2024 Bog Elfin Blitz - I'll see your 6 Elfin species, and raise you an Early Hairstreak

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rick cavasin

May 24, 2024, 8:22:07 AMMay 24
to Ontario Butterflies
Hi All,

continuing the saga...

On May 16, I set out with a friend to check for Bog Elfin at locations between Bissett Creek Road (where I've found it at a couple of locations), and Brent Rd (where I have never been able to find it).   We were exploring logging roads in this area using an side-by-side ATV, as I can't take my car down these logging roads.   We had done this last year, and I was only able to find Bog Elfin at one bog fairly close to Bissett Creek Road, down near the Algonquin Park boundary.    We started off by revisiting the first Bog I visited last year, where I thought the habitat was promising, but it was early in the day and my visit was brief.  This year, it was a bit later in the morning, and I budgeted more time to survey.  I was only able to see a single individual, but I got a good look at it with my binos.  This is now the most westerly location where the species has been found (so far).   After meeting my buddy back at the logging road, we back tracked through an area that looked promising for Early Hairstreak (lots of beech along a road facing the morning sun).   I dismounted and walked this stretch of road.  Eventually I did see an Early Hairstreak - I think it was a male.  I hailed my buddy and told him to get down and have a look as this was something that few people get to see.

From there we drove down some other narrow forest tracks, trying to see if they might lead to any of the other bogs I had identified on the satellite view of the area, without much luck.  Back at the main logging road, we proceeded through an area that looked to have some black spruce to either side.  On a hunch, I asked my buddy to drop me off so I could walk up and down the road.  Lots of Eastern Pine Elfins were puddling, but just as I was meeting my buddy, I saw a Bog Elfin land on a rock right in front of the ATV.   Again, I got my buddy to dismount and have a look, making him one of the few people to have seen both Early Hairstreak and Bog Elfin in the same day (not the first time for me, but I don't think anyone else has managed it).   I asked him to drop me off at another spot further west that looked similar, but I wasn't able to find any Bog Elfin in this area.  I did see all the other elfin species however, making it another 6 Elfin day.  Oh, and I came across a large black bear on the road.  But just as I mouthed "Oh sh*t", it turned and ran the other way.   

Back on the ATV, we proceeded far to the East, towards Brent Road.  We weren't able to find any side trails that would take us to other bogs until we were near Windigo lake, where we found one of my bogs that was close to the main trail.   I checked this bog but by that time of day, it was very hot and buggy.  The habitat seemed perfectly suitable for Bog Elfins, but almost nothing was flying there.  It may have simply been too hot.  I only saw a few Brown Elfins, Eastern Pine Elfins, and Azures there.  Oh, and an American Lady.  I haven't mentioned it, but I was seeing American Ladies and Red Admirals everywhere.  Not in huge numbers, but a few at pretty much every stop.

The following day, on my way back to Ottawa, I decided to roll the dice and make a detour into Algonquin Park (despite the threatening weather).   Unfortunately, the clouds closed in just before I reached the Sand Lake gate.  It was very quiet when I got to the bog at McManus Lake Road, which I have never visited before.   Nothing was flying on the bog at first.  It was a little spooky, but it may have been cool the night before, and it was still early.  Just after seeing my first Azure, I saw a small elfin land briefly on a bush beside me.  I clearly saw it to be a Bog Elfin, but it was only a brief glimpse.  After a bit more poking around, I scared up a couple more which I was able to photograph.   As this bog is near the park boundary, and may be outside the park according to some maps, I sent to another "bog" about 6 km further West, well inside the park.  It was quite overcast by the time I got to this location (I had to walk a little over 1km up a logging road).  The bog was very wet, and the vegetation was somewhat atypical (some white cedar) - perhaps it was more of a fen than a bog.  Despite the sub-optimal weather and seemingly suboptimal habitat, I was able to find and photograph a couple of Bog Elfins there, which means the species is found in at least 2 locations on that side of Algonquin Park.

This brings the total number of locations where Bog Elfin has been found to 28.  Not bad, considering we only had 3 known locations back in 2016, when I first discovered Bog Elfin at Rolphton.

Since then, I've visited a few locations in the Aylen Lake area, and near Arden, but I haven't found any additional Bog Elfin populations.   At the bog I visited yesterday (North of Arden), the labrador tea was already in bloom, indicating it's probably well past the Bog Elfin flight season.  I was only able to find 2 worn Brown Elfins and not a single Azure on this bog.   They are probably still flying in the Northern part of their range, but that area got walloped by major storms a few days ago, so there may only be a few stragglers left at this point.

Cheers, Rick
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