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Posts Tagged ‘Manitoba maple’

nest1

Late in the fall, when the trees let loose their leaves, the secret lives of birds are revealed. The nests that were hidden away from the view of casual observers are suddenly made plain. In a quick stroll around the backyard, I spotted six nests.

Perhaps the easiest to identify is the pouch-like nest of the Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula). Orioles have built a nest near the driveway for the past few years. This year, they opted for a new location at the end of the garden, close to the barn, in the branches of a big Manitoba Maple.

In June of 2011, we were lucky enough to witness the fledging of several oriole youngsters. For more on orioles, visit Oriole Fledglings, linked here.

nest2

Nestled into the branches of one of the small larch trees in the Tamarack Walk is a robin’s nest. American Robins (Turdus migratorius) incorporate mud into the construction of their cup-shaped nests, making them quite distinctive. For a closer look at a robin nest and their attractive blue eggs, here’s a link to an earlier post, Robin’s Egg Blues.

nest4

Robins are a common sight in the garden and there were several more robin nests in the yard. One was tucked into the tangles of a honeysuckle vine.

nest3

Another brood of robin youngsters began life in this nest situated on a branch of the Bur Oak tree, just outside our front door.

nest

This nest, set in the crotch of an Amur Maple (never use the word crotch when addressing a group of 10-year-old boys), was home to a clutch of Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) nestlings. I can say this with assurance, even though the nest is too high up for close inspection, because I enjoyed watching the comings and goings of the parents earlier this summer.

house

I mounted this wren box in the spring in the hopes that House wrens (Troglodytes aedon) would settle in. I did observe a wren checking the box out, but Mr. and Mrs. settled on another, more conventional nesting box. Perhaps something about the location of this box didn’t suit them, or perhaps the aesthetics of flying up a nose didn’t appeal to them.

In any case, here is the nest they built. Wrens are tiny birds, and I am always taken aback by how uncomfortable and scratchy their twiggy nests look. However, such nests have been home to untold generations of young wrens. And that completes the tour of my 6 backyard nests.

nest2

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boxelderbug

When I was walking along the laneway, I noticed a streak of bright red in the grass and paused to investigate. The red turned out to be a congregation of Box Elder Bugs (Boisea trivittata) on an old branch. There were hundreds of nymphs in various stages of growth and a few adults tumbling over each other.

While many of us are inclined to call anything of a creepy-crawly nature a bug, strictly speaking, the term bug refers to a specific order of insects. While all bugs are insects, not all insects are bugs. Bugs belong to the order Hemiptera and are distinguished from other insects by their sucking, beaklike mouthparts and incomplete metamorphosis. Bug nymphs typically resemble adults although they don’t have wings and often have different colour patterns. Included in the order of bugs are cicadas and spittlebugs, aphids and mealybugs, stink bugs and squash bugs and water bugs.

If you look closely at this photograph, you will notice that the nymphs vary in size and details of their colour pattern, each variation representing a different stage or instar of growth.

bugs

Box Elder bugs could be called Manitoba Maple bugs around here. The trees that are known as Box Elder in the U.S. are actually Acer negundo. This species is unique among native maples in having compound leaves, and is known as the Manitoba Maple in Ontario.

Manitoba maples are plentiful here, and so are Box Elder bugs. These colourful bugs are often conspicous in the fall when they congregate in large numbers to hibernate and they sometimes manage to find their way indoors. I noticed a smaller number of Box Elder bugs on the side of the house, no doubt in search of comfortable winter lodgings.

For terrific images of Box Elder bugs laying eggs in spring, visit Seabrooke’s blog, The Marvelous in Nature, linked here.

bugs2

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maples

“At the southeast corner of Willow House, two trees form a graceful arch over the pathway to the door. They don’t have the sturdy trunk we usually associate with trees, but appear rather like two large bushes.” Does this passage sound familiar? If you have been a faithful follower of The Chronicles, you might recognize it as the opening to The Whisperers.

icedamage

After studying the winter trees, I concluded that they were Manitoba maples. However, knowledgeable nurseryman and former property owner Tony kindly pointed out my error. The pair of trees are, in fact, non-native ornamentals, Amur maples (Acer ginnala Maxim). Tony shared the above photograph of the twin Amurs, taken after the Ice Storm of 1998, when the trees were badly damaged. Now that the trees have leaves, the Amur and Manitoba maples are easily differentiated. The compound leaflets on a central stock, shown below on the right, are those of the Manitoba maple (Acer Negundo).

mapleleaves

In winter, the plentiful maple keys, or samaras, of the Amur maples, rustling gently in a hushed evening breeze, made the trees whisper. But now that the trees are flowering, I noticed a different sound coming from the trees. They are abuzz with pollinators such as the bumblebee (Bombus sp.), shown below.

beeonflower

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maples

Correction: Doh! The information posted here about Manitoba maples is correct, but the accompanying photos are not of Manitoba maples, but Amur maples. Please see All Abuzz for the updated information.

At the southeast corner of Willow House, two trees form a graceful arch over the pathway to the door. They don’t have the sturdy trunk we usually associate with trees, but appear rather like two large bushes. They display the typical growth habit of the Manitoba maple (Acer negundo) or box elder, with branches forking near the ground into many crooked stems. In summer, the trees bear compound leaves quite unlike those displayed by other maples. However, the trees produce an abundant supply of dense clusters of maple keys, or samaras, which mark the species as a member of the Acer clan.

Native to the prairies, Manitoba maples grow along river valleys and floodplains, where their roots help to prevent erosion and their crowns shade streams, helping to maintain cool water temperatures for fish. Early settlers planted Manitoba maples with other trees to form shelterbelts that would help to break the winter winds and fight soil erosion. Millions of tree seedlings were distributed to prairie farmers by the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA) Shelterbelt Centre. Manitoba maples can also be used to produce maple syrup, and in recent years shelterbelt plantings have been evaluated as important carbon sinks.

maplekeys

Since the arrival of European settlers, the range of the Manitoba maple has expanded as far east as Nova Scotia. Its keys are a favorite food of the Evening Grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinus) and it is speculated that the planting of Manitoba maples may have played a role in the matching eastward range expansion of the grosbeaks.

Woodpeckers have enjoyed this Manitoba maple's insect population

Woodpeckers have enjoyed this Manitoba maple's insect population

In spite of the positive aspects noted above, Manitoba maples have long been disparaged as “junk” trees, disliked for their weedy, shrub-like growth, weak wood, susceptability to insect pests and messy dropping of leaves and keys. They are not, however, without their charms. That amazing, abundant crop of maple keys remains on the tree most of the winter. In the hush of a still winter evening, the merest breeze sets the keys in motion and the trees speak, a sweet, gentle, whispered “Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”.

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