Band-tailed Pigeons are occasional visitors to Leaning Oaks. We have a few recent winter and summer records, but the majority of our sightings are from the spring and fall periods. On years where our oaks have good acorn crops, we often have flocks of feeding Band-tails. Patagioenas fasciata is on the provincial Blue List, largely because of declines over the last 30 years. Formerly Band-tailed Pigeons on southern Vancouver Island all migrated south for the winter, with most of our birds wintering in Oregon and California, although the species ranges as far south as Mexico and Guatemala. In the late 1970s this species began to overwinter on Vancouver Island and in the 1980s we had flocks visiting our bird feeder in the winter months. By the late 1990s the species started to decline and we no longer have Band-tailed Pigeons using our feeders.
This common introduced European moth seems to be somewhat poorly known here on southern Vancouver Island. In Britian the caterpillar feeds on plants in the carrot family (Apiaceae), and Bedstraw (Galium) as they presumably do here as well. The Single Spotted Wave is often found on walls under lights in the summer months, as indeed was this specimen. Idaeae dimidiata is a variable and attractive species, ranging from creaming white to dingy brown, often with a smudgy spot on the wings. It is in the very large family of Geometrid moths.
Plume Moths are a group of small moths with modified wings. The front wings of plume moths usually consist of two curved spars with more or less bedraggled bristles trailing behind. The hindwings are similarly constructed, but have three spars. When resting the wings are rolled up and extended out to the sides creating a capital “T” shaped moth, as can be seen in the photo.
Many plume moths are brown or other cryptic colours and can be hard to detect. Hellinsia pectodactylus however is an almost pure white plume moth and despite its small size was highly visible when it landed on the side of the house under the porch light. The species name is presumably from the comb-like teeth on the legs of this species. This moth is known from both the both Europe and North America. Its larvae have been recorded feeding on a variety of plants in the Aster Family. There 11 Hellinsia moths listed for British Columbia in Pohl et al. 2015.
This handsome moth was photographed on Canada Day, as part of our participation in a challenge to each post 150 species on iNaturalist for Canada's 150th birthday. Panthea virginarius is a widespread moth in the west, associated with conifers. On the coast they are pale moths with dark markings, and, in a reversal of the usual pattern of things, they are darker in the interior of the province. The larvae feed on Douglas-fir, Ponderosa Pine, and likely Sitka Spruce. This specimen was attracted to the deck lights we left on that night to attract nocturnal insects in order to bolster our species tally for the challenge.
There was great excitement in April (2017) when the first elegant, fine tailed Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura) arrived at Leaning Oaks. We'd whisper and peer out the window as they cooed softly and fed below the feeders. The whistling of their wing feathers would make us grin with delight. We now get at least a couple daily and have had up to 11 Mourning Doves at a time. We still do smile at the whistling wing feathers. This noise is created by the air travelling over the wing tips and is used to warn the others of danger. Their voice is too quiet to do this job!
I think that we were sure that if a dove were to become common here it would have been the Eurasian Collared Dove with an increasing trend throughout the province that has been meteoric.
The Breeding Bird Survey trend in Canada shows a general increasing trend for Mourning Doves, whereas the BBS trend for BC is a significant decline. The Christmas Bird Count data for Victoria however, shows a steady dramatic increase since the 1950's. The colonization of Leaning Oaks in this last year is part of that increase.
Crottles are a number of lichen species in the genus Parmelia . They are the source of the reddish-brown and purple dyes that are used to dye tweed cloth in Scotland. Parmelias are also sometimes called "Shield Lichens", parma is latin for shield and refers to the dimpled "hammered" appearance of some of these lichens - dimpled like a pounded piece of metal used to make a shield. Hammered Crottle is an abundant species of lichen here at Leaning Oaks. It is at its most thickest growth on the twigs and branches of our Garry Oaks, where it is, no doubt, at constant war with the other species of lichen that adorn the branches. Tonight we noticed small bits of Parmelia sulcatata growing on the backs of our cast aluminium deck chairs - this is an adaptable species indeed!
This is one of the species of lichens that often are found adorning the outsides of the nests of hummingbirds in our area, no doubt helping to camouflage the nests.
Pulling apart a log one afternoon I was very surprised to find a neat little row of flies in a hollow groove hibernating. When I brought them into the warmth of the house he was soon awake and alert. You can tell that it is a male by the closeness of the eyes at the top of his head. The cluster flies are just a little bit larger than house or blow flies, when at rest their wings fold over each other and there is a patch of golden hair under their wings. They will winter in houses in attics or any warm space and emerge when it is warm and be generally annoying - but that is really their only vice as they don't bite, infest food and they aren't known to transmit diseases. They lay their eggs in the spring outside in cracks in the soil. The larvae or maggots are parasites on earthworms They wait for one to slither by and then burrow in to feed. In four to five weeks the life cycle is complete. There also are reports that they will use caterpillars as a host.
For a long time there was thought to be only one species of Pollenia in North American but when there was a close examination of the collections six species were determined to occur here. The key, Cluster Flies (Calliphoridae: Polleniinae: Pollenia) of North America by Jewiss-Gaines et. al. (2012) has photographs of each and distributions. Even with this and a lot of peering at leg hairs I am not totally convinced which species that this was. I *think* that it is Pollenia rudis. This is the more common one and the one that species that was considered to be in North America prior to the splitting. All six species have been found in B.C.
It is assumed that cluster flies were introduced from their native Europe in soil in the ballasts of ships with the earthworm.
The Pacific-slope Flycatcher (Empidonax difficilis)is more often heard than seen here at Leaning Oaks. It's call a distinct upslurred "seewit" is a common sound of spring in our mixed woods of Douglas-fir, Big-leaf Maple and Garry Oak. a It is a summer breeder here, with our earliest records in the first week of May and the latest birds lingering until the second week of September. Empidonax flycatchers are difficult to identify, although for us the Pacific-slope is the yellowest of the flycatchers here and the only one with a tear-drop shaped eye ring. Elsewhere however, the Pacific-slope is very difficult to distinguish from the Cordilleran Flycatcher and in recent trips to western Mexico where both species winter, we were reduced to recording them as "Western" Flycatchers, unless they were calling.
Wilson's Snipe(Gallinago delicata) is an uncommon fall or winter visitor to Leaning Oaks, in fact we have only two observations here in the 19 years we have been here. Snipe however are difficult to see if they don't move, so its likely we have overlooked some. This is a species that has had an uncertain taxonomic history. My earliest bird books had it as a separate species from the one found in Europe, but for a long time it was lumped with the old world Common Snipe. Recently it was re-split off as its own species, due to differences in morphology and the "winnowing" display sounds it makes during courtship flights. "Snipe" is derived from the word "snite" or "snout" and refers, of course to the extremely long bill of this species.
The eyes of a snipe are set far back on its head, which allows it binocular vision both fore and aft, handy when you spend a good deal of your life "snite-deep" in mud!
For us, the Osprey is a summer resident, and we have records of Ospreys spanning the period from mid-April until the end of September. The Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) is one of the most widely distributed birds in the world, occurring on all continents except for Antarctica. As one might guess from some of their other common names, Fish Hawk or Fish Eagle, their diet is mostly fish. That being said, the pair that use nearby Viaduct Flats spend a lot of their time taking large American Bullfrog (#203) tadpoles to feed their young. Watching foraging Ospreys has high entertainment value, both in watching their impressive dives to the water to grab fish just below the surface, and seeing them interact with Bald Eagles (#51) that often steal their catch from them.
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.