Great Egret

Great Egret

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Backyard wildlife

Sometimes you don't have to go very far to shoot and enjoy all sorts of wildlife. And on the warmer summer days, since I don't tolerate the heat and humidity all that well, it is nice to have access to A/C in the house. So brief forays into the back yard can provide some fascinating wildlife, and numerous macro photography opportunities.

Of course it helps to have a diversity of wildflowers, shrubs and trees.....something I've been working on for more than a few years. And Marie has a great diversity of more functional (a.k.a edible) garden plants to add to the attraction for wildlife.

Milkweed and Purple Coneflower are perfect for attracting butterflies and many other insects.


Black Swallowtail

Red Admiral

Silver-spotted Skipper

Tawny Emperor
This Tawny Emperor was actually one that visited our garden in 2013.....I'm still looking for my first one for this year!

One critter that may look like a butterfly is actually a day-flying moth, the Eight-spotted Forester. It is very distinctive.

Eight-spotted Forester

Another few moths which one seldom sees, but are likely around, are the underwing group. This Dark Red Underwing was actually on a neighbour's house.

Dark Red Underwing
This pose does not show the deep red and black patterned underwing, but if it is startled, it will flash its wings and the colour and pattern will be quite obvious.

This next moth is small but very distinctive. It is not native; the larvae depend on non-native species such as Tree-of-Heaven, an aggressive fast-growing tree that is often found in abandoned lots and other disturbed sites. We don't have any Tree-of-Heaven in our immediate area that I know of. The adults feed on the nectar of flowers, which they do find here.

Ailanthus moth
There are lots of other pollinators around, and may be different ones each day or week.

Bumblebee sp

There are quite a few different kinds of bumblebees, and even some members of the fly family that look a lot like a bumblebee.

This next photo is of a Long-legged is very small, as the size of the fly compared to the leaf venation indicates.

 This next image is of a type of Blowfly, probably of the Lucilia genus. Its iridescent green colour and the many black hairs make it quite attractive up close.

 The next image is of a type of fruit fly also known as a Sunflower Maggot Fly. The term maggot has an undesirable connotation.....but I think this tiny delicate fly is quite attractive.

Beetles are common amongst these wildflowers. This first one is a Margined Carrion Beetle. It gets the term 'margined' for the pinkish margin around the head.

Margined Carrion Beetle

Long-horned Beetle

Red Milkweed Beetle

A tiny insect I always look forward to finding is this Red-banded Leafhopper. Being only about 5-6 mm long, it isn't going to get your attention from a distance, but up close, it is a real crowd-pleaser!

Red-banded Leafhopper

Milkweeds attract aphids, among other things.

Occasionally a dragonfly will stop by. They are always on the lookout for insects, their main diet. This is a female Common Whitetail.

Common Whitetail

A very undesirable insect to have around, especially if you have veggies such as squash or zucchini growing, is the Squash Bug. Their eggs are easy to find under the leaves of the plants.

Squash Bug eggs

A recent surprise to find in our yard was this member of the katydid family. It is a young one, with its wings not fully developed. It was crawling around a milkweed plant as well as a Red Cedar. In looking at the tail plate from another photo I took, it appears to be a Fork-tailed Bush Katydid. For some sub-groups of katydids, particularly the bush katydids, an examination of the male's tail plate shape is important for identification.

Fork-tailed Bush Katydid
Katydids are members of that interesting group of insects that sing. There are many species across the province and elsewhere. A very useful book was published in 2006, entitled The Songs of Insects by Elliott and Hershberger, complete with fabulous photos and a CD of their songs. As they were publishing it, they came across a couple of images that I had of unusual colour forms of one kind of katydid....a pink colour form and a yellow one, which they asked to publish. I was quite pleased to let them include it in their book.

And finally, at least for this post, I leave you with another more common type of wildlife that many of you have likely seen in your yard.

Eastern Cottontail
There is a family of cottontails that really like to hang out in or near our yard. We don't cut the lawn often, so there is always lots of clover for them to munch on when they want a change in diet from our garden plants. And on more than one occasion, they have found a suitable nesting spot somewhere amongst our yard vegetation. An adult regularly hangs out in the front yard prairie patch on cool fall and winter days, soaking up some sunlight.


  1. Lovely photos!

    I had never seen an Ailanthus Moth until this week and now I'm seeing them on walks and on your blog! Their colouring is so striking I really like them and I was quite surprised to find they were a moth.

    I just wanted to add that according to BugGuide ( although they have greatly expanded their range by eating Tree of Heaven (which is an alien invasive) that website seems to think the moths themselves are native to N.Am. I'm not sure personally, but thought I'd mention it.

  2. Hi Bet....thanks for your kind words. It is always nice to have feedback.

    Regarding the Ailanthus moth: it is believed that it was in fact originally native to southern Florida and the Central American tropics, but adapted to the presence of the introduced Tree-of-Heaven and expanded northward in response to the planting of it in more northerly parts of the US and eventually Canada. Therefore I should have expanded my comments on its status by indicating that it is probably native to North America, but is present in Ontario primarily due to the establishment of the non-native Tree-of-heaven, and therefore considered non-native to Ontario.

  3. Interesting! I was really taken with the colours of that moth. And when I saw it (very briefly) I didn't even realize it WAS a moth. The milkweed were seething with various beetles and I didn't make the connection till I looked at my photo later.

    I'll have to re-visit the area I saw it and look for Tree of Heaven. I'd love to get a closer look at the moths.