Category Archives: Friends of Miles

Starry False Solomon’s Seal: David Fallis

David Fallis has put together a book for family members called One Hundred Flowers of Bruce Beach. I thank him for allowing me to share it in Friends of Miles.

In each post, I will include David’s original photo and text plus a few of my own photos.

Here are David’s words:

This book began as a very private project to have pictures of and brief comments on some favourite flowers at Bruce Beach (mostly wildflowers, although a couple of showy tree flowers have been included). In its first single-copy incarnation, I merely xeroxed pictures out of various field guides and flower books, without asking any permission of the original photographers. Then my wife, Alison suggested that, even though I am no photographer, I should attempt to take pictures of the flowers on my own small camera. Skeptical at first, I have had an enjoyable few seasons trying to find flowers at their peak of blooming, in decent light, from spring to autumn, to have images which I could rightfully reproduce. 

STARRY FALSE SOLOMON’S SEAL

Smilacina stellata

Lily Family

This is Bruce Beach’s most prolific false Solomon’s seal because it flourishes both in the woods and in the dunes. It can be seen blooming all along the beach and the road in early summer. Later it bears attractive berries which first produce stripes, then darken altogether (if they are not eaten first by the chipmunks and the birds).

Starry False Solomon-seal (Maianthemum stellatum)

False Solomon-seal (Maianthemum racemosum)

Star-flowered False Solomon Seal (Maianthemum stellatum)

Why do we find flowers beautiful? First of all, it should be said that generally we are impressed by only some flowers. There are many flowering plants at Bruce Beach, trees, grasses and reeds especially. which have small flowers without much richness of colour. These are flowers which mostly depend on the wind to carry pollen from the stamens to fertilize the ovary in the stigma. We don’t pay them much attention (although I will say they are every bit as interesting if you take the time to look at them up close, but they are beyond my photographic capabilities). But more importantly, not only do we not pay them much attention, neither do insects. Once flowers evolved so that they were designed to attract insects to ensure cross-pollination, then all those attractive and distinctive features of flowers, especially their symmetry, their colour and their scent, became paramount. Bright colours which stand out against a mass of green leaves, large enough size for a bee or wasp to have a decent landing pad, fragrant nectar to reward the forager, all these things become part of showy flowers. And interestingly, what insects find attractive, so do we, perhaps because if we notice flowers, we know where to look for fruit to eat later in the season. 

Star-flowered False Solomon Seal (Maianthemum stellatum)

Star Flowered False Solomon Seal (Maianthemum stellatum)

False Solomon’s Seal: David Fallis

David Fallis has put together a book for family members called One Hundred Flowers of Bruce Beach. I thank him for allowing me to share it in Friends of Miles.

In each post, I will include David’s original photo and text plus a few of my own photos.

Here are David’s words:

This book began as a very private project to have pictures of and brief comments on some favourite flowers at Bruce Beach (mostly wildflowers, although a couple of showy tree flowers have been included). In its first single-copy incarnation, I merely xeroxed pictures out of various field guides and flower books, without asking any permission of the original photographers. Then my wife, Alison suggested that, even though I am no photographer, I should attempt to take pictures of the flowers on my own small camera. Skeptical at first, I have had an enjoyable few seasons trying to find flowers at their peak of blooming, in decent light, from spring to autumn, to have images which I could rightfully reproduce. 

                                            FALSE SOLOMON’S SEAL

Smilacina racemosa

Lily Family

False Solomon’s seals can be distinguished from true Solomon’s seals by the fact that they bear their flowers at the end of the branches, not on the underside of them. The berries are therefore more prominent in the fall; those of smilacina racemosa are a dark red colour. The plant can be found intermittently through the woods.

False Solomon’s Seal (Maianthemum racemosum)

False Solomon Seal (Maianthemum racemosum)

False Solomon Seal (maianthemum racemosum)

Why do we find flowers beautiful? First of all, it should be said that generally we are impressed by only some flowers. There are many flowering plants at Bruce Beach, trees, grasses and reeds especially. which have small flowers without much richness of colour. These are flowers which mostly depend on the wind to carry pollen from the stamens to fertilize the ovary in the stigma. We don’t pay them much attention (although I will say they are every bit as interesting if you take the time to look at them up close, but they are beyond my photographic capabilities). But more importantly, not only do we not pay them much attention, neither do insects. Once flowers evolved so that they were designed to attract insects to ensure cross-pollination, then all those attractive and distinctive features of flowers, especially their symmetry, their colour and their scent, became paramount. Bright colours which stand out against a mass of green leaves, large enough size for a bee or wasp to have a decent landing pad, fragrant nectar to reward the forager, all these things become part of showy flowers. And interestingly, what insects find attractive, so do we, perhaps because if we notice flowers, we know where to look for fruit to eat later in the season. 

False Solomon’s Seal (Maianthemum racemosum)

 

 

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher: Dr J Murray Speirs

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (immature and adult)

This is a southern species, reaching its northern limit in southern Ontario and wintering from southern USA to Cub and Guatemala. Everything about this restless sprite spells excitement, constantly flitting about , fanning and cocking its tail, uttering high-pitched squeals like a high soprano catbird, busily gathering lichens and spider webs to decorate its two-inch cup-shaped nest.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (immature)

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (immature)

It reminds me of a diminutive mockingbird in colouration: blue gray above and whitish below, with flashes of white in the wings and edges of the tail, but with its black eye set in a white face.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (immature and adult)

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (immature and adult)

Dr J Murray Speirs

Mute Swan: Dr J Murray Speirs

Mute swan

Mute Swans have been introduced from the Old World and are now breeding in several cattail marshes in southern Ontario.

Mute Swan

They build massive nesting platforms with a ramp leading down to the water.

Mute Swan

This is a large swan that carries its head on an S-shaped neck and in the adult has an orange bill with a conspicuous knob on it: on the immatures the black knob is missing and the bill is grayish purple.

Mute Swans

Some cygnets have white down and others gray (even in the same family); they accompany the adults for several months.

Mute Swan family

Mute Swan

Northern Mockingbird: Dr J Murray Speirs

This is a common bird in much of the southern USA but it has been rare in Ontario (except around Niagara Falls and perhaps Pelee).

It appears to be more common now than formerly and keeps turning up in the most unexpected places. . It occupies somewhat of the same niche as the American Robin, eating insects and fruits and nesting about human habitations.

 

Both are bold, aggressive birds. The mockingbird tends to outcompete the robin in southern USA, with the reverse in more northerly climes.

This is a robin-sized bird, mostly gray with flashes of white in the wings and edge of the tail and whitish underparts. It looks a bit like the shrikes but lacks their black masks.

The song is a loud medley, with repeated phrases. Its scold note is a loud “tak” (like striking stones together).