Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Marsh-sloggin' in Cambridge

I ventured out this evening to a complex of marshes on the west side of Cambridge.  The area was new to me which is always exciting.  On my way to Cambridge I stopped in at Talize (a used clothing store) to pick up a shiny new pair of shoes.  I've learned that when you're planning to get right into a marsh, a nice pair of runners, I prefer the heavily ventilated cross-trainers, can't be beat.  Walking the trail to the wetlands I admittedly looked a little 'Euro' in my bright white Adidas, which now sit caked in organics and drying on my front porch.  Anyways, enough about shoes. 

I spotted my first Least Skipper of the year.  About the size of my thumbnail, these are Ontario's smallest butterfly.  You can easily distinguish them from other skippers like the European Skipper by the elongated abdomen which extends out past the hind wings.

Sticking my head into the forest I found a small patch of Virginia Stickweed (Hackelia virginiana).  This species is listed as rare in Waterloo Region but I think it'd be the first to go (possibly along with Hackberry) if a revised list were to be done, it's everywhere.  This species has wider leaves, and more ascending stem pubescence with bristles covering the seed, versus H. deflexa which has narrower leaves, appressed pubescence and limited barbs on the seeds.

Second to the dominant cattails, the marshes contain a tonne of  Broad-fruited Bur-reed (Sparganium eurycarpum).  This species is easy to distinguish from the other Sparganiums in that it has 2 stigmas (shown in the second photo), all of our other species have just 1 stigma.

My best find of the day was this nasty wetland plant, Arrow-leaved Tear-thumb (Persicaria sagittata).  This species is also rare in Waterloo Region.  Check out those spines in the second photo, mess you up! Actually, the plant utilizes these spines to help clamber atop the surrounding vegetation.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Cooling off at Pinehurst Lake CA

Today Alyssa and I went for a swim/hike at Pinehurst Lake CA, a nice GRCA-owned spot between Ayr and Glen Morris.  Alyssa swam out toward the middle of the lake, I treaded water among the Ceratophyllum and Nuphar, fun!

We went for a hike along the Morton Trail which passes through a mix of cool season grass meadow, regenerating thicket and a good chunk of dry-fresh forest with some impressive Red Oak, White Oak and White Pine.

Standing atop a bench at a high point to get a better view, I looked down and saw this Sand Wasp (Ammophila sp.) working away meticulously on this nest.  Strangely, Ammophila is also the genus name for Marram Grass or Beachgrass. The Greek 'Ammos' means sand.

I'm trying to put a new ID guide purchase  to work, and I come up with what I think is Two-spotted Bumblebee (Bombus bimaculatus) on what I know is Scoch Thistle (Onopordum acanthium).  North and South Dumfries Townships had a fair number of Scottish settlers arriving in the early-mid 1800's and I've been told that this species of thistle was brought over to remind them of home.

One of the species that always perks my interest as a bit of a diversity indicator in dry oak forests in the area, Pointed-leaved Tick Trefoil (Desmodium glutinosum).

A total of 5 Monarchs on the day was the most I've seen in a day this year, so far.

A couple of Red-spotted Purple fed on the Wild Carrot.

Milbert's Tortoiseshell, one of my favourite butterflies.

From the beach to the meadows to the wetlands, Pinehurst was rife with odonates.  Not sure what I'm looking at here. [Edit: Thanks to Reuven for calling it, Band-winged Meadowhawk (Sympetrum semicinctum)].

 Carrion-flower (Smilax herbacea).  As the name suggests, this plant produces a fetid odour when in bloom which attracts flies and bees which in turn facilitates it's pollination.

The glaucous stem can help in identifying this species.

Some bushwacking to check out a wetland involved carefully side-stepping Wood Frogs and American Toads.

Stay on the trail!

A neat clearing dominated by Cow Wheat (Melampyrum lineare) had a few Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora) poking up.

 It had probably been awhile since this Green Frog had seen somebody 'walk the plank' in the photo above.

Some butterflies are looking worse for wear including this Eastern Comma and especially the Northern Pearly Eye.

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) at the edge of the kettle lake.

A dense colony of Reed Manna Grass (Glyceria grandis).

A member of the Campanulacea family, Indian Tobacco (Lobelia inflata).  The seed pods take the form of small inflated sacs when mature.

I spotted one or two Pale Vetchling (Lathyrus ochroleucus) at the base of this White Oak.

 A female Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa).

Between the nice hike and the cool-down swim, I just may have to pick up a GRCA pass for next year!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Ojibway Bioblitz Weekend!

I'd never participated in a bioblitz untilt his past weekend at the Ojibway Prairie Complex in Windsor.  I had a blast, exploring the natural areas of Windsor is fun to begin with, but add a bunch of experts and a 'mission' to document as many species as possible in 24 hours and it's sure to be a great time. 

After registering on Saturday morning, I was assigned to Brunet Park/La Salle Woods.  I had never visited this site before so it was interesting getting to know a spot so well over Saturday and Sunday morning.

The site has a few open areas of tallgrass prairie, oak woodland, thicket, wet woods and upland forest.  On of the most interesting areas was the hydro corridor which contains small numbers of Dense Blazing Star (Liatris spicata).  In the coming weeks these spikes will burst into purple blooms, a stunning effect particularly en masse.

I had never before seen Shrubby St. John's Wort (Hypericum prolificum) growing in the wild so these were a treat to see.

A few flowering stems of the towering Prairie Dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum).  Somewhat similar to rail lines, it's interesting to think what hydro corridors have done for the preservation of prairie habitats with the regular removal of brush beneath the lines.

A shot of the buds of Prairie Dock.

Neck-deep in a mix of Riverbank Grape and Black Raspberry I looked up to find a patch of Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra).

A little late to the party, I came across the remains of the provincially threatened Purple Twayblade (Liparis lillifolia).  The MNRF website notes that surveys between 2007 and 2009 found there to be 200 to 500 plants in Ontario each year.   

Wild Yam (Dioscorea villosa) vines blanket other vegetation along with Summer Grape (Vitis aestivalis) and the rare Fox Grape (Vitis labrusca), both of which I had on my list for Brunet Park.

A mosquito-ridden stroll (jog?) through an area of wet forest yielded Muskingum Sedge (Carex muskingumensis).  The massive, elongated spikelets make this sedge an easy identification when you do find it.

While the butterfly contingent was on top of things, I kept an eye out.  I think I saw more Great-spangled Fritillaries than Red Admirals, maybe even Cabbage Whites.  I guess they are tough to miss.

Bending down to inspect a Black Huckleberry (which was unexpected), I snapped a shot of this Dun's Skipper.

Stepping into the woods once more I scoured the groundcover for new species only to find this Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar feeding on a young Sassafrass.

A stop at Ojibway shores yielded a few new species for my list including Hoary Vervain (Verbena stricta), Moth Mullein (Verbascum blattaria), False Sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides), Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) and Water Plantain (Alisma plantago-aquatica) among others.  Then it was back to the Ojibway Nature Centre for dinner, followed by some bat acoustic recording and moth lighting (if that's what you call it).  Most of the next few pictures are of the larger, showier moths, but as the blankets show there was so much more going on.

A few Grapevine Beetles (Pelidnota punctata).

Fun times!

Scarlet Underwing (Catocala coccinata)

Small-eyed Sphinx (Paonias myops) on a dirty canvas.

Virgin Tiger Moth (Grammia virgo)

Sitting out back this evening I came up with a use for the extremely bright floodlight in my neighbours backyard (the light they have hard wired to run between 8 and 8 all night every night, 365 days of the year)...free moth light!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Torrance Barrens Botany

I made the trip to the Gravenhurst area on Saturday for a botany hike at the Torrance Barrens Dark-Sky Preserve. The Field Botanists of Ontario trip, lead by Tristan Knight and Tyler Miller offered a chance to explore a loop trail which took the group through a series of rock barren ridges and wetland areas.

Some of the wet pockets within the barrens contained interesting assemblages of sedges including Broom Sedge (Carex scoparia).

One of the panic grasses that occurs sporadically in the drier areas, Dichanthelium implicatum.

It was noted that we were near the southern limit of Three-toothed Cinquefoil (Sibbaldiopsis tridentata), a plant which thrives in the cracks of the bedrock.

Bristly Blackberry (Rubus setosus) can be found growing among Canada Bluejoint, Virginia Chain Fern and the ericaceous shrubs atop the peat mats which border Highland Pond.

Bush-honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera) in bloom.  One trip participant lamented planting this clonal-spreading shrub in her garden.  At one prairie site I help manage, Bush-honeysuckle flourished after a much-needed prescribed burn and now provides competition to a population of rarities including Smooth False Foxglove (Aureolaria flava).

The blue-purple flower of Pickerel-weed along the edge of the open water.

Early Goldenrod (Solidago juncea) among an assortment of Ticklegrass (Agrostis scabra), Hairgrass (Avenella flexulosa) - until recently belonging to the genus Deschampsia, and Panic grasses.

A few areas of Swamp Candles (Lysimachia terrestris) lit up the scenery.

Tonnes of White Beakrush (Rhynchospora alba).

The carnivirous sundews are always cool to examine up close.  These are Spatulate-leaved Sundew (Drosera intermedia).  There are 3 other species of sundew found in Ontario.

Snake in the grass?  Rattlesnake Grass (Glyceria canadensis).  There are Massasauga and Hog-nosed Snake in the area but our herping for the day was limited to a couple of Five-lined Skink.

The biennial Pink Corydalis (Capnoides semprevirens).

Some of the Bristly Sarsaparilla (Aralia hispida) were approaching 1.5m!

We were right on time for peak bloom of the Racemed-Milkwort (Polygala polygama).

I believe the group agreed upon Nodding Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes cernua) versus Hooded (S. romanzoffiana) based upon an inspection of the sepal and colouration on the flower lip.  We likely have had both present as the second photo would suggest a different (albeit not-quite-blooming) species.  

Accumulating Sedge (Carex cumulata), of the dreaded ovales group.  This one was only easy to spot having been introduced to this species a few weeks back on Beausoleil Island.

Glades of Virginia Chain Fern (Woodwardia virginica) can be found throughout the peat mats.  

Stunted Sedge (Carex magellanica) is always a nice find in boggy habitats.

Nearby a tuft of Prickly Sedge (Carex echinata) was pointed out.

I was excited to see White-fringed Orchid (Platanthera blephariglottis).  What a beaut!  

Another orchid, and one that always grabs the attention of somebody hiking by, Grass Pink (Calopogon tuberosus).

An Aphrodite Fritillary greeted us upon returning to the parking lot.  "Guys you gotta try this rubber, sooo good!"

I think one of the coolest things from the trip would have been the pair of Common Nighthawk which our group startled as we rambled along checking out the veg.  A couple of quick pictures at a distance and we left this territorial bird be.

Overall an awesome trip!