At Maplewood Bog, in the clearing where we have our banding station set up, there is a large patch of bright yellow wildflowers. I think these are Woodland Sunflowers, Helianthus strumosus, a relative of the common giant sunflowers often planted in gardens or as crops for their seeds, although there are a few members of the genus Helianthus that look similar. They are lovely, bright, cheerful flowers that add quite a bit of colour to the meadows and hillsides in the region. In most areas I just see them in small patches, but at Maplewood, and more specifically at the banding spot, they cover a broad expanse of the grassy clearing.
In between my net checks (we alternate, I do one then Dan does the next, which gives us time to band any birds we collect or have a snack if we need), I’ve taken to poking around the meadow to see what’s new. A couple of visits ago I found this spider tucked in one of the flowers. I’m still not sure of the species, although it appeared to be a male because of the large appendages out front (pedipalps, used in mating). There was another on a nearby flower. Intrigued, I started checking other flowers to see if I could find more of the spiders. I didn’t, but I turned up some other interesting critters.
I decided to see just how many species of invertebrate I could find on the sunflowers, either using the plants for food or simply as substrate for resting. Here’s a collection of most of the other stuff I found during our last two visits (I missed a few species that were too quick for the camera). I haven’t identified many of the species, because there were a lot of them, but have included IDs for a few.
There’s a lot more happening out there than you might first suspect! Take a moment to slow down and look more closely, you might be surprised at what you find.