Sunday Snapshots – October on the Grand Trunk

Old maple tree

No, not the Canadian railway, nor the Asian road route, nor the Ankh-Morpork telegraph system (which I recently finished reading about). This particular grand trunk is growing in our front yard and belongs to a large, old maple tree. The trunk is covered in deeply ridged bark, which is in turn covered with colourful lichens, which in turn hosts many interesting critters.

I was out raking leaves yesterday, since the weather was quite mild; a relatively balmy 16 C (61 F). I set aside the rake before the sore spots on my thumbs got a chance to turn into blisters, but reluctant to go in just yet, I played ball with Raven for a little bit. In between tosses, while she was hunting for the ball in the long grass of the meadow, I examined the trunk of the tree. It initially caught my interest when I noticed some of the tiny little Bark Mycena that I had first observed on the maples of my parents’ old house, when my blog was still just a month-old fledgling.


I grabbed my camera and documented all the organisms I found on the trunk, between the ground and eye-level, yesterday afternoon. For the purposes of relating scale, all of these photos are taken at the same magnification and are the original out-of-the-camera image; I have not cropped any of them (although I did lighten a few since it was overcast and some of the photos were a little dark). Most people know how big an average pillbug (or maybe a sowbug; I forgot to check for tails) is – the size of the frame for the photos below is the same as for this one, to give you an idea of relative size. The only exceptions to this are the final three, which were too big to fit into the frame when fully zoomed-in.

Bark Mycena

Bark Mycena

Little moth

tiny unidentified moth

Winter firefly

Winter Firefly

jumping spider

jumping spider

snail shell

little snail shell

bagworm moth case

Bagworm moth case; probably the adult has died and it's full of eggs

Bark Mycena

Bark Mycena


black ant; probably Black Carpenter Ant

Little moth

tiny unidentified moth

Winter firefly

Winter Firefly

Bark Mycena

Bark Mycena

tiny spider

tiny unidentified spider


Saddled Leafhopper, not technically on the trunk, but very close. Note the greenish leafhopper in the upper left.

tussock moth caterpillar

Tussock moth caterpillar, very worn; maybe Banded or Yellow-based

The next three are at a different scale from the above, as they were too large to fit into the frame comfortably (or at all). They were also on the next tree over, so not strictly the same group, but I couldn’t resist including them as well.

Green Shield Bug

Green Stink Bug

Polyphemus Moth caterpillar

Polyphemus Moth caterpillar - similar to the Luna Moth cat but separated by the V-shaped mark on its rear end

Spiny Oak-Slug Moth caterpillar

Spiny Oak-Slug Moth caterpillar


41 responses to “Sunday Snapshots – October on the Grand Trunk

  1. Absolutely delightful! That old watcher of a tree hosting all that diversity. I’m always spellbound when a single trunk can offer up so much life drawn to that one ecological environment. What a treat! The images are beautiful and enchanting…

  2. hillsteadnatureblog

    Another super post! Can you tell me anything about your camera? Lens? Your pictures are terrific. Cheers, Diane Tucker, Estate Naturalist, Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington, CT

    • Thanks, Diane! My camera is a Canon Digital Rebel XTi, which I bought a couple of years ago (so it’s not the newest model out there). I have a few lenses that I use according to the situation. The wide-angle (an 18-55mm) and telephoto (75-300mm) came as part of the promotional package the store was offering. The other I splurged on and bought myself because I really wanted a macro lens. It’s a Canon EF 100mm Macro, and it’s the one that I used to take these photos.

      I find that a lot of what makes good photos is as much knowing good photography principles as it is the equipment. Probably it would be possible to achieve similar results with a point-and-shoot set on manual mode, with the macro setting. A great book to read for learning how to use all those technical settings (shutter speed, aperture, ISO, etc), is The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby. It was given to me for my birthday, and provided me with a real “aha!” moment in using my own camera.

  3. Great job “Going Postal” on this collection (sorry – couldn’t help myself!).

  4. The depth of field on these shot is incredible. Some of the organisms appear to be floating on thin air.

    • I could take credit for that, but I’d be lying. I had to set the aperture really, really wide (about f/3.5 to f/5), and the ISO quite high (800), to allow me to get a reasonably sharp image while hand-holding the camera because it was so overcast.

  5. That last caterpillar is awesome! Rather more exotic-looking than the moth it turns into.

    • Isn’t it cool? I was so stoked when I found it. I’ve caught many of the adults, but had never seen the caterpillar. You’re right, the cats are much more interesting than the moths.

  6. Superb images – amazing what you can discover when you take a closer look at something that on the surface seems so ordinary. I’m inspired to get out and investigate our own broad-leafed maples here on the west coast!

    • Thanks, Dave. I love peering closely at places one ordinarily just walks by, there’s often so much to discover there. I bet you’d find quite a bit hiding on your trees, too.

  7. wow – I think those macros are great! I like the colors of the whole pictures as well. Congratulations!

  8. This is a great blog.

    Did you know that E.O. Wilson says you can spend a lifetime in a magellanic voyage around a tree? Excellent start here.

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