Saturday, October 8, 2016

Grasshopper laying eggs

While I was walking along a trail in a local nature park I found a grasshopper that wouldn't move even as I crouched down to look at it.  When I examined it very closely, I noticed that its back end was inserted into the soil.  I wondered whether it was laying eggs, so while standing watching it, I took out my phone and Googled "how does a grasshopper lay eggs".  It was then that I realized she was doing just that!

Since she was out in the open and very vulnerable, I stood by her to stop two young girls who were running up and down the trail from inadvertently stepping on her.  I didn't realize that it would take 35 minutes for her to finish the job!

Here is my half minute video:
 Grasshopper laying eggs

Wikipedia has the following description of a grasshopper's life cycle:

Grasshoppers lay their eggs in pods in the ground near food plants, generally in the summer. The eggs in the pod are glued together with a froth in some species. After a few weeks of development, the eggs of most species go into diapause, and pass the winter in this state; in a few species the eggs hatch in the same summer they were laid. Diapause is broken by a sufficiently low ground temperature; development resumes as soon as the ground warms above a threshold temperature. The embryos in a pod generally all hatch out within a few minutes of each other. They soon shed their membranes and their exoskeletons harden. These first instar nymphs can then jump away from predators.

Grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis: they repeatedly moult (undergo ecdysis), becoming larger and more like an adult, with for instance larger wing-buds, in each instar. The number of instars varies between species. At the final moult, the wings are inflated and become fully functional. The migratory grasshopper, Melanoplus sanguinipes, spends about 25–30 days as a nymph depending on sex and temperature, and about 51 days as an adult.

Males stridulate, rapidly rasping the hind femur against the forewing to create a churring sound, to attract mates. Females select suitable egg-laying sites, such as bare soil or near the roots of food plants according to species. Males often gather around an ovipositing female; in some species she is mated as soon as she takes her ovipositor out of the ground. After laying the eggs, the female covers the hole with soil and litter.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Red-tailed Hawk

A week ago I was walking in Oka Park near Montreal and had the great good fortune to find a tail feather from a Red-tailed Hawk.  

About 15 minutes later I sighted the hawk in a tree and was able to get within feet of it to obtain these photographs.  As you can imagine, I was thrilled!

(To enlarge an image just click on it).

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Losing My Heart

About thirty years ago my Dad mailed me a smooth, green, heart-shaped stone that he found on a beach in Victoria, B.C. where he had moved a few years earlier. It quickly became my most cherished possession.
I carefully placed it in a small, embroidered pouch to which I attached two tiny angel pins.  And then I carried it everywhere I went.

One time I dropped it in a coffee shop and as soon as I had realized that it was missing, I raced back to the shop and found it lying on the floor under the table.  What a relief!

This close call really worried me and I began to imagine how I would feel if it were gone forever. Also, now deeply ensconced in my sixties, I often wondered what I would do with this stone in the event of my demise.  It was a treasure only to me.

Well, sadly I need not worry about this now as it has been truly lost during a trip to Florida this month.  I think it probably fell out of my bag on the airplane or in the airport as I fumbled with my wallet and passport, etc.

A lost item report has been filed with the airline, the rental car agency and the rented house but so far to no avail.

Barring the return of the stone, all I can hope is that it is with someone who appreciates its beauty or it somehow finds its way to a resting place in the beautiful Florida sun.

I'm sorry Dad ...

Monday, November 2, 2015


Cricket came to me in the fall of 1999 when I found her wandering in front of Vanier College.  She was only a few months old and bore signs of a serious injury which had healed.  Her shoulder missed a patch of fur (which never grew back) and one hind leg stuck out at an angle.  A vet determined that it had either been broken or ligaments had been torn.  She speculated that Cricket might have been the victim of a fan belt injury.  (In cold weather, cats often seek the warmth of a car engine and are injured when the driver starts the car).

In spite of all this, Cricket was a spunky, funny, silly little cat that never grew up (in spirit or size).  She had crossed eyes and a dramatic flair.  Instead of crying at a closed door to get into another room, she would take a run and fling herself against the door! And just let her catch sight of a favourite toy or a laser beam and she was in full predator mode.  She chased that little red laser beam with all the intensity one could imagine.  Play was a very serious matter for Cricket.

Closets and cabinets were also serious things for her.  No matter where she was, if you opened a door, she appeared in an instant and tried to squeeze inside.  Being black, she was not very noticeable in dim light and it was sometimes minutes or even much longer before you realized she was missing.  Never making a sound, she would wait patiently for someone to open the door.

Another thing that she liked to do was sit on my lap when I was at the computer and put her forehead into the palm of my hand and just stay like that.  (It made typing rather difficult)!

Over a year ago Cricket’s blood work indicated that she was in the second stage of kidney disease. A year later, at age 16, her condition was deemed stable and she was eating, playing and doing well.  The only issue was occasional vomiting and I started giving her an antacid to help combat that.

October 22 started out like any other day.  Cricket ate normally, came into the living room where I was watching TV and asked to be picked up for me to give her kisses on the top of her head (which always made her purr).

Then I went out for breakfast and a shopping trip downtown.  I browsed the stores basically to pass the time (which I will always regret) and came home just before 4 p.m. When I came home, my cat Willow came to the door but not Cricket.  I didn’t think very much about it at first but then I found her on the bedroom floor in the corner of the room unable to get up.  It didn’t take me long to realize that she was in real trouble.  I immediately called the vet and they gave me an appointment within the half hour.  Then I brought the carrier to her on the floor and when I lifted her she twisted in my hands and screamed!  In all the time she had been with me I had never heard a sound from Cricket other than purring.  To hear her scream was shocking.

During the wait at the vet’s she also cried and I knew this was very serious and that she was in pain.  She extended her paw through the bars in the front of the carrier and wrapped it around my finger and held on like that until our name was called.  I could feel her tight grip as she fought the pain.  I kept telling her that I was sorry – over and over.  Finally when the vet came to examine her, she determined that Cricket’s temperature was low and that she had a heart murmur.  The diagnosis was an aortic thromboembolism.  In other words, a blood clot lodged in her aorta and blocked blood flow to her hind quarters.  This results in full or partial paralysis and extreme pain as the muscles harden.

I wanted her to be free of pain as quickly as possible and since there was no hope of recovery, I opted for immediate euthanasia.  While the sedation took hold (prior to the lethal injection), I stroked her purring body and told her how much I loved her and I thanked her for all the gifts she had given me over the years.  She was a tremendous life-force squeezed into a tiny body that could always make me laugh with her silly antics and her adorable little face with its crossed eyes and upturned nose.

Cats always enrich one’s life and Cricket enriched mine beyond measure.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Beetle and the Mites

As I approached a beetle perched atop a flower stalk, I noticed a large number of mites crawling all over it.  Amazingly, the next day in a different location, I found the dead body of a vole with the same type of beetle burrowing under the carcass.  It had several mites on it as well.

After searching for an identification of the insect, I learned more about this very interesting beetle and its relationship with the mites.

Here is a short summary of the beetle’s behavior and the mites’ role in helping its young survive.


The beetle is the Gold-necked Carrion Beetle, Nicrophorus tomentosus, who has sensitive antennae that contain olfactory organs that help it find carrion over long distances.
Once the body is found, the male and female beetles manipulate the carcass in various ways and then the female lays her eggs.  The young eat directly from the carcass or eat regurgitated food from both parents.  The parents are attentive to the young and protect them from competitors while they feed. The female only leaves the young once they are fully developed.  If the female dies, then the male takes over that role.


The mites are Mesotigmatid mites who hitch a ride on the beetle’s back as it flies to the body of a dead rodent or other animal. They eat the eggs and freshly-hatched maggots of carrion flies which are also attracted to the body and, since they compete, having the mites feeding on the maggots is beneficial to the young beetles as it leaves more food for them.

Another fascinating fact:  the mites normally cling to the beetle’s underside but when the beetle is about to fly, they all climb up on its back, facing forward.  They are protected in this position because the beetle rotates its forewing coverings (elytra) up and toward the center, forming a tent-like enclosure with the mites inside.

Reference sites:

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The interesting life of the White-marked Tussock Moth

On August 28th, I found a White-marked Tussock Moth caterpillar slowly descending a tree in the Ile Bizard nature park near Montreal.  It paused beside a raised piece of bark and stayed motionless for a long time which allowed me to get many photographs of it.  I find it a particularly striking caterpillar and was excited to find it.

Then on September 15th, I returned to the park and whimsically decided to visit the same tree to see if, by chance, the caterpillar was still there.  Instead, in the exact place where the caterpillar paused, I found an odd looking cocoon with black hairs sticking out and a frothy substance stuck to it.  I decided to check the Internet for images of the cocoon of the White-marked Tussock Moth and was surprised to learn that it was indeed the cocoon of the very caterpillar I had seen earlier!

I also learned that the caterpillar was a female who, when she emerges as a moth, lays her eggs on the cocoon which are encased in a foam which hardens and allows them to over-winter.  She must attract males soon after emerging, then mates, and lays her eggs in a very short time frame.  Another fascinating fact is that she has rudimentary wings and cannot fly.

Since reading that the moth stays in the vicinity of the cocoon, I was disappointed not to find her on the tree but I will look for these cocoons next year and hopefully find a moth then.

I also found another cocoon in a different park a few days later, but alas, no moth:

This link has more information and photos:

Super Moon Eclipse

It was thrilling to watch the eclipse on September 27 and I managed to get a few shots: