Is it just me, or has the spring, once it finally arrived, really been flying by? Here we are in May already. I think April must have disappeared when I blinked.
A varied assortment of miscellaneous photos this week. We did a bit of hiking about the last few days, which resulted in a number of them. This White-tailed Deer was actually observed as we were returning from one of our several outings. As we were coming down our dirt road, there were a group of five deer standing in the middle of the road. I’m not sure what they were doing – it’s too late in the season for them to be getting road salt, and I don’t think our road gets salted anyway. But there they were, nonetheless, and slow to clear out. Even once they did, they paused at the road edge to watch us drive by. This photo, cropped only slightly for composition, was taken with my wide-angle lens, through the car window.
The stream of returning migrants has started to get heavier. In the last week I’ve had nearly as many new arrivals as I’d had through all of the rest of April. One of the more recent species to show up has been the Rose-breasted Grosbeak. These gorgeous birds have been singing in our woods, and we even had a couple of them visiting our feeders, where they come for the sunflower seed. This particular individual was the first one I saw at the feeder. Naturally, as soon as I grabbed my camera he took off and sat in a nearby tree for a bit where he was a bit farther away. It was a dreary day, with a bit of drizzle, but he really added a splash of colour to the landscape.
While out hiking the last few days, we’ve noticed quite a number of these dark little skippers flouncing around a few feet above the forest floor. They hardly settled at all, barely long enough for a quick look, nevermind a photo. It was just by chance that while walking Raven today I this one skipped across in front of us. Raven sat-stayed (she’s been very good with that lately) while I sloooowly slouched over toward where the butterfly landed. I managed to get a couple of serviceable shots before it took off again. It’s got an interesting pattern, with the centre parts of the wings very dark, such that they look like they’re in shadow. These dark wings help to identify it as a duskywing, and the single small white spot in the centre of the forewing makes it a Juvenal’s Duskywing, a fairly common spring butterfly of oak woods.
Dan and I came across this scene in the park on one of our hikes last week. This Garter Snake was strung over the log, dead but otherwise untouched. The injuries to the snake are all near its head, and the way the head lies over the log while the rest dangles off the side suggests that this was the kill of a hawk. It could have been one of a number of hawk species that live in our area, but the most likely hunter was probably a Red-shouldered Hawk, which are reasonably common in the forests around here. They hunt in the forest, sitting on a branch in a tree to spot their prey, then swooping down from the perch to snatch it. Since the most dangerous part of the snake is its head, the first thing a hawk does is dispatch it quickly by severing its spine. The bird may have been disturbed by something (probably not us, as we didn’t notice any hawks in the area) before it was able to consume its meal.
My second tiger beetle of the spring, a different species than the first one. This one, I believe, is the common Six-spotted Tiger Beetle, Cicindela sexguttata. It’s the only species we have that is entirely bright green, with pale spots on the elytra. The only other species in Ontario that resembles it is Cicindela denikei, which is also all green, but with either no or almost no pale markings. Although my beetle resembled C. denikei more than the traditional C. sexguttata, I know it had to be the latter if for no other reason than location – C. denikei is virtually endemic to northwestern Ontario.
Another recent arrival is this Baltimore Oriole. Although they’ve been back in the area for about a week now, this is the first individual I’ve spotted. It was singing in our front yard, from high up in our mature maple tree. It was foraging among the buds, and pausing periodically to sing in cheerful outbursts of melody. I had the window open, and could hear it from where I sat at my desk, so I grabbed my camera and went out to watch and admire it a while.
I’ve noticed a few dragonflies around just over the last couple of days. Today I had a Green Darner zipping along the road, quickly out of sight before I could do much more than have the ID register in my brain. All of the rest of the dragonflies I’ve seen have belonged to this species. I’m reasonably certain this is an American Emerald, Cordulia shurtleffii. Most emeralds have bright green eyes, but the immature females have brown eyes. The diagnostic characteristic of this species seems to be the pale ring around the base of the abdomen. Although some dragonflies will have green markings, the emeralds are the only group where the green is iridescent. American Emeralds are often found along forest edges around bogs and fens, and sometimes vernal ponds in forest interiors. We actually found these in juniper rock barren clearings, without any water immediately nearby. This one was sitting in a juniper shrub, with its wing caught among the needles, so I was able to easily pick it up for a photograph.
There are some wild Canis sp. in the park, but whether they are Canis latrans, the Coyote, or Canis lupus, the Gray Wolf, seems to be a matter of some debate. Coyotes and wolves can interbreed freely, and both can mate with the domestic dog, Canis lupus familiaris, technically a subspecies of the Gray Wolf (with the point of divergence having taken place some 15,000 years ago), so it’s possible that the wild canids that roam the park are even a cross-breed between any one of these groups. Regardless of their taxonomy (the animals themselves don’t really care, do they?), these packs are the primary predators in the park. Every now and then you’ll see evidence of their activities. Scat is most common, but while out recently, we came across the bleached remains of a deer kill. This is the skull and upper mandible of a White-tailed Deer. You can see the bony knobs behind the eyes which the antlers are affixed to.
And the last photo in this installment is of a cocoon. It just happened to be hanging from a low branch immediately over the path Dan and I were walking along. Curled up and secured with silk, the leaf was also attached to the branch by silken glue to prevent it from falling off in the blustery winter months. I don’t know who the architect is for this home, but they seemed to still be in residence. I briefly considered plucking it from the branch and bringing it home with me to see who emerged, but we still had a few kilometers left to hike, and I didn’t have a safe way to protect it from being jostled or crunched while we made our way back to the car, so I reluctantly left it.