2012: The Big Year that Wasn't

In the birding world, when a 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 ( or never to my satisfaction ).  With it 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 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 needed.  Furthermore, I didn't want to be diverted 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 normally 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.  To my way of thinking, 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 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 cup of tea.

Nevertheless, 2012 was a spectacular year for me.  In total, I observed and photographed 115 species in Ontario and Quebec.  Of the species on this list, the only ones 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 these 115 species, 11 were “lifers” ( 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