Volume 4, Number 7 - May 8, 1999
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The weather in April was sunny with steady cold north winds. The spring flood never happened, the lakes were lowered in anticipation but no water came, snow melted slowly, soaked into the ground or evaporated, no spring showers. As a result the forest fire rating went to extreme, all fires banned. The first few days of May were hot, mid 20s, then finally on May 8 it rained. The tree leaves are bursting their buds early and the black flies are out in good numbers.
New bird species are arriving daily as the migration accelerates to the mid-may peak. You might think the cold April winds would hold them back or the warm sunny days would bring them on. Actually weather doesn't seem to have much effect, just look at the calender to see what species to look for. Compare this years date to last years in the arrivals list. If anybody has an earlier date for any species please send it in.
The first HUMMINGBIRD was seen in Bracebridge May 3 at the Tassie's feeder in Bracebridge, at the same time a PINE WARBLER surprised them by visiting their suet ball. Ten species of warblers were back as of May 7, don't forget NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH and OVENBIRD. Make that eleven, BAY-BREASTED near Uffington in the afternoon of May 7. The first BROAD-WING HAWK slipped into Muskoka April 21, 23 days after their first big migration in Texas, they're now hard to miss sitting along Muskoka highways. The evening serenade of the HERMIT THRUSH is being heard across Muskoka again.
Shorebirds are arriving at the Bracebridge Lagoons, GREATER and LESSER YELLOWLEGS have been in since late April, recently SPOTTED and LEAST. Many of the ducks have departed, probably just over a 100 of the SCAUP and BUFFLEHEADs left on May 1, still lots of TEAL and MALLARDS, one pair of NORTHERN SHOVELLERs, GADWALL and WIGEON have been seen also. CROWS have been foraging along the water's edge, their quarry..Leopard Frogs, Ron Tozer caught one in the act April 28. The MFN outing at the lagoons on May 1 had 39 species, about average for the first week in May but the weather was unusually hot. An EASTERN BLUEBIRD was singing around Kerr Park all morning and posed several minutes for the group on the old maple beside the viewing platform.
Many species are already nesting. On Apr 25 the Tassies found a WOODCOCK on eggs in Goltz's sugar bush. A WOOD DUCK flushed from a hollow tree beside the SEVERN RIVER on April 26 when Al Sinclair was down checking out a swan report. The Sinclairs have a PILEATED WOODPECKER nest in a beech tree near their house, lots drumming and calling around there lately, also one nesting on Wellington St off Muskoka Beach Rd in Gravenhurst. May 4 OSPREY were incubating on the platform near Honey Harbour. RAVEN have hatched already, April 20 there was lots of excitement and begging calls heard at a nest high on the Ragged Rapids microwave tower 160 ft up. The nest on Brydon's Bay Rd is in a crevice at the base of a rock face quite close to the ground and we have to correct the correction made in the last nature news. They were observed sitting on the nest on March 1, the eggs had NOT hatched.
In Bruce County BLACK-BILLED MAGPIEs are nesting for the first time in southern Ontario. Dan Burton and Eleanor Wellman were over for a look on April 25 and soon found the nest, a big 2ft high clump of Hawthorn twigs with a side entrance. It's been dry in Bruce Co. since last summer, Magpies are most common on the dry western prairies. Could there be a connection.
TRUMPETER SWANS are turning up in increasing numbers and causing confusion with migrating TUNDRAS. The leader of the reintroduction project, Harry Lumsden, estimates there are now 150 to 200 flying around Ontario, many not tagged. If you do see one with a tag try to get the number and give Harry a call at 905-727-6492. The tag color is important also, yellow are Ontario birds, green and orange are from introductions in the States. We had a couple of sightings in Muskoka this spring. Tim Sweeting had 4 tagged TRUMPETERS below the locks at Port Severn on March 15, too far away to get their numbers. In late March, 6 swans dropped down to feed with ducks and Canada Geese in front of the Allen residence on Canal Rd by the Severn River. Four soon left but the remaining two were still there on April 26 and were confirmed as untagged TRUMPETERS, quite tame, accepting handouts from everybody along the river. So if you see a swan flying over in spring don't tick TUNDRA, you might be wrong.
Dan Burton had his scope handy on April 11 and got the numbers off two TRUMPETERS on the flooded Brentwood flats north of Angus, 339 and 370. The following info was sent to him by Bev Kingdon: 339 wintered at LaSalle Park in Burlington and was the 1995 daughter of Pig Pen (100) and 206 both introduced at Midland. 370, was born in 1997 and is the son of Pig Pen's first cygnet. When Pig Pen and 206 migrated to Burlington From Midland the first year it was the first time in over a hundred years that a Trumpeter has mated in the wild and migrated in Ontario. Unfortunately 206 and a 98 cygnet were killed a few months ago when they flew into hydro wires near Toronto.
SANDHILL CRANE sightings are increasing every year, a few in Muskoka in spring but still no confirmed records during the breeding season. Sightings this year, singles flying over Port Sydney Apr 9, and Roxborough Rd east of Bracebridge Apr 27, and five flying in spirals on the Torrance Barrens Apr 26. Jean Niskanen reported some sightings from Carling Township in Parry Sound district, 1 flying west over Hwy 69 at Woods Road on Apr 15, a half hour later 2 more flying up from a wetland, calling, near Dinner Lake & Hwy 69, later Bill Davis reported seeing & hearing one at Sand Bay (on Georgian Bay) 15 km west of the second location. April 12 & 13 another Sandhill Crane was reported by Doris Muckenheim in a field on West Carling Road, where there have several sightings over the last 3 years.
On Manitoulin Island, a major staging area, it's not unusual to see flocks of hundreds of SANDHILLS during the fall migration. So now that they are getting to be a common bird again let's have a crane hunt. Right! The following was clipped from the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center web page http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/: "There are six subspecies of sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) endemic to North America. The greater sandhill crane (G. c. tabida) can be divided into several breeding populations. Two of these populations, the Rocky Mountain Population, and the Midcontinent Population are currently hunted. A third population, the Eastern Population, is currently not hunted, but the Mississippi Flyway is considering the possibility of opening a season. Proper management of these birds requires reasonable knowledge of their population dynamics and response to hunting."
What makes a good night for an Owl Prowl? It would be nice to know. The MFN had a prowl on April 18, definitely not a good night, zero owls responded, a big crowd, 15 cars, maybe 40 people were disappointed. Strange when you consider that 3 nights earlier Doug Smith and Al Sinclair had 6, and an answer at every stop in the same area. The temperature was the same, same cloud cover, same wind, only difference appeared to humidity. A brief shower preceded the bad night and sounds carried farther demonstrated by more highway noise from a few kms away. After everyone went home, as a test Al Sinclair tried a couple of more spots where owls responded last year. No luck at the first, but success with a Barred Owl at the second where the nest must be very close to the road due to the quick response. This location is on an owl survey route that was run a couple of weeks previous. Results inconclusive. Interestingly Orillia had a prowl on the 17th, also a bad night, only one distant answer from a Barred Owl. Lets hope for better luck next year.
A great ambassador of nature is gone, Jim Wilson, 76, died of heart failure on April 14, 1999. Jim was well known to naturalists in the Windsor/Detroit area where he worked and raised a family and in Muskoka/Haliburton where had a summer cottage that was later his retirement home. He and partner Ann Brander made many other friends as they searched out the wonders of nature around North America and in exotic places like Ethiopia and Costa Rica. Jim was a member of both Muskoka nature clubs, a popular field trip leader, program presenter, and recently President of the Huntsville Nature Club. His broad knowledge of nature, gladly shared, was admired by all and an inspiration to many to learn. When Jim and Ann arrived on an outing you knew it was going to be a good one. He was a perfect role model for all the aspiring naturalists fortunate enough to have know him. As president of the Huntsville Nature Club Jim saw how important the Lands for Life process was to the future of Ontario and played a major role in organizing the voice of naturalists at the local roundtables. We will miss his big smile and friendly welcome, his humorous nature anecdotes, his tips on identifying difficult species, his translations of interesting Latin names. Most of all we will miss a good friend. We are also sorry to report that Ann Brander has Alzheimers. She is currently living alternately with her sons in Kingston and London.
Lands for Life
The latest bulletin from Ric Symmes: Preliminary figures from the public consultation showed 8,000 responses (a tremendous number for a mostly good news story) in the 30 day period -- and they are still coming in. Great majority very favourable to protected land. Major issue in most messages: objection to proposed permitted uses, particularly hunting and mining. I understand that a report and analysis will be going to the premier in the next few days.
Seems like there are volunteer surveys on everything these days, feeders, owls, loons, Red-shouldered Hawks, breeding birds, forest breeding birds, frogs, marshes, colonial water birds etc. etc. Here's a couple of more: the Ladybug Survey, last year of this survey to study the effect of introduced lady beetles on our native species. What's the most common species in Muskoka, likely the Southern Lady beetle an Asian import. Go to http://www.schoolnet.ca/vp-pv/ladybug/ for details, nice colour pictures to help with ID. OK here's another one, believe it or not, the Earthworm Survey. Send an email to email@example.com to get a kit including instructions on soil sampling and a key to the species. Purpose to determine what species of earthworm thrive in different soil types with a view to rehabilitating soil with earthworm introductions.
EASTERN HOGNOSE SNAKE May 6 seen exiting from under a house on Roxborough Road near Bracebridge, Gayle Carlyle.
MAP TURTLE May 3 basking partly out of the water on one of the old marine railway tracks below Big Chute, Al Sinclair
Recent warm weather has brought out the spring wild flowers quickly, get out now to see them at their best. In the woods of Muskoka during April and May you might find a mossy rock covered by troops of fruiting stalks with small black heads coming from dark green leaves hidden in the moss. You have found a Liverwort, Pellia epiphylla. Liverworts are relatives of mosses that also reproduce by spores. See a picture of Pellia on the nature news website.
In the last Nature News we mentioned the Elfin Skimmer, Nannothemis bella, an easy species to identify because of its small size. Colin Jones, Dragonflyer and naturalist in Algonquin Park, reports that this species has been confirmed in the park since their Damselflies and Dragonflies booklet was published in 1996. Bob Bowles reports that this species can also be found in Muskoka without too much difficulty. Bob says if you really want to make a name for yourself find an Ebony Boghaunter, Williamsonia fletcheri. This is a rare Ontario species also found around bogs but usually in a sunny spot back in the trees. Look for a small skimmer with blue eyes and black abdomen and start looking now as it flies in May and June.
A new Odonata email list, Northeastern Odonata, was announced last week by Blair Nikula & Jackie Sones from Cape Cod. Suitable topics are new state or county records, observations of regionally rare species, reports from little-worked areas, and unusually early or late flight dates. Discussions of identification, behavior, local habitat use, migratory movements, and field techniques are also appropriate. It's not clear if Ontario is included in their definition of Northeast. To sign-up go to http://www.capecod.net/~bnikula/NEodes.html
Here's some food for thought clipped from the Odonata List Apr 23, 1999:
Studies of trans-Gulf bird migrants are attempting to use "ground truthing" to verify strong radar images as migratory birds. This was posted today from Louisiana Birds.
LABIRD: I just returned from an attempt to ground truth the images now on nexrad in south Caddo Parish. Dragonflies are flying with the strong south wind in great numbers from 75 meters up to the limit of my 10x50 Swarovski binoculars. I did a 10 minute skywatch along the bank of the Red River. Looking at the same spot straight over head I saw 41 dragonflies and 1 unidentified bird in the 10 minute period. That is a rate of 4 dragonflies/min. in the field of view of 367 ft at 1000yds. I then moved 2 miles off the river and 10 miles south to make sure that the dragonflies that I was seeing were not associated with the River. At the second spot the rate was slightly higher, 5 dragonflies/min and again only 1 bird, a Sharpshin/Cooper's hawk. The dragonflies are all flying with the wind. Most are oriented North and only occasionally circle just briefly. A few are oriented Northwest but are being blown north. The nexrad images from Lake Charles, Ft. Polk, and Shreveport are distinct rings. Just as yesterday, the reflectivity is much higher at the coast than in Shreveport. Again, just like yesterday, the reflectivity fades in central Louisiana along a line from Vernon Parish through Rapides Parish and to Avoyelles Parish. The higher, and more constant levels of 20 dbz are lost in that area, the highest level at Shreveport is 12 and the image is peppered with lower values. The results of my skywatches today indicate that the nexrad ring around Shreveport is of insects, not birds. As an amateur and a rookie, I am probably going too far here in interpretation but it sure looks to me like the birds are all falling out in central Louisiana and only the dragonflies are continuing north to Arkansas or beyond.
The first dragonflies are out just in time catch some of those newly emerged bugs. The first in Muskoka? May 4 Al Sinclair found a HUDSONIAN WHITEFACE in his backyard, so early for this species that Bob Bowles ran it through the key twice to be sure. Don't believe it? Check the scan of the chilled specimen on the Nature News website under insects on the photos page. Also out early UHLER'S SUNDRAGON May 5 again in the Sinclair's yard, gee they must have a lot of bugs at Uffington.
DAMSELS AND DRAGONS FLYING RECENTLY Hudsonian Whiteface 04/5/99 Uffington, Al Sinclair Uhler's Sundragon 04/5/99 Uffington, Al Sinclair Beaverpond Baskettail 05/5/99 Henry Rd Pond Bracebridge, Doug Tozer Common Green Darner 05/5/99 Bracebridge Lagoons, Doug Tozer
Butterflies were lying during the cold breezy weather in April but the first week in May was excellent, hot and sunny. SPRING AZURES and JUVENAL'S DUSKYWINGS are now common and widespread, a few more MOURNING CLOAKS are flying but less than normal. Those hyperactive WHITES blowing by these days are not all CABBAGE WHITES. On the Torrance Barrens Lou Spence chased a white butterfly 200 yards down the road until it disappeared behind some brush, never did get a good look, they can be very hard to net. Many in early spring are MUSTARD WHITES, no spots, distinct gray veins on the hindwing, but you can't be sure until they land. Another possibility is OLYMPIA MARBLE, in Muskoka found on the rocky barren areas in the south. Al Sinclair was fortunate to find one this year on May 3 at Big Chute, looked like the other whites in flight until it landed on a winter cress plant. Also at Big Chute, a HOARY ELFIN on May 4. Look for these small butterflies, with frosting on the underside of both wings, around their food plant Bearberry. Lou Spence got a CHRYXUS ARCTIC and an unidentified ELFIN (HENRY'S) May 5 on the Torrance Barrens.
A few of the "Winter Moths" were flying on the warmer nights in April. Eupsilia species over-winter as adults and can be found flying in mid-winter, the E. vinulenta specimen listed below was well worn when found on Apr 16. In 1997 Jim Wilson wrote an article on winter moths for the Muskoka Field Naturalist's newsletter. In memory of Jim, it has been posted on the Nature News Website, look for a link on the archives page. Jim had a great interest in moths and kept records of all his finds. He sent the following to nature news last year but it's worth repeating and is another example of why we will miss him: "To-day (April 12), while having lunch by the edge of our icy bay an "Infant" flew by us a couple of times. I had forgotten its generic name, Archiearis, which I discovered to be "first of spring". Add "infans" to this and you have "first baby of spring!" Now, how do you like that for a sweet, little moniker?"
This year Bob Bowles sighted 2 INFANTS in Haliburton Co near Gooderham on April 13 and Doug Smith saw a couple near Uffington on April 11.
The warmer weather has brought out many new moths, up to 15 species per night at the Sinclair's UV light. The most common, CURVE-TOOTHED GEOMETER, big moths that mimic dried-up leaves.
LEPS FLYING RECENTLY SPECIES COMMON NAME wk16 wk17 wk18 BUTTERFLIES Oeneis chryxus Chryxus Arctic 1 Erynnis juvenalis Juvenal's Duskywing 2 2 Pieris rapae Cabbage White 2 Pieris napi Mustard White 1 Euchloe olympia Olympia Marble 1 Lycaena phlaeas American Copper 1 Callophrys polia Hoary Efin 1 Ceslastrina ladon Spring Azure 1 2 2 Nymphalis antiopa Mourning Cloak 1 1 MOTHS Ectropis crepuscularia The Small Engrailed 1 1 Phigalia titea The Half-wing 2 1 Lomographa glomeraria Gray Spring Moth 1 1 Eutrapela clemataria Curve-toothed Geometer 2 3 Cladara atroliturata The Scribbler 3 1 Phyllodesma americana Lappet Moth 1 Acronicta morula Ochre Dagger Moth 1 Lithophane fagina 1 Eupsilia morrisoni Morrison's Sallow 2 Orthosia rubescens Ruby Quaker 1 Crocigrapha normani Norman's Quaker 1 Egira dolosa 2 Cerastis tenebrifera Reddish Speckled Dart 1 2 Metalepsis salicarum 1 1 Abundance Code 1 = 1, 2 = 2-5, 3 = 6-20, 4 = 20+
NAME 1st DATE LAST YR LOCATION OBS FEB 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. MAR Bald Eagle 05/03/99 Ad flying over Big Chute A.S. Trumpeter Swan 15/03/99 Below Port Severn lock T.S. Red-shouldered Hawk 17/03/99 06/03/98 Gravenhurst Fire College D.B. Canada Goose 17/03/99 05/03/98 Big Chute A.S. Red-tailed Hawk 20/03/99 12/03/98 Roxborough Rd G.C. Bufflehead 20/03/99 26/03/98 Severn River S.K Red-winged Blackbird 20/03/99 06/03/98 Peterson Rd P.M. Turkey Vulture 23/03/99 25/03/98 Sparrow Lk D.H. Hooded Merganser 24/03/99 26/03/98 Lake Rosseau R.R. American Robin 24/03/99 26/03/98 Roxborough Rd G.C. Common Grackle 24/03/99 12/03/98 Big Chute A.S. Great Blue Heron 26/03/99 26/03/98 Nr Rosseau on a frozen pond A.T. American Kestrel 28/03/99 02/04/98 Bracebridge Fair Grounds B.B. Killdeer 28/03/99 27/03/98 Flying near Glen Orchard J.J. Northern Harrier 29/03/99 01/04/98 Canning Rd Sparrow Lake areaA.S. Wood Duck 29/03/99 29/03/98 Marsh on Medora Lake Rd E.W. Eastern Bluebird 29/03/99 25/03/98 Mus Rd 13 Sparrow Lake A.S. American Woodcock 30/03/99 28/03/98 Peterson Rd D.S. Ring-billed Gull 30/03/99 24/03/98 Hoc Roc River A.S. Eastern Towhee 31/03/99 19/04/98 Kaye Rd Bracebridge J.B. Brown-headed Cowbird 31/03/99 02/04/98 Big Chute A.S. Tree Swallow 31/03/99 09/04/98 Roxborough Rd B.B. Green-winged Teal 31/03/99 05/04/98 S. Muskoka River D.S. Eastern Phoebe 31/03/99 06/03/98 Roxborough Rd G.C. Ring-necked Duck 31/03/99 31/03/98 Hacienda Marsh nr Bala A.S. Song Sparrow 31/03/99 28/03/98 Big Chute A.S. APR 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. Lesser Scaup 01/04/99 05/04/98 Sparrow Lake D.H. Common Snipe 01/04/99 30/03/98 Roxborough Rd B.B. Fox Sparrow 01/04/99 30/03/98 Peterson Rd. P.M. Blk-throated Green Warb01/04/99 01/05/98 Kilworthy D.B. Eastern Meadowlark 02/04/99 05/04/98 Roxborough Rd G.C. Double-crested Cormoran05/04/99 07/04/98 Severn River B&S.K. Belted Kingfisher 05/04/99 13/04/98 Severn River B&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. Northern Flicker 06/04/99 30/03/98 Musk Rd 13 near Sparrow Lk A.S. Osprey 06/04/99 16/04/98 Bracebridge Sewage Lagoons J.G. American Bittern 08/04/99 26/04/98 Innis Bay Rd Bracebridge L.H. Sandhill Crane 10/04/99 23/04/98 Deer Lk Rd Port Sysney K.W. Barn Swallow 10/04/99 26/04/98 Bracebridge Sewage Lagoons A.S. Yellow-bellied Sapsucke11/04/99 09/04/98 Uffington A.S. Merlin 12/04/99 02/04/98 Port Severn D.S. Hermit Thrush 14/04/99 12/04/98 Browning Is. B.T. Common Loon 15/04/99 10/04/98 Lake Joseph & Porter Lk E.W. Ruby-crowned Kinglet 16/04/99 15/04/98 Ragged Rapids near Bala A.S. Yellow-rumped Warbler 17/04/99 19/04/98 Bracebridge Sewage Lagoons A.S. Gadwall 17/04/99 14/05/98 Bracebridge Sewage Lagoons A.S. Savannah Sparrow 18/04/99 13/04/98 Sparrow Lake D.B. Swamp Sparrow 18/04/99 19/04/98 Sparrow Lake D.B. Broad-winged Hawk 21/04/99 19/04/98 Uffington J.S. Greater Scaup 22/04/99 29/04/98 Browning Is Lk Muskoka B.T. Pine Warbler 22/04/99 20/04/98 Browning Is. Lk Muskoka B.T. Greater Yellowlegs 22/04/99 30/04/98 Bracebridge Sewage Lagoons A.S. White-throated Sparrow 22/04/99 06/04/98 Big Chute A.S. Chipping Sparrow 22/04/99 02/04/98 Browning Is Lk Muskoka B.T. Purple Martin 24/04/99 11/05/98 Glen Orchard Store Caspian Tern 24/04/99 13/04/98 Sparrow Lake D.H. American Coot 29/04/99 17/05/98 Bracebridge Sewage Lagoons A.S. Northern Waterthrush 29/04/99 02/04/98 near Bala E.W. Lesser Yellowlegs 29/04/99 30/04/98 Bracebridge Sewage Lagoons A.S. Whip-poor-will 30/04/99 05/05/98 Roxborough J.C. MAY Blue-headed Vireo 01/05/99 29/04/98 Uffington A.S. Black-and-white Warbler02/05/99 30/04/98 Porter Lake Bala E.W. Vesper Sparrow 02/05/99 03/05/98 Muskoka Airport A.S. Red-necked Grebe 02/05/99 15/04/98 Lake Muskoka Port Carling L.S. Yellow Warbler 02/05/99 05/05/98 Big Chute A.S. Red-breasted Merganser 02/05/99 21/04/98 Lake Muskoka Port Carling L.S. Ruby-throated Hummingbi03/05/99 08/05/98 Bracebridge feeder L.T. Rose-breasted Grosbeak 04/05/99 06/05/98 Honey Harbour J.G. Eastern Kingbird 04/05/99 07/05/98 Big Chute J.G. N. Rough-winged Swallow04/05/99 07/05/98 Big Chute A.S. House Wren 04/05/99 11/04/98 Big Chute A.S. Spotted Sandpiper 04/05/99 29/04/98 Bracebridge Lagoons J.G. Warbling Vireo 05/05/99 14/05/98 Kerr Park Bracebridge D.T. Ovenbird 05/05/99 06/05/98 Henry Rd pond Bracebridge D.T. Golden-winged Warbler 05/05/99 23/05/98 Henry Rd Pond Bracebridge D.T. Palm Warbler 05/05/99 08/05/98 Bracebridge Lagoons D.T. Least Sandpiper 05/05/99 11/05/98 Bracebridge Lagoons D.T. Horned Lark 05/05/99 06/06/98 Torrance Barrens L.S. Bobolink 05/05/99 09/05/98 Bracebridge Lagoons D.T. Blackburnian Warbler 05/05/99 23/05/98 Bracebridge Lagoons D.T. Baltimore Oriole 05/05/99 06/05/98 Bracebridge Lagoons D.T. American Pipit 05/05/99 14/05/98 Bracebridge Lagoons D.T. Bay-breasted Warbler 07/05/99 23/05/98 Uffington A.S.
MUSKOKA FIELD NATURALISTS