Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Ontario: Return to Eagle Lake

At the beginning of June, Eileen and I arrived back in Mississauga, where our grandson Ryan and his mother Fiona, just arrived from Sarawak, were already waiting for us.   We wanted to show them a bit of an Ontario summer (their previous visits had been in winter), so the June 24th weekend found us heading north to Eagle Lake near Haliburton, and the cottage of our friends Norma and Robert Terro. Faithful readers will have already trolled through my collection of Eagle Lake dragonfly photographs, from our first visit last August.

Ryan took to the cottage, the local lake (which is, more specifically, called Basshaunt Lake) and the surrounding woods like the proverbial duck to water.  For him, it was as fascinating as anything in Malaysia, and I greatly enjoyed seeing familiar sights through his eyes (particularly, I admit, when he excitedly identified a deer, whose head we saw poking above the shrubbery, as "a kangaroo!" Actually, that's not such a bad mistake if (a) you only see its head and (b) you have a four-year-old's conception of what continent you are on.

Spittlebug (Cercopoidea)
There are certainly things for him to see (and for Grandpa to try to explain to him) - even things as humble as the bubble nest of a spittlebug on a grass stem.  Spittlebugs, for those who don't know, are the nymphs of froghoppers (Cercopoidea); there are many genera and about 850 species worldwide.

Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis)
 Not everything in the woods, though, is as interesting to him as it was to me, and Ryan isn't much for getting up early.  So we'll let him sleep for a while, and take a morning walk down the dirt road east of the cottage, heading for a spot I had discovered on my first trip to Eagle Lake: a shallow beaver pond full of dragonflies.  We'll look at the dragonflies in my next post, but for now we'll keep an eye out for other things: the ferns, for example.  This is a Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis).  Its fronds are particularly stiff and coarse for a fern; itis called "sensitive" because it withers at the first touch of frost.  Sensitive Ferns can carpet a good deal of the forest floor.

Cinnamon Fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum)
This is a Cinnamon Fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum), a highly attractive species named for the cinnamon-coloured fertile fronds that bear the spores.

Black Raspberry (Rubus occidentalis)
Black Raspberries (Rubus occidentalis) are blooming along the road edge, but not, alas, fruiting - we're a bit early for that.

Purple-flowering Raspberry (Rubus odoratus)
This is less of a regret with the Purple-flowering Raspberry (Rubus odoratus), which has attractive flowers but dry, rather tasteless fruits.

Bracket fungi sprout from the trunks of aspens and birches.

Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus)
We're early enough to catch a glimpse of a Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) taking a bit of sun at the roadside.

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapilla)
A Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapilla) investigates the hollow in a broken-off stub of White Birch (Betula papyrifera).  Does it have a nest in there?

Black-throated Blue Warbler (Setophaga caerulescens)
Wood warblers sing forage and tend to their nests throughout the forest.  This is a female Black-throated Blue Warbler (Setophaga caerulescens).

Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens)
A male Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens) shows off his black throat.

At last, we reach the beaver pond.  Besides the dragonflies and damselflies, there is a lot going on here.

Water Arum or Wild Calla (Calla palustris)
Wild Callas or Water-Arums (Calla palustris) raise their white spathes above the pond surface.

Wood Frog (Lithobates sylvaticus)
It's the breeding season for frogs and toads like this Wood Frog (Lithobates sylvaticus), and the shallow waters of the beaver pond are an ideal nesting ground.

American Toad (Bufo americanus)
Filaments of jelly clinging to a floating stem hold the eggs of the American Toad (Bufo americanus).

American Toad (Bufo americanus)
The shallows swarm with tadpoles, probably the young of American Toads recently hatched from eggs like those in the previous photograph.

American Toad (Bufo americanus)
Tiny young toads, the product of earlier layings, venture onto the shore for, perhaps, the first time.

American Toad (Bufo americanus)
The young toads ill grow up to look rather like this.

After a rewarding session at the pond, it's time to head back through the woods to the cottage.
?Two-Striped Grasshopper (Melanoplus bivittatus)
 There are still things to see on the way.  The warming day brings out insects like this colorful little grasshopper (that I can't identify - can anyone help?).

European Skipper (Thymelicus lineola)
There are butterflies, too.  I'm not particularly good with skippers, but I think this is a European Skipper (Thymelicus lineola), an exotic species first introduced (Lord knows why) to North America right here in Ontario back in 1910 (in London, Ontario, to be precise).

White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis)
We do have plenty of native butterflies in Ontario, of course, and some are as spectacular as anything in Malaysia.  Here, as evidence, is a White Admiral (Limenitis anthems arthemis).

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis)
Even more striking - and considerably more common - is the Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis).  The classification of the tiger swallowtail complex in North America is complicated.  This one used to be considered to be in the same species as the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus), but it was split off in 1991.  This is the common species through much of Canada, but the "true" Eastern Tiger Swallowtail does occur in Southern Ontario (though probably not as far north as Haliburton).  The two are very difficult to tell apart.  One of the differences between them is a matter of natural history rather than appearance: the Canadian Tiger Swallowtail has only one generation per year (in entomological terms, it is univoltine), while the Eastern Tiger has two (in other words, it is bivoltine).

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis)
Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis)
Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis)
Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis)Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio canadensis)
One key identification point requires you to see the underside: the yellow spots along the forewing margin are merged into a more or less continuous band.  Canadian Tiger Swallowtails are adaptable creatures, as this one demonstrates by taking nectar from an exotic flower, Orange Hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum).  The plant is an invasive alien from southern Europe that I should regard with distaste, but the color combination is irresistible!

Back at Eagle Lake, the rest of the gang is up, and some of them are already on the water.  One of the nice things about Eagle Lake is that no power boats are allowed.  It's wonderfully peaceful!

Robert has taken over as nature guide while Grandpa was out walking through the woods.  He and Ryan are looking at something very exciting...

Green Frog (Lithobates clamitans melanota)
Green Frog (Lithobates clamitans melanota)
Green Frog (Lithobates clamitans melanota)
It's a Green Frog (Lithobates clamitans melanota)!  Definitely a high point for Ryan, but this is the common lakeside frog up here.  Its loud, gulping "plonk" sounds from almost every reedy spot along the shore.

Green Frog (Lithobates clamitans melanota)Green Frog (Lithobates clamitans melanota)
Ryan was delighted to learn that Green Frogs were not only common, but easy to see (not always the case for frogs).  This one seemed particularly unconcerned about Ryan, me or my camera.

Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta)
Even more exciting for Ryan was a hatchling Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta) that he got to hold for a little while.  Painteds are among the most well-known of turtles, and have some remarkable adaptations - the ability to tolerate freezing temperatures and extremely low levels of oxygen for long periods of time, for example.  If you want to know more, please excuse the following brief commercial: the second edition of my book Turtles, Tortoises and Terrapins, published by Firefly Books, will be out this fall.

Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta)Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta)
It's fairly easy to see from these photos why this is called a Painted Turtle (and it would be even more obvious if you could turn it over).  In fact, though, quite a few turtles have colorful babies - apparently a warning to predatory fishes that if you put one of these in your mouth, you're in for some very painful scratches as it tries to claw its way out.

Dock Spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus)
Dock Spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus)
Robert and Norma's boat dock, where we enjoyed inspecting the baby turtle, was home to the large, appropriately-named Dock Spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus, or the very similar Dolomedes scripts).  I find these to be very handsome animals, with their complex, oriental-carpet patternings, but I am aware that not everyone agrees.  Ryan likes them, though.

Dock Spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus)
Female Dock Spiders, with other members of their family, Pisauridae, carry their eggs around in a large silken sac, held in their fangs (or chelicerae) and slung beneath their bodies.  When the young spiderlings hatch, their mother spins a silken tent to protect them (pisaurids are also, evocatively, known as nursery-web spiders).

At the end of the day, Ryan helps Grandpa inspect his photos.  Most of them are of dragonflies; to see the results, stay tuned for my next posting.

1 comment:

  1. I loved your entry. I actually stumbled upon it looking for the identification of a White Admiral Butterfly I saw earlier today. Thanks for the great read and very nice photos.