Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Hog-nosed Snakes hatch; random stuff

On August 28th I checked on a location where I knew Hog-nosed Snakes had nested and was surprised to see some animal diggings and some eggshells on the surface. I was disheartened at first because I thought they had been predated but when I showed them to my friend Jon he explained that the snakes had already hatched. The snakes hatched, shed their skin, and hopefully slithered away safely. A predator like a skunk or raccoon came along, sniffed out the nest, and dug up the already hatched eggs. The eggs were deflated, didn't show any bite marks, and there were shed skins around the nesting site. We found two nests, one with 26 eggs, and the other with 8. The 26 eggs may have been laid by one big mama, or perhaps several females using the same site.
Generally open sandy habitat with diggings and a few scattered egg shells.
We further dug up the nest to count the already hatched eggs.
 Hard to see, but there are some small snake skins in this photo.

Other random photos and ramblings:

 This robber fly was flying around with this Cabbage White and it kind of startled me. It looked like a big cotton ball was just whizzing around and I had no idea what I was looking at.
 Saw these guys while paddling around Long Point Bay. Northern Map Turtle above and a Blanding's Turtle below.

 Recent Eared Grebe and Short-billed Dowitchers at Townsend

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Norfolk Sachems and Dainty Sulphers

After reading about all the cool southern butterflies people were seeing recently in other parts of Ontario I was chomping at the bit to go look for some in Norfolk. On August 12th a colony of Dainty Sulphurs were discovered just down the road from my house and I finally made an effort to find them on August 18th.  Without too much effort I was able to find 2 individuals. This colony is quite disjunct from the other colonies being observed in the "greater Pelee area".
One of 2 Dainty Sulphurs I observed.

Fiery Skippers and Sachems have been recorded all over the place so it comes as no surprise that they too have made their way to Norfolk. Fierys often wander into the province but the Sachem invasion was quite unexpected (unprecedented?). On some private property near St.Williams I was able to see a few each of both Fiery Skipper and my main target - the Sachem. Despite checking many other seemingly suitable places I haven't found good numbers of them at any other location.


 A couple shots of a Sachem (above). Fierys (below). 

At this same location I also found a few Peck's Skippers, a skipper I don't easily find in Norfolk for some reason. A snout was another unexpected treat.

 Peck's Skipper above, Snout below.

And finally, Grey Hairstreak. These guys too invade in late summer and I was able to find one at my place near Walsingham. They seem to be really abundant at Pelee right now, but I haven't found many around here. Fingers crossed for a White-M Hairstreak to show up...

Monday, 13 August 2012

Dragonflies in the News

If you think birdwatching is a bit on the fringe of what makes the news, then news on dragonflies and other insects is even more rare. Recently the Long Point Basin Land Trust put out a news release detailing the story of how my colleague photographed Purple Martins eating dragonflies, and one of these dragonflies turned out to be a Comet Darner. The story got picked up by many newspapers and even got me an interview on CBC radio! Just goes to show you that there's an appetite for this sort of nature nugget. Just to refresh your memory, one of the photos is below (photo credit Gregor Beck). 

The news release emphasized the novel method of studying dragonflies by watching what the martins brought in, and a lesser extent that the Comet darner is rather uncommon. Well the story ended up getting picked up by a number of newspapers in Southern Ontario, and many tried to put their own slant on things. Many  wanted to emphasize the rarity of the Comet Darner - you would have thought I discovered the first one in Ontario or something, while others even tried to make connections to Global Warming. People wanted to know - what does all this mean? Is it bad that the martins are eating "rare" dragonflies? The short answer was it's not bad or good - it's just cool! We just thought it was a fun story.

Also it's funny how easily it is to get miss-quoted, or have things taken out of context. I was quoted as saying "...the unusually warm spring and summer in the area that has also attracted new species of butterflies to Norfolk, including the rare Red Admiral..." I most certainly did not call Red Admirals rare, and I think the news reporter just mixed a few quotes together by accident. Next time I read some bizarre "quote" in the newspaper I'll keep in mind that it might not be exactly what was said.

Here are a couple newspaper articles that took different slants on the topic.

July19th - The Record - Kitchener Waterloo

July19th - Simcoe Reformer

Shortly after these news releases, someone from CBC radio Calgary called to chat with me a little more about Dragonflies. He was already doing a story on dragonflies, and must have stumbled across my name after reading one of the newspaper articles. Anyways, we had a nice little interview over the phone and he ended up using some of it in a nice little piece on dragonflies. Kind of funny to hear my "radio voice". I had hoped to post the audio file on here, but it seems like adding audio to this blog is a bit of pain in the but so you are going to have to take my word for it!