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01 September 2009 @ 07:50 pm
Hummers at Hurdman  
The past week has been absolutely beautiful, with lots of summer sunshine and lots of summer heat. It almost makes up for having a very rainy, gray July, and I spent several lunch hours at Hurdman to take advantage of the gorgeous weather, hoping to find a wave of migrants or the regular butterflies, insects and dragonflies that make it such a fascinating place to visit. Although I didn't see any migrants last week, I saw or heard the resident cardinals, Gray Catbirds, American Redstarts and American Goldfinches. The catbirds and redstarts will not stay much longer, but the cardinals and goldfinches will remain here through the winter. I also saw several hummingbirds, a species which I hadn't seen at Hurdman until the last week or so. They are moving south now and are more conspicuous visiting flowers and feeders as they fatten up for their long journey south.

I saw two different caterpillars on different days. Christine H. was only able to identify one of the caterpillars for me, but they were both hairy and both coloured like autumn. She says that caterpillars are very difficult to identify sometimes, and that many have to be left unidentified due to the vast number of species and the fact that field guides can only cover a fraction of them.

Caterpillar sp.

Acronicta americana

Flowers are blossoming everywhere, and purple and white asters, yellow Helianthus and reddish-orange Spotted Jewelweed (also called Touch-me-not because of the way it shoots out its seeds upon the slightest touch) were blooming profusely all along the bike path. All of these flowers attract many different bees and insects, and the tubular-shaped jewelweed is a magnet for hummingbirds.

Spotted Jewelweed

Asters with Helianthus sp.

I heard one hummingbird before I saw it, making its indistinct high-pitched vocalizations as it went from blossom to blossom. Then I saw it flitting about, the iridescent green feathers shining in the sunlight.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

From time to time another hummingbird would fly in, resulting in a chase that often ended up high in the trees. Once I even saw three of them flying about! The victor would often perch on a tree branch close to the flowers, and I was fortunate enough to photograph one which appeared to be studying me.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

While the hummingbirds were feeding on the nectar of the flowers, a few chickadees and goldfinches were feeding on the seeds. I caught this goldfinch by surprise; I am not sure what she was eating, but when she saw me she flew away. Though a very common species, these finches are often difficult to photograph.

American Goldfinch

I left the hummingbirds and goldfinches to their own devices and walked further up the bike path. Close to the bridge where the 417 crosses the Rideau River I saw a pair of the "royal" Mute Swans resting on the small island. The second one has its head tucked into the feathers of its back. This is about the third time I have seen a pair of the white swans here recently; last year it was the black swans that liked to hang out here. I haven't seen the black swans yet this season.

Royal Swans

A few mallards, cormorants, Ring-billed Gulls and a single Common Merganser were also present in area just north of the 417 bridge, and I found a Band-winged Meadowhawk perching among the vegetation - the first time I had ever seen this species in the Hurdman area. After scanning the river I left the area and headed back toward the transit station, passing a large weedy field on the way. A few Clouded Sulphurs and Cabbage White butterflies were flying among the flowers, and a few darners were flying overhead - likely Common Green Darners which are abundant here.

Cabbage White

It has been a fabulous week, and as always there are lots of interesting species around. The beautiful weather entices me to get out as often as I can, for autumn is just around the corner and it won't be long before all of our summer residents are gone.