Saturday 23 August 2014

Camping in Charleston Lake Provincial Park

Last weekend, Laura and I drove east to Charleston Lake Provincial Park where we planned on camping for a few nights with my parents, sister, brother, and his girlfriend. While the weather was not ideal during our time, the rain held off (for the most part) during the day, instead coming down mostly at night. We made the most of our opportunities to hike and kayak and I managed to see quite a few cool herps and a few birds as well!

The low-light of the weekend was when my camera, 300 mm lens, and teleconverter went for a dip in the lake, but lets not talk about that...At least it happened towards the end of the trip and the (filled) memory cards were salvageable. Without further ado, some pics!

Laura looking for Map Turtles

Undoubtedly the weekend's highlight for me came on Friday morning. Laura, my brother Isaac and I decided on hiking a trail to look for Gray Ratsnakes, a species found in this part of the province. This was sort of a nemesis species for several years as it was the 15th and final snake I added to my Ontario list back in 2009 after at least 3 weekend trips to eastern Ontario in search of them. To this day it has been my least frequently encountered snake species in Ontario - in fact, I have just seen that one individual though I have seen several road-killed ones.

As we were walking along I mentioned to Isaac and Laura that not only can they be found on the ground, but they are sometimes seen in trees in search of bird's eggs and fledglings. I gestured towards a suitable looking tree to use as an example, and sure enough a long black snake was scaling it!

Gray Ratsnake

Wow, what were the odds of that. Unfortunately we were unable to get any closer to it as it was quite a ways up the tree, but with binoculars it was still a good look. Not quite the same as having one in-hand though. Gray Ratsnakes are found in only two pockets in Ontario. A few fragmented and tiny populations occur in Norfolk and Elgin counties in southwestern Ontario, and a larger population is found in the rolling deciduous hills and pastures of Frontenac and Leeds and Grenville counties in eastern Ontario. While the southwestern population is small and fragmented, the eastern Ontario population appears to be doing well and they are regularly encountered here in Charleston Lake Provincial Park.

Gray Ratsnake

Dragonflies are cool! Here is one which I will ID once I am home with my dragonfly field guides tomorrow evening, unless of course Reuven reads this before then ;)

(Update: It's a Canada Darner!)

Canada Darner

Canada Darner

I couldn't help but notice the rather large Eastern Chipmunk population in the park - no doubt, a species that provides a nice meal to adult ratsnakes.

Eastern Chipmunk

Herping with Laura and Isaac was pretty productive as we encountered about a dozen species in the short walk. Here they are checking out an uber-cute baby Snapping Turtle.

American Bullfrog peering through the duckweed.

American Bullfrog

My parents had brought their cedar-strip canoe (my dad made it when I was a kid) as well as their two kayaks. While taking the kayak for a spin one day I approached a family of Mallards for some easy photos. Birds are much less wary in a kayak than on land I find, even "tame" species like Mallards.


Checking out a threat in the sky...




Laura looking like a pro ;)

We came across a pair of Ospreys on a nest while kayaking on Charleston Lake.


Northern Watersnakes are abundant within the park, and if you moved slowly it wasn't too hard to approach closely for photos. Snakes have relatively poor eyesight and they are geared to notice movement, so with a little patience it is easy to snag basking watersnakes from the kayak. The trick is to do it without them biting and crapping all over you!

Northern Watersnake

A little closer....

Northern Watersnake


Northern Watersnake

One of the coolest-looking insects I have seen in a while lazily flew by us while we were relaxing in the campsite. I jumped up and apprehended it for photos. It appears to be a female Pelecinus polyturator, one of only three species in the family Pelicinidae. Only the females of this parasitic wasp species have the extremely long abdomen, which they use to lay eggs in the larvae of scarab beatles.

Pelecinus polyturator

One final highlight of the weekend was finding a gorgeous sub-adult Eastern Milksnake under a rock, but the camera was dead at that point. It was a pretty solid weekend in one of my favorite provincial parks!


Reuven Martin said...

It's a female Canada Darner!

Anonymous said...

Great photos! I like all of them but my favorite is the frog peering through the duckweed.

I like your blog! I have one too:

Brent Turcotte said...

I'd say the dragonfly in question is a female Canada Darner.

Unknown said...

That's awesome you got Gray Ratsnake! I've only ever seen one before in ontario. That Darner looks like Canada, but could be Green-striped.

Josh Vandermeulen said...

Thanks all, much appreciated on the ID!