Marsh Wren

Marsh Wren

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

The things you seldom see in the garden

Gardens are great places to study wildlife. It doesn't matter if it is a veggie garden or an ornamental flower garden or a native wildflower garden. If you grow it, they will come!

The challenge is to see the myriad creatures and photograph them so that they can be identified. Some are fairly large and obvious, while others are so small you hardly can see them even when you are looking at them, and they don't really show their spectacular selves until you are able to enlarge them on the computer!

Bees, of course, are welcome pollinators. There are many kinds which show up on their own schedule over the course of the season. This first one is called a type of Cuckoo Bee.
 I haven't figured out exactly what this next one is. I've even posted it on the BugGuide site, and no one has responded yet.
 This next one is the Pruinose Squash Bee. The males especially are often found in the flowers of members of the squash family. They will often spend the night inside the flowers, and apparently if you gently squeeze the flower early in the morning, the bees inside will give a buzzing sound that presumably is meant to say something like 'don't disturb me, I'm trying to sleep'
A large and intimidating member of the bee and wasp family is this next one: the Great Black Wasp. It's body is ~5 cm (2") and its quick darting flight makes one cautious. However it is apparently quite harmless unless you handle it. I've never been bothered by any bee/wasp types even when sticking my camera lens within a few centimetres of their face.
 There are some bee look-alikes, such as this Syrphid Fly.
 One creature you don't want to see, especially if you are trying to grow squash or zucchini, is this next one, the Squash Bug.
 It lays clusters of eggs on the underside of the leaves, and when the larvae emerge, they dig into the plant stems, causing the plant to wither and die.
 Fortunately if you have this next one around, the Feather-legged Fly, it is a predator of the Squash Bug, so it may reduce the negative effects of the Squash Bug.
Beetles abound. These next two images are of the Wedge-shaped Beetle.
 The antennae of this male in the next photo is pretty impressive!
 Some look-alikes include the Goldenrod Soldier Beetle, shown in these next two images.

 Sometimes you may see a caterpillar like creature. It is likely the larva of a beetle of some type.
 The Swamp Milkweed Beetle is often found on any kind of milkweed in the garden.
 Plant 'bugs' are different than beetles, since their wings fold and overlap. These next two bugs are members of the plant bug group, probably in the Lygus genus.

 Flies of various kinds are around, some of which are pollinators. This one is a Tachinid fly.
 A very large one is this Robber Fly.
 At the other end of the size scale is this Long-legged Fly, a very shiny and iridescent but very small fly.
 Grasshoppers of different sizes and colours can be found. These next two are very small, barely 4-5 cm in total length. Since grasshoppers develop from egg to nymph to adult, it is likely these may be nymphs (a small version of an adult)

 If you happen to be a bug crawling around on a flower head, you have to be on the lookout for this next creature. It is an Ambush Bug, and although it is small (barely 2-3 cm) it is quite the predator.
 Day flying moths may show up. This one is quite distinctive, known as the Eight-spotted Forester.
A caterpillar that is often found around milkweeds is this Milkweed Tussock Caterpillar. A group of them can eat a lot of milkweed leaves in a short period of time.
One of the tiniest creatures I've been able to photograph is this leafhopper, of the Scaphytopius genus. It is barely two millimetres in total length!
The garden is a never ending source of fun to explore with a camera and macro lens!

Friday, 23 August 2019

Birds, bugs and butterflies

I've been roaming a bit lately, as the mood strikes, the weather cooperates and the opportunities arise. For example I got a message from a friend in the greater Mitchell's Bay area a short time ago indicating that the Cattle Egret that showed up periodically in the spring, had been around. My first attempt to see it was not very successful, due to the distance and heat haze. But my second attempt was quite a bit more rewarding.

A couple of days ago, Steve Charbonneau reported both a Red-necked Phalarope and a Wilson's Phalarope at the Blenheim Sewage Lagoons, among a dozen or so species of shorebirds. The Red-necked was reasonably cooperative, from a distance. The light was quite good so even with a lot of magnification and cropping, the results were satisfying. It is a first year bird.
The Wilson's Phalarope was not nearly as cooperative, as a raptor flew over and startled many of the shorebirds into flight. In spite of several of us on the look out for the Wilson's Phalarope, it has not been seen since. I only got a very brief look and no photos. This next photo is of a female I saw there earlier this year.
Wilson's Phalarope in between two Lesser Yellowlegs
I made it to Skunk's Misery for a few hours one day. The mosquitoes weren't as horrendous as they sometimes are, but they were fairly plentiful. Fortunately there were a few butterflies and other things to keep me distracted. I liked the way this Eastern Comma was posed.

 There were several Giant Swallowtails checking out various flowering plants, such as this Great Lobelia.
Azures were fairly common, but since the taxonomy is being revised, some of the butterfly experts refuse to call this one a Summer Azure, and just lump it in as a Celastrina, which is the genus. Regardless, some of these summer time ones are looking rather worn at this time of year.
Hackberry Emperors are not a sure thing, but certainly is a butterfly one hopes to find there. This one was perched fairly high up, so I just got this profile.
 There were a few skippers, such as this Northern Broken Dash. Some butterfly experts were reluctant to put a name on it, and I realize that the lack of detail given the back lit photo makes identifying skippers even more challenging than usual. A butterfly specialist on BugGuide called it a Northern Broken Dash, as I thought it was, but some specialists on iNaturalist were non-committal.
 There was a consensus on this next one as being a Dun Skipper.
There were other butterfly species, but none that I photographed.

While photographing some Boneset......
......I noticed this flower beetle at the lower left hand side of the plant.
Banded Longhorn Beetle (Typocerus velutinus)
Some other bugs I noted on some of my forays included the following:
Transverse Flower Fly

Northern Flatid Planthopper
Pelecinid Wasp
This next one doesn't have a common name that I have come across, so I just refer to it as a small, black-dotted green bug. It is a type of plant bug whose scientific name is Ilnacora stalii.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Night-life at Rondeau

A few weeks ago it was National Moth Week. While I didn't get my black light set up at Rondeau for that specific time, I did get out shortly afterwards. It is always an adventure to see what will show up.

To see my set-up, check out this link. It has worked rather well, and since the black light I use can be used either as a plug in to an AC outlet or into a DC vehicle outlet, it does give some flexibility, as long as I can drive my vehicle to the point of interest. The black light that I have (purchased ~35 years ago and still going strong) only draws 15 watts, so it does not put too much strain on a 12V battery, even being on for several hours. Although it could be nice to get well away from any road or parking spot, it is also an advantage to being near a vehicle which has all the equipment needed (especially bug spray, snacks, etc) for the 3-4 hours duration. There are lots of those types of places I can drive to that I haven't tried yet, so hopefully I will get to a few more yet this season.

While moths are the main target group of invertebrates to attract, there are many other groups that may appear, including beetles, odonates, flies and even spiders. I even had a spring peeper drop in once, presumably to snack on some of the multitude of insects.

Most moths are fairly small, sometimes less than one centimetre in length. A very good macro lens and flash combination is essential, but worth it to see the intricacies of these creatures. These first two are barely one centimetre.
Abbreviated Button Slug Moth

Black Duckweed Moth
 Some critters are even smaller, such as the leafhoppers, which are members of the Beetle family. Most are barely 5 mm in length, with some being only about 2-3 mm.
Black-faced Leafhopper
Osbornellus species
 One of the largest is this next one, the Sharpshooter, which is easily recognized by its vivid green colouration and very pointed snout.
 A very large beetle that came to visit was this next one, a Water Scavenger Beetle. It was probably about 3 cm in length, and very robust as you can see. By comparison, the much smaller beetle on the upper left is apparently is a Hydrochus, according to a specialist in aquatic beetles from the U of Mississippi.

A medium-sized beetle visitor was this type of Scarab beetle.
Some other non-moth visitors were as follows:
 This next one had me puzzled. You don't expect dragonflies to visit, but this one did, and stayed quite awhile. It is a type of Meadowhawk. One cannot see the face clearly, but with the yellow/gold colour in the stigma which is bordered by black, it fits Saffron Meadowhawk nicely. I'm not sure if that is definitive, however.
 This green stink bug stopped by for awhile, but was constantly on the move around the sheet.
 A bit of a surprise was this spider, a member of the Araneus group I believe. It isn't large, but dropped down from an overhanging branch and proceeded to build a small web which caught several small insects.

Back to the moths. Unfortunately there were several Gypsy Moths, a fairly large moth and easy to photograph.

Lesser Maple Spanworm
Gold-lined Melanomma Moth
This next one ended up being the surprise of the night. At least it was the rarest species of the night by far, as according to BugGuide it was the first record for Ontario. A subsequent search on iNaturalist indicated that one had been found and photographed in Norfolk County on Oct 6, 2007, by none other than David Beadle, the principal author of the Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America. It is called the Gold-banded Etiella Moth (Etiella zinckenella). It is normally found in the southern and southwestern USA, but on rare occasions will appear in the north east.

Pink-shaded Fern Moth
 This next species was quite abundant. I must have seen more than 20 of them come to the white sheet, and they showed some variation in colour, at least the intensity of the colour. Perhaps some of the variation was due to wear and tear as the moth aged. Regardless, the next two are known as Pondside Crambid Moth.

 This next one is a Copper Underwing.

Silvered Haimbachia
Smoky Idia
Water Lily Borer Moth
Hopefully there will be more mothing adventures to report on before long!