#46 (reprise) Striped Skunk

Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis)

31 May

*Apologies, it seems the Striped Skunk hs butted his way into the queue a second time due to a bookkeeping error. Enjoy this bonus edition….

This fellow was casually checking out our no-mow lawn one evening and vigourously excavating for larvae of beetles etc. Very handsome.

Striped skunks are polygamous omnivores with few natural predators, save for birds of prey. Like all skunks, they possess highly developed, musk-filled scent glands to ward off predators

The English word skunk has two root words of Algonquian and Iroquoian origin, specifically seganku (Abenaki) and scangaresse (Huron). The Cree and Ojibwe word shee-gawk is the root word for Chicago, which means ‘skunk-land’.Alternative English names for the striped skunk include common skunk, Hudsonian skunk, northern skunk, black-tailed skunk and prairie polecat. The latter name was originally used by English settlers, who noted the animal’s similarity to the European polecat.

#92 Mining Bee

Mining Bee (genus: Andrena)

30 May

Another of those insect grooups that has too many visually similar species to be confident about species level identity. Having said that, this could be Wilkes Mining Bee (Andrena wilkella) which is yet another European invasive arriving here decades ago by ship. There are 1300 species in this genus, so you will forgive my lack of certainty.

Body length commonly ranges between 8 and 17 mm with males smaller and more slender than females, which often show a black triangle (the “pygidial plate”) at the abdominal apex. In temperate areas, Andrena bees (both males and females) emerge from the underground cells where their prepupae spend the winter, when the temperature ranges from about 20 °C to 30 °C. They mate, and the females then seek sites for their nest burrows, where they construct small cells containing a ball of pollen mixed with nectar, upon which an egg is laid, before each cell is sealed. Andrena usually prefer sandy soils for a nesting substrate, near or under shrubs to be protected from heat and frost.

The blossom it is on is sour cherry.

#91 Crane Fly (Tipula sp.)

Crane Fly (Tipula sp. – possibly T. metacomet)

29 May

Initially thought this was an example of thre Giant Crane Fly (Tipula abdominalis) but that was wishful thinking. Most likely this is T. metacomet which is almost as large but more likely to be flying at this time of the year.

#90 Squash Bug

90 Squash Bug (Anasa tristis)

28 May

Anasa tristis is a serious agricultural pests that can be found on various members of the gourd family Cucurbitaceae, but most often occurs on pumpkins and squashes. Some varieties and cultivars are more susceptible to attack than others.

It is a true bug that feeds by sucking sap, mainly from the leaves, but sometimes also the fruit. In the process of doing this the insects inject toxic saliva into the plant tissues which causes them to wilt, darken in colour and die. The heavier the infestation, the greater the damage to the plant. Sometimes one plant or part of a plant can be heavily attacked while surrounding plants are untouched

#89 Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus)

27 May

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks often visit bird feeders. Breed in moist deciduous forests, deciduous-coniferous forests, thickets, and semiopen habitat. They gravitate toward second-growth woods, suburban areas, parks, gardens, and orchards, as well as shrubby forest edges next to streams, ponds, marshes, roads, or pastures.

During the breeding season Rose-breasted Grosbeaks eat a lot of insects, as well as wild fruit and seeds. They mostly feed on berries during fall migration, and on their wintering grounds they have a varied diet of invertebrates and plant material. Grosbeaks usually glean their food from dense foliage and branches. They also snag food while hovering, and sometimes fly out to hawk for insects in midair. The animal portion of their diet includes beetles, bees, ants, sawflies, bugs, butterflies, and moths. Their vegetarian fare includes elderberries, blackberries, raspberries, mulberries, juneberries, and seeds of smartweed, pigweed, foxtail, milkweed, plus sunflower seeds, garden peas, oats, wheat, tree flowers, tree buds, and cultivated fruit.

The male may help the female choose a nest site, which is usually in a vertical fork or crotch of a sapling. Nesting plants include maple, red-berried elder, balsam fir, eastern hemlock, and spruce, and may be in wet or dry areas. They are usually in forest openings, overgrown field edges, old pastures, shrubby roads, railroad rights-of-way, gardens, parks, or residential areas.


#88 White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)

26 May

The sparrow with the cycling helmet. Very smart fellows. Breed in open or shrubby habitats, including tundra, high alpine meadows, and forest edges. Eat mainly seeds of weeds and grasses, plus considerable numbers of caterpillars, wasps, beetles, and other insects during the summer. They also eat grains such as oats, wheat, barley, and corn, and fruit including elderberries and blackberries.

Nests are typically fairly low, placed 1.5 to 10 feet high in shrubs. Across the arctic and subarctic portions of the species’ range, White-crowned Sparrows nest on the tundra and have little choice but to put their nests on the ground, hidden among mats of mosses, lichens, and ground-hugging shrubs.

#87 Cape May Warbler

25 May

Cape May Warbler (Setophaga tigrina)

On breeding grounds, Cape May Warblers are locally common in spruce-fir forests, where they spend most of the day foraging high in the trees. Listen for males singing their high-pitched songs (be aware it’s quite similar to Bay-breasted Warbler’s song). During migration, the species is relatively common in the East, in many wooded habitats. Cape May Warblers breed in forests of spruce and balsam fir, especially in areas where spruce budworms are abundant. Although red, black, and white spruce habitats are all acceptable, these warblers nest only in relatively mature forests, about 25–75 years old (trees usually over 35 feet tall). During migration, they turn up in just about any woods, scrub, or even thicket. Look for them toward the edges, where insects and their larvae are most abundant. Cape May tends to forage in the treetops, in the outer portion of the tree. As their delicate, slightly decurved bill shape might suggest, Cape May Warblers are adroit in probing blossoms for insects and for taking nectar from flowers, which they do aided by their long, curled tongues.

#86 Black and white Warbler

Black and white Warbler (Mniotilta varia)

24 May

One of the earliest-arriving migrant warblers, the Black-and-white Warbler’s thin, squeaky song is one of the first signs that spring birding has sprung. This crisply striped bundle of black and white feathers creeps along tree trunks and branches like a nimble nuthatch, probing the bark for insects with its slightly downcurved bill. Though you typically see these birds only in trees, they build their little cup-shaped nests in the leaf litter of forests. They forage on dead limbs and bark as well as gleaning foliage at the tips of branches. Male Black-and-white Warblers arrive in early spring on their forested breeding grounds and set up territories that they defend aggressively, often singing as they chase off intruders. These defensive displays extend well past the time when such behavior has tapered off for other species.

Black-and-white Warblers eat mostly insects. Moth and butterfly larvae form the bulk of their diet during spring migration and throughout the breeding season. Other arthropod prey includes ants, flies, spiders, click and leaf beetles, wood-borers, leafhoppers, and weevils. They also feed on insects attracted to Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker sapwells.

#85 Northern Parula

Northern Parula (Setophaga americana)

23 May

A small warbler of the upper canopy, the Northern Parula flutters at the edges of branches plucking insects. It hops through branches bursting with a rising buzzy trill that pinches off at the end. Its white eye crescents, chestnut breast band, and yellow-green patch on the back set it apart from other warblers.

Northern Parulas breed in mature forests along streams, swamps, and other bottomlands. They’re closely associated with mosses or lichens that grow on the branches of canopy trees. They eat spiders and many kinds of insects, particularly caterpillars. They also eats beetles, moths, ants, wasps, bees, flies, locusts, and others. During the breeding season, they occasionally eat bud scales, and on wintering grounds they sometimes eat berries, seeds, or nectar.

#84 Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern Screech Owl (Otus asio)

22 May

Everyone likes owls but they are hard to find unless you are lucky. These are not uncommon on the West Island but more commonly heard rather than seen as they are experts at camouflage. Most birders will know this species only from its trilling or whinnying song. When sitting out the daylight hours they try to settle in a hole on the tree where their feathers camouflage them aginst the tree bark. This bird was a chance encounter and one that I had marked down as hard to photograph for this project – not so!

The Eastern Screech owl is barely larger than an American Robin and is a short, stocky bird, with a large head and almost no neck. Its wings are rounded; its tail is short and square. Pointed ear tufts are often raised, lending its head a distinctive silhouette. Fairly common in most types of woods (evergreen or deciduous; urban or rural), particularly near water.

They eat most kinds of small animals, including birds and mammals as well as surprisingly large numbers of earthworms, insects, crayfish, tadpoles, frogs, and lizards. They eat many kinds of mammals, including rats, mice, squirrels, moles, and rabbits. Small birds taken as prey include flycatchers, swallows, thrushes, waxwings, and finches, as well as larger species such as jays, grouse, doves, shorebirds, and woodpeckers. This owl is agile enough to occasionally prey on bats, and can rarely even be cannibalistic. When prey is plentiful, Eastern Screech-Owls cache extra food in tree holes for as long as four days.

Nest in holes and cavities, but never dig a cavity themselves. Thus, they depend on tree holes opened or enlarged by woodpeckers, fungus, rot, or squirrels. They often occupy abandoned woodpecker nest holes. Eastern Screech-Owls readily accept nest boxes, including those built for Wood Ducks or Purple Martins, and sometimes nest in wood piles, mailboxes, or crates left on the ground.