Monday, July 09, 2007

The Pinery

Red-spotted Purple and Eastern Pond Hawk
Thanks Laura and Monarch!

We spent a day on the weekend at The Pinery Provincial Park on the shores of Lake Huron. This large park is just two hours from our home and includes beaches, dunes, pine forests and deciduous Carolinian forests. The Ausable River flows into the lake and the man made Ausable Channel runs through the park. The Oak Savanna and Coastal Sand Dune ecosystems are unique and contain many rare or endangered plants and animals. There are eleven trails of varying difficulty in the park. Interpretive signs point out plants, land formation, birds and animals of interest.

Poison Ivy (warning signs posted!)

And I discovered that the Ausable Bird Observatory runs a bird banding station in the park during the spring and fall. I walked three of the trails in the afternoon, which is not the best time for seeing birds or wildlife. I came across one deer and watched a Belted Kingfisher dive from one side of the channel to the other. Turkey vultures were plentiful and circled so close to me that I could see their red wrinkled faces.

Turkey Vultures

On one trail, a number of butterflies were sunning themselves on the gravel. The three butterflies above are all the same species and look slightly different in colour because of the lighting. I went to the library today to see if I could identify the butterfly, but was unsuccessful. I also tried to ID the dragonfly, but could not find it either in any guidebook on the shelves. There is an effort being made next month to reintroduce the Karner Blue Butterfly to the park. This small butterfly which is part of the oak savanna ecosystem vanished around 1990. Volunteers will be planting wild lupine seeds in August to provide food for the adult butterflies.

The park was exceedingly dry. Some of the campgrounds in south western Ontario have banned fires so far this season due to the dry weather. A fire in this park would spread very quickly through the abundant dry grass.

The weather is very hot, humid and unsettled now, with thunderstorms expected. We need the rain badly and I won't complain if it comes on my holiday. And I will be planning a return trip to this area in the near future.


  1. Eastern pondhawk, maybe? None of the rangemaps in my dragonfly guides include any info about Canada, so I'm not certain which flies as far north as you.

    Your butterfly is a Red-Spotted Purple, I think. They are lovely! Interesting again that my ID book says they are most common in the south, but up your way they hybridize with the White Admiral. My book says they like to puddle also, like you saw.

    The only similar species is the Pipevine Swallowtail and that would have tails, which I don't see in your pic.

    Nice find!

    I've read a little about the Karner Blues; I don't think they occur in the Pine Barrens here, but there is a population in upstate NY. They're endangered because their habitat needs are so specific and they only use the wild lupine to lay their eggs. Believe it or not, ants are also important to their breeding success, as the ants *tend* them and keep predators away in much the same way ants do for aphids.

    Anyway - sorry to go on so!

  2. I agree with laura - Eastern Pond Hawk and Red-spotted Purple Butterfly!

  3. Thanks so much Laura and Tom. I took the Peterson guide out of the library but found it very confusing to use. Many of the diagrams were in black and white. Do you have a recommendation for an easy to use field guide for butterflies and dragonflies?
    They like to "puddle"! Now that is an interesting statement.
    The Karner Blues disappeared in Ontario and in all but 2 States, so I have read. Interesting about the ants.

  4. Ruth,

    I really like the Stokes' Beginner's Guides - they're pocket-sized and have color photos. I have the dragonfly guide and have often given the butterfly guide as a gift to friends.

    I have *Butterflies through Binoculars* but can't really recommend it - it's much to complicated!

    There's also a handy guide to dragonflies and damselflies of Ontario (I think) that we carry at the Bird Observatory - everyone here uses it and says it's the best. I'll see if I can't get some more info (or mail you a copy) if you're interested.

  5. Anonymous6:21 am GMT-4

    Dragonflies are becoming increasingly popular. As with bird books, there are photo field guides, and a FEW with drawings. In the bird world, I really prefer the drawings, because they eliminate the differences between individuals and point out the key identifying feature. I have a damselfly guide with drawings which is great... but I havne't seen one out for dragons, yet...

  6. What a neat place! Beaches, dunes, pine forests and deciduous forest all in one area!

  7. Wonderful photos! Red-spotted purple I think is my favorite butterfly. Crazy about turkey vultures too! ((((poisn ivy!))))

  8. Hi Ruth,
    I've never seen a Red-Spotted Purple (except in pictures). Those are some nice views.

    I also use the Stokes Beginner's Guide to Dragonflies (nice & pocket-sized). The Stokes' also have a larger sized butterfly guide that I find quite helpful.

    I've heard poison ivy is thriving all over in the hot and mostly dry summer we're having.

    Thanks for sharing these enjoyable vacation scenes (including the vultures!)

  9. Laura- Thanks for the book info. I have looked up the Stokes books on Amazon. I found a book called Dragonflies of the North Woods, by Kurt Mead. It features dragons and damsels of the North Woods of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ontario. I will get that here, but thanks for your offer!

    Jennifer- I find bird photographs very difficult to use for ID-ing purposes.(Tom's photos are much better than the ones in my book) I agree that drawings are more clear. I did find the butterfly in my book after Laura identified it, but it had subtle differences to my pictures.

    Jayne- It was a great place, one I had heard about often, but never visited.

    Lynne- Turkey vultures are so graceful and beautiful in the air but have faces like a caricature!

    Ruthie- Both you and Laura have led me to the Stokes series of books. I have never been 100% sure of what poison ivy looked like until this weekend. It was abundant!

  10. Sounds like a nice spot.-I like it when they have those signs up-makes it easier to learn if you don't have a field guide handy.


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