What next?

I was asked earlier today by a friend if the count is continuing.

Yes it certainly is but I am taking time away from daily posting here to concentrate instead on writing a Local Natural History based on these observations. That will fill the winter months ahead and it will be well illustrated and available in PDF and EPUB format, maybe even Kindle too. If the stars align it may be free and either way it will be very cheap.

Meanwhile here’s a picture of a new species for the list. Hare’s Foot Inkcap fungus.

#504 Wood Avens … or is it?

This is very interesting. Initially we identified this plant as Wood Avens (Geum urbanum) and I believe that is not an unlikely proposal … certainly Geum sp. However, after posting the images on iNaturalist I received the comment from a botanist professionally well familiar with the genus to say “Looks sterile and the stipules not very large. Could be the hybrid Geum x catlingii”.

This Geum × catlingii, or Catling’s avens, is known from eastern Canada, where it arises from natural hybridization between the native G. canadense Jacq. (That’s the white avens) and the introduced G. urbanum L (the yellow avens). It is named after Paul M. Catling, the botanist who first observed the hybrid.

Geum ×catlingii is a hybrid taxon, and as such exhibits variable morphology. However, several characters in combination help distinguish it from other Geum species:

  • Hybrid vigor – hybrids tend to be larger than parents
  • Petals are creamy-yellow – intermediate between dark yellow (G. urbanum) and white (G. canadense).
  • Intermediate stem bract size
  • Highly sterile ovaries

It has been noted to bloom throughout the summer, after other species have shed their petals

#502 Eastern Harvestman (Leiobunum vittatum)

Harvestmen are not spiders, though they resemble them in many ways. They are relatives of the spider in that they are both from the same Order. The Harvestman does not have fangs, are not venomous, and do not bite. Their mandibles are far too small for humans to feel any kind of sensation should they even try. Their eight long, spindly legs do more for them than help them travel. The second pair acts like antennae and are very sensitive. This second pair of legs also helps a Harvestman capture prey, as well as smell surroundings and even breathe (through holes on their legs called spiracles). If the second pair of legs is lost, the Harvestman will die. The body of a Harvestman is completely fused and round, not segmented like other arachnids. 

#501 Grapeleaf Skeletonizer Moth (Harrisina americana)

Slowly starting up again after the “500 Species” halfway point was reached … no longer posting one new species a day, but trying to keep things interesting. Unless there is something especially worthy of pointing about about a specimen I will henceforth leave it to those interested in more than. just the photograph to resort to the internet where more information than most people would want can be found.

** This interesting insect was, as you can see, taking sustenance from a milkweed flower.

#The First Five Hundred – West Island Wildlife

A change of pace … 

500 days ago I set myself the daily challenge of identifying and then sharing at least one different species of bird, insect, plant etc that I could find locally. Today the number reached the 500 mark. My intention continues to be to double that and reach at least 1000 species but no longer will I be doing so at the rate of one a day … time for a change of pace.

Swamp Sparrow – Melospiza georgiana

Although I was always going to concentrate on the biodiversity of the Montreal West Island, the declaration of the covid pandemic less than a week after I started this fascinating journey really forced me to concentrate on what is almost literally on the doorstep as it were. There was no option to do otherwise as travelling was and still is heavily restricted. Starting in my garden in Baie-D’Urfé and then working outwards to places within a reasonable walk or cycle ride was thus my self-imposed patch — at most perhaps a 4 or5 km radius. 

What soon became evident was that although I live in a big city suburb, the wealth of wildlife and plants that is still around us, despite the best efforts of modern society to make life hard for them, is quite remarkable. All you have to do is pay attention and you will see.

I am taking a pause at this, the half-way point in my journey, and will for a while continue to publish new species as they appear rather than one a day. To be honest, five-hundred species rather impresses me, all the more so because a high proportion of them have been seen in or from my moderate sized garden. The biodiversity of cities is way more complex than perhaps most people suspect.

I intend to take some time now to go back over the species I have already shared with you and start to analyze what’s been observed. I am still progressing towards the thousand mark, just at a more measured pace than hitherto.

The remarkable thing really is just how relatively easy it has been to find all these many species in a “peri-urban” environment. I thought 250 or 300 would be fairly easy and then it would take more effort but that has not been the case. Thus far, I have shared some fairly basic details of:

  • 149 species of birds
  • 11 mammals
  • 132 insects
  • 12 spiders
  • 4 “other” arthropods (stuff like millipedes for example)
  • 2 amphibians
  • 1 reptile
  • 135 flowering plants (annuals and perennials)
  • 21 trees/shrubs/bushes
  • 16 fungi
  • 6 grasses
  • 2 mosses
  • 5 lichens
  • … and a single slime mould … the gloriously and appositely named dog vomit slime mould no less

All of which I think is pretty impressive for a suburban garden and a few nearby parks … OK, there is also Canada’s largest Arboretum within a short bike ride, but it’s nevertheless good to discover how many species I see in the forest there that can also be found living just down the road and in my garden. In your garden too, I’ll be bound.

The 1000 Species project will be continuing at least until the target is reached. In the meantime, if you find something that I have not catalogued then might I ask you to post a picture and details on the Nature Baie-D’Urfé Facebook group or send me the details to share by emailing me at [greenbirding@gmail.com].

Now – onwards to that second 500.

#500 Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)

18 July

Swamp Sparrows nest only in wetlands. In the northern parts of the range, they use fens and bogs that have patches of open water, especially those dotted with shrubs. They also nest in peat bogs with little open water. Through most of the breeding range, look for them in freshwater marshes with cattail, sedges, and other tall reeds, rushes, or grasses; these areas often have willows or alders around their edges. In the mid-Atlantic states, “Coastal Plain” Swamp Sparrows (the nigrescens subspecies) nest in brackish marshes in tidal rivers, mostly in the higher portion of the marshes where salt-meadow hay is dotted with small shrubs like marsh elder and groundsel. During migration, large numbers of Swamp Sparrows mix with Song, Lincoln’s, and White-throated Sparrows in the East, especially in coastal locations prone to “fallouts” of migrants. In such cases, the birds might be a considerable distance from the nearest wetland.

#499 Bluebead Lily (Clintonia borealis)

17 July

Clintonia borealis is commonly known as bluebead, bluebead lily, or yellow clintonia. The term “bluebead” refers to the plant’s small blue spherical fruit, perhaps its most striking feature. However, the term can be misleading since all but one of the species in genus Clintonia have blue fruits (notably, the fruit of C. umbellulata is black). Thus yellow clintonia is probably a better name for C. borealis since the adjective refers to the color of the plant’s flower, a unique character among Clintonia species. Compound names such as yellow bead lily or yellow bluebead lily are also in use.

Clintonia borealis is not found in open spaces, only growing in the shade. It is extremely slow to spread, but established clones can usually survive many later modifications, as long as sunlight remains limited. Whereas crossed pollination is more efficient in producing seeds, self-pollination will still produce seeds, allowing the plant to propagate.

Like other slow-growing forest plants, such as Trillium species, Clintonia is extremely sensitive to grazing by white-tailed deer.

#498 Steeplebush (Spiraea tomentosa)

16 July

A flowering plant native to the eastern United States and Canada. Grows to up to four feet high and prefers moist to wet soil and full sun. It blooms in summer. Each tiny, pink flower is about 1/16 of an inch wide and arranged in narrow, pyramid-shaped flowerheads that grow up to eight inches long. The flowers are followed by small, dry, brown fruit. The specific epithet tomentosa refers to the undersides of the leaves and the stems, which are covered in a dense white-woolly tomentum