Volume 4, Number 9 - December, 1999




The spring rains didn't come until summer this year, by mid May the woods were parched, the lakes were at the lowest spring levels in memory, the rivers at rock bottom. Finally late in May we had substantial rainfall that soon filled the Muskoka River to spring flood levels and topped up the lakes to max. June to September was generally hot and sunny with good rainfalls in early July and the second week in August. The first killing frost was on Sep 22, the next on Oct 4 finished gardens for another year. November was mild, no snow accumulation.


The big birding news in Muskoka this summer was the addition of a new species to our checklist, BREWER'S BLACKBIRD. This species has been slowly expanding it's range into Eastern Canada from the west and has been found in both Simcoe Co. and Parry Sound District but not in Muskoka until this year. On May 27 Ken Walton's experienced eye recognized a blackbird sitting beside Falkenburg Rd was a BREWER'S. Lynn Sayers and Jon Grandfield were there to confirm it and they soon found a nest and at least 3 pairs in the adjacent field. A colony! The birds remained all summer and were seen by many although often you had to wait up to 15 minutes before one would fly out of the grass and scold from the fence or hydro wires. Will they return next year? Check out the field on the south-east corner where Falkenburg Rd meets Beatrice Townline Rd.

The next day, May 28, it was Jon Grandfield's turn. As the same trio motored down Shea Rd near Windermere Jon was sure he heard a WILLOW FLYCATCHER calling. They reversed and again heard the distinctive "fitz bew" in an Alder tangle as well as the call of the look-the-same ALDER FLYCATCHER for comparison. WILLOW FLYCATCHERs are hard to find in Muskoka, in fact none have been reported since the Muskoka Heritage Areas Project more than 10 years ago. One thing we've noticed is that Willows call reliably only in the morning where Alders will call all day. So on June 13 it was early in the morning when Al Sinclair and Dan Burton checked out the location and found a WILLOW still calling, a new Muskoka life bird for both.

On May 29 the Muskoka Field Naturalists set out for the Dwight Spruce Bog in search of another rare Muskoka flycatcher, the YELLOW-BELLIED. This northern species nests in this bog along with other northerners: GRAY JAY, SPRUCE GROUSE, BOREAL CHICKADEE, BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKER and OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER. A hike through the bog is no walk in the park but it wasn't bad with the help of some good directions from Doug Tozer. Once you follow the survey lines to the right habitat, listening for their call is the key to finding flycatchers. The YELLOW-BELLIED sounds a lot like the LEAST FLYCATCHER's "CHEBECK" but more mellow like "CHEBEEK". At least 2 calling males were found, maybe 3, but they were hard to see sitting about half-way up in small trees and hidden by leaves. An OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER was also recorded on the trip but no other boreal species were found except CAPE MAY WARBLER. All participants survived the ordeal but there were a few muddy soakers.

GREEN HERONs are pushing north again, they were reported from Sparrow Lake May 15, the Lake Vernon Narrows at Huntsville May 29, Ranwood Rd near Port Carling Jun 8, Gravenhurst south entrance marsh Jun 22, and a possible breeding pair stalking frogs at the Bracebridge Ponds July 8. One was also seen in Algonquin Park July 10. YELLOW-THROATED VIREOs may be retreating, only one was found this summer, a singing male heard along the Musquash River below Big Eddy on June 2. By the way, did you know that musquash is an Indian word for muskrat? An article in the autumn issue of Nature Canada Magazine gives several examples of Indian plant and animal names that are the origins of English names.

Al Sinclair did the Port Sandfield to Skeleton Lake Breeding Bird Survey route on June 22. Starting at dawn you have to count all birds heard or seen for 3 minutes at each of 50 stops on a 25 mile route. Total time should be no more than 5 hours so you have to hustle. This route cuts through typical Muskoka habitat, up and down, mixed woods at the top, ponds and bogs at the bottom. See a summary of the results below. Doug Smith took over the Torrance Barrens route, found 4 EASTERN TOWHEES, FIELD SPARROWS, BLACK-BILLED CUCKOOS but no surprises.

Total species counted: 61 Total Individuals: 589
Most common (or at least most vocal): 81 RED-EYED VIREO at 41 stops
2nd most common: 45 CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER at 31 stops
3rd most common: 33 OVENBIRD at 24 stops.
Brown Thrushes: 22 VEERY, 14 HERMIT, 2 SWAINSON'S, 1 WOOD
Noteable lows: 3 YELLOW WARBLER, No HAWKS

All the HUMMINGBIRDS seen in Muskoka are RUBY-THROATED, well almost all. Rarely a western species, usually RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD, wanders east and ends up at a feeder in the fall. Very rarely they turn up in summer so we should be vigilant and if an unusual looking hummingbird is seen the first thing to do is take pictures, then call an experienced birder to verify it. On July 30/31, 1999 there was a well described RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD reported near Rebecca Lake north of Huntsville, it disappeared before it could be verified

In early August the Sinclairs and Bennetts canoed down the Dee River to Clark's Pond, an easy route except for one beaver dam. Some novices coming up-river managed to dump their canoe while crossing it. In Clark's Pond a young TURKEY VULTURE, fully grown but still with some downy head feathers, watched from the west cliff. As the canoes approached it ran back into its nest crevice but was so curious it returned in a few seconds to inspect the canoes as they drifted by at close range. The preferred nest site of TURKEY VULTURES in Muskoka are cliff crevices or cavities under fallen rocks. For years a pair has nested behind a big fallen rock down river from South Falls. In July this year disaster struck when one of the pair was killed after it got tangled in hydro wires. Its distressed mate watched from the top of the closest pole as the remains of its mate were removed by a hydro lineman. Vultures are social, intelligent and gentle natured birds, the better you know them the more you like them. The stories about them throwing-up on their feet to keep cool is just a malicious rumour. Have you hugged a vulture today?

The Bracebridge Ponds (AKA Sewage Lagoons) are one of Muskoka's best birding hot spots. Dozens of ducks nest here in the summer and many other species nest in the adjacent woods and wetlands. We might suggest that after a good hike around the ponds you might try another local birding hot spot, the patio at the Inn on the Falls Pub. While enjoying some refreshment you might see the resident MERLIN flying up the river in the evening when the dragonflies are out. On Aug 5 CHIMNEY SWIFTS were observed chasing him back down the river. If you stay till dusk you can count the SWIFTS that fly in to roost in the Inn's old stone chimney, 5 or 6 were using it this summer. None were seen at their former main roost, the Town Library chimney and only about 14 were around town this summer, a significant drop in the last few years. Next year we should keep an eye on them, maybe they are declining like the PURPLE MARTINS.

Muskoka PURPLE MARTINS were doing a little better this year, Doug Smith noticed an active colony at Brigadoon Cottages on Sparrow Lake and they were seen flying around Browning Is and Big Chute during the breeding season. At Glen Orchard store they had 6 pairs this year up from 3 in 1997, still none in Bracebridge.

In late summer there was a well documented sighting in Muskoka of another icterid (blackbird) that's expanding its range. On Aug 29 Rick Miller saw a female GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE near his cottage on Burnt Island (AKA Suydan Is.) 8 km north of Honey Harbour (UTM 586500 4975000). In his post to Ontbirds he described a large grackle-like bird, warm golden-brown breast shading to a darker brown elsewhere, prominent yellow eye, dark, heavy, curved bill, relatively longer and heavier than that of a Common Grackle, very long tail, relatively longer than that of a Common Grackle. It was with a group of Northern Flickers that were feeding on the ground and flushed into a small oak giving him a good look. The grackle was significantly larger than the Flickers and scolded with a series of harsh, single notes, somewhat like a Blue Jay but at a lower pitch, when it flew it appeared to have a keeled tail. GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE has been confirmed in Ontario before and it's breeding range in the Midwestern US has expanded northward as far as Iowa. They are also know to disperse widely after the breeding season. OK, sounds legit to me but it should be accepted by the Ontario Rare Birds Committee before it becomes the second new bird added to our Muskoka list this year. Keep this species in mind, there may be more here in the future.

WHIP-POOR-WILLs were reported from a new location, 1357 Beiers Rd. south of Gravenhurst. On Jul 1, just past the big swamp at David Purdon's spread, 3 to 4 pairs of whipoorwills were calling at dusk and were seen spiraling up in a group of 6 or more. Also on Canada Day John Challis and Gayle Carlyle flushed a pair while hiking the rocky ridges behind their house on Roxborough Rd. east of Bracebridge. Rus Black reports a WHIP-POOR-WILL still calling Aug 31 on the Torrance Barrens.

On Jul 30 Sylvia Purdon and Jim Maguire did a survey of the colonial waterbirds on Sparrow Lake and found the following
Margaret Island Spit:
COMMON TERNS - 8 adult, 12 juveniles, adults carrying food to young, some still downy.
CASPIAN TERNS - 13 adult, 2 juveniles
Long Island:
RING-BILLED GULLS - 100+ juveniles and adults
COMMON TERNS - 3 adults feeding just off shore, None on the island.
Sylvia doesn't think they nested on Margaret Is. Did they manage to raise 12 young on Long Is. amongst all the Gulls?

In June Murry Semkow saw a strange bird foraging in his yard at the end of Beaumont Farm Rd near Bracebridge, neighbour Max Beaumont identified it as a NORTHERN BOBWHITE. It stayed around for a couple of weeks then disappeared. In August, 1 km north near Bowyer's Beach, Bruce Murphy from Cobalt was on vacation in Muskoka and thought he heard a NORTHERN BOBWHITE calling. He posted the news on Ontbirds and Al Sinclair checked it out Aug 12, he was right. On Golden Beach Rd just south of Bangor Lodge, partly hidden by sunflowers, sitting on a rail fence was a BOBWHITE calling every few minutes. The locals say that 2 appeared in July origin unknown, one had since disappeared. Nice to see them in the wild but these have to be captive raised and therefore not countable. There are no wild populations anywhere near Muskoka and in fact they may have died out in Ontario completely. Reason? Some say wild birds bred with captive bred birds released for hunting, the offspring couldn't survive. Of course they were always vulnerable on Ontario, the northern limit of their range. A 100 years ago they ranged as far north as Muskoka but overhunting early in the 20th century has been blamed for their demise.

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS are the last warblers to leave in the fall, why? Well it could be because they are adapted to eat food other than insects. On Oct 7 Al Sinclair observed a small group of Yellow-rumps near Big Chute feeding on Red Cedar berries.

An unusually large number of BOHEMIAN WAXWINGS arrived from the west in November seeking their main winter food, berries. Jean Niskanen, north of Parry Sound, saw the first flock heading our way on Nov 6. By mid November Flocks of 20 to over 200 were roaming Muskoka gulping every winterberry in sight. Winterberries are those bright red clusters of emetic fruit you see in swamps in the fall. To us they taste disgusting but birds love them, lots of pulp and small seeds much like Mountain Ash berries make them a waxwing favorite. Mountain Ash fruit is scarce here this year, the winterberries will soon be consumed, the frugivorous Bohemians will soon continue their trek across the continent searching out the next berry patch.

Whiskey Jack, another name for the Gray Jay, doesn't have anything to do with a drinking problem. It comes from the Cree word wiiskachaan, anglicized to Whiskey John and then Whiskey Jack. This fall GRAY JAYS returned to a feeder near Uffington at 1447 Peterson Rd. Peg Lacroix reports at least 3 hand-feedable Jays are there every day. They also are irregular at the Sinclair's fat feeder which is less than a km north at 1852 Hwy 118E, probably the same birds. Al now has GRAY JAY, BOREAL CHICKADEE, and BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKER on his Life Yard List, not bad for 45 deg north latitude. Now if he could just get SPRUCE GROUSE. It's not impossible, on Nov 15 Bruce and Marj Wilson had one 150 ft behind their house at the north end of Skeleton Lake. Bruce sent the details of the sighting, including field marks of the female bird, notably the barred back that separates them from Ruffed Grouse (they couldn't see it's tail). SPRUCE GROUSE was confirmed near Yearly several years ago, about 10 km north of Skeleton Lake. Sometimes they turn up unexpectedly in unusual locations, like this fall when a well described male (but unconfirmed) refused to yield the right-of-way to cars on a Rd near Lake Dalrymple, Carden Township, Victoria Co, well south of Muskoka. The Carden Plain east of the lake is one of Ontario's birding hotspots. Gray Jays have been found there, could there also be SPRUCE GROUSE?

PEREGRINE FALCON, anatum subspecies, was removed from endangered lists this year, total population now estimated to be 1650 pairs up from 324 in 1975. Still little is know about their migration patterns but that may soon change. Transmitters small enough to be attached to birds and powerful enough to be tracked by satellite are now available. This fall 4 young peregrines hacked in Richmond Hill north of Toronto were given radio transmitters. In October, three of them headed south, one bird had everybody worried when it headed out over the Atlantic off Florida, fortunately it later made a U-turn. By the end of November all three were soaking up the rays in Panama and Colombia. The 4th is still in Toronto, if only he knew. To follow the Peregrines go to http://www.peregrine-foundation.ca/programs/trackem/track.html . By the way we did have a sighting in Muskoka this fall, David Hawke posted his sighting on The Muskoka Bird Board. "A PEREGRINE FALCON did a beautiful flyby at Muskoka Sands Resort (just north of Gravenhurst) on October 12. It flew across an old lagoon about 25 feet above the water and about 50 feet in front of me. Pointed wings, sideburns, large, light belly, blue-grey back. Best view I've ever had of this species."

Last year some other satellite tracking projects were started, one followed male BARROW'S GOLDENEYES in eastern North America. When they stopped heading north at several lakes in Quebec ground teams went looking for breeding evidence. They found it, female Barrow's with young were photographed, the first hard evidence for Quebec and eastern North America. The whole story is at http://www.qc.ec.gc.ca/faune/sauvagine/html/barrows_goldeneye.html.


OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER,, 6/9/99, Sparrow Lk Rt D, Frank Levay
PHILADELPHIA VIREO,, 6/9/99, Bracebridge Ponds, Dan Burton
WILSON'S WARBLER, 3, 6/9/99, Bracebridge Ponds, Dan Burton
HORNED LARK, 6, 9/9/99, Beausoleil Is, Jim Goltz
ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER,, 13/9/99, Winhara Rd, Jim Goltz
EASTERN BLUEBIRDS, 5, 20/9/99, Falkenburg Rd, Jon Grandfield
EASTERN BLUEBIRDS, 14, 21/9/99, Baseline Rd, Frak Levay
AMERICAN PIPIT, 60, 21/9/99, Barkway, Jim Goltz
PINE SISKINS, 7, 23/9/99, Uffington feeder, Al Sinclair
GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH,, 24/9/99, Browning IS., Barbara Taylor
ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER,, 24/9/99, Gravenhurst, Dan Burton
RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD,, 25/9/99, nr Port Carling, Joan Spence
PALM WARBLER, 25, 25/9/99, Bracebridge Ponds, Dan Burton
FOX SPARROW, 1, 4/10/99, Sparrow Lk Rt D, Frank Levay
RUDDY DUCK, 1, 5/10/99, Bracebridge Ponds, Doug Tozer
GADWALL, 1, 5/10/99, Bracebridge Ponds, Doug Tozer
NORTHERN PINTAIL, 4, 5/10/99, Bracebridge Ponds, Doug Tozer
EASTERN MEADOWLARK, 1, 8/10/99, Allensville, Jon Grandfield
NORTHERN HARRIER, 1, 8/10/99, Allensville, Jon Grandfield
RED-HEADED WOODPECKER, 1im, 11/10/99, Moon River Rd, Alice Chisholm
RED-SHOULDERED HAWK,1im, 14/10/99, Hwy 169 Gravenhurst, Al Sinclair
FOX SPARROW, 6, 4/17/99, Sparrow Lk Rt D, Dan Burton
EASTERN BLUEBIRD, 1, 23/10/99, Muskoka Falls, Al Sinclair
COMMON REDPOLL, 1, 27/10/99, Uffington feeder, Al Sinclair
DUCKS, 826, 28/10/99, Bracebridge Ponds, Al Sinclair
PINE GROSBEAK, 25, 28/10/99, Browning Is., Barbara Taylor
OLDSQUAW, 3, 29/10/99, Muskoka Beach, Al Sinclair
PINE GROSBEAK, 1, 2/11/99, Uffington, Doug Smith
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON, 1, 4/11/99, flying Gravenhurst, Dan Burton
NORTHERN SHRIKE, 1, 5/11/99, Glen Orchard, Al Sinclair
RED-NECKED GREBE, 1, 9/11/99, Alport Bay, Barbara Taylor
BOHEMIAN WAXWING, 40, 10/11/99, Hwy 11 at Skyways, Al Sinclair
WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL,, 13/11/99, Browning Is., Barbara Taylor
BOHEMIAN WAXWING, 250, 22/11/99, Torrance, Bob Bowles
BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKER, 1m, 23/11/99, Rostreavor Rd., King Wright
GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL, 2, 24/11/99, Bracebridge dump, Bob Bowles
GLAUCOUS GULL, 1, 30/11/99, Bracebridge dump, Bob Bowles
COMMON REDPOLL, 30, 30/11/99, Bracebridge dump, Al Sinclair
SNOWY OWL, 1, 4/12/99, Rosseau Lk Rd 2, Harry Wood
ICELAND GULL, 2, 7/12/99, Bracebridge dump, Al Sinclair
ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK, 1, 6/12/99, White's Falls Rd, Al Sinclair


It was a good summer for snakes, hot and sunny. David Wright on Peace Valley Rd was surprised to find not one but two MILK SNAKES in their garden on May 30. One was about 2 feet long the other closer to 3. The smaller one stood it's ground while the other quickly departed. Smaller milk snakes have a habit of vibrating their tail when threatened making a buzzing noise in the grass leading to mistaken identity. RATTLESNAKE! They're harmless really, but beware, they'll bite if handled. A genuine EASTERN MASSASAUGA was found July 20 crossing Ragged Rapids Rd west of Bala near the microwave tower. No surprise, they're often seen in that area.

Gayle Carlyle and John Challis report that they have been practically stepping on EASTERN HOGNOSE SNAKES every time they turn around. In early July the big three-footer in the shade of the rhubarb was on the verge of shedding, very dark in color and its eyes completely clouded over. A smaller snake with the greener markings and streaks, hung out under the cedar hedge. And there were more, they were out hiking on the rock ridges behind their house on Canada Day and saw two, very strikingly coloured, one with yellow marking around the darker blotches.

In early September Neil and Dinny Nimmo were admiring their new pond when a big toad came hopping down the hill at top speed and dove into the water. Strange behavior they thought until they saw a large HOGNOSE SNAKE coming down the hill behind it. The toad escaped 'til another day.

Dinny's daughter Heather and Doug Tate were out canoeing on the Moon River again this fall. Last year they found a MAP TURTLE, how do you top that? How about two STINKPOTS. They found them swimming in a small bay at Hurlings Point on Sep 25, one coated in algae was almost invisible.

A RIBBON SNAKE was found DOR (Dead On the Road) June 11 on Muskoka 38 in Wahta. Ribbon snakes are best differentiated from Garter Snakes by their long tail. Where does the tail start on a snake? Hint: The tail starts at its anus.

A LITTLE BROWN SNAKE hanging around the Sinclair's back yard all summer had several close shaves with the lawn mower. There must have been a good food source in the grass to make it worth the risk. References say they eat slugs snails and soft bodied insects. There was no snails, few slugs, but lots of ground crickets, mostly Eunemobius carolinus, the Carolina Ground Cricket. Could the crickets be the main attraction?

MAP TURTLE, Aug 14/99, sunning on a rock in Macey's Bay nr Honey Harbour, AS
BLANDINGS TURTLE, Jun 8/99, Hwy 169 near Pine Lake, JH
PICKEREL FROGs, Aug 31/99, singing in the south-east cell of the Bracebridge Ponds, AS
Hear the frogs calling
FIVE-LINED SKINK, Aug 4/99, Brydon's Bay nr Gravenhurst, GH
FIVE-LINED SKINK, rock crevice near the JR BOWERS plaque on Silver Lake,GH

What is the world's largest living reptile? No it's not the Komodo Dragon, it's the LEATHERBACK TURTLE. It's also the rarest of all marine turtles and their numbers are falling steadily. Another satellite tracking project this summer was following SHERMAN (as in tank), a male LEATHERBACK fitted with a transmitter off Cape Breton Is. This is the first male ever tracked since they must be intercepted at sea, only females are found on land (when they lay eggs). The whole story and a map of his travels this summer are at website http://www.cwf-fcf.org/pages/sherman.htm#top. He disappeared in the Sargasso Sea east of Bermuda in October, they think his batteries went flat (they should have used the Energizer).


Monarchs arrived earlier and in better numbers in 1999, the first in Muskoka was seen by Bob Burton May 28 near Rosseau Village, the first last year was June 10. Throughout the summer they were a common sight in Muskoka, a big improvement over 98. There were lots heading south in the fall as well. On Sep 15 Eleanor Wellman wrote, "I saw many Monarchs flying south today. There seemed to be one in sight at all times both at my cabin and on the road between the cabin, Lake Joseph and Port Carling". In the fall, thanks to Hurricane Floyd, some migrating MONARCHS ended up on the wrong continent. An observer from England reported that 50 Monarchs were seen in SW England Sep 23 to Oct 7.

Muskoka's only Butterfly Count was held at Bala on June 26/99. The Muskoka Field Naturalists had 22 species in a 15 mile diameter circle, lots of BOG COPPERs around the cranberry patches at the Torrance Barrens, but nothing unexpected. The only COLUMBINE DUSKYWING reported all year in Muskoka was on July 8 at Big Chute. HAIRSTREAKS of any variety were hard to find, APHRODITEs were down but GREAT SPANGLED FRITILLARIES were plentiful. LEAST SKIPPERs were common in the grass around the Bracebridge Ponds in the 1st week of September. On July 1/99 Bob Bowles counted 20 Bog Coppers and 15 Baltimore Checkerspots in the Minesing Swamp.

Not many BLACK SWALLOWTAILs are seen in Muskoka but on Aug 27 the Sinclairs found and photographed a larva eating Bulb Bearing Water Hemlock on the shore of 3 Mile lake. The books say the larva of this species is bitter so birds leave it alone, this one may have been deadly since water hemlocks are the most poisonous plants in Ontario.

The hot dry summer brought on a good influx of southern butterflies into Ontario, notably COMMON BUCKEYE. Colin Jones and Rick Stronks found one Jul 20 in Algonquin Park at the old Whitefish Millsite. Jul 23 Don Sutherland had one even further north on Tremblay Island in Lake Superior. We even had one in Muskoka where butterfly watchers are scarcer than BUCKEYES. On a botanizing trip Sep 14 Mike Oldham spotted it first, flying low over the water on the south side of the big unnamed island at the mouth of 12 Mile Bay, UTM 573000 4993300. It landed briefly on aquatics and was confirmed by Jim Goltz and Tony Reznicek, in the same boat for the first ever Muskoka record. Around the province, on Aug 21 two VARIEGATED FRITILLARIES well north of their normal range, were found by Mary Rapati and confirmed by Martin Parker in a backyard in Port Elgin, Bruce County. Giant Swallowtails were seen in Guelph by Chris Earley and on Aug 1 Paul McGaw found the first CHECKERED WHITE for the Pelee Is. butterfly count.

On the Torrance Barrens this summer on Jun 12, Bob Bowles found an unusual tiger moth and later with the help of Duncan Robertson it was identified as Grammia celia. There is a nice color picture of it and the similar G. williamsi in Jean-Paul Laplante's new book, Papillons et Chenilles du Quebec et de l'est du Canada. As you may have gathered it is written mostly in French but it's worth having even if you can't read a word. There's good color plates of all the butterflies in Quebec and several plates of moths, no noctuids. If you can read French there is some very interesting stuff on lepitoptera and their life history including a nice chart with flight dates, larval food, wintering stage etc. You can order it on the web from the Garneau Library at www.garneau.com . Search for papillons et chenilles. Cost $53.95 + tax including shipping or order ISBN 2-7619-1441-4 from your local book store.

Also seen on the Barrens on the MFN butterfly count were several Holomelina aurantiaca, the Orange Holomelina. This one looks like a little orange butterfly when it flushes out of the grass but you can't count it on a butterfly count.

Jim Maguire reported an IO MOTH on Jun 13 and an IMPERIAL MOTH on June 19, now that was a good week. By the way the IMPERIAL PUPA buried under a jar in the Sinclair's flowerbed last year did not emerge. It was dug out on July 11 and nothing remained except the pupa case of a fly maggot. There was also an IO at Gravenhurst on the 1st, another at Trethewey Falls on the 14th. Tip: The way you say IO is EYE OH.

The Wrights on Peace Valley Rd had the only PROMETHIAs on Jun 6. Dave writes, "A female stayed all day on our screen and about noon a male came they did unmentionable things. They were still coupled that night but were gone in the morning". PROMETHIA males have the unique habit of smelling out females in broad daylight, usually in the afternoon. In Greek mythology Prometheus was a Titan (giant) that stole fire from heaven and taught people to use it. Promethias are giant silk moths that fly in the heat of the afternoon. Get it?

The flight dates for lepidoptera recorded in Muskoka in 1999 can be found under Data on the MNN Archives page.

Best Moth Night in 1999 was June 7 when 30 species were found at the Sinclair's moth light.
Best Decorated Moth of the year was a Sthenopis auratus found on July 11. Click here to see a photo Sthenopis auratus


1999 was the first year of the Ontario Dragonfly Summary which will be published each year by the Toronto Entomological Society. Sightings from across the provinces were sent to regional coordinators who are compiling and checking the data for publishing this summer. At the same time any voucher specimens for uncommon species are being stored and catalogued at the CNC as part of the Ontario Dragonfly Survey, also new for 1999. CNC stands for Canadian National Collection, a collection of 16 million specimens of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes maintained and developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Ottawa. Their web site is http://res.agr.ca/ecorc/cnc/.

Have you noticed that as interest in anything increases, so do the number of books on the topic. There's no popular field guide for Odonata yet but things are looking up. One of the best identification aids available now is the booklet "Common Dragonflies of Wisconsin" revised 1998. Most Muskoka species are also found in Wisconsin. You can see some sample pages and a complete description at http://userpages.chorus.net/karlndot/. The color plates aren't too sharp but they show the identifying features well. Only a couple of damselflies are included. The price is $21 US if ordered by mail but you can find it at The Friends of Algonquin Bookstore for $29.95 CDN.

Dragonfliers are talking eagerly awaiting a new book arriving summer 2000 called "Dragonflies Through Binoculars". If it's anything like Butterflies Through Binoculars, this is the field guide we have been waiting for. You can advance order one now at a discount at http://www.afn.org/~iori/dftb2000.htm .

The [any insect] through Binocular books are the first insect guides to not have a chapter on how to collect insects, nothing on nets or killing methods, specimen mounting and storage etc. Sign of the times? There is a growing number of nature enthusiasts around the world who don't collect specimens for the same reason they oppose sport hunting or trapping. They accept the notion that all living things have the same right to life and liberty as we do, a moral high ground that can't be argued. The professionals are a bit upset about this since many of the specimens they work with were taken by avocational collectors. No doubt there is a legitimate need for professional entomologists to take specimens to study taxonomy, biology, or life history. The knowledge obtained can be expected to benefit the species as a whole. But how do you study distribution and population trends. In the Netherlands they are now using sight records to survey dragonflies, accepting the fact that a small percentage of the data will be in error. If only voucher specimens were accepted they estimate that the 300 surveyors participating in their survey would drop to 30. In North America we've been using sight records for years to do bird surveys, written reports and photos showing points of identification are accepted as proof of a rare species sighting. With the recent advances in digital photography you could set up a digital data bank of photographic records emailed to a central source. Think of the space it would save in museums. The new dragonfly field guide should initiate a big surge in the number of dragonfly watchers, their sightings are worth recording.

Inappropriate ovipositing is not uncommon in Odonata. An example would be ovipositing on a blue tarp instead of a pond, or as some observers have experienced, dragonflies trying to drill a hole in their bare leg. The Sinclair's noted a group of several COMMON SPREADWINGS, Lestes disjunctus, ovipositing in Scirpus atrovirens stems not in water but in a dry clearing many meters away from suitable larva habitat. Dissection of the stem showed single clear eggs deposited in a series of holes drilled in a longitudinal row. Click here to see a photo Lestes disjunctus

The flight dates for Odonata recorded in Muskoka in 1999 can be found under Data on the MNN Archives page.


PURPLE BLADDERWORT is found in many warm ponds in Muskoka but not seen in flower that often. On July 20 it was nice to see hundreds of their pink flowers forming a wide ring around a small pond at the junction of Hwy 169 and Walkers Point Rd. They continued to bloom well into August.

Galium mollugo, Smooth Bedstraw, is common in southern Ontario but rare in Muskoka. George Bryant found it for the first time in 1998 on the dyke at the south-west corner of the Bracebridge Ponds. Al Sinclair found it again in 99 and collected a voucher specimen. Collected? Plants through binoculars coming soon?

Also at the Bracebridge Ponds a few plants of Bulbostylis capillaris are turning up on the sandy roads around the dykes. This tiny member of the sedge family used to be considered rare but is now being found more frequently. It's rather photogenic if you get close enough. Click here to see a photo Bulbostylis capillaris

Some people say you can find anything and everything on the internet. As proof here's a site to help you identify sedges forwarded to us by Chris Blyth. www.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/carex/carexout.htm

On Aug 24 -27/99 the Sinclair's camped out on 3 mile Lake, the one in crown land east of Kahshe Lake. It's really only 2 miles long but all mile lake names are in multiples of 3, has anybody figured this out? Anyhow there are some interesting plants around the lake. They found the following:
Waldsteinia fragarioides, Barren Strawberry
Utricularia gibba, Humped Bladderwort
Rhexia virginica, Meadow Beauty
Cladium mariscoides, twig-rush
Rynchospora capitellata, beaked-rush
Xyris difformis, Yellow-eyed Grass
Elatine minima, Lesser Waterwort
Polygonum careyi, Carey's Smartweed
Spiranthes casei, Case's Ladys' Tresses

Jim Goltz, aka Muskoka's plant guru, was down from New Brunswick in early September and added some new plants to the district list. Jim met up with two of the best field botanists, Tony Reznicek and Mike Oldham, for a trip to some of the poorly botanized islands in Muskoka along Georgian Bay. They found:
On Present Is.
Schoenoplectus purshianus (formerly Scirpus p.) Looks like S. smithii
Lycopus europaeus, European Waterhorehound, Looks like L. americanus but has strongly veined leaves
Brachyactis ciliata ssp. angusta, alkali rayless aster, 2nd Muskoka location
Juncus bachycephalus, Small Seeded Rush, 2 or 3 seeds at the nodes
Panicum tuckermanii, Tuckerman's Witch Grass, Looks like P. philadephicum
On Potatoe Is.:
Agalinus tenuifolia, Slender Gerardia
Aster ontarionis, Ontario Aster, watch for this one looks like hybrid of A. lateriflorus and A. lanceolatus

If you want to see Alkali Rayless Aster the other Muskoka station is in the median of Hwy 11 opposite Brooklin Concrete just south of Huntsville. On Present Is it was on a marly shore, here it is in a road salty ditch. The homely sprawling plant beside it is another halophyte, Atriplex patula, Spear Saltbush. Click here for a photo of Alkali Rayless Aster

So you say you can't find some name like Brachyactus ciliata in the index of your plant book. Maybe its a new name for a plant recently reclassified. If you want to know what it used to be called you can now search the ITIS database at http://res.agr.ca/itis/. "The Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) is a partnership of U.S., Canadian, and Mexican agencies, other organizations, and taxonomic specialists cooperating on the development of an on-line, scientifically credible, list of biological names focusing on the biota of North America. ITIS is also a participating member of Species 2000, an international project indexing the world's known species."
Here you find the following info on Brachyactus ciliata:

Taxonomy and Nomenclature
Kingdom: Plantae
Rank: Subspecies 
   Tripolium angustum
   Brachyactis angusta
   Aster brachyactis
   Symphyotrichum ciliatum
Vernacular name(s): 
   alkali rayless aster
Associated Information
Geographic Information:
   North America
   Continental US, Native
Other sources:
   Source: Plants, Database (version 4.0.4)
Taxonomic Status:
   Current Standing: accepted
   Taxonomic Credibility Rating: Verified
   Date: 1996
 Kingdom Plantae
  Division Magnoliophyta -- angiosperms, flowering plants
   Class Magnoliopsida -- dicotyledons
    Subclass Asteridae
     Order Asterales
      Family Asteraceae -- sunflowers
       Genus Brachyactis -- rayless aster
        Subspecies Brachyactis ciliata ssp. angusta -- alkali rayless aster

That sums it up pretty good.

At Hardy Lake a few years ago the Muskoka Field Naturalists discovered several plants of CARDINAL FLOWER that had pink flowers instead of the usual crimson red. The Bennetts and Sinclairs returned to the spot on Aug 22/99 and sure enough they were still there.

On July 1,1999, Gary Allen, Andrea Bradford, and Bob Bowles were in the Minesing Swamp on a scouting trip for a Field Botanists of Ontario outing. In the main fen they counted 97 plants of Platanthera leucophaea, the Prairie White Fringed Orchid, about 10% of the plants just starting to flower. Two large-flowered plants with dark colouration may have been the hybrid orchid X reznicekii, however none of the classic pale pink hybrids with Platanthera psycodes were observed. Typical psycodes was observed in full flower in the swamp communities leading into the fens. Other orchids seen in bloom were Calopogon tuberosus, Cypripedium calceolus, Cypripedium reginae, Epipactis helleborine, Platanthera dilatata, Platanthera hyberborea. They also may have found a new plant for Minesing Swamp, a stand of Rhus vernix, Poison Sumac, on one of the conifer islands, about 45 shrubs or small trees.

On May 26/99 in Simcoe County, Margo Holt observed 2 achlorophyllous Cypripedium acaule, Pink Lady's-slippers. Except for the flowers, which were pink and normal in appearance, the rest of the plant was a creamy yellow, no green colour evident on any part. In the absence of chlorophyll these plants developed to maturity showing they only need food supplied by soil fungi to survive. It also shows why they are difficult to transplant, if the fungi die so does the plant. Margo wonders, excluding Corallorhiza, has anyone observed any other achlorophyllous orchids?


The Muskoka Field Naturalists held a mushroom foray at the High Falls Resource Management Centre on Aug 21. Notably finds were Pluteus admirabilis and a big clump of Laetiporus sulphurius. Click here for a photo of the collection.

Here's a new book that should be in every Muskoka naturalist's library: The Mushrooms of Ontario by George Barron. Good color pictures of mushrooms all found in Ontario. Only 600+ species though, you'll still find species "Not in the Book".

Some Fungi Sightings:
Suillus puntipes, June 12, Near Strawberry Bay Lake Muskoka, early
Boletus bicolor, July 2, Near Lake Vernon under oak, beauts
Agaricus arvensis, Aug 21, Muskoka Falls, giants delicious
Suillus acidus, Aug 22, Hardy Lake, sour
Omphalatus olearius, Aug 22, Dan Burtons oak tree Gravenhurst, Jack-O- Lanterns luminescent and very poisonous
Calvatia cyathiformis, Aug 25, Germania tasty


When the Sinclair's were camped out on 3 Mile Lake in August they were pestered by black and yellow caterpillars dropping out of pine trees into their soup. They had too many legs for lepidoptera so had to be sawfly larva. Back home a search on the internet revealed their identity, the INTRODUCED PINE SAWFLY, Diprion similis. The following info was copied: "The introduced pine, sawfly (Diprion similis (Hartig)) in North America was first discovered in 1914 in a nursery in New Haven, Conn. This insect might have been introduced in the cocoon stage on nursery stock or packing material from Holland. Since its arrival, it has advanced steadily westward, reaching Pennsylvania before 1920 and Ontario by 1931. The present range in North America is along the Atlantic seaboard from Maine to Virginia, across the, Central and Lake States, through parts of southern Ontario and Quebec, and westward to Minnesota. In its homeland in the Eastern Hemisphere, this sawfly occurs throughout most of Eastern and Northern Europe and part of Russia." Forester King Wright was consulted for local info and it turns out that they have been in our area for quite a while. King first saw them six or seven years ago around Gull Lake at Gravenhurst and at Hardy Lake. In 1999 there was another good infestation along Georgian Bay. They apparently are not a serious defoliator because they disperse widely. Click here for a photo of
Diprion similis

Have you ever wondered what makes those buzzing noises around your yard in late summer. Just crickets! But what kind? There are several kinds in Muskoka the most familiar being the NORTHERN FIELD CRICKET, Gryllus pennsylvanicus. This is the big black one that occasionally gets inside the house and keeps you awake all night with it's cricket cricket call. But the buzzing noises are the songs of ground crickets. In the Sinclair's back yard there is two species the CAROLINA GROUND CRICKET, Eunemobius carolinus, and ALLARD'S GROUND CRICKET, Allonemobius allardi. These little crickets are just 1 cm long and not easy to find let alone catch for examination. Click here for a photo of Eunemobius carolinus They can however be identified by song and there is a CD available, "Songs of Crickets and Katydids of the Mid-Atlantic States" $15.95 US including shipping and handling. Go to http://members.tripod.com/cricketsong/index.htm for ordering info. Most of our species are on this CD and the quality is excellent.

Last update: 09/04/00
WebMaster: Al Sinclair sinclair@muskoka.com
© copyright 1999 Muskoka Nature News