Although a long drive, I had heard good stories about seeing butterflies and birds at Ojibway Park in Windsor. Initially, we were planning to wake up early on Saturday, drive the five-hour journey and do what we could with what was left of the day, then hopefully have a good early morning at Ojibway Park on Sunday morning. A poor weather forecast for Sunday meant we did a last-minute scramble and also booked some cheap accommodation on the Friday evening in London, Ontario – a bit less than two-hours away from Windsor.
We stayed in a cheap hotel that had attracted a clientele that was a mixture of highly dishevelled or younger party animals – or in some cases, both. The common denominator was a complete disregard for both social distancing and the legal requirement to wear masks in common areas. However, there was a bed and we slept on it.
Before leaving London, we stopped by a cemetery that is known in the area for White-tailed Deer. I would have liked some photos of this year’s fawns but didn’t have much time to spare to try to stalk after them, so made do with a so-so shot of a young male.
This area is part of the Carolinian life-zone, offering a greater proportion of deciduous trees than the mixed or transitional forests to the North and North-east. We had a couple of species we were hoping to see. The Red-headed Woodpecker is a little more common in this area, along with the Tufted Titmouse. I was also interested in any butterflies I might see.
There is a Visitor Centre (closed) near the entrance of Ojibway Park, and a collection of bird feeders nearby. They were mostly attracting common birds like House Sparrows, Common Grackles, Cardinals, and Blue Jays when we arrived.
In a swampy stretch of water running along the perimeter of the park were several turtles: Midland Painted and Snapping but also some Blanding’s – a vulnerable species in Ontario. The turtles were all actively foraging.
A couple of Green Herons were fishing along the same stretch of water which contained a generous number of small fish.
I was a tad disappointed in the butterflies I came across. I was, perhaps, expecting a busy meadow type environment. On the brightside, most of what we saw were large swallowtails. I have mentioned before that the waters are murky surrounding the identification of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail vs the Canadian Tiger Swallowtail with location and time of year being the biggest deciding factors. I am informed that at this location and at this time, any of these yellow and black swallowtails would be the second generation (out of two or three each year) of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.
We also saw Pearl Crescents, Monarchs an Appalachian Brown and, a new species for me, a few Eastern Giant Swallowtails. The one below is a little tatty with damaged wings.
Life as an insect can be pretty gory and a particularly nasty way to go is at the hands of an Ambush Bug. They are well camouflaged and lie in wait on plants. When another insect arrives, which can sometimes be much larger like this Red-spotted Admiral, the Ambush Bug will grip it in place, pierce its body with its beak, and suck out the bodily fluids.
In a slight clearing we heard a number of birds including Northern Cardinal, Gray Catbird and we saw a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. I think this has been a less productive year for hummingbirds. I saw two or three at Presqu’ile back in late spring and then none until today. We heard a bird we were unfamiliar with whose scolding call was somewhat similar to a Black-capped Chickadee…. Sara realised we were looking at two or possibly three Tufted Titmice. This is a new bird for me – they are common in Carolinian Ontario, but don’t stray further north very much. This is Lifer number 192. I didn’t get a very good shot as they were well hidden, but good enough to know what it is.
In around the same area I had another lifer. I realised we were looking at a Cuckoo quite quickly, but there are two species that look somewhat similar when they are well hidden amongst leaves….once I got a glimpse of the beak colour, I was able to ascertain that it was a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo. Lifer 193!
Further into the woods we saw lots of American Robins, a House Wren, White-breasted Nuthatch, Chickadees, Blue Jays and more, as well as hearing a Veery – a bird I have heard numerous times but have still never seen. There were a number of White-tailed Deer, including a couple of white-spotted fawns with their mother.
In terms of flora, we saw a couple of species that you wouldn’t typically find outside of the Carolinian life-zone including Butterfly Milkweed and Kentucky Coffee Tree. The latter has large seed pods and the seeds inside can be roasted as a substitute for coffee – but unroasted, they are toxic.
Creeping Bellflower, Showy Tick-Trefoil and Asiatic Dayflower were all present. Asiatic Dayflower is named for how it will bloom for only one day each year.
We left Ojibway Park and had a quick picnic bench lunch in a nearby manicured park. It was getting a little hot, so there wasn’t much here to see beyond the ever-present Canada Geese. A Double-Crested Cormorant was in a nearby waterway.
The Double-Crested Cormorant is currently caught in the centre of an Ontario political drama with landowners and commercial fishing on one side and scientists and conservation groups on the other. The Ontario Government has gone forward with opening up hunting of the bird.
We returned to Ojibway Park, but didn’t really have too long before it started to get dark and rain was also rolling in. In a marshy area, we spotted some movement amongst the cattails and Sara eventually noticed that there was a Muskrat chewing away. The Snapping Turtles were particularly active (video below on compatible devices).
Before leaving, we returned to the bird feeders near the entrance and saw a few mammals that had emerged during the dusk hours. A small, cute, young raccoon hid amongst ferns and would pop out occasionally to grab pieces of hotdog meat. A Groundhog appeared briefly from under the wooden hide we were standing in. A large brown rat would also leap out from under the hide to awkwardly grab carrots that had been provided by visitors, before slinking away again. In the Carolinian region, Southern Flying Squirrels can be found. Alas, not at this particular spot at this particular time!
Before we hit the sack, we went into Windsor to look across the Detroit River to see the Detroit Skyline.
It was interesting to see tour boats leaving from the American side that were disconcertingly filled. As the night drew in and the tour boats retreated, helicopters flew up and down the river. Perhaps American agencies looking for people trying to cross the border? I’m not sure if trying to cross the river is more or less dangerous than actually making it across.
The bad weather we were afraid would affect the trip seemed to touch down a little north of us. We watched forks of lightning illuminate the sky a little off to the right of the skyline shown in the photo above.
Probably staying in The GTA for a couple of weeks following a few elaborate (pricey) trips. I anticipate a trip to Northern Ontario in the next month or two.
Prints & Greeting Cards
I’ve added a few Greeting Cards with my photos on them to the BritHikesOntario Etsy Store as well as a few prints at 5×7 and 8×10. I’ll add more if sales justify it, as I’m charged to add each item.
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Did you Know?
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