Welcome with open arms

It’s always good to take time to stop and smell the flowers. Unless, of course, one of these assassins has taken up residence.

The ambush bug can tackle insects ten times its size.  Luckily we are about 1,000,000 times its size but you wouldn’t want one up your nose.  The plant is a Black-eyed Susan so that gives some idea of the scale. Until I looked at my picture at this scale, I hadn’t paid attention to all those disk florets – you can see the ring of pollen part way up the cone on a picture further down this entry but these are the lower on the cone.

Notice the “arms” for grabbing prey, quite like a praying mantis.  But this is a true bug.  It sticks its beak (called a rostrum) in the prey, injects poison and saliva and then sucks up the juices.  A great way to tenderize your meat.

 

Ambush bug
Ambush bug
Ambush bug - side view
Ambush bug – side view

It looks a bit like an insect Triceratops with that shield.

Ambush bug - front view
Ambush bug – front view

Next is a flower spider, that makes its living in the same way.  It cocks its legs back and when an insect comes within range, it grabs it.  I watched this over a couple of days.  I saw it get one fly but it doubled its size in less than a week.

Flower spider
Flower spider
Flower spider top view
Flower spider top view

Here’s a smaller one, having dinner.

Flower spider with fly
Flower spider with fly

Moth week

It took another week, but here at last are my moth week pictures.  There were nowhere near as many moths as last year, perhaps because it was much cooler in the evenings this year.

First I had to get ready. Lights set up to shine through a sheet on the window.  Note the moth orchid mascot.

Moth week setup - inside
Moth week setup – inside

Plank between ladders as platform for tripod.  My wife said “you are very strange”, but I can’t really deny that.

Moth week setup - outside
Moth week setup – outside

The first moth didn’t need any set up – it came to the front of the house and I found it on one of the pillars holding up the porch roof.

Elm Sphinx moth
Elm Sphinx moth

This related Sphinx moth, below, has a surprise for would-be predators, when it opens its wings.

Blinded Sphinx moth - wings closed
Blinded Sphinx moth – wings closed
Blinded Sphinx Moth
Blinded Sphinx Moth

The next one gets its name from the scribbles, similar to some people’s handwriting.  I like its name.  The moth is very metallic-looking so is hard to photograph in the dark.  This one preferred the window glass to my sheet so there are many reflections.

Lettered Habrosyne - side view
Lettered Habrosyne – side view
Lettered Habrosyne moth
Lettered Habrosyne moth
Painted lichen moth
Painted lichen moth

Mallows – more than just chocolate and cotton

I took pictures of a few flowers in my garden and as I came to post on this blog, I realized that, by coincidence, they were all mallows.  Only the first has “mallow” in its name, but the others look obviously related once you look closely.

The blog title is a hint or reminder that there are other well-known family members.

Rose Mallow
Rose Mallow
Hibiscus
Hibiscus
Pink Hollyhock
Pink Hollyhock
Red Hollyhock - backlit
Red Hollyhock – backlit

Pigeon River conservation area

A walk round one of the conservation areas near our house.

There are several conservation areas near our house.  This one is 6 km downstream from our house (by road, probably 10 if you walk downriver).  Another is even less the other way but is dry, whereas the Pigeon River one is wetlands. We live on the Oak Ridges Moraine so mostly there is lots of gravel and it is very dry, but ice sheets also grind finer and leave beds of clay in layers so there are wetlands as well – it can go from dryland to wetland and back again in a hundred metres or less.

The Pigeon River conservation area claims to be the “Pigeon River headwaters” but the river arises about 2 km upstream of us, in another wetland.  Still, close enough.

By the way, it’s the same Pigeon River in my header picture.

I went yesterday and they have just finished replacing the boardwalk.  It was around 6 p.m. and was very quiet, not much chatter from the birds or frogs so almost silent.  I actually saw more wildlife at home in about the same time.  Bad timing both by day and season. The trail starts on a note of optimism. I didn’t see any though.

Bear sign
Bear sign

Another sign said there was a bittern around, but I didn’t hear it (seeing one would be too much to hope for, but I know what they sound like from my younger days in the UK when they were more plentiful there. The only bird I saw that I don’t see in my back yard was this one, tentatively identified.

Willow Flycatcher
Willow Flycatcher
Willow Flycatcher 2
Willow Flycatcher 2

I did see a pair of cedar waxwings, which I haven’t seen in the garden since the spring. They’re usually back in the fall when the wild plum is in fruit. There was lots of wood construction, both the new boardwalk this year, and this other construction.

Beaver Dam
Beaver Dam

I put this picture on Facebook and Twitter earlier. The Conservation Area folks do a better job of building bridges than I do. I keep intending to nail on cross-boards but haven’t got round to it.

Pigeon River Bridges
Pigeon River Bridges

This part of the trail was more my style.

Pigeon river trail
Pigeon river trail

Just by the construction, this garter snake was resting:

Garter Snake
Garter Snake

Out in the open, the elders are in flower. I think these are regular black elders that are good for elderflower wine and elderberry wine.

Elder in flower
Elder in flower

On the other hand, in the shade, these are already in fruit and I think these are the poisonous red elder (I hear you can render them harmless by cooking but don’t want to try the experiment. Even the black, you are advised to cook lightly).

Red Elderberry
Red Elderberry

On the subject of poisonous don’t try these red baneberries (or even the white ones, not in season yet). They are deadly even if you only eat half a dozen. Kids can die with only 2.

Red Baneberry
Red Baneberry
Purple flowering rasberry
Purple flowering rasberry