What is this…a surprising pair?

Many of the animals we enjoy seeing in our cabin on the White Lagoon lead a solitary life, except during the breeding season and/or when raising families. We have been fortunate to periodically observe some of these solitary animals near other species. It is not clear whether these incidents were mere coincidence or whether there was a purpose or benefit derived from it. Usually, animals live solitary lives to reduce competition between individuals, reduce the spread of infectious diseases, or make it difficult for predators to kill all members of a species in an area. Not being scientists, we think we don’t know much for sure.

Gray tree frogs spend most of their time in trees or shrubs where they feed on insects or, because they are cold-blooded amphibians, enjoy the warm sunshine. The adults grow to be the largest of the five species of tree frog found in Ontario, reaching 6 centimeters in height. Small, toenail-sized gray tree frogs are green with gray margins and can be found in shrubs starting in July. Adult mottled gray develops in fall as individuals mature. These two events were observed sitting on adjacent linden leaves.

The painted turtle is a member of the pond and swamp turtle family. The Central Painted Turtle is common around White Lake and throughout eastern and southern Ontario. Adult shells can grow up to 15 cm in length and females are larger than males. These cold-blooded reptiles from the family of reptiles can often be seen out of the water basking in the warm sun on tree trunks or rocks. Occasionally we see groups of painted turtles basking on tree trunks but we thought this photo of two gazing over the top of tree trunks was interesting.

One of our field guides describes the red-eyes vireo image as “usually solitary”. This medium-sized member of the shrike and vireo family can reach 15 centimeters in length. They are common and found throughout the broadleaf tree forests around White Lake. Red-eyed vireos feed on insects, caterpillars, and berries, usually in the middle to upper levels of trees. Fortunately, this female pair was photographed while feeding on berries in a low-profile bush.

Hairy woodpeckers are less common around our hut than their smaller relative, the similar-looking downy woodpecker. Our field guide notes that “woodpeckers are mostly solitary.” The length of an adult hairy woodpecker can reach 23 cm. They use their chisel-like beak to peel bark or dig holes in trees for wood-boring insects. These two women briefly shared a dead tree stump while searching for breakfast.

The common Merganser is the largest member of the diving duck family. Adults are 64 cm tall. Our field guide notes that they are common in deep clear lakes where they dive underwater in search of small fish. Common mollusks may congregate in small groups during the winter in the south. Fortunately for us, this summer two women spent a short time swimming together in our clear, relatively shallow lake.

Whatever the cause of these temporary pairings, this event makes it easier for the observer to spot and photograph these solitary animals. Don’t get confused and worried that your eyes are crossed or you have double vision,…just enjoy the sights.

We relied on two sources for this article: Ross D ROM Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Ontario; and David Allen Sibley A field guide to the birds of eastern North America.