Saturday, September 13, 2008

American Toad (Bufo americanus)

The common species of toad in this area. In parts of southern Ontario where their ranges overlap, the American Toad's spotted underside and fewer warts within the dark areas on its back distinguish it from the Fowler's Toad.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Floral Interlude

Autumn just around the corner and brings with it a last rush of flowers. This is the favoured blooming season for many composites.

A nectaring Milbert's Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis milberti) adds a splash of color to this field of Goldenrod. There are over one hundred species of Goldenrod (Solidago sp.), a member of the Aster family, on this continent.

White Asters ... not sure about these. Maybe Panicled Asters (Aster lanceolatus)?

Flat-topped White Asters (Aster umbellatus)

The delicate flowers of the Spitting Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata) ...

... and the not so delicate fruit. Salad, anyone?

The leaves, flowers and seed pod of the Wild Radish (Raphanus raphanistrum)

Leaves and beautiful blossoms of Nightshade (Solanum sp.)

Don't toss this fruit in your salad. Many members of the family Solanaceae, such as the potato and tomato, are edible. Other species are decorative. The fruit of Nightshade contains alkaloids that are toxic.

Crown Vetch (Coronilla varia), a member of the Legume family ... the flowers very much resemble those of clover.

Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare): this member of the Aster family can be toxic if taken internally and can cause dermatitis in some people.

A close-up of a Cardinal Lobelia (Lobelia cardinalis).

Last but not least ... this looks like a New England Aster and quite possibly is but the flowers are magenta rather than the usual deep blue.

Here's a close-up of the flower with a nectaring Halictid Bee.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Jumping Spider (Eris sp.)

Beautifully colored and boldly patterened like most jumping spiders. As evinced by the relatively small abdomen and large pedipalps this is a male.

At first I thought this might be Eris militaris, the Bronze Jumper. But E. militaris has a white marking on the head which this spider lacks. Nor does this specimen have the abdomonal markings of Eris flava. And spiders can vary quite a bit from one individual to the next, so I'm uncertain as to the species ...

Jumping spiders stalk and pounce their prey rather than snaring it in a web and rely on their excellent vision to hunt. Their large eyes, clearly visible even from a distance in the first image, provide the spider with excellent forward vision.

As seen in the following photos the eyes are strategically placed about and elevated above the cephalothorax.

A few more pictures from different angles ...

This is a good sized jumping spider, about a quarter of an inch long. This shot of the spider sitting on my finger gives an idea of its size. Jumping spiders are active creatures, constantly in motion, and this one was no exception, making it a difficult subject to photograph. It's tricky to keep the camera in focus and shoot with only one hand.

He made himself at home and didn't seem to feel uncomfortable moving around on my fingers and wrist. (I didn't place the spider on my hand, it jumped there of its own volition.) Nor did I feel uneasy ... the spider has no reason to bite me. I'm not its natural prey, nor did I make it feel threatened.

Although jumping spiders don't spin webs to catch their prey they do attach a line before a jump so they can find their way back if necessary. This one made a leap from my hand and ended up on the road ... and also managed to get slightly entangled in his own silk.

White-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum obtrusum)

A few more photos of this common little dragonfly. Meadowhawks are quite tame if approached slowly without making any sudden moves to startle them. This one found a handy place to perch for a few minutes.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis)

These dragonflies are called Blue Dashers for a good reason and this is the only photo out of about ten that is worth posting. The quality of the only lateral shot I was able to obtain is likewise poor. But it's still possible to zoom in on the image and (just barely) make out identifiable features on the thorax and abdomen, and comparing the markings to other pictures on the Internet confirms that this is a male Pachydiplax longipennis.

Life's a Beach

Maybe not for everyone, certainly not for this Raft Spider or Fishing Spider (Dolomedes sp.). It isn’t dead … but it isn’t going anywhere soon either. It’s been stung and paralysed by the venom of the Blue Black Spider Wasp (Anoplius sp.). The wasp will bury the spider and lay its egg on it, the unfortunate spider thereby providing a non-perishable source of food for the wasp larva.

This is nature’s way of coping without refrigeration and many other local wasps have evolved similar practises for the survival of their own species. The Great Golden Digger Wasp preys on katydids, and the aptly named Steel Blue Cricket Hunter and Cicada Killer hunt crickets and cicadas respectively.

Fishing Spiders grow to a respectable size, a good ¾ of an inch … and that’s not including the length of the legs. This was a young spider, half an inch long at the most. Even so its weight was too much for the wasp to just pick it up and make a long distance flight; the insect was carrying its burden in short flits.

My presence startled the wasp at first and it abandoned the spider but it returned about twenty minutes later. The wasp didn’t come back unerringly in the exact location, rather, it landed periodically and slowly homed in, apparently seeking by smell.

"Here There Be Tygers"

First a belated note: on Sunday, August 31st, 2008 at about 11:30 am, I saw another Giant Swallowtail on the north shore of Lake Stoco; bringing the total to four so far this year. No picture as the butterfly was moving too fast and was out of range before I could bring the camera to bear.

The title is borrowed from a Ray Bradbury story; the "tygers" in these images are Cicindela repanda, a species of Tiger Beetle.

Tiger Beetles are fast runners, good fliers, and have strong jaws, making them well adapted to their role as predators in the food chain.