Monday, April 30, 2007

Woe is Moss

I thought there were just a couple of species back in the swamp and wet edges of the cedar bush, I thought they'd be easy to identify. Wrong on both counts.

Let's call it moss 1--I don't know if the darker slimy stuff is part of it, or another moss. It was definitely associated with it, not accidental to it.

I chose three that seemed to me to be both common and distinctive (and a fourth, some kind of tiny-leafed aquatic plant), photographed them and came home to identify them.

Moss 2 seems like a good name for this one.

Juniper moss? I don't know. How about moss 3?

This looks something like baby's tears (Soleirolia soleirolii)

Turns out I have no eye for moss.

Sunday, April 29, 2007


Today, the last official day of the Blogger Bioblitz I got out just before 7:00 a.m. (good thing too, because the sky cleared, and we are to be blasted by sunshine for the rest of the day--forecast high of 19C). I've got lists of birds and plants that I will report in another post. I wanted to dedicate this one to something new to me--though no doubt old hat to the field. Lichens.

I came across the lichen below through staring at the ground--something I must do more vigilantly.

How could I ever have missed that brilliant scarlet? Maybe it only shows that way for a brief time. Maybe it's just so small that it's easy to pass it by.

When I first saw it associated with the grey, branchy stuff, being more plant than lichen oriented, I assumed that I was seeing one organism (or as it turns out, one community--lichens are algaes and fungi working together), flowers and foliage. Turns out it is most likely two.

I think the red-capped stuff is British soldier lichen (Cladonia cristatella). I'm not sure about the grey--could be Reindeer lichen (Cladina rangiferina). They were growing in the field just above the wetland around the cedar bush.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bioblitzing--Days 1 and 2

Saturday, April 21

Saturday was the first day of the week-long Blogger Bioblitz event. Hot day--fierce sun, and I got a late start, so I thought I'd just do a reconnaisance of a location in the cedar bush, where the stream runs through, that I thought might be interesting. I'd hoped to list flora, but was frustrated in that the only recognizable flora were ones I already knew were there, i.e., exactly where. Nothing else was far enough along to identify (or in most cases to find). There is a common fern back there that's just coming up now--but I don't know its name, and there wasn't enough of it to work on. That was one of a series of very warm days, followed by some rain, and more to come (maybe) over the next few days (along with cooler temperatures, though not real cold)--so I'll go back there again next Saturday when more might be up and recognizable. As it was I listed a few of the plants that were up and about, a frog, and birds:

Weather: hot and sunny
Temperature was 20C when I left the house around 9:00 am, and up to 23C an hour later.

-white cedar (Thuja occidentalis

-white birch (Betula papyrifera) This birch was in the middle of the cedars--the only one there, which led me to speculate that it is older than they are. bot are relatively fast-growing trees, and I don't think the birch would be able to get going in the shade of the cedars. There are a number of dead birches and poplars in the wetter parts of the area.

-marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) Well leafed out, no sign yet of the blossoms.

- spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer) One calling (not really their time of day).

I just counted birds I heard or saw that belonged to the habitat--the area of bush and swamp is small, and I could also hear birds singing in the field beyond.
-Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus)
-American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
-Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)
-American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
-Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
-Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
-American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) Okay, the goldfinches don't really belong here--but at this time of the year they are hanging around in large, noisy flocks, insisting on being recorded.

-red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)

Walking back through the fields I saw my first Tree Swallows of the year. And later in the day I saw my first Barn Swallows. Finally second (or maybe third) wave migration is well underway.

Monday, April 23

Monday I got out early, around 6:30 am, to avoid full sun and to look closely at the edge of the far field. This time I ignored the flora--I am hoping now to have a flora day at the end of the week. I don't know if I'll count the sumach, prickly ash, red cedar, etc., but I'll get up some kind of list.

So, I set out, again, at a dawdle, back through the fields. I saw Grizzly Man over the weekend, so I had bears on the brain--but the only bear sign I saw was from last summer (turned-over rocks). No vibe of large animals, lots of fox and coyote tracks, as ever, but nothing conspicuosly fresh.

What was fresh was a set of
racoon tracks (Procyon lotor).
Who was out there with me? An
eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus)--way at the northwest corner of the far field. (I'm not counting the cottontails I have to push aside to get out of the yard.)

Because of the time of day, and the temperature, around 15C (i.e., not 2C), there was lots of bird activity. I should do a list in order, but I think I'll stick to narrative.

A flock of 100
Canada Geese, heading north, flew overhead, followed moments later by another of about 50. Robins were singing in every corner of the field. A single cardinal was as well--moving all around a couple of acres. I saw two field sparrows, and listened to another two, my first clear hearings of the year. Chickadees followed me along the edge. The noisy flock of goldfinches made lots of noise. A flicker called. A ruffed grouse drummed (and I flushed a another out of the edge of the cedar bush as I went by). Song sparrows were everywhere.

Someone must be nesting now--I know that chickadees may be, and the song sparrows and blue jays show signs that they are too. But I figure
cowbirds know. I saw a courting group (first three then six or seven males following a female, strutting and posing) moving around the treetops at the field's edge. but best of all, a pair of Belted Kingfishers. Sometimes these birds nest well away from the water where they feed, at the end of long tunnels they excavate into banks of earth. I don't know that they've nested back there--but I've seen them scouting there before. It was a pleasure to see and hear them there again.

I'd hoped that there might be warblers, and there is a chance for one or two by the end of the week (last year my first was a black and white), but it really is just a little too early. Just yesterday I saw my first chipping and white-throated sparrows.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Blogger Bioblitz Starts Today!

Finally, suddenly, it is warm here. I went for a walk yesterday along the road through the Stoco Fen, and got downright hot. The skunk cabbages are up, leaves just starting (this is a few weeks later than last year: here is my post on them from April 3, 2006).

April 2, 2006--Way ahead of 2007

They're mostly further back from the road than they were last year because the water level is way down. Saw no turtles, but was treated to the din of a chorus of mink frogs--in water just close enough to the road that I could see them dashing about--not close enough that I could identify them by sight. Mink frogs (Rana septentrionalis) aren't all that easily identified by sight, apparently--easily confused with both green and leopard frogs--so perhaps it just as well I could hear them better than see them. I saw a frog too--reddish brown back, grey underneath. I don't yet know what it was. Too large, I think, to be a tree frog. No mask, so I think not a wood frog... No camera, hence the words only. Browsing as I write I came across wood frogs at Burning Silo--no mask! So perhaps that's what it was--according to other accounts the colouration is within their range of possibilities.

Today, another warm one, is the first day of the Blogger Bioblitz. Should be lots more to see than there would have been last Saturday. On the right, an intrepid crocus braving the snow last Saturday morning. That snow, which fell the Thursday and Friday before was gone by the afternoon, then Sunday night the nor'easter blew in and there was snow on the ground once again. Now we are spending a few days in summer, with cooler temperatures forecast for the early part of the week. As I think I've mentioned before--we are constantly surprised by our weather in southern Ontario, year after year, in spite of its constancy of variation.

The rabbits continue to visit the yard. I now think that there are one or more enterprising males taking advantage of the fact that the availability of bird seed through the winter has made this a regular stop for many rabbits. So they hang around ready to dance with whomever comes along. Because I see them so often, I've got a rabbit search image seared into my brain. Walking yesterday evening I was sure I saw one that turned out to be configured from a combination of grasses and a clod of earth. but then I saw the one below--just about the way it looks in the photo, and this time, rabbit indeed.

See the rabbit? Look for the reddish patch at the back of its neck.

Maybe one or two will turn up to be listed for the Bioblitz. I'm heading out this morning--and have decided to include a little patch of the swamp in the cedar bush as well as a piece of the edge of the far field. So we'll see what we see.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Tweed Green-Up

One of the things I've been up to lately (instead of writing) is getting involved in the formation of an environmental group in the Municipality of Tweed (a big area that contains the village of Tweed and Thomasburg too--and lots else). I went to an all-candidates' meeting before the municipal election last fall. As it was during the previous municipal election campaign, the meeting was standing room only--proving, I guess, the old adage, "all politics are local." I was pretty impressed--this was a better turnout than I've seen at some meetings during federal election campaigns.

During the question period Denice, a woman I know (mainly through her u-pick organic blueberry patch that has had two very productive years in a row--I'm hoping this year will be as good, the blueberries in the freezer will soon be gone), asked each of the candidates whether they would be willing to discuss, consider, whatever, a cosmetic pesticide ban for the municipality. Only one said she'd be willing to discuss such a thing (she was elected Reeve). The others said things like, "that stuff is safe, the government makes sure" and "we can't tell people what to do on their own property." The latter was my favourite, because, of course, it's the municipal government that tells us how many cats we can have, whether we can build a woodshed, how many yard sales we can have in a year, and so on, and so on....

After the meeting I went up to Denice to talk about the idea of the ban. She asked me if I'd be willing to help her follow up, I said yes. I've been pretty heavily involved in party politics for the last few years--and events during the last federal election campaign (national, not local) as well as a number of other frustrations took the wind out of my sails. I am still helping the local riding association with a few things...but I was ripe for another political/activist direction. When Denice suggested that we form an environmental committee and get involved in a whole range of environmental projects I said yes again, becoming a founding member of Tweed Green-Up.

The time for something like this was clearly right. With a little publicity we quickly grew from an original four to fourteen members.

Then we were able to seize an opportunity to have John Seed come to Belleville to give his Climate Change, Despair and Empowerment presentation. The event will take place May 1, 7:30 pm, Eastminster United Church, 432 Bridge St. E., Belleville. (For more information, contact us: tweedgreenup(AT)

One of our members was successful in getting the Chamber of Commerce to fund a reusable shopping bag for Tweed merchants--to be available early this summer. We're getting the same bag Perth has, showcased by Bev on Burning Silo, here.

A screening of An Inconvenient Truth is planned for late in May in the village of Tweed. Details will be available soon on the Tweed Green-Up blog.

Then there's Adopt-a-Highway, and so on, and so on...we're putting our fingers in a lot of pies.

The blog: Tweed Green-Up, is the place where news, events, resources, etc. are and will be available. We're just getting started. So please consider linking it to help our fellow Tweedites find us!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Eastern Cottontails in Love

They were here again this morning--at least I think it was them. But they weren't dancing like they did back in March...

Now for the stare portion of our program

According to Banfield (The Mammals of Canada), via the Fletcher Wildlife Garden website:
Eastern cottontails breed in late February to early March and continue until September. Courtship is said to be quite energetic. Banfield (1974) describes it as an "interesting mating dance" in which "the buck chases the doe in a lively pursuit around the meadow. Eventually she turns and faces the buck and spars at him with her front paws. As they crouch facing each other, a few inches apart, one of the pair suddenly leaps about two feet in the air and the other runs nimbly underneath it." This usually occurs after dark and may be accompanied by squeals and grunts.
For about ten days in March these two rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus) met in the backyard every morning to do their crazy dance. A photo doesn't do it justice--this is the "staring" portion. The rabbit on the left is the male, as per Banfield. Another rabbit--larger and with a broader, redder forehead came by sometimes too, but I never saw it interact with either of these two.

Of course indentifying individual cottontails is a pretty speculative business. Their coats vary enormously, I've learned from having the opportunity this year to see some together, but they also vary seasonally, and I have no idea how many are as grey as the fellow above, or as brown as the gal--so perhaps I saw ten courting pairs, not one on ten occasions. In any case, it's been fun to have them around, putting on a show we can watch through the back window.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Report from the Kitchen Floor

It's Circus of the Spineless time again, the blog carnival of all things invertebrate. It's up at Burning Silo. The theme is discovery. After you finish looking at my recent spineless visitors, "discovered" on the kitchen floor, head on over there for reports on the spineless from around the world.

I think the burying beetle was the most interesting critter to appear on the kitchen floor, but recently there have been others.

I don't know what kind of moth this is--though it is one I've seen (or ones very like it) many times before. The strange thing about this one is that it was lying still on the kitchen floor, looking dead, but apparently in some kind of stupour. The floor is cold, so that may have been it. I took it outside to photograph it (and because the kitchen was no place for it). It stayed right where I left it for several days. I nudged it occasionally and it always responded, still alive. After a while it vanished--whether of its own accord, or snapped up by a bird I don't know.

This spider is a frequent visitor, and probably a basement resident. It was perfectly alert, which is why I photgraphed it on the kitchen floor instead of moving it out first. I don't know what this one is either--should try to look it up at the Nearctic Spider Database. Update: Haven't been able to find anything except Dolomedes triton that fits, as suggested by the comments to this post--if this is right, odd that a fishing spider would be in the house.

It isn't So if it's Dolomedes triton then it is one of the Spider WebWatch spiders, but a couple of my favourites are among the nine spider ambassadors. If you watch spiders, consider joining the WebWatch. Click the link to find out more.

If you watch all kinds of things, and you're a blogger who hasn't yet heard about Blogger Bioblitz, click this link to The Voltage Gate and get involved.

Thanks to Jennifer at Invasive Species Weblog and Nuthatch at Bootstrap Analysis for the Blogger Bioblitz button!