Going to school again on a Saturday

Biked to school again on a nice sunny Saturday.

Sunny Saturday
A warm day compared to the past week.

Perfect weather for canoeing
People were out canoeing! Beautiful sceneries.

Like the last time, I went behind the building to photograph things (before I spend the rest of the afternoon indoors doing statistics). There were many sparrows (Savannah, I think) singing and hiding in the dense grasses when I walked by.

Looking out to the field.

Goldenrod gall. From this fly?

Unknown Leafhopper (Family Cicadellidae)
Found a tiny leafhopper while searching for pollinators on the flowers.

Fly Pollinator
Since last Sunday, the weather has been very cool and almost very winter-like. I tried looking for the bees again on Monday but the flowers were closed when I got there. When I got there again today, the only pollinator I saw was this fly dunking its head deep into flower for nectar. I brought my Raynox-250 for these close-up photos.

Since there was nothing else visiting the flowers, I turned my attention to the dew found on some leaves.

World reflected within droplet
You can see the sun, the clouds, and half of me in the droplet!

On the way back to the building to do some work, I came across this Milkweed Bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus) trying to hide from me.

Biking home. The weather has been like this recently - sunny in the morning then overcast in the afternoon. Weird spring weather here in Ontario, I'd say.


First flowers and bees of the year!

On the way to school today, I stopped at the bird feeders to see if there were any birds around. Like the last time, there was nothing except flies.



More insects from Ivvavik National Park - Conclusion of 2011

I hope I haven't post these photos yet. Life is incredibly busy at the moment. I am still in the processing of sorting and analyzing my data from my first field season. On top of that, I need to find and hire a field assistant, have my second supervisory committee meeting before I leave for fieldwork, buy my plane tickets and field equipments, do my taxes, sort out my housing situation while I am gone as well as when I return from the field, and I am going to St. Louis for 10 days in April to take part in a pollination biology field course. Just listing it makes me wonder how I am going to get it all done, even though I know I will somehow.

Well, before I head out to Inuvik in two months, I really should post the remaining of my insect photos from Ivvavik National Park. So here they are, the final photographic post of my 2011 field season. Once again, thanks to all the kind folks at BugGuide for their help.

Nordic Mountain Grasshopper (Melanoplus frigidus) - male
Nordic Mountain Grasshopper (Melanoplus frigidus) - male

Free-living Hemipterans (Suborder Auchenorrhyncha)
Definitely a leafhopper (Family Cicadellidae), perhaps a Limotettix sp.?

Andrena spp. (Mining Bee) on Lapland rosebay flowers
I really should take more photos of the bees last summer. Will try to do more of that this summer. Here is an Andrena sp. (Mining Bee) collecting pollen from Lapland rosebay (Rhododendron lapponicum) flowers.

Andrena spp. (Mining Bee) on Lapland rosebay flowers

Andrena spp. (Mining Bee) on Lapland rosebay flowers

Lygus spp. (Lygus bugs)
Here's a plant bug (Family Miridae) on a soapberry plant, people think it is a Lygus sp.

Celastrina spp. (Azures) on male soapberry flowers
One of the rare visitors of my soapberry plant - an Azure butterfly.

Silvery Blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus)
Towards the end of the day, I was tired and took my socks off and laid them on the field. Pretty soon, a Silvery Blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus) showed up and starting drinking the salts, I suppose.

Freija Fritillary (Boloria freija)
Lastly, a Freija Fritillary (Boloria freija) on a vaccinium (blueberry) plant. It is surprising how much you learn about plants and insects after one field season of studying them.

Time for bed.


Misty morning & NOCA singing

It was actually quite chilly this morning, compared to all the previous mornings. A curtain of mist hangs over the Otonabee River.

When I was biking home this afternoon, this male Northern Cardinal was singing and I took a video of his song. Beautiful stuff.


Deer on the way from school

It has been another fine and strangely warm weekend. After finishing up the movie I watched last night and getting groceries in the morning, I biked to school again to do some more work.

It seems that the warm temperature has been signaling the insects from emergence, however, I have yet to see any flower buds opening yet on any of the trees. I wonder if this is going to cause some problems with insects needing plant nectar and pollen for survival. On the way to school, I stopped at one of the feeders to see if there are any birds. Instead, I photographed these insects and spider.

Some Hemiptera.

One of the wolf spiders always hopping in the leaf litter and substrate.

Unknown fly lost part of its fore leg already.

Even without the grackles, chickadees, or blackbirds, you can always count on the robins to show up and give you some interesting photographs.

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

American Robin (Turdus migratorius) with a worm
Robin with a worm.

American Robin (Turdus migratorius)
Looking at me.

After finishing up work around 6pm and biking back home, I noticed there were something through the sumacs on the side of the trail. Then I realized it was a White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)! It was merely about 10 meters away from me, and it didn't react at all when it saw me photographing it.

Eating away.

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
Beautiful animal.

It wasn't until two other bikers and a couple with a small dog that deer decided it had enough of us and pounced away with its white tail in the alarming position. Then I saw it joined up with another deer not too far away from the bike trail, but I decided to leave them be and be on my way.

Not something you see everyday on the way to school, I'd say.

366 days ago (2011-03-17)...


Biking to school

Despite me wanting to exercise more by biking to school everyday, I only got the chance to do it this Thursday and today (Saturday) when the weather is decent.

The sunny bike ride to Trent.

Came across a (Downy?) woodpecker drumming on the dead part of a tree.

It feels strange being in a different part of the country in the spring, especially when encountering different kinds of birds. For example, it still takes a while to get use to hearing the cardinals, grackle, and doves singing and calling every morning.

This was the weather today, cloudy, but still nice enough to bike to school on a Saturday.

Came across a resting white cat.


Summer-like, Sunny Sunday

The weather today is very warm and sunny, good conditions to be outside and bike to school (yes, I still go to school on most weekends).

Summerlike Sunday
Trent's library overlooking the Otonabee River.

Biking to school made me realize how out of shape I am. Need to start discipline myself for the coming field season - perhaps bike to school everyday from now until I leave?

I also brought my cameras just in case I saw something.

I saw this Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) (note the longer bill, relative to the Downy Woodpecker's) behind the DNA Building. The snow has more or less melted, making the trails extremely soft and muddy, and my shoes were pretty much covered in mud in the end.


Flies (Diptera) of Ivvavik National Park

In arctic and alpine ecosystems, flies (Diptera) play an important role (if not greater than the bees) in pollination because of their generalist behaviors, and energy and overwintering requirements (Kevan 1972, Elberling and Olesen 1999). Here are some of the flies that were observed on my soapberry plants (and other flowering plants and substrates) during my times in Ivvavik National Park. Once again, thanks to the people at BugGuide for identifying most of these insects for me.

Cephenemyia spp. (Deer Bot Flies)
A deer bot fly Cephenemyia sp. (family Oestridae).

Dance Fly (Subfamily Empidinae)
This is a dance fly (family Empididae). This (and Hybotidae) and Asilidae (Robber flies) are pretty common predatory flies in the place I was at.

Unknown Fly
This is one of those flies that you can't identify from this position, unless you have the specimen in hand. It is probably a female (because the eyes don't meet at the top of the head) and perhaps a Muscoid fly (based on personal experience).

This next group of flies belongs in the family Syrphidae, i.e. flower flies, because they visit flowers, and many are incredible bee mimics.

Sphaerophoria spp. (Syrphid Flies)
Mating pair. The one on top is the male (eyes meet at the top of the head), and they look like Sphaerophoria sp. to me. Sphaerophoria sp. is a difficult genus to identify to species unless you catch the male and dissect its genitalia.

Unknown Syrphid Fly (Family Syrphidae)
Without the specimen in hand and go through the keys, it is still difficult to identify Syrphids simply by looking at it. Perhaps an Eupeodes sp.?

Another Eupeodes sp.?

Here are the features to identify Eupeodes sp. (the following information are copied from resources in the CANPOLIN identification course. Please contact one of the instructors, Dr. Jeff Skevington, if you wish to use this resource):
- flies with pale markings at least on one abdominal tergite
- black abdomen with partial or complete transverse yellow bands; vein R4+5 sinuous in a few taxa
- Postpronotum bare
- Abdominal tergite with no black velvet bands, only black and yellow/white patterns
- face mostly yellow
- face mostly yellow or with complete middle black stripe; eye with rounded emargination on posterior margin
- R4+5 vein conspicuously curved
- vein R4+5 curving into cell r2+3
- eye bare; abdomen black with yellow, broad, curved bands on tergites 3 and 4 that sometimes touch; wings densely microtrichose at least on apical 1/3

Here is a male Sphaerophoria sp. (the name comes from Greek word sphaero - a ball or sphere, and phoria - bearing) on the male soapberry plant. Fascinating.

Sphaerophoria spp. (Syrphid Flies)

Sphaerophoria spp. (Syrphid Flies) on male soapberry (Shepherdia canadensis) plant
BugGuide link


Elberling, H. and Olesen, J.M. 1999. The structure of a high latitude plant-flower visitor system: the dominance of flies. Ecography. 22(3): 314-323.

Kevan, P. 1972. Insect pollination of high arctic flowers. Journal of Ecology. 60(3): 831-847.


Spiders of Ivvavik National Park

It is slowly getting to that stage of feeling excited and overwhelmed at the same time about the upcoming field season. I am excited about this new season, but there's still so many things to be done before that; for example, finish posting the photos that I took this past field season.

Here are some spiders I photographed in Ivvavik National Park. Without the kind folks at BugGuide, I probably couldn't come up with the identification at all.

This is probably one of my best shots in the summer. It may be another Xysticus sp., but the photo couldn't provide any distinguishing features and so the higher-up people in BugGuide classified it as "frass" and deleted shortly after. That's the difference between a nice looking image and a scientifically useful one.

Note: all of these spiders were found on my study plant, soapberry (Shepherdia canadensis).

Dead wasp came out too early

Today, while leaving school, I found a dead wasp outside one of the buildings. It was really cold at night and I was surprised to see an insect coming out this early in the year (although it was unusually warm yesterday). Poor critter.


So I brought it home and took some photos. It looks like it belongs in the family Pompilidae (Spider Wasps). Unfortunately, I haven't seen any spiders yet this time of the year for it to prey on.

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