Two new species accounts.

Please check out our two newest species accounts, both done by 4th year honours students at Queen’s University: Amanda Xuereb has scribed an account on eastern milksnakes, and Cameron Hudson an account on pickerel frogs. I think they are both very well done and over the next few months we hope to be posting even more of these. Posted by – S. Lougheed

An impatient spring – phenological observations of flowering plants at QUBS.

Spring has arrived at QUBS impatiently.  It seems that summer has arrived when it should be spring.  Over the past month researchers have rushed in to take on the fast arriving season, marveling at how synchronously early disparate taxa have been.

According to our colleagues working on amphibians, they seemed to be approximately 2 weeks earlier than previous years.  I was curious to see if plants also had similar early phenologies.

Aquilegia canadensis

I documented the first observation of a particular species flowering to establish an approximate first flowering date during my hikes to my study populations.  Once my study species (Aquilegia canadensis) has reached peak flower, I had to abandon this little bit of curiosity, so I apologize in advance for my lack of observations between April 27 and May 12.

Here is a list of flowering plant species and the first day I saw them flowering:

Trillium grandiflorum (Before April 15, Bedford Road and Skycroft Trails)
Trillium erectum (Before April 15, Bedford Road and Skycroft Trails)
Dicentra cucullaria (April 15, Lindsay Lake Trail)
Claytonia caroliniana (April 20, Skycroft Trails)
Aquilegia canadensis (April 22, Lindsay Lake Trail, 1.5 weeks ahead)
Erythronium americanum (April 23, Skycroft Trails)
Sanguinaria canadensis (April 24, Skycroft Trails & Bedford Road)
Fragaria virginiana (April 25, Skycroft Trails)
Mitella nuda (April 25, Lindsay Lake Trail)
Thalictrum dioicum (April 20, Bedford Road)
Uvularia grandiflora (April 24, Bedford Road)
Phlox divericata (April 27, Rock Lake Lane)
Antennaria neglecta (May 12, Rock Lke Lane)
Phlox divericata (May 13, Opinicon road, beside Skycroft Trail)
Corydalis sempervirens (May 14, Bedford Road)

It seems like the phenology of most species have been advanced by 1-2 weeks.  Though not all species were equally advanced, based on this haphazard and anecdotal account, it will be very interesting to find out how organisms in mutualistic relationships (such as pollinators and flowering plants) coordinate (if they do so) their phenology.  They might exploit similar environmental cues, but phenological matching might be rather stochastic.

I will continue this account of first flowers observed as long as I am in the field.  Hopefully with multiple year’s worth of quick anecdotal observations in this region we can gain some insight into phenological variation among all these interesting organisms studied at QUBS. Post – Andy Wong

New Aerial Photos of Queen’s University Biological Station

Mark Conboy, together with Chris Grooms, has provided us with some beautiful aerial photos of the various land holdings. Mark has labeled major water bodies and other features to orient himself. With the topographical maps we also have on line, this provides researchers and students with a nice vantage of the aquatic, hydrological and vegetation diversity at QUBS. Below is just one example. The others can be found | here |.

Aerial photo of Barb’s Marsh and environs.

Nest building consistency in Yellow Warblers.

Consistency in an individual animal’s behaviour is a curious observation. If an animal shows a consistent behaviour, this suggests that the behaviour is not mediated by immediate environmental cues, and may suggest that the behaviour is heritable to some degree. In the summer of 2008, former Queen’s University undergraduate student Allie Patrick, investigated consistency in nest building behaviours of Yellow Warblers (Dendroica petechia) at the Queen’s University Biological Station (QUBS).

Photo shows two nests constructed by the same individual for eight different female Yellow Warblers. Nests constructed by the same female are arranged vertically. Note the similarity of nests constructed by the same female and the diversity of nests constructed by different females.

It is fascinating to think that the diversity of Yellow Warbler nests and the materials used to construct them is not at all random and that individual females actively seek-out and gather specific materials. This is readily seen in the photos, where one female Yellow Warbler lined her nests almost exclusively using duck feathers (nest pair on far left), while another used fluffy cattail (Typha spp.) pappus (second from the left). Using specific materials is not limited to the nest lining. Some females incorporated pieces of Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) leaves (third from the left) throughout the nest cup, and others used almost exclusively dry grasses and bark fibers (fourth from the left). To some degree breeding location will influence the availability of nesting materials; in some locations there may be no Common Mullein, while in others there may be no cattail pappus. However, many of these females nested within the same marsh (and therefore should have had access to similar materials), yet they built distinctive nests. Distinctive nests constructed by females in close proximity to each other suggests that, in addition to location, individual females show a preference for specific materials when constructing their nests.

These eight nests represent a small sample of the diversity of Yellow Warbler nests within the breeding population at QUBS in southeastern Ontario. As seen in the photos, the population-level variation in Yellow Warbler nests is impressive, yet nest building behaviour at the individual level may be much less variable. – Posted by Vanya Rowher