Saturday, June 30, 2007

Birder Blogging News

First, it's that time again, I and the Bird #52 is up at The Wandering Tattler. another splendid collection of the best of recent bird and birder blogging: the completely non-geeky edition. Check it out.

The next edition, the second anniversary edition, will be hosted by the father of I and the Bird, Mike of 10,000 Birds, as Mike says:
Believe it or not, the next edition of I and the Bird is our second anniversary! Since the first I and the Bird back in July 2005, the nature blogosphere has burgeoned, blossomed, and bloomed. Today, hundreds of impassioned authors write about wild birds and birding, straining the capacity of even the fastest web surfer. Because there are just so many amazing nature blogs out there and just not enough time to frequent more than a fraction of them, I'm adding a twist to our anniversary edition of IATB. When you submit your contribution to me [by July 10], our next host, I'd like you to also sell your blog to readers with a brief but pointed summary of what your blog is about. This tagline, slogan, or teaser should be 20 words or fewer, something like "The best darn birding blog on the planet Earth" or "Monitoring the avifauna of Oshkosh so you don't have to" or even "Birding, blogging, bombast" though that last one clearly needs work...
I and the Bird

In other news, Mike of 10,000 birds has joined forces with Charlie of Charlie's Bird Blog and Corey of lovely dark and deep to make 10,000 Birds a Group Blog! More posts, more voices, more continents, more great photos.

Jumping Spiders

Last week I was alerted by a message Bev of Burning Silo sent to the Eastern Ontario Naturelist to look for the Brilliant Jumping Spider (Phidippus clarus) on milkweed. (Here's a link to one of her photos of this spider, click next at the site to get another view)I went to look and almost immediately found one. My success at finding these guys is running about one in ten milkweeds, and better than that in some patches.

These are quite beautiful spiders, as jumping spiders are, and big enough that you can spot them from a few feet away. I've been trying to get a photo of one, but they are quick and wary. I haven't yet been successful.

When I was scouting around some milkweed today I found, on three plants in one small area (and one on a lawn chair), another jumping spider. Very plain, brown (cryptic) with a quite bright white mask over the eyes.

Jumping spider on milkweed

I've been doing some searching around, and the best guess I have so far is that this is a member of the genus Ghelna, the only trouble being that this is a genus of ground-dwellers, which means both that one wouldn't expect to find them living up in the milkweeds, and that there aren't as many pictures of them as there are of other jumpers. So, I don't really know, and the picture isn't great (these too are wary and quick). The spider is about the same size as the Brilliant jumper, but very plain except for the mask, and give the impression of dark brown or dark grey and fuzzier than the Brilliant. This one was in a little folded leaf shelter--the others I saw were free-ranging on the leaves of the plants.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Moths (and a butterfly)

Recently I had an exchange with Bev of Burning Silo in the comments on a post of hers about what was in her garden. She mentioned a number of species around in good numbers, and gave some tips and links for identifying them. We're more or less in the same region, so when she is seeing something, it's worth my while to go out and look for it, and vice versa.

So I did, and I found lots. I just hope I've got them sorted out.

First the Virginia Ctenucha (Ctenucha virginica). This morning I saw many, many of these moths in the far field, as well as another, similar moth with bright yellow antennae that I haven't found an identity for. A couple of days ago I photographed what I thought might be one, but discovered on closer inspection that it is most likely the Yellow-collared Scape moth (Cisseps fulvicollis), another that Bev mentioned.

Yellow-collared Scape enjoying the spirea

She also mentioned the Toothed Somberwing (Euclidea cuspidea) as a moth around in good numbers. It's a pretty little brown moth, too generic for a newby like me to take in. But after photographing the Yellow-collared Scape (and the hairy flower scarab I posted about yesterday) I turned around and saw a pretty little brown moth resting in the grass, and snapped a picture. Later inspection revealed that it was a Toothed Somberwing!

Finally, here's a butterfly common around here that posed for me as it warmed its wings in the sun.

Little Wood-Satyr (Megisto cymela) on a chilly morning last week

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A bee or not a bee? That is the question.

I saw this critter feeding in the spirea yesterday (now in full bloom, and drawing quite a crowd).

I thought is must be some weird kind of bee. Look at the fluff, look at the feet. But this ain't no bee. Look at the wings. This is a scarab beetle. A member of the genus Trichiotinus, a hairy flower scarab. (Possibly Trichiotinus assimilis?) And I know that now thanks to the good people at I just hope that every day, in every way I'm getting better at looking at insects.

Riparia riparia

The name makes me think of the old song, Corinna, Corinna. And it's got this bit about birds (in Bob Dylan's version):
I got a bird that whistles,
I got a bird that sings.
I got a bird that whistles,
I got a bird that sings.
But I ain' a-got Corrina,
Life don't mean a thing.
But this isn't a story about a bird that whistles, or a bird that really sings. Riparia riparia is also known as the Bank Swallow or sand martin. I've been noticing a chittering swallow in the sky in the last day or so--leading me to think I'd forgotten what a tree swallow sounds like. Of course I hadn't. This was the bank swallow, as I discovered this morning.

This time of year in this place it's full daylight at 5:30 in the morning. So this morning I took advantage and headed out for a walk. As I approached the scrape (the area where topsoil is harvested) I noticed the air was full of some bird or other. Nearer, swallows. But what kind? As I rounded a berm and the recent topsoil pile came into view I noticed a great deal of activity on it. I walked over and realized that these were bank swallows, flying around, chittering, and excavating nesting holes in the newly piled topsoil (this is actually what you might call clean fill--very sandy, would be a big disappointment to a gardener).

Bank Swallows
Coming and going, digging and guarding.

Two faces of the pile are pretty nearly vertical, parts of the west and north sides, and these were being excavated by at least 10, maybe 20 pairs of swallows (it's very hard to count these quick, busy birds).

North side nesting holes--I count 13. West side, maybe 6.

I wasn't back there yesterday, but I could hear the equipment working away. And I could see that these nesting holes were being constructed this morning--some as I watched. I don't know what will happen Monday morning. Sometimes the sifted piles (which these appear to be) are left for a season, sometimes they're trucked out right away. I'm looking around this morning to see if there are any resources for preventing the destruction of nesting sites of these birds. If not...I guess I'll leave a note on the bulldozer sitting in front of the pile asking for consideration for them.

Bad enough when a single pair of birds is induced to nest in a hopeless spot as a result of human activity (if you build it they will come--then you can blow it up). Sickening to think of a whole colony getting their hopes dashed at once.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday Bee Blogging

The more I look at bumblebees the more apparently different species I find. Amazing! Below are three more I've managed to get photos of recently.

Bumblebee on raspberry flowers last week

Bumblebee on Rosa rugosa alba today--they love this rose!

Bumblebee on the wild bleeding heart (Dicentra eximia).

I think the last one is the same species as a couple that turned up in the house earlier in the season. Big, biggest of the three, all yellow back, noisy, scary. I've been trying to get a picture of one of these bees for days. Couldn't get a good shot of the back, but am publishing anyway!

And preparing to board the Friday Ark. Drop by to see who else made it on board.

I and the Bird 51: I and the Bird Sweepstakes

Yes, that's right: head on over to The Birdchaser for a roundup of the best of recent bird and birder blogging from around the world, and you can enter the contest for a chance to win a great prize!
The winner will receive a copy of The Audubon Society Guide to Attracting Birds, signed by the author, Steve Kress.
All you have to do is what anyone would want to do anyway--read the collected posts and answer the skill-testing questions. Check it out!

I and the Bird
I and the Bird #52 will be hosted by Paul at The Wandering Tattler. To participate send your submissions to Paul (pjollig AT gmail DOT com) or Mike at 10,000 Birds by June 26.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dying Bumblebee

I found this bumblebee sitting still for long moments, then moving around a little--all the better for photographing, but I think this was probably its last day.

I looked around to see if I could identify it--but no luck so far. And since I'm still not really familiar with bumblebee field marks, I didn't get all the pictures I should have to make identification easier.

The bee is on a dicentra (bleeding heart), not spectabilis, but a more modest, possibly wild variety. I'm attempting to confirm its identity as I write..... Okay, I'm pretty sure it's Dicentra eximia (fringed or wild bleeding heart). It's a very popular plant with the bees.

Wings, worn out

Monday, June 11, 2007

Yponomeuta cagnagella

About a week ago, after one of the little hot spells that this spring has been rife with, I noticed that the wahoo in the yard had been completely stripped.

Euonymus atropurpureus
Eastern Wahoo (Euonymus atropurpureus), stripped

It was entirely covered in webbing, revealing the culprit to be the euonymus caterpillar, larva of the spindle ermine moth. This is a specialist in the spindle bush, a European euonymus, and came over here with that shrub. Once it got to North America, it found that there was another shrub already here that tastes just as good.

Yponomeuta cagnagella (Euonymus Caterpillar)
Yponomeuta cagnagella (Euonymus Caterpillar)

Last year, as I wrote here, this wahoo was badly infested, but not stripped. But Yponomeuta cagnagella is so specialized that it not only feeds on that special euonymus, it also cocoons there, and then apparently returns to lay its eggs there. We have three of these around the property--this one in the front yard, one back further in the growing young forest, and one in a far corner, nestled into a growing lilac hedge (it wasn't planted that way, but the lilacs are doing very well). The more central tree had a few of these caterpillars on it (easily removed), the one in the far corner was completely covered by them, but these had hatched a little later (further north, don't you know). That tree is only half eaten, and I spent a good hour each day yesterday and the day before removing caterpillars. The caterpillars spend a great deal of time huddled in masses, inside their webs (particularly in the morning when it's still pretty cool), so are pretty easy to pick off the branches in handfuls. Saturday, I was tossing them onto the road, yesterday I had a nice pail of soapy water for them. Yesterday I picked more than a litre of the critters. Some remain because they were out of reach--I'll be out again in the hopes that they will collect lower down.

The soapy water method (dish soap) works very well--and when you can toss them into a bucket, instead of washing down the tree there's no risk to the tree--the soap will burn the leaves of some species if left on too long.

The stripped tree is the most interesting case--infestations such as it had are good for no one. I found no cocoons on it, and lots of clumped together caterpillars, not yet full grown, slowly starving, having eaten their entire food supply. Lots of them had also moved to the adjacent Norway maple, to huddle and starve--they can't (won't) eat maple leaves. These guys get around on silk ropes, and apprently can't get back to the tree if these are broken, nor it seems can they travel any distance to find a new host--perhaps have no way of discerning one. So I think the danger to this particular tree is over, if it survives. I am concerned that the sticky webbing in which it is covered will hamper its efforts to leaf out again, which will reduce its chances for survival. During the soapy water attack on the caterpillars on the other tree, I noticed that the stickiness of the webbing is completely defeated by the detergent. Webbing and caterpillars stuck to my hand dropped right off when immersed in the soapy water. So I am considering washing down the stripped tree with soapy water in the hopes that at least some of the webbing can then be rinsed off with a blast of the hose.

Misumena vatia
Misumena vatia

I tried a variety of techniques for vanquishing these caterpillars, including exposing them on rocks, and as mentioned, throwing them on the road, to see if anyone would like to eat them. I did see an ant bite one of the ones on the rock, but don't know if it ended up killing and taking it. And I watched the spider above grab hold of one a few times, and apparently decide that it wasn't for her. Another condition necessary for an infestation such as this one is that there are few or no predators, which may well be the case here.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Circus of the Spineless @ 10,000 Birds

Mike of 10,000 Birds is this month's host of Circus of the Spineless--the blog carnival devoted to the invertebrates. But he's a bird guy. What's his interest in invertebrates?

If it interests birds it interests Mike, and the invertebrates are of great interest to birds. So find out who snacks on whom, and what's been going on around the invertebrate world this past month at Mike's Circus of the Spineless #21--the menu edition (AKA "Do Birds Eat That?").

But before you go--does that look like an eight-spotted forester to you?

Eight-spotted forester (Alypia octomaculata)?

Ah, the invertebrates...clouded in mystery. Click the logo below to find out more about the carnival that's dedicated exclusively to them.