What is that … Spot in the Forest

Waddells
Several spots in the forest tempt us to stop, relax, and enjoy the view, whether it is the view of the flowers and trees, or the view of the animals, or the view of all three.

Some of the animals wear beauty spots to attract mates or act as camouflage which is the natural colouring of an animal which enables it to blend in with its surroundings.  Sometimes the animal is camouflaged to hide from the prey upon which it wishes to pounce; or, an animal’s camouflage may help it avoid being eaten.  Often these spots seem entirely unlikely to hide the beastie, especially to our eyes as we look at an enlarged, heavily cropped photograph such as those which follow below.  But when these animals are sitting on a leaf or twig in the forest with a thousand shades of green and brown in the background, they are well hidden.  Sometimes it takes special squinting skills to see them.

We see lots of spots amongst the dragonflies, one of our favourite and most beautiful being the unmistakable male twelve-spotted skimmer.  These skimmers spend time away from the water along roadsides around Three Mile Bay, but once the females have laid their eggs, the males keep busy guarding the eggs by flying low over the water.

Another beautiful, multi-spotted skimmer is the four-spotted dragonfly which we see throughout June at White Lake.  While breeding, egg-laying, and guarding take place by the water, we most often are able to spot them far from the water, hunting for food at the edge of the forest along the road.

To us, it is difficult to see the purpose of the single dot on section 7 of the abdomen of the male dot-tailed dragonfly.  Could it be a camouflage, or a gender indicator?  Nevertheless, this small, blackish dragonfly, even with its white face, is certainly difficult to see from any distance.  We saw the one below in mid-July of this year.

One of our favourite butterflies is the silver-spotted skipper.  You may recall from earlier ‘What Is That’ articles that skippers are a broad category of butterflies discernable by the club shape of the tip of their antennae.  Amongst the several species of skippers at the cottage on Three Mile Bay, the silver-spotted skipper displays spots on the dorsal (back) side of its wings when they are spread, as well as on the ventral (under) side when the wings are closed.  We see silver-spotted skippers most often in the closed-wing position. Both positions are shown below.

Spots can be seen not only on our insects but on the birds we see at the lake, the spotted sandpiper being a clear example.  This very small shorebird was, twelve years ago, almost impossible to discern when looking at the shore from our front deck, but eventually we learned that this funny, bobbing bird was a spotted sandpiper.  Our efforts to identify this bird were exasperated by the first one we saw being a nonbreeding adult, without spots.  The one below is shown in its full breeding plumage.  Perhaps you can see how well the breast spots would meld with the shore.

For more information about dragonflies consider Dennis Paulson’s Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East.  Of course our old standby for butterflies is Rick Cavasin’s pocket guide to Butterflies of Southern & Eastern Ontario.  Finally, amongst the many bird books we use is Jeffrey Domm’s Guide to Ontario Birds.