Jul 142017
 

This is a series of photos from Rick Stankiewicz of a Common Green Darner emerging from the nymphal case. Enjoy!

Common Green Darner nymph which has just climbed up out of the water – Rick Stankiewicz

Adult emerging from nymphal case – Rick Stankiewicz

All the way out now!  – Rick Stankiewicz

Think I’ll stretch a bit! – Rick Stankiewicz

Now, let’s let these wings dry! (Note: This was a different individual, hence the different background) – Rick Stankiewicz

 

Jul 082017
 

I captured these photos during an early morning kayak outing on Lower Buckhorn Lake on the weekend of June 24. The Eastern Kingbird kept tossing the dragonfly (a skimmer) into the air, seemingly to kill it. I was struck with the size of the dragonfly.

Robin Williams Blake

Eastern Kingbird tossing skimmer dragonfly into the air – Robin Blake – June 24, 2017

 

Nov 172016
 

The photo was taken back in June, 2016, by Daryll Ferriss in Ardbeg, which is close to Parry Sound. He managed to pick up the pair and had great difficulty in getting the dragonfly to let go of the hummingbird. He gently separated the legs from the bird but the dragonfly was not for letting go with his mouth (or whatever dragonflies have).  Once he finally got them separated the dragonfly flew away instantly; however the hummingbird took a few minutes to get over the shock but did fly off in the end.  The picture and story is absolutely true and in no way ‘photo-shopped’.

Andrea (via Wasyl Bakowsky)

Dragonhunter holding Ruby-throated Hummingbird it just caught. Photo by Daryll Ferriss - June 2016 - Ardberg, ON

Dragonhunter holding Ruby-throated Hummingbird it just caught. Photo by Daryll Ferriss – June 2016 – Ardberg, ON

Jun 212016
 

I went out early both Saturday and Sunday (June 18 and 19, 2016) on Lower Buckhorn lake and took these pictures.

Robin Blake

Wild Rose - June 18-19, 2016 - Lower Buckhorn Lake - Robin Blake

Wild Rose – June 18-19, 2016 – Lower Buckhorn Lake – Robin Blake

White Admiral -June 18-19, 2016 - Lower Buckhorn Lake - Robin Blake

White Admiral -June 18-19, 2016 – Lower Buckhorn Lake – Robin Blake

White Admiral -June 18-19, 2016 - Lower Buckhorn Lake - Robin Blake (9)

White Admiral -June 18-19, 2016 – Lower Buckhorn Lake – Robin Blake (9)

Slaty Skimmer - June 18-19, 2016 - Lower Buckhorn Lake - Robin Blake

Slaty Skimmer – June 18-19, 2016 – Lower Buckhorn Lake – Robin Blake

Osprey - June 18-19, 2016 - Lower Buckhorn Lake - Robin Blake

Osprey – June 18-19, 2016 – Lower Buckhorn Lake – Robin Blake

Northern Water Snake - June 18-19, 2016 - Lower Buckhorn Lake - Robin Blake

Northern Water Snake – June 18-19, 2016 – Lower Buckhorn Lake – Robin Blake

Four-spotted Skimmer - June 18-19, 2016 - Lower Buckhorn Lake - Robin Blake

Four-spotted Skimmer – June 18-19, 2016 – Lower Buckhorn Lake – Robin Blake

Eastern Kingbird - June 18-19, 2016 - Lower Buckhorn Lake - Robin Blake

Eastern Kingbird – June 18-19, 2016 – Lower Buckhorn Lake – Robin Blake

Canada Geese - June 18-19, 2016 - Lower Buckhorn Lake - Robin Blake

Canada Geese – June 18-19, 2016 – Lower Buckhorn Lake – Robin Blake

Blue Flag - June 18-19, 2016 - Lower Buckhorn Lake - Robin Blake

Blue Flag – June 18-19, 2016 – Lower Buckhorn Lake – Robin Blake

Bald Eagle - June 18-19, 2016 - Lower Buckhorn Lake - Robin Blake

Bald Eagle – June 18-19, 2016 – Lower Buckhorn Lake – Robin Blake

May 192016
 

The Kawarthas is home to at least 100 species of butterflies, 135 kinds of dragonflies and damselflies and a thousand or more different moths. Learning to identify the more common species is a great way to connect to the natural world around us and get kids interested in nature.

Butterflies

Who has not been enchanted by butterflies – the delicate, colorful wind danc­ers that are the hallmark of a warm spring or summer day? Belonging to an order of insects known as Lepidoptera, butterflies are easy to observe and turn up everywhere from woodland trails to backyard gardens. In fact, butterfly-watching also adds a whole new level of enjoyment to gardening. Compared to birding, which can involve getting up at the crack of dawn to take advantage of peak avian activity, identifying and photographing butterflies is a more civilized affair. Butterflies are rarely on the wing before 8 am and are most active on warm, sunny days.

Getting good looks at butterflies is easiest with a pair of binoculars, especially those that focus to within six feet or less. A camera with a zoom lens also comes in handy. By taking a picture of the butterfly, you can identify it later. Lots of excellent guide books and apps are available such as the “ROM Field Guide to the Butterflies of Ontario” and the “Audubon Butterflies” app. Some butterfly-watchers also use a net for catching hard-to-identify species such as skippers, which tend to be very similar. The butterfly can be transferred to a plastic viewing jar and then released.

Here are a few additional suggestions to keep in mind.

1. To find a given species, research the time of year it flies and its preferred habitat. Spring azures, for example, are most often seen in May; Canadian tiger swallowtails are active in June, while many of the fritillaries are observed in mid-summer.

Spring Azure - male - Wikimedia

Spring Azure – male – Wikimedia

2. Roadsides and wetland edges can be particularly productive, as long as there are sufficient flowers in bloom.

3. Learn to identify the plants that attract butterflies, either for nectar or as “larval plants” on which to lay eggs. Among the most important are the milkweeds.

Coral Hairstreak on Butterfly Milkweed

Coral Hairstreak on Butterfly Milkweed

4. Watch for butterflies basking in the sun on gravel roads (e.g., anglewings) and tree trunks (e.g., satyrs). Some species are attracted to animal dung and muddy puddles, which serve as a source of minerals, amino acids and nitrogen.

5. Be careful not to cast a shadow on the butterfly, since this will usually cause it to fly away.

6. Pay special attention to the butterfly’s size, wing shape, color and pattern­ing. The pattern on the underside of the wing, usually visible as the butterfly feeds, is especially important for identification purposes.

Moths

If you would simply prefer that insects to come to you, then moth-watching may be your thing. Mothing, as it is sometimes called, can be as simple as leaving on the porch light and checking periodically to see what’s clinging to the screen door. Unlike butterflies, most moths are nocturnal. However, there are exceptions. To distinguish moths from butterflies, remember that butterflies have club-like knobs on the ends of the antennae and usually perch with their wings held upwards. Moths, on the other hand, perch with their wings outspread and have antennae that closely resemble bird feathers.

While a simple incandescent light will attract some moths, the most effective bulbs are those that project light in the UV spectrum such as a black light CFL. Grow bulbs, designed for plants or aquariums, also work well. An even more effective option is to use a mercury or sodium vapour bulb, which broadcast an extremely bright light and draw in moths from further away. Set the light up in front of a wall or, even better, a white cotton sheet where the moths can land and be studied at close range.

Not all moths, however, are interested in lights. Some are nectar-feeders and will come to bait such as over-ripe bananas. A particularly effective way to entice moths is with a syrupy “goop.” One mixture calls for one over-ripe banana, a dollop of molasses, a scoop of brown sugar and a glug or two of beer. Mix the ingredients in a blender and spread the concoction on a tree trunk or a hang­ing rope. Check regularly after dark to see what has been attracted. With any luck, species such as Catocala (underwing) moths will show up. During the day, the bait may also attract butterflies.

Gallium Sphinx moth - June 4, 2016 - Gwen Forsyth

Gallium Sphinx moth – June 4, 2016 – Gwen Forsyth

A lot of the fun in mothing comes from taking pictures of the insects. Be aware, however, that using a flash may create washed-out images. A way to get around this is to carefully catch the moth in a small container, put it in the fridge overnight and take a picture the following morning using natural light. Place the moth on a pleasing background such as a leaf or a piece of bark. Make sure your camera settings are ready, because you will only have 30 seconds or so before the insect warms up enough to fly away. Placing a ruler beside the moth for one of the shots serves as a simple size reference.

Moth identification can be challenging, so keep in mind the following tips:

1. Start by focusing your ef­forts on the larger moths and those that stand out from the rest because of their large size and distinctive colours and markings (e.g., giant silkworm moths, sphinx moths).

2.  Take note of how it holds its wings when at rest. Are they spread out to the side or tent-like over the back? The former is probably a moth in the family Geometri­dae while the latter likely belongs to the family Noctuidae.

3. Once you have a rough idea of what family the moth might belong to, look more closely at the patterns on its wings and compare these to the photo­graphs in a guide such as “Peterson Field Guide to Moths” by Seabrooke Leckie.

4. Keep in mind the time of year. Like butter­flies, the moths you see change with the seasons. Knowing a given moth’s flight period will help to narrow down the species.

5.  Look at the range maps and make sure the species occurs in your area.

6. Check the type of host plant (larval food plant) the moth requires. If, for example, a given moth lays its eggs on plants that don’t grow in the Kawarthas, you can probably discount it.

 

Almost everything that applies to butterfly-watch­ing is also pertinent to the observation of dragonflies and their close cousins, damselflies. Collectively, these two groups of insects are known as the Odonata or simply “odonates.” Like butterflies and moths, there is a great deal of species diversity, and they, too, make wonderful subjects for photography.

On warm, sunny days, dragonflies and damselflies can be found around any wetland, lake or river. Many species are also attracted to meadows, roadsides and backyard gardens. In addition to using binoculars and a camera to help with identification, it can be fun to catch the insect in a butterfly net. It can then be transferred to a transpar­ent jar or plastic bag. Despite what many people think, dragonflies cannot sting you and their “bite” – on the rare occasions when this happens – is usually more startling than anything else. Here are a few simple suggestions to get started as an odonate-watcher.

1. Learn the different dragonfly (e.g., darners, skimmers) and damselfly (e.g., bluets, spreadwings) families. Knowing the family will greatly narrow down the choice of possible species.

Male Ebony Jewelwing, a species of damselfly (D. Gordon Robertson)

Male Ebony Jewelwing, a species of damselfly (D. Gordon Robertson)

2. Pick up a copy of “The Dragonflies and Damselflies of Algonquin Provincial Park and Surrounding Area”. Written by local naturalist Colin Jones and illustrated by former Peterborough resident Peter Burke, it covers all of the species you are likely to find in the Kawarthas.

3. For dragonflies, take special note of overall size, eye position (e.g., do the two large eyes touch each other?) as well as any patterning on the thorax, abdomen or wings.

Immature meadowhawk dragonfly - Margo Hughes

Immature meadowhawk dragonfly – Margo Hughes

4. Remember that the male and female in many species can be quite different.

5. As with common moths and butterflies, you may want to start collect­ing odonates to have a small reference collection. Doing so will not have any impact on the population. Guidelines for proper collecting (e.g., using glassine envelopes) can be found online.

You will find more ways to develop a stronger connection to the natural world in my new “Big Book of Nature Activities: A Year-Round Guide to Outdoor Learning” which I co-wrote with Jacob Rodenburg, executive director of Camp Kawartha. The book will be available in June.

 

 

 

Nov 052014
 

Photo of a male Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum), a species of dragonfly in the skimmer family. ID was based on body length of 29mm, reddish-brown colour and being active in early November.  It is the only meadowhawk species that is active this late in the fall. I photographed the dragonfly hanging on to the window screen at sunrise on November 2. The Environment Canada weather website recorded -3C with a windchill of -8C at the Peterborough airport. I would imagine that our temperatures near lower Chemong Lake were warmer, but it was still very cold! The dragonfly flew away later in the morning after warming in the sun.

Don McLeod

Note: This species is sometimes called the Yellow-legged Meadowhawk, since it is the only meadowhawk with pale, yellowish legs

Autumn Meadowhawk - Don McLeod

Autumn Meadowhawk – Don McLeod