The Eagleson Ponds: Adding to the species list

Heath Bee Fly

In September 2016, I started a project on iNaturalist to document the non-avian species I’ve found at the Eagleson Road ponds just after the reconstruction that took place in 2015 and 2016 was completed. I was chiefly interested in the mammals and odonates (I use eBird, of course, for birds), largely in part because I wondered if the beaver would be back after its lodge was destroyed and if there were any Rainbow Bluets or Fragile Forktails left. Then, seeing the extensive wildflower plantings after the reconstruction, I began to wonder what species of butterflies might feed here. Since then I’ve started documenting all kinds of insects, turtles, plants and mammals that I can identify on my own, and even some that I can’t…one of the functions of iNaturalist is to connect experts and knowledgeable nature enthusiasts with those who aren’t as experienced in order to assist with identifications. I have hesitated to use the site for this purpose, because identifications are done entirely by volunteers, and (a) there is no guarantee that your species will be identified, particularly for lesser known or more difficult genera (for example, I have some photos of Red-blue Checkered Beetles from July 2016 that have yet to be confirmed); and (b) there is no guarantee that the observation will be identified correctly. Generally the more people who add their identification to an observation, the better; the main identification is decided by a two-thirds majority, and once it has received two or more confirmatory identifications it is considered “research grade” and can be used by scientists for their own projects.

Since observations on iNaturalist must be accompanied by photos, some of my observations have not yet made it onto the project list, such as the coyote I came face-to-face with one morning or the Common Baskettails that never seem to land. Then there are other observations of species I’ve only seen once there, and hope to find again, such as the female spreadwing I wasn’t able to identify – I keep hoping to come across these species again in order to photograph them and, in the case of the spreadwing, find a male to identify. The summer is a great time to spend time at the ponds and add species to the growing list of creatures observed here, as the birding scene is generally static while insects are at their peak. Even now that migration has started and I am starting to focus more on birds again, I was able to spend some time searching for bugs and other critters this past Labour Day weekend as there weren’t as many migrants as I had hoped (possibly due to the continuing hot, humid weather). I found a lot more insects than I had hoped, and added quite a few species to the project!

The first species was not new for the project. Wandering Gliders have been present at the ponds – and particularly the soccer field by the park – in good numbers for most of the latter half of the summer, and I finally got a photo of one perching a month ago to submit as the first record. However, they rarely land, so when I saw one land in the vegetation on Sunday morning when the sky was overcast and threatening rain, I was happy to have another record to submit for this species. It is interesting to see all the colours on its abdomen – they look golden orange in flight, but the pattern of a perched glider is just gorgeous!

Wandering Glider

Surprisingly, few dragonflies are flying at the ponds these days. You would think there would be a lot of skimmers and meadowhawks still present, but I only saw one Common Green Darner and one unidentified darner species all weekend – and I was making it a point to look for Saffron-winged Meadowhawks, which I’ve seen a couple of times in the past few weeks, though I haven’t photographed any this year yet for the project.

While the dragonfly season may be winding down, it’s definitely the season for caterpillars, and I found three separate moth species over the weekend – two in caterpillar form, and the other as an adult moth. Virginian Tiger Moth caterpillars are common in our area, and quite variable in appearance, from beige or yellow to brown or black. The caterpillar body is covered in long soft hairs, called setae, which are variable in length. There is one long hair in the middle of each tuft, and the longest hairs may be more than three body segments in length. The spiracles (pores used for respiration) are white.

Virginian Tiger Moth

The adult Salt Marsh Moth is similar in appearance to the adult Virginian Tiger Moth; both have white wings with black spots and fuzzy white bodies with orange stripes on the abdomen. Indeed, both species are members of Subtribe Spilosomina, which is a sub-group of the Tiger Moths. The Salt Marsh Moth caterpillar is also variable in appearance, and can be blond, brown or black with long bristly hairs standing out in dense tufts. However, the hairs tend to be longer at the ends of the body, especially toward the rear end. If you are able to get a photograph of the face (I wasn’t), it is mainly black with a yellow mark down the center.

Salt Marsh Moth

The last moth is either a Forage Looper or a Clover Looper… both have two dark bands on the forewing, but in the case of the Forage Looper, the two bands do not touch each other near the midline, and the inner (or upper) band does not touch the inner margin. In the case of the Clover Lopper, the lower bands almost touch each other near the midline, and the inner (or upper) band does touch the inner margin. I’m guessing this is a Forage Looper, because the inner/upper bands do not appear to be touching, but haven’t received any confirmation on iNaturalist yet.

Caenurgina sp.

I was finally able to add some spiders to the list when I found a beautiful, large Black-and-Yellow Argiope (aka Black-and-Yellow Garden Spider, or on iNaturalist, Yellow Garden Spider) hanging from a web near the circular retention pond. I quite like the large orbweaver spiders, and was surprised I hadn’t come across any before given how tall and thick the vegetation is in places. She was still there on Labour Day.

Black-and-Yellow Argiope

On Labour Day I found a second orbweaver, but this one was more difficult to identify due to the slanting nature of its web (I would have had to have been on the ground in the vegetation in order to photograph the pattern on its abdomen). The brief looks that I got made me think it wasn’t a Garden Cross Orbweaver, the most common orbweaver by far, so I suspect that it is a Shamrock Orbweaver, a species I haven’t seen in years. She quickly wrapped an insect that had flown into her web and disappeared beneath a large curly leaf in order to eat it.

Orbweaver sp. (Possibly Shamrock Orbweaver)

In the beetle category, I managed to find three new species for my list. The first was this Goldenrod Soldier Beetle (aka Pennsylvania Leatherwing). These are also very common in late summer, and I was surprised I hadn’t found any here in the two previous years.

Goldenrod Soldier Beetle

I found two Multi-colored Asian Lady Beetles, but both moved too quickly for me to photograph. Fortunately, a different type of lady beetle – the Seven-spotted Lady Beetle – was much more obliging. Like the familiar Multi-colored Asian Lady Beetle that gets into everyone’s homes in the fall, the Seven-spotted Lady Beetle is a non-native species. It was introduced to North American in the 1950s in order to help control aphids, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that this beetle became established and started spreading. It is now one of our most common Lady Beetle species.

Seven-spotted Lady Beetle

Although it looks like a beetle, the Twice-stabbed Stinkbug is considered a “true bug”. I get these pretty bugs in my garden most years where they like to hang out in my Columbine flowers.

Twice-stabbed Stinkbug

Several Bee Flies were flying; these little balls of fuzz are quite cute, despite the proboscis that looks like a mosquito’s (they feed on flowers, not mammals). I managed to photograph three of them, two of which were identified as the Heath Bee Fly (Bombylius minor) and one of which has not yet been identified.

Heath Bee Fly

It’s also the season of the grasshopper….it’s hard to walk through any patch of grass without several launching themselves off of the ground and into the foliage. I usually don’t bother with grasshoppers, except this one was huge. Seeing this one reminds me of my fourth grade science class when we were asked to sketch and label one…I don’t remember any of the parts or what we were studying (I also remember we had a stuffed Great Blue Heron as well) but whenever I see the close-up details of a grasshopper I remember my elementary school science class.

Grasshopper Sp.

Finally, one from the bee category (Order Hymenoptera). There are so many different types of bees and wasps that I usually ignore the ones I don’t know. However, this one reminded me of the European Wool Carder bee I recently photographed in my backyard, so I assumed it was the same species.

European Wool Carder bee

It’s even cuter from the side when you can see how fuzzy it is.

European Wool Carder bee

My project now stands at 60 confirmed non-avian species. It will be great when those unconfirmed, unidentified critters are identified to species level and added to the project. In the meantime, I’ll keep my eyes open for more bugs and wildlife at the ponds, regardless of whether they are added to eBird or iNaturalist.


3 thoughts on “The Eagleson Ponds: Adding to the species list

  1. Hi Gillian, I only recently discovered the Eagleson ponds after reading one of your posts, and it is a really amazing place, with so many heron, egrets and other water birds and also a lot of monarchs and other butterflys…It has become one of my favourite spots for bird watching and photography. I must admit I haven’t really observed the insects so much but will look for them on the next expedition.
    Thank you for your posts, they are always interesting and informative…you are providing a real service.

  2. If you are fairly sure of an id and you want it approved to research grade so that others realize it is in the area, you may want to send a note to one of the most creditable of the major approvers for that species and ask them to take a look at your observation. I had some listings for American Gromwell /Broad leaved Puccoon that slipped under the radar that I asked directly for a review and/or approval and received. (It’s a plant that I think is probably way more common than people think; it’s not in the usual field guides so I think it ends up under-reported.)

    Good luck with your project!

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