Breeding Bird Survey – Alfred Bog, Alfred, Ontario

Breeding Bird Survey – Alfred Bog, Alfred, Ontario

When Gerhard and I do the breeding bird survey at Alfred Bog, we need to get there early in the morning, which, in June, means getting up at about 4AM.  On this particular morning we were sitting in the car waiting for the sky to lighten a bit when we could hear some noise in the nearby grass.  I pointed my camera in the direction of the noise and pressed the shutter.  The flash reflected off of their eyes and gave me an “alien moose” effect.  Had to really work on the images in PP to lighten up the exposure enough to actually see the bodies.

The counting points for this particular breeding bird survey are deep in the woods and bog and we need to walk a fair distance along a sometimes very wet trail before even heading into the woods. The humidity was high and a low fog clung to the low lying areas.

Once we reached the spot where we headed into the woods we followed various coloured trail markers left from the year before.  This worked fairly well except in those locations where a tree (with marker) had died and fallen down but we would eventually find the official markers and start our survey.  The process is fairly simple. Stand quietly for three minutes at an official counting point. Look for birds.  Listen for birds. Record what you see or hear and then head on through the woods and bog to the next location and do the same thing again.

Because Spring has already arrived and foliage is becoming well established, there are not too many opportunities to actually see much more than a glimpse of the birds that you hear so I usually turn my attention to photographing the signs of Spring rather than trying to focus all of my attention on the photographing of birds.

Spruce buds

Tamarac buds

At this time of the year, the ferns are really putting on a growth spurt and add an earthy aroma to the woods around them.

Cinnamon Fern

The soil in the area of the survey is very acidic since it consists almost entirely of sphagnum peat moss and is almost constantly wet. The plants that I am able to photograph in this location are therefore rather unique but sometimes I need to get my knees rather wet to get down at a low enough angle to get the shots that I want to get.

Bog Laurel

Cotton Grass

Some years swatting mosquitoes and flies adds to the difficulty of photographing flowers in their natural environment. This particular day was no exception with both flies and mosquitoes present in annoying numbers. The Pink Lady Slippers are a member of the orchid family of plants and thrive in the bog environment.

Pink Lady Slippers

Often found growing in wet acidic soils and sometimes in bogs, this orchid’s Canadian range stretches from Manitoba to Newfoundland. Sometimes referred to as Moccasin Flower.

Another interesting plant that can be found in the bog environment is Labrador Tea, an evergreen shrub of the Rhododendron family. The leaves can be picked and then steeped and consumed as a tea.

Labrador Tea (Rhododendron sp.)

Another very interesting plant that is found in the bogs of Eastern Ontario is the Pitcher Plant. This plant is an insectivore which has tubular leaves rising from an underground rhizome. The leaves of the pitcher plant fuse together to form a “pitcher” which holds rainwater. The pitcher plant survives in nutrient poor soils by capturing insects in liquid in its leaves which are designed to hold water like in a pitcher, hence the name, and have downward facing hairs on the inner surfaces. Once an insect falls into the water, it is very difficult for it to escape because of the slippery walls surrounding it. The plant excretes enzymes into the water and the captive insect is converted into usable food for the plant thus supplementing the limited nutrients that it can extract from the soil.

Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea)

I’m always amazed at the many interesting things that I can find to photograph when I am out for a walk in the woods and on this occasion it was this fungus that got the award for strangeness. My first glimpse of this fungus, I thought that someone had thrown globs of bran muffin dough at the sides of pine trees and left it there to dry. Whether you like bran muffin dough or not, this particular polypore fungus is considered to be inedible.

Cryptoporus volvatus

On this trip, I was only able to get reasonable photographs of the Red-winged Blackbirds.

Red-winged Blackbird (male)

Red-winged Blackbird (female)

Not certain of i.d.

Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor)

When we emerged from the woods on the way back to our car, I was happy to see a few butterflies and dragonflies enjoying the sunlight. I believe that the first of these butterflies might be the Silver-bordered Fritillary while the second butterfly is the easily recognized Monarch Butterfly on fresh Milkweed leaves.

Silver-bordered Fritillary (Boloria selene)

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

With a wingspan of close to 3″ and the gleaming white abdomen of the male, these dragonflies are rather hard to miss if they are in the vicinity catching insects in flight.

Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia)

Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium sp.)

This survey route is a tough one and takes quite a bit of time but is doable as long as one does not try to rush the hike through the sometimes knee deep water and moss that forms the foundation of the bog and provides for the species diversity.

About Ron

Ron has long had an interest in photography and traveling and, in recent years, has had more time to devote to both activities. Long a Pentax user, Ron switched to Nikon gear when he went digital. The advent of the digital SLR camera, and the ease of the internet blogging process, has provided a venue for sharing his photography and travel experience at the local, national and international level. More about Ron
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