Sunday, July 30, 2006

Everyone recognizes purple coneflower, AKA echinacea purpurea, right?

A Monarch butterfly enjoying some tansy.

Here are some sumac leaves to compare to the Tree of Heaven we saw previously. See how the edges are toothed? And wet, because we have a thunderstorm EVERY DAY this summer.

I don't know this one. Anybody?

[Ontario Wanderer, whose blog you should check out, has identified this as Bouncing Bet, AKA soapwort. Thanks, OW!]

Friday, July 28, 2006

Here's the song sparrow that likes to serenade (or should that be 'threaten'?) me as I'm cutting down garlic mustard. You can recognize a song sparrow by the big black spot on the breast and by the distinctive (loud!) song that begins with three repeated notes. (This page has more info and a recording of the song.)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The cup plants are blooming with all their might.

Check out the camouflage on this grasshopper:

[Another Anonymous comment gives me the ID: "The well-camouflaged grasshopper looks like a Carolina Grasshopper (Dissosteira carolina). Its hind wings, only visible in flight, are black with a yellow border." Thank you, Anonymous! Clearly I have some knowledgeable readers.]

Here's a better look at the male whitetail dragonfly:

On the way home Monday night Norah and I found this guy, which I've identified as an American Dagger Moth caterpillar:

If anyone is wondering about a bug they've seen, here are a few sites I've found very helpful: Choose your bug type from the 'Bug Info' list on the left and scroll through until you recognize the one you're interested in. Check out some of the amazingly colourful grasshoppers! Click on one of the bug drawings on the left for photos. Thanks to this site, I've finally learned the name of a caterpillar I photographed in June. Behold the Grapevine Epimenis! (The 'Grapevine' part is a big clue, since that's where this one was hanging out. I hope it survived and turned into this gorgeous little moth.)

That site also has some amusing caterpillar names:

  • Afflicted Dagger Moth
  • Hesitant Dagger Moth Complex (maybe therapy ...?)
  • Impressed Dagger Moth
  • Confused Meganola
  • Shivering Pinion
  • Subdued Quaker
  • Intractable Quaker (I've met a few of those)
  • Girlfriend Underwing
  • Baltimore Bomolocha (isn't that a dance?)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Japanese knotweed suffered a serious blow last night as we attacked it from all sides. Team members spread out across the site and cut down all the JK we could find. Here's a look at the knotweed graveyard, with the bones of plants cut down in previous years:

You can see the segmented stems that give JK the nickname "Japanese Bamboo":

After the annihilation of the knotweed we turned our attention to other pests like Tree of Heaven. This is a pretty thing, but invasive. It has a strong, distinctive scent that some people find revolting; I've heard it described as "nauseating" and "like garbage."

To me (and others I've talked to) it smells like a kind of rich, complex peanut butter. I wonder if it's one of those genetic differences like the ability to taste a certain substance? Tree of Heaven looks a lot like our native staghorn sumac, but it has smooth leaf edges instead of sumac's serrated ones, and it lacks the fuzzy stems of the sumac. I remember that "stags have teeth" and "peanut butter is smooth." Those of you who don't think Tree of Heaven smells like peanut butter or who prefer your PB crunchy will have to think of your own memory aids. The reddish colour at the tips of young Tree of Heaven branches is another help in identifying native vs. alien.

"Swath of destruction" was a popular phrase as we cut our way through JK, Tree of Heaven, Japanese honeysuckle and Manitoba maple.

This clear-cutting revealed another spotted jewelweed, so it wasn't all bad:

At the end of the evening we gathered in a circle, and while John filled in the weekly report we compared ant bites, mosquito bites and stinging nettle rash. I hit the jackpot and managed to acquire all three. I'm pretty sure those ants are out to get me. Tucking my pant legs into my socks keeps them off my legs, but they still manage to scramble down the neck of my shirt or into my gloves at every opportunity.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Update: here are a couple of viburnum leaf beetles for your viewing pleasure. *

*Some beetles were harmed in the making of this photograph.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A small frog in a big pond.

I found a maple leaf viburnum that hasn't been chewed to death yet, but I also found several viburnum leaf beetles at work on it. Sorry, no pictures of those -- they're small and dull, and quick to drop off the plant if disturbed. Maybe next time I'll take a container of soapy water and try to eliminate a few of them.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

We've had high heat and humidity recently, and last night's outing was declared "optional." Despite the extreme heat alert, John led a team of five crazy intrepid people into Death Valley the Don Valley. There were no survivors. A good time was had by all: graffiti was erased, Japanese knotweed was surveyed, and a pile of wood was relocated to be less handy for bonfires for the local yewts. A big welcome to Joel and Andrea, new members of the team.

(Confession: I know these details only through the magic of e-mail, since I was not one of the certifiable commendable, reliable, hard-working team members who braved the conditions.)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

You can never have enough Monarch butterflies.

I was calling this Delicious Plant until John told us its real name: maple leaf viburnum. Sadly, I have yet to see one with its leaves intact. I've been reading about the viburnum leaf beetle, which is what caused the damage you see here. They've become a big problem in our part of the world. It's the usual story: the pest shows up, probably imported along with its host plant, and there are no/insufficient predators to check its spread. You can read more about the beetles here and here.

Here's a tansy plant getting ready to bloom, and one in full splendour.

Even the humble chicory has a flower of great beauty.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

It's rained steadily all day, and tonight's make-up outing has been cancelled. With luck we'll get back to our regularly scheduled activities next Monday night. I think we're safe in crossing "water new trees" off our to-do list at the site.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The river has calmed down, although it still looks like chocolate milk. I half expected to see Oompa-Loompas at work on the banks. This heron has decided to keep one leg clear of the dirty water:

The pond is also a little murky ...

... but still beautiful:

There are lots of dragonflies around, including this beautiful blue one:

[A commenter has identified this as a male Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis). Tee hee, I bet it gets teased about its Latin name. Thank you, Anonymous!]

These guys are big!

(I love the internet, which helps me ID these things. That's a male whitetail dragonfly above. Oh, you're a boy dragonfly ...)

Monday, July 10, 2006

You see the problem:

Only an idiot would go down to the river after a heavy rain like that:

I probably shouldn't find this as funny as I do, but ... apparently the storm killed the fake horse at the Fantasy Farm:

Tonight's outing is cancelled due to the weather conditions. You can't have your stewards being hit by lightning, struck by falling tree limbs or swept away in a flash flood, now can you? We'll try to work out an alternate evening for people who still want to come out this week.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The black-eyed susans are doing very well. (Doh! How did that knotweed get in there??)

I don't know what this grass is, but it's a lovely colour.

Here's a Question Mark butterfly. (Cheating a bit -- this was almost at Pottery Road, not really on the Beechwood site.)

Continuing the orange theme, I noticed this flower and learned that it's spotted jewelweed. Apparently it likes to grow in places that also have poison ivy, and the sap in it can be used to treat the itchy rash. I've seen poison ivy growing along the path recently, but I do hope I won't need to test this new information.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Japanese knotweed is just too darned attractive. I wonder if it thinks it will be allowed to stay if it's pretty enough? Here are some more JK special effects:

This one's working on its oak-leaf impersonation:

One more thing troubles me -- I think the muskrat may have a drinking problem:

We spent an evening removing thistles, garlic mustard, Manitoba maples, Japanese knotweed and dog-strangling vine. There's no shortage of targets for our pruners and shovels.

Now that we've had some rain, the thistles came out of the ground quite nicely. Garlic mustard was more frustrating, as the seed pods are dry and brittle, and no matter how carefully we cut and bagged them, little black seeds flew all over. We had to pause once in a while to scrape them off our arms and shake them out of our gloves. (Biblical scholars may recall Onan, who was killed for spilling seed on the ground ... but that's a different story, and I trust we will not meet the same fate.) I'm working on a plan to vacuum the entire site, but there are a few bugs to work out yet.

Here's one now: the larva of the white-marked tussock moth.

Isn't that a fancy thing? Don't touch it -- those hairs may irritate your skin. If it's a male it will turn into an unremarkable brown moth, and if it's a female it will be wingless. Wingless! Did you ever? That seems like a pretty raw deal to me.

When I got home I threw my clothes directly into the washing machine -- laundry seems to be a bit of an obsession among our team members -- and when I pulled out my socks afterwards a few garlic mustard seeds fell out. I'm not sure we're going to win this war, but we'll keep fighting.