Big and colourful, it is an interesting addition to the fauna here.
This Bumble Bee (Bombus vosnesenskii) has undergone a remarkable change in status on Vancouver Island in the last few years. The first specimen record from Vancouver Island was one collected here at Leaning Oaks in May 2005. Since that time the species has spread up the east side of Vancouver Island and is known from at least as far north as Campbell River. In parts of Victoria and the Saanich Peninsula it is one of the commonest bumble bees. The reasons for its rapid spread are not known, although it has done well at the same time that Western Bumble Bee and a number of other Bumble Bees have declined. The change in status of this species in BC is documented in this journal article by David Fraser, Claudia Copley, Elizabeth Elle and Rob Cannings.
Big and colourful, it is an interesting addition to the fauna here.
Wall Lizards (Podarcis muralis) are relatively new critters to Vancouver Island. Our population is derived from a small number of lizards that where released in 1970 from a now defunct zoo that was located on Rudy Rd on the Saanich Peninsula. The lizards are spreading quickly and there are populations throughout the Saanich Peninsula, and isolated populations in Langford, Nanaimo and on Hornby Island. Biologist Christian Engelstoft and I are tracking their spread to is you see any in other areas we would like to know about it (a comment here will work fine). Their impact on native ecoystems is unknown, but often they rapidly reach very high densities, and are agile and heavy feeders on a wide variety of invertebrates. They are far more agile than our native Alligator Lizard and they are able to scale walls, trees, drainpipes and can be found on the ground, cliffs or even building roofs. They are most active in warm weather, but we have records from every month of the year, so they seem to be able to take advantage of warm weather periods even in the winter months. We think they are spreading by themselves as well as being assisted by being moved by people and horse trailers.
Wall lizards were first noted on Leaning Oaks in the late summer of 2013, and Leah photographed a female here yesterday.
Our predilection for building things out of rocks on Leaning Oaks suits the alligator lizards just fine. They use the spaces and cracks to hide and will sit atop the rocks to sun themselves. Elgaria coerulea bear live young, an average of five in B.C. where it is found across the southern portion of the provice, with the exception of the very southeast corner.
Very secretive, one usually just catches sight of a tail disappearing into a crack. The resident dog is determined to catch one and usually she is not even close. Except once when she managed to get a hold of the tip of a tail and we had a vivid display of caudal autotomy. The lizard was long gone, but there lay a writhing tail doing exactly what it is meant to do -distract a predator. Unfortunately this individual will have lost the fat reserves that are stored in that area, expend energy to re-grow a tail and will have its movements compromised without the stabilizing influence.
Almost all of the grasses that we have here at Leaning Oaks are not native species, and this one is no exception. Orchard Grass (Dactylis glomerata), or Cock's Foot is widely planted as a forage and hay grass and it has escaped hayfields and is a common grass along roadsides, ditches and other areas. It is an increasingly common species in our Garry Oak meadow, and we have to actively control it in order that some of the native species that we are trying to maintain on the property have a chance. It is a vigorous tall bunchgrass that makes tussocks that tends to out compete many smaller Garry Oak species.
Alsike Clover (Trifolium hybridum) is a widely grown, non-native plant. It is used as a forage crop and is a common escapee on disturbed lands, road edges and lawns. Here at Leaning Oaks, it is found in our lawn, along with White Clover. Its latin name is based on Linneaus' mistaken impression that this is a hybrid of White Clover and Red Clover. The common name is also of Linneaus' doing, his type specimen came from the town of Alsike in Sweden. Hanging out around clovers is a great way to see lots of pollinators, particularly bumble bees.
This large Eurasian cutworm moth, Noctua pronuba, was first recorded in Canada in 1979 in Nova Scotia and had made its way to BC by 2002, now commonly seen on the eastern side of Vancouver Island. It may have winged its way to the west coast on its own as a strong flier, but there are suspicions that it was human assisted. Many of the host plants of N. pronuba are widely used in the horticultural trade and the larvae eat many common food crops. A summary of the status and spread was written in 2005 by Claudia Copley and Rob Cannings from the Royal BC Museum (http://journal.entsocbc.ca/index.php/journal/article/view/62/276).
There is another introduced moth with bright underwings -the Lesser Yellow Underwing, Noctua comes that is smaller, has a dark spot in the centre of the underwing and was introduced to BC in 1982. You will have to trust us that this particular specimen did not have the dot!
There are two subspecies of Prunella vulgaris found in our area. The native subspecies, Prunella vulgaris ssp. lanceolata is circumboreal and has more lancolate shaped leaves that are three times as long as wide, while the European introduction Prunella vulgaris ssp. vulgaris has leaves that are rounder and the length is about double the width. These were found in the disturbed ditch along the road.
It doesn't really mater which you have; both are great for pollinators, bloom later than many other of the wild bloomers and both have a long list of medicinal uses. Self-heal is used for fever reduction, sore throats, heart and skin conditions, to stop itching, excessive menstruation and burns. References to the benefits of self-heal can be found in Chinese literature from over 2000 years ago where it is attributed with aiding liver and kidney problems.
These small, bizarre wasps are called Carrot Wasps because they often are found feeding on flowers in the carrot family. Here however, they are commonest on our Pearly Everlasting plants. Females have long ovipositors. Carrot Wasps are not very well studied, there are likely unidentified species in North America and only a little is known about their life history. They are mostly parasitoids on solitary bee and wasp species. The long ovipositor allows the female to place the egg on, or near, the bee larvae or egg. In photographing the Carrot Wasps here, we thought there were two species, one with a two red bands and another with a large single red band, however, in examining our photos, there are individuals with one, two or three red bands of various sizes, so perhaps it is one variable species or a whole mix. The genus name for this group is Gasteruption.
This raspberry relative is represented here by a single plant in the lowest elevation part of Leaning Oaks. Here it is in too much shade to flower and set fruit properly. Pity, for picking salmonberries was one of the joys of growing up on the coast, their fruit being the first of our native berries to ripen. Interestingly, salmonberries have different colour morphs, some plants are ripe when the fruit is yellow, others orange, red or almost black. This plant is worth growing in the garden for its early spring flowers, bright pink and a favourite of Rufous Hummingbirds as the first arrive on migration. We grow a double-flowered form in our garden, which is from a cutting that accidentally fell into a damp kleenix in a plastic bag in my pocket in a public garden.
This is probably the most common butterfly that we see during the summer at Leaning Oaks -in the meadow and in the vegetable garden. The caterpillars is small, green and a voracious feeder of members of the Brassicaceae family.
The first Cabbage White, Pieris rapae was collected in Quebec in 1860 very near a port of entry for immigrants arriving mainly from Ireland. These people would have been fleeing the famine. Many would have been farmers that would be bringing their own food on the voyage and much of that would be cabbages and turnips; food that would store well. Another bit of evidence for this origin was that the adult males were bright yellow, the same as the form found that occurs most frequently in Ireland.
A paper came out in 1867 that summarized the extremely rapid spread of this pest after the initial find. Scudder mailed out 600 requests for reports of this species and received back 200, with locations and dates in hand, he pieced together the timing and route until that time. The original paper is a great read (The Introduction and Spread of Pieris rapae in N. America 1860 -1886). Trains and ships heading south and across to California for the gold rush carrying cole crops aided in this speedy spread.
The first record in BC is Kaslo in 1899 and then Vancouver Island in 1900. The speculation of why there was a fourteen year delay between the first occurrence in BC and the completion of the railway is that there was a thriving farm industry already in BC, therefore there were few crops being shipped. Once it hit though it soon (1901) was described as a "troublesome pest".
Two biologists on a beautiful property armed with cameras, smart phones and a marginal knowledge of websites took up the challenge of documenting one species a day on that property. Join along! Posts and photographs by Leah Ramsay and David Fraser (unless otherwise stated; started January 1, 2014.