Yesterday I went out to the woodlands near University of Toronto Mississauga with Gil for a springtime walk. We were hoping to see some post-breeding Ambystoma salamanders, and whatever else caught our eye…After a long cold and largely photo-free winter, this outing proved to be rather awesome…
Fall is swiftly turning into winter here in southern Ontario, with cold nights and disappearing leaves…This weekend looked like the last in while to offer any kind of warmish temperatures, so Catherine, Gil Wizen and I headed to Tommy Thompson Park (Leslie Spit) o see if we could find some cool arthropods. The following is a condensed collection of pictures I managed to get.
On Sunday, Catherine and I went out to Mississauga, where we met up with Gil Wizen, one of my favourite macrophotographers to go out for a early spring hike around the woods above the Credit River. It was such a treat to be out with a fellow invertebrate zoologist, not having to explain why exactly we should flip over a given log, or pull up a piece of loose bark…How very rarely do we get to go out in the woods with another person with the same agenda!
The forest was snowy, but warming, and we are anticipating a major thaw through the week….Very soon, the famed Ontario salamander fauna will be on the move to vernal pools for breeding. This weekend we did not find any salamanders, but we did find a great variety of cool arthropods, thanks in no small part to diligent searching by Gil.
Sunday afternoon was warm and sunny, but when Catherine and I went out to Crother’s Woods, the forest was sodden and mucky. Nonetheless, we set out for a short stroll, looking under bark of fallen trees and in the leaf litter for creatures…
So have a gander at what we found!
Catherine and I were on our way to see a talk on environmental restoration by Dr. Dawn Bazely, York U prof and prolific scientist, author and SciComm advocate, held Sunday at the Howard Park Tennis Club. This talk was not only interesting, but for Catherine and myself it was a great way to get introduced to the High Park Stewards, a local conservation group focused on the large western Toronto park.
Before the talk, we had a couple hours to wander around the frozen landscape, seeing what we could rustle up. It turns out, not much was active on this cold and cloudy Sunday. Perhaps best exemplifying this is the hibernating Carabus (either granulatus or maeander) that we found under a log. These large carabids are a familiar sight in logs in wintertime, but unlike the ones we see in coastal BC, this one was not going anywhere fast!
After wandering up a hill, we stopped by a section of the park where people leave seeds for the birds, and saw what are probably Toronto’s most common winter songbirds, House Sparrows, Cardinals, Black-capped Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches and Downy Woodpeckers vying for the free meal. I concentrated on shooting the woodpeckers, because they were not as shy.
Catherine and I undertook a short expedition out to Trinity Bellwoods Park to see if we could spot the famous white squirrels which live in the area. These are not a different species, but rather a colour morph of the native Eastern Gray Squirrel Sciurus carolinensis. We did see a white squirrel on the coffee shop outside, along with some white squirrel bling on the inside. Unfortunately, I found the coffee was sour in that particularly obnoxious way that clueless hipsters are so fond of. “Yeah man, I liked coffee before it was good. You wouldn’t understand.”
(BTW, this type of crappy coffee is not limited to Toronto. We found more than our fair share in Vancouver as well. )
It is early fall in Ontario, and the leaves are changing colours…Seems to me the animals are not very abundant right now, probably because at this time of year freezing weather can hit at any time. A bit different from the west coast!
Most of the flowers are gone, and the few that remain are looking pretty shabby. Catherine and I still haven’t got out near Toronto very much to see the sights, but this Saturday I took off into the woods around the University of Toronto Scarborough while Catherine was invigilating an exam. This campus abuts Highland Creek, and there is a wooded Valley just below which has walking paths and woods. A great place to explore!
This weekend, Catherine and I took a trip to Mossom Creek in Port Moody, in search of a very special frog: the Pacific Tailed Frog (Ascaphus truei). The Pacific Tailed Frog gets its name from a copulatory organ present on the males of the species. Because their preferred habitat are these cold, fast-flowing creeks, the usual froggy broadcast of sperm over an egg mass would not be very effective, so these frogs use their “tail” for internal fertilization of the eggs within the female.
I had never been to this creek at this time of year, so I was a bit unsure whether we would find any, but it is such a lovely spot it would be nice anyway.
Catherine and I did not find any tailed frog metamorphs or adults. This is obviously not a good time to find them, and we will try to return later in the summer. But I do have some photos I took a few years ago that show the creatures in situ at Mossom Creek:
Saturday was Catherine’s birthday, and a very beautiful spring day to boot. Catherine and I spent the morning shopping for a house (yes, the dream finally came true for us! 15.99 at Wild Birds Unlimited!), and then accompanying our labmate Antonia as she conducted rodent experiments at the Bloedel Conservatory, a large dome full of tropical plants and birds. I put out some ant baits, but most of them were eaten by the birds….Not too different than baiting outdoors really.
After the tropical tour, Catherine and I took the show on the road, exploring Queen Elizabeth Park for spiders!
So all in all, a really fun birthday outing, and definitely spidrous! Happy birthday Catherine!