Looking at the current expanse of white snow, drab leafless trees, and snow-laden evergreens, it is challenging to recall just how vibrant and green things were at our cottage on White Lake last summer. Reviewing our cottage photos from the summer helps remind us of the many shades of green provided by the plant kingdom, as well as the animal kingdom. We look forward to seeing these many shades again this summer but in the meantime want to share some mid-winter greenness in this article. While green insects are by far the most common green animals at the cottage, we will save them for another day, and focus in this article on birds, amphibians, and reptiles that display different shades of green.
The green heron is the smallest member of the egret, heron, and bittern family of wading birds seen around White Lake. Adults can grow to a height of 45 centimeters which includes their legs that are relatively short for a wading bird. They are uncommon and are difficult to spot but can be found occasionally along the edges of marshes where they hunt for fish, frogs, crayfish, and aquatic insects. This adult displays its characteristic blue-green back and wing plumage, and chestnut neck.
The gray treefrog is a member of the treefrog family. All species of treefrog can be distinguished from species belonging to the true frog family by the discs on the tips of their toes which allow them to climb. The gray treefrog is the largest of the five species of treefrog found in Ontario, with adults growing to a length of six centimeters. While adults are mottled grey, juveniles have bright green backs with some grey markings along their sides. The aquatic tadpoles transform into terrestrial juveniles in late June and early July. The juveniles can be found on the foliage of deciduous trees and shrubs where they feed on insects. Every year, we see many gray treefrogs at this juvenile stage.
The red-eyed vireo is common in the deciduous trees and shrubs around our cottage but due to its olive green colouring can be difficult to spot. It is the largest member of the vireo family nesting in the vicinity of White Lake, and can grow to a length of 15 centimeters. They feed on insects and berries. While their red eye may not be discernible from a distance, their white eye brow stripe is usually visible.
The only member of the hummingbird family found in Ontario, the ruby-throated hummingbird, is the smallest bird we see at our cottage. They grow to a length of 10 centimeters. One of our field guides describes this species as ‘pugnacious’ which is entirely consistent with our observations. We were lucky in August to get this picture of four females at and near our feeder at the same time, showing the iridescent green plumage on their backs.
The smooth greensnake is one of fifteen species of typical, non-venomous snake found in Ontario. Greensnakes prefer grassy areas where their grass-green-coloured back affords camouflage as they hunt for insects, spiders, and snails. Adults can grow to a length of 65 centimeters.
During our summers at the cottage we are always on the lookout for these and other interesting wildlife which are generally well-camouflaged by their varied shades of green. It is rewarding when we spot them and even better if we manage to photograph them.
We relied of the following sources in researching this article: Ross D. MacCulloch’s The ROM Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Ontario; Roger Tory Peterson’s Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Eastern and Central North America; and, David Allen Sibley’s The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America.