Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sydenham Nature Reserve Tour

Today was a special tour organized by Ontario Nature at the Sydenham Nature Reserve near Alvinston.  The morning dawned with dense fog as it usually does this time of year when the days are too warm.  It was quite foggy the whole drive to the site.

Late last year, funds were secured and a wonderful 193 acre piece of land was preserved for nature along the east branch of the Sydenham River.  About 2 km of the Sydenham winds through the unique property which is very biologically diverse.

As many of you know, the Sydenham is known for rare fish and mussels, some of which are found nowhere else in Canada (up to 34 species mussels).  Near the end of the tour, we had a demonstration along the banks of the river by a couple of employees of St. Clair Conservation.  They showed us many of the species of mussels that can be found at this site.

Mussel Site

As there was a large group of people, the tour was divided into two separate groups.  One went up to the Buttonwood entrance (open to the public) where they observed the largest Sycamore tree in Ontario.  I had heard about this tree many years ago, but today I opted to go on the tour led by Larry Cornelis (so I did not see it!).  Many years ago the diameter was measured at 263 cm.
We went on to look at other trees and plants.

Red-headed Woodpecker Area

Larry showed us an upland bean field which some day will be restored to nature.  While there, an Olive-sided Flycatcher flew in and briefly alighted on a snag.  I took too long looking at it to take a photo!

Trek to the Kentucky Coffee Trees

We next went down into the valley woodland and looked at a stand of Kentucky Coffee trees.

Kentucky Coffee Trees

These trees are basically from one tree, as they sucker out to form several trees.  There are male and female trees, so these trees of one gender will never seed out.
The trees here were very tall.

While there, we could hear a couple of Red-headed Woodpeckers calling.  They nested here this year, and a couple of the group even saw them feeding young birds.  A late nesting I suppose!

Portion of the Sydenham

Along the way, Larry pointed out Beak Grass, which is an "S1" plant very rare in Ontario.  We saw a few clumps of them.  They will grow 2-3 feet and in late summer produce triangular 'seeds'.

Beak Grass
There is a healthy population of Beak Grass along the Ausable River, as mentioned in Pat Deacon's blog post. 
That site was found some time ago by Dorothy Tiedje.

The woods were rather quiet for birds, but it is great in the springtime, especially during migration. There are several pairs of Cerulean Warblers that nest in the area, as the habitat is prime.

It was a pleasant weather day and a wonderful day to walk through the woods!

Pandora Sphinx Moth caterpillar

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Warblers to Skippers Today

I checked out Rondeau Park this morning.  It was a warm and very muggy day bringing out more mosquitoes!  A fair number of birds was present today, but they were quickly moving through the treetops.  Many went unidentified.
The bird of the day was Blackpoll Warbler.  There were bunches of them, and if you had to guess at a bird, Blackpoll would be correct most of the time!  Some of the dead trees were decorated with them like Christmas ornaments, but it was impossible to get a decent photo.

I did not get much in the way of photos since the birds were moving quickly or well-hidden in the foliage.

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I spotted another Connecticut Warbler along the trail.  This is the fourth one this fall.  Some years I go without any!  As usual, it was skulking in the undergrowth, but I did see it well eating a caterpillar.

Flycatchers were absent, except for a few peewees and a couple of Least Flycatcher.s
Absolutely no sparrows today, but that is OK for the time being.

After about five hours in the park, I decided to head over to Hillman Marsh to look for butterflies. By this time, it was getting quite hot.
Common Checkered-Skippers were the butterfly of the day there.

In one hour of walking around the shorebird cell, I encountered about 100!

I also came across at  least three Fiery Skippers.

A number of Common Painted-Lady were nice to see as well.

Some Eastern Tailed-Blues were in the mix too.

I did not come across any Gray Hairstreaks, but I heard that some were at Point Pelee today.

Near the end of the walk, I met Bob and Karen Yukich of Toronto.  Seems I am always running into them!  After a chat about sightings of the summer, we parted ways, and I headed home.