January 12, 2017

Winter Birding

Birding in the winter can be a challenge, though it is not without its rewards. In my area one great place to find winter birds is on the various hotspots along the Detroit River in what roughly corresponds to east Windsor, Ontario.

Yesterday, with the weather a bit on the warmer side and no rain or snow, I decided to venture out over my lunch break. Rather than spend all my time at one spot, I decided to rather sample an array of locations.

Driving east on Riverside Drive from Walker Road, I hit St. Rose's Beach, Lakeside Marina, Sand Point Beach, and Ganatchio Trail. Then, on the way back, I stopped at Alexander Park.

I didn't stay at any one location long, but the results were encouraging. I found 7 species at St. Rose's, 10 species at Lakeview Marina, 6 species at Sand Point Beach, 6 species at Ganatchio Trail, and 5 species at Alexander Park. In total, I found 21 distinct species, including 9 species that were "first for this year" and three lifers (Tundra Swan, Hooded Merganser, and Redhead)! It turns out that a Tundra Swan was one of my 2017 goals and it is already checked off! Besides the lifers, my favorite sightings were probably a Bald Eagle and a Great Blue Heron.

I get the feeling that if I stayed longer at any one individual location and not gone to so many places, I probably would have observed less species, though one never knows!

Posted on January 12, 2017 05:12 PM by marknenadov marknenadov | 17 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

January 06, 2017

2017. Field Goals

Fungi

1. Find 20 new Fungi species

2. Find Amanita Muscaria

Reptiles/Amphibians

3. Find a Spotted Turtle

4. Find a Smooth Green Snake

5. Find a Massasagua Rattlesnake

6. Find a water snake species.

7. Find a Northern Ringneck Snake

8. Find a DeKays Brown Snake

9. Find an Eastern Milksnake

10. Find a Salamander in Essex County, Ontario

11. Find a Spotted or Tiger Salamander

Birds

12. Find a Red-headed Woodpecker

13. Find a Snowy Owl

14. Find one of the other Owl species locally present

15. Find a Peregrine Falcon

16. Find a Sandhill Crane

17. Find a Golden Eagle

18. Find a Trumpeter Swan and a Tundra Swan

19. Reach 200 species total, 100 species in Essex County, Ontario, 20 species in New Hampshire, 20 species in Maine

20. Bring "Essex--Sadler's Pond Park" hotspot to 150 species

21. Get a good photograph of Buteo species

22. Get a good photograph of an American Kestrel

23. Reach 10 warbler species (currently at 7)


Insects/Spiders

24. Find 5 new spider species

25. Find a Shamrock Orbweaver

26. Find 5 new dragonfly species

27. Find 10 new butterfly species


Other


28. Find a Moose

29. Return to Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge in NH

30. Return to Concession Six in Harrow

31. Return to Point Pelee

32. Find Jack Pine

33. Find Black Spruce

Posted on January 06, 2017 12:51 PM by marknenadov marknenadov | 4 comments | Leave a comment

June 07, 2016

Western Maine / Eastern New Hampshire

I spent the end of May and the beginning of June visiting my wife's parents in Western Maine (Oxford County). The trip afforded me some nice opportunities to go exploring to some favorite wildlife hotspots as well as some new places.

In Maine I went to a boat loading area in Greenwood (Howe Hill Road), Maggie's Nature Park in Greenwood, Sanborn River Trail in Greenwood, Albany Mountain Trail (formerly known as Albany Notch Trail), Cape Elizabeth (down by the coast near Portland), and Lapham Trail. In New Hampshire I went to Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge and the Shelburne North Trailhead. This trip was also exciting because I had the opportunity to try out a new camera (a Nikon D7000). I went wild with the iNaturalist observations.

In terms of the New Hampshire Locations: Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge was completely new to me, and was location I was most excited to check out. It is a strikingly scenic wildlife habitat, and there were tons of warblers there early in the morning. I added a handful of new Warblers to my list and also saw a Black-backed woodpecker (which isn't present in southern Ontario). Shelburne North Trailhead was a very brief stop, bringing back many memories of being there during previous visits. It was neat to find a crazily hopping Purple Tiger Beetle and my first ever Chestnut-sided warbler there!

In terms of the Maine locations: Maggie's Nature Park was nice as it always is, but my time in it was rather rushed. I made a number of observations there but nothing sticks out as of right now. The boat loading area in Greenwood (Howe Hill Road) was, as it always is, loaded with odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) of all sorts. I got my first photo of a dot-tailed whiteface. I also found a nice Painted Turtle Specimen there and got my first photograph of a loon and a yellow-bellied sapsucker. Sanborn River Trail was especially exciting in that it yielded my first ever Maritime Gartersnake (a species limited to Quebec, the Maritime provinces, and New England). I also found a dead Veery (bird).Albany Mountain Trail yielded three new amphibian species, including two frogs (Wood Frog and Spring Peeper) and a salamander (Red-backed Salamander). Salamanders are all but gone from my home county and there are only two or so sites where they are known to be, so that was pretty exciting! Lapham Trail yielded many great wildflowers and butterflies. Cape Elizabeth (down by the coast near Portland) was a really nice beach experience, the highlight of which was finding a Common Eider (waterfowl). I also found a variety of wildlife in a few less noteworthy locations in West Bethel, Maine. I had a really nice mothing session one evening and found a number of new species, including the Canadian Melanolophia, Baltimore Snout Moth, and the beautiful Rosy Maple Moth. The Pink Lady Slipper's were out, and absolutely gorgeous. I found Red Pine (though I didn't find some other conifers I looked for, such as Black Spruce).

All of the locations proved fruitful and even though many more of my observations need IDs, it looks like I have already added 40-50 new species to my lifelist. All in all it was a memorable trip!

Posted on June 07, 2016 04:45 PM by marknenadov marknenadov | 314 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 20, 2016

Belated Birthday Hike (Spring Garden and Brunet Park)

Usually my hikes out into the field are rather brief. Most often, my hikes are fit into short time slots, such as a lunch hour. However, for my birthday in March, the plan was to take an extended hike. The weather was up and down near the end of March and during early April. And so the hike was delayed until April 16th. The date I chose turned out to be fantastic, the weather was gorgeous--warm and sunny, with beautiful clear blue skies. I decided to hit the Spring Garden area in Windsor, Ontario first and then, around lunch time, move on to Brunet Park. These two areas are great because they do not involve a lot of driving (they are 5 or so minutes apart) and are exceptionally diverse in their wildlife. Spring Garden is a place I've only begun to explore this year and Brunet Park is a "long time" nature stomping ground of mine, though it's been a LONG time since I spent any considerable time there.

I arrived at Spring Garden at approximately 9AM, it was just under 50F. I stayed there until about 11:30AM or so. Some of the highlights include: a fleeting glance at the endangered Butler's Garter Snake (a lifer), a sustained glance at a soaring Red-tailed Hawk, a couple of substantial photo sessions with Eastern Garter Snakes, a Lesser Yellow Underwing caterpillar, a decent array of various arthropods, and the discovery of a large (~1 foot?) leech. Around 11:30 I was starting to get tired and hungry, and so I decided to leave Spring Garden, have lunch, and head over to Brunet Park.

Due to a camera/battery issue, my SLR was out of commission for most of the Brunet Park. Thankfully, though, I did have a backup option in the form of my old camera! It was starting to get really warm, by the time I left Brunet Park at around 3PM it was over 70F! I looked for snakes and other creatures. Apart from the results of my "beat sheet" activities, which I will cover next, the highlights of my time at Brunet Park include an elusive Brown Creeper bird (lifer), a mating ball of Eastern Garter Snakes, an extremely young Eastern Garter Snake, an Eastern Comma, and a bunch of Six-Spotted Tiger Beetles.

I decided I would give a "beat sheet" a try for the very first time to see what arthropods I could find in the vegetation. This took up a decent amount of my time at Brunet. My "beat sheet" was basically a garden sieve with a cut white pillow case over the concave part of it, giving a cavity for the creatures to drop into for observation. I struck a variety of plants such as goldenrods, rose bushes, trees, various long grasses, and many other plants I couldn't ID. I would take the handle of my net and strike the vegetation and see what drops on the white sheet.

My first experiment with a "beat sheet" was fascinating for me. What a hidden world it uncovers! I recorded 10 sightings connected to the "beat sheet", including the following: 1 Asian Lady Beetle, 1 American Dog Tick (they do not carry lyme disease), a couple of Bronze Jumpers (Eris militaris), 1 unidentified jumping spider, a Tuft-legged Orbweaver (which I also observed at Spring Garden), two Hemiptera (Nabis roseipennis and Kleidocerys resedae), 2 Tetragnathidae, and a Click Beetle (Elateridae). It's still pretty early in the season and I am sure if I came back in a couple months, there would be much more impressive results!

I found two snake species, though there are two other species (Eastern Fox Snake and Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake) which are present at Spring Garden and Brunet but were sadly not found. My disappointment is minimal, because it is still quiet early in the season--it is likely that the Fox Snakes have only been out of hibernation a week or two at best. In terms of the spiders which have been identifiable so far, there are four families (Araneidae, Salticidae, Tetragnathidae, and Theridiidae) and three genus (Mangora, Eris, and Enoplognatha) were represented.

It was a wonderful trip and I am very thankful that I was able to enjoy these two excellent locations for such an extended period of time. It was also tiring, and it was nice to sit down after this extended hike! All in all, between the two locations, I recorded 54 observations of 28 distinct species, 10 of them lifers (new to me). If these numbers change substantially as more IDs are confirmed, I will followup this post with an update.

Posted on April 20, 2016 04:29 PM by marknenadov marknenadov | 54 observations | 1 comments | Leave a comment

March 28, 2016

Micro-Habitat Experiment

Over the winter, I left a Christmas wreath on the grass of a residential property. On March 11th, I began to shake and strike the wreath to see what creatures have made it their home.

My first couple of attempts yielded lots of spiders. There were probably 30 or so spiders that dropped out of it when I struck the wreath against the pavement twice. The yield was mostly immature wolf spiders, though I did record a thickjawed orbweaver (Pachygnatha tristriata) and a spider in the genus Erigone. The thickjawed orbweaver was a very exciting find, my first ever. Other than the spiders, there were a few millipedes.

Periodically, I checked the wreath between March 19th to March 27th. Subsequent attempts to dislodge creatures from the wreath yielded nothing but a small handful of immature wolf spiders. And then the flies have seemed to make their presence known. I found a Fungus Gnat (Mycetophilidae), a Dung Fly (Limosininae), and a fly within the super family Muscoidea. I also found a non-insect hexapod, a springtail within the genus Entomobryomorpha.

Overall, I've found it an interesting and simple way to survey invertebrates. It helped me to find creatures from one class, two families, one subfamily, and one genus that I have never found before. I would like to try it again, perhaps later in the year. I'm disappointed that more spiders didn't colonize the wreath after the initial couple surveys. However, it is still early in the year and in general the species variety is not yet that great on the property in general (mainly just immature wolf spiders and I found the first jumping spider this weekend).

Posted on March 28, 2016 05:02 PM by marknenadov marknenadov | 9 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 23, 2016

First Spring in "Spring Garden"

The weather warmed up to over 50F and so I decided to visit the Spring Garden natural area. The Eastern Garter Snakes were out and about, and moving than they were when the temperature was in the mid 40s. It was a pleasant short hike.

I started going off trail a bit, though I didn't find any snakes until I returned to the trail. I found my first "snake under cover" for the year when I returned to some roofing shingles I had discovered on a previous visit.

I didn't find anything interesting spider wise--just a handful of immature wolf spiders. I found a couple of Mourning Cloak butterflies and my first honey bee of the season. Flipping logs and other items yielded slugs in genus Arion and genus Ambigolimax, as well as a few snails, probably from the genus Oxychilus. I also found a fairly large nematode.

Posted on March 23, 2016 09:29 AM by marknenadov marknenadov | 13 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 09, 2016

Another Visit To Spring Garden

This was the second day in a row that I visited the Spring Garden natural area in Windsor, Ontario. The weather has been in the 50's and low 60's. Yesterday, there was a surprising amount left, but today it was completely gone.

It was a short visit and I spent most of the time walking a water-logged trail near one of the entrances.This trip was surprisingly fruitful. I was able to add three new species to my life list, including a delightful Western Chorus Frog. I saw my first frog, snake, and butterflies of 2016. There were also a few creatures I saw that haven't been recorded on here (since I don't have a firm ID nor a photograph of them), including a few birds and a wolf spider.

I look forward to visiting this location more when Spring and Summer come!

Posted on March 09, 2016 02:17 AM by marknenadov marknenadov | 14 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 04, 2016

Visiting Spring Garden (In Not-Quite-Yet-Spring)

I love Ojibway Park in Windsor, Ontario and have extensively visited its forest and prairie land. Until this Monday however, I haven't visited an unconnected plot of land known as "Spring Garden Natural area," which is also part of the Ojibway Park complex.

The Spring Garden is a 289 acre plot that was purchased by the City of Windsor in 1999. A walking/cycling trail winds through it. According to the Ojibway Park website "Many rare, threatened and endangered species of plants and animals inhabit Spring Garden such as Purple Twayblade Orchid, American Chestnut, Colic-root, Dense Blazing Star, Wild Indigo Duskywing butterfly, Duke's Skipper, Red-headed Woodpecker and Grey Fox.

Spring Garden features oak savanna and woodland, dry prairie, buttonbush swamp and a wetland in the form of an old lagoon. Formerly the area was much more open but trees have invaded many sites"

It also happens that the rather rare Massasauga Rattlesnake and the endangered Eastern Fox Snake have made their home there.

It was beautiful and I am very enamored by the habitat. We have a lot of nice natural areas in Essex County, but it is astounding that I have not as of yet spent any time in this one! I'm also glad I got there before snow came once again. That said, I only count this winter visit to the Spring Garden a "half visit" and I look forward to visiting the site in Spring.

While walking back to my car, I saw my second wolf spider of the year!

Posted on March 04, 2016 11:18 AM by marknenadov marknenadov | 13 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 20, 2016

Building an Enhanced Macro Setup

Starting off with my new (to me–it’s actually about 12 years old) Nikon D70S and a Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC Macro lens, I decided to try out extension tubes. I bought a set of three Fotodiox extension tubes for $15. The set includes 7mm, 14mm, and 28mm, stacking together for a total 48mm. Basically, the extension tubes sit between the camera and the lens.

The initial problem with this setup is that you (a) lose tons and tons of light, (b) lose the ability to autofocus, and (c) lose the ability to tweak your aperture.

My strategy for overcoming this had to be simple: reduce movement and increase light!

First, I rested the camera on a desk. Then I turned off the autofocus on both the camera and the lens. Then I zoomed the lens all the way in and positioned the object I’m photographing so that it is just under a inch away from the subject. Then I turned off the flash and figured out an external light source. Sometimes I used an overhead lamp. Sometimes I used the flashlight app on my phone. Sometimes I used both. I experimented pointing my phone light at different angles for different results and different shadow configurations. Then I manually focused and shot away!

I’m very happy with the result. I estimate that I get almost twice as much magnification with the $15 tubes! Objects that are in reality 1 cm appear in my images well over 20cm. What I lose is photo quality and I have to fuss with external lighting and obsessively remove movement.

I look forward to warmer weather and a chance to try this setup out on invertebrates. For various reasons, this setup is not very practical for field work. However, I’m hopeful that it will be very helpful in getting better macro photos of invertebrates.

Here are some links to some of my tests on Flickr:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/34157166@N08/25052690861/in/dateposted-public/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/34157166@N08/25145997045/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/34157166@N08/24507329764/in/dateposted-public/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/34157166@N08/25019766612/in/dateposted-public/

Posted on February 20, 2016 12:31 PM by marknenadov marknenadov | 0 comments | Leave a comment

February 18, 2016

Devonwood Conservation Area

Though always within 20-30 minutes of where I live, Devonwood Conservation Area is a place I haven't really visited substantially. It's a nice little woodlot within the city of Windsor. I went there over my lunch break today. I heard a lot of birds, but for the most part only saw tracks, plants, fungi, and snow. It will be nice to check out this area in the heart of spring.

Posted on February 18, 2016 06:36 PM by marknenadov marknenadov | 15 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

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