Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Hot Day at the Alvar

On Sunday June 9th I headed north a couple of hours to meet some coworkers from Algonquin Park at Carden Alvar. Alvars are habitats where only a thin layer of soil is present above limestone and the harsh conditions create open habitat suitable for a variety of interesting species rare elsewhere.

Carden Alvar is famous for its birds. We found Loggerhead Shrike, Upland Sandpiper and Clay-colored Sparrow along with other species characteristic of this location like Grasshopper Sparrow, Northern Harrier, American Bittern, Wilson's Snipe, Brown Thrasher and Eastern Bluebird. Unfortunately due to the hot weather and our relatively late arrival (8:00 am) we missed a bunch of species (Prairie Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler and Sedge Wren would have been particularly nice) and didn't get good looks at most of those we did find.

This Eastern Bluebird was not intimidated by the Loggerhead Shrike depicted on the Windmill Ranch sign.

This fledgling Eastern Phoebe seemed confused about all the birder activity in the blind it was born in.

Bird activity plummeted as the day warmed up, so we spent more time looking at other stuff.

This pile of poop attracted at least three kinds of butterflies - Canadian Tiger Swallowtails, a White Admiral and the duskywing sp. flying above the middle swallowtail.

We came across several Blanding's Turtles basking in a beaver pond. This one was rather tame and gave me my best ever looks at this species.

My two favourite sightings were not photographable. While standing on a bridge a loud splash alerted us to a beaver diving into the water. Amazingly, it swam under the bridge before entering its lodge on the opposite side. The entire time it was clearly visible under the clear water. Normally you need to go to the zoo to get those kind of views!

About half an hour later, a reddish dragonfly with red patches at the base of each hindwing flew over us. It was either a Red or Carolina Saddlebags, either of which would be extremely rare here! Unfortunately we couldn't catch it before it disappeared. 

On the way back we stopped at a spot near Orillia to look for a couple relatively rare orchids and dragonflies. The main goal was Showy Lady's-slipper. Unfortunately we were too early in the season but we did find one almost in bloom.

Fortunately, Yellow Lady's-slipper was common.

None of the hoped-for Harlequin Darners showed up, but I was happy to pull this Stream Cruiser out of my net after swinging at what I expected to be one of the many Baskettails or Racket-tailed Emeralds.

A good day to be out although an earlier wake-up and better planning could have greatly improved it!

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