Wanderer's eye: Long Point Chapter by Aniruddha H D
Long Point Chapter
There are places on Earth where over thousand birds stage during migration and where birders and experts flock to cherish this grand
congregation, one of such places is Long Point. Situated in Lake Erie, Long Point Sand spit was created over the last 4,000 years due to the
high shoreline availability of glacial till, strong winds, variations in climate, hydrological cycle and seiches. These forces continue to shape Long
Point, the largest sandy peninsula (or Sand spit) on the Great Lakes.
Long Point’s Inner and Outer Bays and their associated marshes are one of the most biologically important areas – not only for resident birds
but for migratory waterfowls of North America as well. This is because Long Point falls under the Atlantic flyway of migrating birds, providing
them stopovers for feeding. One can easily guess why thousands of birds decide to stop at Long Point Bay – it is diverse in its floral and faunal
diversity – from various aquatic plants and animals to diverse insects on land – this land is as rich in providing fuel for the migratory birds as it
is to feed the resident song-birds. Long Point is well known for its waterfowls, but this often leads to ignorance in the minds of the nature
enthusiasts who come to cherish the biodiversity at Long Point. Besides Waterfowls and song-birds, some mammals such as Grey Fox and
Badgers are on top of the food pyramid – but what we easily miss out here is what supports this wildlife – the lesser-known creatures such as
snakes, arachnids and insects.
This is a photo-documentation of the fauna of Long Point and the surrounding areas, consisting of Port Rowan and Turkey Point, which I
observed over the two months.
Long Point Waterfowl (LPW) has given me the opportunity to work as well as learn about the Great Lakes ecology. I am thankful to LPW
staff for encouraging me to explore and for the guidance. I would like to thank Scott Petrie and Ted Barney for entrusting me with the work I
love doing. I would like to thank Robin Churchill, without whom I would not know so much about freshwater invertebrates as I do today.
Casey Peet-Pare and Laura Robson, for teaching me how to track snakes, and manage the species-at-risk species such as Hog-nose snakes, and
to my colleagues and friends for their support and guidance.
Last but not the least; I would like to thank Holly Sanderson, for selecting me for the Master’s in Environment & Sustainability degree, and to
my classmates who made me feel at home.
Insecta is the most diverse Class of Kingdom Animalia. They are easily recognized by the presence of six legs and a hard exoskeleton. It
may sound surprising, but insects are the one that run the planet. They not only form a nutritious base of a food-web, but are also help
maintain our gardens and forests by providing ecological services such as pollination and decomposition.
Insects are omnipresent, and the first ones to stumble upon, whether you are home or in your garden, are ants. These so common, yet
not-so-well-known bugs are as important to an ecosystem as the plants. Surprisingly, we do not know enough about ants to merely ignore
them. This fact is backed by new research and discoveries carried out every year. At Long Point, I managed to photograph and study a few
species of ants, along with other bugs such as bees, wasps, beetles, butterflies and dragonflies. This section is a little effort to appreciate the
beauty of lesser known critters we share our homes with.
Other than plants, they form the base of a large food-web at Long Point for song birds or waterfowls, and the ecosystem of Long
Point and surrounding area would not exist without insects. Hence their abundance is appreciable by watching birds stage at Long Point during
migration who consume insects and other invertebrates along with plants.
Ants, Bees and Wasps of Long Point
Formica ants are one of the most abundant ants at Long Point. Known for their big mounds of nests made up using plant materials such as pine-needles, they are
also capable of nesting high above the ground.
False Honey ant Carpenter ant
Prenolepis sp. Camponotus sp.
False Honey Ants are the first ants to be seen as soon as Spring Carpenter ants, notorious for their habit of burrowing in furniture
arrives, hence they are also known as Winter Ants. The and causing economic damage, are actually beneficial in a natural
photographed ant is a female who has shed her wings and is now ecosystem. In their natural environment, they nest in fallen wooden
looking for a site to establish a new nest. logs, thereby hastening the decomposition rate and enriching the
Green Metallic Bee
These solitary, iridescent bees are commonly seen collecting pollen. Observations worldwide have shown a decline in bee populations,
without whom the plants cannot pollinate, and fail to reproduce. This failure will not only impact an ecosystem but our basic food supply
Leaf-cutting/ Resin Bee
True to their name, this is one of the largest genera of bees. They build nests underground or in natural cavities. Like any other bee, they
are beneficial for pollination. Interestingly, I have observed these bees undergo daily torpor in flowers.
Spider Wasps are specialized for hunting spiders. Like many wasp species, they primarily feed on nectar, but hunt to provide food for the
larva. A Spider Wasp will maneuver itself such that it stings the spider under its abdomen. The paralyzed spider is then carried into a nest
cavity and the wasp lays an egg on it. The paralyzed spider is kept from decaying - fresh food for the emerging larvae.
Tiger Beetles of Long Point
Tiger Beetles are the fastest beetles in the world. True to their name, they either ambush or stalk their prey – just as a Tiger would. C. formosa is a
large, common beetle seen on inland dunes and coasts of the Great Lakes. It is the largest Tiger Beetle of Canada. Other species of Tiger Beetles
seen at Long Point are displayed on the next page.
Ladybird Beetles of Long Point
Ladybird beetles are efficient pest controllers of aphids and scale insects. For this reason, many species of Labybird beetles were introduced to
North America, such as Seven-spot Ladybird, Multicoloured Asian Ladybird beetle and Russian wheat-aphid Lady beetle photographed below. I
recorded five species, out of which only two – Spotted Ladybeetle and Glacial Ladybeetle are native to Canada.
Other Beetles of Long Point
Flower Longhorn Beetle
Belonging to the Order Coleoptera, beetles have the largest number of known species. Many new species are discovered every year. The beetles of
Long Point are abundant in numbers as well as in diversity. Some other commonly occurring beetles of Long Point are displayed on the next page.
Flies of Long Point
Flies are amongst least appreciated insects in the world. It is because of their association with dead and decaying matter, and the fact that some
spread diseases such as mosquitoes and other biting flies. Yet there are beneficial flies such as Robber flies, who actively feed on mosquitoes –
thereby acting as biological pest controllers, and there are flies such as Hover flies, which assist in pollination. Some other common flies are
displayed on the next page.
Butterflies of Long Point
Butterflies are one of the most intricately evolved insects. There are various shapes, sizes and colours of butterflies, from a dull-looking Duskywing,
which prefer to be well camouflaged on the ground, to Swallowtails, which flaunt their brilliant colours – warning predators of their toxicity. These
organisms, famed for their metamorphosis, are as beautiful and diverse as the birds at Long Point are. There are thirteen species I could document.
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Dragonflies of Long Point
Dragonflies are one of the oldest living organisms. They were present in the times when dinosaurs roamed the planet. Most of their lifetime is
spent as aquatic nymphs, where they are voracious predators of fish as well as mosquito larva. On land, the adults are specialized in
aerodynamics, feeding on anything they can hold onto. The dragonfly diversity at Long Point is astounding, thanks to the extensive
Damselflies of Long Point
Damselflies are cousins of Dragonflies. Although the life-stages on-land and under-water are alike, they considerably differ from Dragonflies.
Long Point serves as an ideal habitat for damselflies as well. Well-known for their bright colours, they are efficient predators of mosquitoes.
They are also an indicator of a healthy habitat. I documented several species, most of them remain unidentified. Here I have displayed some
of which that have been identified.
Enallagma sp. Lestidae sp.
Smooth Green Snake
Serpentes is the Suborder under Reptilia, where all the snakes are classified. Long Point hosts a diverse population of snakes, from the
common Garter Snakes to the threatened Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes. Snakes form an important part of Long Point’s ecosystem, since they
serve as predators as well as prey.
Sometimes mistaken for cobra for flattening its neck, a Hog-
nosed snake is in fact harmless. If approached, the snake will hiss
at first, and raise its hood to appear threatening. If aggression fails
to scare the approaching predator, the snake rolls over its back
and wriggles, excreting over itself – to give it a pungent stink,
misguiding the predator that it is a dead, rotting snake.
This marvelous snake is listed as a species-at-risk; hence
conservation measures must be strengthened in places such as
Long Point, where this snake is flourishing.
Eastern Fox Snake is the second largest snake of
Ontario. They are diurnal, predating especially on
rodents. The population has been on a decline due to
draining of wetlands and unnecessary killing. Although
non-venomous, it is killed by many because of its
resemblance with the Massassauga rattlesnake.
The Eastern Fox snake is a threatened species, thriving
in the wetlands of Long Point – another reason why
Long Point is so ecologically significant.
A small snake flaunting a bright red-
coloured abdomen, the Northern
Red-bellied snake is a common snake
in the woodlands of Long Point.
These non-venomous snakes
exclusively feed on slugs, hence are
considered excellent garden snakes.
Northern Red-bellied Snake
Storeria occipitomaculata occipitomaculata
Eastern Garter Snake is one of the
several subspecies of Garter snakes.
It is the commonest snake seen at
Long Point. They are non-venomous,
feeding on any organism they can
empower – from an insect to a frog.
It is not surprising to find tens of
Garter snakes basking together
Eastern Garter Snake
This rather interesting behavior was photographed at Long Point, where an Eastern Garter Snake decided to bask on top of an
Eastern Fox Snake. This behavior is not surprising, since Eastern Fox Snakes – albeit their large size - are docile snakes, and do
not feed on other snakes. A Garter Snake, on the other hand, is benefitted by this behavior, since it gets a place to bask.
Birds of Long Point are a major attraction to tourists as well as scientists. It is not only a safe haven for resident birds, but an important stop over
for waterfowls and a breeding habitat for many such as this pair of Tree Swallows. Tree Swallows are migratory birds, spending winter months in
Mexico and breeding in North America. Likewise, other song-birds and warblers breed at Long Point during summer. I was fortunate to observe
these birds and photograph them.
Tree Swallow fledgling
Waiting to be fed by its parents
These are but a fraction of the
biodiversity of Long Point I could
document. Whether it is a small
insect or a large mammal, all of
these play an important role in this
Only through appreciation of their
ecological services, conservation
and protection of the freshwater
ecosystem – whether you are a
tourist or a local farmer – can we
achieve our dream of a sustainable
BugGuide. (2010). Retrieved from http://bugguide.net/node/view/15740
Donald Stokes, L. S. (1996). Field guide to birds - Eastern region.
Emmitt, R. (2005). Species List. Retrieved from Butterflies of Carolinas & Virginias: http://www.rlephoto.com/species_list.htm
Marshall, S. (2000, March). Tiger Beetles of Ontario. Retrieved from University of Guelph: http://www.uoguelph.ca/debu/tiger-beetles.htm