The Big Year that Wasn't

In the birding world, when birder attempts to tally as many species as possible within a given geographic area in one year, the endeavor is commonly referred to as a "Big Year".

In 2012, I made a concerted effort to round out my portfolio of images and track down a number of butterfly species that I had never photographed to my satisfaction.  With is being such a spectacular season for butterflies,  it wasn’t long before I had racked up a considerable species list   A number of people asked me if I was doing a “Big Year”.   The trouble with doing something like a Big Year is that it tends to dictate where you’re going to go and what you’re going to look for.  Your tally of species becomes your primary goal, and everything else takes a back seat.

I had my own photographic objectives to achieve, and I didn’t want a quest to boost my tally of species to divert me from getting the images I sought.  Furthermore, I didn't want to be discouraged from visiting new and interesting sites.  If I were doing an Ontario Big Year, then that would tend to steer me away from Quebec, where I tend to do a lot of my butterflying.  If I were doing an Ottawa-Gatineau Big Year, that would tend to keep me within a very limited geographic area.  When you’re on a Big Year, you go for the sure thing and once you bag a species, you move on.  In my own work, I might go looking for a species in several locations until I get the photos I want, or I might want to explore new habitats to see what species might be found there.   If you’re doing a Big Year, this is wasting time. 

I guess a Big Year is just not my thing.

Nevertheless, 2012 was a spectacular year for me.  In total, I observed and photographed 115 species in Ontario and Quebec.  Of this total, the only species I didn’t see in Ontario were the Satyr Comma and the Bog Fritillary, giving me 113 species for Ontario.  In addition, I had a couple of probable sightings that I could not confirm ( Southern Cloudywing near St. Williams and Cloudless Sulphur in Pinery Provincial Park ).

Out of 115 species, 11 were “lifers”, or species that I had seen for the first time ever.  There were also 2 Canadian lifers – species that I had seen before, but not in Canada.  

There were only 3 species which I had seen before in Canada which I did not see in 2012: 

  • Horace's Duskywing ( last seen in 2011 )
  • Hickory Hairstreak ( last seen in 2011 )
  • Gorgone Checkerspot ( last seen in 2010 )

So while it certainly was a big year for me, it wasn't a "Big Year".


Here is a list of my “first of year” sightings for each species, listed taxonomically:

Skippers ( Hesperiidae )

  • Silver-spotted Skipper    June 7 - Foy PP
  • Northern Cloudywing      May 15 - Marmora, ON
  • Dreamy Duskywing     April 29 - Constance Bay, ON
  • Juvenal's Duskywing        May 5 - Otter Lake,ON 
  • Mottled Duskywing          May 15 - Marmora, ON (LIFER)
  • Funereal Duskywing         August 23 - Point Pelee NP (Canadian LIFER)
  • Columbine Duskywing     May 5 - Otter Lake, ON
  • Wild Indigo Duskywing    July 5 - Morgan's Point Conservation Area
  • Common Checkered Skipper   July 6 - Ojibway Prairie 
  • Common Sootywing       June 15 - Leamington, ON
  • Arctic Skipper               May 26 - Gatineau Park, QC
  • Least Skipper                June 5 - Burnt Lands PP 
  • European Skipper          June 7 - John Foy lane - Killaloe, ON
  • Fiery Skipper                July 7 - Point Pelee NP
  • Leonard's Skipper          August 14 - Mer Bleue - Ottawa, ON
  • Indian Skipper               May 24 - Timm Dr - Nepean, ON
  • Peck's Skipper            June 14 - Little Cataraqui Conservation Area 
  • Tawny-edged Skipper    May 24 - Timm Dr - Nepean, ON
  • Crossline Skipper    June 18 - St. Williams Forestry Station
  • Long Dash Skipper    June 6 - Richmond Road - Nepean, ON
  • Northern Broken-Dash    June 19 - Lambton Park - Toronto, ON 
  • Little Glassywing    July 8 - RARE, Cambridge, ON (LIFER)
  • Sachem                     August 23 - Leamington, ON (LIFER)
  • Delaware Skipper    June 19 - Lambton Park - Toronto, ON 
  • Mulberry Wing            June 23 - Larose Forest - Limoges, ON
  • Hobomok Skipper     May 15 - Marmora, ON
  • Broad-winged Skipper    June 28 - Larose Forest - Limoges, ON 
  • Dion Skipper            June 27 - Luskville Falls, QC 
  • Dukes' Skipper            July 6 - Ojibway Prairie (LIFER)
  • Black Dash                    July 6 - Ojibway Prairie (LIFER)
  • Two-spotted Skipper    July 4 - Milburn Road - Haliburton, ON
  • Dun Skipper            June 13 - Luskville Falls, QC 
  • Dusted Skipper            June 16 - The Pinery PP (LIFER)
  • Pepper and Salt Skipper  May 26 - Gatineau Park, QC
  • Common Roadside Skipper  May 15 - Marmora, ON

Swallowtails ( Papilionidae )

  • Pipevine Swallowtail          June 15 - Point Pelee NP
  • Black Swallowtail           May 7 - Point Petre - Athol, ON
  • Giant Swallowtail          June 14 - Little Cataraqui Conservation Area
  • Canadian Tiger Swallowtail  June 15 - Point Pelee National Park  
  • Eastern Tiger Swallowtail     May 13 - Carp, ON 
  • Spicebush Swallowtail          June 15 - Point Pelee National Park 

Whites and Sulphurs ( Pieridae )

  • Mustard White             April 18 - Marlborough Forest - North Gower, ON
  • West Virginia White     April 7 - Twiss Road - Milton, ON
  • Cabbage White             April 16 - Stoney Swamp - Kanata, ON 
  • Olympia Marble             May 6 - Third Depot Lake Rd.  
  • Clouded Sulphur             May 6 - Third Depot Lake Rd. 
  • Orange Sulphur              May 7 - Point Petre - Athol, ON
  • Pink-edged Sulphur    July 4 - Milburn Road - Haliburton, ON (LIFER)
  • Little Yellow            July 5 - Stevensville Conservation Area (LIFER)
  • Dainty Sulphur            July 7 - Hillman Marsh - Leamington,ON (Canadian LIFER)

Gossamer-winged Butterflies ( Lycaenidae )

  • Harvester                     May 13 - Carp, ON 
  • American Copper           May 5 - Rock Dunder - Morton, ON
  • Bronze Copper            June 22 - Beavertail Road - Manion Corners, ON
  • Bog Copper            June 23 - Mer Bleue - Ottawa, ON
  • Acadian Hairstreak    June 23 - Larose Forest - Limoges, ON
  • Coral Hairstreak            June 18 - St. Williams Forestry Station 
  • Edwards' Hairstreak       June 27 - Luskville Falls, QC  
  • Banded Hairstreak    June 27 - Luskville Falls, QC
  • Striped Hairstreak    July 4 - Milburn Road - Haliburton, ON
  • Juniper Hairstreak    May 15 - Marmora, ON
  • Brown Elfin            April 19 - Newington, ON
  • Hoary Elfin                    April 12 - Burnt Lands PP
  • Henry's Elfin            April 12 - Burnt Lands PP 
  • Bog Elfin                       May 14 - Newington, ON
  • Eastern Pine Elfin    April 15 - Luskville Falls, QC
  • Western Pine Elfin    May 21 - Algonquin PP - (LIFER)
  • White-M Hairstreak    August 23 - Point Pelee NP - (LIFER)
  • Gray Hairstreak             May 15 - Sheffield Conservation Area
  • Early Hairstreak            May 19 - Algonquin PP
  • Eastern Tailed Blue    May 11 - Luskville, QC 
  • Northern Spring Azure    April 7 - Twiss Road - Milton, ON
  • Summer Azure            June 15 - Point Pelee National Park
  • Cherry Gall Azure          May 25 - Fitzroy Harbour, ON
  • Silvery Blue            May 13 - Carp, ON

Brush-footed Butterflies ( Nymphalidae )

  • American Snout             June 15 - Point Pelee National Park
  • Variegated Fritillary     July 14 - Beverly Swamp - Westover,ON
  • Great Spangled Fritillary  June 10 - Kazabazua, QC 
  • Aphrodite Fritillary     June 24 - Stoney Swamp - Kanata, ON
  • Atlantis Fritillary             June 10 - Kazabazua, QC
  • Bog Fritillary             June 13 - Saint-Louis-de-Marsham, QC
  • Silver-bordered Fritillary  May 23 - Luskville Falls, QC
  • Meadow Fritillary     May 17 - Burnt Lands PP  
  • Silvery Checkerspot     May 31 - Harwood Plains - Dunrobin, ON
  • Harris's Checkerspot     June 6 - Richmond Road - Nepean, ON
  • Pearl Crescent             May 7 - Point Petre - Athol, ON
  • Northern Crescent     May 26 - Gatineau Park, QC
  • Tawny Crescent             May 24 - Timm Drive - Nepean, ON
  • Baltimore Checkerspot  June 11 - Wincester Bog - Winchester, ON
  • Question Mark             April 16 - Stoney Swamp - Kanata, ON 
  • Eastern Comma             March 19 - Larose Forest - Limoges, ON 
  • Satyr Comma             March 21 - Gatineau Park, QC 
  • Green Comma             March 22 - Marlborough Forest - North Gower, ON  
  • Grey Comma             March 22 - Marlborough Forest - North Gower, ON
  • Compton Tortoiseshell    March 22 - Marlborough Forest - North Gower, ON
  • Mourning Cloak             March 17 - Jack Pine Trail- Nepean, ON 
  • Milbert's Tortoiseshell     April 6 - Charleston Lake PP 
  • American Lady             April 17 - Howie Rd - Manion Corners, ON 
  • Painted Lady             May 7 - Point Petre - Athol, ON
  • Red Admiral             April 16 - Stoney Swamp - Kanata, ON
  • Common Buckeye     May 24 - Stoney Swamp - Kanata, ON 
  • White Admiral             June 3 - Hungry Lake Rd - Arden, ON 
  • Red-Spotted Purple     June 16 - The Pinery PP 
  • Viceroy                     May 27 - Dolman Ridge Rd - Ottawa, ON 
  • Hackberry Emperor     June 15 - Point Pelee National Park 
  • Tawny Emperor             July 8 - RARE - Cambridge, ON
  • Northern Pearly-Eye     June 14 - Little Cataraqui Conservation Area  
  • Eyed Brown             June 14 - Little Cataraqui Conservation Area 
  • Appalachian Brown     July 2 - Dwyer Hill Rd - Almonte, ON
  • Little Wood-Satyr     May 24 - Timm Drive - Nepean, ON
  • Common Ringlet             May 25 - Timm Drive - Nepean, ON
  • Common Wood-Nymph    June 27 - Luskville Falls, QC
  • Macoun's Arctic             May 30 - Algonquin PP - (LIFER)
  • Chryxus Arctic                May 5 - Rock Dunder - Morton, ON
  • Jutta Arctic             May 27 - Mer Bleue - Ottawa, ON
  • Monarch                      May 7  - MacCauley Mountain Conservation Area 


copyright © 2013 Rick Cavasin.  All rights reserved.