Species #23 to #29

Dates: 22 March and 1-7 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 #23 
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
Sunday 22 March
I don’t imagine anyone in the world is unable to identify this goose which in the last week have reappearing the fields and skies around here. Theres are small areas of grass where the snow has melted and that’s what brings them. I have seen flocks in ‘V’-formation varying from a half dozen to 80+ in recent dayts and a good hundred or more are on the Macdonald campus farm fields.
This chap has two legs but had withdrawmn one into its feathers to get a bit of warmth into his toes.
Species #24
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaeus phoenicius)
23 March
These arrived back in the area about a week ago – always one of the first migrating birds to return with the males a few weeks ahead of the females. They are all over the place, shouting out their “Konk-er-reee” calls and strutting their stuff while tryong to claim the best breeding territories for the ladies when they make it. Can’t be many perople who haven’t noticed them yet.
Species #25
Northern Cardinal – female (Cardinalis cardinalis)
24 March
I have been holding off on showing pictures of a Cardinal as everyone is familiar with them but this nicely muted female stopped close beside me and posed nicely … so here she is, a star for a day.
Everyone takes pictures of males, and gorgeous they are, but we should not overlook their less flashy lady friends. A species that was once quite unusual in the montreal area they started moving north 20 or 30 years ago and today are common everywhere. Walking around our local streets they are calling out to each other to declare “their” territory from every second tree and bush.
Species #26
Dark Fishing Spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus)
25 March
An unusually early find for the date. Something (raccoon?) had  taken the lid off one of our three compost heaps and this chap, who had probably overwintered in the compost, was sitting on the top looking a little puzzled. The adults can grow to have bodies up to an inch long and legspan some three and a half times that but this fellow was junior and his whole legspan was under an inch so no need to scream yet if you visit our garden. We do often see the large ones in summer – but they are harmless and rather fun. Despite their names they prefer dry garden logpiles to being anywhere near water.
Horse-Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)
26 March
Still barely the first glimmerings of spring and daytime high temerature a tad below freezing so botanical subjects are not as easy to find as they will be later. However, here we have the “sticky buds” of a horse-chestnut tree that the squirrels planted in our garden a couple of years ago. One day it will provide shelter and food for squirrels and birds – it could live for around 300 years too so we may not see it at maturity.
The buds are already bulking up and oozing their stickiness ready to produce a leaf or three – though that will be a good six weeks in the future. Leaf-burst here is usually the first ten dsays or so of May … still, a promise of things to come and one day, conkers for the kids to play with.

Species #28
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscala)
27 March

One of the birds that everyone loves to hate because they make a lot of noise and drop fecal sacs produced by the nestlings in your garden pool. But, for a couple of weeks around tins time of year they will sit on your bird feeders, glossy heads shining in the early spring sunshine, fix their yellow-rimmed beady eyes at you and tell you how smart they are.

Often nest in groups (mini-colonies) choosing pines or dense shrubs. The collective noun is, I have learned, a “plague”. One of those interesting birds that go in for “anting” by rubbing insects on its feathers possibly to apply liquids such as formic acid secreted by the insects and help keep parasites away.

Species #29
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)
28 March

A small and stocky bird that is surprisingly common in local gardens and especially nearby in the arboretum where they are almost more numerous than Chickadees.

They forage for insects on trunks and branches and often move head-first downwards. Seeds form a substantial part of their winter diet, as do various nuts stored in the fall. Old-growth woodland is preferred for breeding. They nest in holes in trees. Easily located by their very characteristic call that sounds like a nasally squeaky plastic toy.