Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Hillman Marsh - July 20, 2013

One of my first stops once I was in the Pelee area was to check out the Couture Dyke at Hillman Marsh. This is a favorite trail of mine since it is rarely checked and has potential for rare birds. It is also a good spot for some butterflies that are uncommon or absent at Point Pelee National Park, such as Bronze Copper.

It took a bit of effort, but eventually I was able to find a few Bronze Coppers flying low to the ground and stopping occasionally. One of my favorite butterflies for sure!

A young snapping turtle was crossing the path as quickly as its little legs could carry it. It is an age class that I don't often see. With many turtle populations, only occasional individuals will survive to adulthood. Once they are a few years old however, a large percentage of them survive each year and its not uncommon for a turtle to live for decades, or even 100 years or more. Turtle populations often include many adult turtles, a good number of turtles under 1 year old, and few individuals that are in between.

I placed it in some shallow water and it calmly sat there while I took a few photos. Eventually it turned around and continued on its way.

Least Skipper, the smallest Ontario skipper, was flying in good numbers. I was finally able to get my first good photos of this species. They are easy to identify as they are tiny, have broad wings, and fly weakly through the vegetation. Their wings have a thick brown edge posteriorly, a distinct characteristic.

An Osprey kept watch over the marsh...

This butterfly is probably best identified as crescent sp. Both Northern and Pearl Crescents occur and females aren't safely identified in the field.

As I reached the southeast corner of the dyke, madly swatting deerflies (I was up over 100 killed at this point) I noticed a skipper that I had never seen before on a clump of common milkweed - a Broad-winged! They are supposedly pretty common in a lot of marshy areas containing phragmites and/or Carex sedges, but I have just never been in the right habitat at the right time of year, I guess.

Just yesterday actually, while doing some botany surveys near Hamilton, I came across 50+ Broad-winged Skippers on the site. They loved the open areas that contained swamp milkweed. Here is another photo of the Couture Dyke skipper.

Not surprisingly, Eastern Pondhawks were one of the more common dragons.

Nom nom nom...

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