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Featured Species:  Roadside Flowers

Both asters and goldenrods dominate roadsides and old fields at this time of year.  While each group is very easily identified by either their small, sunflower-like, purple, violet or white flowers (asters), or their sprigs of tiny, yellow-gold flowers (goldenrods), there may be several to many species in your area. Goldenrods in particular have gotten a bad, and completely undeserved, reputation as a cause of hay fever, or fall allergies. In fact, the culprit is usually lurking at the base of these showy flowers: Common Ragweed.  While goldenrod species have a heavy pollen carried by insects (thus the showy flowers), the inconspicuous ragweed flowers produce millions of light, spiky pollen grains designed to be carried on the wind, only a few of which are enough to cause allergy symptoms. Interestingly, ragweed is also in the aster family. 

These flowers anchor a diverse food web which includesHoney Beeswaspslong-horned beetlessoldier beetles,ambush bugsMonarch ButterfliesGoldenrod Spiders andhoverflies, which mimic bees or wasps.  Another fly attracted to goldenrod, in particular Tall Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis var. scabra), is the Goldenrod Gall Fly (Eurosta solidaginis), a highly-adapted fruit fly which lays its eggs in the plant’s stem, producing galls within which the larvae develop and overwinter (they are very common along our roadside now).  There is only one larva per gall, but a stem may have more than one gall. Before entering diapause (a form of dormancy) for the winter the larvae will eat a route out (leaving the ‘skin’ of the gall intact) to use in the spring. Even inside this protective dome, the larva has perils and is preyed on by parasitic wasp and beetle larvae.  We will add to the larvae’s predators come winter time.

Other Happenings:

  • White-throated Sparrows are arriving from further north, and will be around for several weeks.  Look for them at backyard feeders, or scatter sunflower seeds on the ground close to cover.  
  • Migrating hawks are high in the sky travelling on NW winds. For information and viewing tips in your area check out the HMANA site. Just after a cold front is a good time to see many migrating birds, as they get an extra push from the north wind.
  • Small groups of bats will be on the move in the evenings, migrating south (RedHoary andSilver-haired) or to hibernation sites (Big Brown and Little Brown).  Mating may also take place, though the sperm is stored in the female until spring, when ovulation and fertilization happen.
  • Frogs are on the move to their hibernation sites in streams, ponds and rivers, particularly on warm, wet evenings.  Avoid low-lying roads at that time!  
  • Baby turtles are hatching.  Look for shallow pits in gravely areas near water, and you may find the discarded eggshells.  Our own Snapping Turtle nest was again dug up by Coyotes or coydogs earlier in the summer.  Bad for the snappers, good for the Coyote pups.
  • Red Maples growing near water turn bright red , beginning the change in colours - more will follow…
  • There are seasonal colours underwater too!  Brook Trout  are feeding closer to shore and sometimes sun themselves. The orange and red pigments on the males are acquired from consuming crustacean bodies. Brook Trout will spawn in late October to late November. 
  • If you want to get a jump on the winter sky, Orion can be seen to the southeast just before dawn.    The moon visits Saturn in the southwest evening sky on the 19th, while Venus will be at its brightest beginning the morning of the 21st.  Jupiter will be below it in the eastern sky.