Friday, 27 July 2012

Fresh-water Jellyfish - Port Dover

No this is not a hoax - and for some of you it might be old news, but I personally had no idea that there are fresh-water jellyfish (Craspedacusta sowerbii)occurring in Ontario. I was not so surprised to learn that they are an invasive species that found it's way from Asia to North America some 100 years ago. My interest in these guys came about a few weeks ago when I got a phone call from a friend in Port Dover. He had a video of a jellyfish that his friend  had found in Black Creek in Port Dover. Anyways, the video is pretty grainy but it clearly shows a small jellyfish just blobbing along like they do. From what I've been able to glean from the internet it seems like they prefer warm, still-moving water, are pretty small and aren't dangerous to people.  They probably have a negative impact on the environment but I guess it can't be too bad (relatively speaking) since they haven't got the sort of press zebra mussels and other invasives have gotten.

Monday, 16 July 2012

2012 Long Point Butterfly Count Results

Here are the results from the 21st Long Point Butterfly Count held on Saturday July 7, 2012. We counted 4155 Individuals (average 2590) of 53 Species (average 48.8), adding three new species to the count. 53 species ties our second best, with 55 the record.

New Species for the count:
7 Wild Indigo Duskywing
7 Variegated Fritillary
1 Common Checkered Skipper

This brings the cumulative species total for all Long Point counts to 76 species. We also had an amazing number of record highs.

15 New Highs, 1 Tied - old record in parenthesis

25 (13) Black Swallowtail
4 (1) Canadian Tiger Swallowtail
206 (205) Clouded Sulphur
392 (132) Orange Sulphur
205 (28) American Copper
76 (36) Coral Hairstreak
1 Meadow Fritillary (1st since 2006)
56 (21) Painted Lady
26 (2) Buckeye
65 (64) Eyed Brown
39 (38) Appalacian Brown
186 (184) Monarch
422 (161) Silver-spotted Skipper
33 (24) Broad-winged Skipper
27 (4) Black Dash
1149 (171) Dun Skipper
It's hard to set record lows since most species have been missed at least once. Only 18 species have been found on all counts. Nonetheless we managed to do that too, spotting only 8 European Skippers (39 previous low).

I can send a spreadsheet to anyone who would like to see the complete list.

Next years count is July 6th, 2013.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Correction: NO Brush-tipped Emerald via Purple Martin!

Brush-tipped Emerald = Strike 1
Shadow Darner = Strike 2
Swamp Darner = final answer

Thanks to Chris Earley's sharp eyes, he noticed something was wrong with my emerald - it appeared too large to be a Brush-tipped so he suggested Williamson's. I worked with that for a while, but my dragonfly was still too big to be any emerald (close to 9cm without a head!). I started from scratch and realized it must be a darner. Because we found the dragonfly dead, it had lost most of the colour on it. It appeared all black with some green on the thorax making me think it was an emerald. The hairy claspers lead me to believe it a BTEM. In any event, I think it's just a Shadow Swamp Darner, albeit with hairy claspers... Is that normal? It doesn't really mention it in the literature. It's a Shadow Darner for now...

Once again, the Purple Martin Colony is adding great Ode records for Norfolk County. Gregor found a large, dark (and headless) dragonfly underneath the colony and saved it for me. At first glance it was pretty clear to me that I hadn't seen it before, although I was pretty sure it was some type of emerald (wrong) due to its dark colour and some metallic green markings on the thorax. I then noticed its very unique male claspers - they were hairy! I knew this would be enough to I.D. it to species and of course it turned out to be a Brush-tipped Emerald (really wrong). Having only seen American Emerald in Norfolk I quickly went online to the Ontario Odonata Atlas to check out the range map. I wasn't surprised to see no record of this species in Norfolk (and excited too of course). In fact, this would be the most southerly record for Ontario with the next closest records being from the  Brantford / Hamilton / Cambridge region (Thanks to James Holdsworth for pointing out that he has had this species in Norfolk before). Of course, the disclaimer, these maps are very much out of date so please correct me if you have other records. I look forward to hearing what the Google group has to say (foreshadowing). They are endangered in Ohio.

A headless Brush-tipped Emerald Shadow Swamp Darner above, close-up of male claspers below.

New for the year for me, several Lance-tipped Darners were foraging in a weedy field yesterday. The two females I found were slightly different colours with one showing more green, and the other showing some blue.

And lastly, some Red Saddlebags, the first I've been able to photograph this year. Several were foraging very far from water over some weedy fields. I found one that had a very pale face so I took lots of photos thinking there might be an outside chance it was something special. When you don't have a lot of experience with a species, you aren't sure what they are "supposed" to look like. I guess it's just an immature.


Sunday, 8 July 2012

Common Checkered Skipper!

Saturday was the Long Point Butterfly Count for which I'm the organizer/compiler. It was a fantastic day with a high species total, record highs for many species, and several new species for the count. I hope to post a summary later this week once I get some pesky Duskywing photos sorted out. In the mean time, I thought I`d share some photos of what I deem to be the highlight of the count - an immaculate Common Checkered Skipper. This is the first for the count, the first for Norfolk County as far as I know, and probably one of a few records outside what I like to call the "Greater Pelee Area" of extreme southwestern Ontario. Please correct me if they are more widespread than I'm making it sound, or if there have been invasion years.

I'd like to take credit for it since it was my 'group' that found the skipper, but the credit belongs to Ron Allenson of Monarch's Landing who was helping me with my area. He hoped out of the truck to check a rather tiny, insignificant patch of vegetation surrounded by a soybean field (island effect?). I drove down the road, turned around, and found him waving me into the field yelling for me to get my camera. We were both pretty excited - a lifer butterfly for both of us that came totally out of the blue in a totally unexpected location.

Broad-winged Skippers were in record numbers - this is the first one I've seen in my territory.

And just for fun, below are some photos I took this evening of a Ghost Tiger Beetle. They are easily one of my favourite Tiger Beetles. They scurry all over the white sand and you end up seeing their shadow more than their actually body.


Thursday, 5 July 2012

Comet Darners eaten by Purple Martins

My friend and colleague Gregor Beck has a thriving Purple Martin colony on his property near Turkey Point and he snapped a bunch of photos of the parents feeding the young. He mentioned that you can see a dragonfly in a few of the photos so I took a look. We zoomed in on a photo of a male martin trying to feed his young a large darner and I quickly realised it to be a male Comet Darner!

Gregor informed me that there is a pile of dragonfly wings underneath the nesting box and even a few whole dragonflies that didn't get eaten for one reason or another. We went out to take a look and found 3 intact dragons - 2 Swamp Darners, and another Comet Darner (a female)! Our hypothesis is that perhaps the young Martins couldn't quite stuff our largest darner species down their throats as easily as some of our smaller dragons.

Previous to this year Comet Darners were thought to be very rare in the province, but already this year they are turning up all over the place and even in Quebec - a first for the province. This is partly due to more people out looking, but maybe more due to the warm weather we have experienced this year.

You can tell it's a male Comet Darner by the bright red abdomen, red femurs and long legs.
 (above and below photo taken by Gregor Beck )

 This dead female Comet Darner was found under the nest box. Another feature to look for is the lack of any marking on the top of the frons - the top part of the face between the eyes (see below).

Here's a photo of a Carolina Saddlebags I took a few days ago. 

This Edward's Hairstreak was particularly bright with a lot of white highlights. I hadn't seen one like this before.