Species #16 to #22

Dates: 15 March and 21 March 2020

These were the “Lifeforms of the Day” for the past week … they originally appeared on this Facebook page. If you would like to follow that page you will get a new species to enjoy and learn about each day until some embuggerment or another prevents me posting.

The images can be clicked on to view them at full size.

Species #16
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
15 March

We used to have a large family of Crows regularly in the garden checking things out as they stalked aorund in the pompous manner that Crows do stomp around. We get fly-overs and there are plenty in the neighbourhood despite their susceptibility to West Nile virus, but this week for the first time in ages “Inspector Crow” dropped by to check that all the other birds have their paperwork and permits in order. Fascinating birds.

We also have Ravens, but I will need to visit the forest to get good enough pictures of them to share in the 1000 Species gallery … plenty of time, no rush.

Species #17
Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus)
16 March

Peterson, he of field guide fame, described this bird as a “sparrow dipped in raspberry juice”. Not a common visitor to feeders but this chap dropped by for a snack. That big beak is oideally suited to cracking open the black sunflower seeds he is tucking into. He’ll probably be heading further north to breed in the boreal forests. As a species they have been declining in numbers in recent years, possibly because of habitat and climate changes that affect almost all birds but also because they appear to being moved on by House Finches that are becoming more established aorund here.

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
17 March

Quite possibly the silliest of all the doves and univerdsally known by birders hereabouts as “Dopes”. Note the very small head.

They have only two survival strategies – one is to be able to fly faster than most birds, the other is to lay and hatch really large numbers of youngsters each year – they typically only lay 2 eggs at a time but can do that up to six times in a season !! Not a vulnerable species at all – found all over the continent in pretty large numbers. In winter we have a heated watyer bath for the birds – quite often at dusk a good number of these will assemble aorund the rim of the basin, heads out and pooping in the water before departing for their overnight roosts.

Species #19
American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)
18 March

Contrary to what so many people think, the American Goldfinch does not migrate south in the winter; rather it sheds it’s yellow plumage and hides amongst us as a muted yellow-green bird such as two of these – a very small number of birds have started to acquire yellow feathers in the past few days.

Voted, a few years ago as Montreal’s official bird. Regular attendees at our feeders and constant snackers of the seeds to be found on wionter-standing flower heads. Their Latin name translates as something like “sad thistle-eater” … not so sure about the sad bit but they certainly love thistle seeds.

Species 20
Barred Owl (Strix varia)
19 March
THIS is the owl that makes the stereotypical owl call “too-whit too-woo” also transliterated as “who cooks for you” (emphasis on the woo/you at the end).
A regular resident of the arboretum that we frequent just down the road. Almost exclusively nocturnal but can with luck be seen like this one during the daylight hours sitting up a tree minding its own business. When I say “almost” nocturnal there are exceptions such as a few years ago when as joint leader of a guided birding walk we found one mid-morning a bit above head height beside the forest trail happily dis-assembling a squirrel that it had caught and swallowing warm chunks of meat – we didn’t worry him at all. Commonly nest in existing tree cavities high above ground.
Species 21
Multicolored Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis)
20 March
Time for an insect.
This Asian beetle was originally released in the US to help control pests, and has established itself very extensively. So extensively in fact that it has very much replaced the native species in Canada – this example was just one of the many, many that come indoors to see the winter out and then start to emerge about now as light levels increase. Some days we catch dozens of them and have to evict them.
They, adult/larvae, eat many species of soft-bodied insects, including aphids, scales and psyllids. The adults come in many shades of red and orange. The number of spots can very greatly – sometimes they have no spots. They are identified by the “m” or “w” on the backs of their heads.
If we come across any actual native labdybirds (or ladybugs as some call them) between now and the 1000 target be assured that they will be shred with our followers.
Species 22
Larch Tree – probably European Larch (Larix decidua)
21 March
The native larch tree here is the Tamarack or American larch (Larix latricina) though I believe this is a very fine and mature species of the European Larch (Larix decidua). It’s about as tall as they get, well over 40m and must have been growing in this corner of the garden for many years before any houses were built. How did it escape being felled?
European larch can grow on drier soils and tolerate warmer climates than the native tamarack, being better suited to non-boreal climates and so was once quite widely cultivated by foresters.
Larches are unusual in being deciduous conifers with the leaves turning a subtle yellow in the fall before falling.