was about 10:30 a.m., the sun was out, and the day was growing hot. The main attraction at this trail is a large pond, called Roger's Pond, and the various wildlife it supports such as birds, turtles, snakes, dragonflies, butterflies, frogs, and mammals. It is a nice walk down a gravel path to the pond, at first shaded by trees, and then out in the open where the sun was shining down brightly from a now-cloudless sky. Although the mosquitoes weren't bad, right away I collected an entourage of deerflies that followed me all the way to the pond. Fortunately bug spray and the local dragonflies helped prevent them from becoming too annoying!

I was disappointed (and disgusted) to find that the edges of the parking lot have become a dumping ground. Piles of shingles, construction material, yard waste, and garbage bags welcomed me to the trail. We only have this one planet to live on, and people want to turn our most beautiful natural areas into a garbage dump? I just can't fathom the way some people think.

Nevertheless, the trail itself looked inviting, and I set out on my walk in high spirits and anticipation of finding interesting things.

Cedar Grove Nature Trail

I found a couple of bluets hovering about the vegetation as I walked down the shady path, including a nice violet-coloured teneral whose abdominal tip was just turning a pretty pale blue. A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker called in a tree right above the path before flying off when he saw me, and I could hear an Ovenbird calling from somewhere in the woods. Then I came to a large opening. The ground was rocky, with patches of grass and wildflowers near the edges, and I thought I'd explore the area for butterflies and dragonflies. Almost right away I saw a pretty orange butterfly fluttering among the daisies and stopped to take its picture. I thought it was a crescent at first, but when I got home and checked my field guides, I realized the pattern was not that of the crescents I'm familiar with, but rather a Silvery Checkerspot - one of the species that is common here and that I was hoping to find! The neat parallel rows on the hindwing help distinguish it from its lookalike relatives, the crescents.

Silvery Checkerspot

Then, while walking about the area and following the Silvery Checkerspot, I scared up this beautiful green dragonfly. It is a female Common Pondhawk (males are blue), and a species that I've seen previously on the ridge at Mud Lake, at Petrie Island, and at the boardwalk of Jack Pine Trail. I have never been able to get very close to them in the past, however, and so I ended up with my best photos of this species yet.

Female Common Pondhawk

Note the white tip of the abdomen and the bright green face.

Female Common Pondhawk

A few side paths branched off the main gravel path, and not quite sure where Roger's Pond was (I'd forgotten my map in the car) I took a few quick trips down the smaller paths. There I encountered a lot more deerflies, a White-throated Sparrow, and a few dragonflies buzzing about. I found another large opening with more garbage strewn about (including an old mattress and some sort of appliance) but didn't spend too much time exploring it. Instead I turned around, and on my way back I saw another larger dragonfly zip by overhead and land in the cedars above my head. I hate it when they land so high; this means I can only get a picture from the one angle, and have no chance at getting any macro photos. Still, I was satisfied with the photos I took, especially when they proved to be good enough to identify this as a Brush-tipped Emerald. This species shows up on a list that Chris Lewis and Bob Bracken put together of butterfly and dragonfly species found along the Cedar Grove Nature Trail on an outing four years ago. Although hard to see in this photo, this dragonfly has yellow markings on the sides of its abdomen, which itself has a distinctive shape. The amber-tinted wings are similar to the wings of the Racket-tailed Emeralds that I've seen.

Brush-tipped Emerald

I walked back to the main trail, still brushing at deerflies, where I saw a few Chalk-fronted Corporals, Four-spotted Skimmers, and another female Common Pondhawk. Some of the dragonflies flew up to me when they saw all the insects swarming me, and it was neat when they zipped right past my ear or my face in hot pursuit. Some of these dragonflies were very helpful in removing the biting insects orbiting around me, such as this beautiful male Common Pondhawk. Like the female, it has a white abdominal tip and a green face. Here I have a photo of him eating a member of my entourage:

Male Common Pondhawk

The gravel path made a few turns before taking a sharp turn to the right. A dirt path continued straight ahead, leading to the pond. I glanced back and took a photo of the path before hurrying on to check out the water.

Cedar Grove Nature Trail

At the pond, a gravel path continued along the dyke straight ahead, while a dirt road branched off to the right, parallel to the dyke, and gently sloped down to the bottom of the dam where the road was flooded. A lot of vegetation grew in between the two paths, and the whole area was filled with dragonflies! Another one flew up and circled around me until it caught another pesky deerfly. When it landed I was happy to see a Racket-tailed Emerald. I recalled that a few of them had swarmed about me to snatch the mosquitoes hovering over me at the Marathon Trail earlier this summer. The brilliant green eyes are very visible in this photo.

Racket-tailed Emerald

After photographing the emerald, I studied the pond. It was much larger than I had expected, rivalling Mud Lake in size. (I think that Roger's Lake would have been a more appropriate name!) I saw a few turtles basking on logs far out in the water, lots of dragonflies zipping just above the water's surface, and several frogs close to the shore.

Roger's Pond

I peered down at the frogs sitting calmly at the water's edge, for Christine Hanrahan had told me that Mink Frogs could be found here. To my surprise, three of them were sitting right by the shore. I was hoping to see one, but didn't think I would find three of them so easily!

Mink Frogs are generally green to brown, often spotted or mottled. Found from southern Manitoba to Nova Scotia, these frogs are highly aquatic and are rarely seen on land, preferring ponds, lakes and slow moving rivers with abundant vegetation. Although its population is stable, for some reason they are not found in Ottawa.

Mink Frog

When a number of frogs are calling they sound like someone hammering in the distance, which explains why I thought I heard construction sounds coming from somewhere in the vicinity. Although described as timid, requiring some careful sneaking to get close to one, I was able to get quite close to these frogs. Mink Frogs eat a variety of creatures, including ants, beetles, bugs, moth larvae, spiders and flies. They in turn are eaten by snakes.

Mink Frogs get their name from the odor they emit when handled.

Next I turned my attention to the dragonflies buzzing about and perching on the vegetation. Most of them looked similar in size and shape to the familiar Dot-tailed Whiteface, but had large white patches at the top of the abdomen. Some of them were Frosted Whitefaces.

Male Frosted Whiteface

Another dragonfly had a larger white patch extending down the abdomen. This one, called a Belted Whiteface, also has red visible in the thorax between the wings.

Male Belted Whiteface

This male Belted Whiteface is an immature, based on the colour pattern and the shiny wings.

Male Belted Whiteface (immature)

This immature Belted Whiteface has much more yellow extending down her abdomen and is a female.

Female Belted Whiteface (immature)

It was great to see so many cooperative dragonflies in one place, although I missed the Widow Skimmers and the male Calico Pennant that Christine saw later the same day in the same area. What strikes me is how numerous these dragonflies all were, and yet how some of them are very restricted to Marlborough Forest and are not widespread throughout the Ottawa area.

A few butterflies were sampling the wildflowers growing near the dyke, including another Silvery Checkerspot. Even with its wings half closed you can see the nice parallel rows on its hindwing.

Silvery Checkerspot

Finally, I photographed this whiteface, thinking how interesting the head-on view is and how different the colours of its abdomen are. It is an immature Dot-tailed Whiteface, one of our most common dragonflies, and the pattern results from the fading of all the yellow dots except the terminal one.

Immature Dot-tailed Whiteface

Although I would have liked to have explored the area further and walked around the pond (I understand that some jewelwing damselflies can be found further along the trail where it crosses over a stream) it was getting late in the day and I had finally had enough of the deerflies swarming me.

Roger's Pond and the Cedar Grove Nature Trail are beautiful, fascinating areas and I was really happy to have finally made the trip. I'm already looking forward to my next visit there!

(Anonymous) on June 30th, 2009 08:24 pm (UTC)
Your photos
Hi Gillian, Congratulations on a fine set of photos. If I hadn't been to Marlborough Forest before, this would definitely make me want to go! Fabulous photo of the male pondhawk. Well, all the dragonfly photos are great! Lucky you finding the Brush-tipped emerald!! I know the side trail you mean, with the huge amount of garbage (ugh), but... oddly enough, garbage like that is where snakes often like to hide. Last year amidst that garbage we found several red-bellied and garter snakes, and in another area (Manion Long Swamp), we lifted up part of a rusting car hood and found a milk-snake! So there is an upside to that garbage I suppose :-) Anyway, you had a great trip and I enjoyed reading about it and looking at your wonderful photos.
Gillian: Magnolia Warblergillianm on July 2nd, 2009 01:10 am (UTC)
Re: Your photos
Thanks very much for the comments, Christine! Marlborough Forest is a fabulous place indeed. The next time I go, I'll definitely have to investigate the garbage around the trail for snakes. I was surprised that I didn't even find a garter snake on the trail, despite the heat of the day.