#32 Cluster Fly

Cluster Fly (Pollenia sp. and possibly P.rudis)

31 March

Turned up on the window of my office just begging to have its portrait taken. Clearly a large Dipteran and, I think, Genus Pollenia … though it could be just an old-fashioned Bluebottle (Caliphora sp.). I will amend this post once I have it nailed down better.

Cluster flies move into shelter in winter and find their way into attics and cracks in buildings. They often emerge on warm days, and cluster at windows attempting to exit(hence the name). That’s what this specimen was certainly doing. About half a centimetre long, so quite large.

P. rudis is the commonest. They came to North America long, long ago sop are “alien invaders” rather than natives. They are parasitic on earthworms and perhaps arrived in the hold of a ship with soil and plants aboard.

** … and this is the end of the first month of the 1000 Species Project. I am having a lot of fun and learning new stuff every day.

#31 Swollen Brook Moss

Hygrohypnum sp – possibly H. eugyrium (?) Swollen Brook Moss

30 March

Almost at the end of the first month and time for something completely different. As the snow melted away on the rocks surrounding the garden waterfall and withn the spray zone, the mosses that live there have reappeared and … well, and mosses are really interesting. Really.

This moss is, I believe is in the genus Hygrohypnum and perhaps H. eugyrium but could also be the similar Hypnum genus in which case the differential identification could be Hypnum pallescens or Lesseer Plait Moss. Mosses are less than simple creatures to identify, even with my specially high-power bryophytologist’s hand lens to aid in the process. I have loaded some photographs to iNaturalist in the hope that some real expert will aid me in getting this firmly nailed down to species. I will return to it later in the year when things are warmer and the moss is thinking of doing reproductive stuff that may assist.

Note – it’s tricky stuff like this in taxons that I am not wholly familiar with that make the 1000 species project the interesting challenge that it is.

#30 Ruffed Grouse

Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus)

29 March

As far as biodiversity goes it is still pretty wintery and the botanical and insect specimens have yet to emerge and thrill us – so more birds it is. This very smart bird was in the arboretum and gave itself away by making a noise. Very shy, it quickly disappeared. Not a common bird, so look but don’t expect to see. They can digest foods high in cellulose and thus survive harsh winter conditions in the northern part of their range, where they feed on buds and twigs. Although insects and other invertebrates make up only a small part of the adult grouse’s diet, chicks 2 to 4 weeks old depend on this protein-rich prey.

The male Ruffed Grouse’s unique drumming display takes place from atop a low log, stump, or rock. The deep, thumping sound starts slowly and builds to a blurred crescendo as the bird rapidly rotates his wings back and forth. The drumming sequence lasts 8–10 seconds, during which the wings may beat up to 50 times.

#29 White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)

28 March

A small and stocky birds that is remarkably common in local gardens and especially nearby in the arboretum. They forage for insects on trunks and branches and often move head-first downwards. Seeds form a substantial part of its winter diet, as do acorns and hickory nuts stored in the fall. Old-growth woodland is preferred for breeding. They nest in holes in trees. Easily located by their very characteristic call that sounds like a nasally squeaky plastic toy.

#28 Common Grackle

Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscala)

27 March

One of the birds that everyone loves to hate because they make a lot of noise and drop fecal sacs produced by the nestlings in your garden pool. But, for a couple of weeks around tins time of year they will sit on your bird feeders, glossy heads shining in the early spring sunshine, fix their yellow-rimmed beady eyes at you and tell you how smart they are.

Often nest in groups (mini-colonies) choosing pines or dense shrubs. The collective noun is, I have learned, a “plague”. One of those interesting birds that go in for “anting” by rubbing insects on its feathers possibly to apply liquids such as formic acid secreted by the insects and help keep parasites away.

#27 Horse-Chestnut

Horse-Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)

26 March

Still barely the first glimmerings of spring and daytime high temerature a tad below freezing so botanical subjects are not as easy to find as they will be later. However, here we have the “sticky buds” of a horse-chestnut tree that the squirrels planted in our garden a couple of years ago. One day it will provide shelter and food for squirrels and birds – it could live for around 300 years too s o we may not see it at maturity.

The buds are already bulking up and oozing their stickiness ready to produce a leaf or three – though that will be a good six weeks in the future. Leaf-burst here is usually the first ten dsays or so of May … still, a promise of things to come and one day, conkers for the kids to play with.

#26 Dark Fishing Spider

Dark Fishing Spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus)

25 March

An unusually early find for the date. Something (raccoon?) had taken the lid off one of our three compost heaps and this chap, who had probably overwintered in the compost, was sitting on the top looking a little puzzled. The adults can grow to have bodies up to an inch long and legspan some three and a half times that but this fellow was junior and his whole legspan was under an inch so no need to scream yet if you visit our garden. We do often see the large ones in summer – but they are harmless and rather fun. Despite their names they prefer dry garden logpiles to being anywhere near water.

#25 Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal – female (Cardinalis cardinalis)

24 March

I have been holding off on showing pictures of a Cardinal as everyone is familiar with them but this nicely muted female stopped close beside me and posed nicely … so here she is, a star for a day. Everyone takes pictures of males, and gorgeous they are, but we should not overlook their less flashy lady friends. A species that was once quite unusual in the montreal area they started moving north 20 or 30 years ago and today are common everywhere. Walking around our local streets they are calling out to each other to declare “their” territory from every second tree and bush.

#24 Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaeus phoenicius)

23 March

These arrived back in the area about a week ago – always one of the first migrating birds to return with the males a few weeks ahead of the females. They are all over the place, shouting out their “Konk-er-reee” calls and strutting their stuff while tryong to claim the best breeding territories for the ladies when they make it. Can’t be many perople who haven’t noticed them yet.

#23 Canada Goose

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)

Sunday 22 March

I don’t imagine anyone in the world is unable to identify this goose which in the last week have reappearing the fields and skies around here. Theres are small areas of grass where the snow has melted and that’s what brings them. I have seen flocks in ‘V’-formation varying from a half dozen to 80+ in recent dayts and a good hundred or more are on the Macdonald campus farm fields. This chap has two legs but had withdrawmn one into its feathers to get a bit of warmth into his toes.