Species #30 to #36

 Dates: 29 February and 4 April 2020

We are now into the second month of the 1000 Species Project. Things are going well, though I will be pleased when spring really gets into its stride and flowers and migrating Warblers start appearing nearby. 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.

Newsflash – the 1000 Species daily posts are now also to be found on Instagram – check it out and please follow and spread the word.

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

Species #30 
Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus)
29 March
As far as biodiversity goes it is still pretty wintery and the botanical and insect specimens have yet to emerge and thrill us – so more birds it is. This very smart bird was in the arboretum and gave itself away by making a noise. Very shy, it quickly disappeared. Not a common bird, so look but don’t expect to see. They can digest foods high in cellulose and thus survive harsh winter conditions in the northern part of their range, where they feed on buds and twigs. Although insects and other invertebrates make up only a small part of the adult grouse’s diet, chicks 2 to 4 weeks old depend on this protein-rich prey.
The male Ruffed Grouse’s unique drumming display takes place from atop a low log, stump, or rock. The deep, thumping sound starts slowly and builds to a blurred crescendo as the bird rapidly rotates his wings back and forth. The drumming sequence lasts 8–10 seconds, during which the wings may beat up to 50 times.

Species #31
Hygrohypnum sp – possibly H. eugyrium (?) Swollen Brook Moss
30 March

Almost at the end of the first month and time for something completely different. As the snow melted away on the rocks surrounding the garden waterfall and withn the spray zone, the mosses that live there have reappeared and … well, and mosses are really interesting. Really.

This moss is, I believe is in the genus Hygrohypnum and perhaps H. eugyrium but could also be the similar Hypnum genus in which case the differential identification could be Hypnum pallescens or Lesser Plait Moss. Mosses are less than simple creatures to identify, even with my specially high-power bryophytologist’s hand lens to aid in the process. I have loaded some photographs to iNaturalist in the hope that some real expert will aid me in getting this firmly nailed down to species. I will return to it later in the year when things are warmer and the moss is thinking of doing reproductive stuff that may assist.

Note – it’s tricky stuff like this in taxons that I am not wholly familiar with that make the 1000 species project the interesting challenge that it is.

Species #32
Cluster Fly (Pollenia sp. and possibly P.rudis)
31 March

Turned up on the window of my office just begging to have its portrait taken. Clearly a large Dipteran and, I think, Genus Pollenia … though it could be just an old-fashioned Bluebottle (Caliphora sp.). I will amend this post once I have it nailed down better.

Cluster flies move into shelter in winter and find their way into attics and cracks in buildings. They often emerge on warm days, and cluster at windows attempting to exit(hence the name). That’s what this specimen was certainly doing. About half a centimetre long, so quite large.

P. rudis is the commonest. They came to North America long, long ago sop are “alien invaders” rather than natives. They are parasitic on earthworms and perhaps arrived in the hold of a ship with soil and plants aboard.

** … and this is the end of the first month of the 1000 Species Project. I am having a lot of fun and learning new stuff every day.

Species #33
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)
1 April

To start the second month – finally, we have a flower! Coltsfoot appear rapidly as the snows melt and bring a bit of sunshine to the world. Yet another of the myriad Asteracea species and, of course, one that is not native to North America but was brought here long ago by settlers – probably for its suppsed medicinal uses. Not that anyone in their right minds should dose themselves with it as it contains some seriously nasty alkaloids, including carcinogens amongst their contributions to the human race.

Usually found in small colonies of plants. The flowers, which somewhat resemble dandelions, bear scale-leaves on the long stems in early spring. The leaves of coltsfoot only appear after the flowers have set seed, withered and died in the early summer and apparenbtly resemble colt’s feet – hence the common name. The flower heads are of yellow florets with an outer row of bracts

Species #34
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)
2 April

Back to birds today, albeit a pretty common one. The “good” birds and the colourful pretty birds will be along in a few weeks. A few days ago the first bit of clear water appeared along the bay. Earlier in the day it had been home to 20 or 30 Canada Geese (they were species #23 on 22 March if yu want to check them out) but once they had gone the Ring-billed Gulls moved in.

Pretty much the default Montreal Gull species – they are just back in the last week from their winter quarters and are now settling in for the summer. Year by year their range extends as they find new sources of food to exploit. Very useful birds to have around, they recycle all that waste food humans throw away.

Species #35
Mourning Cloak Butterfly (Nymphalis antiopa)
3 April

One of the first butterflies of the spring. In England this butterfly is known as the Camberwell Beauty but in most other languages some variant on our Mourning Cloak name is used – “Trauermantel” in German for example.

It lives almost 11 months and overwinters in adult form which is why they can be seen this early in the year – thay can overwinter in tree cavities and on the ground underneath loose tree bark that is covered by snow. Widely distributed all aorund the northern hemisphere. A large insect with a wingspan of almost 4 inches.

Species #36
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)
4 April

A fairly early returning migrant. One of the several woodpecker species, albeit one that is as often as not seen on lawns eating ants as it is in trees. There are two forms – hare in the east we have the “Yellow Shafted” form for reasons clearly seen in the photograph – oout west you will see the Red Shafted form.

Northern Flickers tend to be quite shy and rarely leyt you get very close. As often as not they are seen flying away when they are easy to identify by their large white rump exposed when their wings are open n flight.

More common in grasslands/lawns and on the edges of wooded areas than deep in the forest.

This specimen looks a bit worse for wear as he was soaked by recent heavy rain.