Take a second look …
The yellow eyes of the Saw-whet Owl are so startling, their gaze so steady, that we tend to ignore everything else. It’s easy to miss the trace of blood just below the owl’s bill, a smear of something that changes the way we look at the bird, that deepens our understanding of it. What discoveries might we make if we took that second look more often, if we trained ourselves to see?
Recently, I was asked to compile a checklist of the dragonflies and damselflies that frequent the Leslie Street Spit, the so-called “urban wilderness” and parkland that extends into Lake Ontario from Toronto’s east end. One thing that intrigued me about this project was the contrast between the old and new that it illustrates. On the one hand, fossil records for the insect order Odonata, which includes dragonflies and damselflies, extend all the way back to the Permian Period, about 250 million years ago, well before the advent of the dinosaurs. On the other, the Spit, in geological terms, is still … Read moreRead More
To paraphrase Thoreau, I wish to speak a word for caterpillars, if only because so few defend or find them beautiful. Maybe their unpopularity, at least in North America, stems from the ravages of the LD Moth, Lymantia dispar (formerly known as the Gypsy Moth), whose larvae appear in their millions year after year to defoliate vast stretches of forests and parks and suburban neighborhoods. Last summer was particularly bad for LD Moths in Toronto. Walking through High Park in the city’s west end, I could actually hear the noise made by hundreds of thousands of small mouths simultaneously chewing … Read moreRead More
For the second year in a row, a rare hybrid duck has decided to spend the winter at Ashbridges Bay on Toronto’s waterfront. Last year, this male duck, or drake, was still a juvenile and had a juvenile’s dull-colored plumage. This year, it has acquired its adult breeding plumage, and, as the photo above shows, it’s a remarkable looking bird, with a dramatic black crest and rust-coloured flanks. Its parentage brought together two very different types of duck. The Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) is a broad-shouldered bruiser of a diving duck patterned in black and white. It has a blunt … Read moreRead More