As the summer ends we are looking at what did well in our garden and what didn't. Our biggest problem is the lack of pollinating insects despite planting many flowers specifically to attract these vital creatures.
The insect in these two photographs is a Mayfly. I don't know exactly which one as there are apparently 2500 species of Mayfly!
They spend 2 or 3 years as nymphs living in waterways and then pupate into the Mayfly. The adult only lives for a few days as it's mouth parts are fused; it's sole purpose is to mate.
When I look at insects I am always fascinated by the vast variety of sizes, colours, shapes etc. It is said that a Bumble Bee isn't 'aero dynamic' so in theory shouldn't be able to fly but it does!!
All have a purpose (though that of a mosquito is hard to endure when they love biting you!) and without them we'd be in big trouble.
(Can you imagine having a 'tail' like this!! Or antennae like those of the Polyphemis moth I mentioned a few months ago.)
My father used to keep bees and we did too. Honey bees are wonderful insects. It is said that one third of food that humans eat is pollinated by insects and 80% of that by bees. Even animals are reliant on bees for the pollination of the foodstuffs that they eat. When you understand a Bee Colony it is quite an amazing organisation of labour.
'Bee Keeping' isn't exactly true...it is said that you can't 'keep' bees as they will go off on their own accord, but you can be their guardians and ensure a good strong healthy colony.
Anyone who has kept bees will understand when I say that the smell of a colony is wonderful and the smell of fresh honey and beeswax is second to none!
Each year we would extract the honey; a process that is exciting, time consuming and one of overindulgence.....There is nothing like fresh honey!
Having bees was also how I got started on making soap. Honey and beeswax are wonderful for the skin and when you have these two ingredients at hand it is only logical to use them!
Because my father kept bees I used to give him cards using a bee as the subject matter (and that's also how my Bee Series came about).
Here are a few of the cards I did for him. My father always said that that extra pair of hands would be extremely useful!!
In this day and age of pesticides and herbicides, and bee colonies under threat, I only hope that people come to understand how vital these busy little creatures are and do everything possible to help protect them. Even planting bee-friendly flowers is a good start.
I'm starting off this month with a few photographs of our second Maine Coon Car (the other one appeared in the snowy scenes of February).
Our two cats are generally 'house cats' but when it is warm and sunny, and we are in the garden, they are allowed out too.
When you look at a cats face it is quite remarkable. The fur on its face grows to just the right length to give it the classic 'feline' look, with subtle variations across the breeds that create the 'look' of a specific cat. When I compare this to our Cocker Spaniel it is a very good evolutionary design! Our English Cocker Spaniel needs constant trimming unless I want her to look like a yeti or unidentifiable fur-ball! She would have trouble seeing too as her hair would cover her eyes!
This cat won prizes on a number of occasions for "longest whiskers" - and you can see why! It is said that a cat will only go through a gap that is the same width as it's whiskers.....not true! It never ceases to amaze me just how small a gap these animals can fit through which goes to show just how much fur they have on their heads and body!
As I hope you have noticed, I have had a little fun with two of the photos. Quite daft really as there is no way that a mouse would hang around to indulge in meaningful conversation with a cat!
The direction the cat was looking just made me want to add the talkative mouse to the two photographs!
So far this summer has been VERY wet....Even as I write there is a deluge outside, complete with hail stones, that is causing localised flooding.
Our normally ground-loving Chipmunks have clearly had enough! One couple decided to create their home 30 feet up a tree! It is just as well that they have a good head-for-heights as I don't envy this youngster having to negotiate 30 feet of tree-trunk in order to reach the ground - and then return up it again when in need of shelter and safety! Certainly confirms that they are related to squirrels.
I have put together a short slide-show as I couldn't put just one or two pictures here!
This month I have a large number of photos so I have decided to put a few on their own and have the others in a slide show. I feel I ought to call this particular journal entry "Beauty & the Beast" .....all will be revealed!
Each year we grow vegetables. A few weeks ago I had put my newly potted tomato seedlings outside to harden off . Over the next few days I was perturbed to find a few missing plants and wrongly accused a Chipmunk. One day I took a pot, now devoid of plant, back to my potting area. As I was about to put it down on my work bench the earth exploded and out sprung a toad! I almost screamed and dropped the pot!! It certainly got my heart racing!!
A few days later, when inspecting my plants I noticed that one particular plant just didn't look right....There, happily surrounded by the warm moist earth was a toad! Needless to say I re-homed him elsewhere in our garden. I don't mind toads, and in fact encourage them as they eat all kinds of pests that can wreak havoc with plants, but displacing my seedlings isn't what I need them to do!!
This particular Toad is an American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus). There is another very similar looking one called Fowlers Toad and frequently it is very difficult to tell the two apart especially as they do inter-breed. Since we aren't near classic habitat for a Fowlers Toad I can only assume this one is an American Toad! They grow to about 11cm.
Now to go from the Beast to the Beauty! I love Iris. They are such beautiful flowers with a particular elegance and glorious colours; they always remind me of paintings by Claude Monet. Whilst a child I was fortunate enough to visit Claude Monet's garden at Giverney and enjoyed seeing many of the locations depicted in his paintings.
Iris lend themselves to many forms of artwork from realistic to impressionistic.
Once again I have included pictures of the Polyphemis moth. We generally only see their undersides as they come to the windows at night time but this one hung around for a while. For something that only lives a few days as an adult it is so endearing to look at - those eyes and magnificent antennae. I fell so lucky to have been given the opportunity to take these photos.
This may seem an odd photo to include but I had to find some way of showing off the glorious blue of this birds egg so I put it on the Mock Orange flowers! Nature is so wonderful with it's utter diversity of shape, form and colours; it all truly amazes me how wonderful it all is.
May is a wonderful 'transition' month where we go from winter to spring. It can be very disheartening when we have 20'C plus one day and snow the next! Frequently the spring flowers and leaves emerge and get a light dusting of late snow; luckily it never lasts long. It always amazes me just how resilient the flowers are, especially the daffodils.
This month I have put together a few of my drawings and photos depicting the emergence of spring. The poem is from on of my favourite books "When we were very young" by A.A.Milne
The picture of the lady in a yellow dress is one of my lino prints with limited edition of 25 prints which are available for sale.
Last year I mentioned a lot about Chipmunks along with a variety of photos but they are worth featuring again as they are so wonderful and quintessential to North America.
There are apparently 23 species of chipmunk! We mostly see our Chipmunk inhabitants just as the snow is melting and they busily forage for extra food stuffs. But they are also frequent entertainment during the summer months as they chase each other in and around the garden and forest floor!
Chipmunks are about 7-8" in length and weigh under 5 ounces. They live in burrows called dens and have 1-2 litters per year. A chipmunk lives between 2 and three years.
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This is a yellow spotted Salamander, also known simply as a Spotted Salamander. They grow up to 25 cm and live in deciduous or mixed woodland. They live in damp places as they need to keep their skin moist to avoid drying out (unlike other amphibians they do not bask in the sun as this would dry them out too much.)
Salamanders live under log piles and in burrows; their burrows can be over a metre deep to avoid freezing in the winter. They are sometimes seen during the spring breeding season but are generally very elusive.. This one we found whilst digging over our vegetable patch.
These two photos are of a fledgling American Robin. American Robins are part of the Thrush family. They are the size of the English Blackbird and Thrush. British Robins are nearer to the size of a Chickadee. This bird had obviously just left the nest as it was making unsteady, but progressively better, short flights from tree to tree.
American Robins generally migrate to over-winter in Mexico but sometimes stay in Ontario if food is plentiful. They can have up to 3 clutches per year. The eggs hatch after 12 days and the fledging spend 4 weeks before leaving the nest for independence. We have a number that live in our woodlands over the summer months and frequently see these youngsters.
This is a female Polyphemus moth, named after the largest Cyclops in Greek mythology. It was on our outside deck early one evening last week.
They emerge from cocoons in the spring in order to mate, the adults living for barely a week!
They are one of the largest silk months in Ontario with a wing span of 4-6"