Volume 4, Number 6 - April 10, 1999




Not so nice, those cold winds came back, bird migration nearly stalled, lepidoptera in hiding. The snow has disappeared from the backwoods. Lake Muskoka is ice free.


A spring migration milestone has passed, the ice is out of the Bracebridge Sewage Lagoons. Dan Burton counted 5 duck species there on April 2 with only 2 cells ice free. By the 5th all the ice was gone and the species count was 8 including the first NORTHERN SHOVELERS and BLUE-WINGED TEAL. Down at Sparrow Lake where three quarters of the lake is open, Dave Hawke reports 500 RING-NECKS and 500 SCAUP are feeding off Sparrow Lake Camp on the west side and with them an unusually high 50 AMERICAN WIGEON. Sorry... you can't count any of these for your Muskoka List, the west side of the lake is in Simcoe.

Those big white birds keep showing up on the Severn along Canal Rd near Severn Bridge, on April 3 2 SWANS were seen with a flock of CANADA GEESE taking handouts of bread from a local resident. They approached to within 20 feet, tame for TUNDRA SWANs? A few hours later Dan Burton and Eleanor Wellman tried again to confirm their identity but they disappeared. One local said they matched the immature Tundra Swan illustration in the National Geographic Guide.

While they were looking for swans Dan and Eleanor tallied 6 calling RED-SHOULDERED HAWKS. Now is the best time to find RED-SHOULDEREDs, on warm days they often go soaring and calling around their nest sites. After the young have hatched they're more secretive. They also found BLUEBIRDS on the north side of the Severn on Graham Rd. BLUEBIRDS were also seen at the end of Roxborough Rd, Fraserburg Rd east of the highway, and Hwy 118 near Trethewey Falls Rd.

Bluebird Bob was checking his houses on Fraserburg Rd on Apr 3 when he spotted an AMERICAN KESTREL eating something on a distant fence post. Bob hustled across the field fearing that a Bluebird was the prey, but instead he found some fur and a flat tail... a Flying Squirrel. Some large holy elms nearby must have been home to the squirrel until a house hunting KESTREL found it by accident. Bob reports that 4 of his bluebird boxes had flying squirrels in them this spring, the ones with young were allowed to stay.

RING-BILLED GULLS are flocking onto Long Island in Sparrow Lake, the island is already white with gulls. A recent surge in gull numbers is now threatening the COMMON TERNS that have nested there for decades, maybe centuries. Several years ago the Muskoka Field Naturalists with the MNR erected signs prohibiting access during the breeding season to give the terns a break from human interference. It worked but now the gulls are moving in and they are ignoring the signs. What can be done?

On April 5 McLarens did their owl survey in the Uffington/Germania area, had 5 BARRED OWLS, none on Germania Rd where they had them last year. The Muskoka Field Naturalists Owl Prowl will likely be in the Port Sydney area this year, anybody heard owls around there lately?

An unusual visitor was in Bracebridge on Kaye Rd near Rogers Rd on Mar 31 and Apr 1. Jim Bryant spotted an EASTERN TOWHEE scratching along a fence line in his neighbors yard. The next day they heard it whistling under cover in some spruce trees. TOWHEES breed in Muskoka and are fairly common on the Torrance Barrens but are rarely seen in town.

An early American Bittern returned on Apr 8 to the pond at Louise Hammonds on Innis Bay Rd near Bracebridge. On the 9th an early SANDHILL CRANE changed it's mind and was heading back south when Ken Walton and Lyn Sayers spotted it flying over Deer Lake Rd near Port Sydney.

Correction: The COMMON RAVENs at the nest on Brydon's Bay Rd were feeding newly hatched young on March 1, not sitting on eggs as reported previously.


No News


Steve Marks had PEEPERS, WOOD and CHORUS frogs near Barrie on Apri 1. Muskoka's first frogs, LEOPARD, WOOD, and PEEPERS were tuning up on Apr 5 when Peter and Marg McLaren were doing their Owl Survey near Uffington. PEEPERS were almost up to full volume at the Bracebridge Sewage lagoons on Apr 8.


Would be Skunk Cabbage photographers should get busy, on Mar 28 Nancy Ironside and Margo Holt found some in full bloom on the the Fawcett Nature Reserve between the first and second hydro towers. Hike west along the canal at the end of Fawcett Rd. off Agnew Rd south of Washago on Hwy 11. If you want to find some in Muskoka it's not so easy but there used to be some in the first swamp east of Baysville. Skunk Cabbage has a very unusual flower which produce heat chemically to attract pollinators on cool spring days.


You've probably heard of the small Elfin Butterflies, well there's an Elfin Dragonfly too. The latest topic on the Odonata email list has been the habitat of Nannothemis bella, the Elfin Skimmer. This small 3/4 in long dragonfly breeds in donut bog ponds and marl fens which are too acidic or to alkaline to support other predators. It is listed as "expected to occur" in Algonquin but has not yet been recorded. It should be in Muskoka also, keep your eyes open for small skimmers when you're out bog trotting this summer in June and July. Take a confirming picture and notify nature news if you find one. To see what it looks like go to website http://www.capecod.net/~bnikula/libellulidae.htm. Look at both male and female, they are very different.


The first Muskoka butterfly was a MOURNING CLOAK seen by Gayle Carlyle flitting about her yard on Roxborough Rd. on Mar 31.

The Simcoe list is up to 2 with an EASTERN COMMA seen Mar 28 at the end of the 10th Concession of Orillia by Nancy Ironside and Margo Holt.

The moths flying list has now has a field call abundance (AB). This code, 1 to 4, refers to the highest number seen in one night during the week. 1 = 1, 2 = 2-5, 3 = 6-20, 4 = 20+

MOTHS FLYING WK 14, Apr 4 - 10
SPECIES               COMMON NAME        HODGES AB
Phigalia titea        The Half-wing      6658   1 
Lithophane grotei     Grote's Pinyon     9915   1 
Lithophane fagina                        9917   1 


Three new photos were added to the Nature News website this week. Two are of insects scanned directly on a flatbed scanner, The Nameless Pinion, first moth of the year, and the Cluster Fly, those little suckers that fall in your soup and fly up your nose. The other is a nice closeup of the CAROLINA WREN that was at Tassies in January. Click on the NATURE NEWS PHOTOS link below for a list.


NAME                   1st DATE LAST YR  LOCATION                    OBS
Northern Saw-whet Owl  15/02/99 22/04/98 Utterson                    W.W.    
Herring Gull           02/03/99 28/02/98 Big Chute                   A.S.    
Bald Eagle             05/03/99          Ad flying over Big Chute    A.S.    
Canada Goose           17/03/99 05/03/98 Big Chute                   A.S.    
Red-shouldered Hawk    17/03/99 06/03/98 Gravenhurst Fire College    D.B.    
Red-tailed Hawk        20/03/99 12/03/98 Roxborough Rd               G.C.    
Red-winged Blackbird   20/03/99 06/03/98 Peterson Rd                 P.M.    
Bufflehead             20/03/99 26/03/98 Severn River                S.K     
Turkey Vulture         23/03/99 25/03/98 Sparrow Lk                  D.H.    
Common Grackle         24/03/99 12/03/98 Big Chute                   A.S.    
Hooded Merganser       24/03/99 26/03/98 Lake Rosseau                R.R.    
American Robin         24/03/99 26/03/98 Roxborough Rd               G.C.    
Great Blue Heron       26/03/99 26/03/98 Nr Rosseau on a frozen pond A.T.    
Killdeer               28/03/99 27/03/98 Flying near Glen Orchard    J.J.    
American Kestrel       28/03/99 02/04/98 Bracebridge Fair Grounds    B.B.    
Eastern Bluebird       29/03/99 25/03/98 Mus Rd 13 Sparrow Lake      A.S.    
Wood Duck              29/03/99 29/03/98 Marsh on Medora Lake Rd     E.W.    
Northern Harrier       29/03/99 01/04/98 Canning Rd Sparrow Lake     A.S.    
Ring-billed Gull       30/03/99 24/03/98 Hoc Roc River               A.S.    
American Woodcock      30/03/99 28/03/98 Peterson Rd                 D.S.    
Song Sparrow           31/03/99 28/03/98 Big Chute                   A.S.    
Green-winged Teal      31/03/99 05/04/98 S. Muskoka River            D.S.    
Ring-necked Duck       31/03/99 31/03/98 Hacienda Marsh nr Bala      A.S.    
Eastern Towhee         31/03/99 19/04/98 Kaye Rd Bracebridge         J.B.    
Tree Swallow           31/03/99 09/04/98 Roxborough Rd               B.B.    
Eastern Phoebe         31/03/99 06/03/98 Roxborough Rd               G.C.    
Brown-headed Cowbird   31/03/99 02/04/98 Big Chute                   A.S.    
Lesser Scaup           01/04/99 05/04/98 Sparrow Lake                D.H.    
Pied-billed Grebe      01/04/99 30/03/98 Moon River Bala             D.N.    
American Wigeon        01/04/99 04/04/98 Moon River Bala             D.N.    
Common Snipe           01/04/99 30/03/98 Roxborough Rd               B.B.    
Fox Sparrow            01/04/99 30/03/98 Peterson Rd.                P.M.    
Eastern Meadowlark     02/04/99 05/04/98 Roxborough Rd               G.C.    
Belted Kingfisher      05/04/99 13/04/98 Severn River                B.K./S.K.
Northern Shoveler      05/04/99 08/04/98 Bracebridge Sewage Lagoons  A.S.    
Blue-winged Teal       05/04/99 14/04/98 Bracebridge Sewage Lagoons  A.S.    
Double-crested Cormoran05/04/99 07/04/98 Severn River                B.K./S.K.
Osprey                 06/04/99 16/04/98 Bracebridge Sewage Lagoons  J.G.    
Northern Flicker       06/04/99 30/03/98 Musk Rd 13 near Sparrow Lk  A.S.    
American Bittern       08/04/99 26/04/98 Innis Bay Rd Bracebridge    L.H.
Sandhill Crane         10/04/99 23/04/99 Deer Lk Rd Port Sydney      K.W./L.S.
Barn Swallow           10/04/99 26/04/99 Bracebridge Sewage Lagoons  A.S.




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