Great Egret

Great Egret

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Orchids, birds, contaminants, etc

Some mornings it has been great to get up early. One morning recently, I headed to Erieau hoping for some colourful skies to capture. I got to the waterfront well before sunrise. At first things didn't look too promising, but I got momentarily distracted with this sailboat that anchored just off the fishing boat harbour. It was attractive in the pre-dawn gloom, so I attempted to use my long telephoto lens on it. Keep in mind the focal length was the equivalent of 800mm, and I handheld the camera and telephoto and took it at 1/40th of a second. This was taken 15 minutes before official sunrise, and on a cloudy morning at that. I really didn't think it would be very sharp, but was surprised at how well it turned out. There was no wind to speak of, so the boat was quite still. I guess I was also.
Oh yes.....there was some colour in the sky after the sun came up.

I've had some recent requests about late season orchids. And now that autumn is not that far away, it is appropriate that Autumn Coralroot is being sought after by some botanists.

Autumn Coralroot (Corallorhiza odontorhiza) is a diminutive little orchid that not that long ago, was considered rare in Ontario. Its perceived rarity was likely due to its rather nondescript stature. As more and more people developed an eye for it, it has been discovered farther afield than it once was, even north to the lower Bruce Peninsula.

This first image shows it in all of its splendour, from a distance of merely one metre. Can you see it?

Maybe this will help. Note the mosquito for scale resting on one of the flowers....better there than on me!
 Even closer.....
This is about as large and colourful as this orchid gets. It can self-pollinate.....on occasion, the flowers won't even open so there is even less to see!

This colourful and distinctive Hedgehog Gall was on a White Oak leaf. One or more wasp larvae of the Cynipidae family are developing inside.

While walking the forested trails to see this orchid, I noted lots of spider webs criss-crossing the path. Most of them belonged to the Marbled Orb Weaver, a colourful medium to large spider that is most frequently encountered in the late summer.

Another spider that one frequently sees this time of year, especially in areas of old field vegetation or prairie vegetation, or even along shrubby edges of the woods, is the Black-and-yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantiaca). Normally you see the females which are full of developing young, and looking much fatter than this one.

After my little foray along the woodland paths, I decided to check out the southeast beach where large numbers of gulls frequently rest. With the moderate southwest winds, this day was no exception, and there were several hundred gulls, with increasing numbers of terns arriving as they prepare for migration. A few Caspian Terns were present, still giving their raucous calls.....

Caspian Tern
Caspian Terns were a few Common Terns, making things a bit more interesting than just the usual Ring-billed and Herring Gull mix.

Common Tern
Two immature Little Gulls were part of the larger group, but did not come close enough to even attempt a photo of. Maybe next time.

After leaving Rondeau, I often stop in at the Blenheim Sewage Lagoon, where the fall migration of shorebirds and waterfowl is picking up. On the way, I noted this small family group of Wild Turkeys. This seems kind of late in the season for the young to be so small. Presumably the first nesting attempt of the adult was unsuccessful, and this smaller group of small young is the result of a second attempt.

A Great Egret flew over. I particularly liked the backlit conditions. One can really see the detail in the individual wing feathers. The dark area on the leading edge of the wing indicates the flesh and skeletal structure of the wing from which the feathers emanate.

There are tons of Killdeer around the lagoons these days, particularly in the mostly dry sprinkler cell. But they make a racket, and when they flush, most everything else does as well. There have been some good birds present, even a Willet in recent days, but not on the days that I was there.

One doesn't normally see an American Goldfinch pretending to be a shorebird.
 This Lesser Yellowlegs is to be expected. This was a day when the water in this sprinkler cell  just covered one of the pipes which the yellowlegs was walking on.
In the centre, to the left of the rear end of the Lesser Yellowlegs below, is a young Solitary Sandpiper, easily distinguishable at this time of year with its dark 'wrist' area.
A few Wilson's Snipe have been around. This one sat tight after all the other shorebirds flushed.
Wilson's Snipe
 One can't help but notice the bright blue/green sludge around the perimeter of some of the lagoon ponds, as well as a buildup of green algae. I don't recall it being this vivid in previous years. Is it some new kind of chemical treatment to attack the undesirable organic matter? Or something more insidious?

I recently had a link to an article sent to me (thanks, Brett!), which described the results of some tests on bats which had spent a fair bit of time feeding on insects emerging from sewage treatment plants in the northeastern US. It was surprising to find out what was in the tissue of these bats: PBDE (flame retardant), salicyclic acid, ibuprofen, caffeine, DEET, triclosan, etc. You can read about it in this link. Although many things are removed during the normal treatment of water at such facilities (most of them I believe, are the organic elements, not the inorganic ones) it makes one wonder what is not being taken out. Consider all the things that end up being flushed down the toilet....old prescriptions, as well as the current prescriptions and drugs that so many people ingest, and eventually get excreted out and flushed into the system. Most of those chemicals, hormones, drugs, etc end up remaining in the system that ends up in coming back into our homes when you turn on the taps. Think about that next time you fill your water glass, coffee-maker or whatever.....yuk!

I digressed.......blame the blue and green sludge!

Amongst the typical waterfowl showing up at the lagoons, including Ruddy Duck, Mallard, both teal, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler and Wood Duck, was this lingering Tundra Swan. It is usually near the edge of the water of one of the ponds. I don't think anyone has seen it fly since the spring, so presumably it can't. It will likely be fine until freeze-up and after that, its remaining days are probably in short supply.
 As one approaches it, it quickly heads towards the nearest pond.

The weedy edges of the pathways along the lagoons are good places to find Bobolink towards the end of August and into early September. Both males and females look alike at this time of year.

 A few days ago, Blake Mann and Josh Vandermeulen had seen a couple of Common Checkered-Skippers. I was there later that same day but didn't see any. But I will be looking next time I go. They are quite small, but colourful. This next image is of one I saw about three years ago, along an abandoned railway not all that far away from the lagoons. In real life, it is about 2.2 cm across.

Next time I get to the lagoons, you can be sure I will be on the lookout for this rare, little lep!

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