What Is That … Beastie Eating?

2
Waddells

In several of our previous articles we have referred to the eating habits of beasties we love to watch.  In this article we are presenting photographic examples of the food we have observed being eaten by some of the winged beasties at White Lake.

We start our gastronomic foray with butterflies.  As we walk along the roadside or look in our flower gardens at the cottage we often observe various species of butterflies flitting from blossom to blossom.  It is fairly common knowledge that the adult stage of many butterflies feeds on the nectar produced in the flowers of plants and in so doing helps with the cross pollination of these plants as the butterflies inadvertently carry pollen from one flower to another of the same species.

It is not surprising to see numerous small butterflies feeding at the same time on a stalk with multiple flowers, such as these four European skippers (Thymelicus lineola) feeding on a stalk of vetch.

It is even more spectacular when we see larger butterflies such as the eastern giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) feeding on annuals in planters on our cottage deck.  Although, in the following picture, the swallowtail’s wings are blurred in motion, you can clearly see the butterfly’s proboscis extended into the flower to suck up nectar.

Another less typical place we look for butterflies is on the trunks of some trees at the cottage.  Here you might see them feeding on sap at the sapwells (holes) drilled by yellow-bellied sapsuckers into the bark of birch and poplar trees.

As you well know, many birds feed on fish.  We talked about osprey (Pandion haliaetus) in a previous article where we noted that they feed almost exclusively on live fish.  We frequently see these magnificent birds flying around White Lake or perched in trees beside the water with a fresh fish meal clasped in their talons as shown in the following photograph.

Another bird that relies on live fish and amphibians is the great blue heron (Ardea herodias).  We frequently see these birds wading in shallow water along the shoreline silently stalking their prey.  In one memorable instance we witnessed, from the comfort of our cottage deck, an overachieving heron struggling to position a very large brown bullhead catfish (Ameiurus nebulosus) so it could swallow the fish whole and headfirst, so the fins did not catch while going down the heron’s throat.  After struggling for several minutes the heron was finally successful in swallowing its mega-meal.

These are just a few of the many gastronomic extravaganzas we have experienced vicariously while watching wildlife around our cottage.