This is our 100th “What Is That” article for the Millstone News. We certainly did not expect, back in January 2016 when our first article appeared, that we would make it to this milestone, let alone anticipate we would still be writing about new species we have photographed around White Lake. But the diversity and seasonal variations provided by Mother Nature, combined with our learning when and where to look, continues to reward us with new discoveries … when we take the time to look. Frankly, we have had some luck taking photographs too.
While our time at the cottage this year was reduced from our typical season, due to pandemic restrictions and related considerations, we managed to observe and photograph more than thirty new species of birds, insects, and spiders, in addition to countless plants. The following are just five of the new species we saw this year, a bird, three insects (a caterpillar, a moth and a katydid), and a spider.
The Red Crossbill is a member of the Finch family, an uncommon and irregular visitor in our region. The males are dull red and the females a drab greenish colour. Adults grow to 15 centimeters in length and can weigh up to 36 grams. They use their distinctive crossed beaks to spread apart the scales of unopened conifer cones to eat the seeds. We spotted this family of five individuals as they appeared to be drinking water from depressions in the cottage road in late August.
The larval stage of the promethea moth is a large, green caterpillar that grows to a length of 7.5 centimeters. The larvae sport distinctive coloured knobs, termed tubercles. Two pairs of red tubercles grow on the front segments and one pair of yellow tubercles on the rear segment. The caterpillars feed on the leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs. We have yet to see an adult promethea moth but understand the red-brown, colourfully-patterned females have a wing span of up to 15 centimeters while the male is smaller and dark coloured. We spotted the caterpillar of this member of the silkworm moth family at the beginning of August and will be looking for adults next summer.
The hummingbird clearwing moth is a member of the sphinx moth family. Adult moths can grow to 3 centimeters in length, almost the size of a small hummingbird! These moths can most often be found feeding on the nectar of flowers around dusk. Caterpillars feed primarily on the leaves of honeysuckle, snowberry, and hawthorn bushes. This moth visited our lilac in late May.
The Roesel’s katydid is an introduced species from Europe. Members of the katydid family resemble grasshoppers but can be differentiated by their long, hair-like antennae and stilt-like hind legs. The adult Roesel’s katydid can grow to four centimeters in length. They are herbivores, feeding on grasses and the leaves of deciduous shrubs and trees from June to September. This picture was taken in July while the individual was checking out our cottage.
The yellow garden argiope, a member of the orbweaver family of spiders, is the largest web-building spider in Ontario. Many people call it simply a garden spider. The female can grow to 2.8 centimeters in length, with a leg span of up to 7 centimeters. She spins a large, meter-wide orb-shaped web in open, sunny locations. They sit inverted in the center on the zigzag portion of the web, termed the stabillmentum, waiting to gather up large flying insects caught by the web. The male is one quarter the size of the female. This female was photographed in early August, having recently captured a meal.
We are fortunate to see, photograph and research lots of interesting wildlife and plants at our cottage. We look forward to upcoming cottage seasons to observe and take better photographs as well as to find, photograph and learn about more species.
We relied on the following field guides to assist in preparing this article: David Allen Sibley The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America; David L. Wagner Princeton Field Guides, Caterpillars of Eastern North America; David Beadle and Seabrooke Leckie Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America; Tom Murray Insects of New England and New York; and, Larry Weber Spiders of the North Woods.