Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

A Lanark Big Year – July 2nd – Half way through the Year

A Lanark Big Year – July 2nd – Half way through the Year

The year is half way through and the spring migration is over.   June was a mop up month, concentrating on finding species that were missed during the last two months.  Of course by June the trees are in full leaf and the birds call less often as they have already established territory, mated and they are now feeding the young.   So there is less need to sing especially if it could mean attracting predators.  So needless to say it is a challenging environment.

One of the birds I still needed was the Sora Rail, which in past years I have easily seen or heard at several cattail marshes in the county.  This year, despite over 2 dozen visits to multiple marshes, I have yet to find a Sora.  Possibly later this summer when the chicks are more developed and water levels are lower, one will turn up skulking through the reeds.

After the May rush, there were a handful of warblers still possible.  I travelled to the Silver Queen Mica Mine Trail in Murphy’s Point Park for Golden-winged Warbler as they breed there.  I quickly turned up 4 pairs with males regularly doing their “buzz, buzz, buzz” call. Next a Canada Warbler turned up calling from the woods at Code and Tennyson Roads.  Luckily Zaza had her window down and heard it, so we stopped.  As well multiple trips to Murphy’s Point Park had failed to turn up the Cerulean Warbler.  Then one week Arnie Simpson noted reports two days in a row at Hoggs Bay Campground in the park.  This time I left at 5:50 am in order to be on site as early as possible.  I spent more than two hours walking all of the campground roads and luckily heard the Cerulean sing but only once.  Not the most satisfying identification but being familiar with the call I am comfortable adding it to my list.  One additional thing I did observe was how noisy campgrounds are, even at 7 am.  There are dogs, groups of campers having communal breakfast and lively conversations and trailers with AC units humming.

Murphys' Point (1024x577)













Murphy’s Point on Black Ance Point road. Photo Iain Wilkes

There were also several Sparrows on my target list.  I got my first Clay-coloured Sparrow at the side of Jordan Kelly Road just west of Highway 15.  Another group was located on Drummond Conc #1 west of Burns Road where several were calling close to the road.  Arnie travelled there shortly after to get an excellent picture of a male.  A morning trip with Ken Allison looking at all of the grasslands in the south east of the county turned up 4 Grasshopper Sparrows.  The first was on top of a Mullein plant calling.  It was far enough away to require a scope to confirm.  Three more were found at the side of Rosedale road calling in a less than typical environment.  The day also turned up 3 Upland Sandpipers on the front lawn of a house near Nolan’s Corners on Rosedale.

Clay-coloured Sparrow

















Clay Coloured Sparrow. Photo Arnie Simpson

Rosedale Rd - 3 Grasshopper Sparrows (1024x768)

Rosedale Road Grasshopper Field. Photo Ken Allison

There were still two outstanding Swallows, Bank and Purple Martin.  In past years there have been Purple Martins regularly in Carleton Place and Appleton by May, but for some reason none this year.  Mike Jaques contacted a friend who directed me to a colony by a farm at Rosedale Road and Hwy 43 and sure enough they were there this year.  The Bank Swallow took a concerted effort.  Many kilometers of driving while looking at river banks or exposed sandy hillsides where there could be the telltale set of entry holes to their nests.  On Lanark Concession 5 north of Pine Grove Road there is a disused pit on the west side.   Near the top there were a number of typical nest holes but no Swallows.  Fortunately just 100m down the road a Bank Swallow was busy feeding over a grassing field.

One incredible highlight of the month was to get a ‘Lifer’, not something I expected.  A Chuck-will’s-Widow (CWW) was reported twice on High Lonesome, west of Pakenham and Cliff Bennett alerted me to the reports.  A potential life species is worth any effort and this case was no different.  That night around 8:30 I arrived at High Lonesome.  I wasn’t prepared for mosquitos which kept driving me back into the car.  When I was out of the car I heard numerous Whip-poor-Wills competing.  Soon the fireflies came out making me imagine the eyes of animals.  All to say no luck that first night.  The next night I was there again but this time I was wearing a fleece with high collar and a toque with ear flaps that I soaked in repellent.    The mosquitos were only held back for a short time.  In a 2 hour period I heard the CWW called 3 times and each time the many Whip-poor-Wills would try to drown it out.  Having the call on my phone ensured I was identifying the right species and helped to get the CWW to start calling.

The final really good bird of the month was a Sedge Wren I discovered on 9th Line Beckwith east of Hwy 15.  I was out going on my regular look at the Jock River and marshes close by on 9th.  I was traveling west on 9th when I slowed down to look at a grassy field, partially mowed, when I heard the characteristic harsh single notes and short trill of the Sedge Wren.  I stopped and listened for 30 minutes to a species I had been trying to find for weeks.

Of course it hasn’t all been about birds.  I am starting to learn a little bit about dragonflies and butterflies and Ken is very patient with my email pictures asking “what is this”. As well I have run across camouflaged Tree Frogs, lumbering Porcupines, beautiful Ebony Jewelwings and Zen-like water Lilies in many ponds.















Tree Frog



















Tree Frog and Water Lilies. Photos Zaza

Okay time for the numbers.  In half a year, 182 days, the total is 184 species.  It would seem that 200 is possible in Lanark in one year and I am starting to believe I can do it.   There is the return of the shorebirds on their journey south, the fall migration of song birds and waterfowl, plus possible rarities that might wander into our corner of the world.  My next 3 months have 53 target birds but I will be happy if I get 10 to 15 of these birds as many of them are only occasionally found here.  Many thanks to my many friends who provide alerts in the form of emails, text and cell calls ().  Keep those cards and letters coming, and “nature willing and the creek don’t rise”, 200 is attainable.

Cheers from the guy with the crazy idea till next report.