On my second day of excursions in the Niagara Peninsula - August 17, 2013 - I decided to check out to conservation areas near the town of Wainfleet, near the southern end of the Welland Canal. Wainfleet Bog Conservation Area is a known site for a number of uncommon odonates.
In some ways it is the polar opposite of St. John's Conservation Area: instead of being managed as a recreation area, its trails are dense and overgrown and its areas of boardwalk over the muckier parts of the blog are in a poor state of repair. I saw only a few other people on my visit.
Unfortunately, this being mid-August, the bog seemed (like the streams at St. John's) to have pretty much dried out, and there were comparatively few insects in attendance. Though I thrashed about over a fair bit of the area, the only really active spot was a single bit of boardwalk over the one creek with a substantial bit of water still in it (for anyone visiting, this is almost immediately after you branch off the main trail on a spur leading to the west, following the line of an old narrow gauge railway).
Here, the open water was lined with clumps of Bur Reed (Sparganium americanum). This is an interesting plant, member of a very small family, the Sparganiaceae, related to (and sometimes combined with) their close relatives the cattails (Typhaceae), including only fourteen to twenty-six species in a single genus. Nine of the species live in North America. Some extend across Eurasia, and one ranges - oddly - to Australia and New Zealand. The odd bur-like structures are densely-packed flower heads.
There were numbers of Eastern Forktails (Ischnura verticalis) in the area, of both sexes. The males, when not perched, chase each other about among the bur reeds.
Female Eastern Forktails are considerably duller than the males. The ones I saw spent much of their time either perching...
...or dropping to the stream surface to lay their eggs on mats of floating algae.
Here, too, were the smaller and more gracefully-built Fragile Forktail (Ischnura posita)…
There were a few dragonflies, too: a couple of female Eastern Pondhawks, to my eye among the most brilliant dragonflies we have…
… and a single Blue Dasher.
The most numerous dragonfly in the area was the lovely little Ruby Meadowhawk (Sympetrum rubicundum). I am identifying this with some confidence on the grounds that the only other similar species, the almost indistinguishable Cherry-faced Meadowhawk, is supposed to be very rare in the Niagara region.
The Wainfleet Bog is apparently the only place in the region where you have a good chance of seeing a third species of damselfly, the large and rather gangly-looking Slender Spreadwing (Lestes rectangularis) I found several of these insects, unlike their cousins, well away from the open water of the stream.
There were butterflies, too: a Red-spotted Admiral (Limenitis arthemis)…
… and, near the car park, numbers of Canadian Tiger Swallowtails (Papilio canadensis) feeding with other butterflies at the heads of flowering Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum).
Only a few kilometres away I found a completely different conservation area. Wainfleet Wetlands encompasses two abandoned rock quarries, now rehabilitated as large ponds that, in the right season, attract visiting waterfowl and migrating shorebirds. Here I met to fellow birders, Albert Rizzo and his wife, who coincidentally turned out to live not far from our home in Mississauga. They were there to check out migrating shorebirds (we only saw a few, at a considerable distance), and I managed to sidetrack them into helping me spot dragonflies along the pond edge.
I was surprised at how many we saw, as the area was quite barren, with only a few scattered clumps of vegetation. We saw numbers of Twelve-spotted Skimmers (Libellula pulchella), easily identified by their black-and-white spotted wings, I never did get a decent photograph of one. neither was I able to pin down a male Slaty Skimmer (L. incesta), at the second pond, that seemed to spend most of his time chasing off any other dragonfly that ventured into his territory.
Photographing them, though, was another matter: perhaps because of the comparative lack of vegetation, the dragonflies I saw spent most of their time coursing rapidly along the pond edges instead of sallying out from favourite, and easily photographable, perches.
This mating pair of dragonflies proved particularly frustrating. They flew around me for the longest time, but never descended to even eye level and stayed, for the most part, in the poorest possible light. I believe that they are a species of baskettail (Epitheca spp.), a genus in the Emerald family (Corduliidae), but I am not at all sure - and I would be very pleased if someone who is better able than I to put a name to these insects would let me know.
Widow Skimmers (Libellula luctuosa) were more cooperative, including this rather washed-out individual…
There were butterflies about too - so I can, for the second time in my posts about the summer of 2013, end with a Pearl Crescent (Phycoides tharos).