In early October, an errand took me to Mystic Stained Glass in Burlington which happens to be only a few blocks away from the Hendrie Valley park. So I rewarded myself for tackling a chore with an hour or so’s brisk (for me!) walk around the Grindstone Marshes Trail and the North and South Bridle Trails. Along the way on this Burlington ramble, I had close encounters of the smiling kind with a fresh Milbert’s Tortoiseshell and a logful of turtles plus a few other unexpected but welcome creatures.
Everyone Wants a Handout at Hendrie Valley in Burlington
When I started down the trail from the Cherry Hill Gate, I was mobbed by Chipmunks! Some were quite small, probably born this summer, but others were worn and full-grown adult-sized chippies. I wasn’t expecting to see them running *towards* me but as I kept walking and met people hand-feeding them, I soon understood why. There were also way more Chipmunks than I’ve seen anywhere else locally this summer: I suspect all the feeding helped ensure more babies born and raised than in other parks.
When I paused for a photo here or there, not only chipmunks but also Black-capped Chickadees soon arrived to beg for handouts. And even some Downy Woodpeckers and White-breasted Nuthatches! If you want to hand feed birds and critters, I guess this is a good park to visit.
Crossing the first board walk, I met two families busily feeding birdseed to the ducks. A large flock of Mallards and several families of Wood Ducks were busily snatching up the offerings raining from far above.
Posing at the edge of the more solid marsh was a young Raccoon also begging and eating food thrown from the walkway. I took a few quick photos before moving on—I was hoping to see something a little less easily found at Riverwood or the Rattray.
October Butterflies in Burlington or an Enjoyable Autumn Encounter with a Milbert’s Tortoiseshell
As I had hoped, soon after I left the boardwalk and took to the footpath along the Grindstone Marshes Trail, I started seeing the flutter of small wings. (Yes, there were still Chickadees bombing me all along this trail, too, but I mean really tiny wings.) Several Wild Indigo Duskywings were chasing each other and pausing frequently to take little sips of nectar from sprays of wild white “aster”-like flowers.
Further on, an Orange Sulphur was more cooperative. He stopped to refresh himself directly out of the mud on the path. (It should be a “he” because there are no obvious yellow spots in the black border on his wings. I could be wrong of course—if so my apologies to her!)
Like the Duskywings, it was interested in sampling the nectar from the bushy white “asters” at the sunny side of the path. Unlike them, it focused pretty steadily on drinking and didn’t bomb off every few seconds. I took a zillion photos although only one or two turned out: between the strong breeze, the butterfly’s need to change blossoms regularly, and my shaky hands, most were blurry.
While watching the Tortoiseshell, another butterfly beat its way in to the “aster” patch. This one was much smaller and as you can see in rough shape. It’s a Crescent, although I’m not sure what kind, and it must have been out for a long time judging by the wing damage and the loss of its colourful scales. Still, it enjoyed the sun and the flowers and hopefully found a companion too.
The Photo I Could Have Taken If I’d Been In Bird Detector Not Butterfly Hunter Mode
As I reached the pond at the end of the trail, I had my head down, scanning the dry weedy edges of the road (closed for repairs) looking for migrant butterflies. So when I walked one step too closely, the Great Egret that had been standing fewer than 3 metres (10 feet) away, took off across the water.
Rats! I could have taken epic photos if I’d just been more alert! Ah well, it was beautiful to watch it wing quietly across the water, bank slightly to avoid a Great Blue Heron already fishing over there, then land again on the far shore. And I’m not sure I would have noticed the heron if I hadn’t been watching the departing Egret.
The moral of the story: Always keep your head up and down at the same time.
I did notice some nice wildflowers including this Evening Primrose in front of some wild New England Asters.
Along the walk back, I saw this peculiar-looking bird. It took me a second to realize it was a young Cedar Waxwing with a shadow across its face.
Some Other Interesting Insects at Hendrie Valley in October
There were several bright red “meadowhawk” sized dragonflies along the paths. This one was not noticeably red and was smaller and somewhat different in shape. I had a very hard time convincing my camera to autofocus on it but I eventually got a photo to look into later. I’m not particularly good at identifying dragonflies so I think it will remain unnamed for quite a while. (Comments are always welcome!)
While looking at some other flowers to check what might be around, I saw a tiny red dot fly and land on a leaf. A closer look at the fast-moving arrival showed it was a Ladybug. I’ve seen this kind before, I think, in which case it’s a pink Spotted Ladybeetle or Coleomegilla maculate lengi. What’s nice is that it’s a native ladybird which is getting unusual these days.
The Tale of the Turtles
As promised, I also got to see some turtles on this early October afternoon, basking in the summer-like sunshine. I was walking along the south Bridle Trail, when I noticed a turtle on a very exposed sunny log. Before I could get my camera up, it plopped off into the water. That made me feel badly because I know how much turtles can benefit from heating up during these cooler months.
I sort of piffled around, wondering if I could see it through the water or if it might come back out. I hadn’t seen enough to know if it was a Painted or an alien Red-eared Slider. A chipmunk, and some chickadees, hoping for handouts, distracted me for a minute.
Then I felt I was being watched. I looked through the cattails and realized a much more sheltered log held a whole flotilla of medium-small turtles!
Snap, snap, snap, went the camera as I tried to get facial photos to id whether they were Painted or not. As I took the photos, I realized there were more turtles than I thought as a small one at the end of the log was almost hidden by another. At home, I discovered yet another was in the water with only its head out.
I didn’t stay long because I didn’t want to spook these ones into the water, too. A few quick photos and off I went, leaving them to soak up some rays in solitude.
A Final Fall Warbler Sings Goodbye
I continued down the trail, noticing more Wood Ducks in the water and a flock of White-throated Sparrows in the leaves. Another Great Blue Heron was stalking, chest deep, through the lily pads.
Then a warbler flew by and landed in the buckthorn ahead of me. It moved through the twigs and branches quickly with the sun mostly behind it. Eventually, though, I got a clear look and realized it was a Yellow-rumped Warbler. They are one of the last ones to pass through on their way south, so unfortunately, I may not be seeing many more warblers till spring. Still, it made for a cheerful end to the walk.
Have you seen any interesting turtles or Tortoiseshells near you? Please share your sighting with a comment.