Tag Archives: scallen

Groundhogs

by Don Scallen, Vice-President
Our landscape is networked by roads – ribbons of death where myriad animals from butterflies to deer meet their demise. And though morbid, an objective look at this mortality can provide insight into changing animal populations. In the 1960’s and 70’s groundhogs, aka woodchucks, were among the most frequent victims of vehicular faunacide. Their bodies littered roadsides as raccoon carcasses do today. Groundhogs are now rare road-kill victims. No, they haven’t evolved the ability to look both ways before … Continue Reading ››

Red-backed Salamander

by Don Scallen, Vice-President
Red-Backed Salamander
Red-Backed Salamander
They weigh about as much as a paper clip. Dew worms dwarf them. They are, by weight, the smallest vertebrates in Ontario. But what they lack in size they more than make up in numbers. Red-backed salamanders are abundant, outnumbering all of the reptiles, rodents and birds that share their forest habitat. Densities of red-backed salamanders have been estimated as 500 to 9000 … Continue Reading ››

Monarch Butterfly- RIP 2026

by Don Scallen, Vice-President
The eastern migratory population of monarch butterflies is no more. Lepidopterists (butterfly and moth scientists) confirmed earlier this year, that the once familiar orange and black butterflies are essentially extinct. Their awe-inspiring north-south migrations, linking Mexico, the United States and Canada have ceased. Most of us are old enough to remember when monarchs were a frequent sight in meadows and gardens. The monarchs’ demise was not unexpected. For decades, people in all three North American countries ratcheted up … Continue Reading ››

Mimicry

by Don Scallen, Vice-President
People manage their appearance with clothing, jewelry and hair styles to present a particular image of themselves to the world. Deception is often involved. A muscled, leather-clad, tattooed man may be a powderpuff, but his fearsome exterior projects a formidable – “don’t mess with me!” – presence. Insects are masters of this bluff. There is a vast array of harmless flies and beetles for example, that have evolved to look like dangerous bees and wasps. This allows them to … Continue Reading ››

Hairys and Downys

by Don Scallen, Vice-President
Downy Woodpecker - Illustration by Fiona Reid
Downy Woodpecker - Illustration by Fiona Reid
Hairy and Downy woodpeckers frequent backyard feeders at this time of year. Though different sizes – the hairy larger, the downy smaller – their colouration and patterning is well-nigh identical. The bills tell the tale. Hairy woodpeckers brandish large dagger- like beaks; the beaks of Downys are smaller and more chisel-like. I’ve … Continue Reading ››

Death of a tree

Two weeks ago one of my favourite trees was felled by a bulldozer. This tree, on Creditview Rd. in Brampton, was graced with the lovely arching form that only mature elms exhibit. Before Dutch elm disease ravaged the land this beauty was common. The few remaining mature elms are rare treasures. The lure of this elm was so powerful that I would include Creditview Road on my route to work simply to … Continue Reading ››

Bobolinks and Forks of the Credit Provincial Park

In mid-July I watched a flock of bobolinks at Forks of the Credit Provincial Park. They were gathering prior to their incredible 10 000 km journey back to the pampas of Argentina.
Male Bobolink
Male Bobolink
The bobolinks of Forks of the Credit Provincial Park are good news for a species in sharp decline in Ontario and beyond. Breeding Bird Survey data indicate an alarming 52% drop in Ontario’s bobolink population … Continue Reading ››