This geometrid moth seems very variable and in some of the photos that I found, the black stripes are not nearly so distinct. It flies in the autumn and the colours could be mistaken for leaves that have turned. This species of moth, Tetracis jubararia is found in western North America was far east as Saskatchewan. The larva feed on a variety of deciduous shrubs and trees including willows, alders, birch and dogwood and mimic twigs.
This attractive shrub is scattered throughout Leaning Oaks. Almost every one of them is perched on a decaying stump or log, which seems to be the best habitat for this species, particularly on the drier side of Vancouver Island. The graceful fern-like growth gives the impression of an evergreen because the stems are green and twiggy, but the species is, in fact, deciduous. Unlike most Vacciniums, the berries ripen a bright red instead of the usual blue, purple or black. They are sought after by birds and mammals, including humans. Red Huckleberry is slow picking because of their small size but they make excellent pies and jellies.
At Leaning Oaks the recent series of dry summers has hit many of our Vaccinium parvifolium quite hard. The largest individuals have died back, or in some cases, they have succumbed. There has been some recruitment as well, including a handsome specimen on a log that forms one of the edges to our pond.
Every so often a chattering blue and white rocket speeds through the yard, does a couple of circuits over the pond and meadow and takes off again. Most of our observations of Belted Kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon) are these brief visits, they would be easy to miss if it wasn't for the distinctive calls that this species makes.
Every once in a while a Belted Kingfisher makes a stop here, usually perching over our pond, but their visits are usually brief.
It is in the fall when Leptoglossus occidentalis wander into the house looking for a place to winter. They are large and quite spectacular with gold glitters, beautiful art deco patterns and their "leafy" legs. Throughout the summer the adults and the nymphs will feed on the seeds of conifers, and will seriously diminish seed production.
This species has spread from occurring just in western North American to throughout. That spread over the past approximately 50 years is thought to have been aided by commercial pine plantations and Christmas tree and log transport. They were introduced to Northern Italy in 1999 -or at least that was when they were first noted and since have been recorded in many areas across Europe, including the United Kingdom. It is sometimes good to remind ourselves that pesky introductions have happened in both directions across the waters!
Fall is the time when Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum) is most notable, as the fronds turn from green to an attractive tan. While an attractive native fern, it is a bit of a thug in the garden, where vigorous growth and long underground runners make it a difficult species to manage. Formerly the fiddleheads (the unfurled young shoots) were picked and used as a spring vegetable;however, the consumption of Bracken has been linked to stomach cancer and breakdown of Vitamin B, so it is no longer recommended for human consumption. Indeed, very little seems to eat Bracken in the wild - I seldom find a stem chewed by any sort of herbivore. Studies in the UK and South America indicate only a small number of insects consume the species -and they tend to be highly specialized. Bracken is one of the most widely distributed species in the world..we have hiked through Bracken in the highlands of New Guinea and the Andes of Venezuela, the French countryside and cooler areas in Australia.
And there will likely be more crane flies - perhaps sp 1, sp 2 and so on unless I get better at the identifying! There are 171 described species in 53 genera in BC. and worldwide there are over 15,000 described species making it the most speciose family of Diptera ("flies"). I did figure out that this was not one of the introduced species, but potentially Tipula pseudotruncorum or T. dorsimaculata. I'd be thrilled if there was anyone that would like to weigh in with an ID!
There was an explosion of the Marsh Crane Fly, an introduction from Europe on the coast a number of years ago and the larvae or "leatherjackets" caused a lot of damage to roots of many plants.
The crane flies fly mainly when it is cooler -dusk around Leaning Oaks and are a food source for many birds, spiders, amphibians and other insects. They always seem a bit clumsy to me and legs will break off at the slightest bump. I watched this one for sometime wiggle its long rostrum, drinking what specks of water it could find.
Domestic honey bees, Apis mellifera were introduced to the east coast of North America from Europe in 1622. Aided by settlers it took a couple of 100 years before they reached the west coast. Today they are found across the continent with both domestic and feral populations. Because of their importance to the settlers their path has been well documented. We don't know if the ones visiting Leaning Oaks are from hives or a population that has naturalized. I have seen estimates that up to 80% of all crops in North America are dependent on bee pollination -both native and non-native. There are many other groups of pollinators in addition to the bees, but they do play an important role in agriculture.
This morning I had a Purple Martin (Progne subis) calling from high over the house, our latest fall record ever. This species is a conservation success story on southern Vancouver Island. Nowadays the twangy call of a Purple Martin high overhead is a common noise on southern Vancouver Island, but not very long ago this species had almost disappeared from British Columbia.
Purple Martins declined in the 1940's likely due to competition for nest sites with European Starlings. Thanks to the efforts of a group of volunteers, nesting boxes put onto pilings has increased the number of nest sites and the number of Purple Martins has gone up in the province. It is now the second commonest swallow detected at Leaning Oaks, after Violet-green Swallows.
At dawn this morning the first bird noise I heard was the distinctive "toot, toot, toot" call of a Northern Pygmy-Owl. While Northern Pygmy-Owls ( Glaucidium gnoma swarthi ) have bred not far from us, all of our records are from the fall (late August to October). We suspect this is because there is a largely undetected post-breeding movement of these tiny owls away from breeding locations. Unlike most owls, Pgymy-Owls are often daytime active. It is a combination of hearing the birds and finding them as they are being mobbed by songbirds that leads to most of our detections. Agitated small birds are almost always a sign that something interesting is going on at Leaning Oaks.
This subspecies of Northern Pygmy-Owl is endemic to Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.
The flower longhorn beetles feed on nectar and pollen as adults and as larvae will feed on dead or dying wood, the digestion of the cellulose aided by enzymes. They appeared for about three or four days on the pearly everlasting and whether that was their life span or they moved on to other food sources - we don't know. I believe that this is Xestoleptura crassipes, one of three of this genus found in B.C..
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.