Wasps Are Wonderful! Especially the Flower-visiting Kind

Photo of a Bramble Mason Wasp.

Over the past summer, I became fascinated by flower-visiting wasps, especially the solitary kind that build individual nests, either by burrowing into the ground or by fashioning small mud-nests that they attach to plants or artificial constructions. For one thing, these wasps are plentiful where I live in Toronto, Ontario. Throughout the summer and into … Read more

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Tennessee Coneflower: An Honored Guest in My Garden

Feature photo for the coneflower post.

I first read about Tennessee Coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis) in the catalogue I get every year from Salt Spring Seeds on Vancouver Island. The notice described it as a rare and uncommonly attractive wildflower that was thought to be extinct until 1968, when researchers discovered a surviving pocket in a cedar glade in central Tennessee. Tennessee … Read more

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Hawk Drama at High Park

Feature photo for Red-tailed Hawk post.

On June 13, I went to High Park in Toronto’s west end for what I thought would be a day of butterflies and dragonflies. The park is vast (161 hectares, or 400 acres) and contains a variety of habitats, including wetlands and one of the last dry-oak savannahs in the Greater Toronto Area. More than … Read more

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Early Blue Cohosh: Another Native Knockout

Early Blue Cohosh feature photo.

I like every element of the popular name: Early Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum giganteum). Early means the flowers appear when I most long for them—in April, when winter has just released its grip, and the soil, if not frozen, is still clammy and cold. Blue signifies a color I don’t see much of so early in … Read more

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Toronto Dragonflies: A Study in Diversity and Beauty

Photo of a 12-spotted Skimmer.

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 … Read more

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Fragile Forktail: The Most Elegant of Damselflies

Feature image for the Forktail post.

All damselflies—the tiny, slimmed-down cousins of dragonflies in the order Odonata—are elegant creatures, but the Fragile Forktail (Ischnura posita) is in a class by itself. Is it the name alone that makes me think so? Fragility can make anything—whether it’s a bug or a piece of furniture—seem more graceful and refined; and the Fragile Forktail’s … Read more

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Spring Flowers: Bloodroot, a Native Knockout

Feature photo for Bloodroot post.

When I’m outside in early spring, I find myself not so much longing for the sight of something green as lusting after the color yellow. The rich yellow on a Meadowlark’s breast, the goldshine of Dutch Master daffodils, the chalky yellow of Forsythia flowers—these slake something so strong that it feels like a physical need, … Read more

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Green Is the Color of Hope: Stalking the Black-legged Meadow Katydid

Feature photo for Katydid post.

I.              The photo This all started at the end of September 2019, when a friend emailed me a photo she’d taken of a Black-legged Meadow Katydid. My friend and I are birders, and we share a subsidiary interest in butterflies and dragonflies. But katydids? I’d never seen one, so had never felt the urge to … Read more

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One Woodpecker: A Photo Essay

Feature photo for Woodpecker post.

Most birders I know have a weakness for woodpeckers. It’s partly the drumming that seduces us: that monotone hammering woodpeckers make every spring to claim a territory and find a mate. But it’s also their shape and color. Shape because every part of a woodpecker’s anatomy—bill, skull, ribcage, tail feathers, and feet—has been adapted to … Read more

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Two Eiders: A Photo Essay

Feature photo for Eiders post.

I biked down to the Leslie Street Spit the other day to look for winter birds and brought a camera with me in case anything good turned up. “The Spit,” as it’s known in Toronto, is a former landfill in the east end of the city that juts into Lake Ontario for about five kilometers … Read more

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