Category Archives: Phenology

Climate change impacts on frogs of Eastern Ontario.

by Stephen C. Lougheed

Leopard frog male.
Leopard frog male. Click on image to make larger. Photo by S.C. Lougheed.

Global climate change is anticipated to impact the natural world in myriad ways potentially causing shifting geographical ranges, and local or even global extinctions of species (Parmesan 2006, 2007). One possible manifestation of climate change is altered breeding or flowering phenology (e.g. Beebee 1995, Dunn and Winkler 1999, Chmielewski and Rötzer 2001, Kearney et al. 2010). My recently graduated M.Sc. student and QUBS alumna, Samantha Klaus, and I used historical “citizen science” data from the Natural Heritage Information Centre of Ontario and the Ontario Herpetofaunal Summary Atlas ( to test whether there have been detectable shifts in the breeding phenology of Eastern Ontario frogs (Klaus & Lougheed 2013). We quantified both the timing of spring emergence and key aspects of the calling phenology of eight anuran species in southeastern Ontario, Canada, using an approximately 40-year data set. The leopard frog (Lithobates pipiens) was the only species out of eight considered that we found to emerge significantly earlier, by an estimated 22 days over the considered 4-decade span. Both L. pipiens and American toads (Anaxyrus americanus) seem to have advanced onset of calling significantly earlier by an estimated 37.2 and 19.2 days, respectively. Wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus) showed a trend towards earlier emergence by 19 days (although marginally insignificant in statistical analyses), whereas we detected no shifts in emergence phenology for the remaining five species. We also evaluated long-term climatic trends in Eastern Ontario based on data from three weather stations within our study area for 1970–2010. We found marked and significant increases in spring and summer average maximum temperatures. For example, mean maximum monthly March increased by approximately 0.07°C per annum for a total of 2.8°C over four decades. We also found evidence for changes to precipitation patterns. For example, there has been a significant decrease in average total precipitation in March (approximately 0.71 mm per annum, 2.84 cm total diminution over 40 years) and a significant increase for the summer month of June (0.89 mm per annum, for a 3.56 cm total over four decades). These observations are borne out anecdotally by the dismally wet June that we have had in 2013.

Amplecting American toads. Click on image to make larger. Photo by S.C. Lougheed.
Amplecting American toads. Click on image to make larger. Photo by S.C. Lougheed.

Our study illustrates that temperate zones such as ours are not isolated from the impacts of global climate change, and indeed shows that Eastern Ontario has already experienced marked shifts in local climate that are impacting local diversity in profound ways.

Literature cited.

  • Beebee, T.J.C. 1995. Amphibian breeding and climate. Nature 374: 219–220.
  • Chmielewski, F.M., & T. Rötzer. 2001. Response of tree phenology to climate change across Europe. Agric. For. Meteorol. 108: 101–112.
  • Dunn, P.O., & D.W. Winkler. 1999. Climate change has affected the breeding date of tree swallows throughout North America. Proc. Roy. Soc. B 266: 2487–2490.
  • Kearney, M.R., N.J. Briscoe, D. J. Karoly, W. P. Porter, M. Norgate, & P. Sunnucks. 2010. Early emergence in a butterfly causally linked to anthropogenic warming. Biol. Lett. 6: 674–677.
  • Klaus, S.P. & S.C. Lougheed. 2013. Changes in breeding phenology of eastern Ontario frogs over four decades. Ecol. Evol. 3.4
  • Parmesan, C. 2006. Ecological and evolutionary responses to recent climate change. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Evol. Syst. 37: 637–669.
  • Parmesan, C. 2007. Influences of species, latitudes and methodologies on estimates of phenological response to global warming. Glob. Change Biol. 13: 1860–1872.

Tasty fruits and burst of flowering on Gate Ridge

With the recent humid heat punctuated with cool rainy days, we saw a burst of flowering right at the beginning of June. Though I am currently collecting fruits for the Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) quite a few other species are flowering.

Iris versicolor. From Wiki Images

Here are some of the plants I saw flowering recently, with a few interesting notes.

Coronilla varia (June 5, 2010, entrance to Skycroft Trails)

Hieracium aurantiacum (June 7, 2010, Lindsay Lake Trail)
Erigeron philadelphicus (June 7, 2010, Lindsay Lake Trail)
Iris versicolor (June 7, 2010, Shore of Lindsay Lake)
Penstemon hirsutus (June 7, 2010, Shore of Lindsay Lake)

Lotus corniculata (June 9, 2010, top of Gate Ridge on QUBS point)
Lilium philadelphicum (June 9, 2010, top of Gate Ridge on QUBS point)
Prunella vulgaris (June 9, 2010, top of Gate Ridge on QUBS point)
Veronica serpyllifolia (June 9, 2010, top of Gate Ridge on QUBS point)
Hieracium aurantiacum (June 9, 2010, top of Gate Ridge on QUBS point)
Hieracium pilosella (June 9, 2010, top of Gate Ridge on QUBS point)
Medicago lupulina (June 9, 2010, top of Gate Ridge on QUBS point)
Achillea millefolium (June 9, 2010, top of Gate Ridge on QUBS point)
Erysimum cheiranthoides (June 9, 2010, top of Gate Ridge on QUBS point)
Ranunculus acris (June 9, 2010, top of Gate Ridge on QUBS point)

Notice on June 9 on Gate Ridge at the QUBS peninsula, we saw quite a few species. In fact, there are 2 species we couldn’t identify and we are still working on them. That ridge seems to be teeming with flowering plants right now. The species observed above are typically dense, with exception to the Wood Lily, and are intermingled within similar habitats.

Also, remember the Fragaria virginiana (wild strawberry) we saw in April? Well, the fruits are getting more mature and it is mighty tasty! And of course, with fruit morphology now visible, we realize that there were two species of Fragaria. There is also Fragaria vesca in the same regions. I apologize for my amateurish plant ID skills. When you come across these plants, do enjoy their tasty fruits. I certainly do while I collect Columbine fruits at the same time! – Posted by Andy Wong.

An even more impatient summer – phenological observations of flowering plants @ QUBS – continued.

With temperatures hovering at around 30 degrees Celsius, and high air humidity, the flowering plants at QUBS have rushed into summer weather when it’s still only the end of spring.

Here are the plants I have observed flowering since my last post, including one early omission observed by Tristan Willis of the Bonier Lab.

Geranium robertianum (May 11, Perth Cemetary, observer = Tristan Willis)

Euphorbia esula (May 17, Cataraqui Trail)
Convallaria majalis (May 20, QUBS peninsula)
Chamerion angustifolium (May 20, QUBS peninsula)
Geranium robertianum (May 22, Rock Lake Lane)
Galium triflorum (May 22, Rock Lake Lane)
Viola sororia (May 23, QUBS peninsula)

Comandra umbellata Bastard Toadflax. From Wiki Images

Comandra umbellata (May 23, QUBS peninsula)
Marianthemum racemosum (May 23, QUBS peninsula)
Sisyrinchium montanum (May 23, Bedford Road to Two Island Lake)
Barbarea vulgaris (May 23, Skycroft Trails entrance)
Cerastium arvense (May 23, Skycroft Trails entrance)
Sanicula marilandica (May 23, Bedford Road to Two Island Lake)

Silene vulgaris (May 26, 2010, Cataraqui Trail)
Vicia cracca (May 26, 2010, Cataraqui Trail)
Leucanthemum vulgare (June 1, 2010, Cataraqui Trail)
Anemone cylindrica (June 1, 2010, Cataraqui Trail)
Tragopogon dubius (June 1, 2010, Cataraqui Trail) (not quite flowering yet, but can see the very distinctive buds)
Echium vulgare (June 1, 2010, Cataraqui Trail)
Trifolium pratense (June 1, 2010, junction of Cataraqui Trail and Old Bedford Road)
Trifolium repens (June 1, 2010, Old Bedford Road)
Viola blanda (June 1, 2010, Skycroft Trails)

Hope you’re all enjoying the flowering season! Posted by Andy Wong

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

Early nesting mourning dove.

Dead Mourning Doves
The two dead nestling mourning doves (Zenaida macroura) collected form the earliest nest on record for this species in the Kingston Region. Photo: Mark Andrew Conboy.

Mourning doves (Zenaida macroura) are among our some of the earliest breeding birds often with eggs being laid by mid to late April (Weir 2008). Doves and pigeons produce protein rich crop “milk” to feed their nestlings. The milk is produced by both sexes and may allow doves and pigeons to breed very early in the year, when resource scarcity makes it impossible for most other species to nest. Here I report an exceptionally early nesting attempt by mourning doves at QUBS.

On April 17, 2010 I found a mourning dove nest 30 m north of the intersection of the Cataraqui Trail and the Old Bedford Road. The nest was built 2.1 m above the ground in an eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana). The nest contained two dead nestlings. The nestlings were not warm but were still soft and blood that was on the legs of both birds and near the cloaca of one bird was still wet to the touch. I suspect that the nestlings could not have been dead for very long. One adult flushed directly from the nest so was still likely brooding and a second adult flushed from the ground about 4 m away. There was half of a morning dove eggshell on the ground immediately below the nest.
The earliest egg date for mourning dove in the Kingston region is April 14 and earliest brood date is May 13 (Weir 2008). The typical incubation period for mourning doves is 14 days (Otis et al 2008). I estimated the age of the nestlings to be about 8 days old (Hanson and Kossack 1957). Based on the estimated age of the nestlings I suggest that the first egg date for this nest would be March 27. This is 19 days earlier than the previous earliest record for the Kingston region. In the southern part of their range mourning doves may breed at any time of year (Otis et al 2008), but in Ontario breeding normally occurs during April, May and June (Peck and James 1983). The earliest egg date for mourning doves breeding in Ontario that I could locate is March 19 (Peck and James 1983). – Posted by Mark Andrew Conboy


  • Hanson, H.C. and Kossack, C.W. 1957. Methods and criteria for aging incubated eggs and nestlings of the mourning dove. Wilson Bulletin 69: 91-101.
  • Otis, D.L., Schulz, J.H., Miller, D., Mirarchi, R.E. and Baskett, T.S. 2008. Mourning dove (Zenaida macroura), In The birds of North America Online (Poole, A. editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
  • Peck, G.K. and James, R.D. 1983. Breeding birds of Ontario: nidiology and distribution volume 1: nonpasserines. Royal Ontario Museum.
  • Weir, R.D. 2008. Birds of the Kingston region, 2nd edition. Kingston Field Naturalists.