2024 Bog Elfin Blitz - lessons learned

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rick cavasin

May 22, 2024, 7:06:37 PMMay 22
to Ontario Butterflies
Hi All,

I'm planning a series of (belated) reports of my Bog Elfin observations in recent days.  I've just been too busy to write up reports.

The first of the interesting observations occurred on May 12.  I wasn't intending to go surveying for Bog Elfin originally, but I got rained out at my first destination in the Round Lake area.  From there, I went to a sand barrens habitat in the Bonnechere area where I had a decent number of olympias, along with 4 Elfin species (Henry's, Brown, Hoary, and Eastern Pine).  More rain clouds were closing in, and I decided to roll the dice on visiting a nearby bog that I've been to 3 times in recent years with no luck (as far as Bog Elfin goes - though on my first visit, I got a very worn elfin that I couldn't definitely ID as an Eastern Pine).   As luck would have it, the clouds got there before me, but I went to the bog anyway, hoping I'd see something before the rain began.  It was still quite warm, and I had several fast flying elfins zoom away before I could ID them.  I had just finished watching 2 depart from view and when I turned, I saw a small elfin clinging to the lower branches of a nearby spruce.  I checked with my binoculars and sure enough, it was a Bog Elfin.  I checked around the bog more and couldn't see anything else, but when I circled back to this area, I saw another land on a grass stalk.  I figured it was the same one, but I took a photo just the same.  Upon examination later, I saw that it wasn't the same one, which means I saw 2 at this location.   The fact that I finally got Bog Elfin at this location after 3 previous unsuccessful surveys led me to wonder if the species might be found at another Bog near Wilno which I had also visited 3 times over the past few years.  I arrived at this bog after the rain had finished and the sun had come back out.  It was late afternoon and there were a great many Brown Elfins that were very active.  This meant I had to check a lot of elfins, but the Brown Elfins mostly fly lower down.  There were also a few Eastern Pine Elfins and a Henry's taking advantage of the leatherleaf that was in bloom.  I finally saw a couple of more high flying elfins that tended to stick closer to the tops of the spindly spruces.  One finally landed in a spot where I could train my binoculars on it and I confirmed that it was a Bog Elfin. 

Aside from adding the 2 new locations for Bog Elfin, I managed to get 5 Elfin species, which I'm not sure if I've ever done before (with a bonus Grey Hairstreak thrown in for good measure).   The important lesson is not to conclude that a species is absent from a location just because you went there and didn't see it.  It's hard to explain, given that I have managed to find Bog Elfins at some other locations on my first visit, within minutes of entering the bog.  It may have something to do with timing, or it may just be dumb luck.

A few days later (May 14), I was doing some more surveying in the Round Lake area (back at the location I got rained out at previously).   At the end of the day, I was due to head up to Deep River to stay at a friend's place, but I still had a bit of time to "kill", so I decided to check a few of the logging roads that branch off to the south of Round Lake Road.  I've driven past most of these a number of times and always wondered what they were like.   I stopped at the first one (near Jacks Lakes), and I stopped the car immediately after turning off the main road.  There were a number of tall While Pines towering over the road, along with some spruces that were nearly as tall, but they mostly further back from the road.  There were a number of Eastern Pine Elfins puddling on the road.  There was what looked like a recently drained pond on one side of the road, and on the other side, the terrain appeared to descend into a swampy area (where the tall spruces stood).  I was checking them with my binos, debating whether or not they might be Black Spruce, when I turned and saw a smaller elfin fluttering around on the road.  I trained my binos on it and lo and behold, it was a Bog Elfin.  I got photos and then headed off down the road to see if it might lead to a bog somewhere but the trail forked and both sides went uphill.  I didn't really have a lot of time to go exploring so I doubled back and encountered a Bog Elfin back at the fork.  I figured it was the same one but photographed it anyway.  I then found 2 more on my way back to the car (one very close to where I had parked).  Upon checking the photos, I determined that the second elfin was not the same as the first, so that made 4 Bog Elfins puddling along a relatively short stretch of logging road.  I've encountered Bog Elfins puddling on dirt roads/tracks before, but they were always singletons, and in all cases but one, the road/track was running through or very close to a bog.  In the one instance where the Elfin was not in a bog, I assumed it was a stray that had come from a nearby boggy area I subsequently identified on Satellite imagery.  But finding 4 together along a short stretch of road that isn't near a bog is (as far as I know) unprecedented for Ontario.

The lesson learned in this case is that it isn't necessary to don rubber boots and go bog hopping to see this species.  Almost anyone could have made this observation (I could have parked on the shoulder of the main road and crawled to where the bog elfins were).  All that was required was a bit of patience, as the Pine Elfins outnumbered the Bog Elfins, and checking all the elfins on these roads can get a bit tedious, but close focussing binoculars help a lot.

More to come.

Cheers, Rick
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