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Science & NatureWhat is That?What Is That … Splash of Orange?

What Is That … Splash of Orange?


Orange is one of nature’s magnificent colours we enjoy at our cottage on White Lake in the flowers, insects, amphibians, birds, and mammals.  Many shades of this colour are displayed by individual plants and animals.  We have already shared pictures in previous articles of some iconic orange-coloured beasties at the cottage, including: butterflies such as the monarch, American lady, Compton tortoiseshell, painted lady, and red admiral; other insects such as the swamp milkweed beetle, multicolour Asian lady bird beetle, and tri-colour bumble bee; birds such as the robin, merganser, and red-breasted nuthatch; and, mammals such as the red squirrel, red fox, and whitetail deer.  For this article we have chosen some different wildlife as well as scenery that present vibrant shades of orange for us to drink-in and photograph at White Lake.

One orange flower we consistently see in our cottage “lawn” and along the roadside is orange hawkweed which is also known as devil’s paintbrush.  This perennial plant is found throughout most of Ontario.  From a clump of basal leaves, clusters of small orange blossoms form at the top of a hairy stem which can grow to a height of 60 centimetres.  Flowers can be seen from June through to the fall.  This picture was taken in late June 2017.

Eyed sphinx moths are medium to large moths with scallop-shaped wings and small eye spots.  The small-eyed sphinx moth displays orange shades on its wings which can measure up to 3.5 centimetres. The host plants for this nocturnal moth include black cherry, serviceberry and basswood.  Fortunately for us we found this individual hanging out on our deck one morning in 2016.

The eastern newt is an amphibian but unlike its salamander relatives the adult is mostly aquatic even though it has no gills.  Adults are green to yellowish green and grow to 14 centimetres in length.  They are seldom seen as they spend most of their time submerged in slow moving water where they feed on insects and other invertebrates.  The juveniles, termed efts, are most commonly seen as they are terrestrial and sport a bright orange and red colouration.  This bright colouring warns potential predators that the compounds their skin secretes are noxious.  Efts spend from one to three years living in moist woodlands.  At the end of the eft stage they return to the water for their adult stage and then lay their eggs on submerged vegetation.  This eft was photographed moving along the edge of our cottage road this past summer.

An occasional orange-feathered visitor at the cottage is the Baltimore oriole.  These robin-sized birds can weigh up to 33 grams.  They feed on caterpillars, fruit and nectar found in deciduous bushes and trees.  They are usually solitary and we have only seen individual birds at our cottage.  The female, seen here at a distance, was photographed in September 2017 and the male, displaying his showy back, was photographed in June 2016.

We remind ourselves, as we scour the water, forest and sky looking for different species of plants and animals to photograph, that there is the bigger landscape to keep in focus.  The cooler temperatures and decreasing sunlight of fall orchestrate a symphony of colours, including orange, displayed by the leaves of the deciduous trees as they prepare for the winter.  This photograph was taken while out paddling before  8:00 a.m. near the end of October in 2016.

At the even bigger landscape level are the many sunrises, sunsets and rainbows at the cottage, which dazzle us with an amazing array of colours, including orange, to reflect on and enjoy.  We experienced and photographed this glorious sunset while paddling after supper in June this past summer.

We relied on the following field guides in preparing this article: T. Dickson et al’s The ROM Field Guide to Wildflowers of Ontario; D. Beadle and S. Leckie’s Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America;  R.D. MacCulloch’s The ROM Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Ontario; and D.A. Sibley’s The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America.




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