Full House

A range of appetites — lust to dust — happening here. The crab spider has snagged a fly for supper and a pair of blister beetles are busy making baby beetles. Meanwhile, almost out of sight, another beetle minding its own business.

Blister beetles (one of the longhorn beetles) are a staple of our roses. Judging by last summer each rose will soon house at least one.

Mating longhorn beetles with unidentified beetle

Although the beetles didn’t pay me any attention the crab spider was more alert and started to drag her meal off the petal.

Crab spider & fly and longhorn beetles

Crab sider and fly

The spider settled down after a few minutes and hauled her catch back up again.

Full house

Next time you pass a blossom take a second look — who’s living in your flowers?


Blister beetle   Lytta spp. ?
Goldenrod crab spider   Misumena vatia
Prickly wild rose   Rosa acicularis        (Provincial flower of Alberta)

 

Cock of the Walk

I spotted a female grouse ambling through the woods the other day. Not far away I heard a male drumming his come-hither-darling call to any females in the neighbourhood.

I decided to follow her. Creeping over dried leaves, twigs and branches is noisy business but the crunching and crackling didn’t seem to bother her. I wondered if she was the one who has been frequenting our yard.

Just then the drummer caught sight of her and he trotted after her in pursuit, his tail fanned out like a peacock, his gorgeous ruff fluffed to its fullest. This handsome lad had love on his mind.

She flew into a tree. He stopped and turned to give her the benefit of what he had to offer.

Showing off

Meanwhile I stumbled around for a better angle, sure that one or the other would leave. Nope. His feet were definitely planted on the road to love and she was quite happy several feet up the tree.

A come-hither look

After several minutes of his look-into-my-eyes-my-darling routine, she had enough. She leapt off the branch and flew further into the woods.

Undeterred he followed.

Walking grouse

The three of us were heading into more deadfall — the two with feathers were more adept than I at maneuvering the jumble of logs and limbs. I heard a flap of wings ahead and a blur through the trees. She was gone. Again.

This time when a branch snapped beneath my feet, the male turned to look. What expression did I read there? Fickle female? Better luck next time? How could she refuse my offer?

No luck this time

I discretely retreated.


Ruffed grouse   Bonasa umbellus

Amplexus

The ditch, recently filled with snow, is overflowing now with ice-cold water. But that didn’t deter the wood frogs I found there the other evening. I heard an odd sound, sort of half duck, half something else which drew my attention to ripples on the water surface.

To my surprise it was a frog, in full mating call. I crept closer. It didn’t seem to notice me. Closer still. Suddenly one frog became two frogs — caught in “the act”.

Or amplexus, as a scientist would describe it. Except not quite. When wood frogs mate the smaller male grabs the larger female from behind. These two appeared not to have read the memo.

Then, as the angle changed, I realized I wasn’t looking at two frogs, I was seeing three. A ménage à trois, with the female stuck in the middle of this amphibian sandwich.

Wood frog threesome

Apparently this female was lucky that the mating season was hardly underway. At the height of the hormones, the males go crazy. They gather in huge numbers in small ponds and seasonal pools, calling and thrashing around. Anything that enters the water is fair game. I watched one video of a salamander that happened to be in the wrong pool at the wrong time and it was mobbed by male wood frogs.

Ditto for female frogs. A dozen or more males may descend on her, each trying to fertilize the hundreds or thousands of eggs she’ll lay. Talk about testosterone! The item I read said such mash-ups sometimes result in injury (no kidding) or death. (An unhappy thought. But who to? It didn’t say.)

Wood frog menage a trois

I’m not sure how long the lust-fest had been going on before I arrived, but it showed so sign of ending.

Menage a trois

I inched closer to the oblivious three-some. Just as I was about to take another shot, they disappeared, sinking to the bottom of the ditch. Where did they go? It took me several seconds to find them, still in the throes of it, seemingly standing upright underwater.

Underwater wood frogs

I watched for several minutes but they showed no signs of resurfacing. So I left them to each other and wandered home, pondering this latest encounter with the neighbours whose world I’m fortunate enough to share.


Wood frog … Rana sylvatica