A sure sign of spring is the staging of herds of Crimson Wanderers. At this time of year mixed groups of both adult and juvenile carts gather near traditional feeding locations and begin to pair off for breeding that occurs in late March and early April. Male Crimson Wanderers can be quite aggressive during breeding season, a stark contrast to their normally skittish and shy behaviour. Dramatic displays, bluff charges and jousting among males are common. Care should be taken when approaching these carts.
Following breeding the females make their solitary way to the small creeks that run throughout Courtenay and lay their eggs in the water. Here they remain, guarding the eggs and ensuring that they are well oxygenated until they hatch as nymphs in two weeks time. Once mating has occurred, the males contribute little to the process of rearing the young hatchling wanderers. Their job done, they congregate in quiet thoughtful groups and feed complacently.
It pays to look carefully at these large groups of Wanderers. Often one is rewarded with good looks at other species that have joined the breeding herds. The group photographed above includes a Lesser Crimson Wanderer, identified by its smaller size and silver colour (in the foreground) and a Green-throated Gray Wobbler, the large gray cart at the far left of the main group.
This is the seventh species account of the Vancouver Island Shopping Carts series. Julian Montague at The Stray Shopping Cart Project has developed a method of classifying stray carts that might be of interest to those wanting to learn more about species of carts in their own area. Researchers should also consult Rock, Paper, Lizard for detailed species accounts of Lower Mainland/Vancouver carts.