10 de noviembre de 2019

Moth Wing Features

I realised that many people may not understand the names of the moth wing features that I routinely use in identifying moths. I made this, and I hope it is useful (This is Version two - first one had a spelling mistake!).

Ingresado el 10 de noviembre de 2019 por mamestraconfigurata mamestraconfigurata | 15 comentarios | Deja un comentario

13 de mayo de 2019

Gord Ayre

Gordon Ayre was the researcher I spent the most time with. He was another transfer from Belleville. He had done his Master's on ants (I believe in Germany), and I believe ants were his first insect love. He didn't talk much about it thougth - he was sparse with his words, and did not offer up too much information. He was a smallish man (5'6?) with brownish skin and had a trimmed beard but no mustache. He always brought a cheese sandwich to work and ate it in the middle of the morning.

He did not seem bitter as some of the researchers did, nor overly enthusiastic. However, his work was methodical, and I liked working for him, and I liked him. We did a lot of work with pheromones, which is where I gained some of my skill in identifying moths. His results seemed to cause some consternation with the folks who developed the pheromones. One of he papers showed that the catch of a specific moth was not a predictor of the next season's crop of cutworms. He had a hard time getting that paper published, as the pheromone folks kept shooting it down. Again, he didn't seem too perturbed, but merely submitted it to other journals until it was accepted. I was not kept informed of such dealings, but picked up the context from the few conversations we had.

Gord had a large fish tank in his office - 3mX1m?. Inside were two (I believe) large Oscars (Astronotus ocellatus) . I seem to recall a few large blackish fish that fed on the sides or the bottom. Every now and then he would drain the tank (almost an all day process). He also did woodworking at home, although I can's say I saw any of it.

Most of the work was left to me and Robert Semple, an ex military man who had retired young and re-upped with Ag Can. His hair was curly grey, and he had the habit of taking his glasses off to look closely at specimens. I thought it was odd, but I do the same thing myself now!
His obituary can be found here - https://esc-sec.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Bulletin-volume28-number4-Dec1996.pdf, pp152-53

Ingresado el 13 de mayo de 2019 por mamestraconfigurata mamestraconfigurata | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

11 de mayo de 2019

Garth Bracken

It would be almost a crime to post a memoir of Bucher without Bracken. As far as I know, Garth Bracken worked almost exclusively with Gord Bucher. Perhaps it was because they came from Bellville together. They made an odd pair. Garth Bracken was a rather jovial man, who really did not seem to give a shit about anything - although he certainly did. I don't know much about their relationship, but it was an odd one. Bucher was studious while Bracken seemed to be lackadaisical.

I liked Bracken, but had the sense he was a bitter man. He made lots of jokes, but it was clear he hated being in Winnipeg. Our most common tree, Manitoba maple, was a 'weed' to him. He was a Toronto fan, whether it be football or hockey. He talked about Bellville and Ontario a lot.

He could also do some odd things - the both of them decided to do some work on rutabaga flies. When some of the plot did not germinate, he got us to dig up seedlings and replant them, hauling water from the nearest source. Not that this bothered me, but I did think it was a variable that could mess things up and may not be mentioned. Later, when the rutabagas had matured, he took some of them home so he could 'throw them at cats' that came around his bird feeder. I have no idea if he did that or not, but knowing him as I did, I suspect that is what they were for!

Ingresado el 11 de mayo de 2019 por mamestraconfigurata mamestraconfigurata | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

11 May/19

Interesting day. This morning (0700), while walking the dog, I heard some odd sounding Canada Geese. After a bit, I saw them fly over, and they were whiter, longer, and slower than Canada Geese. From listening to calls, and from my overall perception, they may have been Tundra Swans. I don't know if this is early or late for them. There were maybe 20 birds in all - I did not have my camera with me (of course). Later, when I took the dog down to the Red, I walked through what seemed like a snowstorm of birds. I managed to get a couple of shots, and it looks like a mixed group (I had assumed it was a flock of only one species). They did not sit still for long, and between watching them and the dog (he eats sticks and whatever he can find) I only managed a couple of shots. These are some I'm sure of.

Ingresado el 11 de mayo de 2019 por mamestraconfigurata mamestraconfigurata | 3 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

04 de marzo de 2019

Down memory lane.

I had a bit of a trip down memory lane a day or two ago. I confirmed the ID of a Toadflax Brocade moth (Calophasia lunula), and as usual when I am unfamiliar with a moth, I went to MPG first, then followed the link to the Bugguide page to see if there were other similar moths - and for a description. I saw in the 'Remarks' section that the moth had been deliberately released in Belleville in 1962. This caught my attention - a lot of the people I worked with at Ag Can in the 80's had been transferred to Winnipeg from Belleville (I've since found out it was in 1972), and all of them were working on Integrated Pest Management. I wondered if some of those folks had been involved in the research and release of that moth. I've since learned that 10 researchers were transferred from Belleville to Winnipeg.
I did a quick search, and found that at least one of the scientists I worked with, Dr. Gordon Bucher, had done some research into virology on the moth larva. I don't know if any others I worked with were involved with that moth.
It's a strange old world. I did lots of work with Bucher (and Garth Bracken) mainly on flea beetles. Bucher taught me how to use the small finger to hold on to things, as that was a technique in microbiology. I still use it every now and then. He was an older man, who kept to himself and his circle of friends. He wasn't mean, or aloof. He talked about how he had had a heart valve replaced, and some of the complications of that. My impression though, was of a slightly stooped, thin man who spent a lot of time in his office.
The summer I remember most with Bracken/Bucher (they seemed to work as a team) was when we were dissecting flea beetles. At that point, there was no way to rear them in artificial conditions. Those beetles ready to lay eggs in the wild did so in the lab, but the rest did not. They seemed to stop the reproductive process when they were captured and brought to the lab. Bracken and Bucher wanted to find out if this was true, so we collected adults, and I and a partner spent a couple of weeks dissecting catches to find out if wild populations were ready to lay at the same proportion as what we had observed. It was easy to tell the males apart - they had large bright red testicles that popped out when the abdomen was pierced. With the females, we had to excise the ovaries and measure the stage of egg development. I recall that there was a correlation, but I don't think I saw the paper. He also told me that 100% was a pretty convincing statistic - I don't think he meant one individual, but if you have a sample size of 20, and 100% display a certain behaviour or trait, it's a convincing statistic.
Dr. Bucher died in his office. I was at work that day, but did not see him. I recall the flurry of activity that day. I still have and Ent. Soc. Canada memoir about Bugs that he gave me, with his name written on it. I also "liberated" a set of fine tipped forceps that belonged to his lab when I left Ag Can. I still have them. I'm not sure why, but I have always thought of him fondly. Perhaps I was more involved with him than I remember.

Ingresado el 04 de marzo de 2019 por mamestraconfigurata mamestraconfigurata | 3 comentarios | Deja un comentario

05 de febrero de 2019

05 Feb. 2019

A few white-breasted Nuthatches around this morning - got a poor shot of one of them. Also heard a hairy woodpecker, and heard/saw some chickadees. The chickadees don't sit still long enough when you have to get your mitts off and get the camera out of the bag. Everything is so much more work in the winter!

Ingresado el 05 de febrero de 2019 por mamestraconfigurata mamestraconfigurata | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

03 de febrero de 2019

3 Feb/18

Well, after a couple of days where it went down to -40 C at night, I was concerned about the survival of the 'Usual Suspects' (Black Capped Chickadees, White Breasted Nuthatches, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers). They seem to have managed ok, although this is only a perception. I've seen, and heard one or two in the past several days, and got some pictures when it was so cold. Today (-23 C), on my walk, I heard a woodpecker call, and almost immediately Chickadees and Nuthatches appeared, yapping and doing their thing. Chickadees are damned hard to photograph - they never sit still! Woodpeckers and Nuthatches at least stay put for a little while. This is a narrow piece of bush, and is fairly well picked over - I suspect these birds get most of their nutrition from the feeders across the road, and across the river.

Eastern Cottontail rabbits and Red and Grey squirrels are still around as well, along with tracks of mice and possibly fox.

i do apologize for the repetition in my photos. At this time of year there are few species of birds and mammals out and about. Apart from the usual suspects mentioned above, only crows, possibly Pileated Woodpeckers and a few other woodpeckers are around. Well, so are the Waxwings, but they are always moving to find fruit, so are highly spotty.


Ingresado el 03 de febrero de 2019 por mamestraconfigurata mamestraconfigurata | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

20 de enero de 2019

20 Jan/19

We've entered a cold spell here - past several days have been -30C at night. Yet, the usual suspects are still out and about. There is some reduced activity in the mornings, but they all seem to be doing well. I suspect that the reason the population is so robust in the area is that the birds are able to supplement their foraging with food from houses nearby, but are also able to find shelter in the narrow woodlands along the river.

What also surprises me is the amount of mammalian activity. I see lots of tracks from mice, rabbits, squirrels and deer. Possibly a fox or two. An interesting thing - where the main path goes down to the informal trail, there are small piles of burrs. I've seen this once before - it looked like a fox had been sitting picking burrs off it's fur, and put them in a little pile. These are more messy than that one, and I see no evidence of fox tracks where they are. The piles are all loosely formed. I'm wondering if is from rabbits. I don't know if rabbits eat burrs (I'm thinking not), but they might be grooming in the area and pulling off burrs.

Ingresado el 20 de enero de 2019 por mamestraconfigurata mamestraconfigurata | 3 comentarios | Deja un comentario

01 de enero de 2019

1 Jan/19

It's been really cold the past couple of days - approaching -30C. Though down by the river, when the sun is shining, it's not too bad. The usual suspects are out and about. Nuthatches, Black Capped Chickadees, and the two major woodpeckers, Downy and Hairy. There were a few crows last week, but none to date. A couple of days ago I saw a Flicker. I can't recall seeing one in this area at this time of year, before. Generally they are long gone. I know I've said this before, but I am amazed that these birds can survive the winter. From my perception, the numbers have not dropped, but that is only a perception based on photos and listening to their calls. I believe these birds hang around here because they have the best of both worlds - a bush with lots of dead or dying trees, and bird feeders across the road. I suspect that they forage in the bush, then visit the feeders, moving back and forth. It's a little weird to know that all the insects, plants and non vertebrate life is hibernating or gone to warmer climes.

Ingresado el 01 de enero de 2019 por mamestraconfigurata mamestraconfigurata | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

16 de noviembre de 2018

16 Nov/18

Past couple of weeks has been cold - I don't think it's been over 0C for a while, down to near -20C a couple of nights. The Red is mainly frozen over, though I have yet to see any tracks venturing on to the ice. Migratory birds are not to be seen, even geese, and insects are long gone. I have a marker - Juncos are usually the first migratory birds to return, and the last to leave. Haven't seen on in a couple of weeks.

Like the robins this summer, the 'Usual suspects' have seemed to change their pattern. They are not as much in evidence in the bushy part of the riverbottom, but more towards the park area. They are around - I hear their calls, and see them, although less frequently than last winter. I suspect they use both the bush and the bird feeders across Churchill Dr. moving back and forth between them. Perhaps they don't need to spend as much time foraging in the bush, or have been surprised by the early cold and have not set up a pattern of foraging yet.
I will continue to photograph them - it's important for population studies if anyone is interested, but is does get kind of monotonous!

Ingresado el 16 de noviembre de 2018 por mamestraconfigurata mamestraconfigurata | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario