Nicola Naturalist Society – October 2020 “Nature News”

Greetings

With the COVID pandemic as restrictive as ever, we are unable to hold our regular monthly meetings. “Nature News“, a sampling of  local nature photos taken by our members, has always been a feature of our evening meetings. So we are moving that to this website …. here is the October “Nature News“, a wonderful representation of the biodiversity of the Merritt, B.C. area. Thanks to all who contributed photos!

Red Columbine (Aquilegia formosa) – a widespread plant flowering in mid- to late-summer. Photo: ©Vic Newton
Bumblebee on a thistle flower. Photo: ©Cindilla Trent

A note from Bob Scafe: “And something new for everyone, Yellow Chokecherries, compared to the usual Red variety. Our down the street neighbor has a 12 ft shrub of Yellow Chokecherries. They didn’t have any interest using them, so I picked them, and Bev and I made Jelly with them. Sweeter than the red variety, they also have less juice, so require more water. The result is a lovely yellow Jelly, considerably sweeter than the tart red jelly. The tree is a volunteer, not planted by the folks living here, so where did this seed and resulting shrub, originate? My best guess is a bird dropping, as it flew over.”

The unusual yellow Chokecherry (left) compared with the regular berry colour (right), Prunus virginiana. Photos: © Bob Scafe)
And here is that tasty yellow Chokecherry jelly. Photo: © Bob Scafe
Mountain Bluebirds. Notice the leg band on the left bird – which is a juvenile fresh out of the nest. The Avian Research Centre, the folks running the bluebird nestbox program in the Nicola Valley, are banding the nestlings. So in future years look out for colour-banded birds returning to our area. If you see one, record the colour and which leg (left or right) the band is on. The bright blue adult male is on the right. Photo: © Vic Newton

Susan Newton got a surprise when checking nest boxes on Lindley Creek Road this summer. There was a dead mule deer right beside the Bluebird box. Much to the surprise of Sue who almost walked on the animal while checking the box. And several others were also interested in the dead deer ……..

A Turkey Vulture disturbed at a deer carcass next to the bluebird nest box. Photo: Vic Newton.
Turkey Vultures at the deer carcass next to the bluebird nest box. Photo: Vic Newton.
A lovely scene of a Bald Eagle against the background of hoodoos. Photo: ©Vic Newton
A close-up of the Bald Eagle. Photo: ©Vic Newton.

Other Nicola Naturalist members also had interesting encounters with raptors. Here is a note from Tom Willms, who lives on the edge of Upper Nicola village, close to Nicola Lake: “We had a Peregrine Falcon in front of our place this morning. It had killed a Wood Duck but unfortunately it landed on the highway. I took a shovel and moved it to a safe location and the Peregrine eventually came back to finish breakfast.”

Peregrine Falcon with its Wood Duck prey – unfortunately right on the busy Highway 5A at Nicola Village. Photo: ©Tom Willms.
A closer look at the Peregrine and its Wood Duck prey. Photo: ©Tom Willms.
The late Wood Duck that was killed by the Peregrine Falcon. Judging by the unworn plumage (look at the pristine tips of the wing feathers) and the coloration of the head this was a juvenile bird – evidently not fully aware of the dangers of falcons. Photo: ©Tom Willms.

Later Tom’s father Paul came and got this great photo of the Peregrine eating the Wood Duck – now in a safe location ……

Peregrine Falcon with its Wood Duck prey. Note the falcon’s bulging crop. Photo: © Paul Willms.
Another newly-fledged juvenile – this time a Bullock’s Oriole. Photo: ©Cindilla Trent
Yet another newly-independent juvenile – a Red-necked Grebe on Mamit Lake. It still has the zebra-stripes on its head from its chick phase. Photo: ©Alan Burger

For more wildlife photos from Mamit Lake click here: Alan Burger Nature & Birding BC

Grey Catbird – a widespread species in our area but seldom seen because they tend to skulk in the thickets. Notice the rufous undertail visible in the left photo. Photos: ©Tom Willms.
A crisp portrait of a male Brown-headed Cowbird. Photo: © Cindilla Trent.
A great photo of a Marsh Wren in its cat-tail habitat. Photo: © Cindilla Trent.
A female Common Merganser on Shuswap Lake. Photo: © Alan Burger
Ring-billed Gulls breed on an island in Shuswap Lake near Salmon Arm. After breeding the gulls wander and can be found on many other lakes in our area. This adult bird is just starting to get the greyish head that they have in winter. Photo: © Alan Burger

Our resident Lepidoptera aficionado Bob Scafe has been busy photographing and recording all the moths that are attracted at night to his porch light. His tally over five years is now up to 525 species – who would have guessed Merritt had such moth diversity? Here are a few of his latest finds.

A Hemlock-Looper moth (Lambdina fiscellaria). This insect gets its English name from the mode of movement of the caterpillar, which stretches forward to attach the front legs, then loops its body to bring the back legs forward. Photo: © Bob Scafe

Bob notes: “Hemlock Looper moth is having a break-out year, as far as numbers are concerned. As their names suggest, the caterpillars feed on Hemlock trees. Vancouver, West Van, and Hemlock ski area have had an 18-year high with clusters of thousands of moths seen at street lights.”

The next moth is more elusive and has an appropriate name: Phantom Hemlock Looper. Bob reports: “Phantom Hemlock moth is a new sighting this year. I have not seen this moth in my previous five years of moth watching. For 2-3 weeks this year, I caught 4-5 every night, and of course, I’m wondering what has changed. My moth people are just as confused as I am about this year’s activity. Perhaps it explains, in part, the Phantom name.”

A Phantom Hemlock Looper (Netytia phantasmaria) with beautiful wing markings. This is a male with impressive antennae – used to locate the females via their chemical pheromones. Photo: © Bob Scafe.

Bob again: “The Ten-spotted Rhododendron moth also appears for about 3 weeks each September, and usually in good numbers, slowly building to 8-10 per night, then slowly, the numbers decline, till there are none. In most cases, the name of the moth is derived from the foods eaten, or characteristics of the species Caterpillar, not the moth.”

A Ten-spotted Rhododendron moth (Dysstroma sobria). Photo: © Bob Scafe

This next moth is a real beauty. Bob notes: “The October Thorn, is a September moth in the Merritt area, but is most commonly seen in October in the United States. It provides a welcome flash of golden brightness as it flies by the patio lights, and while it never appears in Merritt in great numbers, I will see 5 or 6 each September. A very fast and elusive flier.”

What a beauty! The October Thorn moth (Tetracis jubararia). Photo: © Bob Scafe.

And a gorgeous big moth by another of our naturalist members ……

Lovely photos of a One-eyed Sphinx Moth (Smerinthus cerisyi). Photos: © Diana Grimshire
A dragonfly perching on a finger. Photo: © Cindilla Trent.
A Caddis Fly sampled among the many moths at Bob Scafe’s porch. Photo: © Bob Scafe.
This Columbia Spotted Frog was found in Cindy Trent’s yard. Photo: © Cindilla Trent.

Time for some mammals. As always deer are a common sight in our area and sometimes a bit too familiar when they are in one’s garden …..

A male Mule Deer with velvet antlers resting in the long grass. Photo: ©Vic Newton.
Another male Mule Deer in a scenic location with grass and rabbitbrush. Photo: © Vic Newton.
Mule Deer make regular visits to the Scafe’s garden. They usually prefer Bev Scafe’s white petunias but, as you see, don’t mind the red ones either. Photos: © Bob Scafe.
The Scafe’s garden Mule Deer – very relaxed and checking out the neighbour’s cat. Photos: © Bob Scafe

Bears are usually less welcome visitors in town. This little cub appeared in Logan Lake and spent an anxious hour wandering the lawns before heading back into the forest. The human residents spent an anxious hour wondering when Mum was going to appear, but she never did.

This Black Bear cub appeared in Logan Lake in early October. Photo: © Alan Burger
Another look at the Black Bear cub exploring the gardens of Logan Lake. Photo: © Alan Burger

Tom Willms found this interesting hollow tree that had obviously been visited by a bear – perhaps an arboreal den?

This big Ponderosa Pine has a large hollow that is evidently a bear den. Photo: © Tom Willms.
A close look at the cavity reveals the claw marks of the climbing bear and tooth marks where the bear worked to enlarge the opening. Photo: © Tom Willms.
This bat – tentatively identified by two bat experts as a Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus) chose to roost by day on Paul Willms’ house foundation in Merritt. Photo: © Paul Willms
Mom Yellow-bellied Marmot using a boulder as a convenient lookout. Photo: © Cindilla Trent.
These River Otters entertained people visiting the wharf at Salmon Arm for half an hour. They are less popular with local boat owners when they come aboard to romp, test out the upholstery …. and poop. Photo: © Alan Burger
Also at Shuswap Lake, Salmon Arm were many Green-winged Teal. Female on the left, male on the right (just moulting into his breeding plumage). In many of our duck species the males take on their colourful breeding plumage in the fall and spend much of the winter trying to woo the ladies to breed with them in early spring. Photos: © Alan Burger

One of the highlights of early fall is when flocks of Sandhill Cranes pass by on their southward migration. Their evocative bugling calls can be heard for miles.

Part of a flock of 200 Sandhill Cranes flying high over Logan Lake town – heading toward Mamit Lake. Photo: © Alan Burger
Sandhill Cranes flying over Logan Lake. Photo: © Alan Burger.
A nice portrait of a male American Kestrel. This little falcon is quite common and often seen sitting on telephone poles in open grassy areas. They live mostly on large insects like grasshoppers and dragonflies, but will also take mice and small birds. Photo: Vic Newton.
And here is the Kestrel eating a grasshopper. Photo: © Vic Newton.

And to end with another couple of photos of a falcon eating prey …..

A Merlin plucking and eating its prey – looks like a Mountain Bluebird. Photos: © Anne Pang.

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