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29 July 2010 @ 08:54 pm
Hurdman in July  

The summer has been flying by fast...although it's hard to believe, it's already the end of July. Many birds have finished their breeding duties and are fattening up for their journey south; for many insects, their life cycle has come full circle and we won't see them in the adult stage again until next year.

Since it's so close to where I work, the trails around Hurdman station are a good place to observe the different insects as they emerge during the course of the summer. These are some of the insects I observed in July.

Powdered Dancer

Grasshoppers seem to become more and more numerous as the summer progresses. This is one type of insect that doesn't interest me; I tend to ignore them if they are present, and if I happen to come across one that intrigues me enough to photograph it (such as this fellow) I don't bother to identify it.


Pennsylvania Leatherwings are common now, and can be seen on a variety of flowers. I was happy to come across one on the same flower as a Tricolored Bumblebee, an uncommon and difficult to photograph species around Hurdman. The Pennsylvania Leatherwing is a type of soldier beetle, a group of beetles which are beneficial for their roles in pollination and pest control. They are often abundant on flowers in the late summer and fall.

Pennsylvania Leatherwing and Tricolored Bumblebee on Tansy

Here two of the beetles are mating. A second pair can be seen in the background.

Pennsylvania Leatherwings

Another common beetle at Hurdman in July is the Japanese Beetle. Although native to Japan, it has become infamous in North America where it is a devastating pest of more than 250 plants. The larvae live in the soil and feed on the roots of grass, while the adults attack both the foliage and fruit of a host of different plants and can skeletonize them completely. In Japan these destructive beetles are controlled by natural enemies; however, these enemies are absent in North America and other methods must be used to control infestations.

Japanese Beetle

The Great Black Wasp is one of my favourite wasps. Although quite large, it is one of the more elegant-looking wasps (in my opinion) with its shiny blue-black sheen. I found a patch of wildflowers that was buzzing with all sorts of bees, hornets, wasps, and mimics, including several Great Black Wasps. Hardly any of the wasps stayed in one place long enough to photograph them; this is the best photo I got which shows the blue sheen.

Great Black Wasp (Sphex pennsylvanicus)

I was also able to photograph this hover fly, with some difficulty. Hover flies have short, stubby antennae which help to identify them as flies rather than wasps or bees.

Hover Fly

I was so amazed by the insect life in this relatively small patch of flowers that I would have spent my whole afternoon there if I could. I don't know what they were, but the bees and wasps certainly enjoyed them! I went back a week or two later and was thoroughly disappointed to find that the city had completely mowed the area and all the flowers were gone.

Butterflies are common at Hurdman, particularly Cabbage Whites, Common Ringlets, and Clouded Sulphurs. At least five different skipper species (Least Skipper, European Skipper, Arctic Skipper, Hobomok Skipper and Long Dash Skipper) can be found in the grassy areas of Hurdman as well, but the skipper season is coming to an end and I didn't expect to find any around. Least Skippers, however, have two broods per season here in Ottawa, and as a result is one of the later-flying species. This individual was seen on July 14th, and given its fresh appearance, is probably a second generation butterfly.

Least Skipper

In the predator department, I finally found another Robber Fly; I had seen my first one at the beginning of the month at Jack Pine trail. These insects, which have been compared to both flycatchers and falcons, have bristly faces which are distinctive.

Robber Fly

Powdered Dancers are very abundant along the trails at Hurdman; this species prefers river habitats, particularly those with rocky shores.

Powdered Dancer

The last predator that I photographed was this orbweaver. Also called the Garden Cross Spider, this arachnid is quite abundant this time of year and, given its size, quite noticeable! This is one of the smaller individuals I've seen around.

Cross Orbweaver (Araneus diadematus)

Lastly, in the bird department, I finally had a close encounter with a catbird. These birds like to skulk in the depths of tangled shrubs and thickets; sometimes the only way to tell they are present is by the whiny mewing sound they make this time of year. When startled, they also make a noise like the snapping of a fistful of dry sticks. This one flew out from one shrub, across the bike path, and landed in another shrub in front of me. As they rarely fly across open spaces, I couldn't tell what it was as by flight alone and waited until it landed. When I realized it was a Gray Catbird, and that he was in a relatively open spot, I picked up my camera and started clicking away.

Gray Catbird

Even though there's still one more month of summer left, it already feels as though it's coming to an end; however, it's been a great summer so far, and definitely a drier and warmer one than last year!