Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Recent Happenings

     Summer is generally a bit of a slow time for birding as breeding activity is taking place for most species and the landscape is not permeated by song, but there is lots to keep a keen naturalist interested.
    For the fifth year in a row we have a Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina feeding a young Brown-headed Cowbird Molothrus ater in our yard. This small sparrow is a frequent target of our most common obligate brood parasite. In previous years I have been able to photograph the Chipping Sparrow feeding the cowbird but I was only successful in getting separate images when I saw them the other day.

Fledgling Brown-headed Cowbird

Chipping Sparrow

     There has been a veritable explosion of Soldier Beetles (Cantharidae) recently and reproduction seems to be the only thing on their minds. I will not even attempt to identify this insect as to species, since there are over four hundred different ones and an expert entomologist is needed to resolve specific identification.

     They seemed to favour Queen Anne''s Lace Daucus carota as a host plant. 

     Not exclusively, however. They are shown below on Common Fleabane Erigeron philadelphicus.

     And on Canada Thistle Cirsium arvense.

     Perhaps a change of venue is good for an amorous insect!

     I came across a couple of patches of this flower, certainly in the Rudbeckia family, and I believe it to be Thin-leaved Coneflower Rudbeckia triloba, a beautiful plant indeed.

     In the same family is the familiar prairie flower, Black (or Brown)-eyed Susan Rubeckia hirta.

     My inadequate entomological skills were again put to the test when this wasp showed up in clusters at our hummingbird feeder. I believe it to be Blackjacket Wasp Vespula consobrina, a beautifully-marked species.

     A puddling Clouded Sulphur Colias philodice gave me no problem.

     Nor did the ubiquitous Cabbage White Pieris rapae.

     Staghorn Sumac Rhus typhina has a full crop of its distinctive red fruit, winter food for a wide variety of organisms, and one of my favourite trees (shrubs?).

     Who knows what my next post will bring?


  1. Hi. Thank you for your lovely photos. Insects appears to be going doings.

  2. Hi David,
    Summer and spring are very rich. I like the baby ;-)

  3. Fabulous images, I love them all.

  4. Lovely detail on the Queen Anne's Lace. Those wasps are not a friend of mine. Horrible stings!

  5. Love the photos of birds and insects, wow so many soldier beetles! Sumac - maybe you do not have the problem there that we do here. Once you have one the next year you have 20 and so it goes on. They are incredibly difficult to kill and will take over in no time. We have successfully rid ourselves of the original 3 and extras here on our property, but now the neighbour (the one who is a pain!) has one. We treated 18 of them coming up in our lawn a couple of days back. I agree they are lovely but one or two only would be wonderful. Keep well Diane

  6. Nice blog, David. Rhus is a beautiful tree, but not in small gardens. Our neighbour had one and they popped up several meters deep into our garden too. You cannot blame the kids for their parents' acts , but I feel pity for the Sparrows. Beetles and butterflies are welcome, but wasps....brrrrr! Gr Jan W

  7. Hi David.

    Like the pictures of the birds and the butterflies and insects.

    Groettie from Patricia.

  8. Great post David,would have loved to seen the Chipping Sparrow feeding the young Brown- headed Cowbird.

  9. Didn't know Cowbirds behaved like Cuckoos.........

  10. Fantástico reportaje mi amigo David, me ha encantado. Un fuerte abrazo desde España.

  11. So many soldier beetles -- they are thriving! I have a blog friend Nora from Victoria who a while back posted a picture of a small bird feeding a big cowbird chick. It was a pretty picture and I didn't read her words very carefully because I was interrupted as I read -- so I commented how pretty it was. Then when I went back to read the post and saw it was a big old cowbird whose parents probably killed the baby that was supposed to be there I felt terrible for my blithe comment. Those are kind of the menace of the bird kingdom, but I guess somehow it is part of the balance of nature. It looks lovely in your part of the world this time of year even without many birds -- and I look forward to whatever the next post brings.

  12. I rather like the cowbird despite the reputation. I remember them as rather gentle, untroublesome creatures. I hope they don't go the way of our Common Cuckoo.

    As you say David, the Blackjacket Wasp is very striking and attractive in sending out its message.

  13. Incredible photos, you captured these very well.
    Same Day Agra Tour By Car

  14. Hi David, interesting post, was taking images of soldier beetles this afternoon at a small lake to the rear of the owl boxes. We have Staghorn on our plot and they suddenly come up metres away from the original. All the best John

  15. So you have 'bonking beetles' too, David! As John mentions, they're around at the moment, and it's relatively hard to find uncoupled specimens!

    Those wasps look delightful. Are they aggressive towards humans?

    Love to you and Miriam - - - Richard

    1. Blackjackets don't seem to be aggressive, Richard. We sit on the patio and watch them at close range. Now Yellowjackets are a different story!

  16. Oh very gorgeous pics darling!

  17. Great to see all your images here. I especially like your first one.

    But goodness, what a lot of Soldier Beetles!

    Take care and enjoy the weekend

    All the best Jan

  18. Hi David,
    Sorry I didn't visit your blog earlier but I've been away a few days at friends on the Atlantic coast, a very welcome break!
    How lucky you were to photograph this Cowbird chick, I'd like to see the sparrow actually feed it... maybe next year???? ;-)
    Soldier beetles are very common here too but I don't recall seeing that many together.
    Your bee post is also very interesting, looking fowards to your next discoveries!!
    Enjoy your sunday!

  19. Hello David,
    Wonderful pictures.
    Nice that little bird and funny to see the insects in action.

    Greetings, Marco

  20. It's nice to see all flourished, with abundant insects and birds, here we are passing the colder than normal cold season although much milder than the winter in Canada, with little to see and photograph, except for some birds escaping the cold of Patagonia and others that are non-migratory.

  21. The Fledgling Brown-headed Cowbird is quite nice and sharp. What a beautiful pattern in his feathers! I see in you a whole orgy of soldiers who eagerly to their offspring work hahahahaha .....
    The prairie flower I find very beautiful. The wasps are scary for me brrr ..... I'm allergic to wasps stabbing but you have them or shooting Durben.
    Butterflies are very beautiful. Are those red plumes fruit !!!! ??? I thought they were flowers.
    Kind regards, Helma

    PS it still managed to take pictures of the avocets?
    Or should I send high resolution photos?

  22. Beautiful photos again David :)

  23. Bonjour David,
    Merci de votre passage sur mon blog.
    Ce sont les nombreux cantharides qui retiennent mon attention;je vois parfois le même phénomène par chez nous, il peut s'agir de Rhagonycha fulva , on les voit 2 à 3 semaines puis ils disparaissent.
    Bonne continuation( désolée, je ne connais pas assez l'anglais pour l'écrire!)

    1. Peu importe. Je lis le français assez bien. Merçi de passer sur mon blog.