Posted by Mark Conboy
Though the butterfly season is not yet entirely over, it’s certainly not too early to declare 2012 one of the best years ever for observing butterflies in Ontario. Though most of the excitement was to be found in southwestern Ontario, we here in eastern Ontario were not without some great butterflying of our own.
At QUBS, like in much of the province’s south, the excitement came in the form of several waves of “invading” migratory species starting with red admirals (Vanessa atalanta), American ladies (V. virginiensis), painted ladies (V. cardui), question marks (Polygonia interrogationis) and common buckeyes (Junonia coenia) at record early dates and in unprecedented numbers during the March heat wave. Though red admirals, American ladies and question marks occur good numbers during most years, painted ladies and common buckeyes are rather rare species at QUBS. During this initial invasion we also had two grey hairstreaks (Strymon melinus) in a remote part of the Pangman Tract. Grey hairstreaks are yet another rare species at the station having been recorded on only a few occasions.
A second wave of migrants arrived a few weeks later. This second invasion had most of the above mentioned species plus mourning cloaks (Nymphalis antiopa), little yellows (Eurema lisa; rare at QUBS) and unusually high numbers of early season clouded (Colias philodice) and orange (C. eurytheme) sulphurs. In just the last few weeks even more invaders have arrived. Recently fiery skippers (Hylephila phyleus), at least one sachem (Atalopedes campestris) and two white-M hairstreaks (Parrhasius m-album) have reached the Kingston Region but none have yet been found at QUBS. In other parts of southern Ontario funereal duskywings (Erynnis funeralis), cloudless sulphurs (Phoebis sennae), dainty sulphurs (Nathalis iole), American snouts (Libytheana carinent) and variegated fritillaries (Euptoieta claudi) have all been recorded in greater abundance than usual.
In addition to migrants this has been a notable year for breeding giant swallowtails (Papilio cresphontes). Giant swallowtails have are now a common component of our butterfly fauna, but this is a fairly new species QUBS. The expansion of giant swallowtails out of southwestern Ontario and into our area started in 2008 when there were a few recorded along Opinicon Road; in 2009 there were about a dozen observations throughout QUBS lands; in 2010 they had become a little more common and more regularly encountered. By the spring of 2011 giant swallowtails were all of a sudden very common, especially on the Pangman and Hughson Tracts where we also found our first caterpillars. This spring, they were more abundant than ever; it was not unusual to count up to 20 adults on a single outing. By mid-summer the number of adults had decreased so that only a few were being daily, but caterpillars were abundant and widespread on northern prickly-ash (Zanthoxylum americanum) along field edges in sunny patches of forest. The large caterpillars which look like big droppings, smell like citrus and display a range of intriguing anti-predator behaviours when disturbed have caught the attention of many non-biologists too. I’ve had over a dozen inquiries about the “huge strange worms” from local residents and cottagers.
Another species of formerly southern butterfly may be found breeding at QUBS in the coming years. Wild indigo duskywings (Erynnis baptisiae) have recently arrived along the Lake Ontario shoreline near Bath and in Prince Edward County. We haven’t found any for certain yet at QUBS but several patches of one of this species’ larval food plants, crown-vetch (Securigera varia), are found on the roadsides near the station and could potentially support a small population of this drab little skipper. Identification of this species is rather complicated because it is virtually identical to columbine duskywing (E. lucilius), a very common species at QUBS. These two species are not reliably told apart in the field except when you can see what plant the females are ovipositing on (baptisiae on crown-vetch, lucilius on red columbine [Aquilegia canadensis]) With some careful observations and a little luck we may yet add wild indigo duskywing to our station list which presently stands at 79 species.
Posted by Mark Conboy
Eastern Ontario has its fair share of interesting and charismatic spiders. There are the argiopes (Argiope spp.), whose webs are decorated with an ultraviolet-reflective stabilimentum, presumably to attract insect prey; there are the enormous and parentally-minded pisaurids (Dolomedes and Pisaurina spp.) which carry their eggs with them in a bundle of silk to keep them safe from predators and parasitoids; there are also the beautifully marked jumping spiders (Salticidae) whose leaps propel them many times their own body length, and for safety sake always tether themselves with a string of silk. But among the most exciting spiders in our region is the highly venous and exceeding beautiful northern widow (Latrodectus variolus). I’ve found not one, but two northern widows at Queen’s University Biological Station this year; perhaps the first year this species has ever been documented there.
The northern widow is a close relative of the better known and often maligned black widow (L. mactans). Black widows are typically confined to the southern United States and their distribution does not normally include Canada. Occasionally black widows (and other charismatic subtropical invertebrates) arrive in Canada on shipments of produce from the southern states but probably do not survive long outside of buildings. Northern widows however are native, though they seem to be fairly rare throughout most of Eastern Ontario. In southwestern Ontario they are a little more common, with several large localized populations. Throughout much of their range though they are patchily distributed and not often encountered. Many people are not even aware of their existence in the province.
The first of the two females at QUBS was found below a black light at Ironwood Cottage on QUBS Point. She had constructed a nest and egg sac under a cinder block. She preyed on a mixture of insects attracted to the black light including June beetles (Phyllophaga spp.) and medium-sized moths. The second female was underneath a flat rock on a rock barren at the Elbow Lake Environmental Education Centre. The only prey item found in this female’s web were parts of a Pennsylvania woodroach (Parcoblatta pennsylvanica). This female also had an egg sac.
According to most sources northern widows can produce painful and potentially dangerous bites, but apparently no fatalities have been reported from the bite of this species, at least in Ontario. Widows in general are retiring spiders that typically only bite humans during accidental interactions. Their neurotoxic venom can cause pain and breathing difficulties and in the case of the black widow, can be fatal to young children or the infirmed. Northern widow bites should be taken seriously and a physician should be seen if you are unlucky enough to be bitten by one.
Next summer year I’ll be on the lookout for more northern widows across the rock barrens and inside the various abandoned buildings at QUBS. It’s impossible to say if we’ve always had a small and cryptic population of this species that’s just gone unnoticed, or if northern widows have only recently arrived here. The presence of eggs sacs clearly shows that whatever the history of widows at QUBS was, there is currently a reproductive population.
Recommended Field Guides and other Reference Materials for Queen’s University Biological Station Users
Posted by Mark Andrew Conboy
With thousands of species of plants, fungi and animals at QUBS, putting names to the organisms encountered at the station can be a daunting task. Correctly identifying the organisms we come across in the field is the first essential step to understanding the diversity of nature around us. You need excellent field guides in order to do that. I am constantly asked about which field guides are the best ones for researchers to bring to QUBS. The following list is comprised of the books and other documents I most highly recommend for a broad range of taxonomic groups. In addition I have included a few other useful reference materials such as checklists, websites and dichotomous keys. For lists of species which occur at QUBS see our website.
• Sibley Field Guide to Birds by David Allen Sibley
• Identification Guide to North American Birds: Part 1: Columbidae to Ploceidae by Peter Pyle
• Peterson Field Guide to Birds’ Nests by Hal H. Harrison
• A Field Guide to Nests, Eggs and Nestlings of North American Birds by Colin Harrison
• Mammals of the Great Lakes Region by Allen Kurta
• ROM Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes of Ontario by Erling Holm, Nicholas E. Mandrak and Mary E. Burridge
Reptiles and Amphibians
• ROM Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Ontario by Ross D. MacCulloch
• Insects: Their Natural History and Diversity by Stephen A. Marshall
• Bug Guide
Butterflies and Moths
• The Butterflies of Canada by Ross A. Layberry, Peter W. Hall and J. Donald Lafontaine
• Le Guide de Papillons du Quebec by Louis Handfield
• Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America by David Beadle and Seabrookie Leckie
• Caterpillars of Eastern North America by David L. Wagner
Damselflies and Dragonflies
• Damselflies of the Northeast by Ed Lam
• Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Algonquin Provincial Park and the Surrounding Area by Colin D. Jones, Andrea Kingsley, Peter Burke and Matt Holder
• Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East by Dennis Paulson
• Field Guide to Grasshoppers, Katydids and Crickets of the United States by John L. Capinera, Ralph D. Scott and Thomas J. Walker
• Field Guide to Northeastern Longhorn Beetles (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae) by Douglas Yanega
• A Field Guide to the Tiger Beetles of the United States and Canada: Identification, Natural History, and Distribution of the Cicindelidae by David L. Pearson
• Ants of North America: A Guide to the Genera by Brian L. Fisher
• The Bumble Bees of Algonquin Provincial Park: A Field Guide by Nathan G. Miller
Millipedes and Centipedes
• Illustrated Keys to the Families of Terrestrial Arthropods of Canada: 1. Myriapods by D.K. McE. Kevan and G.G.E. Scudder
• Ontario Crayfish by Bishops Mills Natural History Centre, Ontario Nature and the Metro Toronto Zoo
• Identifying Land Snails and Slugs in Canada: Introduced Species and Native Genera by F. Wayne Grimm, Robert G. Forsyth, Frederick W. Schueler and Aleta Karstad
• The Freshwater Molluscs of Canada by Arthur H. Clarke
• Photo Field Guide to the Freshwater Mussels of Ontario by Janice Metcalfe-Smith, Alistair MacKenzie, Ian Carmichael and Daryl McGoldrick
• Peterson Field Guide to Animal Tracks by Olaus J. Murie
• Plants of the Kingston Region: 1996 by A. Crowder, K.E.J. Topping and J.C. Topping
• Update of Plants of the Kingston Region: 1996 by A. Crowder
• Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide by Lawrence Newcomb
Trees and Shrubs
• Trees in Canada by John Laird Farrar
• Shrubs of Ontario by James H. Soper and Margaret L. Heimburger
• Ferns and Fern Allies of Canada by William J. Cody and Donald M. Britton
• Annotated Key to the Ferns of the Kingston Region, Ontario, with Special Reference to Occurrences in the Vicinity of Lake Opinicon by Jim S. Pringle.
• Mushrooms of Ontario and Eastern Canada by George Barron
• Field Guide to North American Truffles by Matt Trape, Frank Evans and James Trappe
• Lichens of North America by Irwin M. Brodo, Sylvia Duran Sharnoff and Stephen Sharnoff
Posted by Mark A. Conboy and Sarah M. Larocque
The eastern musk turtle (Sternotherus odoratus), otherwise known as the stinkpot, is a provincially and nationally threatened species. Despite being quite rare throughout most of Ontario, research (summarized in a previous post) suggests that in Lake Opinicon stinkpots may be almost as numerous as the more familiar painted turtle (Chrysemys picta). Occasionally a stinkpot is seen in one of the large lakes adjoining Lake Opinicon, but until recently there were no known occurrences of this species in the QUBS Back Lakes. On August 20, 2011 while sampling fish, we found a hitherto undocumented population of stinkpots in Round Lake. We captured five males and four females among three unbaited fyke nets set in the littoral zone of the lake.
Stinkpots normally inhabit water that is less than 2 m deep, so the presence of stinkpots in Round Lake is somewhat surprising because shallow water habitat is relatively limited. Round Lake is the deepest lake at QUBS (mean depth = 12.6 m; maximum depth = 30.1 m). The shallow littoral zone is confined to two narrow bands in the Lake’s north and south ends. According to recently completed bathymetry measurements, only 6.7 % of Round Lake’s total surface area contains water that is 2 m or shallower. When considering depth alone, it seems that Round Lake is not ideal for stinkpots. However, the limited littoral zone that does exist seems like perfect habitat for a number of reasons: (1) Potential prey species abound; Round Lake hosts the most diverse fish community of any QUBS Back Lake yet surveyed (with 13 species). It should be noted that aquatic invertebrates, rather than fish, tend to comprise most of the stinkpot’s diet. Even if fish represent a small fraction of the stinkpot’s diet, the fish diversity is indicative of a generally healthy and productive ecosystem that includes lots of invertebrates. (2) The shallow bays are heavily vegetated and contain plenty of submerged woody debris for shelter and foraging opportunities. (3) The wetland at the south end of the lake contains potential nesting sites, such as muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) lodges.
This coming summer we plan to look for stinkpots in Garter Lake which connects to Round Lake by a broad marshy channel. We expect to find them there. In addition to the obvious conservation importance of the Round Lake stinkpot population, there is the potential for future research opportunities. For example researchers will be able to compare the diet and heavy metal concentration in stinkpots and their prey between sites invaded by zebra mussels (such as Lake Opinicon) and non-invaded sites (such as Round Lake). Researchers can then determine whether or not zebra mussels are an important pathway for the transfer of mercury in stinkpots. Of course, high loads of heavy metals such as mercury can have all kinds of negative impacts on turtles so studies such as the one described above can be important in developing essential knowledge when planning a conservation strategy for this threatened species.
Posted by Sarah M. Larocque and Mark A. Conboy
In a recent blog post (November 11), we reported our results of the small fish community survey undertaken in the QUBS back lakes and wetlands this summer. In addition to gathering information on fish, we took advantage of our time on the water to sample crayfish diversity at each water body. We captured crayfish using baited minnow traps and seine nets as outlined in the fish post. In this post we also included crayfish data from Lake Opinicon (which we did not sample in the fish survey). Specimens from Lake Opinicon were caught using minnow traps, seine nets and by hand. Crayfish are yet another group of organisms that have received virtually no attention at QUBS; we present the first (preliminary) summary of crayfish diversity and distribution for the station.
Understanding the diversity and distribution of crayfish at QUBS is important for three reasons. First, we would like to provide distributional information to future crayfish researchers who may be looking for study populations. Second, we want to compare contemporary species distribution to future sampling results in order to understand the changes that take place in lake and wetland ecology over time. Finally, crayfish, though often abundant in healthy ecosystems can quickly become imperiled through pollution and the introduction of invasive species. Crayfish are the largest mobile invertebrates in Ontario, and play an important role as scavengers, predators and prey in our aquatic ecosystems. We want to be able to monitor the health of QUBS’s crayfish populations to ensure their continued vitality and the vitality of our aquatic ecosystems at large.
Worldwide there are more than 540 species of crayfish (also called crawfish or crawdads). Crayfish diversity in Canada is low with only 11 species, all of which, except for the Signal Crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus), are found in Ontario. The centre of crayfish diversity in the province is southwestern Ontario, but at least five native and two introduced species of crayfish may be found at or near QUBS. Our sampling turned up four species:
- Virile Crayfish (Orconectes virilis) – Very common in Lake Opinicon and Warner Lake
- Calico Crayfish (O. immunis) – Fairly common in Lake Opinicon, Warner Lake, Round Lake, Lindsey Lake, Cold Springs Pond and Lower Poole Pond. Abundant in the Dowsley Ponds.
- Northern Clearwater Crayfish (O. propinquus) – Appears to be fairly common at Chaffey’s Lock and other locations in Lake Opinicon. Found in some wetlands along Cataraqui Trail. Not yet recorded in the back lakes.
- Common Crayfish (Cambarus bartonii) – One collected at Warner Lake; first record for this species at QUBS. Could also be found in streams but has not been to date.
An additional native species reaches eastern Ontario but it prefers large rivers, a habitat type which is lacking at QUBS, so it is unlikely to be found at the station. Fortunately, no invasive crayfish species have been found at QUBS. There are two invasive species of concern in eastern Ontario Rusty Crayfish (O. rusticus) and Allegheny Crayfish (O. obscurus). The spread of these invasive crayfish is due in large part to transportation from their native ranges to other watersheds by anglers who use them as bait. The introduction of the Rusty Crayfish in Ontario took place in 1960’s when it was brought here for use as bait by a non-resident angler. To help stop the spread of invasive crayfish it is currently illegal in Ontario to transport crayfish (dead or alive) to water bodies other than where it was caught. Also, if you think you caught an invasive crayfish, you are supposed to kill it and report the observation to the Ministry of Natural Resources. However, it is important to identify crayfish correctly before killing them. An excellent visual guide to all of Ontario’s crayfishes can be found here.
Some native crayfish (e.g., Northern Clearwater) are in decline due to competition for food and shelter from the dominant and more aggressive Rusty Crayfish. Recently an article published in Fisheries (Lieb et al. 2011) explores various management strategies to prevent the spread of invasive crayfish spread and conserve threatened native crayfishes in North America. Restrictions on transport of bait and education can be effective tools to prevent the further spread of invasive species but once non-native crayfish become established it can be almost impossible to remove them. As we expand our sampling of lakes and wetlands at QUBS this coming summer we’ll continue to document the native and non-native crayfish and work towards monitoring our local water bodies for the first signs of invasion by invasive species so that we can act quickly to ensure the integrity of our native crayfish diversity.
Lieb DA, Bouchard RW, Carline RF, Nuttall TR, Wallace JR, Burkholder CL. 2011. Conservation and management of crayfishes: Lessons from Pennsylvania. Fisheries 36: 489-507
Figure 1. A) Dorsal and B) ventral view of a calico crayfish (Orconectes immunis) found in Lindsey Lake.
Posted by Mark Conboy
Among the least studied organisms at Queen’s University Biological Station are the lichens. That’s not to say that no one has bothered to look at them; in fact the discovery of a new species of lichen led to it being named after Lake Opinicon. Lecanora opiniconensis was first discovered and named by eminent lichenologist Irwin Brodo while he was visiting the station as a guest lecturer during a population ecology field course in the 1980’s. Brodo told me that when he first discovered this species on Snake Island (in Lake Opinicon) he thought it was an Ontario endemic. He has subsequently found it in the Adirondacks and northern Manitoba. Other workers have found it in the southwestern United States. It’s a small species with apothecia (fruiting bodies) that are only a few millimetres across. It could easily be missed among the colonies of the more abundant and superficially similar scattered rock-posy (Rhizoplaca subdiscrepans). Compared to R. subdiscrepans, the thallus of L. opiniconensis is darker green and the apothecia are non-pruniose. As far I know this lichen is the only organism that has been named after Lake Opinicon.
by Sarah. M. Larocque and Mark A. Conboy
Throughout July and August, 2011, we conducted a preliminary fish survey of selected lakes and wetlands at QUBS. Our goal was to begin assembling a comprehensive understanding of the distribution of fish species in the major water bodies within the boundaries of QUBS properties. Although the distribution of some fish is well known at QUBS due to past and present research (e.g. northern pike [Esox lucius], sunfish [Lepomis sp.] and largemouth bass [Micropterus salmoides]) as well as recreational angling, our understanding of the distribution of many small fish species (e.g. shiners, minnows, daces [family Cyprinidae]) is very limited.
We surveyed fish communities at QUBS for two major reasons. First, we wanted to document the ichthyofauna at the station to provide baseline data on distribution for future fish researchers who may be looking for study populations in specific habitats. Second, we wanted to be able to compare contemporary species distribution to historic and eventually future records which will help elucidate the ways in which the lake and wetland ecology changes over time.
Our fishing efforts primarily focused on the perimeter of water bodies. We sampled along shorelines in as many types of habitats as possible within each lake or wetland (e.g. among emergent vegetation, logs and weed beds). The sampling techniques we employed were: cat food-baited minnow traps, fyke nets (no bait), and seining. The various trapping techniques produced differing levels of success: minnow traps were largely unsuccessful, fyke nets excelled at capturing larger species, and seining was the most proficient at capturing smaller species. As this was a preliminary survey, we did not standardize our trapping techniques across each of the water bodies, so the relative numbers of captured individuals for each species are not comparable among the different lakes. Here we report only presence/absence data for each of the water bodies surveyed. We also give a brief overview of the geography of each of the surveyed lakes and any known history of research and stocking.
Warner Lake (Mean depth = 2.9 m; Maximum depth = 6.4 m; Surface area = 9.2 ha)
Unlike most lakes at QUBS, no surface water tributaries flow into Warner, instead the lake is replenished by precipitation run off and an underground spring near the lake’s northwest shore. The only outflow from Warner is through a shallow creek that disappears into the bedrock less than 100 m from the lake. In effect Warner is a closed system and it is thought that any fish present in the lake have been introduced. Around the 1950’s and 60’s, Warner Lake was likely stocked with largemouth bass, possibly among other species, by local cottagers (Phelan, pers. comm.). Continued maintenance of the lake’s current water levels relies on the integrity of a beaver dam.
The lack of above ground inflows and outflows means that migration of bass and other species to and from the lake is impeded and as such Warner Lake has been an optimal environment for extensive studies on the stocked largemouth bass. Over the past two decades various research projects have occurred, from nest surveys to the use of an extensive hydrophone acoustic telemetry array to monitor three-dimensional movements and behaviours of bass throughout all seasons. In recent years the hydrophone array has suffered from damage by muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus) and technical malfunctions, and is currently not in use. At least one major winter kill has been documented, resulting in the death of most of the lake’s bass. The bass were subsequently restocked. The current largemouth bass population is self-sustaining with untagged adults and young of year (YOY) as well as older fish from past telemetry studies.
Fish diversity is relatively low in Warner Lake with only five species. In addition to largemouth bass, we also captured pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus), yellow perch (Perca flavescens), yellow bullhead (Ameiurus natalis) and brown bullhead (A. nebulosus). In a beaver pond ephemerally linked to Warner Lake we captured a stunning 1422 brown bullhead with approximately 97% being YOY in one fyke net. By comparison, we captured only three brown bullheads in the entire main lake.
Lindsay Lake (Mean depth = 4.4 m; Maximum depth = 10.9 m; Surface area = 31.5 ha)
Poole Lake (Mean depth = 2.6 m; Maximum depth = 6.5 m; Surface area = 24.2 ha)
Although traditionally considered separate lakes by QUBS researchers, the main basins of Lindsay and Poole are broadly connected through a shallow area of dead standing timber and aquatic vegetation. There is no real barrier to fish movement between the two basins so we treat these lakes together here. Other small wetlands fill some of the bays, particularly on Lindsay Lake and there are a variety of inflows and out flows. Like Warner Lake, Lindsay and Poole have had long term studies and surveys of their largemouth bass populations. In addition there has been work on pumpkinseed and population monitoring of northern pike through pit tagging. These lakes were likely stocked with game fish and feeder fish by cottagers decades ago.
We found nine species, eight of which were common to both lakes. Only banded killifish (Fundulus diaphanous) was captured in Poole Lake and not Lindsay. The species common to both lakes were northern pike, largemouth bass, pumpkinseed, bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), rock bass (Ambloplites rupestris), yellow perch, yellow bullhead and brown bullhead.
Long Lake (Mean depth = 6.8 m; Maximum depth = 26 m; Surface area = 15.5 ha)
Long Lake is rather deep for most of its length, with a sudden drop off close to shore which results in a narrow littoral zone in the northern half of the lake. The southern half of Long Lake is very shallow and the bottom is covered in sand and marl-like deposits. There is only one inflow to Long, and that is an intermittent stream which flows from a small pond situated on the ridge east of the lake. There are no major wetlands on the shores of Long Lake. The lake has also been subject to studies of its largemouth bass and bluegill, and was probably stocked.
In Long Lake we found bluntnose minnow (Pimephales notatus), largemouth bass, bluegill, rock bass and yellow perch. Because of the limited littoral zone, we had limited seining opportunities at the north end of the lake. We suspect there are potentially other species of minnow and shiner in the lake that additional seining could reveal.
Round Lake (Mean depth = 12.6m; Maximum depth = 30.1 m; Surface area = 15.0 ha)
Round Lake is the deepest lake at QUBS. It is connected to Garter Lake by a wetland and probably shares much of its ichthyofauna. We did not survey Garter Lake in 2011, but plan to do so next year. The two tributaries of Round Lake are small creeks flowing east from a complex of wetlands along the Cataraqui Trail. Round Lake too has a history of bass and pumpkinseed research and was also probably stocked. There is also ongoing research using mesocosms to test theoretical predictions using populations and communities of Daphnia under natural variation in light and temperature.
Of the water bodies yet sampled Round Lake boasts the most diversity of fish species with 13. We captured bluntnose minnow, blackchin shiner (Notropis heterodon), blacknose shiner (N. heterolepis), banded killifish, northern pike, central mudminnow (Umbra limi; Figure 1), largemouth bass, pumpkinseed, bluegill, rock bass, yellow perch, yellow bullhead and brown bullhead.
Elbow Lake (Mean depth = 3.7 m; Maximum depth = 10.6 m; Surface area = 26.0 ha)
Elbow Lake is located on a property that QUBS manages in partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). The property was once a retreat for employees of the Hewlitt-Packard computer company. It now hosts a five week long summer day camp, the QUBS Eco-Adventure Camp. This lake has had a longer history of recreational use (fishing and otherwise) than the previously mentioned lakes. Hewlett-Packard had a strict catch and release policy for bass fishing; presently QUBS and the NCC do not allow any harvest of any fish species. Among QUBS lakes (aside from Opinicon and the other Rideau Lakes which boarder our properties), Elbow is unique in that it is the only one whose water level is controlled by a man-made dam. Elbow is connected to Spectacle Lake through a shallow wetland and probably shares most if not all of the same fish species but we have yet to thoroughly sample Spectacle Lake. Elbow Lake has been subject to very little research, though some largemouth bass have been fitted with pit tags. The stocking history of this lake is unknown.
In addition to largemouth bass we found banded killifish, black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus), pumpkinseed and yellow perch.
We sampled a variety of beaver ponds and marshes mainly by seining but occasionally also by deploying minnow traps. All of these wetlands contained northern redbelly dace (Chrosomus eos), whereas the lakes did not. Other species that we captured in wetlands but not in the lakes included brook stickleback (Culaea inconstans) at Barb’s Marsh and Iowa darter (Etheostoma exile) at Lower Poole Pond. On the other hand, all the lakes contained largemouth bass and yellow perch while the wetlands did not. See Table 1 for a complete list of species found in each wetland and lake.
One wetland in particular, Lower Poole Pond (sometimes labeled as Beaver Marsh on QUBS maps) was sampled 21 years ago. Though we did not follow the protocol used by Keast and Fox (1990), our results are interesting to compare to theirs, despite the differences in methodology and the comparatively limited nature of our sampling in Lower Poole Pond. We found blackchin shiner, blacknose shiner, bluntnose minnow, northern redbelly dace, banded killifish, Iowa darter, and pumpkinseed. In 1990, Keast and Fox found those species plus fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas), golden shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas), central mudminnow, brown bullhead, yellow perch and brook stickleback. Since Keast and Fox (1990), the beaver dam at the south end of Lower Poole Pond has broken and water levels have dropped significantly, and may have influenced the fish composition in the pond. We have yet to find fathead minnow or golden shiner in the QUBS back lakes, but both species do occur in Lake Opinicon.
We now have good survey data for ten water bodies contained within the QUBS properties. We also have extensive records of fish presence/absence for Lake Opinicon (about 30 species) which we do not treat here. This data will soon be provided in an updated QUBS fish species list which can be found at: http://www.queensu.ca/qubs/resources/specieslists.html. When we recommence surveys next summer we will attempt to standardize the sampling techniques between water bodies, resample some lakes and wetlands that we felt were undersampled (e.g. Lower Poole Pond) in 2011 and extend the sampling to additional water bodies at QUBS. Also, sampling Lake Opinicon would provide an excellent data set to compare to the works of the late Allen Keast who worked on the lake extensively before the introduction of Dreissena mussels. We could look at how fish communities and fish diets have changed since the catastrophic habitat change brought on by the invasive mollusks. We are getting closer to our goal of obtaining a complete picture of the fish communities at QUBS, but there is still much work to be done.
Keast A, Fox MG. 1990, Fish community structure, spatial distribution and feeding ecology in a breaver pond. Environmental Biology of Fishes 27:201-214.
I subscribe to a number of listservs and on occasion am sent information on new publications that might be of general interest. One of these is a joint publication of the United States Department of Agriculture and the Pollination Partnership, a not for profit head-quartered in San Francisco entitled “Bee Basics An Introduction to Our Native Bees“. It provides a very nice and eminently readable consideration of the ecology, anatomy and diversity of bees of the United States, many species of which of course are also common to Canada. The publication even alludes to the pollination parkthat has been created on an abandoned landfill cite near the City of Guelph.
The second publication is a very well received book from bee biologist Laurence Packer of York University in Toronto. It is a finalist for the Lane Anderson Award which honours two Canadian-authored science books annually. Laurence talks with erudition, first hand knowledge and humour about bee biology, the role of bees in ecosystems, and their recent decline.
Posted by Mark Andrew Conboy
Numerous species of birds in Ontario have expanded their ranges further north in during the past century. For example, the Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) has dramatically extended its range throughout Southern Ontario beginning in the early 1900’s, when it was rare in most of the province but is today a common species north into parts of Central Ontario. Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura), Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius) and perhaps even Cerulean Warbler (Dendroica cerulea) have all undergone similar range expansions (Cadman et al 2007). In recent decades this pattern has continued with the Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus), which is now being sighted with increasing frequency in Eastern Ontario.
Red-bellied Woodpeckers have always been considered fairly rare at QUBS so their apparent sudden increase in the area is of considerable interest. I have been recording occurrences of this species on our properties since 2008. I summarize those observations below:
1 on the Moores Tract
2 at the southeast corner of Hughson Tract (copulation reported by Frank Phelan)
1 at Lindsay Lake Road
1 at the Southeast corner of Hughson Tract
1 on Lindsay Lake Road
2 in Silver Maple Swamp
2011 (to date)
1 north of Warner Lake
1 at QUBS Point (visited bird feeders at Ironwood Cottage)
1 on Old Bedford Road
1 on Lindsay Lake Road
2 at the Dowsley Ponds
Additional sightings from the QUBS area reported on eBird (http://ebird.org/content/ebird/) by other observers are: 1 at “QUBS” in 2008 (Martin Piorkowski); 1 at Bedford Mills in 2010 (Peter Blancher); 1 at the cemetery on Opinicon Road (Patrick Blake) and 1 in Elgin (North Leeds Birders), both in 2011. So far the only breeding evidence we have is a pair observed copulating on the Hughson Tract in 2008 (Phelan, personal communication). Observations of Red-bellied Woodpeckers from other parts of Eastern Ontario include occasional eBird reports from Charleston Lake (to the south of QUBS) are starting in 2005 and the Ottawa area (to the north) starting in 2009.
Why Red-bellied Woodpeckers are now expanding into Eastern Ontario with success at this time is unclear. Possible explanations include changing climate contributing to increased winter survival; additional foraging opportunities resulting from bird feeders; and maturation of second-growth forests providing appropriate breeding habitat. The most recent edition of the Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario 2001-2005 showed that 15 species expanded their range edge northward in Ontario in the 20 years since the first edition of the atlas. The northward expansion of most of these species may be attributable to any or all of the aforementioned hypotheses for the Red-bellied Woodpecker.
Posted by Sarah Larocque
Few have seen the eastern musk turtle (Sternotherus odoratus), more commonly known as the stinkpot turtle. This might seem logical because of its current status as a threatened species both provincially and nationally. Perhaps just as likely is the possibility that this turtle goes relatively unnoticed because of its small size and highly aquatic lifestyle.
With a carapace length of up to 137 mm, the stinkpot is one of North America’s smallest turtles, inhabiting shallow water bodies with muddy bottoms. Stinkpots crawl along the bottom and probe in the mud, sand, and vegetation for food of almost any type. Being bimodal breathers (able to exchange gas in both air and water), stinkpots remain submerged for long periods of time. As a result, the stinkpot often has algae growth on its shell, further camouflaging it from human eyes. Instead of basking out of water, stinkpots bask at the water’s surface with their carapace exposed or floating in among aquatic vegetation, and thereby go unnoticed unlike typical basking turtles.
Rarely leaving the water’s edge, stinkpots are hard to detect, let alone quantify their population size. Fortunately, my work involving hoop nets allowed me to come across the stinkpot on numerous occasions. For example, from my spring sampling of 105 net sets in 2010, we captured 111 stinkpots (74 males; 37 females). In comparison, we only captured 101 painted turtles (Chrysemys picta; 67 males; 34 females), a species that appears quite common. Similarly, in fall with 60 net sets, we captured 48 stinkpots (45 males; 3 females) which was nearly twice as many as the 26 painted turtles (21 males; 5 females).
Lake Opinicon is known to have healthy turtle populations; however, it is surprising to find that a threatened turtle like the stinkpot has higher catch rates than the commonly found painted turtle. There have also been reports of large numbers of stinkpots in nearby Lower Beverly Lake. For a threatened species, this is good news. Unfortunately, we only have number of captures and neither the actual population size nor data on whether populations are increasing/decreasing/status quo.
The stinkpots threatened status is in part from attributable to such factors as shoreline development and boat collisions. Yet perhaps in part its status is due to it being difficult to detect … maybe these small critters are more plentiful than once thought (at least in Lake Opinicon)!