Thursday, July 27, 2006

Tussock Moth & Tiger Moth Caterpillars

Nature always has fascinating surprises in store and sometimes I just laugh out loud when I am suddenly presented with one. And that's what I did when I first saw the White-Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar. It looked something like a walking toothbrush that was badly in need of replacement.

Vincent Van Gogh often comes to mind when I see some of these surprisingly vividly coloured creatures (such as the red, yellow and orange of Painted Turtles) and now I would add the White- Marked Tussock Moth Caterpillar to my list for the yellow and reds of this creature are fascinating! Some of these caterpillars have yellow tufts instead of white. I have seen two in our yard within the past two days; one with yellow tufts and the other with whitish beige ones.

I have recently identified another Tussock caterpillar which I have had in my picture files since 2001 and that is the Spotted Tussock Moth. Although not classified in the same family as the White- Marked Tussock, it presents an attractive colour and design of its own and it has been one of my favourite caterpillar photos.

To the left is a Banded Tussock Moth. When retriving this photo from my picture files I realized I hadn't actually looked at it carefully before and had assumed it was a Yellow Bear until examining it closely today.

As a child, probably the only caterpillars I had noticed or could identify were Wooly Bear and Yellow Bear. Even today their names evoke a childhood recall of familiarity.

Wooly Bear, seen below in orange and brown, becomes an Isabella Tiger Moth and Yellow Bear, which looks much like Wooly Bear but is yellow, turns into a Virginian Tiger Moth.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Viceroy Butterfly Caterpillar

Finding something by chance and then later making a connection to something that is already known is always a satisfying experience.

I took a picture of a caterpillar yesterday which I found while standing on the graveled shoulder of an old country roadside taking photos of Common Wood-Nymph butterflies. It wasn't a beautiful looking creature but the simple fact that it was a caterpillar attracted me to it immediately.

I have recently bought a new field guide; Caterpillars of Eastern North America, by David L. Wagner, and since then I have been enjoying searching through the wonderful colour pictures included in the book identifying a few caterpillar photographs I had taken and stored in my picture files since 2000. To find a new caterpillar to research just added to my fun.

And so I anticipated the enjoyment of having one more new species to identify. I was very pleased when I easily found a match for my new caterpillar picture: a Viceroy Butterfly Caterpillar Limentis archippus

Friday, July 21, 2006

Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus)

The male Bobolink is an interesting contrast study of black and buffy white and is easily identified when seen in its habitat of choice; grassy meadows.

Although I don't see Bobolinks often, and when I do they are at a distance in a field or sitting on a fence; however, I did have an opportunity to study the male of this species up close in May, 2002, when one visited our feeder area. It was unusual to see a Bobolink in our feeder area and I was amazed and delighted to see one so close and to be able to study and capture a photo of the design of its back view up close.
Last weekend while stopping by a grassy meadow I was able to photograph two males together; as well as a male and female together in flight.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Monarchs (Danaus plexippus)

I had never been fortunate enough to find Monarch butterflies to take pictures of until this year.

I determined to remedy that and remembering the location of some Milkweed plants that I had seen last fall along a roadside just a short distance away; visited that location. I found two Monarchs feeding there and also saw my first Monarch caterpillar!

The next week I located a larger growth of Milkweed alongside another roadside . And at this location there were several butterflys including Monarchs, Great Spangled, Aphrodite and Altanis fritillaries. And as an added bonus I found several Clear-wing Hummingbird moths, a couple of new skippers that I hadn't photographed before: Peck's Skipper and a Dun Skipper. Also a very beautiful American Copper in a closed wing position.

Returning to that second roadside area just a day ago the Monarchs and fritillaries that I had seen before were gone and instead Common Wood-nymph were in abundance. Having thought that perhaps I had seen my last Monarch of the summer I was very pleased to find a beautiful one feeding in my flower garden yesterday afternoon.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Northern Leopard Frog (Rana pipiens)

I had forgotten that not all frogs live in ponds or watery areas and so was very surprised yesterday to see a Leopard Frog in my garden. Upon doing some research I find that this species prefers to live in grassy or cultivated areas.

Leopard Frogs are usually from three to four inches in length and have interesting looking brown spots with light green outlining them. This frog had a nice 'grassy green' colour overall. The two ridges on this frog's back was really noticable.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia)

This Spotted Sandpiper was making quite a racket when I was walking along the river shore the other day. I had gone searching to see if Cardinal flowers were in bloom and all of a sudden I heard. "Peep, peep, peep, peep". (sandpipers are often referred to as 'peeps')

Usually a sandpiper will fly away when approached but this one obviously had young nearby and was loudly warning them to stay where they were. At times it even got closer to me creating a better opportunity to take pictures.

Friday, July 14, 2006


This masked bandit is often a nightly raider of our bird feeders. We know when Raccoons have visited during the night for in the morning we see the signs; the feeders have been emptied. On occasion we see a Raccoon during the daytime but usually they only visit after dark.

This little Raccoon, to the upper right, seemed to be a young one for it was quite small and visited in the daytime one day in May and stayed in our feeder area for quite a while.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer are frequent visitors to our gardens. These beautiful, graceful creatures come sometime during the night or early dawn and munch away at our Phlox and Hosta plants; as well as other plants too. Evident in the morning are often hoofprints in the soil and a chewed plant. We stopped having a vegetable garden a couple of years ago as it just wasn't worth the work; now we grow tomatoes in pots and that is the extent of our food growing endeavours. Deer love cedar as well and a few years ago several spent one winter munching contendly on our hedge.

Some years there is more activity around our yard than others. Once visitors from the west kept hoping to catch a glimpse of a White-tail before they returned home but it not happen. However, about an hour after their departure we counted eight deer on our side lawn that morning. That really is a lot and not a usual number for us to see. In fact I haven't seen a deer in our yard for a long time but I know when they have been there by viewing the remnants of some plants in the morning.

I snapped a picture of these three deer feeding along the roadside in May of this year. Seen below is a male White-tailed Deer; a buck. This picture was taken from my car window.

A fawn (below), a young White-tailed Deer ventured onto our property last summer and stayed long enough to have its photo taken.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Varying Hare

I saw three rabbits yesterday. Well, actually they were hares; Varying Hares, also known as Snowshoe Rabbits or Snowshoe Hares. The fur on these mammals turns white in the winter and brown in the spring/summer. In early April of this year I photo- graphed a hare with its fur colour in transition. It still had some white fur showing but the brownish colour was now becoming dominant.

A few years have gone by since I've seen many hares along the roadsides like I used to, but so far this year I have seen five.

I was driving along an old dirt road a month or so ago when I saw this hare in the photo, feeding in a ditch on greenery near a rather large puddle. He looked rather curious when I drove by but as I didn't stop it continued feeding. Having decided to return home, upon my return trip I could see that the hare was still feeding so I approached slowly in my car and managed to take four or five pictures from my car window before it decided to hop away.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Green Frog (Rana clamitans melanoto)

Every time I go to the pond this time of year I know I am going to hear a "bleep!" and then a 'ker-splash' as another green frog hits the water at my approach. However, I still give a little jump as the "bleep" always catches be off guard. And I seldom see froggie until its in the water! The thing to do would be to scan the edge of the pond with my binoculars first; to see it before it sees me, and I do this sometimes, but more often I forget until the "bleep!" catches me by surprise once again.

The Green Frog is easily identified as its upper jaw is a bright green and the pattern on his legs is barred rather than blotchy or round. The frog seen below was quite large and weighty as the Pond Lily paddy it was sitting on had sunk under its weight and I first thought it might be a Bullfrog because of its size. However, on closer inspection I could see that its upper jaw was green and the pattern on the legs was barred so it was just a rather large Green Frog.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

I had planned on making an entry on wildflowers yesterday and had taken quite a few photos while walking alongside the railroad tracks. Taking a moment though, to look at the river below while standing on the footpath of a railroad bridge, I saw an Osprey flying towards me.... immediate change of plans ...finally the right place, the right time!

Its amazing how huge and close these beautiful big birds seem to be when using a telescopic lens; its seems as if they're right upon you and more than once I have interrupted my picture taking and moved my eye away from the camera viewfinder to see how close the bird really was.

I have yet to chance upon the perfect light conditions for photographing Ospreys and often have to do quite a bit of photo editing to lighten and sharpen the details after downloading the pictures to my computer; as was the case yesterday. This could be considered a bit of an advantage though if I want to think positively about it, for I often like the picture quality achieved in these less than perfect conditions when sometimes the coarseness of the edited photo seems to project the roughness and wild strength of these impressive birds.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Wood Nymphs and Browns

I have seen four species of butterflies in this classification. The most common one that I see more often than the others is the Little Wood Satyr (r: Little Wood Satyr). Every year I find it near a grouping of ferns growing at the edge of a meadow bordering a huge stand of old Pine trees.

The Smoky Eyed Brown was found in my back porch one summer day in July 2001. That was the first and only time I have
seen the Eyed Brown. Notice that there are five spots on the
upper wings; this helps distinguish it from the others and I think it could be called the 'Many Eyed Brown'.

The picture at the bottom shows the Common Wood Nymph on the left and the Northen Pearly-eye to the right..A feature of the N. Pearly-eye is the interesting design on its underside upper wing. Some of the eyes are dark within yellowish/beige circles and others have a white dot within beige and black rings.
The Common Wood Nymph to the left is identified by the outstanding eye on its upper hindwing in its closed wing position.

Saturday, July 01, 2006


You might be surprised at how beautiful some moths can be. One of my favourites is the Rosy Maple Moth which is pictured to the right. I found this moth on my back screen door one morning several summers ago. Apparently it likes Silver Maple trees and we have a large one on our side lawn so that may be the reason this moth found its way to my door but I've only seen the species the one time.

Another beautiful moth is a pink night moth. I don't believe that is its scientific name*(* edited note: Primrose moth [Schinia florida]) but I have seen it referred to as that so that's what I'll call it too; for reference purposes here. The Pink Night Moth that I found and photographed was tucked away inside the blossom of an Evening Primrose. This find was only three or four years ago and every summer since I have looked in every blossoming Evening Primrose I find when out for a walk. I noticed this morning that Evening Primrose is now coming into blossom so I shall have to start checking its blossoms again.

A couple of very attractive looking moths shown below display a pattern created with dots and I only was able to id them today with the help of A Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (by Charles V. Covell Jr.) which I had purchased recently. I had been told previously that, Anania funebris, shown to the left below is an eight-spotted goldenrod moth, taking its name from its appearance and the plant it feeds on; goldenrod. The brown moth with the white irregular spots seen to the lower right had confused me since 2003 when I had taken its picture. I find when consulting Covell's moth field guide I was partially correct in a way, if I can claim that looking at it brought the word 'confused' to mind, for interestingly enough the moth is called a Confused haploa.

The two pictures shown below are among my favourite moth pictures. Both of these moths are very, very tiny and I purposely left them uncropped to give you an idea of their size. The white one I call simply, little white moth, for I have not identified it yet. The little black moth with the white stripe is unsurprisingly called: White striped black