Monday, September 18, 2023

Benjamin Park, Waterloo, and the Health Valley Trail, St. Jacobs

What is all intercourse with nature if by the analytic method we merely occupy ourselves with individual material parts, and do not feel the breath of the spirit, which prescribes every part its direction, and orders, or sanctions, every deviation, by means of an inherent law?

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

17 August, 2023
Benjamin Park, Waterloo, ON
     This park is right behind our house, so is always convenient for a walk if we are pressed for time or don't wish to drive.

     A very handsome Eastern Yellowjacket (Vespula maculifrons) seemed to beg for a portrait.

     Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) is an exquisite little flower.

     A Common Aerial Yellowjacket (Dolichovespula arenaria) was foraging on goldenrod (genus Solidago), a magnet for so many species.

     The family Dolichopodidae, (Long-legged Flies) contains a huge number of species in many genera. It is very difficult to narrow identification down to species, but the following attractive individual is in the genus Condostylus.

     The path meandered onwards.

     A Bumble Bee (genus Bombus) was busily foraging.

     A Western Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) was no less occupied.

     A Brown-lipped Snail (Cepaea nemoralis) went about its business undisturbed by us.

     Small White (Pieris rapae), formerly known as Cabbage White,  is one of our most common butterflies.

     The nymph of the Green Stink Bug (Chinavia hilaris)is a very attractive little creature.

     Perennial Sow Thistle (Sonchus arvensis) is proliflic; considered noxious and invasive by some, but the flower is undeniably beautiful.

     Its windborne seeds, often referred to as fluff, are widely dispersed facilitating the spread of the plant.

     The curiously named Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana) is a delight to the eye.

     A female Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) appears to have been the victim of a massive infestation of feather mites and its head was totally denuded.

     Hopefully it will recover without permanent harm.

19 August, 2023
Health Valley Trail, St. Jacobs, ON

     The Health Valley Trail runs from Waterloo to St. Jacobs, and we approach it from both ends, going half way before retracing our footsteps. This time we started in St. Jacobs.

     It was not long before we saw our first Two-banded Petrophila (Petrophila bifascialis), common, but exceedingly handsome.

     A European Greenbottle Fly (Lucilia sericata) is exceptionally colourful when viewed in good light.

     Spreading Dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium) is a pleasing addition to any late summer walk.

     The Grand River is never far from view; always lovely.

     If there is one creature that can cause Miriam to hiss, spit and curse it is Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) - but only when it ravages her garden. On the trail it is an appealing addition to our walk.

     Common Aerial Yellowjacket (Dolichovespula arenaria) is best left undisturbed to go about its business.

     An Eastern Calligrapher (Toxomerus germinatus) was perched quite whimsically at the end of a leaf.

     It's always a pleasure to find a new species and then doing the research to establish its identity. So it was with the Drury's Long-horned Bee (Mellisodes druriellus).

     I am fortunate to have a great library at my disposal and I use all the references in combination to clinch the ID (and sometimes even then it's not possible). I check the internet too but always as a backup and not as the primary source. The information there is not always accurate and pictures are quite often misidentified.
     Powdered Dancer (Argia moesta) is like an old friend you never tire of seeing.

     Eastern Yellowjacket (Vespula maculifrons) is quite common here, yet it is designated in The Social Wasps of North America (2022), Chris Alice Kratzer's fabulous book that has become my 'bible' for social wasps, as "critically understudied." 

     Seems like an excellent opportunity for a thesis for some budding young entomologist.
     Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) were adept at flycatching, and there was no lack of aerial insects for them to hone their skill.

     Rock Doves (Columbia livia) favour human structures and this individual was perched on the underside of a railway bridge.

     A Box Elder (Acer negundo) was loaded with seeds.

     I don't expect you to be able to identify the bird below as a Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus) but the picture gives you an idea how difficult it sometimes is to get a good look at a small songbird when the foliage is dense.

     A Cape May Warbler (Setophaga tigrina), in the same tree, was a little more cooperative.

     I always look forward to the emergence of New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), and it appears that a Ligated Furrow Bee (Halictus ligatus) was equally enamoured.

     Common Ringlet (Coenonympha california) is one more species that takes full advantage of goldenrod (Solidago spp.).

     A Red-legged Grasshopper (Melanoplus femurrubrum) is really quite splendid and it posed nicely for a picture.

     Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens), on the other hand, does its best to remain concealed.

     Eastern Forktail (Ischnura verticalis) was numerous and this one even stopped briefly in camera range.

     A couple of American Goldfinches (Spinus tristis) seemed happy atop a tree.....

     ..... overlooking the Grand River.

     This is a fine example of Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor), I think you'll agree.

     We often see apple trees (genus Malus) and I am never quite sure whether they are wild or a domestic strain that somehow was seeded along a trail, perhaps by an action as innocent as throwing away an apple core.

     We were mere steps from the car when a cheery American Robin (Turdus migratorius) popped up, as though to bid us goodbye, with a firm invitation to return.

     If ever you're in the neighbourhood you might want to accompany us on one of our walks. I think you'd enjoy it and I know the robin would be happy to see you.
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. If ever I was in the neighbourhood I would be delighted to come walking with you - though you would have to moderate your pace. Not least because I would be flabberghasted and delighted at the variety on your doorstep.
    And I totally understand Miriam hissing and spitting at bunnies in her garden.

  2. Hari OM
    Simply glorious, yet again! YAM xx

  3. As always, you show beautiful insects and flowers, birds and frogs. It must be nice to have a hiking area like that close by, David.
    Hugs and kisses, Marit

    1. There are many, and yes, it is wonderful, Marit. Hugs and kisses - David

  4. Hi David.

    You show beautiful flowers and insects.
    Very beautiful Butterflies.
    I think that green stink bug is quite beautiful.
    Beautiful Cardinal
    And fantastic Robin.

    Greetings from Patricia.

  5. As someone else has mentioned, it is the variety and diversity that amazes me each time. However, I do know I could not tell one variety of wasp from another...I'd be running in the other direction.
    My next door neighbours dislike the rabbit that seems to live in the neighbourhood. There were three earlier this year, but sadly only the one remains. however the cross the street neighbour leaves out a container of water and I often see it relaxing on the open lawn.

  6. It’s nice to see so many pollinators. I am feel sorry for that lady cardinal. You photographed her on a bad hair day.

  7. It's great to have a "local patch" like that which you can visit without the need to drive. I've never heard of an Obedient Plant before, though I've grown many disobedient ones over the years.

    1. John, I used to have Obedient plant in my flowerbeds, although I often thought it was disobedient by the way it spread! I would like tobgetbit again though.

    2. I think we are all familiar with disobedient plants. There are several varieties in our garden right now!

  8. ...two years ago we had Yellowjackets in our house, I'm glad not to be seeing them this year.

  9. Plucks my heartstrings looking at that sweet little cardinal. poor baby, excellent photo. fingers crossed it will be ok. your insects are awesome in detail. beautiful bottle fly and i do despise them, the yellow on the yellow flower, wow.. none of my plants are obedient. ha ha.. wish that trail was behind my house. we have lots of beautiful trails but not walking distance. I must drive 20 to 30 minute to get to each one, just different directions.

  10. Your walks are always exciting, as one never knows what you will find. Fantastic Turkey Tail sighting.

  11. Lots of interesting things to see. Bugs are awesome

  12. What great photos David.
    It's great to have a park like this close to you.
    Very annoying for the female Northern Cardinal, that bald head, I hope the problem will be solved.
    I think the Northern Leopard Frog is very beautiful.
    I enjoyed your photos.
    Greetings Irma

  13. Your eye and your camera are both amazing! I never have looked at insects so closely before reading your blog. A whole other world.

  14. I love that you and Miriam seek out the tiniest of Nature's wonders to photograph and what beautiful photographs they are! Thank you for taking us on this walk and I hope to see those goldfinches and waxwings in my yard a little later in the year. Typically in late December.

  15. I would dearly love to come on a walk with you, David, on your home turf. Instead I shall content myself with your delightful accounts of your walks and imagine that I am with you.

    Spreading Dogbane sounds like something unpleasant one finds on the bottom of one's shoe - not the beautiful flower that you show here.

    That Leopard Frog is fabulous!

    My best wishes to you and Miriam - please thank her from me for her contribution to this post - - - - Richard

    1. I passed on your comment and she is smiling contentedly as we speak - or perhaps that ‘s because I made lunch for her!

  16. Beautiful images again. The close-ups of the insects are spectacular especially the yellow jackets.

  17. You had another fabulous walk, and I always admire the complicated names that roll from your tongue - or pen - so easily. A lot of the plants - and some of the insects are common here, but your birds are very different. Have a great week David, thanks for sharing, hugs, Valerie xxxxx

  18. Es un placer recorrerlo, por la gran belleza que hay en él.
    Que tengas una buena semana.

  19. How great to have a park as the backyard :-)) Poor female Northern Cardinal..I hope that she will recover soon.

  20. I would dearly love to come for a walk with you both but I cannot see it happening but I always say, never say never. What a fabulous walk to have so close to the house, I am very wary at present and I keep mainly to the roads in the French hunting season!!!!!
    I love that leopard frog it is beautiful.
    Keep well and very best wishes to you both, Bisous Diane.

  21. Beautiful images. I am happy that there are many person like you and the readers of your blog who love the nature and the animals. Yesterday I got very angry listening at the restaurant 4 "heroic" hunters who talked about their "great actions" against innocent creatures.

  22. You always make your walks such an interesting adventure! :)

  23. How nice to have a trail near the house. I would love something nearby because sometimes you don't feel like driving. And you saw lots of Hymenoptera. They're all out trying to find whatever they can find, especially those who have hives (wild or domesticated) to keep through the winter. And that poor cardinal. It sounds like you've had some lovely outdoor time. I hope it continues so you have lots of lovely fall walks. hugs-Erika

  24. I doubt I found the red eyed vireo, but I sure did look.

  25. Buenas noches, que tal chicos! with these detailed descriptions i already feel as if i were there too, walking and enjoying the ride in the beautiful and serene park.
    Good start to the week, dear friends! ⋆🌷˖⋆🌷

  26. hello David
    I would never have discovered the roach vireo, I only recognized it when I looked closer... you have a practiced eye for it. A little experience of mine; On vacation in the Netherlands I felt the same way, long-eared owls in a tree, I was wondering what people were taking photos of.. until I looked through the viewfinder of another photographer.. everyone had to laugh, it was also very funny.
    Greetings Frank

  27. Lovely to see all these creatures and most just behind your home, now that's ideal for you and Miriam for you can both see the changing of the season and what creatures it brings.

  28. Hello David, :=) I am now up to visiting a few followers a day, and shall continue until I have thanked everyone who made caring comments on my last two posts. Thank you!:=) Some of your comments have me in stitches!! :=)

    Your post as always has the most beautiful diverse wild flowers, and creatures that I have never seen before. The Two- banded Petroplula moth is quite beautiful, and the attractive Green Stink bug nymph looks like it has a delightful design of a bow or an insect on it's back Insects of all kinds are fascinating creatures I love the photo of the Powdered Dancer, what a beautiful name, and the Handsome Northern Leopard Frog, and also the view overlooking the Grand River is stunning A big thank you to you both for sharing so much beauty.
    Hugs and xxx

  29. I love how you find such fascinating insects everywhere you go. Here, Rick sees them before I do, but we both quite enjoy observing them. We don’t have a great deal of luck photographing them though.

  30. One of those yellow jackets got me a few weeks ago! I much prefer the honey bee over them. At least the honeybee does not want to sting you. But of all your photos, I like the Cedar Waxwing the best. The seem so ordinary and plain when you first look at them, but they are truly beautiful.

  31. I'm beginning to feel upstaged. How good are you at pronouncing the Latin? I took it for a couple of years when I was very young. Great! No new idioms to be learnt. No arguments about meaning. More like a jigsaw puzzle than a language, all the pieces fitting neatly together. Quite the reverse of French ("Messieurs, you have now spent six months learning the rules of grammar and syntax. Now you will spend the rest of your life learning the exceptions to those rules.")

    1. I took Latin for five years, and at one point, believe it or not, I could read Virgil as one reads a novel, a little slower to be sure, but proficiently. I couldn’t do that now, but my love of Latin has remained, I am pretty sure my pronunciation is correct, and I have a passion for etymology. Et bien sûr, je parle et j’écris en français. Nous sommes après tout un pays bilingue.

  32. If there are rabbits, there are no hunters.

  33. I saw a nymph of a green stink bug yesterday and didn't know what it was..ˇThanks..pretty little thing..Today I saw a not so pretty stink bug..lucky me!
    It is pretty common to see a Cardinal in that condition around here..Usually a couple every year..I see them in my birdbath and at my feeders..They seem OK just look bad..It also happens to Blue Jays..Molting?? twice a year.."cause unknown"..

  34. So lovely that you have a park right behind your house ...
    We are fortunate to live close by a lake, so don't have far to go for some very nice walks.

    Many thanks for sharing a wonderful array of photographs, and so nice to see a Robin :)

    Keep on enjoying your walks.

    All the best Jan

  35. A wonderful post as always. You live in a very good area.

  36. Wonderful pictures! I suspect I will see less flowers and insects when I visit! But maybe a bit more snow! (Flights finally organised! Will send details) SM

    1. There should be some nice winter birds to show you too.

  37. Gracias por tan precioso paseo, todo me gusta. Besoa.

  38. Ah yes, watching nature and particularly birds with you David is an experience to be savoured.
    Waxwings are a dream for me, like so many others.
    See you soon

  39. End of season blooms always seem so welcome and delightful because we know those times of flowers -- wild or otherwise -- are growing short . Of course your birds and bugs always delight.

  40. You should publish a book with these pictures!!.......Abrazotes, Marcela

  41. It's wonderful that you and Miriam always manage to discover a wide assortment of insect and bird life on your excursions.

    1. It's really just a question of keeping our eyes open.


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.