House finch on fence post at Cougar Creek park.
|It looks like this is a favourite perch.|
All around us in the trees, his companions were singing, every one of them invisible among the leaves.
Notes and photos from wanderings in the Lower Fraser Valley, BC., with a few thrown in from Bella Coola and other BC visits. Favourite spots: Reifel Island, Boundary Bay, Mud Bay, Strathcona, White Rock, Cougar Canyon, etc...
House finch on fence post at Cougar Creek park.
|It looks like this is a favourite perch.|
Two years ago, in April* of 2012, I brought home a clamshell that contained, under a crowded community of snails, hermits, worms, and more, a set of little brownish jug-like things. Eventually, commenters identified them, tentatively, as Murex snail egg cases, possibly trophon snails.
|"Jugs" Photo from 2012.|
|More "jugs", with their bottoms glued to the glass, facing us.|
I went to Chilliwack yesterday, driving there as usual, on the freeway; a good hour of stressful driving and another half hour of puttering along city streets first. On the way back, as usual again, I moseyed south and west across Fraser Valley farmland, taking my time, relaxing after a noisy party.
Except that this time I lost my bearings in the pouring rain, and ended up going east instead of west. I didn't realize my error until I ended up at a dead end against the mountains south-east of Chilliwack. It probably would have been a pretty drive along the Vedder River, if the clouds hadn't been practically parked on the road.
Several times, the clouds lifted long enough for me to squint at the sky, looking for the light in the west to guide me home. Of course, since I was looking east, I didn't see it. I did manage to take a few photos out the car window; mostly dark fields and blue mountains.
|Farms and the southern slopes.|
|This hill is just across the border, in Washington State.|
|Heron in a muddy ditch.|
One of the hermit crabs that came home with me the other day was in berry, carrying her brood of eggs just inside her shell. Today, I noticed another one fanning her babies. And I think there's a third; I just caught a glimpse of pink inside the shell mouth.
One of them spent most of the day yesterday perched on the highest blade of eelgrass, periodically fanning and picking at the eggs. She has to keep them clean and oxygenated until they are ready to be released into the water. And it seemed to me that sometimes she was just getting comfortable: pulling the mass out of the shell and stretching her back legs, scratching her back against the shell interior, taking a few deep breaths, as it were, before she gave the eggs a quick brushing and pulled them back under cover. (Human females may wish they had that capability!)
|Pink and greenish berries. And are those black dots eyes?|
Laurie brought me another spider. He's getting good at catching them.
|She looks like another Steatoda*, but the pattern on her back is different than the previous dark brown ones.|
|Hanging belly up, in her normal position.|
When I bring home seaweeds for the hermit crabs, I always wash them well, sort through them to choose the best for planting in the aquaria, and set aside the broken and torn ones in clean water. Eventually, they will go on the garden, but there's usually something hiding in the lot. After a bit, tiny (really tiny, half-pinhead size) snails start to climb up the walls of the containers. Or assorted worms come to the surface as their oxygen evaporates.
This time, among the amphipods and worms, some little blackish lumps showed up along the water line. At first, I thought they were just shreds of hydroids, until one moved.
They were all about the same size, 2 mm. long, and oddly-shaped. I couldn't make sense of them until I saw them under the microscope.
|Another nudibranch. Side view.|
|Two nudis making a doughnut on glass.|
Rotting sugar wrack kelp, stranded on the sand at mid-tide:
|From a distance, I thought it was a dead fish.|
I've been keeping an eye on those new "antique" trees along our street. The flower buds have opened in the last couple of days.
|White and green|
It was sunny and warm for the second day in a row. So of course, we went out and bought oodles of dirt and compost, a hose hanger and lavender just ready to flower. And Laurie spread manure and raked, while I lazily sat on the ground in the sun and took photos of tiny wild violets.
|Volunteers; no fussing needed. My ideal plant!|
|Another one for BugGuide.|
Another few old photos; these are from last October.
|Woodbug in rotting pine cone, with snail.|
|Another millipede, sleeping. And the head of a long earthworm, plowing through the composted wood.|
|Plant louse, exploring a sheet of paper on my desk. Seriously cute.|
|A pinhead snail, not the same species as the one above. He hid when I moved him to the paper, but a minute later, set out to explore the desk. I put him back in the cone.|
Another lost photo: I must have put this dragonfly aside to send in to BugGuide, and filed it in the wrong folder, along with kitten and baby photos. It's from 'way back in May of 2008, found in Queen's Park, New Westminster, and taken with my little Canon point-and-shoot, then cropped close.
|Interestingly patterned abdomen and cat-like backwards "nose".|
Another forgotten photo: hydroids on eelgrass in my aquarium.
|Tiny, glassy structures waving in the current. Some of the spots are bubbles, but at least a few are the new medusas just released by the hydroid parents.|
Winter in the intertidal zone is difficult, even here where it barely gets cold. The water is often turbulent, the nights are long, the daylight dim. The plants and algae, the seaweeds and eelgrasses, die back, leaving no shelter from the flocking thousands of sandpipers foraging in the shallows.
We see little more than worm tubes and holes, snails, those everlasting invasive Asian mud snails mostly, and the hermit crabs that use their abandoned shells, fewer hermits than we would see in warmer weather. Many don't make it through to spring.
My tank residents have it easy. The temperature stays the same year-round. The current rarely changes, except when I'm cleaning the pump. There is daylight 16 hours a day, always bright, never clouded over. And there are no birds. No birds!
The one small bump in this easy road is the intermittent supply of greens. Often, on a trip to the beach, I manage to bring back only a few handfuls of skimpy eelgrass and a bit of half-dead kelp. It's rare that I find sea lettuce for them in the winter, or Turkish towel that isn't all torn and rotting. Sometimes their tank is almost empty of vegetation; when I then bring the hermits a mess of hydroid-covered eelgrass, they climb on it and never leave until it's bare.
This winter has been exceptionally hard for them; they have been getting a small taste of what their cousins on the beach go through every year. What with one thing and another, the weather, and the state of our health, and other time constraints, we haven't been down to the beach since mid-February. I did bring back a couple of pieces of fresh sea lettuce then, and I found a big leaf of fresh Turkish towel, which lasts well in the tank. But there was little eelgrass to go with it, and no replacements since then. The tank is bare; an underwater desert, decorated with small shreds of fading Turkish towel, stripped of any food value.
|One of the smaller hermits, on a barnacle-covered stick.|
|Hermit on lettuce leaf, all stretched out to grab as much as possible before the rest get there.|
|Hermit on the far side of a scrap of lettuce. His shell is showing through the hole someone has already torn.|
|Hurry, hurry! Dinner is served!|
Sorting photos from last year, I found several folders of still-unprocessed raw files. I've been plowing through these, and struck gold:
|6 legs and 1000 eyes. (Or thereabouts.)|
|Syrphid, or hover fly.|
|Spiky, splotchy, segemented larva. Eats aphids. Even in winter.|
|We're looking at it from the rear. Those pointed tubes at the back are its spiracles, or breathing tubes.|
It hasn't been a good winter for birds around our place. Whether it's the weird weather, or the unusual lack of insects, or something else, I can't tell. But only a few chickadees have been using the sunflower seed feeder, and a mere handful of juncos has been feeding on the ground in the sunny patch. Apart from those, we've seen a pair of varied thrushes, a sparrow or two, and one little wren that comes occasionally to use my birdbath.
I set out a suet cake on top of a winter-bare planter, hoping to attract more birds, and possibly to help them over the freezing days. One junco came, almost daily. Last week he brought a partner for a few minutes.
No-one else was interested.
Until today; the juncos have gone, but a squirrel followed his nose to the planter, and I found him chowing down with gusto.
|"This is yummy! And wasted on silly birds!"|
|Showing his teeth.|
Another forgotten photo, this one of an unidentified* pondweed for sale last August in our local nursery.
|The large green leaf is an average waterlily, about a hand's breadth across. The pondweed leaflets are a bit larger than those of the wild pondweed we find in ditches around here.|
Finally, a sunny, warm day! All day, too! We spent a couple of hours walking around the neighbourhood, looking for early flowers.
I'd never noticed this little beauty before:
|Squill or squill hybrid, possibly Scilla bifolia, nestling close to a sun-warmed log.|
I'm still sorting photos. I keep running across files that I had put aside for later, and then forgotten. I've started a list to be processed and posted; some are from as far back as 2009.
I found this tiny spider on a rock this afternoon, in a photo series from 2012:
|"Hey! Who are you? And no, you can't have any of my lunch! Scram!"|
|"Better grab it quick or that nasty one-eye will take it. She can go catch her own. I'm not sharing!"|
It rained again yesterday and the day before. The sun came out for a few minutes at noon, just long enough for us to decide to go to the beach; it's been too long. We didn't make it. Before we went for our jackets, the weather was back to wet and windy.
Just as well; we've been making great progress on sorting and clearing out years of photos, film and digital. Laurie's prints are down to two trays (from 21), and I've got a few extra Gigabytes to play with on the hard drive. Another week of this weather, and I'll have everything in some logical order.
But I do miss the beach!
These two photos are from 2012, on the White Rock beach.
|I see a chicken in that egg.|
|Just an ordinary barnacled rock, but I could easily imagine it to be a large camouflaged cuttlefish.|
A couple or three years ago, the city planted a row of saplings along the street behind our house. I haven't been able to identify them, but they are covered with pale creamy greenish flowers in the early spring.
I went out to see if there are any buds yet, and discovered that all the trees, now about twice our height, are covered with lichens and moss; the bark and even the wood itself is cracking, as if from extreme age and weathering.
|There are a few buds here and there, at the tips of branches.|
The rain stopped. The clouds blew away. And just before supper-time, the sun came out.
|The first open flowers on the tree.|
|Bumper crop coming up!|
Laurie's pop can airplane, one of two that he bought some 8 years ago at a collectibles fair.
|The propeller spins with the least little breeze. But it never goes anywhere.|
It's been pouring rain again, keeping the birdbath full and the pathways muddy, keeping us looking out the window at garden work to be done when and if it ever dries out. In my shade garden, winter-demolished plants are lifting their heads, putting out new, optimistic growth. The primulas are covered with flowers now, white and yellow, and all spattered with mud. Laurie's lupins, planted from seed last year,are almost six inches high already. (The ones I planted in the semi-shade barely made it through last summer; I don't expect to see them again.)
|Baby lupins on the last sunny day|
|I had to clean off some mud, of course. Quite a bit of mud, actually.|
|Waxy flowers in a rosette of leathery leaves.|
I'm back, rested and in my right mind. If you can call it that. Because I've been seeing strange things around here.
|Like a cross-eyed chickadee.|
|One-armed man threatened by an angry cobra?|
|I can't read this one. Can you?|