Friday, August 10, 2018

CECROPIA CATERPILLAR AKA HEIMLICH

Male Cecropia Moth, June 2018 (This is actually Heimlich's Papa!) Photo by Barbara Canney
Our "nerd" level went up another notch this past weekend. I became quite enthralled earlier this Spring, when a friend of ours released a Cecropia Moth on her property. She had found the caterpillar crawling across their lawn last summer. She had no idea what is was, but being a fellow nature nut she did some research, and took on the project of raising it.

Long story short, she took it in, cared for it, it made it's cocoon, emerged in the Spring, attracted a mate, they made lots of babies, and Rob and I went over to her house last Saturday to pick up one of those babies. I've really shortened what is really quite a remarkable act of nature. I suggest you visit her Facebook group, Wild Eyes Pixs by Barbara Canney and check out her Cecropia Moth album to see the whole story in pictures.

She posted a couple months ago that the caterpillars were available to raise to people who had lilac bushes, and would care for it through all its stages. I was immediately interested, but wanted to make sure it was something I thought we could do. It was also right before my trip to Alberta. After checking out this blog about raising the moths, and talking to Rob about it after I returned from my trip, we decided to take this project on, and went to pick up one of the last remaining 5 caterpillars she had left.

Our new addition! 
When we first saw the caterpillars, they reminded me of the caterpillar in "It's a Bug's Life", and turn's out, that was the caterpillar "Heimlich" was based on. Which is where our new addition got his name. (Yes, of course I gave him a name!)

Rob and I watched the movie the day after bringing him home.  
I was a little worried when we first brought him home. He didn't move from his spot on the branch he was on, and didn't seem to be eating. Turns out he was going through something called "enstar", it's like a molt, and caterpillars do this five times before they become a chrysalis
Shedding his old skin.
After this he was a lilac leaf eating and pooping machine! And I was so happy!

He's eating away in Magaritaville!
After work today I moved him into the butterfly enclosure I had ordered for him. I've had it set up all week but I wanted to give the cats a bit of time to adjust to it, as it's large. Heimlich will remain here happily eating his lilac leaves for a few more weeks, and then he will make his cocoon.
Home Sweet Home
Stay tuned for more updates on Heimlich as the stages of his life cycle continues.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

SUNDAY SUMMER WALKS


Female Baltimore Oriole - July 22nd
This summer has been a bit different for Rob and I, all thanks to my Fitbit. We normally don't stray too far from home during the summer months. We've always been quite content to enjoy our weekends in the backyard, and all the beauty and wildlife that it gives us. But I don't get many steps sitting on my butt in a lawn chair all day.

I started wearing a Fitbit two years ago as part of my health care plan for my knee and to aid in weight-loss. Keeping track of my daily/weekly steps really does help keep me motivated. My Fitbit week starts on Sundays. I really like to get my week off to a good start, and aim to get my 10K steps on Sunday, hence the beginning of the Sunday summer walks.

It's really been a win-win for both of us. Those Sunday walks aid in my self care plan, but they are also very enjoyable for us both. We go with no expectations of sightings and enjoy everything we happen to see, even if Rob isn't always able to catch a picture of it.

Please enjoy a few photos from last Sunday's walk.
Viceroy Butterfly
Eastern Kingbird
Big yellow fuzzy caterpillar! 
Real name - American Dagger Caterpillar Moth
And I shouldn't of picked him up, those black tufts can leave stinging welts! Oops!

American Robin
Grove Snails enjoying a pile of coyote poop. 
We came across this tiny American Toad toad on the pathway.  
He could of sat on a dime!  
If anyone could ID this for us, please leave a comment. We'd greatly appreciate it.

"Powedered Dancer" Damselflies copulating. 
 Powered Dancer Damselfly
Song Sparrow after a bath.
  Our Sunday walks have turned into a mini BioBlitz!

Friday, July 13, 2018

BIRD NERD IN ALBERTA

Male Yellow-headed Blackbird
My recent trip to Alberta was not a birding trip, as I was there to spend 10 days with my brother and his family and to celebrate the high school graduation of my oldest niece, Ashlee.

I had never visited them in the summer months before and it quickly became apparent to me that there were many birds to see at this time of year. I was taking daily walks and decided to do something I don't normally do, keep a species list while I was there. I was actually quite surprised at how many species I was seeing on my walks, but their subdivision is quite close to the Sheep River and that probably played a huge part in the species I was seeing on an almost daily basis. It was a joy to see flocks of Franklin's Gulls fly over every morning. Seeing a lifer bird on a morning stroll is quite nice.

My big "bird nerd" moment happened the evening of July 4th. It was my last free evening there, and my sister-in-law, Sandy, insisted on taking me to Frank Lake, a place I had mentioned earlier in the week as being recommended to me on the Alberta Birding Page on Facebook. It was about a 30 minute drive from where they lived. My youngest niece Tayler wanted to go too, so off we went. 

While we were driving there I spotted a male Yellow-headed Blackbird sitting on a fence post and literally gasped out loud, "Oh my god, I just saw a Yellow-headed Blackbird!". This was a lifer for me, and I wasn't expecting to see one.

We were having a hard time finding the location, and I was ready to give up, after all, seeing the Yellow-headed Blackbird was a lifer for me, so I was already thrilled. But they would not give up, so we pulled over and Tayler got busy on her phone and found directions. As we were following the new route we could see a large body of water ahead, and Sandy said, I wonder if that's it, and it was.

As we were driving in, my birding senses went into over drive. I saw a flock of Yellow-headed Blackbirds before I was even out of the van. When we parked and got out I was in awe. I have never seen so many birds or birds species in one place before. There were hundreds of birds if not more, I was overwhelmed. Everywhere I turned I was seeing a species I hadn't seen before (American Avocets) or witnessing something I had never seen, like an Eared Grebe feeding young. And the chatter of the birds! What a glorious sound track! I got a little too excited upon spotting a Ruddy Duck, and was "Shhh'ed" by a photographer. After I mentally pushed her in the pond I had a lovely visit, though I kept wishing Rob had of been with me. There were less than 10 people there, and the other birders I chatted too were very friendly. We stayed for about an hour, even my non-birder sister-in-law was impressed.

I only had an older power-shot camera with me, and I'm not a photographer, but I did take some pictures, here are the best ones.  Click on the photos to enlarge them.

American Avocets and a Dowitcher
I like the refection in this shot even though you can't see the bill.
Eared Grebe with young close behind.

There they go.....
Ruddy Duck....look at that bill!!!
Though not a lifer, I was over excited about seeing this bird in breeding plumage.
He's so handsome!
Female Yellow-headed Blackbird.
The stunning male Yellow-headed Blackbird.
American Coot with young crossing the path and a male Yellow-heading Blackbird.
Part of the Frank Lake area near High River, Alberta.  
I took the above picture as we were leaving. Even though you can't see them, there are probably a few hundred birds in the shot, most of them shorebirds. I am so grateful that Sandy insisted on taking me there and Tayler for finding the directions to get us there. It was a very memorable evening, and I can't wait to return to the area next year with Rob.

Below is my species list, I'm only listing what I know 100% I saw. I probably have another dozen or so species that I wasn't sure of, Next time I go back, I'll have a proper guide, and Rob to take the photos. Birds in bold were lifers for me. (Lifers = first time seeing a bird species)

1. American Avocet
2. White Pelican
3. Franklin's Gull
4. Great Blue Heron
5. Double Crested Cormorant
6. Rock Pigeon
7. Swainson's Hawk
8. Tree Swallow
9. Eastern Kingbird
10. Raven
11. Red-winged Blackbird
12. Cedar Waxwing
13. Chickadee
14. House Sparrow
15. House Finch
16. American Goldfinch
17. Mallard Duck
18. Brown-headed Cowbird
19. Northern Flicker
20. Song Sparrow.
21. Common Goldeneye
22. House Wren
23. Chipping Sparrow
24. Eastern Kingfisher
25. Yellow Warbler
26. Downy Woodpecker
27. Mourning Dove
28. Western Wood Pewee 
29. Black-billed Magpie
30. Pine Siskin
31. Barn Swallow
32. European Starling
33. American Crow
34. Ring-billed Gull
35. Eared Grebe
36. Blue-winged teal
37. American Coot
38. Killdeer
39. Black Tern
40. Common Tern
41. Yellow-headed Blackbird
42. Clay-colored Sparrow
43. American Robin
44. Common Grackle
45. California Gull