Tigers and Wolves in Camp Oliver Forest

Several members of Saugeen Nature and neighbours of Camp Oliver Forest met at the Sugarman place on a lovely morning in early June. David Sugarman had planned a tour of some of the trails of Camp Oliver Forest, including visits to some springs, Black Lake, and upland woodlands habitat along the way.

As we started into the woodland, the group was greeted by the call of a Peewee, an Ovenbird, and subsequently several different warblers, attesting to the habitat quality of this hardwood forest. Spring ephemerals lined the pathways, including a few still-blooming Trilliums, Jack in the Pulpit, and White Baneberry.

Further along the path, where it crossed over a stream, lay a shaded opening carpeted with lush Marsh Marigold plants, one of which was still in bloom. A couple of moments later some of us noticed that the people in front were on full alert, stalking something on the ground. Cautiously approaching, we were told that they had spotted a tiger – a Six spotted Tiger Beetle. It was captured in a little clear bottle and passed around for inspection. The beetle was bright emerald green on its back, but there were 6 – 8 white spots on the edges of its wing coverings. These beetles are quite commonly seen in the forests of Ontario and the Northern US, preferring to keep to pathways and openings in the forest.

Another similar incident occurred a few moments later. The target this time was a Wolf Spider. Closer observation revealed that this was a male wolf spider that did not take well to being held captive in the bottle. Although some people were wary of taking the bottle for a closer look, the Wolf Spider is only dangerous to its small insect prey, which it hunts by lying in wait and pouncing, or chasing short distances. With its eight eyes, and acute sense of touch, the Wolf Spider is a formidable hunter.

Later on in the morning another tiger crossed our path. This one was yellow and striped just like an African tiger, but it flitted back and forth across the path and then stopped for a drink in the mud. It is the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. This butterfly is a fairly common sight in Grey County woodlands. It flies from spring to fall and produces two broods through the seasons. Its caterpillars are green with two large yellow, blue and black eyespots on the thorax to frighten predators. The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail hibernates over winter in its chrysalis stage and emerges in May or June.

Other species of note seen on the outing included the Mink Frog – a less common amphibian seen and heard in Grey County forests, a Chalk-fronted Corporal dragonfly, and an American Redstart bird. Camp Oliver Forest is rich in diverse species and a real pleasure to explore. The views across Black Lake are stunning and the forest walk was peaceful. Saugeen Nature plans to hold several outings here over the next few years. Go to www.saugeenfieldnaturalists.com for more information.

Submitted by Nikki May  (Marsh Marigold photo credit: Dianne Schenk)

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