This year marks our 16th year cottaging at White Lake. As with other summers at the cottage, this year we managed to photograph and identify numerous species that were new to us, including plants, insects, spiders, reptiles, birds, and mammals. We are not suggesting that these are new species in the area, but it is the first time we have been fortunate enough to spot and photograph them. We wanted to share with you some of the many “new species” that enriched our 2021 summer at the cottage.
First up is a member of the gentian family of herbaceous plants. The closed gentian, which is also called the bottle gentian, grows in moist ground. We found this plant growing on the shoreline of a small isolated island near our cottage. We were interested to learn that the closed gentian is pollinated by bumblebees as they are the only insects strong enough to work their way into the flower through the tip of the blossom by forcing themselves past the membrane that holds the petals “closed”. The three to four centimeter long blossoms can be dark blue to pink to purple or white and can be seen in August and September. This perennial plant can grow to one meter in height.
The grapevine beetle belongs to the scarab family of beetles. Scarab beetles make up one of the largest and most diverse families of beetles found in our region and often attract attention because of their large and colourful oval-oblong bodies. Adult grapevine beetles can grow to 2.7 centimeters in length and can range from yellowish to reddish brown in colour. They are sometimes referred to as spotted June bugs due to the spots on their elytra and their general similarity to a June bug. This individual was seen early one morning on a branch among wild grapevines that were growing along the side of the road near our cottage.
The horned clubtail is a member of the clubtail family of dragonflies but it has only a slight flange towards the end of its abdomen instead of a wide clubtail seen in most members of this family. Adults can grow to six centimeters in length and while our field guides say they fly in June and July, we photographed this one late in May. One field guide described this species as a “very wary” dragonfly which may explain why this is the first time we have managed to photograph one.
The smooth greensnake is one of 15 species of snake found in Ontario. Adults are slender and can grow to 65 centimeters in length. They generally hunt in grassy areas such as meadows and clearings where their solid green colour affords them camouflage. They also climb into bushes or shrubs in search of food which includes insects, spiders, and snails. This individual ventured onto the road near our cottage, allowing us to see and photograph it.
The American redstart is a member of the warbler family of birds. These small warblers grow to 13 centimeters in length. They are constantly on the move when feeding on insects and spiders on leaves in the mid-story of trees and bushes. They also eat the fruit of trees and bushes when available. We have heard and glimpsed these birds moving about deep within the leaves of trees and bushes around the cottage for several years but this year was the first time we were successful in photographing one, and fortuitously, we managed to capture both the male and female. The male is black with orange wing patches and the female is grey-olive with yellowish wing patches.
Every summer at the cottage we are pleasantly reminded that the more we look and the more patient we are, the more we will see and, if lucky, be able to photograph. This in turn helps us to expand our understanding and appreciation of the diversity of flora and fauna that surrounds us.
We relied on the following sources in preparing this article: David M. Bird Birds of Eastern Canada; Timothy Dickinson et al The ROM Field Guide to Wildflowers of Ontario; Chris G. Earley Warblers of the Great Lakes Region & Eastern North America; Arthur V. Evans Beetles of Eastern North America; Ross D. MacCulloch The ROM Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Ontario; and, Kurt Mead Dragonflies of the North Woods.