Saturday, 12 June 2021

A Naturalist's Pot Pourri

      We are slowly easing back to normalcy, although having been in and out of lockdown three times, we are waiting to see if this return to regular life will last.

06 June 2021

Three Bridges Road, St. Jacobs, ON

     This was a very hot day with the air temperature around 32 degrees, and with humidity factored in close to 40. To say that I dislike this kind of weather would put it mildly.
     Instead of taking a walk we decided to go for a drive in an air-conditioned vehicle.
     There is a small man-made pond on Three Bridges Road and on hot days it becomes a premier attraction for birds; Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) especially are prone to congregate there.

     Four were present to enjoy the cooling effect of the water.

     And a female Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) was not to be denied either.

     Farther along the road we spotted six Killdeer in a field where the grass no doubt offered a little respite from the heat.

     Even the face on this tree seemed to be suffering and grimacing!

Hawkesville, ON

     A Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) was panting to stay cool, all the while scanning for fish in the river below. No doubt a plunge would be refreshing!

Our Backyard, Waterloo, ON

     Back at home the backyard was a bit of an oasis, with the temperature being several degrees lower than out on the street.

     A juvenile American Robin (Turdus migratorius) visits us several times a day, finding rich pickings among the stones on the path.

     Although quite capable of foraging for itself it has not lost the instinct to beg for food and gives it a try with any other bird that is close at hand regardless of species.

     It has little success of course, but it is fun to watch as it tries to secure food without effort. We enjoy watching these antics.
     We have a lone Lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus) which is producing beautiful flowers and attracting pollinators.

     On any given day many American Goldfinches (Spinus tristis) come to feed and bathe. The males look especially handsome at this time of year.

     But the females are not lacking in charm and beauty either.

     Common Grackles (Quiscalus quiscula) are all business when they visit. They waste no time when gathering food, and often stop for a drink at the bird bath on the way out.

     Never a day goes by without Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura) and the backyard wouldn't be the same without them.

     And it is a rare day that we don't have North Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis). The male bursts on the scene in a blaze of glory, with a song to match.

     The female is equally beautiful, perhaps more so in the eyes of some.

Laurel Creek Conservation Area, Waterloo, ON

     After dinner we took our coffee and cookies over to Laurel Creek to spend a little time in David's Dell.
     A Golden-backed Snipe Fly (Chrysopilus thoracius), our first ever, was an exciting discovery.

07 June 2021
SpruceHaven, St. Agatha, ON

     Last year I had the distinct pleasure of conducting a walk for couple of teachers and a group of children.
     The teacher's names are Katherine and Kayli, fine dedicated people, and a pleasure to know and share time with. 
     Here is Katherine's definition of the group:   "This group has no status as a school, and is best described as a group of parents (essential workers) working together to support our children through this pandemic year.  While The Working Centre supports its staff in this way by providing space, we are a self-directed "learning pod" (with a big focus on experiential learning!) with no formal structure or status".  
     I can't imagine a more creative way to teach children. And when you meet the kids it is immediately apparent  that they have learned so much and have developed skills as young naturalists.
     It was my pleasure to spend an afternoon at SpruceHaven with them.

        The series of pictures below will give you an idea of the fun they had, all the while learning new things about the wonderful world of nature. I don't think that further commentary is needed from me.

08 June 2021

Hirondelusia, Kitchener, ON

      Hirondelusia is a Barn Swallow habitat modified from designs approved by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to mitigate habitat, and to channel public concern about species at risk.
     This project was conceived and constructed by my friend Jennifer Cleary-Lemon, Associate Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Waterloo, with admirable and able cooperation from Marcel O'Gorman, University Research Chair, Professor of English and Founding Director of The Critical Media Lab.

     Through a collaborative, combined academic and creative approach, Hirondelusia seeks HOW and WHY specific species at risk recovery strategies are designed and built, and WHAT seeing structures like this tell humans about threatened species like the Barn Swallow.

     Bravo Jennifer and Marcel.

Behind John M. Harper Public Library, Waterloo, ON

     Behind the library there is an expanse of open ground (for how long I wonder?) stretching towards the nest of Western Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) that has been successful for several years. The nest is located atop a hydro transmission tower, close as an osprey flies to the productive fishing areas of Laurel Creek Reservoir and Columbia Lake.
     This grassland with scattered shrubs and two small artificial ponds, surrounded on all sides by roads and human presence, forms a bit of a haven for wildlife, and we have often made exciting discoveries there.
     Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) can be found with little effort, and no doubt breeds there.

     Viceroy (Limenitis archippus) is a species that mimics a Monarch (Danaus plexippus) to fool predators into thinking it is toxic.
      Miriam took what I see as two very appealing pictures.

     Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar) is a destructive defoliating moth, and its caterpillars can strip a tree in record time. Unfortunately they are abundant and widespread this year, wreaking havoc wherever they appear.

     Dragonflies abound now, but so many simply refuse to rest for a few minutes, and so remain unidentified since we do not capture them in a net.
Calico Pennant (Celithemis elisa) was more obliging than most.

Calico Pennant ♂

Calico Pennant ♀

     I hope that my good friend Richard Pegler, dragonfly aficionado and skilled photographer, will enjoy these shots.
     Virginia Ctenucha (Ctenucha virginica) is a common diurnal moth, and there were many flitting around.

     It's good to keep a wide eye open when searching through vegetation. Nature delivers simple treasures.

     Water droplets on a leaf outshine the Hope Diamond in my opinion. Human bling is superficial, artificial, sometimes garish, and valued financially and aesthetically according to time and the dictates of fashion. Nature's adornments are eternal in their beauty, ephemeral perhaps, yet guaranteed to reappear. 
     Common Ringlet (Coenonympha tullia) is indeed common at this time of year.

     What would a grassland with scattered saplings be without a chorus of Song Sparrows (Melospiza melodia)?

     So many familiar wildflowers, so much pleasure.

Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron strigosus)

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)

     There were many, many insects and their larvae making a living among the forbs and grasses, the flowers, shrubs and ground cover, so many I could not count so high.
     Here is the larva of a Seven-spotted Lady Beetle (Coccinella septempunctata) quietly going about its business.

     A Four-lined Plant Bug (Poecilocapus lineatus) is a very handsome specimen.

     Ribwort Plantain (PLantago lanceolata) was dotted here and there.

     It has been said that familiarity breeds contempt. I can assure you that this adage is untrue of our reaction to American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis). Rarely a day goes by that we do not see this species and there are usually several in our backyard, but it never becomes any less beautiful for its ubiquity.

     We were not sure whether we had seen Giant Vetch (Vicia nigricens) before, but if so we had forgotten it.

     It is very striking.
     And so is a Golden Tortoise Beetle (Charidotella sexpunctata).

    Do you find Tufted Vetch (Vicia cracca) beautiful? 

     I do!
     Dotted Loosestrife (Lysimachia punctata) is non native, but quite beautiful. It has the ability, however, as do most invasive species, to out-compete native vegetation.

    It would be great if we did not have to deal with so many organisms that do not belong here, but I am afraid it is too late to expect that we will ever eradicate them, or in some cases even get them under control.
     Our final companion of the morning was a very handsome Black Blister Beetle (Epicauta pensylvanica).

     What a wonderful time we had, poking and probing, making exciting discoveries, calling each other over to share our finds. If you are someone who has been chafing at the bit to emerge from COVID restrictions, I encourage you to get out and search in a local field, or woodlot, along the banks of a pond, or in your own backyard. There is more to satisfy your curiosity than you ever dreamed possible.


  1. The tree has a human physiognomy!

  2. Hi David,

    Beautiful variety of both birds and plants! The photos of the butterflies are very pretty too.
    I have been out in the garden all day, and I agree with you that it's so much to look at in the nature.
    Happy weekend!

  3. It's a wonderful post, David - I can imagine your pleasure of conducting a walk for couple of teachers and a group of children,  the fun they had while learning new things about the wonderful world of nature.Your photos of birds are lovely, I like the Red-winged Blackbird - American Robin- American Goldfinche.  
    But I am not  joalous of your hot day with the air temperature around 32 degrees.

  4. That tree perfectly expresses the way I feel about heat and humidity. I am so grateful ours is gone at the moment.
    Love that learning pod - and the learning pod your blog provides. Many thanks. Many, many thanks.

  5. Got a double dose today! So much beauty.

  6. Hari OM
    thank you for all the bugs featured in today's post... although certainly not an aficianado, I am most definitely a keen amateur entymologist. Or perhaps that should just be 'fan'!!! YAM xx

    1. Insects are not easy. Think of butterflies alone, the eggs are tiny and hard to find, the caterpillars go through several instars looking different each time, then there is the chrysalis, finally the adult butterfly and males and females are dissimilar!

  7. Les libellules sont magnifiques!
    Votre jardin est très beau, on le voit rarement en grand plans. Il est très visité.
    Ces découvertes avec les enfants sont chouettes, ils sont l'avenir.
    J'aime beaucoup les fleurs de lupin.
    Bon weekend

  8. Nature has it all, beauty everywhere. It's great seeing the kids out there exploring nature and learning more about the things and creatures they see. A wonderful post, David!

  9. Such a long wait for warmth and then too quickly it is extreme!
    The insects, birds and flowers all a joy to see.

    1. I am afraid that climate extremes are becoming the norm.

  10. Lovely post David,
    I enjoyed it and I bet those kids did too. Variety of subjects which to some of us are limited. I am stuk with the foxes and anything else that strays into the garden. No doubt my day with come. Stay safe.

  11. Good evening David, Knight of Nature!
    what beautiful summer days you are enjoying, I adored seeing so much life, so many flowers, so many children playing in the green and those little birds...
    they are truly glory days.
    I feel summer is a vital festival that when it comes
    to an end it transforms into an ethereal and
    splendorous angel;
    he says goodbye to us with a kiss on his hand and
    returns us home, happier.
    Many kisses and hugs from wintry Argentina.

  12. My daughter specializes in experiential environmental education. It's a fascinating subject and a great way to learn about the world around us.
    Your bug photos are inspiring me to drag out my camera and go hunting (I usually use my phone for photos, but the camera is better for close-ups).
    Enjoy your week, my favourite peripatetic naturalist :))

  13. What a beautiful day at 32 deg, but indeed a warm one and nice drive with A/C in the vehicle.
    The Cardinal lovely as usual, the female is in herself the same.
    The children looking good too.
    Good photos.

  14. Hi David, thanks for this insight into your days. You saw so many beautiful plants, birds and insects, really fabulous. The photos of the dragonfly are breathtaking, so lovely. Great idea with the learning pod, getting kids out to investigate nature is a wonderful idea. It's extremely hot here today, not my favourite, but what to do? Have a wonderful day, your back yard looks a great place to hang out! Hugs to you both, Valerie

  15. Hello David,
    Nice series of photos of your day out, nice that the children also participate.
    I think the red cardinal and the kingfisher are fantastic because these species do not occur in the Netherlands.
    The tree with the face in it is really funny.
    I enjoyed your blog.
    I wish you a nice Sunday.
    Greetings Irma

  16. Really like that Belted Kingfisher, but also all the dragonflies, butterflies and insects.

  17. Hi David.

    I enjoyed all those beautiful birds, Insects.
    Beautiful the Butterflies and dragonfly.
    Very nice tree.
    You have a beautiful garden with many beautiful birds that come there.

    I think the shelter for the birds that your girlfriend has invented is very nice.

    Greetings from Patricia.

  18. Hi David – what a delightful selection – love the grimacing tree … a good Halloween one … your garden looks a wonderful haven. All the birds, the scenery, that lupin – aren’t they delightful … reminds me of my childhood, how interesting to see the black vetch; the snipe fly – amazing to see …

    … while that group: parents and the kids … how delightful to see them thriving and learning about nature. I can quite see why you enjoyed your day with them … wonderful to see them together …

    Hirondelusia – amazing place and project … I had a brief look at their website … the two professors deserve their recognition. Thanks for your explanation with photos …

    The Library area has a wealth of delights … the Viceroy looks so similar to a Monarch – that painted glass butterfly … the other insects … especially the Calico Pennants – amazing to see them.
    Nature does excel itself … we really just need to take time to appreciate it, and enjoy it peacefully without harming it.
    Thanks for these and your thoughts … so wonderful to see and read – enjoy more of your visits … cheers Hilary

  19. Dear David, I enjoy ALL the photos taken by yourself and Miriam on your blog, and this is a particularly good blog post too! However, I have to admit that those two of the Calico Pennants were the absolute highlight for me - thank you for the mention with link, which is very much appreciated. I don't know if it's the same over there, but female dragons in these parts are usually somewhat harder to find and photograph than their male counterparts.

    You're starting to present me with a dilemma - should I ever find myself fulfilling my wish to visit Canada, do I come in winter to see the Snowy Owls, or summer to see the dragons (as well as all the other wonderful wildlife that you have there!)?

    With love to you both - - - Richard

    1. The bed will be made and the pillow fluffed both winter and summer - even spring nf fall if you wish!

  20. Hello David,
    Wonderful outing and nature photos. There is always something to see, if we look. I love the tree face, the butterfly, insects and flowers. The Swallows have a beautiful place to nest. The Killdeers and Kingfishers are a few of my favorite birds. Have a great day and a happy new week!

  21. aww.... I thought Canada will never reach temperature around 32 degrees.... surprising for me.

    yes, kids look very happy and have a lot of fun.....

  22. Ohhhh, the joy of nature that surrounds you!! Such a perfect week. And showcased in perfection with your photos. I am really impressed with the swallow sanctuary. Thanks, as always, for taking time out to share with us and link in!!

  23. Hi David :) I had to laugh at the poor suffering tree in that humidity. We had the same weather only for a few days, but I don't mind it because I do not enjoy winters. I relish each hot day I can get! The Killdeer are beautiful! Our feeders are full of American Goldfinch, Purple Goldfinch, Grackles and Mourning Doves now along with the usual visitors! Even a few big crows! Lots of beautiful photos today, that Viceroy is stunning!

  24. Thanks for the walk and the wonderful pictures as usual. I especially like that picture of the tree.

  25. Speaking of doves, there was one doing its haunting cooing outside my window this morning. Mourning in the morning. 🎶

  26. I envy you such temperatures, 32 ° C is what I like. Summer is fast approaching and today the temperature is 15 ° C
    As always, I admire beautiful birds: goldfinch, cardinal, robin.
    I wish Miriam and you David a happy and cooler week:)

  27. I enjoy the details you see, the smallest insects and blooms. So much can be missed if we don’t take a closer look.

    1. It's true, Marie, you have to look. In the whole final segment above I doubt that we moved 30 metres in 45 minutes.

  28. Not just a potpourri but a cornucopia of abundance shown in this post David.
    I too love Miriam's very attractive photo of the Monarch butterfly.
    It is such a joy to see the youngsters enjoying themselves, you can see that they are all enthralled by what they are seeing and finding. Good for you too for sharing your time and enthusiasms with them - all of the young people have had such a difficult time during this Pandemic.

  29. so much to see and experience in your corner of the world. You saw one Lupine, that is one flower we got a lot of. :)
    And being out with the kids must have been really fun. And the Hirondelusia, Barn Swallow habitat musat have been a wonderful visit. Loved that one!

  30. Buenos días amigo David, un precioso reportaje con un poco de todo y bella naturaleza.
    Me encanta la estructura para la golondrina común. El patio de tu casa también está muy bello con esos comederos que reciben la visita de todos esos bellos pájaros amigos.
    Ya vamos mejorando con el tema de la maldita pandemia, esperemos salir de esta y que no haya un repunte nuevamente, debemos ir con mucha cautela y sobre todo seguir utilizando las mascarillas. ¡Cuidaros mucho!
    Un fuerte abrazo amigo y tocayo David.

  31. It's always good to see children out enjoying nature, definitely time well spent! We spent almost 40 minutes exploring a roadside verge yesterday spotting so many different things like your moths, dragonflies and caterpillars - it pays to look down as well as up!

  32. Fantantica y didactica David. No solo para los niños,también para nsotros. Aquí siempre apredemos especies nuevas. Generosa y amplía naturaleza nos muestras. Es cierto que el árbol tiene cara de sufrir. Gracias
    Buen Lunes. Cuidaros
    Un abrazo.

  33. Thank you for showing many interesting species of birds and insects!
    Your backyard is really beautiful!

  34. These are really spectacular photos, David and Miriam. And it looks like you've had some good sightings. It's so nice to be able to get to a water spot when it is so hot (it's been a bear here, too). And I love seeing the children getting up close and personal with nature. What a gift they are getting and they won't realize for many moons. Finally, your back yard is really lovely. Not a bad spot to quarantine!

  35. hello David
    a very good idea to show and explain nature to the kids, maybe these young people will become first-class nature guides and they will tell you about your excursion, that would be great
    Greetings Frank

  36. I think all your wonderful photographs should turn the face on that tree into a smile and not the grimace :)

    It is so lovely to see the children out and about enjoying and discovering the wonderful world that is out there!

    Lovely post, thank you.

    All the best Jan

  37. A large clump of those yellow flowers suddenly appeared in my back garden (previous house) so now after reading your blog I know it was Dotted Loosestrife. And I had a lovely male American Goldfinch sit on my plant hanger thingy right in front of me, and preen all his feathers for me, he looked such a handsome chap!

  38. Una felicidad ver tantas flores, insectos y aves, me encanta salir a fotografiar la naturaleza. Tus fotografías están preciosas. Abrazos.

  39. The water must feel so good to the birds when it's hot. My face probably looked the same as the tree's when we had a huge thunderstorm yesterday.


  40. Loved all the flowers and birds and how diverse they are. M
    Kids, really had a lot fun in learning with you and their teachers. Coming to your blog is always heartening for me, like I'm coming to animal behaviour or EVS class. It's so much fun.

    Red Angry Bird or Northern Cardinal is really something to watch out for. That hard beak looks sturdy, may be capable of nasty bites.

  41. I have loved this pot pourri of birds, flowers and insects, this walk in contact with the nearby nature and I think the same as you, friend David, that now that we are beginning little by little to return to normality we keep in mind those close elements that surround us and that fill us with joy.
    A thousand kisses and hugs.

  42. I loved the photo of the American goldfinch, David. Male and female are beautiful, slightly different from ours. Our goldfinches have red breasts. It is also interesting to look at moths and caterpillars. This summer I have a lot of aphids and caterpillars in my garden. I spray them with herbal infusion so that the trees and bushes survive.

  43. Hi David,
    Once again you found a pleasant way to cope with the heat and have a good time in nature. The reward is a large variety of interesting and beautiful species. To accompany kids during their search for animals is always a pleasure. Curiosity is never far away.
    Greetings, Kees

  44. The Belted Kingfisher is my fav. Such a variety... they´re all beautiful!

  45. Goodness, what a variety of sights in just a few days! We also have a plethora of little beggars in the backyard right now. They sit right on the feeders and beg to be fed. Then when the parent flies away, they help themselves! As soon as the parent returns — well ditto.

  46. Ooooh you had some hot days - I hope the temperature is more human now.
    I notice that your birds are more colorful than here - bright red, bright yellow... beautiful. And that goes for many of the insects too.

  47. As always when I manage to find a coffee moment to read and enjoy your posts that is exactly what I have done. Of course so many of your birds and insects are quite literally foreign to me so it's a combination of a shame (that I will never see them) and an education (that I can see a picture and read something about them). Interestingly you mention never tiring of some birds in your yard. For me out common house sparrow is by far the most common bird that I see in the garden at the moment in that it nests in and around my house. Despite their drabness and being unloved by some I really enjoy their antics and sometimes I get some with their own very distinctive markings and/or personalities.

    One of your native birds that I do recall seeing a lot of in Sarnia was the Common Grackle. It was not the most loved of birds I seem to recall.

    I have Common Loosetrife in my garden and have managed to keep it under control and it does give a lovely display each year.

  48. You are blessed with so many natural spaces near by and as always the photos are a joy. I'm learning a lot about North American wildlife - especially interesting since my niece has recently moved to Ontario although much further north than you are.

  49. Hi David.
    Fantastic show of pictures. Stunning birds! All beautifully captured!! Not only the birds but also beautiful flowers and amazing butterflies and dragonflies!
    Great to hear that you go out with the children! Good to encourage them. They will learn a lot from such a teacher ;-) Nice to see the big house for the Barn Swallows.
    I enjoyed this post!
    Happy weekend ahead and Hugs and kisses,

  50. David - you and Miriam epitomize the idea that flora and fauna is only as far as the end of your nose! The difference is your talent with prose and photography! Your garden is an oasis indeed, and I was delighted to see you have a lupine! The Viceroy photos are special. I saw several Song Sparrows this morning as I was kayaking ... they were singing to beat the band!

  51. Hi David,
    Thank you for sharing all these wonderful photos that take us through the amazing and wonderful world of nature. I loved all the photos, but if I had to choose between them, it would be the Dragonflies, fantastic shots.
    Have a great weekend

  52. Homo ignoramus disgusticus is everywhere and a species I long to see become extinct.
    Thank you and Miriam for sharing much, much more interesting and beautiful species.