Finding Birds and Insects at Ruthven

Where to Find Birds at Ruthven Park

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Many different types of birds can be found at Ruthven Park. Some species can be found year round while others can be found only fleetingly as they pass northwards or southwards during migration. Many species nest within the varied habitats of the park while others find shelter only throughout the winter months.

The reason so many birds are attracted to Ruthven Park are the two main natural habitat types found within the site. These are Carolinian Slough Forest and the Grand River. Both habitats contain abundant food resources and nesting sites for many types of birds, as well as having areas to shelter from predators and harsh weather.

This guide gives an indication of some of the areas within Ruthven Park where birds can be found. The locations of these areas are indicated on the accompanying map and are all accessible by the existing trail system. While you are free to explore as much of Ruthven Park as you wish, please keep on the trails to avoid trampling sensitive vegetation and sites of historical significance.

(A) The Bird Banding Station – The bird banding station at Ruthven Park is part of the Haldimand Bird Observatory and is a member of the Canadian Migration Monitoring Network. It is operated by volunteers on a daily basis in appropriate weather during spring and fall migration. Bird monitoring at the station commences before dawn and ceases at approximately midday. Banding is also performed during the summer and winter on an occasional basis.

Check with the volunteer banders to find out what has been seen lately and where rarities can be observed. You will also have the opportunity to observe and photograph birds being banded.

At the bird feeders adjacent to the station Red-Bellied Woodpecker, White-Breasted Nuthatch, Black-Capped Chickadee, American Goldfinch, Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, and Purple Finch can be observed in season.

(B) Carolinian Slough – This pool of standing water plays host to a wide variety of species, particularly during spring migration and the summer nesting season. Look and listen for Grey Catbird, Common Yellowthroat, House Wren, Blue-Grey Gnatcatcher, Eastern Wood Pewee, Wood Thrush, and Swamp Sparrow. At dawn between March and May it is possible to see Eastern Screech Owl peeking out from the large nesting box within the pond. Please refrain from harassing these birds by mimicking calls and otherwise disturbing them.

(C) The clearing alongside the trail overlooking the creek and field on the far side provides a good observation point of a number of different habitats. In season look and listen for Field Sparrow, Brewster’s Warbler, Blue-Winged Warbler, Yellow-Throated Vireo, Yellow Warbler, Indigo Bunting, Red-Eyed Vireo, and Red-Bellied Woodpecker.

(D) The tall trees surrounding the clearing leading to the Thompson family cemetery provide a natural amphitheatre for observing flocks of passing migrants in spring and fall. Look for Black-Throated Green Warbler, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, American Redstart, Blackpoll Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Bay-Breasted Warbler, and Blue-Headed Warbler.

(E) During winter the tangled vines and shrubs along the path provide cover for American Tree Sparrow, Slate-Coloured Junco, Golden-Crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, and White-Throated Sparrow.

(F) At the shore of the Grand River adjacent to Slink’s Island look for Spotted Sandpiper, Belted Kingfisher, Great Blue Heron, and Wood Duck. During the late summer months mudflats and rocky outcroppings are exposed which can play host to various types of shorebird.

(G) During the summer months look for nesting Song Sparrow, Yellow Warbler, and American Goldfinch amongst the scrubby vegetation alongside the Riverside Trail. Baltimore Oriole and Red-Winged Blackbird are also usually found. Keep a watch for Orchard Oriole as well.

(H) Overlooking the river by the ruins of an 1836 mansion look for Osprey, Bald Eagle, and flocks of foraging swallows hunting over the river. A pair of Red-Tailed Hawk frequently nest in the willows along the far shore, and Northern Rough-Winged Swallow and Belted Kingfisher nest in burrows in the ground excavated within vertical areas of exposed soil along the river bank.

(I) In and around the trees and gardens of the mansion grounds look for nesting Chipping Sparrow and Eastern Phoebe. During spring and fall migration the conifers can play host to a wide variety of foraging warblers.

(J) To the north of the mansion there is a copse and some nest boxes. In spring and summer Eastern Bluebird, House Wren and Tree Swallow nest in this area. The forest edge habitat alongside the main access road frequently harbours foraging sparrows during spring and fall migration.


Where to Find Insects at Ruthven Park

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Insects are fascinating creatures. They come in an astounding variety of shapes, sizes, and colours, and can be found almost everywhere. With their incredible diversity, amazing adaptations, and wide variety of lifestyles, observing insects can be both entertaining and informative.

At Ruthven Park insects are abundant and can be easily found; in fact, some, such as mosquitoes and deer flies, will come looking for you! Insects can be found in the park in all seasons but are most abundant from spring through fall. This guide gives some suggestions of areas within Ruthven Park in which to search for insects. These locations are indicated on the accompanying map and all are accessible by the existing trail system. While you are free to explore as much of Ruthven Park as you wish, please keep on the trails to avoid trampling sensitive vegetation and sites of historical significance. The capture of specimens for closer investigation is encouraged but please release the creatures you have caught back to where you captured them when you are finished.

(A) Gate House – The light over the front door at the Gate House is left on overnight as a security measure. The light attracts a wide variety of nocturnal flying insects such as Luna Moth, Polyphemus Moth, and Pandorus Sphinx. Look for them on the screen door and the brickwork surrounding the porch light.

(B) The Hill – The Hill is an area of meadow located between the Gate House and the restored Indiana Cemetery. Look for Eastern Tailed Blue, Black Saddlebag, and Praying Mantis.

(C) Indiana – This field area was once part of the village of Indiana. Look for Inornate Ringlet and various skippers in the field. Powdered Dancer and Stream Bluet can be found amongst the shrubs lining the field.

(D) During the summer months look for Midland Clubtail hunting for prey over the mowed lawn. This species of dragonfly is listed as uncommon in Ontario.

(E) This region is a grassy area overlooking a trail leading down towards the creek along the Carolinian Trail. Look for Common Whitetail and Twelve-Spotted Skimmer basking on open patches of soil, and Juvenal’s Duskywing amongst the shrubs lining the trail.

(F) Carolinian Trail – In this area the Carolinian Trail is adjacent to the creek as it runs along the valley to the Grand River. Look for Ebony Jewelwing in this area, and for water striders on the creek’s surface. In season this area can contain many mosquitoes so you may not wish to stay for too long.

(G) A trail commences behind the storage compound and follows the edge of an area of old field habitat. Look for Northern Crescent, Pearl Crescent, and tiger beetles along the trail.

(H) Butterfly Meadow – This area has been set aside by the Lower Grand River Land Trust to promote butterfly populations at Ruthven Park. Look for Tiger Swallowtail, Monarch, and various species of skippers nectar feeding on the flowers found in the meadow. A wide variety of insects can be found in this region including small red meadowhawks and flower flies that mimic honeybees. The latter can be recognised however in that they have only a single pair of wings while honeybees have 2 pairs. It is best to exercise caution when capturing these mimics however, just in case they actually do turn out to be honeybees and attempt to sting you.

(I) The Grand River opposite Slink’s Island. This is a good location to see a variety of aquatic insects in and on the surface of the water. Look for water striders and whirligig beetles on the water’s surface. The latter have eyes shaped such that they can see above and below the surface of the water simultaneously. Backswimmers and water boatmen can be seen under water.

(J) Amongst the vegetation lining the Riverside Trail look for perched predacious insects such as Hagen’s Bluet, Stream Bluet, and robber flies.

(K) By the ruins of the 1836 mansion look for hunting dragonflies skimming over the surface of the Grand River. American Rubyspot can be observed along the shore in this area as well.

(L) The flower gardens surrounding the mansion are great places to see insects, particularly those that feed upon nectar. Keep an eye open for the nationally uncommon Tawny Emperor in this region. Their caterpillars feed upon the leaves of hackberry trees that are located on the mansion grounds.

(M) The Banding Station – For the adventurous the Ruthven Park bird banding station can be an interesting place to see insects. On occasion a bird is captured that has insect parasites such as hippoboscid flies and avian lice. In season check with the volunteer banders to see if any of these insects have been encountered.

One thought on “Finding Birds and Insects at Ruthven

  1. Thank you for the very interesting information concerning the birds and insects of Ruthven. I will certainly be watching for some of the varieties mentioned. We are very fortunate to be able to enjoy Ruthven and its surrounding nature.

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