Summer issue of our Fletcher Wildlife Garden newsletter

Our summer issue is packed with photos and stories of wildlife, people making a difference, and a bit of “science.”

http://www.ofnc.ca/fletcher/newsletter/JulyAugust2014.pdf

As always, we welcome your comments, feedback, criticism. The newsletter is sent out via a mailing list.

In this issue:

Summer days | Plant sale success | Emerald Ash Borer at the FWG | FWG given volunteer recognition certificate | What’s in a name | OOS Garden Club: Good for your garden | Know your enemy: learning more about DSV | Scientific experiment at the FWG | A dozen new monarch mini-waystations | Rebuilding our woods | Our Backyard Garden | Greening St. Gregory’s | FWG helps local high school | What I learned on Facebook this month | Tenants in our insect hotel | Nature notes: Primrose Moth, Gray Treefrog

Cheers,

Sandy Garland

for the FWG Management Committee

fletcher@ofnc.ca

http://www.ofnc.ca/fletcher/

Art in the FWG

29 July – 
 
Volunteer Barbara writes:
 
As you happen to walk past the birch trees behind the Butterfly Garden or over towards the unusual grafted tree near the Ash Woods, you will notice some changes in these two little areas, as created by installation artist Karl Ciesluk. 
 
Karl, an established artist with many installations and sculptures to his credit in Canada and internationally, most recently created a labyrinth for the “Beyond the Edge: Artists’ Gardens installations”, organized by Canadensis Botanical Garden Society in the neighbouring field just south of FWG. A couple of Fridays ago he approached some Fletcher volunteers about using a natural feature at FWG as the basis for a temporary work of art.  After considering the proposal and placing some limitations as to what could be done, the Management Committee agreed that he could create something at FWG.
 
Karl has chosen two concepts: using the birch trees to create ladders to heaven, a homage to volunteers who have died, and wrapping the grafted tree (a Camperdown elm) to highlight the beauty of its limbs. No chemicals or cutting tools will be used and the treatments can be easily removed. FWG will add small signs at these two locations to acknowledge the installations.
 
There has been controversy about this decision to permit artistic expression at FWG. Karl’s purpose is to show people other ways of looking at nature and our relationship to it, in his own way somewhat similar to what the Fletcher Wildlife Garden is trying to do. 
 
***
 
A question to ponder is how do we balance natural spaces, the desire to have spaces be quiet for wildlife and the art, which will attract people to then come and observe?
 
 

Getting started in birding

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk

by Christine Hanrahan

So you want to be a birdwatcher, but you just don’t know where to begin? And the thought of trying to distinguish a nighthawk from a nuthatch reduces you to despair? Don’t worry, help is at hand! The following information will provide you with everything (well, almost everything) you need to launch you safely into the beguiling world of birding.

Start with the “four Ss” of bird identification. With these basics, together with the rest of this information, you’ll soon find yourself rhyming off the names of at least the most common species. So, grab your field guide and binoculars and begin. Good luck and good birding!

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Shape or silhouette
When you spot a bird, you automatically process several things about it. One of the most important is its shape. Is the bird’s general outline rounded or elongated? Is the tail long or short? Is the head relatively large or small? If it’s flying, are its wings round and short, long and pointed, or some other combination?

Train yourself to look at the silhouette of flying and perching birds and compare them with birds you are familiar with. Most people can point out a heron, a duck, or a gull, even if they don’t know the species name. These three groups of birds each have a distinctive shape, as do hawks and owls.

Some of the perching birds may present more problems at first, but with experience you’ll find yourself distinguishing between the silhouette of a robin and a sparrow, for example, or between a nuthatch and a chickadee.

As you become more familiar with birds and birdwatching, you’ll be able to identify different species within a group just by their shape. A Cooper’s Hawk, for instance, which looks a lot like a Sharp-shinned Hawk, can be distinguished by the shape of its tail (the tip is rounded compared with the square shape of the Sharp-shinned’s tail).

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Size
Size is also important in identification. Again, compare the unknown bird with one you are familiar with. Is the bird smaller than a robin? Bigger than a crow? You might also try to relate it to something nearby, like a leaf or flower.

Site (or habitat)
Because birds generally inhabit characteristic sites or habitats, the area in which you find a bird can help you identify it. For example, you wouldn’t expect to see a Virginia Rail in a deciduous woodlot nor a Hermit Thrush in a meadow.

Take time to learn a little about the habitat requirements and preferences of various birds. Even a general overview will help a lot when it comes to identification. For instance, if you have decided that the size and shape of a bird indicate a sparrow, next consider where it is. If the bird is in a meadow, it could be a Savannah Sparrow. But if it is in a moist or swampy area, it is probably a Swamp Sparrow.

Sound (or song, calls, chip notes)
Birds make a variety of sounds. In addition to singing, they utter short, sharp notes or “chips.” When alarmed, they produce a very different call. Songs are easier to learn than chip or call notes, which can take a long time to master. Familiarizing yourself with the songs of at least the common species will make identification that much easier. In fact, if you become very good at recognizing bird songs, you will be able to identify some birds before you see them! And because many birds are heard rather than seen, this is a definite plus.

Male common yellowthroat

Male common yellowthroat

Identifying bird songs can, at first, seem akin to magic. But with practice you can learn a surprising number of common ones in a relatively short time. Recordings of bird songs on cassette tape, CD, or even video can be found at one of the local specialty bird stores (see list below).

Some birders use words to help them “fix” songs in their mind. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds, Eastern Region, and the Peterson Field Guide to the Birds East of the Rockies both describe many bird songs in easily understood terms. Of course, many birds “say” their own name, so their names are a guide to their song or call note. Here is a partial, very selective list of some familiar bird songs and calls and the words associated with them:

• Killdeer — kill-deer
• Black-billed Cuckoo — cucucu cucucu
• Barred Owl — who cooks for you? who cook for you-all?
• Whip-poor-will — whip’ poor-will
• Olive-sided Flycatcher — quick, three beers!
• Eastern Wood Pewee — pee-a-wee, pee-ur
• Alder Flycatcher — fee-be-o
• Least Flycatcher — che-bec
• Eastern Phoebe — phoe-be
• Great Crested Flycatcher — wheeep!
• Black-capped Chickadee — fee-bee, chicka-dee-dee-dee
• Veery — vee-ur, vee-ur, veer veer
• Wood Thrush — ee-o-lay
• Red-eyed Vireo — here I am, where are you?
• Yellow Warbler — sweet-sweet-sweet-shredded wheat
• Chestnut-sided Warbler — please-please-pleased-to-meet ‘cha
• Black-throated Blue Warbler — beer-beer-beer-bee
• Black-throated Green Warbler — zoo-zee-zoo-zoo-zee or zee-zee-zee-zee-zoo-zee
• Ovenbird — teach’er, teach’ er, teach’er
• Common Yellowthroat — witchity-witchity-witchity-witch
• White-throated Sparrow — old Tom Peabody Peabody Peabody
• Red-winged Blackbird — ok-a-ree

A few other birds make distinctive sounds that are harder to “translate.” For example, the Gray Catbird and especially the Brown Thrasher are mimics.

Gray Catbird — Call sounds like a cat mewing. Song is somewhat like a Brown Thrasher, but phrases not in pairs and not as musical.

Brown Thrasher — Song a long, very musical set of phrases, each phrase usually sung in a pair.

Colour
You might think that the colour of a bird is the most important identifying factor, but keep the four Ss of birding in mind. For example, the red colour of a partly obscured bird could mean either a Cardinal or a Scarlet Tanager. The shape can help you distinguish between them, for each has a distinct silhouette.

Field marks
Field marks are distinctive “trademarks,” like wing bars, striped crowns, barred tails, and so on, that make identification easier. Many field marks are visible only when a bird flies — the white rump of the Northern Flicker or Northern Harrier for example. Others, such as wing bars, are easier to see when the bird is sitting.

One of the best ways to familiarize yourself with the field marks of different species is by reading through your bird guide as often as you can and applying what you learn in the field.

Eastern Phoebe

Eastern Phoebe

Behaviour
Bird behaviour is often a key element in solving identification problems. For example, if you have determined that the bird you are watching is a small flycatcher but aren’t sure whether it is an Eastern Wood Pewee or a Phoebe, tail-bobbing behaviour is a clear indication that it’s a Phoebe.

Observing the behaviour of birds is fascinating and far more satisfying than merely identifying species. Donald and Lillian Stokes have produced three volumes called A Guide to Bird Behaviour that reveal intriguing facts about even the most common species. Studying behaviour will ensure that you will never grow bored with birdwatching.

Rating the field guides
Field Guide to the Birds of North America (2nd edition), National Geographic Society — This is undoubtedly the best field guide around for North American Birds. The superior illustrations show both adult and immature plumage, as well as regional variations for many species. Includes range maps.

A Field Guide to the Birds East of the Rockies by Roger Tory Peterson — The first and, for many birders, still the best field guide. The illustrations are very good. Best of all, this guide covers only birds found east of the Rockies, so you won’t have to bother wading through a lot of species that just don’t occur here (except perhaps as accidentals). This makes identification a bit easier. Includes range maps.

A Guide to Field Identification — Birds of North America by Robbins, Bruun, Zim and Singer (also known as the Golden Guide) — Like the National Geographic guide, this one covers all the birds of North America. Depicts some immature plumages, and is both simpler and less intimidating than the National Geographic guide. A useful book if you’re just getting started in birding and want all North American birds, but don’t want to be bothered with too many details.

Where to go birding in Ottawa
There are many places in our region to go birdwatching, and most birders have their own favourite sites. A good way to discover local birding hot spots is to join the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club (OFNC) and participate in their many field trips. As an added bonus, a skilled leader will help you increase your birding skills along the way.

See also: Where to go birding around Ottawa

American Robin

American Robin

Habitat guide to birding
A habitat can be defined as a place where a bird finds the combination of water, food, cover, and space that it needs to survive. Different species require different habitats, and although some birds are generalists, able to use several habitats, most are linked to specific types. Knowing a species’ habitat can help you identify it. The following lists show the habitat preferences of some common birds in the Ottawa region, but it is by no means exhaustive. Some birds are listed several times, reflecting their use of different habitats.

Coniferous forest
Brown Creeper
Winter Wren
Hermit Thrush
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Purple Finch

Eastern hardwoods (deciduous woods)
Red-tailed Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Ruffed Grouse
Great Horned Owl
Pileated Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Wood Pewee
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Wood Thrush
Veery
Red-eyed Vireo
Ovenbird
American Redstart
Scarlet Tanager
Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Fields, meadows, farmland
Red-tailed Hawk
Northern Harrier
American Kestrel
Killdeer
Upland Sandpiper
Rock Dove
Mourning Dove
Common Nighthawk
Chimney Swift
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Purple Martin
American Crow
American Robin
Cedar Waxwing
Loggerhead Shrike
Yellow Warbler
Bobolink
Eastern Meadowlark
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Song Sparrow

Brushy borders of fields and woodlands (edge habitat)

Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole

American Kestrel
Mourning Dove
Black-billed Cuckoo
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Norther Flicker
Eastern Kingbird
Black-capped Chickadee
House Wren
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Eastern Bluebird
Yellow Warbler
Baltimore Oriole
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
American Goldfinch
Rufous-sided Towhee
Field Sparrow

Wetlands (marshes, swamps, fens), wet or moist woods
Pied-billed Grebe

Green Heron

Green Heron

Great Blue Heron
Green Heron
American Bittern
Mallard
American Black Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Wood Duck
Osprey
Virginia Rail
Sora Rail
Common Moorhen
Common Snipe
Spotted Sandpiper
Black Tern
Tree Swallow
Marsh Wren
Northern Waterthrush
Common Yellowthroat
Red-winged Blackbird
Swamp Sparrow

Ponds, streams, rivers, riparian (streamside) zones

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Great Blue Heron
Green Heron
Canada Goose
Mallard
American Black Duck
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Blue-winged Teal
Wood Duck
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Osprey
Semi-palmated Sandpiper
Herring Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Common Tern
Belted Kingfisher
Eastern Phoebe
Tree Swallow
Bank Swallow
Purple Martin
Yellow Warbler

Human habitation (farms, town, parks, houses, gardens)

Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow

Rock Dove
Common Nighthawk
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Tree Swallow
Purple Martin
Blue Jay
Black-capped Chickadee
House Wren
American Robin
European Starling
Chipping Sparrow
House Finch
Evening Grosbeak
House Sparrow

Many birds may stop over in backyards, parks and other urban settings during migration, so expect to see a wider variety than listed here. Over time, some birders have counted more than 100 species in their city backyards.

Be sure to check out our photo gallery of birds we’ve seen at the FWG.

Tunnel roads under the snow

by Sandy Garland

I’m always intrigued by the tunnels we find at the FWG in winter. They are undoubtedly created by red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) that remain active during the winter and must scurry around visiting their food caches.

Entrances to two tunnels at the base of a spruce tree - one just to the left and behind the trunk, the other directly to the right of the trunk

Entrances to two tunnels at the base of a spruce tree – one just to the left and behind the trunk, the other directly to the right of the trunk

The tunnels must lead to these caches, now buried under a foot or more of snow. Rather than run along the top of the snow, then dig down to the food, the squirrels minimize the time they spend on the surface – who wouldn’t – by digging from the base of their favourite tree through the snow to a food cache. This technique also allows them to keep the stored food a secret from other species.

In the Backyard Garden, squirrels create a maze of tunnels, often with vertical entrances that they pop their head out of to check who’s around before emerging. If the snow is deep, we can see tunnels on either side of a footpath that the squirrel has chosen to cross rather than dig through the packed snow.

More about red squirrels at the FWG
Photo gallery of red squirrels - cute alert! but also many photos showing nests, food caches, and the habits of these busy little creatures
Video showing a red squirrel’s tunnel-making technique

Eager to grow – Marsh Marigold and Wood Poppy

by Sandy Garland

2-week-old wood poppy seedlings

2-week-old wood poppy seedlings

Some seeds just can’t wait to get growing.

Every year we collect seeds from our wildflowers at the FWG and some from the wild to grow for our annual plant sale (first Saturday in June). In the fall, we carefully mix them with damp vermiculite – or leave them in paper envelops if that’s what they require – and store them in the refrigerator to simulate winter. This allows us to get them out and germinating early so that they will be a good size by June.

For the last few years, I’ve found a few species sprouting in January while they are still in the refrigerator – wood poppy, marsh marigold, and Virginia bluebells. I have found wood poppy and marsh marigold difficult to grow; we tried both many times in the past with no success.

Finally, I tried initiating the cold treatment as soon as the seeds are mature – late spring. This produced excellent results, but there is still a problem. Although the seeds happily sprout in January, and grow well for a couple of months, many plants then slowly wilt and die.

Last year, my entire “crop” of Virginia bluebells disappeared in April and May. I speculated that having been roused from dormancy in January, they had already gone through a normal life cycle by April and died back as normal plants in the wild would have done. They didn’t bloom, but many wildflowers don’t flower the first year. I kept all the tiny tubers and I’m hoping they’ll show signs of life at the normal time this year.

I’m afraid there’s no happy ending to this story – yet. At the moment, I have 18 marsh marigold and about a dozen wood poppy seedlings that I will try to coax to maturity. And 4 flats of Virginia bluebell tubers that I hope will grow when their snow cover melts.

If anyone has experience growing these or similar wild species, I would love to hear from you.

See also: Growing native plants from seed: cold stratification
Growing common milkweed from seed: easy steps for beginners

Food for birds and other wildlife at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden

by Christine Hanrahan

I thought it might be interesting to compile a list of all the natural food sources around the Fletcher Wildlife Garden, used by wildlife. I include only plants on which I have actually seen birds or other wildlife feed.

Many are obvious, of course, the crabapples, mountain ash, wild grape, sumac, and cones of various conifers. What I find interesting, and hope you do too, is the number of weedy plants that are used by wildlife, mostly birds, and mostly sparrows, finches and chickadees. Plants such as lamb’s quarters, cow vetch, brome grass, and so on, many with tiny seeds. Unfortunately, while I have many photos of birds and squirrels feeding on the big stuff… the cones and tree fruits, for example, it has been difficult to photograph birds on the weedy plants. They fly away the moment I come withing photographic distance.

The list given below can surely be added to, and surely I have forgotten some plants too! Please let me know if you have seen wildlife feeding on a species not listed below. By leaving the weedy plants standing over the winter, we are providing a wide and varied food source for our local wildlife.

The asterisk * indicates a non-native species.

*Amaranthus (Amaranthus sp.)
*Amur corktree (Phellodendron amurense)
*Amur maple (Acer ginnala)
Ash seeds (Fraxinus)
Birch catkins (Betula)
*Brome grass (Bromus inermis)
*Buckthorn, both species (Rhamnus cathartica, R. frangula)
*Bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare)
Canada elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)
Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)
*Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense)
*Chicory (Cichorium intybus)
*Common burdock (Arctium minus)
Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
*Common plantain (Plantago major)
*Cow vetch (Vicia cracca)
*Crabapples (Malus spp.)
Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum)
*Curly dock (Rumex crispus)
*Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Eastern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis)
Evening primrose (Oenothera biennis)
Juniper (Juniperus)
*Lamb’s quarters (Chenopodium album)
*Mallow (Malva moschata)
*Manitoba maple (Acer negundo)
*Mullein (Verbascum thapsis)
New england aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)
*Peppergrass (Lepidium densiflorum)
Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia)
*Red clover (Trifolium pretense)
Red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa)
Red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea)
*Sow thistle (Sonchus)
Speckled alder (Alnus incana)
*Spotted lady-thumb (Persicaria maculosa)
Spruce spp. (Picea)
Staghorn sumac (Rhus hirta)
Tall goldenrod (Solidago altissima)
*Tartarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica)
*Timothy (Phleum pratense)
Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus vitacea)
*White clover (Trifolium repens)
*White sweet clover (Melilotus alba)
Wild grape (Vitis riparia)
Wild lettuce, Canada and prickly (Lactuca canadensis, L. scariola)
Wild raspberry (Rubus strigosus)

 

Early December at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden

hairy woodpecker work on ash trees

hairy woodpecker work on ash trees

by Christine Hanrahan

December 4, a mild day, with the merest hints of snow. A day to visit the FWG and look for blog subjects. Apart from the many squirrels, it was pretty quiet. A small flock of house finches in the Backyard Garden (BYG), several cardinals, a couple of crows flying over, several juncos also in the BYG, and of course, black-capped chickadees all over the place.

Although I saw no hairy woodpeckers, their presence at the garden is very discernible. Just take a look at the poor old ash trees, which once again show the very distinct signs of hairy woodpecker feeding (photo at right). The woodpeckers, of course, are looking for the emerald ash borer larvae. The birds are not killing the trees, as is sometimes thought; the trees are on their way out, killed by the very pretty emerald green Buprestid beetle (a.k.a. Emerald Ash Borer).

Grey squirrels were especially busy refurbishing their treetop nests, ferrying big clusters of leaves, by mouth, up to their various nests. A few small piles of rabbit scat here and there, and fresh fox tracks across the pond, were the only other signs of mammals.

Wandering around, you’ll notice that under many manitoba maples, the snow is littered with remnants of keys, evidence of much feeding by squirrels. All of the most favoured wild food is vanishing fast now, and what is left is either the inedible or the stuff that is used as a last resort. Many crabapples still have luscious looking clusters of fruit. Some will eventually be eaten, but others never will be. Some of these cultivars are purposely “designed” to make the fruit unappealing (inedible) for wildlife, thus allowing the trees to retain their colourful fruit throughout the winter.

More info and photos on the blog here:
http://www.pbase.com/fwg/fwg_blog_dec_2013

Early November, 2013, at the garden

by Christine Hanrahan

The FWG’s November blog is up and running now (http://www.pbase.com/fwg/fwg_blog_november_2013). It was kick-started by some excellent photos from Robert Berry. I’ve added a few more, and there’ll be more to come as the month progresses.

Incipient winter is felt in the decreasing numbers of birds and the almost entire lack of insects at the garden now. However, one hardy clouded sulphur was still fluttering around on the edge of the Old Field, and several flies were clustered high up on the sunny walls of the interpretive centre. A small brown moth flew up from the grass near the butterfly meadow and vanished before I could get a good look. Diane says it could be either bruce’s spanworm (Operophtera bruceata) or the autumn moth (Epirrita autumnata). There will still be a few insects and spiders, but hard to find.

As for birds, a big flock each of robins and starlings made for a cacophonous din. Smaller numbers of house finches, chickadees, cardinals, cedar waxwings, downy woodpeckers, blue jays, and white-breasted nuthatches were also found. Overhead, ring-billed gulls and flocks of canada geese. We should start to see tree sparrows and other late autumn visitors soon. I’ve found the tree sparrows elsewhere around Ottawa, and I’ve heard reports of snow buntings in the area. They sometimes appear on the farm, and in the big (recently cut) crop field by the red barn.

Black-capped chickadee nest cavity in birch tree

Black-capped chickadee nest cavity in birch tree

While walking past the Ash Woods, I saw that one of the birch snags (standing dead tree), containing an old cavity nest site, had fallen and smashed into several pieces. A few years ago in winter, a downy woodpecker began to work on this birch snag looking for food. In the spring of the following year, a pair of black-capped chickadees spent a considerable time excavating the cavity as a nest site. They worked endlessly on it, ferrying mouthful after mouthful of excavated material away from the site. But after much work, they abandoned the site. When I picked up the bit with the hole (cavity) in it, it fell apart in my hands, revealing the interior where the chickadees had worked. Pretty impressive work for two small birds!

Red squirrels are very noticeable now, and chipmunks are particularly busy stocking their underground larders before hibernating for the winter (well, they are not true hibernators, but that’s another story).

***I’ve created a new gallery to show the work of participants in Barry Cottam’s photography workshop held in early autumn at the FWG. The photos are gorgeous! I really encourage you to take a look. The three best shots of each photographer’s work, selected by themselves, is posted here: http://www.pbase.com/fwg/photo_workshop_2013

Mid-September at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden

by Christine Hanrahan

Where DOES the time go? Here it is, past the mid-way point in September, on the downslide to October. That autumn feeling is really seeping in with the colour changes in the leaves, the business of birds fuelling up for journeys south, and bees nectaring like mad on the dwindling supply of flowers.

Having been away for a week, I stopped in at the garden to see what was what this week. Many of the goldenrods are fluffy with seeds now, but the various asters are in bloom still. Those goldenrods still in flower were very busy with locust borers (long-horned beetles), bumble bees, honey bees, sweat bees, etc. However, it is apparent that insect numbers are dwindling and for those of us who are addicted to looking for them, we will soon be in the midst of withdrawal, waiting until spring for the first few to appear again. Except for those few critters that can sometimes be seen in winter, such as winter fireflies, winter craneflies, and a few more hardy insects.

Twenty-spotted lady beetle

Twenty-spotted lady beetle

A new insect for our list is the twenty-spotted lady beetle, very tiny at around 1.5 to 3 mm. It is unusual in being a fungus and mildew feeder. In my own garden, I have found a large number of these lady beetles in all stages, larva, pupa, and adult, on mildewed leaves of sunflowers. At first glance they look like very tiny versions of the fourteen-spotted lady beetle. They are common, but so tiny and with a habit of hiding under leaves, that they can be tough to find. I bet they’ve been at the FWG for years but we’ve just not noticed them before.

Dogwood calligraphic beetles are still present, as they have been all summer. These belong to the Chrysomelid family, a group that contains some of the most beautifully coloured and intricately patterned beetles. As their name suggests, they are closely affiliated with dogwoods, in particular red-osier dogwoods. There are many species within the Ottawa region, but at the FWG we’ve found only two.

While on the topic of dogwoods, they are a good shrub for attracting many insects, not necessarily in the destructive sense. Many creatures seem to like hiding amongst the flowers, and now the fruit, or on or under the leaves. If you look carefully, you can sometimes find tiny clusters of stinkbug eggs, probably those of the Banasa stinkbug which is so commonly found amidst the fruit. Nannyberries too are good shrubs to explore for insects, and alders are even better!

I watched a large mixed group of chipping sparrows and american goldfinches having a grand time eating the seeds of coneflowers in the butterfly meadow. Elsewhere they were picking off thistle seeds and the seeds of lamb’s-quarters. Speaking of food… does it seem to you that there are fewer walnuts on the black walnut trees this year? Which can mean a tougher time for the squirrels who depend on them.

A red-tailed hawk is once again at the garden. Every autumn for years we’ve seen this species appear and hang around the general vicinity of the garden all winter long. The farm fields provide good hunting, and the trees, shelter. White-breasted nuthatches, chickadees, robins, catbirds, an eastern phoebe, mallards, and crows were some of the other birds encountered in my short visit.

The September blog is here: http://www.pbase.com/fwg/fwg_blog_sept_2013, and contains four pages of photos thus far, including some lovely shots by Diane and Sandy. Please check it out.

The Jungle Never Sleeps

By Ted Farnworth

One of the activities that we carry out at the FWG is to introduce or re-introduce bushes and trees into the property that will maintain and enhance the various habitats we are trying to highlight. A lot of thought, discussion, and planning goes into deciding which plants should go where. This is followed by a bit of grunt work, when volunteers clear chosen areas in preparation for planting.

The actual planting of a bush or a shrub is perhaps one of the more rewarding activities I have done during my short term as a FWG volunteer. Knowing that I have put in place something that will be seen, admired by visitors, and used by bugs, critters, and birds gives me a real sense of accomplishment. So now all I have to do is sit back and enjoy my “job well done.”

Well not really. A recent work session showed me that once we get something into the ground, the work is not finished. In the past, much effort was spent planting a variety of shrubs and trees on the south side of the ravine. Luckily, some marking poles indicate where the plants were placed, because I soon found out that the plants introduced by FWG volunteers have been battling the resident ravine vegetation, and in many cases the battle has not been very successful. Where the marking poles have disappeared, overgrowth soon hides our work.

The two photos below illustrate how quickly our “little darlings” get overtaken and buried. Thankfully, I have not found a planted shrub or tree that has died due to overgrowth and strangulation, but I’m not sure whether I have found all of them. Any that go undiscovered may not survive another year.

It is a good lesson to remember that just getting a shrub or a tree into the ground is not the end of our job. After we have had a good work session at the FWG, and are home warm and comfy, the “jungle” starts silently creeping back. The jungle never sleeps.

Can you see the tree we planted?

Can you see the tree we planted?

Can you see it now?

Can you see it now?