Tuesday Miscellany

Scarlet Tanager

An assorted collection of photos this week. Getting out to do the MAPS fieldwork with Dan has been a great opportunity for me to see things I wouldn’t normally encounter; not just birds, but bugs and flowers and such as well. It’s almost too good – I come home at the end of the day with a couple hundred photos, and enough blog fodder to last me a couple of weeks. I’ve been hoarding some photos that I hope to put into a full-length post, and hopefully I actually get around to doing that.

This week’s first photo is of a Scarlet Tanager we banded at one of the MAPS sites over the weekend. He’s fine, don’t worry – some birds, if you open your hand slowly, don’t realize they’re free at first, and will just sit on your open palm for a few moments before flying away. Male Scarlet Tanagers are striking birds, and their red can sometimes be so bright and vibrant as to overwhelm the camera. This was a particularly spiffy bird, an after-second-year, meaning it was hatched in at least 2007 or earlier. Birds in their first summer as a breeding adult (second-year birds) can look a little ratty because their wing feathers, which are the same ones they grew in the nest, wear and fade more than seasoned adults.

Luna Moth

It was a toss-up over which photo I wanted to use for my headliner image. This Luna Moth was in such pristine condition, unusual for larger moths. I’ve been getting quite a number of these coming to the trap the last few times I’ve set it out – sometimes up to three or four in a night. Yesterday night we accidentally left the porch light on when we went to bed, and when we arose in the wee hours of this morning, in among the great numbers of smaller moths were two Lunas hanging on to the nearby wall. Most people are probably familiar with this species from a number of sleep-aid commercials and other advertising. However, it is a common moth of the east, flying in early summer at northern latitudes, a wider window farther south as it’s able to raise multiple broods. However, because adults live for only about a week, they may not be regularly encountered. Like with so many characteristics of animals, the purpose of the long, showy tails isn’t definitively known, but is believed to be a form of protection by focusing a predator’s attention away from vital body parts.

Veery chicks

This was probably third runner-up for header photo. This is a nest stuffed full of Veery chicks. The nest itself is one from Maplewood Bog that Dan profiled on his Frontenac Birds blog. On our last visit the female was still incubating the eggs. Although only nine days elapsed between our first and second visit, already the chicks – who weren’t even hatched last time – are alert, eyes open, and begging for food as you carefully lift the overhanging branch to peer in. It’s amazing how fast chicks grow. For most songbird species, it only takes two weeks or so for the young to grow from naked, blind hatchling to feathered fledgling, and leave the nest. This nest will be empty on our next visit.

Hemlock Varnish Shelf, Ganoderma tsugae

Back over at Hemlock Lake, we spotted a number of these interesting and colourful fungi growing on the trunks of dead hemlocks. The site is full of dead trees, mostly hemlock though possibly some pine – my dead-bark identification skill is still being refined – so there’s certainly lots of great growing location for this fungus. I believe this to be Ganoderma tsugae, also known as Hemlock Varnish Shelf. These are young specimens; as they grow they’ll lose the bold white outer rim, and will attain a slick gloss, the reason for the word “varnish” in the name. The fruiting bodies themselves, the part you actually see, are annual; they grow anew every year. However, the mycelium, the network of “roots” that exist within the dead tree, is longer-lived and is the source of new brackets each year. It’s a species that can be found across a large portion of North America.

Wood Lily

I haven’t noticed these around our home, but there were quite a few at Maplewood Bog, and a handful at Hemlock Lake as well. This is Wood Lily, Lilium philadelphicum. It seems to grow at the edge of clearings in dry deciduous woods, and will grow in loose congregations of a handful of individuals scattered together. It’s very widespread, found just about everywhere in North America east of the Rocky Mountains, except for the Maritimes and Florida. It grows from tuberous bulbs, which Native Americans would gather for eating. I imagine, however, that this would need to be done sustainably, as removing the bulb essentially removes the plant.

fly

I haven’t been able to come up with an ID for this fly. One of the rare instances that my trusty Kaufman Insects wasn’t able to provide me with the answer. There are so many species of flies that flipping through my Stephen Marshall’s Insects leaves me a little overwhelmed, though I think it might be a species of Tachinomyia, a relatively common group that develop as parasites of tent caterpillars – something we have no shortage of around here. I thought the yellow foot pads might be useful, but there are a number of species that have those. This poor fly had got caught up in one of our nets. I was able to untangle the fine mesh and let it go, although often with flies and wasps they get it so tightly wound around their tiny necks that you don’t have much choice but to pop their head off to get them out of the net.

spiderweb

And the last photo, a little bit of rainbow hiding in a juniper shrub. The sites are usually very dewy first thing in the morning, and I wear rainpants just till the sun is up high enough to dry off the vegetation. The dew drops make for some beautiful images. In this case, the dew had lightly coated a spider web, and I walked past it, the sunlight refracting through the millions of tiny water droplets cast a lovely rainbow.

That’s it for this week. There’s so much going on, though, I’ve already started working on next week’s miscellany post!

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3 responses to “Tuesday Miscellany

  1. Spiffy? Did you say spiffy?

  2. I like people that will take the effort to save a fly! Interesting post, particularly to someone that lives in Florida. Showed your beautiful painted turtle pix to my photographer friends – they were suitably impressed with both the turtle and the pix – as you can tell, we’re turtle people. marge

  3. Pingback: The Moth and Me #4 « North American Moths Backyard Inventory

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