Thursday, April 18, 2024
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Science & NatureWhat is That?What Is That ... American doing?

What Is That … American doing?


We are blessed to cottage on White Lake just an hour’s drive from our house in the city.  Some of our cottage neighbours drive hours from their homes south of the border to enjoy the beauty of Three Mile Bay.

Some of our cottage friends move freely back and forth throughout their range without the slow down imposed by security checks at the border.  One of our favourites is the American Goldfinch which seems happy to come to a feeder of oiled black sunflower seeds, eating either from the feeder itself or from the ground below.  Our little feeder hangs from the clothes line at the edge of the forest where the American goldfinch nests just within the protection of the forest but still with a decent sight-line to the feeder.

The photograph below is of a beautiful female.

Another of our favourites is the American lady butterfly.  It is tough for our old eyes (and maybe our brains too) to see the difference between American and painted lady butterflies, but we just double-checked; the American Lady has a discernable white spot on its forewing … a spot that the painted lady does not have.  Similar to the monarch, American lady butterflies migrate north from their winter range in the southern States.  They are thought to have a generation or two while spending their summers in Ontario, including White Lake, before the recently-hatched generation heads south for the winter.  They seem to need 0°C or above temperatures.  (We do too.)

The American Dagger moth caterpillar is an example of a native moth/caterpillar which over winters locally.  This caterpillar is covered with white or yellow hairs with pairs of thin black lashes along its abdomen and a single tuft at the end.  This caterpillar feeds on most of our deciduous trees, but we have never seen it in the destructive numbers of the tent caterpillars.  Be cautious handling it as its hairs can cause skin irritation. Children who wish to handle one should probably wear gloves.

One of our cottage neighbours is difficult to call a friend … the North American porcupine.  We respect it though, giving it all the distance it could possibly need when it sometimes saunters across the green space between the cottage and shore.  One of its favourite foods is the tender bark of our much-valued trees.  While porcupines do not throw their quills, quills do come off with the slightest touch and easily penetrate your or your pet’s skin.  You probably know how difficult quills are to remove.  Sometimes, like all wildlife, they are just interesting to watch as they amble slowly across the yard, or sit buddha-like high in a tree.

We will finish this piece with a mid-summer photograph of one of our favourite resident Americans … the North American River Otter, shown below finishing a meal of turtle.  We see them often, whether they are cavorting in the lake in front of the cottage, using our dock as a sun scoop, or eating in the backwater somewhat down the road.

To check the facts about the American Lady, we used The ROM Field Guide to butterflies of Ontario; and for the American dagger moth caterpillar, we referred to Peterson First Guides Caterpillars.




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