20170703 Part 1 of 3: Nature photography near Britt, Ontario

Photo:  Looking upstream from the patch of milkweeds at the bridge over the Naiscoot River on Hwy 529.

On July 3 I enjoyed a few hours with Sudbury Photographer and Author Ray Thoms checking out butterflies on Riverside Drive and, after lunch at St Amants, along Hwy 529.  We both made lots of pictures so I’ve decided to post three parts,  each with about 16 photos.  This is …

Part 1  Along Riverside Road

Although the lower beak looks yellow (due to the sun), I think that this is a  Song Sparrow serenading…

An older  Painted Lady, judging by her worn hind wings..

This well worn skipper might be a Northern Cloudywing

These Bombus spp like milkweed nectar also , and don’t seem to mind competition …

A male (see the “balls” on either side of the rear portion of the abdomen?) Monarch is nectaring on a Common Milkweed.

A Crab Spider  is doing something with that spun object (a cocoon?).   I spent some time with a Crab Spider in a similar situation and show it in a later Part of this 3 Part series.  The bumblebee isn’t interested.

A Monarch butterfly egg.  It usually hatches a day or two after being deposited.  There is some recent evidence that Monarchs display Trans-Generational Medication in Nature.   And here is an interesting story suggesting that Monarch cannibalism of eggs gave the evolutionary push for Monarch migration out of the Southern USA.

Painted lady sticking her tongue (proboscis) out.  My only photo of such a common event!

She is an old girl, enjoying her last days…

A skipper having a rest on a milkweed leaf…

Bumblebees like milkweed nectar …

A worn Skipper appears to put its proboscis over the TOP of one of its antenna (click to see up close)…

Thread waisted Wasp  seems to be nectaring …

Aha!   A female ? Nope!  You might have to click to see the “balls”  adjacent to the third (from the rear) dark abdominal band .

Unknown beetle on milkweed ….

Part 2  will continue with more photos along Riverside Rd and some along Hwy 529…

20170702 Burwash, Cumulonimbus, skippers

Photo:  Distant storm scene, seen from  Burwash

We made a brief trip to Burwash as it looked like a storm was brewing up there, half way to Sudbury.  No storm but we found some other scenes in our short trip …

Some cumulonimbus clouds up to the northeast, probably dropping some showers east of Sudbury….

Moth that I can’t find in the authoritative Selected Moths from Ontario Canada.

Upside down Monarch larva chomping on a leaf in the rain …

Bee-mimic Flower Beetle gathering nectar and pollen from an OED.

European Skipper with visitor …

European Skippers also like Birdsfoot Trefoil nectar.

I think that this might be a skipper of some sort but cannot find a good ID — yet.

This small skipper looks like a Tawny Edged Skipper

The long antennae indicate a katydid, bush cricket or long horned grasshopper.  It looks like the photo in the wikipedia article about Tettigoniidae.  Further investigation showed similar looking Grey Bush Crickets but they are all in the south shores of the UK.

Nice stormy clouds…

Three buddies enjoying the afternoon sun after the rain showers.

The best butterfly book I have is the ROM Field Guide to Butterflies of Ontario.

I use it when I cannot ID a critter on-line using Rick Cavasin’s Butterflies of Ontario or the City of Toronto’s downloadable gem: Butterflies of Toronto.

And, if you’d enjoy a bit of entertaining writing try this:  From Foxtrot to Technobot.

20170630 Hoverfly, Bombus tenarius, European Skipper, Peck’s Skipper, Dun Skipper, Thread-waisted Wasp, Ambush spiders, Bee-mimic Flower Beetle, Pitcher Plant

Photo:  Big Lake from Highway 529

End of June saw increased activity of pollinators, especially hoverflies who are also known as flower flies or syrphid flies.   If I stop and look at a fresh Ox Eye daisy I’ll usually see a variety of bees and hoverflies visiting to collect nectar and pollen from the center yellow portion.  The insect family Syrphidae has over 800 species in North America. They perform a huge role as pollinators and recent studies have shown that many species’ larvae are effective  in preying on garden pests such as aphids.  No wonder organic gardeners are delighted to see hoverflies.   Although many species mimic bees, wasps and other biting/stinging insects, hoverflies are harmless.  This downloadable Key to the Genera of Nearctic Syrphidae is a wonderfully illustrated and written key to identifying hoverflies … at least down to the Genus level.  I just found it and will be using it as time permits, keeping in mind that IDing insects at the species level can be a very time consuming thing, especially since the taxonomies are constantly, like most science, changing.

In the meantime here are a couple of pix of a hoverfly, Eristalis  spp(?), I think, nectaring (and pollinating) Common Yarrow.


This looks like an Orange Belted Bumblebee, Bombus ternarius ,collecting nectar from the florets of an Ox Eye Daisy.  Click on the image to enlarge it and check out the arrangement of the florets at the bottom of the photograph.

See Joe Bartok’s Brief Primer on ‘Aster’ology  to see how this inflorescence is organized.  Bartok’s web site is very good.

Another hoverfly of a different sort …

This European Skipper is feasting on nectar before going back to its common habitat — hayfields.

Peck’s Skipper on a leaf of a Spreading Dogbane, a relative of the Common Milkweed.

A break from all these bugs:

Did you see the fly on the iris above?!  There is no escaping them!

I think that this Dun Skipper is one of the Three Witches —“3 small, dark, difficult-to-separate skippers that fly at the same time in similar habitats.”  The other two are Little Glassy Wing and Northern Broken Dash.  Here is Rick Cavasin’s photos of the Dun Skipper.


A Thread-waisted Wasp:    (I think that it is an Ammophilia)

This might be a Potter (or Mason) Wasp on the OED.

Looks like the common Apis mellifera to me, on Viper’s Bugloss …

One of the “Beeflies” of Ontario, methinks.

What is going on here????

The Crab Spider has parted the florets to grab the Flower Chafer as it was nectaring on the OED.  The Flower Chafer is the same as the Bee-Mimic Flower Beetle which illustrated the difficulty with common names.  But I use Bee-Mimic Flower Beetle instead of T. assimilis because it is more descriptive and easier to remember than some historical botanist’s name.


Here are a pair of Bee-Mimic Flower Beetles in happier times.   And here is a good article on pollinator mimicry, which helps to explain why identifying these rascals is so difficult … for me, at least.


Uh, Oh!  Another  (Ground?) Crab Spider laying in wait ….

A break from the bugs:

Yes, the blossom of a slowly maturing Pitcher Plant.

Back to the Bugs ….

Including yet another Crab Spider …

What do you see here?   Does any word spring to mind?

Alex celebrates Canada 150



20170629-30 Skippers, Crab Spider, Spreading Dogbane, Hoverflies, Bee Flower Beetle

Photo:  Pond on Hwy 522

The Skipper Butterflies have arrived in profusion.  Although they seem to spend most of their time buried deeply in the long grass, some occasionally nectar on Ox Eye Daisies.  I’ve realized that OEDs are a very universal source of nectar and pollen for a wide variety of pollinators and have spent more time with them this year.   I could learn from Hilton Pond.

Skippers  in a variety of poses…



One of the predators of Skippers, the Goldenrod Crab Spider in its white/purple stage ….

I am paying attention to  the changes in the form of chlorophyll in these maple leaves.  The red light is still being reflected off of, (not absorbed by)  the new leaves, indicating an absence of long wavelength (red) absorbing chlorophyll.   That brand of chlorophyll will go absent again this fall, just before leaf drop.

A poor imitation of C. Monet …

The rainshower stopped a variety of pollinators to visit this butterfly attractor, a relative of Common Milkweed…

C. Monet made me stop to photograph this nice habitat for a big gang of little flies.

Yet to be identified… maybe a bit easier when I see a few more of them.  Skipper-like behaviour..

These Tamarack cones  on Hwy 522 are still purple, unlike the green/yellow ones along Shebeshekong Rd.  I wonder why?

Elegant but unknown Hoverfly on an OED.

Bumblebee nectaring …

I finally have identified this beastie, which I’ve seen a lot of… always nectaring on OEDs.  It is a Flower Chafer, a Hairy Flower Scarab, a Bee-Mimic Flower Beetle, a Trichiotinus assimilis.   I came across the late Eugene Reimer’s photograph of T. assimilis while searching images for “beetle on Ox Eye Daisy”.  Eugene Reimer has a very interesting About Me at his website, http://ereimer.net/

Try using his collection of insect photos as a very handy way to check out obscure insects, like the beastie below…

Thanks a lot, Mr Reimer.


20170628 Sweat Bee, Pickerel Weed, Polypody, Pitcher Plant, Ruffed Grouse, Bumblebee, Woodduck, Paper Wasp

We saw these sights along Shebeshekong Road Hwy 529 on our way back from Parry Sound:

A green Sweat Bee is gathering pollen and nectar … possibly for a nest of eggs yet to be hatched.

A clump of Pickerel Weed is gathering energy for its purple flowers which we’ll see in a few weeks…

This is Rock Cap Fern or Polypody


The Pitcher Plant is maturing.  I am interested to see how that flower head develops….

Ruffed Grouse giving the photographer the eye ….(click for more detail)


…. then quietly disappearing into the long grass …

This appears to be one of the many Paper Wasps that are found in North America.   Photos of them can be found on the many pest control websites found on the internet.

Bumblebee with friend enjoying lunch …

A lone female Wood Duck in a stream near the intersection of Hwys 645 and 529.  No sign of a male.

20170627 Clearwing Butterfly, Bumblebee, Hoverfly, Copper Butterfly, Baskettail, Canadian Tiger Swallowtail, Harris Checkerspot, Painted Lady Butterfly, Monarch Butterfly

Above photograph:  Kalmia angustiflolia, Sheep Laurel, in full bloom in a peat bog along Hwy 529.


A few hours of respite from the rain and wind gave some opportunities for further exploration along Hwy 529:

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth uncoiling its proboscis as it approaches Viper’s Bugloss…

Bombus has its refuel probe and landing gear extended as it approaches a clover blossom.

My intent was to photograph the Copper Butterfly.  I didn’t see the  spider waiting in ambush until I looked into the viewfinder.  I wonder if the stalk of grass helped the spider find this spot?

38 seconds later the spider has disappeared …

When I got home I saw where the spider had gone… 3 seconds after the earlier photo one of its legs is visible above the petal at the back of the flower.  I wish that I was looking harder at the time of exposure.  I might’ve witnessed nature in the raw.

A Common Baskettail is resting here… probably chewing and swallowing black flies…

A Hoverfly (possibly Eristalis interruptus) gathering nectar from Common Yarrow….

Three more Hoverflies, I think….

See:  https://meadowhawk.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/hover-flies/    and:


Eastern Tiger Swallowtail nectaring from a Spreading Dogbane…

Correction, especially on this Canada Day!

Canadian Tiger Swallowtail!

The “Eyes” on its underside give this butterfly away as a Painted Lady

The white spots in the dark squares on the back of the inner wings identify this butterfly as a Harris Checkerspot, whose numbers are decreasing rapidly in the US Northeast.

Here is another Vanessa cardui

The Spreading Dogbane that this Monarch is nectaring from is related to Common Milkweed.  Here is a good read:


Bee and fleeing Hoverfly …

More Hoverflies …

And a bee (click on it to see its very strange eye) …

Is this a Fowler’s Toad?  It was about 2″ tip to tail….

This Monarch was hanging out on juniper branches next to a patch of milkweeds, not yet in bloom.

Interesting sheen to the hair on the torso of this Painted Lady …

I am not sure what this (Ground Crab ?) Spider is doing here …

But it’s quite obvious what is going on here, on a different Ox Eye Daisy.

Male, uncoiling its proboscis …

Some warmer drier weather is forecast for July.  I suspect that we’ll see an abundance of pollinators —- and their predators.