Monday 28 July 2014

More Snakes!

Here is a short clip of a Massasauga Rattlesnake rattling its tail.  This is an old video from this May on Beausoleil Island, but I thought it would be of interest to some of you since it gives you a sense of what the rattle actually sounds like.  It has an almost insect-like buzzing quality to me.  I also catch Joe Crowley giving an excellent description of the habitat that this individual was found in.  Enjoy!

Sunday 27 July 2014

Milksnake Roundup

Milksnake is a 'Species of Special Concern' in Ontario, and I recently had the pleasure of capturing and relocating several of this species at a site in southern Ontario.  To carry out snake surveys, we often utilize 'cover boards', which are essentially square pieces of plywood approximately 4ft x 4ft.  Snakes use these boards to hide under until they have warmed up sufficiently to move out in search of prey later in the day.  Hence, a good way to figure out what is in the area is to place these boards in suitable locations and come back periodically to check what's basking underneath.  On this occasion we were lucky enough to find two good sized milksnakes.  This species is pretty docile, and neither of these individuals tried to bite us when we handled them and moved them to a safer location away from construction activity.

Gotta love that beautiful pattern!

That Y-shaped marking on the head is diagnostic of this species.

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Arikok National Park

Around this time last year I was getting ready for my wedding and my honeymoon in Aruba with my wonderful bride!  One of the highlights of Aruba for us was Arikok National Park.  A good sized spot that covers a large chunk of Aruba.  This park gives visitors a taste of what Aruba was like prior to settlement.  It is an arid and rugged place of stark beauty, dotted with cacti and other prickly plants.  Here are a few photos that I thought I would share with you.  Enjoy!

Venezuelan Troupial
Bare-eyed Pigeon

Thursday 17 July 2014

Butterflies and Odonates of July

I have had the pleasure of carrying out numerous butterfly and odonate (dragonfly and damselfly) surveys for work throughout southern Ontario this year and I managed to snap a few photos for the blog!

First, here are a few butterflies:

Pearl Crescent
Great Spangled Fritillary
Eastern Tailed Blue, these guys are tiny, about the size of your thumbnail
Hairstreaks are my favourite group of butterflies.  They also fly under the radar so to speak since they are so tiny!  I love the intricate and detailed patterns of stripes, lines and colours that make each species unique.  The most common species I had this week was Banded Hairstreak, but I forgot to get any photos of them.
This Striped Hairstreak was very cooperative!
Sometimes its easiest to put the small butterflies in jars to take a clear look at before you release them.
This guy looks a bit like Hickory Hairstreak since the white lines are on both sides of the stripes on the hind wing, the blue spot on the bottom also extends pretty far past the orange one.
Wild Indigo Duskywing were common in Waterloo today
Another group of small butterflies are the "skippers".  Some of these species are notoriously hard to differentiate from one another without pinning them, which involves killing the individual.  I prefer to catch and release or passively observe, which can make things tricky at times.
Northern Broken Dash
Crossline Skipper
Dragonflies can be just as showy as butterflies, if you don't believe me, check out these photos!

Twelve-spotted Skimmer- male
Lance-tipped Darner.  One of many species of "Mosaic" Darners
My grandmother doesn't usually teach me much about insects, but one thing that she told me is that they called them darning needles back in the day because they looked like large needles flying around, and they thought as kids that if they caught you, they would sew up your mouth! Hence, the name darner.

Eastern Pondhawk

Wednesday 16 July 2014

Skunk Family

I was up in the Haliburton region a couple of weeks ago and had the pleasure of watching this family of Striped Skunks foraging in the forest.  Check it out!

Tuesday 15 July 2014

Black Bear in the GTA

I was out at a work site with Ken in the Markham area and stumbled across some interesting tracks.  Up north in the Canadian shield I wouldn't have hesitated to call these bear tracks, but down this far south in Southern Ontario I was shocked to see such a thing!  After some examination we both came to the conclusion that indeed these are the tracks of a black bear.  You can see all five toes register and the overall shape of the track is flat bottomed.  A really cool find, and certainly unexpected!

Black Bear track!

Note the characteristic pigeon-toed walk with the toes pointed inwards

Thursday 10 July 2014

Summertime is Bumble Bee Time!

As the birding slows down during the summer, it gives me a chance to revisit some of my other interests, which include insects such as bumble bees!  I first became fascinated with these amazing and important pollinators as an Algonquin Park naturalist where I worked during the summers from 2005-2008.  As I was finishing up my time there I decided to make a field guide to the bumble bees of Algonquin Park.  Check it out here:

You may be surprised to find that Ontario has over 20 bumble bee species.  Most of them can be readily identified just by looking at the various colour patterns.  So take a look at the species you have in your flower garden and see what you can identify!  If you snap a picture, you can submit it to Bumble Bee Watch which logs bumble bee observations here:

Interest in bumble bees has increased of late, ever since we realized that many pollinators including bees are in some real trouble in Ontario and abroad.  We currently have one species that is listed as Endangered in Ontario, the Rusty-patched Bumble Bee, which is only currently known from the Pinery.  Several other species are up for review by the government and will likely be added as Species at Risk in the coming years.  You may have heard recently that Ontario is considering a ban on certain pesticides called neonicotinoids which have been linked to the disappearance of bees in Ontario.  Hopefully this goes through, because we simply cannot afford to lose more pollinators, economically or ecologically.

Here are a few species that I have photographed that you may encounter if you take a moment to look closely at some of the flowers around you!

Confusing Bumble Bee (Bombus perplexus)
Tricoloured Bumble Bee (Bombus ternarius)
Yellow-banded Bumble Bee (Bombus terricola)
Common Eastern Bumble Bee (Bombus impatiens)
Northern Amber Bumble Bee (Bombus borealis)

Monday 7 July 2014

Never Before Seen Footage!

Well, things have been pretty slow on the birding front lately, but this gave me a chance to dig deep into the archives and bring you some never before seen footage of a real Ontario rarity, the Lark Sparrow that I found in Fort Erie in late November of this past year.  Enjoy this stunning footage as this rare bird from the American Midwest pecks the dirt!