We have had a lot of overcast, rainy days this spring, but Wednesday was a beautiful day. I took advantage of the sunny weather to visit the Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary, located east of Morrisburg along the St. Lawrence River. The Sanctuary was established in 1961, on 9,000 hectares acquired by the St. Lawrence Parks Commission following the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway. It features a mix of habitats including mature forest, successional woodlands, old fields and wetlands.
The Sanctuary offers outdoor education programs and includes a campground. The small interpretive centre has a store with a selection of guide books and giftware. It was quiet the day I was there, waiting, no doubt for the busier season to get underway once the kids are finished school in July.
There are four walking trails, with pamphlets available to help visitors enjoy a self-guided hike. I followed this well-groomed trail out through wetlands and open water to the former location of the Lost Village of Aultsville.
While walking in the park, I saw or heard a variety of birds, including a Baltimore Oriole, Wood Thrush, Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, and cormorants out by the river.
There were quite a few of these Dot-tailed Whiteface (Leucorrhinia intacta) dragonflies along the walkway. They are members of the Skimmer family of dragonflies, which includes more than a hundred species in North America. They are often seen perched on floating vegetation. Females lay their eggs in flight by tapping the water surface with the tip of their abdomen.
Bluets are common damselflies. You can see the way these damselflies fold their wings over their back while perched, in contrast to the spread-winged posture of dragonflies. There are at least 35 species of bluets in North America, and telling species apart is challenging. This may be a Northern Bluet (Enallagma cyathigerum), which are noted for their large blue eyespots.
There were a number of little blue butterflies flitting about. When they come to rest on a flower, they fold their wings over their back, thus concealing the silvery blue that makes them eye-catching in flight. This is a Silvery Blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus). Their larval foodplants are lupines, vetches and other legumes.
Common Ringlets (Coenonympha tullia) were also flying along the trail. Ringlets are associated with grasses, which are their larval food. They are attracted to yellow flowers in the composite family, such as ox-eye daisies, for nectaring.
The Viceroy (Limenitis archippus) looks like a small Monarch butterfly. It can be readily differentiated by its smaller size and by the black line that runs across the bottom of the lower, or hind wing, lacking in the Monarch. The larvae of Monarchs feed mostly on milkweeds. Chemicals derived from the milkweed make Monarchs very distasteful to most predators. It was once believed that the Viceroy was a Monarch mimic so that it might take advantage of this predator protection scheme, but it is now thought the Viceroy is equally distasteful to predators. The larval food for the Viceroy is willow species.
Below is a view of the St. Lawrence from the trail.
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