Saturday, 31 July 2021

Laurel Creek, again - and more - and Lily

 21 July 2021

Laurel Creek Conservation Area, Waterloo, ON

     We are taking full advantage of the annual pass we bought to permit entry to all the conservation areas administered by the Grand River Conservation Area, and at the same time indulging our passion for nature. To no one's surprise, especially not mine, Miriam is proving to be a proficient and persistent macro photographer.
     As indicated when telling of our last foray into Laurel Creek C.A., Northern Leopard Frogs (Lithobates pipiens) give every indication of a very successful year.

     I am using not even the slightest hyperbole when I say that they were everywhere we walked, hopping out of our way as we moved, frequently heading for the nearest patch of water.

     At a given moment there were hundreds in view.

     So often, of late, there has been a litany of despair associated with wildlife populations, so it is encouraging to be able to report success of this magnitude.

     There follows a picture of a Slender Spreadwing (Lestes rectangularis), albeit not of exceptional quality.

     Field Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) does not move and is somewhat easier to photograph!

     Paper Wasps (Polistes spp.) are the insects we love to hate, yet they generally do not threaten us unless their nest is under siege.
     Dark Paper Wasp (Polistes fuscatus) is a distinctly marked species, and Miriam approached this individual at close range to get her pictures.

     Neither Miriam nor the wasp felt at risk from the other, and both went about their business undisturbed. 

     Common Red Soldier Beetles (Rhagonycha fulva) were not shy about showing the world what they do best!

     Unlike the paper wasp above, this Widow Yellowjacket (Vespula vidua) is more aggressive and at times stings without apparent provocation.

     Miriam was a little more circumspect in her approach to it.
     Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) are not stingy when it comes to providing fertilizer for all who wish to collect it, often on the soles of your shoes unfortunately!

     Viewed from below they are a handsome vanguard.

     Some species of dragonfly never seem to land, but Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa) has no such reluctance.

     This Acadian Hairstreak (Satyrium acadica) was equally cooperative. 

     Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) have been seen more frequently of late. This one is perhaps dusted with pollen.

     A Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) found a convenient perch on a memorial bench.....

     .....from where it trilled its lovely song.

     American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) is a very handsome bird.

     This species is a late breeder, but the onset of nesting is about to begin.

     Here is a Carrot Seed Moth (Sitochroa palealis) viewed from every angle.

     Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice) is abundant.

     Butterflies are an important component of the diet of Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus).

Questions posed by Elaine

     A regular reader of my blog, Elaine, has posed a variety of question regarding birds and their biology and lifestyle and I will start to answer them, two or three at a time in this and subsequent posts.

Q. Do some birds only have one brood per year?
A. Most species at our latitude are single-brooded, especially neotropical migrants like wood warblers, thrushes, flycatchers, hummingbirds etc who are present here for three to four months on average, and do not have sufficient time to raise a second brood. Large birds such as raptors with long incubation periods and prolonged nestling care have only one brood.

Q. Which factors influence how many broods birds have per year?
A. Food availability is generally the most significant factor. In times of abundance more second broods are initiated, but not by the entire population of a species. In a well-studied Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) colony, for example, around thirty pairs had successful first nests, a dozen or so laid second clutches. Second broods have higher failure rates across a range of species.

Q. If a bird's nest, eggs or babies are destroyed, what's the impact on their nesting behaviour.
A. If the event occurs early most species will renest. However, if it is late in the cycle, just before nestlings are about to fledge for example, no attempt will be made to renest and the year's breeding attempt will be lost.

22 July 2021
Hillside Park, Waterloo, ON with Heather and Lily

     Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata) may be found from April through October, but July and August are the peak flight months here in southwestern Ontario.

Ebony Jewelwing ♂

     They were abundant at Hillside Park.

Ebony Jewelwing ♀

     We have always had great success finding Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus) at this location and today we came upon evidence of a successful breeding season.

     We were happy to notice this recently fledged Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) too.

     Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice) was the most common butterfly encountered.

     Lily was of course the star of the show, and here she is being very good in her stroller as her mom looks off at something that caught her eye.

     Lily is not always happy to be in the confines of her stroller any more, but today for the most part she was a model of good behaviour.

     A hearty breakfast helped to keep her occupied.

     Green Immigrant Leaf Weevil (Polydrusus formosus) is another invasive pest in the army of species that has arrived here in shipments of fruit or by other means.

     It feeds on the leaves and blossoms of many woodland trees, but is also a threat to fruit trees and orchards.
     Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) as its very name implies is also invasive, and is an aggressive colonizer, supplanting native species.

     It produces copious nectar and is well serviced by bees.
     All too soon it was time to bid goodbye to Heather and Lily.

     Securely strapped into her car seat, Lily smiled goodbye to us. 

     See you next week!

26 July 2021
SpruceHaven, St. Agatha, ON

     Sanctuary Field is well on its way to becoming the grassland we are all hoping for.

     In places Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) is forming a carpet of gold.

     The pond in front of the house is abuzz with activity and I was happy to spot this female Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) resting on the broad leaf of a water lily.

     Better be careful not to become a snack for a watchful Green Frog (Lithobates clamitans).

     Some are partly hidden, just lying in wait for unsuspecting prey.

     The Staghorn Sumach (Rhus typhina) are beginning to send us a message that summer is running away on us and fall is not so far ahead. 

     Their ostentatious and extravagant fruit clusters will soon pale by comparison with their fiery autumn foliage.
      Something to look forward to.

Thursday, 29 July 2021

Sharks of the World - Princeton University Press


     There may be no word in the English language that is more likely to invoke wonder or fear, or a combination of the two, than "shark". Much of the reaction to sharks, verging at times on hysteria, has been fuelled by the film "Jaws", and subsequent spinoffs, and sensationalized and lurid accounts of monsters that not only are the stuff of nightmares, but flirt with truth and skirt the very edges of reality.
     This is the book to set you straight!
     The text points out: "Many tens of millions of  people use the sea for work or recreation, but there are only about 100 shark bite incidents reported globally each year................Although the risk of serious injury from sharks is incredibly small, and the fear produced may seem to be completely out of proportion to this risk.......not least because the likelihood of them occurring at all is so slim."
      Logic be damned, however! 
      You are considerably more susceptible to injury or death driving to the beach, than you are from sharks when you arrive there and go for a swim; but no one thinks twice about getting into a car.
     I have the impression, and the hope, that this book will help to alleviate the fear of sharks and put the emphasis on wonder. 
     The first ninety-three pages are dedicated to an examination of how sharks came about in the evolution of fishes, followed by an examination of their biology. Twenty pages are devoted to "Sharks and People" and a key to the orders and families of living sharks.
     There follows a detailed examination of all the known species of sharks found throughout the world.
     These accounts are replete with colour photographs and illustrations, line drawings, charts, diagrams, and maps. The status (IUCN Red List) is provided for each species and it is disheartening to see the number of species that are are threatened, or in some cases in serious danger of imminent extinction. The savage, unsustainable practice of capturing sharks only for their fins, must be stopped. This very activity is a clear indication that as humans we have not advanced as far as we might give ourselves credit for. Morality apart, it is sheer madness to exploit a resource until it no longer exists.
     A first rate glossary follows the species accounts, with four other appendices titled "Oceans and Seas", "Field Observations", "Fin Identification", and "Tooth Identification".
     An intensive bibliography provides links to further reading.
     I remember vividly seeing my first sharks, basking in warm tropical waters. They were probably Tiger Sharks, although at the time I did not have the skill to identify them. They seemed to be the very antithesis of dangerous, mindless killers; they appeared quite gentle in fact.  We had no desire to interfere with them in any way, neither for profit nor out of fear, not as food nor to hang a shark tooth on a thong around our neck. 
     It is my fervent hope that we will cease our reckless, destructive assaults on these vital inhabitants of intact and healthy oceans.  In the process maybe we can stop loading the seas with plastics and other pollutants too.
     We owe it to ourselves to take action, but more especially, it is a legacy of clean oceans with robust populations of all its creatures that we should wish to bequeath to those who come after us.
     This book will help you to support shark conservation and steer a clear path away from the unsustainable, ecosystem-damaging and morally bankrupt practices that continue right up to this day.
     Make sure you let your elected officials know how you feel.

Sharks of the World - Princeton University Press
Authors: David A. Ebert, Marc Dando and Sarah Fowler
US$49.95 - £40.00  -  ISBN 9780691205991
Published - USA 20 July 2021
                 UK 22 June 2021
608 pages - 2,000+ coloured illustrations, photographs, maps and charts
8.5 x 9 in. (21.25 x 22.5 cm)

Sunday, 25 July 2021

Birds, Beasts, Bugs and Blooms

17 July 2021
Near Wallenstein, ON

     There was a time not so many years ago when Bricker School Line, a rural road, was home to several pairs of Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis), but a couple of years ago a farmer upgraded his fences, removing the bluebird houses in the process, and even though they were eventually replaced the bluebirds have not been seen since.
     Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus) is quite common though.

     Miriam and I have remarked several times that despite suitable habitat we had never seen an Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna) in that vicinity. You will understand our delight, therefore, when we spotted this individual far down a fence line.

     It was beyond what one might reasonably conclude was within camera range, so Miriam obtained exceptionally clear shots it seems to me under less than ideal conditions.

18 July 2021
Our home, Waterloo, ON

     The St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is doing exceptionally well this year.

     A little detective work by Miriam revealed the den from which the baby rabbits emerged, concealed in a dense patch of Periwinkle (Genus Vinca).

     I hope they are doing well in their quest for independence.

West Perth Wetland, Mitchell, ON

     We were on the way to Bayfield, on the shore of Lake Huron, for our first visit to Erin and her family since the start of COVID, and stopped off at the West Perth Wetland for a very brief visit.
     Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) have evidently had a good year and these young males are acquiring their finery (mother is off to the right).

     Japanese Beetle (Popillia japonica) is a very attractive insect, but a serious pest to a wide range of trees and shrubs.

     The adult form is capable of skeletonizing foliage and subterranean larvae feed on the roots of grasses.

20 July 2021
Our backyard, Waterloo, ON

     From time to time we have seen a Raccoon (Procyon lotor) in our backyard, but never a family of three which is what greeted us when we glanced out the family room window.

     One has to give them credit for being fully compliant with COVID regulations. They were all masked and maintained adequate social distance most of the time.

     It is an attractive animal, but it can inflict serious damage in a garden, and has mastered the art of opening even the most secure garbage can.

     It was interesting to observe them for several minutes but we were not sorry to see them move on.

20 July 2021
Laurel Creek Conservation Area, Waterloo, ON

     It was mid afternoon on a beautiful day, sunny, with the temperature in the mid-twenties, and a stroll at Laurel Creek seemed just what Mother Nature ordered.

     A couple of Eastern Kingbirds were busily engaged catching insects, and this one appears to have captured something quite formidable - exactly what, however, I am not sure.

     Common Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris) is a very attractive plant, believed by some taxonomists to be both native and introduced.

     Various medicinal properties are ascribed to this plant; based on what I have been able to discover, however, few of the claims have been scientifically proven.
     Evidently Sweat Bees (Halictidae) find the flowers attractive.

     It appears that Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens) has had a very successful breeding season, and little froglets were constantly erupting from beneath our feet.

     Carrot Seed Moth (Sitochroa palealis) is quite common in late July.

     The Seven-spot Lady Beetle (Coccinella septempunctata) was introduced into North America from Europe, and has become the most widespread species in Ontario.

     It is generally welcomed by gardeners and horticulturalists due to its preference for feeding on aphids.
     Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella) is a large, striking dragonfly that, pleasingly, alights quite frequently.

     Wild Indigo Duskywing (Erynnis baptisiae) is one of the Hesperiidae that can be difficult to identify, and the period of abundance is a helpful clue.

     As has been mentioned in other posts, Bluets (Coenagrionidae) can be extremely difficult to identify as to species, so I felt a special sense of satisfaction in correctly identifying the following individual as a Tule Bluet (Enallagma carunculatum).

     Red Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus) on the other hand is unlikely to be confused with anything else.

     Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum) is our latest flying dragonfly and may be seen in October; sometimes even in November.

     I know that Richard Pegler is quite taken with Calico Pennant (Celithemis elisa) so he will doubtless enjoy the following image.

     Perhaps he will equally enjoy a White-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum obtrusum).

     Common Red Soldier Beetles (Rhagonycha fulva) exhibit a preference for Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota) where they seem to spend most of their time in homage to Aphrodite as they engage in an endless round of sex!

     Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) is much favoured by many insects.

     It was quite a meadowhawk day; here is our third species, Cherry-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum internum) female.

     Bees are not always easy to identify, but it is fun to take a picture and then embark on the research needed to clinch the ID, in the process learning a little about the lifestyle of the species.
     This is a Ligated Furrow Bee (Halictus ligatus).

     Marsh Snipe Fly (Rhagio tringarius) is a formidable predator of earthworms and small beetles.

     Groundselbush Beetle Trirhabda baxharidis) is an attractive species, a type of leaf beetle, but other than that I have been unable to uncover further information.

     Lest anyone think that I have moved over into the dark side, rest assured that the title of my blog, "Travels With Birds" is still valid - but who can resist these other joys of nature while the birds are busy with their young. Be patient, fall migration will be beginning soon!

Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge that the land on which we are situated are the lands traditionally used by the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, and Neutral People. We also acknowledge the enduring presence and deep traditional knowledge, laws, and philosophies of the Indigenous Peoples with whom we share this land today. We are all treaty people with a responsibility to honour all our relations.