Monday, May 28, 2012

Scales on a Red Oak

One of the oaks from the 2009 planting is heavily infested with some type of lecanium scale. The red ants(Genus Myrmica) that seem to be common on the site are feeding off the honeydew these scales excrete. The local Macoun Field Club has a fascinating write-up about an infestation of these scales that occured in 2006 and 2007.

In Bloom:
Indian Paint Brush
Philadelphia Fleabane
Blue-eyed Grass

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A large Ichneumon Wasp

Yesterday I spotted this big wasp hanging about on a poplar sapling. The people at very helpfully identified it as a Ichneumon wasp of the genus Therion. She is the third I have seen in as many days. John Sankey has also recently spotted one of these fellows in Ottawa so they are probably fairly common.

This is another case where once I start looking into it, I find out this is just one of thousands of species of insects that I had only been vaguely aware of until now. Ichneumon wasps are parasitic wasps that lay their eggs in or on another insect. The females often have a very large ovipositor hanging off the tail of their abdomen that they use to drill down into wood to reach a wood boring insect. They then deposit their egg by the prey which the larvae consumes as it grows. This particular female has a very modest sting like ovipositor visible that she will use to insert her eggs into caterpillars. The larvae feeds on the host caterpillar and the adult emerges from the pupae. Since there has to be a very close relationship between the growth cycle of the host and the parasite, Ichneumon wasps are often very host specific.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Wasp Queen

Here is a wasp queen I encountered as I was surveying the trees from the 2011 planting. She is busy making her paper nest for her first set of offspring.

2011 Planting Survey

I took some time this past weekend to survey how the trees planted last year are doing. 420 trees and bushes, of various types, were to be planted last May along the south side of the berm, west of the Newhaven cul-de-sac. Last week-end I found 317 that had survived the past year and 60 others that are clearly dead. That means somewhere between 16-25% of the trees planted last year did not survive. Many more like the Burr Oak above had a very hard summer last year and are only coming back from the secondary buds that failed to wake up the previous year.

Some trees, such as all of the Shagbark Hickories, failed to survive the transplantation and never leafed out last summer. Some particularly small trees such as the Ironwoods and some of the Beeches may have been lost in the long grass last summer. About half of the spruce, pine, and fir trees have lost their needles. Some stayed green all winter only to lose their needles come spring.

Some trees only have growth down at the base of the trunk where the buds had some protection from the winter winds. The Elderberries, the Redbuds, the Speckled Alders, and the Red Osier Dogwoods all seem to fit in this category. Almost all of the Alders that were planted last year are dead or have only a few twigs close to the ground showing any signs of life.

The trees that did the best were the Sumac, Hackberries, Sugar Maples and of course the Poplar volunteers that have invaded the area from the neighbouring forest. I counted some 67 Aspen suckers springing up in several groups along the forest edge.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Redbud Tree

The Redbuds (Cercis Canadensis) were flowering this past week. My camera doesn't do justice to the vivid pinks of these flowers so I tried adjusting the colours in the above picture. I'm afraid it is still a poor imitation of real life. The Redbuds don't flower on the north side of the berm but there are a couple on the south side that do have a few flowers. It is nothing like the show these trees put on further south. This is north of the proper native limit of these trees, which, in Ontario, were only found growing wild along the shores of Lake Erie.

In Bloom:
Common Speedwell
Garlic Mustard
Creeping Charlie
Solomon's Seal
Yellow Rocket

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Downy Woodpecker and a Brown Thrasher

It looks like this little guy found something in one of the crevices. The Downy Woodpecker is a smaller version of the Hairy Woodpecker. Hairy Woodpeckers are about the size of a Robin while Downy Woodpeckers are not much bigger than a sparrow.

A Brown Thrasher hanging out in a thicket of buckthorn just like the guides say: A large, skulking bird of thickets and hedgerows. Robins can sometimes act like Thrashers but I've never seen a Thrasher leave the undergrowth and venture out onto a lawn like a Robin.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Leafroller on a maple

Once in a while I come across something new that leaves me amazed by the incredible complexity of the natural world. It happened to me again yesterday when I attempted to find out what the little green caterpillar on the above maple leaf might be called. When I got back home I fairly quickly identified it as a Leafroller(tortricidae family) because that is what I found it doing: binding leaves together with silk, but when I tried to be more specific I was stymied. I saw some photographs that looked fairly similar: a green body with a black shiny head with a black segment behind the head, but none of them had small black dots (presumably the spiracles) running the length of the body. I soon realized that even the which has pages and pages of species of ants or beetles has barely any photographs of the larvae of a family of small pale moths that numbers in the thousands.

Sure there are thousands of little grey nondescript moths but surely there aren't thousand in Ontario. When I tried to attack the problem by asking what leafrollers are common in Ontario, I cam across a fabulous pdf that lists ALL the insects that have been found in Ontario forests. It is just a big long alphabetical list of insects describing what they live on and with a single letter grading their economic importance. When I looked in the index I found 75 references to various types of leafrollers. There were even 3 different types of "maple" leafrollers although there is no guarantee that the one I saw was actually on its preferred host. At that point I decided to admit that I know nothing about moths and perhaps I should learn some general facts about leafrollers before attempting to find out about the particular species I encountered. To that end, I found the following link to be an interesting description of the habits of the obliquebanded leafroller and the damage it does to apple orchards.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Northern Crab Spider

I came across this beautiful little green spider yesterday evening as i was out inspecting the 2011 trees. The light was very poor so I didn't catch much of the detail of this little guy but you can make out the unique pattern on its abdomen. The bug guide identifies him as Mecaphesa asperata one of the crab spiders. Crab spiders are camouflage specialists, they don't spin webs, instead they hang out in likely locations, such as flowers, where insects are likely to land and then just wait for the insects to come to them. I must say, I don't expect this guy fooled too many insects. He doesn't blend in well with a dead red maple twig.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Summer Transplants

Last August I transplanted a few seedling into the 2009 square to fill in some gaps where the trees had died. There were six red maple seedlings, two cedars, a pine tree and what I believe is an ash tree; all less than a foot tall. I figured that August was a good time to transplant the trees because the trees had had the summer to build up their energy reserves while it gave enough time for the trees to put some roots down before the frost. Initially they all seemed to do very poorly. The deciduous trees very quickly lost their leaves, the cedars turned an olive brown colour and the pine showed no sign of growth. Finally in October one of the maples started putting out new growth just in time for the frosts to kill it off.

With that inauspicious start I was worried the trees wouldn't survive the winter but this spring they are all showing promising signs of life. The buds on the pine tree (see above) are swelling, the maples look healthy (to right) and the cedars are greening up. These small trees were transplanted from flower gardens and from under trees where they had planted themselves. In the case of the cedars they had rooted in among the pebbles under the eaves of the house and came away with bare roots. It amazes me that they all survived since I don't know how many roots they lost in the transplantation. Yet the late august seedlings have a better record of survival than the potted trees transplanted for the city last spring. I'll save their sorry tale for another post.

In Bloom:
Yellow Rocket
Garlic Mustard