Great Egret

Great Egret

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Back Yard Wildlife

I usually do at least a couple of 'Back Yard Wildlife' posts each year, but this is my first for 2018. That doesn't mean there hasn't been any action....far from it! However the earlier season heat and drought didn't help, nor did the fact that I was away for several weeks. So I've got some catching up to do.

A few weeks ago I noticed a raptor feeding on something. Turns out a Red-tailed Hawk had picked off one of the neighbourhood Eastern Grey Squirrels!

The hawk eventually flew off....apparently it did not appreciate some of the extra attention, especially since some neighbourhood kids were watching it from a bit of distance but closing in on it due to their curiosity. It flew off with part of the carcass and this was all that was left where it had been.
A surprise nesting species was a Mallard, with a nest under a small shrubby tree in the front yard.  It didn't even leave the nest when the mower was within about a metre of it, although it kept an eye on it. It was getting close to hatching, I think, but the eggs were predated by something....a skunk perhaps, although we seldom see or smell skunk in our neighbourhood.

On the smaller scale of wildlife in the yard, it has been quite diverse. There have been a few butterflies, but not many except for Monarchs.
 There has been at least two males in the yard for several weeks, and a few females have been passing through. We have not seen many caterpillars, but it isn't for lack of trying. There have been lots of eggs laid, but perhaps the heat and drought earlier in the season took its toll. The eggs are so tiny, barely one millimetre in diameter.

Red Admiral
 This Question Mark was investigating my tomato plants.
 Clearly one or more Black Swallowtail butterflies had been in the area, although I didn't see them. But we've found at least 5 larvae on different plants. Note in this next photo the old skin which this caterpillar has just crawled out of.

A lot of the plants in our yard and in our pollinator patch nearby are tallgrass prairie types, so they are able to withstand the heat and drought better than others. And the pollinators, which come in all shapes, colours and sizes, have loved it!
Metallic Green Bee (Agapostemon sp)
Ailanthus Webworm
A Braconid type of wasp (Macrocentrus sp)
Cicada Killer (Sphex speciosus)
A Stink Bug (Euschistus variolarius)
 This next one is a Feather-legged Fly. It is named because of the feathery material on its lower hind leg. It is sort of visible in the photo.
Trichopoda sp
 This next one is an ultra tiny fly, being only about 2mm in length. I am not sure what kind it is. It may be a male mosquito, although the size and wings don't look right. I have posted it on BugGuide, but no one there has responded to it yet.

Thread-waisted Wasp (Isodontia sp)
Green Bottle Fly (Lucillia sericata)
Wasp (Monrobia quadridens)
 This next one is huge, with a body length of at least 30 mm. It mimics a wasp in both appearance and behaviour, but it is a fly!
Mydas Fly (Mydas clavatus)
Paper Wasp (Polistes sp)
 This next one is a large wasp, the Great Black Wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus). It isn't as large and bulky as the Mydas Fly, but is about 25-30 mm long.

Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle (Labidomera clivicollis)
A Syrphid Fly (Syrphus torvus)
A Tachinid Fly (Dexiini sp)
Two-spotted Longhorn (Melissodes maculatus)
 There are other critters that aren't pollinators but have other roles. This next photo is of an Ambush Bug, lying in wait for a tasty insect to come within reach.
 Next is a day flying moth, the Chickweed Geometer (Haematopis grataria). The adults don't feed, but the larvae do, on Chickweed.
 I'm not sure what this next one is. It is a tiny nymph of some kind, but again, I've posted it on BugGuide without any results yet.
 The Red-banded Leafhoppers are always fun to find. They are so colourful and most easily seen on milkweed leaves, but occur on other plants as well.

There is always a lot to see, especially when you have a healthy pollinator garden!

Monday, 6 August 2018

Around a big lake

To a southern Ontario resident, the most interesting part of our western trip was out through the prairie provinces. Nonetheless, the northwestern part of Ontario is intriguing as well, especially to someone who lives in the extreme flatlands of the southwest.

We didn't spend much time stopping and exploring, but due to the distance did spend a lot of time travelling through! Add to the fact that because of some tire troubles we spent more time than expected.

The north shore of Lake Superior is rugged. It is not surprising that parts of it were of great interest to the Group of Seven artists of a few decades ago.

At a few brief stops along the way I noted some butterflies.
Tawny-edged Skipper
 White Admirals were widely scattered. We don't get them in the southwest, as they are 'replaced' by Red-spotted Purple.
 There were lots of fritillaries, especially Atlantis, as shown next.

Fireweed was a common sight. It is most plentiful in areas of disturbance, including after forest fires. With the numerous fires taking place in various parts of Ontario right now, there should be no shortage of habitat for them in the next few years!

We ended up spending a weekend at Terrace Bay, about a third of the way between Thunder Bay and Sault Ste. Marie, due to some tire issues and the fact that nothing was going to be open until the following Monday. So we made the best of it, checking out the well-known beach area. Those are the Slate Islands in the distance, which are believed to have formed as the result of a meteorite strike a very long time ago. It is now a day use provincial park, with no access except by boat. Lake Superior doesn't always look this docile.

In the town of Terrace Bay is a lighthouse replica of the one that is on the Slate Islands.

 It is open to visitors who want to climb up and see the lake. It is a nice view when it isn't foggy. This next photo shows the view of the lake from the top, with the Slate Islands off in the distance.

The Aquasabon River empties into Lake Superior near the beach. Just a short distance upstream is this accessible gorge and waterfall.
 This next photo shows where it empties into the lake.
Birds weren't terribly plentiful while we were there. I did see a few right outside our motel, including Chipping Sparrow.....
fledgling Chippie
....and a pair of Eastern Bluebirds, which was a little surprising since most range maps do not show that species as occurring along the north shore of Superior. However the eBird listing does not have it as rare.

The only bird I saw of real note in Ontario was a Northern Hawk Owl which flew across the road in front of me at one point.

The Serpent River was a pleasant opportunity for a break from driving. Most northern waterfalls are not the plunge type, but more of the cascade type which can be rather gentle, but still attractive.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip to experience some fantastic landscapes! It would definitely be worth a return to do some more serious photography.