WRN Outing to Hullett Marsh, Huron County, ON

     I can tell you that Curtiss is an exceptionally fine fellow and everyone enjoyed his company. He took three of the ladies in his car, and I was at a book club meeting subsequently with one of them, who told me how much she enjoyed his company, never having met him before. You’re on the hook for this outing every year now, Curtiss!

SpruceHaven, St. Agatha, ON

     We received permission to gather at SpruceHaven to carpool and were all happy to see many Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) swooping in and out of the barn and chasing insects above the pond.

     Barely had our feet touched the ground than we were looking for birds.

Red-winged Blackbird ♀

     Few birds are more familiar than American Robin (Turdus migratorius), and additions to the family are underway.

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     We were all elated to be sharing a bright, sunny day together with pleasant temperatures, great birds and wonderful companionship.

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     This dragonfly was well camouflaged and difficult to see, but how could it escape the keen attention of WRN sleuths? 

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     It is a fine example of a Dot-tailed Whiteface (Leucorrhinia intacta), a juvenile female, I believe.

     A Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens) is common, beautiful and not hard to find – what a great combination!

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     Ardent male American Yellow Warblers (Setophaga aestiva) trilled their love songs to every female who cared to listen.

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     I don’t know how many people have tried to eradicate Garlic Mustard ( Alliaria petiolata) over the years, but simply put, “It will never happen.” 

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     It thrives in disturbed areas, and once established in a forest it outcompetes native spring species, unfortunately. If only those early settlers wanting to spice up their salad could have known the consequences of their actions.

All Bird Species at Stop # 1: Canada Goose, Wood Duck, American Wigeon, Killdeer, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Bald Eagle, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Eastern Kingbird, Blue Jay, Tree Swallow, House Wren, Grey Catbird, American Robin, Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Baltimore Oriole, Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Common Grackle, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Yellow Warbler, Myrtle Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak. 27 species.

Hullett Marsh, Stop # 2

     What could be more appealing than to be greeted by a Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)?

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     Judging by the attention this one received, not much!

     Thirsty Western Honeybees (Apis mellifera) gathered around a puddle to drink.

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     A pair of Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater) is a sinister portent of what might be for industrious songbirds completing their clutch.

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      Tent Caterpillars (family: Lasiocampidae) will generally not evoke expressions of glee and delight from humans, but they will make fine food for cuckoos and their young.

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     “What species is this bee?”, you might ask. I asked myself the same question.

     As best I can tell, it is an Eastern Honey Bee (Apis cerana), sometimes known as Asian Honey Bee, but I am far from confident, and if someone with greater expertise than I would clarify the ID, I’d be greatly appreciative.

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     For a non-specialist bees are, to say the least, often very difficult to identify from a picture.

     Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) wheeled around in the air above the water, gathering up insect prey.

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     At Hullett Marsh, in the past, I have seen Tree Swallows nesting in natural cavities, of which there are many – not without competition from other cavity occupants, however, both avian and mammalian.

     How about another Red-winged Blackbird to help make your day?

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     “This is an Elephant Tick,” said Mary Ann, tongue-in-cheek.

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     It was in fact a tiny Painted Turtle (genus Chrysemys), barely bigger than a silver dollar. The grasses must have seemed like a forest to this plucky little warrior.

     We heard the emphatic whistle of a Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus) and wasted no time in finding it.

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     Just as quickly, Miriam had her camera cocked and ready, and it’s portrait was preserved for posterity.

     Lisa, she of the sensitive ears and superlative song recognition, heard a Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora cyanoptera) and quickly got her scope on it. It was far away, clearly identifiable through Swarovski optics, however, but the picture is less than satisfactory. It was the best Miriam could do given the distance and the backdrop of the sky, and I am including it here anyway.

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     Stomachs were rumbling and we stopped for lunch. Unfortunately, hunters were in the area, and we were less than pleased to see them.

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     Here is an indication of their mindset.

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      Anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists I have no doubt, and the only two whose tattoos I could see sported thunder bolts and swastikas. 

     They were not our ideal luncheon companions, but we ignored the pop-pop of their guns as best we could and enjoyed our lunch together en plain air. 

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All Bird Species at Stop # 2: Canada Goose, Pied-billed Grebe, Sandhill Crane, Great Blue Heron, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, American Crow, Tree Swallow, House Wren, American Robin, Chipping Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, Baltimore Oriole, Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Common Grackle, Blue-winged Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting. 23 species. 

Hullett Marsh, Stop #3

     Mary Ann was anxious to read the sign.

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     The habitats of Hullett Marsh are varied, productive and unique in subtle ways.

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     Off we marched to see what we could find.

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     Blue-winged Teal (Spatula discors) is a charming little duck and we were enthralled to find several of them.

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     There are those who might have seen a snake in the grass (human or otherwise), and some prefer to smoke their grass. For us, a Mallard (Anas platyrynchos) in the grass will bring a smile every time.

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     The highlight of this stop was a field of Bobolinks (Dolichonyx oryzivorus), both visually and auditorily, as questing males trilled their beguiling song over the grassland. 

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      They were never especially close and photographs were difficult, but nothing could detract from the magic of the moment.

All species at Stop # 3: Canada Goose, Blue-winged Teal, Mallard, Pied-billed Grebe, American Coot, Sandhill Crane, Killdeer, Eastern Kingbird, Barn Swallow, Bobolink, Red-winged Blackbird, Yellow Warbler. 12 species.

Highly-anticipated Special Stop

     On our various trips to Hullett Marsh it became a tradition that Curtiss would buy an ice cream for everyone at the end of the day. How could we permit such a tradition to end? Perish the thought.

     So, with reluctance and anguish I might add, guilty that we might be taking advantage of his good nature, we agreed to permit Curtiss to treat us to this sinful pleasure, although with a group this large he probably needed to extend his line of credit!

     We had never made this trip before on a Saturday and had no idea a small country store would close at 14h:00 on that day. As an illustration of Curtiss’ influence on the world, he cajoled the owners into opening up so that we could all satisfy our craving.

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     Now that’s friendship!

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