Since moving to Fredericton, I have been keeping track of all the butterflies that I come across on my outings (see eButterfly for my lists). Even with the many rainy and chilly spells we have gone through, I have managed to find eight different species of butterfly. Just like my stay in the Arctic last spring, my first butterfly was the Northern Spring Azure. Widespread and common, these butterflies are out in droves on nice weather days. I never manage to get a picture of them with their wings open, but the Forget-me-not flowers, on which my photographed specimen is perched, are a good reference for the azure’s forewing colour. I’m most excited about finding Mustard White, Green Comma, and Brown Elfin individuals. These are all new butterflies to me and were fun to try to identify. The Green Comma was the trickiest, but I settled on this particular species due to the thick comma mark and the overall dark colouration of this individual. And lastly, I want to call attention to the overwintering strategies used by these particular butterflies, particularly in relation to their early flight times. The first butterflies of spring (first seen in April or even a warm March) are typically those that overwinter in northern climates as adults. These species go into a dormant stage over the winter and awaken from hibernation in the early spring when triggered by warming weather. This strategy is employed by the Mourning Cloak and the commas. The Red Admiral also overwinters as an adult, but typically not as far north as Fredericton. The second strategy used by the whites, the Brown Elfin, and the Northern Spring Azure is to overwinter in a pupal stage and emerge from the chrysalis as an adult in the spring. These butterflies represent the second wave of spring sightings around mid-May. In the Maritimes, butterflies that overwinter as eggs or larvae typically do not reach adulthood until late spring or early summer.
The green spaces in Fredericton are bubbling with bird song. With spring migration continuing, and the start of the breeding season upon us, it is not unlikely to hear at least half a dozen warbler species and endless other song bird species calling to mates and proclaiming their territories in any of the large urban parks. As a relatively new birder, I started learning about birds through visual identification, and my ear has had to catch up with my eyes. Last spring I took a bird songs course with the Ottawa Bird Count that helped me tremendously. In continuing my education, the best tool I know of to study bird song identification (outside of the field) is Dendroica, a program available on the website Nature Instruct. As part of my internship field work this summer, I will be surveying for Canada Warbler, Olive-sided Flycatcher, and Bobolink, all ranked by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as threatened. I hope that with all my field and home study, I will be able to put my best ear forward for the conservation of these species.
Last week I moved to New Brunswick for a summer internship. I had a few days to spare before I started work, so after I got my place set up I was free to get out and do some Maritime birding. As of yet, I don’t have a bike, so I’m limited in the places I can go. Luckily for me there is a large urban park in Fredericton, Odell Park, that is accessible from anywhere in the city. I have been three times so far, and I can already tell that it will become one of my regular haunts. The park contains mixed forest, a pond, streams, the Fredericton Botanical Gardens, over 16 km of walking trails, and most importantly (to me), lots of birds. Here is just a sample of the ones I’ve seen so far:
My last post in this series covers all the butterflies I was able to photograph and ID. Almost all of the butterflies were new to me expect for the Question Mark and Red Admiral. For identifications I used Butterflies of Ontario (I was banking on many butterflies being widespread across eastern North America) and eButterfly.
Emberizidae and Cardinalidae – While at the Lake Conestee Nature Park, my partner and I were lucky to witness a very quick flyby of a male Indigo Bunting. Neither of us have very much experience with these birds, so we were quite thrilled to see the flash of blue. We were even more excited when on our last day, another male Indigo Bunting perched and sang in wetland of the Edwin M. Griffin Nature Preserve as we were watching the Solitary Sandpipers and Green Heron.
Fringillidae – I did not expect to see Pine Siskins on this trip, and eBird confirmed my surprise at their presence when it made me verify my report due to their rarity at this time of year. South Carolina is firmly within the Pine Siskin winter range and it would be expected that by late April the vast majority of individuals would have left for their summer range. The stragglers my partner and I saw were in a mixed flock with American Goldfinch, feeding on vegetation in shallow pools in the wetland of the Edwin M. Griffin Nature Preserve.
Parulidae – There seemed to be a yellow-brown-grey theme with the warblers we saw visiting both of the natural areas. The only warbler I did not manage to photograph was a Hooded Warbler, a life bird along with the Common Yellowthroat and Ovenbird. The Yellow-rumped Warbers were the most abundant in the forested areas we visited, and the Palm Warblers were most common in the wetland of the Edwin M. Griffin Nature Preserve. Apparently, my partner and I missed a big push of warblers into the area about one or two weeks before our arrival. Perhaps these birds had carried on in their migration and are now joining us further north in Canada. It is also possible I just missed them completely. My ear is rusty from the winter, and I still have a lot to learn when it comes to bird song.
Troglodytidae – The Carolina Wren was life bird for me on this trip. I started birding after I had moved to Ottawa where this species would be nothing more than a rare visitor. For its diminutive size, this bird can pack a punch vocally. It was easily the loudest bird my partner and I came across during our trip.
Polioptilidae – Another life bird was the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. I had not anticipated how many gnatcatchers we would see during the trip, both at the Edwin M. Griffin Nature Preserve and Lake Conestee Nature Park. These little birds were in constant motion, and a few times we got to see one catch and consume an insect.
Turdidae and Mimidae – Apart from American Robins, the thrushes we came across were quite secretive and hard to photograph. This Veery posed briefly, allowing me to snap a quick picture. I’m glad it did, because I’m not sure I would have procured an ID otherwise. Veery was settled upon due to the lack of speckling seen on the breast. I was also lucky to see all three mimids native to eastern North America. I was surprised at how common Northern Mockingbirds were in the area. We saw many individuals during our hikes, but they were also one of the most common telephone wire birds as well.
Bombycillidae – I traded Bohemian Waxwings in Ottawa for Cedar Waxwings in South Carolina. We only came across small numbers of waxwings roosting in the wetland of the Edwin M. Griffin Nature Preserve. It was nice to hear their high-pitched whistles again after a long winter.
Columbidae and Picidae – This was my first time seeing Red-headed Woodpeckers, and it was a pleasure. There were at least three individuals at the Edwin M. Griffin Nature Preserve, all very active, pursuing each other from tree to tree. However, there was one tree that was out of bounds to the Red-headeds. A Pileated Woodpecker had claimed one snag with a suitable cavity as her territory, and would come out of her hole to defend her snag any time a visitor came by. If you couldn’t see this interaction occurring, you could certainly hear it from just about anywhere in the preserve.
Tyrannidae – The wetland at the Edwin M. Griffin Nature Preserve was not only great for woodpeckers, it was a hotspot for Phoebes and Kingbirds. Unfortunately we missed seeing Great Crested Flycatchers this trip. At the Lake Conestee Nature Park, one of the first birds we happened across was a difficult-to-ID flycatcher. It sat on a high branch directly above us, giving a view of only its breast and the underside of its bill. If I hadn’t just finished a bird taxonomy and identification course at school, I probably would not have been able to ID the bird beyond its family. However, I had just learned that a buffy colouration of the underside of the bill in combination with the flycatcher’s light breast and small size was unique to Eastern Wood-Pewee. Later the Pewee posed on some lower branches, giving us a better view of its overall plumage.
Vireonidae, Paridae, Sittidae – For the relative abundance of individuals in these families, they were remarkably hard to photograph. I was very excited to find the Brown-headed Nuthatches in a small pine stand. I’m lucky that my father has moved within their restricted range. Next time I visit I’d like to spend more time with these guys, watching their behaviour, and maybe even seeing their use of tools while foraging.
Anatidae – This large family was under-represented during the trip. Of the three species we saw, I only missed photographing Mallards. I suspect we may have added a species or two if we had made it to the larger lakes at Lake Conestee Nature Park.
Ardeidae – The Wetland Trail at the Edwin M. Griffin Nature Preserve is the perfect place to see herons. The Great Blue Herons were always easy to spot from the boardwalk, but the Green Heron’s tended to skulk in the vegetation. At Lake Conestee Nature Park, there are two Great Blue Heron nests with young that can been seen from one of the main lookouts off of the boardwalks.
Cathartidae and Accipitridae – Turkey Vultures were on display both during the drive down to South Carolina and up to Ontario. I kept my eye out for Black Vultures, but I was not lucky enough to find one. I’m not sure whether they weren’t actually around or whether my inexperience with their identification kept me from finding one. The Red-tailed Hawks and Red-shouldered Hawks were found monitoring the wetland and fields of the Edwin M. Griffin Nature Preserve.
Scolopacidae – On our last of three outings to the Edwin M. Griffin Nature Preserve we came across our first sandpipers of the week. Three Solitary Sandpipers were working the wetlands, catching the fish fry in the shallowest sections, which luckily for us were in great view of the boardwalks.