Saturday, July 14, 2007

I and the Bird--Second Anniversary Edition

I'm with Clare on this--where does the time go? Another great year of I and the Bird has passed--another year of great collections every two weeks of the best of bird and birder blogging, hosted by different members of the bird blogging community, a community that is still growing by leaps and bounds. The Anniversary Edition, #53, is up at the home of I and the Bird: 10,000 Birds, hosted by the founder, Mike. And it does not disappoint--check it out.

I started Thomasburg Walks in order to familiarize myself with Blogger because I'd been hired to help someone customize her Blogger blog format. The theme for my blog came naturally--it filled a need I had to memorialize some of what I was learning about this little bit of the world. In my first few months of blogging I wandered through the blogosphere reading political blogs, and the occasional teenaged-angst blog, wondering why there seemed to be no nature blogs. Then gradually I began to find them (I think the first was Living the Scientific Life), and soon I came across 10,000 birds, learned of Mike's then newborn blog carnival, I and the Bird, and contributed (Little Brown Birds--Part 2) to a blog carnival for the first time: I and the Bird #2. Since then I've found a wealth of bird and nature blogs (many of which are listed in my blogroll), been a contributor to other carnivals, and learned an enormous amount through sharing observations across the nature blogging community.

Thanks, Mike, for I and the Bird.
Happy Anniversary, and may there be many more!

I and the Bird

Three Crab Spiders

After a quiet period there's been quite a bit of singing lately as the birds who nest again started getting ready. So I was determined to get out for a bit of birdwatching. I did, and saw lots, but everyone looked so big! A common yellowthroat, really? It looks the size of a finch. And gradually I realized that it's the spider eyes. I am learning to pick out spider types by GISS, pulling me into tiny world.

In the far field I saw these three. Two on milkweed, one on brown-eyed susan. One was Misumena vatia (Goldenrod Crab Spider), but the other two?

Misumena vatia
Goldenrod Crab Spider on Milkweed

One was clearly something quite different, the other just a little different.

A spider of another colour

Not M. vatia, I think, but something related

I did some research, in part by checking out Bev's (Burning Silo) Crab Spider Gallery, but couldn't find a match I had any confidence in. Looking at a recent post of Bev's, possibly the last one is Misumenops asperatus.

Lovely spiders whoever they are.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Tuesday Butterfly: Red Admiral

The Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta rubria) common butterfly around here, I believe, but this year there have been more than usual.

This one looked and acted like today was its first as a butterfly.

More from Rugosa World

A July bioblitz of the Rosa rugosa alba in the yard would take hours and hours, and could be done every day and produce new results each day. And this rose bush, about 2 metres high and almost as wide, is mere steps from the front door.

I've been watching a number of Misumena vatia over the past few weeks (inspired by Spider WebWatch). These spiders, ambush predators, stay in one spot for extended periods, making them excellent subjects for long observation. I can see what they're eating, how fast they're growing, and even guess as to when they're pregnant, and then eventually see their egg cases. There's one on the Rugosa now I've been watching for some time that has a prodigious appetite. She moves occasionally as blooms come and go and I can usually find her again by looking for the sucked-dry rose chaffers she's dropped onto the leaves below her chosen spot. This morning she has a moth, and twice now she's had a small bumblebee, which surprised me: small, but not compared to her.

Misumena vatia at Lunch

So there I am, staring at the rose bush, looking for spiders, and now that I'm developing an eye for them I'm seeing that there are many other spiders (and many other critters all together) living there. I was startled by the one below because of its white abdomen. Most of the M. vatia I find on the bush are white, so that's what I look for in a scan, but this little one was no crab spider.

What long, spindly legs you have

The spider is sitting just below a developing rose hip (not an apple), and in the upper left of the picture you can see the leg of the rose chaffer it was wrapping up when I first spotted it, which gives an idea of how small this spider is.

I couldn't see a web, just a few random strands of webbing, and the obvious silk production and webbish behaviour of wrapping prey. I hunted around for an ID, gave up and sent an image to BugGuide. In very short order I had a response (click on the link to see just how short). Take a look at Enoplognatha ovata, a member of the cobweb spider family. I did, and I think they got it!

I really think it is Enoplognatha ovata

Friday, July 06, 2007

Friday Hairstreak

I'm pretty sure that this is the Acadian Hairstreak (Satyrium acadica). I would be absolutely sure except that the underside of the wings of this butterfly look more light brown than grey (a feature of the Acadian) to me. Pretty butterfly in any case--and to identify a hairstreak at all is new for this novice butterfly watcher.

Like so many other critters, this butterfly was found feeding on common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), which is just now coming into bloom. In Ontario common milkweed is one of twenty-four species on the noxious weed list--a kind of hit list. The Ministry has this to say:
Milkweeds are an important component of the native and naturalized vegetation communities of Ontario as they are an important nectaring plant for many species of Lepidoptera, such as the Monarch butterfly. (From Milkweed Species in Ontario)

Then on their FAQ page they add this:
Why is Milkweed on the List of Noxious Weeds in Ontario?

Common milkweed can be a very difficult weed to control in many field crops thereby causing significant reductions in crop yield and quality. This can have a considerable negative impact to a grower's net economic return. In the last 10 years, new herbicide technologies have greatly improved the control of common milkweed in field crops. However control of common milkweed around field borders is essential as it minimizes seed spread into fields and therefore reduces the reliance on herbicides for "in field" control.

Common milkweed when consumed in large quantities is poisonous to livestock. Therefore minimizing populations in actively pastured land will greatly reduce the chance of any adverse health affects to livestock.

For more information on Milkweed and the Weed Control Act, refer to the article entitled: "Milkweed Species in Ontario".

Which is yet another example of us humans getting hold of the wrong end of the stick it seems to me. Especially in the current climate in which we are engaged in international efforts to protect the Monarch Butterfly, which depends on milkweed as the foodplant for its larvae.

Here's what they have to say about Monarch protection at the Royal Ontario Museum's Species at Risk site:
Protection: There is no formal protection for this species in Ontario. Three key management strategies have been identified to protect the Monarch Butterfly. Milkweeds, the larval foodplant, should be taken out of the noxious weed acts in Canada; native wildflower habitat should be protected and encouraged; and migration stopover sites should be protected from disturbance.

Meantime I'm sending this butterfly to board the Friday Ark

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Circus is Back in Town

Circus of the Spineless #22, now up at Burning Silo. Be sure to stop by and take a look; it's a gorgeous collection of the best of last month's invertebrate posts from around the blogosphere.

But before you go, enjoy the Northern Cloudywing Butterfly (Thorybes pylades), another triumph of Internet-assisted invertebrate identification.

Northern Cloudywing

And look for next month's edition at Words and Pictures. Send your submissions to Roger (roger.butterfield AT by July 30.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Misumena vatia

One of the ambassador spiders at Spider Web Watch is the Misumena vatia, or goldenrod crab spider. So far, I've observed ten different individuals of this lovely species, seven of which are living in the front garden. Below a sampling. The first two are spiders I found at the near edge of the far field. The rest, garden dwellers, in a sequence: small, smaller, smallest.

In the late afternoon sun, having a snack

Tiny, brave, on a buttercup

Waiting on a shasta daisy

Enjoying a fly on a shasta daisy

Just a white speck, snacking on a dark speck, that turned out to be a tiny fly

Some of the juveniles (i.e., photos 1, 2, 4, and 5) might be Misumena formosipes. Take a look at the page at Spider WebWatch (and this discussion) to see the diffculties involved in distinguishing these from vatia.