The month of July has been one thing after another, it seems, and I’m not just talking about nature observations. Between moving at the start of the month, internet downtime immediately following the move that stretched into a few weeks, unpacking and settling into the new home, housesitting for my parents a couple of times, and a trip back to Halton for a funeral, I’ve had lots of distractions that have kept my mind from blog. As a result, I have a pile of photos that I’ve taken but not posted that I thought I’d gather together and put into a miscellany post.
The first photo is from a couple of weeks ago. I’d taken Raven for a walk at the 100 acres that adjoin our main piece of property, to scout out the trails and get the lay of the land. As I was following the path through a field lined with milkweed, I spotted this little guy curled up in the leaf of one of the milkweed plants. It was a smaller Gray Treefrog than I usually see, and the facial markings were particularly well-defined. I wrote about treefrogs last spring when I found one calling from my parents’ water garden.
Another amphibian, this one an American Toad. This guy turned up at one of our MAPS stations. I’d just taken off my rainpants (which I consider a vital piece of clothing in the early morning hours when everything is still covered in dew) and had sat back down on the rock when I was startled to discover a toad only a couple of inches from where I’d just flopped down. I’d missed squishing him by less than a hand’s breadth. You can read more on toads from a post I did last fall.
Another near miss, this Eastern Milksnake was sunning itself on a patch of moss when I very nearly stepped on it. It may even have been the same day. I haven’t seen too many milksnakes about; even though they’re common, they’re not frequently encountered, being less numerous I guess than the abundant garter snakes. I’ve done a post on milksnakes, too. It happens to be my number one top most visited post that I’ve written so far, no doubt because they are often kept as pets.
I found this caterpillar in the grass at Rock Ridge a couple of visits ago. It stayed in the same spot for half the morning. It was a fairly chunky caterpillar, as these things go, and being brightly coloured I figured it would be easy to look up when I got home. I searched through all of my caterpillar references, and then did a Google image search for yellow caterpillars, and wasn’t able to find it. So I turned to my usual fallback, BugGuide.net. Within hours of posting the photo, it was identified for me as an Elm Sawfly – not a lepidoptera at all! Which would explain why it wasn’t in my caterpillar books. (It is actually in the Kaufman insect guide, but looks white there, not yellow, so I may not have noticed it). Sawflies are actually a type of stingless wasp that deposit their eggs in the twigs or leaves of plants. The “saw” in their name refers to the structure of the ovipositor, which resembles a saw.
This one really is a caterpillar. I believe that it’s a species of moth in the genus Furcula. However, when you look at caterpillar guides or online at BugGuide.net, all of the Furcula caterpillars are green with brownish saddle patches. None are completely brown. A Google image search turned up only one other brown Furcula caterpillar, which was taken by Bev of Burning Silo, who happened to have taken the photo just up the road (relatively speaking) from mine.
I found this nifty fly resting on a dried flower head among the patch of sunflowers when I was searching for insects. It didn’t move when I plucked the deadhead and twisted it around for a better photo. I wondered if it might be dead or possibly parasitized, but when I put the stem back down and it brushed against a leaf the fly took off. It’s a Tachinid fly, possibly in the genus Cylindromyia. Tachinid flies are nearly all internal parasitoids of caterpillars and other insects. Whereas parasites will feed off their host but let them live, parasitoids nearly always kill their host in the end. You can really see well the “halteres”, the vestiges of the second set of wings, which look like round knobs behind the main wings here.
In banding you often have the opportunity to see some strange things you may not have noticed or been able to observe while the bird was perched up in a tree. This is one of those things. This bird’s foot has been infected with a type of bird pox that gets under the scales of the foot and causes mutated growth of the cells. This one is an especially “hairy” looking one, many just grow thick and lumpy. These growths are especially tender and prone to bleeding if they get caught up in netting or the like, and you can just imagine how uncomfortable they must be for the poor birds. I let this guy go as soon as I’d removed him from the net, without taking him back for processing. Occasionally the pox can spread up their leg, and if it does it can become a nasty situation, causing the normally loose bracelet-like band to squeeze and constrict the leg. Some birds will never suffer that, but better safe than sorry.
The new home has many bluebird boxes scattered out in the meadows behind the house. When I was walking through the meadows near one of these last week I could hear constant chittering coming from one of the boxes. As I drew nearer, I could see faces frequently popping up to the hole to peek out at the world. Clearly these were fledglings that would be departing the nest either later that day or the next. They had lots to say, and weren’t too concerned about me. however, when Raven came near to the box, panting loudly and conspicuously, they all shut up and sat tight. Too late, little birdies, you’ve already given away your location!
And finally, this box belonged to some actual bluebirds. Dan discovered the nest, tipped off by a couple of upset adults when he walked by the general vicinity of one of the boxes. Very young, only a few days old at most, these babies are most likely a second brood for the bluebirds. Baby birds grow fast to begin with, but second broods are especially fast, and these babies were probably out of the nest by a week and a half old, two at the most. The boxes that are currently in place are old, weathered, and some are starting to rot. Also, they all require a screwdriver to open. Dan and I will probably replace a few over the winter/spring with new ones that can just be flipped open to check and clean. They’re all currently above head height, too – hard to see what’s inside without a stepstool! I got this photo by holding the camera above my head and hoping for the best.