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.


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.


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!


Tuesday Miscellany

Kingsford Lake

I’m a day late with my weekly miscellaneous wrap-up. We had some internet issues yesterday that took most of the day to sort out, which prevented me from doing anything online. It’s somewhat eye-opening to see just how much time is spent on the internet – or how much one relies on it for reference – by way of how inconvenienced one is when it’s no longer available.

The forest has completely greened up over the last few weeks, and the landscape around here is very much beginning to resemble the high-summer state that we first saw it in when we arrived last summer. It’s beginning to look like we’ll be moving at the beginning of July, not quite a month shy of the date we moved in last year. I have to admit, I am really going to miss being on the water. This house has spoiled me, and despite having spent the first 96% of my life not on waterfront, I suddenly feel like I can’t bear to move away from it. However, our prospective new house reminds me a lot of where I grew up, and I’m sure I’ll feel right at home there, too, once we’re moved and settled.

Blue-eyed Grass

Our landlord came by this afternoon to mow the lawn, which Dan and I had been dutifully ignoring. We have no lawnmower, in part because we both prefer to have long-grassed “meadows” rather than lawns, which are much more beneficial to wildlife. I personally think they’re more interesting to look at than a mowed lawn, too. However, long grass does have a certain unkempt feel that can put off many prospective house-buyers. I was a bit sad to see it mowed, because the wildflowers in it were just starting to appear and bloom. One of the first to come out were these Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium) flowers. If everyone’s lawn turned into these when left to grow, do you think anyone would mow it?

Johnny Jump-ups

Our neighbour up the lake started some seeds indoors this winter, and was extremely generous, sharing some of her extras with me for my “garden”. Among the plants she gave me were these johnny jump-ups, members of the violet family (the common name has been applied to a number of species, but I think these are probably Viola tricolor). They’re just beginning to bloom, the first one opened yesterday. As I was inspecting the plants one day earlier this week, something caught my eye. Can you see it?

Lepidopteran eggs

It’s a cluster of small, pale green eggs. I assume these are lepidopteran eggs, but what species, or even whether moth or butterfly, I don’t know. There are a few species that feed on violets as caterpillars – several species of fritillary target violets exclusively, for instance, or the Giant Leopard Moth which we saw caterpillars of around here last fall. I’m planning to let them hatch, and then when the caterpillars come out moving them into another container with some violet leaves and seeing if they’ll eat those. If so, I’ll try to raise them that way; if not, I guess I’ll reluctantly give them back (some of) my johnny jump-ups. Hopefully the plants will have grown up a bit more by then.

Goldenrod Crab Spider, Misumena vatia

I spotted this Goldenrod Crab Spider, Misumena vatia, “hiding” out among the flowers of my Allium. It was so well hidden, it immediately caught my eye when I looked at the flowers (as I do every day to admire them). I’m not sure she was having any luck in catching anything, as I never saw her with a meal… but given that she doesn’t make a web, perhaps she ate at other times of the day.


Speaking of eating… Last weekend I bought some Japanese Lanterns, Physalis alkekengi, perennials that produce really neat orange “paper” seed pods in the fall. I remember, growing up, my mom used to have a patch that we’d sometimes collect the “lanterns” from for flower arrangements. I always really liked them, so when I stumbled across them in the nursery I couldn’t resist buying a pack. When I got home I planted them into a nice big pot and set them in the sun. As I do with all my plants, every day I’d check on them to see how they were doing. A few days ago I noticed they had been found by a few beetles, who were sitting in a nook in the leaves. I didn’t think much of it, until yesterday I noticed that holes were starting to appear in the leaves. Hey! Those are my plants! Sure enough, it turns out the beetles (left) are Three-lined Potato Beetles, Lema daturaphila. They favour plants in the family Solanaceae. And guess what family Japanese Lanterns belong to? I’m debating whether to just let them munch, or to try to remove them (repeatedly; I assume they’ll return). So far the damage seems to be restricted to just a couple of leaves on a couple of plants.

With him is a Clavate Tortoise Beetle, Plagiometriona clavata. There are also two of these on my little plants. They also eat plants of the Solanaceae. Now it’s starting to get a bit crowded…

Chestnut-sided Warbler

This morning Dan and I went out to do a bit of final site scouting for the first of our three MAPS stations, Hemlock Lake. Although it wasn’t strictly necessary for me to tag along (I won’t really be “needed” until the actual banding begins, whereupon you really need two people in order to operate efficiently and safely), I chose to come so I could help out a bit, but also so that I could do a bit of early-morning birding. I so rarely get up at dawn these days, by the time I’m awake and going, the birdsong is starting to slow down for the day. I take Raven out later in the afternoon usually, hardly the best time of day for birding.

It turned out to be an unusually quiet morning, possibly because it was also a rather cool morning by recent standards. However, we did still encounter a good variety of nice species, including the Chestnut-sided Warbler, above, and the Northern Waterthrush, below, both of whom will be breeding at the site this summer. Who knows, in a few weeks these guys may even be sporting a shiny new band.

Northern Waterthrush