Monday, September 07, 2015

Birds, Snakes and Spiders

rare Charitable Reserve
Cambridge, ON
6/7 September 2015

      Both yesterday morning and this morning the focus of my activity has been at the above location; yesterday with Miriam when we did our weekly monitoring, and today helping Ross Dickson with his bird banding activities. Given the intense heat, so unusual for this time of the year, bird activity diminishes greatly after about 09:00, but there is still lots to keep a naturalist occupied.
     Several times I spotted this fine specimen of Homo sapiens, of the species Dicksonicus canadensis, where I carefully observed several unique and oft repeated behavioural routines. It seemed to particularly prefer this "hunt and seek in the grass routine," where partial camouflage did little to conceal its body from view.

     Neotropical warblers are packing on fat and preparing to migrate to Central and South America and Miriam and I were very pleased to come across this male Black-throated Blue Warbler Setophaga caerulescens, still resplendent in his breeding plumage.

     A Garden Cross Spider Argiope trifasciata is easily distinuished by the cross pattern on its abdomen. It often constructs its web near a porch light where it has a ready supply of insect prey attracted to the lights.

     Here is the underside of the same spider.

     This individual has clambered onto Goldenrod.

     The Black-and-Yellow Argiope Argiope aurantia is a stunningly beautiful spider, often seen in its large, distinctive web. The female is most conspicuous and is observed more frequently than the smaller male.

     When prey has been captured it is wrapped in a cocoon of silk and stored for future consumption.

     I believe this is the male of the species, but I am not completely sure. It was in the same vicinity and habitat, and was smaller then the females shown above. 

     The web (see above) has a prominent zigzag ribbon of silk (a stabilimentum)crossing the middle. The males are small and, like other male spiders, have armlike sexual organs (pedipalps) used to transfer sperm to the female. This is a costly tryst for the male dies immediately after inserting his pedipalps into the female's sexual organs, his dead body safeguarding the paternity, by blocking other males.

     Many hoverflies sp. (family Syrphidae) were observed, and the one shown below was attracted to the prolific growth of Goldenrod.

     A small group of Cedar Waxwings Bombycilla cedrorum was flycatching from the top of a snag.

     This Northern Brown Snake Storeria dekayi dekayi was sunning itself on a path and as long as we remained still and didn't permit our shadow to be cast upon it, it remained in position for several minutes. It is a small (22-23 cm) harmless snake whose main diet consists of slugs and earthworms.

     The heat was oppressive, but the wildlife had to contend with it in ways we can barely dream of. The snake was a fine end to a naturalist's walk in the meadow.

David M. Gascoigne,
David M. Gascoigne,

I'm a life long birder. My interests are birds, nature, reading, books, outdoors, travel, food and wine.


  1. Bonjour,

    Je suis très heureuse de lire et d'admirer chacune de vos magnifiques photos. Il est tellement peu aisé de capturer toutes ces petites bêtes ! Je suis éblouie de l'intense diversité de la faune et je m'en étonne à chaque fois que je découvre des espèces nouvelles que je ne connais pas. Merci pour cet instant magique.

    Gros bisous ♡

  2. I like that Dicksonicus canadensis! Never seen one of those...

  3. Greetings from Dubai! Really enjoyed going through your post. Found the Black-and-Yellow Argiope very interesting and great shots too . Have a great week ahead! Will be back soon...


  4. Beautiful pictures of spiders. In our country (Poland) there is a similar species of spider - Agriope bruennichi.
    Warm greetings

  5. HI David!
    Just checked in to read your blog...seems you have been very busy which is a good thing :) Say Hi to Ross Dickson the next time you see him. We did some birding last year with regards to trying to find roost sites for some of the local great egrets that typically migrate through my area of town most years...only one has been seen at Lakeside Park this year but I haven't seen it for a week or more now.
    Hope you and Marion are both well !

  6. Hello David, a fine blog about those spiders. We have a simular kind Black-and-Yellow Argiope Argiope aurantia over here. It is from origine a spider from around the Medeteranian see but because of the climate change it is now seen much more in the Northern parts of Europe.
    Warm regards,

  7. An enjoyable post with some great photos, David.

    If I ever get over there, Northern Brown Snake, Cedar Waxwing, and Dicksonicus canadensis will be on my target list!

    Still hoping to get some of your heat over here. 13h30 and its only 12 deg. We've now got the winter-weight duvet on the bed, and the heating on!

    Best wishes to you both - - - Richard

    1. I could guarantee Dicksonicus canadensis, come close to guaranteeing Cedar Waxwing, but Northern Brown Snake might be a little more difficult. They are common, but spend so much time in dark, damp places they are hard to find. But come on over, we'll give it a shot!

  8. Beautiful pictures, David. Hooverflies and Golden rod, we've both in our garden.
    Cross spiders too, but no snakes or dicksonicus. I love the Cedar Waxwings picture, great pose!
    Gr Jan W

  9. I enjoyed that! We have Argiope spiders in Australia too, so it was nice to contrast what you've got against what I see here. That little snake looks darling too! Harmless snakes give off a harmless vibe I find, whereas the lethal ones (here anyway) are all quick and angry and scowling.

  10. Great variety, but I'll take the birds before the snakes and spiders every time!

  11. Beautiful birds, interesting spiders, but even dangerous snakes I'm afraid. Regards.

  12. Snakes and spiders in the undergrowth stirs primeval fear in me....................

  13. Hi David. Those black and yellow spiders are very attractive, the snake too. While I'm very much into birds the whole spectrum of wildlife is wonderful to behold. Strange how many people are afraid of both spiders and snakes but maybe i would be if we had deadly ones here in the UK.

    You might be interested in following Fernando's comments about bird poaching via my "comments".

    1. It's incredible, Phil. We can only hope that one day these battles will be a thing of the past. Bravo Fernando!

  14. Beautiful images. My favourite was the Snake, cuddlesome.

  15. Oh, lovely warbler! I haven't seen a single waxwing this summer. I have a couple of those spiders hanging around my bbq...doing a lot of grilling inside these days!

  16. Hello David,
    Very nice pictures!! Great all big spiders...brr..!! But the bird on shot 11 is really amazing.
    And the snake is very special. I think I would be afraid of it.

    Greetings, Marco

    1. The snake is totally harmless, Marco and you are a big, brave man. I am sure you would be okay!

  17. Beautifully all these photos, beautiful all the different spiders.
    Enjoy your weekend, Tinie greetings

  18. And where was Davidonicus gasconensis all this time????
    Hiding behind a camera!! LOL!
    Great series of critters, that Cedar waxwing is fabulous, I wish I could see one up close one day!
    The spiders are superbly photographed and my "coup de cœur" goes to the snake :)
    These outings must have been great fun!
    Many thanks David for your sweet comments while I was away,
    enjoy your weekend and... un montón de abrazos para ti y Miriam :)

  19. if ever you come over here Noushka it's a species I would have a good chance of finding for you. Then with your photographic skills we would really be treated to an incredible display of pictures.

  20. Splendor and varied blog especially the lovely sparrows. In the Netherlands we have only brown sparrows, but they are nicer to you many times. The wasps pins (the yellow and black) is also a very fine perception. Even the snake you photographed from a very beautiful sight. I learn with you so many kinds of know :-)


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