Sunday, 20 August 2017

Perils of Being a Pollinator

While out for a walk a couple weeks ago, I found a patch of Joe Pye Weed that seemed to be popular with the pollinators.  It looked to be an easily accessible and abundant nectar source and I assumed that this Red-Spotted Purple was taking advantage of that.

However when it didn't move I moved in for a closer look and found it's antennae and proboscis tightly in the clutch of an odd looking bug.

And there wasn't just one, upon closer examination I found several more, carefully tucked in and waiting for an unsuspecting meal.
.


Nearby this Cabbage White had met its end in the same manner.
They are Ambush Bugs, a species I had heard of before but had never seen them.  I did some research and discovered that their preferred method of hunting is lurking in among flowers and attacking unsuspecting prey.  They do help control various insect pests, but are not so appreciated when they prey on pollinators.  Beekeepers in particular, sometimes consider them to be a pest.

I went back a few days later and found several still present.  This one had snagged a more manageable sized meal.
Despite the fact that they can sometimes be considered a pest, it was interesting to observe a new insect species.

I found this monarch caterpillar on the way out.

It's been a good year for monarch caterpillars around here.  In two evenings of searching, I managed to find nearly 70 eggs on milkweed in the yard.

Found this tattered Giant Swallowtail a few days later.

Sourced From:  Proctor Foster, Leslie. Garden Bugs of Ontario. Lone Pine Publishing, 2008

Friday, 4 August 2017

North to Manitoulin

It's been a while since my last post.  Summer is always a hectic time when living on a farm and it seems to slip by much too fast.  Hard to believe it's August already and fall migrants are already starting to trickle through.

I managed to take some time to visit Manitoulin Island for several days last week.  I have many fond memories of summers spent visiting the island and I was looking forward to exploring a new area this year.  Our neighbors had rented a cottage on the island for a week and had invited us to come join them.  Some family issues meant that plans had to be altered somewhat, but I still had several days up there to explore flora and fauna.

The first target when headed up the Bruce Peninsula was to check around the community of Mar for Brewer's Blackbird.  A fellow birder had told me where to look for this species and it wasn't long before I came across this individual, my first lifer of the trip.




An early foggy ferry crossing the following morning, meant an early arrival at Pike Lake, home for the next few days.
Fog over the ferry.
Pike Lake
Pike Lake





It was here that I finally managed to set my eyes on a White Admiral, the northern counterpart of the Red-Spotted Purple butterflies that I am familiar with back home.




This Black Swallowtail also posed nicely.

I realized that I should brush up on dragonfly identification as I watched them cruise over the water.  I believe that the two below are widow skimmers.
Male Widow Skimmer
Female Widow Skimmer

Birds are harder to track down when leaves are on the trees, but I did manage to see and hear numerous species.
A pair of Alder Flycatchers were seen and heard regularly.

American Redstart
We spent a lot of time out on Pike Lake in the canoe.  The fishing wasn't great but it was peaceful floating out there.


We also spent some time driving around the island.
Striped Hairstreak, Gore Bay
Ring-Billed Gull, Providence Bay
Roadside Meadowlark
The final morning on the island, we decided to take a walk around South Baymouth before having to leave on the ferry.  There is a series of little known trails on the edge of the town which provided a great place to walk through true northern scenery accompanied by singing warblers, croaking ravens and crashing waves.


Common Yellowthroats were numerous but they dont't seem to want to sit still for long.
Prickly Wild Rose


Red Squirrel

Our time on the island came to a close as the Chi-Cheemaun came sailing in.  



Cove Island Lighthouse seen from the Chi Cheemaun.
The last stop of the trip was to look for one of the previously reported Dickcissels on the Bruce peninsula.  No luck, but it was an enjoyable trip nonetheless.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Dickcissels in Waterloo

Most Ontario birders have likely by now heard of or seen evidence of the influx of Dickcissels into the province.  I had eagerly hoped to see some this year, but most of the reports were too far away for me to easily check out.  That all changed when I heard that they were being reported in a grassy field outside of the city of Waterloo. 


Things seemed quiet when I first arrived early this afternoon, but it wasn't long before I could hear them singing and got brief glimpses as they moved around the field.


Photographing a small bird at a distance in the bright sunlight isn't easy, but I managed to leave with a couple record shots to confirm that I did see the species.




And of course plenty of photos of the surrounding vegetation when I was intending for the  Dickcissels :)

There was supposed to be a Dickcissel in this photo.
The habitat there seemed good so hopefully they will successfully nest.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

From Perth County to Rondeau Park, the Story of One Woodpecker.

First of all, a couple things I wanted to note.  I finally changed the header photo at the top of this blog to something more springlike.  Warbler migration is upon us and the Yellow Warbler is one of the few that stays around here to nest. 


My first monarch butterfly of the season was observed on our farm on May 16, the earliest that I ever remember seeing one around here.


Now on to the main post.






This story begins sometime back in early March.  It was a Sunday afternoon and I had just returned up to the house from a walk over the farm.  Rounding the corner of the house, I came across a Hairy Woodpecker laying under the window.  An unfortunate victim of a window strike.

I picked it up and looked it over, marvelling at the colour patterns, that one rarely gets to see so close. 


 I didn't like the thought of leaving it there to go to waste and so I decided to try and give it a new life.  I am familiar with the process of bird taxidermy and I started to wonder whether this bird could have a new life in a display or exhibit of some sort.


I contacted fellow blogger and Rondeau area naturalist Allen Woodliffe to get his opinion on whether it would be something that would be of interest to Rondeau Park.  He put me in touch with the park and they seemed interested in having it mounted for display in an existing exhibit. 

It was somewhat of a challenge, but the piece was finished and took the trip with me on my park visit at the end of April.
Woodpecker near bottom of the tree that the eagles are nesting in.



 This woodpecker met an unfortunate end, but now has the opportunity to be used to educate visitors to the park.  In this day and age, wildlife face various threats, but hopefully through pieces such as this, the general public can see the beauty of nature up close and build an awareness of how important it is to conserve it.





Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The Year of the Morel

At least that is what it seems like around here.  These unique little mushrooms are popping up in great abundance on one part of our farm.

Sometimes we go a full year without finding a single one which makes it even more strange that there would be so many this year.


As far as edible mushrooms go, morels are one of the tastiest.  A welcome spring gift.

This post was a bit different than what I usually write about here but every aspect of the natural world, even the mushrooms, can be interesting.

Anyone else seeing unusual numbers of morels this year?


Saturday, 29 April 2017

Essex Explorations

After an enjoyable day in Chatham-Kent yesterday, I was looking forward to visiting Point Pelee.  The morning dawned cool and cloudy, I hoped that the rain would hold off long enough to explore the park. 


Marsh boardwalk was up first.
Red-Winged Blackbird, Marsh Boardwalk
Red-Winged Blackbird, Marsh Boardwalk
Swamp Sparrow, Marsh Boardwalk


 I was interested to see how the recent marsh fire had affected the landscape of the marsh.  It was impressive to see fresh shoots of green rising up through the charred remains.


Most of the other trails were rather quiet and birds were not overly active.
American Robin, Tilden Woods
The tip was where things started to become interesting.  It started with meeting Kory Renaud who directed me to pockets of warblers actively moving through the trees. 
I was interested to watch a large raft of Red-Breasted Mergansers bobbing around in the rough waves. They seemed condensed right around the end of the tip, seemed as though the wind and the waves had forced them there. 

Red-Breasted Mergansers, Point Pelee Tip
No sign of the Eared Grebe that I had heard was reported earlier, but several Horned were bobbing around.

Swallows were thick. 
Northern Rough-Winged and Tree Swallows, Point Pelee Tip


Mixed in with them I found a first-of-the-year Least Flycatcher along with a Blue-Headed and Red-Eyed Vireo.  It was about then that the rain started, bringing my Pelee visit to a close.
 Least Flycatcher hanging out with Tree Swallows, Point Pelee Tip
After a brief lunch in Leamington, it was off to Hillman Marsh before heading home.  The rain had let up by this time.  There were several birders scanning the shorebird cell as I arrived and I was glad to be able to meet Blake Mann.


With the exception of a large flock of Dunlin, most of the shorebirds I was hoping to see were quite distant.  Fortunately with the aid of the scope, I was able to add American Avocet, Marbled Godwit and Willet to my life list along with distant photos of each.
American Avocets, Hillman Marsh


Willets and Dunlin, Hillman Marsh



Marbled Godwits, Hillman Marsh


It was an enjoyable two days spent visiting Essex and Chatham-Kent.  I'm glad the trip worked out before things get too busy here at home.