Monday, September 17, 2012

House Sparrows: Regina Backyard Neighbours

House Sparrows are the most numerous birds in my Regina, Saskatchewan, backyard — as long as our birdfeeders are filled with sunflower and other seeds.

These noisy sparrows, found in most parts of the world, were introduced to North American, where they do extremely well, often out-competing other birds for nesting space.

(There is high-rise House Sparrow house down the lane from my garage; in theory, it was designed and built for swallows, but these brown-streaked guys got there first, and seem to delight in the sweeping dive down to our feeders.)

Male House Sparrow on lilac bush   © SB

What is this? House Sparrow
Location: Backyard, Regina, Saskatchewan
Photo date: September 16, 2012. 


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mourning Cloak Butterfly: Maroon and Blue Shimmer

Mourning Cloak Butterfly   © SB
Mourning Cloak Butterflies are common across Canada, but I never noticed them until this week when two Mourning Cloaks came to my attention.

The first, I saw and took pictures of in Kananaskis, Alberta, when I was getting a mountain break from the prairies; the second — which led to my butterfly's ID — a friend recognized and photographed outside her cabin near Regina, Saskatchewan. (Thanks, Donna!)

Mourning Cloak Butterflies are large, with a wingspan up to eight centimetres. And although they may look black at first glance, in good light, their wings shimmer maroon or purple brown, with iridescent blue spots and a ragged butter-yellow border.

This butterfly's common name refers to, yes, a mourning cloak — a garment apparently worn by someone, somewhere (perhaps in Scandinavia?), during a time of bereavement... (The only example I've so far found online was designed to honour the butterfly — thus raising the question, which came first? The butterfly, or the cloak?)

They appear to be native to North America, and unlike Monarchs, which migrate, Mourning Cloaks hibernate  —  or, as the Manitoba site says, "spend the winter in 'cryo-preservation.'"

Where I live, in Regina, Saskatchewan, they are considered common pests. (Who knew?) Mourning Cloaks are the first butterflies to appear in this prairie city in spring, and — in sufficient numbers — the larvae are said to defoliate branches.

(The City of Regina suggests removing the larvae by hand, or leaving them to birds and wasps to devour. Yum... The nearby US state of Montana is perhaps friendlier to Mourning Cloaks, and has designated them its official butterfly.)

Pest or mascot, Mourning Cloaks are unmistakably beautiful. 

What is this? Mourning Cloak Butterfly (Nymphalis antiopa; in the UK, Camberwell Beauty)
Location: Common across Canada, including the prairies; photographed in Kananaskis, Alberta. 
Photo date: September 9, 2012. 

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