Documenting the Flora and Fauna
of the South Shore
Since 2014 the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists have led an annual Bioblitz in a section of the IBA. A Bioblitz is a biological survey undertaken by a group of people including both experts and non-experts with the objective of cataloguing the flora and fauna of a specific area. These annual Bioblitzes are intended to contribute to increasing interest in the protection of natural areas of flora and fauna in the County; provide education and enjoyment for both children and adults; and make information available to assist land-use planning decision in the area by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and the Municipality of Prince Edward. Full texts of the reports can be found at the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists web site
Annual Bioblitz Report Summaries
Photos in the section all courtesy of John Foster
Ostrander Point Crown Land Block was surveyed on August 10-11, 2014. The enthusiastic participants documented 430 species including 267 vascular plant, 104 insect (23 butterfly, three moth, ten dragonfly, eight grasshopper and 57 beetle and other insect species), one reptile, four amphibian, 47 avian and seven mammal species.
On June 20-21, 2015 Simpson Road in the Point Petre Provincial Wildlife Area was the Bioblitz site. Documented were 509 species including 27 lichen, 276 vascular plant, 117 insect ( four damselfly, eight dragonfly, 27 butterfly, 34 moth six arachnids and 27 other insect species), 17 aquatic invertebrate, (including 11 insect), five minnow, six amphibian, four reptile, 85 avian and ten mammal species.
NOTEWORTHY RECORDS: Many interesting plants species associated with alvars were noted (e.g. Carex crawei, Ranunculus fascicularis, Potentilla argutea, Verbena simplex, Houstonia longifolia and Rhus aromatica); the second location of Shining Ladies-tresses Orchid for the county and the first for the South Shore was recorded; a population of Twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla), a Carolinean species, in Point Petre Woods (only record for the county and uncommon in the Kingston region) as well as Purple Cress (Cardamine douglasii) another species near its northern limit, are still present and thriving since they were noted in 1973.
The high diversity of birds present included unusual species and species at risk such as Clay-colored Sparrow, Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoo, Whip-poor-will, Upland Sandpiper, Least Bittern and nesting White-throated Sparrow.
Reptiles, of special interest were the three sightings of Blanding’s Turtle (Threatened in Ontario) made in the vicinity of Simpson Rd.
The 2016 Bioblitz was held on June 25-26 at Little Bluff Conservation Area. This year 289 species were recorded including 152 vascular plant, two damselfly, 11 dragonfly, 23 butterfly, 15 moth, 23 other insects one mollusc, 25 aquatic invertebrate, one fish, four amphibian, five reptile, 49 avian, and five mammal species.
NOTEWORTHY RECORDS: Of most interest is that the pond is fishless, with abundant Eastern Newts. The Azure Bluet damselfly, a species which can only survive in fishless ponds, occurs here. The only other records for this species of damselfly in the County come from the fishless pannes in Sandbanks Provincial Park. In addition, two individuals of Blanding’s Turtle, a species that is Provincially Threatened, were seen in the pond. The adjacent marsh has fen-like sections dominated by Carex lasiocarpa. The characteristic alvar sedges, Carex crawei and Carex umbellata are present, particularly on the adjacent property, as was Early Buttercup. Old growth forest on the south-facing deciduous slope is also noteworthy.
Black Billed Cuckoo
On June 10 -11, 2017 the annual Bioblitz surveyed the Miller Family Nature Reserve. About 70 participants documented: 140 vascular plants, 61 birds including Whip-poor-will, Chuck-wills-widow, American Bittern, Wilson’s Snipe, 6 amphibian species including a Blue-spotted Salamander, 3 reptile species including Blanding’s Turtle and four species of fish. Insects found included: 76 moths, 19 butterflies, six dragonflies, three damselfly, more than 10 beetles and 40 spider species including a Black Widow, one grasshopper and approximately 2 species of flies. Seven species of terrestrial snails were documented. Three moth species of note are Macaria multiliineata which is rare in Ontario and confined to areas of Red Cedar (Juniper virginiana); Antepione thisoaria only found locally in Ontario and Eucoma awemeana an uncommon and local species. Seven mammal species were recorded.
NOTEWORTHY RECORDS: One of the most well-known species in the county, the Blanding’s Turtle (Threatened in Ontario), was present, as it is in other locations on the South Shore. The four sightings of the Northern Black Widow Spider by Tom Mason and Matt Christie are, as far as we can ascertain, the first records for this species in the county. Many participants were able to have a close look at individuals to observe their characteristic features and markings. Another widow, this one a bird, the Chuck’s-will’s-widow, was heard calling on the property Saturday evening during the walk lead by Peter Fuller, and later by others. It called from about 10 PM until at least midnight and possibly continued for much of the night. It has been heard in this particular area for several years (2014-2017) but no evidence of nesting has yet been documented. Eastern Whip-poor-wills (a Threatened Species in Ontario) were also heard calling on the property as were Common Nighthawks (a species declining throughout its range). All three species are members of the Goatsucker or Nightjar family that take insects while flying at night. An American Bittern (a Species of Special Concern) was heard calling on Saturday evening in the lake shore marsh while a Sandhill Crane (until recent years known only from the northwest) was also observed in the marsh on Sunday. A Northern Mockingbird was seen both days along the western trail. This is a more southern species that has recently extended its range into Ontario (first breeding record in the county in 1972, T. Sprague.)
With respect to interesting moth observations, Dave Beadle reports that in his experience the Striated Eucosma is uncommon and very local in Ontario. The Variable Antepione is likewise very local in Ontario. The Many-lined Angle is rare in Ontario and confined to areas of red cedar which is the larval food plant. It is uncommon for Dave to find the Faint-spotted Angle in the spring generation. With 25 individuals coming to the black light, he noted that the Harnessed Moth was unusually common at this site. Finally, he was unsure of the status of Platphalonidia lavana a species he hadn’t encountered previously.
One of the most interesting findings during the Bioblitz was the presence of freshwater minnows (Central Mudminnow, Golden Shiner) characteristic of cold spring water that were observed in the pond in the northwest sector of the property and in the stream flowing south from it – indicating that this pond is spring fed and the minnows survive in the pond even when the streamlets dry up in summer. Because of high water levels in spring 2017, lake water has breached the barrier beach and entered the marsh behind, allowing Carp and Alewife to occur there although this may be an unusual occurrence. High water levels interfered with our study of the marsh particularly for insects – since chest waders were needed to investigate the marsh.
June 9- 10, 2018 Bioblitz at Charwell Point in the Point Petre PWA The number of species recorded during the Bioblitz was 659, including Vascular Plants – 284, Damselflies – 6, Dragonflies – 7, Butterflies – 19, Moths – 159, Leeches – 6, Terrestrial Snails – 10, Aquatic invertebrates – 33, Other Insects – 26, Fish – 14, Amphibians – 5, Reptiles -5, Birds - 74, Mammals – 11.
NOTEWORTY RECORDS: Of utmost significance were the four species with Threatened Status (in Ontario or by COSEWIC) which were observed: the Blanding’s Turtle, the Whip-poor-will, the Least Bittern, and the Canada Warbler. The PWA offers excellent habitat for these species, especially the Charwell Point area that was surveyed. Three living Blanding’s Turtles were noted, as well as unfortunately, a large female which had most likely been crushed by a vehicle driving through the deep puddle where the turtle had been resting. On Saturday evening five Whip-poor-wills were calling within the Bioblitz area: the one just south of Base Camp could be seen sitting on a branch while calling. Beginning soon after daybreak, while kayaking through Lighthall Marsh Pond, Peter Fuller observed six Least Bitterns. The larger American Bittern was noted as well and is another species of special concern recognized in Ontario, as its numbers are declining. Common Gallinule and Pied-billed Grebe were observed, so that four of the five species which the Ontario Marsh Monitoring program conducts surveys for, were found during the Bioblitz, only the Virginia Rail wasn’t seen or heard although it often has been seen here in other years. An unexpected and exciting discovery was a singing male Canada Warbler, south of Lighthall Marsh on Sunday morning (June 10).
During the aquatic survey, the Bridle Shiner, a species of Special Concern in Ontario was found at both sites sampled: Lighthall Marsh Pond and Gull Pond. Eight species of fish, mainly minnows, were identified in the Lighthall Marsh area, while twelve species were found at Gull Pond, including Small-mouthed and Large-mouth Bass, Northern Pike and Pumpkinseeds as well as a number of minnow species.
An array of interesting plant species were present including Sartwell’s Sedge; many species characteristic of alvars such as Bluets, False Pennyroyal, and Hairy Beardtongue, as well as Craw’s Sedge and other sedges; the rare Limestone Hedge-hyssop; and two species of native orchids: Yellow Lady-slipper and Shining Ladies-tresses.
There was an incredible diversity of moth species documented. With 168 species attracted to two lights, this represents an unusually good night for moths. David Beadle prepared an annotated list of some of the most unusual moths that he found: Olceclostera angelica - Angel Moth. A spectacular Carolinian species that is very local in Ontario, being found in the extreme southwest and eastern parts of the province. The larvae feed on ash and lilac. Eucosma awemeana is a small tortrix moth in the family Olethreutinae. It is local in Ontario, being found in the extreme southwest and eastern parts of the province. Paectes abrostolella - Barrens Paectes. A small noctuid moth with a spotty distribution across North America. It is very local and uncommon in Ontario, being found at scattered sites along the north shores of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The larvae feed on sumac. Macaria multilineata - Many-lined Angle which is a beautiful geometer moth that is confined to the eastern counties in Ontario, where Red Cedar (the larval food plant) occurs commonly. Harrisimemna trisignata - Harris’s Three-spot. Not particularly rare, but certainly uncommon and local. The larvae feed on a wide variety of shrubs and trees. Helcystogramma melanocarpa. - This is a very small Twirler Moth in the family Gelechiidae. There appear to be very few Ontario records and virtually nothing seems to be known about its biology. I personally had not seen it before in 25 years of active field work, so it must be pretty local! Known records show this moth to have a pretty wide range throughout eastern North 14 America, so perhaps it is overlooked to some extent. Cochylis dubitana. This small tortrix moth is in the tribe Cochylini. It is a native of Europe and is an introduced species in North America. I had not seen it before in Ontario, but it appeared to be fairly common at this site. Paul Catling felt that the big dragonfly and damselfly story was the number of Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata) flying west. Those numbers might have been expected in directional flight in the fall. For damselflies, it was the Skimming Bluet (Enallagma geminatum) that was common (40 seen in 20 minutes) over the Lighthall Marsh Pond. The Marsh Bluet (Enallagma ebrium) was at the stream below the pond as was the Eastern Forktail (Ischnura verticalis).
In 2019 the Bioblitz was held at the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Hudgin-Rose property on Ostrander Point Road. The number of species recorded during the Bioblitz was 611+, including Vascular Plants – 310, Damselflies – 5, Dragonflies – 13, Butterflies – 24, Moths – 137, Terrestrial Snails – 2, Aquatic invertebrates – from 13 families, Spiders and allies - 30, Other Insects – 21, Fish – 1, Reptiles – 3. Amphibians – 7, Birds - 54, Mammals – 6.
NOTEWORTHY RECORDS: Highly significant were the observations of two species with Threatened Status (in Ontario or by COSEWIC): the Blanding’s Turtle and the Whip-poor-will. An American Bittern, a species of special concern, was also observed. Five Blanding’s Turtles were seen crossing Ostrander Point Rd. from the Hudgin-Rose property to the Crown Block (between 8 AM Saturday and the end of the BioBlitz). The fact that the turtles were all seen crossing the road again highlights how vulnerable this species is to vehicular traffic. Cars are a real threat to the Blanding’s Turtle since wherever there is a road it is bound to be crossed by them, especially near wetland habitats. It is only conjecture, but it is quite possible that the turtles observed had nested on the Hudgin-Rose property and were returning to the Crown Land Block where there is open water throughout the summer in the southeast marsh close to the shoreline. Conditions had been quite wet throughout the south shore this spring which would indicate that a later nesting period than usual would occur – and thus account for the turtle’s presence here.
An unexpected and exciting discovery was a family of Whip-poor-wills who exploded from their nest on the ground in front of Peter Fuller, taking off in all directions. It was as much of a surprise for them as it was for Peter who was quick to video the incident. On Saturday evening we were serenaded by a number of Whip-poor-wills before most of us escaped from the myriad of feasting mosquitoes. We did have time to admire the many fireflies in the field east of the cabin and along the edge of the wet woods before we left for the night.
During the aquatic survey, the presence of the Brook Stickleback, a minnow indicating running water flowing through the swamp, was an exciting discovery. The huge Predaceous Diving Beetle that was brought back to Base Camp for the participants to see was soon put into solitary confinement after he consumed his jar mate the colourful Gray Tree Frog tadpole.
Finding the two patches of beautiful Butterfly Milkweed in full bloom was exciting. The bright orange flowers, like those of other Milkweeds, produce copious nectar to attract butterflies and other insects. A Goldenrod Crab Spider was already waiting on a Common Milkweed to capture a Juniper Hairstreak, showing how the web of life continues, even on a Bioblitz. Although no plant Species at Risk were found, an array of interesting species were present including many species characteristic of alvars such as Bluets, False Pennyroyal, and Hairy Beardtongue, as well as Craw’s and other Sedges; the rare Limestone Hedge Hyssop was seen along the edge of the road beside the swamp at the south end of the property.
Of the 137 moths recorded, no less than 108 were new for the cumulative PEC list! If one looks at it from that perspective, the moth survey, although shorter in duration due to weather conditions, was a great success. The total number compares favourably with the 168 species observed last year at the Charwell Point Bioblitz, which continued for the whole night. There were some highlights this year that David Beadle noted: a nice male Robin’s Carpenterworm Moth with orange hindwings; at least 3 Imperial Moths; one female Promethea Moth; the Azalea Sphinx, which is normally scarce, has been more common this year and the presence of the Narrow-winged Borer, which is a scarce moth and always a good find. As a point of interest, 103 species were reported in the Ostrander Point Bioblitz, conducted in August 2014, perhaps a half km south of the cabin on the east side of Ostrander Point Rd. in the Bur Oak Savanna.
Many large dragonflies were seen throughout the day over the open field east of the cabin. The blustery winds on Saturday kept the smaller dragonflies and damselflies low, either in the grass or protected in the swamps.
The general paucity of butterflies, aside from the number of Wood Nymphs, was not expected and thus considered a poor year for them but the Juniper Hairstreak was relatively abundant. It was encouraging to see that Monarch butterflies were more common than usual.
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