Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Beautiful wings

On a crane fly:

Tipula sp.

I looked these up on BugGuide, and found several with the same patterns (this one, for example), but BugGuide only identifies them down to the family, Tipulidae, or Large Crane Flies. It doesn't really matter; other LCF know where she belongs.

She's female; the males' abdomen ends in a club, while the females have this sharp, pointed ovipositor for laying eggs.

On a moth:

What are you thinking, little one?

On BugGuide, I found several different species of cutworm moths, Apamea, all present in the Pacific Northwest, all similar to this one. Apamea cogitata seems to be the best match. And I like the name; it means "Thoughtful Apamea".

And on a cricket:

Gryllus sp., female, as shown by her long ovipositor. She was trapped in my sink and tired of trying to climb the walls, so she sat still for me.

Every evening this summer, boy crickets chirp hopefully out on the lawn, holding those short, leathery hindwings up at an angle and scraping the serrated edges together. The curve of the hindwings against the body makes an echo chamber, amplifying the sound; females may hear the male's song up to 75 metres away!

Crickets are difficult to identify; most species look more or less alike. They are most easily distinguished by their song.

In a given area, it is usually possible to learn the various species through experience, by learning which songs go with which crickets at what time of year.  ... This is a group where it is actually usually easier to identify a specimen by hearing it than by seeing it! (BugGuide)

But the females don't make music; they don't have the equipment. So to identify a female, you have to find her mate, and get him to play you a song. I found a male tonight, hiding behind my favourite chair; tracked him down by ear. But once on stage, he refused to play any more, and scuttled away under the baseboard.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

That's more like it!

After that brief foray into eye-sizzling sunshine and jarring colours, my eyes were pining for our accustomed greys and blue-greens. Luckily, it rained all day Sunday, and threatened rain all Monday. I grabbed a jacket and went down to Tyee Spit to watch the sky.

Looking northwest. There were quite a few walkers, all smiling.

From the inner edge of the spit, looking towards the Campbell River mouth. There's a heron hiding behind the grasses on the left.

A bit later, looking east. It feels like rain, and the fish are leaping out in the channel.

And here's the heron, watching me, but too lazy to fly away.

The heron in a more typical pose: looking discouraged. Herons are not happy birds, not even when they have a full stomach.

And overhead:
Into the wild grey yonder. Ducks, I think.

Five minutes from home.

A Skywatch post.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sleeping with his eyes open

The moth and beetle control worker signed off at 1:30 AM, found himself a quiet ledge, and took a long, refreshing nap.

He's two inches long. He didn't wake up when I measured him.

2:40 AM. Time to wake up and go back to work.

That round blob is spider poop. It wasn't there while he slept.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Testing, testing, Part II

Under the docks at Brown's Bay.

It had been a bright, sunshiny day. In town, everything seemed sharp-edged, colours washed out to whites and off-whites. By supper time, I'd had enough, and headed north, out of town to the greens and the browns, and the cool of the evening. On a whim, I turned off at the Ripple Rock sign, and drove down to Brown's Bay. Maybe I'd have supper in the restaurant there.

There was no "cool of the evening" in Brown's Bay, yet. There were a few hours to go to sunset, and the light shimmered off the water, making me squint. (I'd forgotten my sunglasses in the car, and was too stubborn to go back for them.) Most of the boats in the marina were white, glaring, dazzling, featureless white.

Looking straight out to the breakwater. Vivid setting; a bit more saturated than what my sun-dazed eyes registered, and not as sparkly.

There was darkness and coolness down below the docks, but the contrast was too strong: I could make out vague white shapes down there, see the rings tiny fish made as they sampled the dust floating on the surface. When I was right above them, I could see the fish.

I couldn't see anything on the camera screen. I took photos anyhow.

Those vague white things, Plumose anemones. The camera on the Vivid setting saw them much better than I did.

A few of the fish, and two varieties of large kelp. (Broad-winged and Seersucker kelp?)

The docks float on these blue plastic tubs, home to a community of anemones, worms, mussels, and limpets. And, I think, a few green sea urchins.

The restaurant was noisy and crowded; I'd have to sit outside. In the sunshine. No. I got back in the car and drove to Sayward for a sandwich. The sun was setting as I drove home.

Brown's Bay is just north of Ripple Rock.

I'm pleased with the results using the Vivid setting, at least for underwater life. I've been testing it today with spiders and crickets; I'll post some of those tomorrow.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Testing, testing. Experimenting with colour control.

I've been learning more about the controls on my camera. (There are so many, and the manual is so confusing!) An article on Digital Photography School alerted me to the Picture Control settings, and I've been experimenting with them. The author recommends using a Flat setting for landscapes; it reduces blowouts or too dark areas, but needs careful processing later.

I took a few photos on Flat. They turned out flat. There was too much guesswork involved on tiny things where I didn't already know what colours they should be.

I switched back to Standard, and then, on a whim, to Vivid. This setting emphasizes colours and contrast, not really my style in landscapes, especially the grey-green landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. But it never hurts to experiment.

I turned to the aquarium; here, a vivid setting might help. Colours fade underwater, especially when the photo is taken through algae-covered glass. And here are the first sample shots, some good, some not so good.

A mud snail, Batillaria attramentaria, eating algae off the glass. Lightened, background noise despeckled out, and sharpened.

A grainy hand hermit, Pagurus granosimanus. The vivid setting shows up the blue bumps on his legs and chelipeds.

A carnivorous snail eating an inoffensive algae eater. I saw it first on the glass, prying the tiny snail off. Once the little guy was captured, the predator let go and dropped to the sand.

A nude hermit, recently molted, resting before he goes looking for a new shell. This was well back in the tank, where usually everything is greyed out. Post processing was only needed to reduce noise and sharpen.

Turned around and heading down to look for a shell. Despeckled and sharpened only.

And one photo that didn't quite work:

Orange-striped green anemone, Halliplanela lineata, on the glass.

The anemone was surrounded by extreme pollution; bubbles and swimming thingies, luckily behind the critter, but still confusing. The vivid setting highlighted them all, so the background had to be cropped out and re-worked; a long, slow job. But I'm impressed by the pattern in the base, so I've included the photo.

I went to Brown's Bay in the sunshine, with the camera set to Vivid. Bad idea; I've deleted all of the landscape photos. But I got a few critters under the docks, where the setting seems to have been helpful. I'll process those tomorrow.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

A couple of posers

A harvestman came down the wall in front of my desk, and posed there, waiting until I noticed.

Legs and leggy shadows.

Zooming in. She* was very patient, sitting absolutely still while I tried to get all of her in focus.

*Arbitrary choice of pronoun. How do you tell a female harvestman (harvestperson?) from the male? It's difficult. The male has longer legs and a smaller body than the female, but that's hard to calculate, unless you have a pair side by side. And females have a long ovipositor at the back, but usually this is hidden in a sheath, and only extended when they're laying eggs.

Their relatives, spiders, are easier, with the male's "boxing gloves" always held ready for action.

Later, I was preparing the camera for a few shots testing different settings, when this fly dropped in to sit right in front of the lens. I didn't even have to pick up the camera.

A very shallow depth of field got his hair, but not the face in focus. But at least I got the colour of the eyes.

He was not as patient as the harvestman; when I moved the camera, he up and left.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


Because my priorities are sadly askew.

"Hey, who's important around here, limpets, or ME?"

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Not a pinhead

The camera's one eye is better than my two, even augmented by a big lens. I spent the afternoon searching for the pinhead hermit crabs in my tank, trying to get them to come to the glass, and then to sit still for a minute, long enough for the camera to find them and focus. (Okay, half a minute? Please? If I give you some yummy food?)

They weren't interested. But a couple of their slightly larger friends took the bait. And the shrimp pellets make a good measuring stick, 3 mm. (1/8 inch) long.

The pellet is almost larger than the hermit (sans shell).

These tiny hermits are orange and white. They have the eyes, antennules (those waving flags in the middle of the forehead) and banded antennae of the hairy hermits, but an adult hairy is green or brownish, with blue patches on his knees.

A young adult hairy hermit, turning green already. Big enough now to hold the pellet in her chelipeds.

Side view of the same hermit. Look closely: the shell is populated with tiny tentacled critters, visible from the side and also from the top. The "tail" is one tentacle of a two-tentacled worm who has taken up residence in a tiny hole. 

I'll make another attempt to get photos of the pinhead* hermits. Their colours are contrasting dark brown and white.

*And I measured a standard dressmaking pin's head; it's 1 mm. across. Now, how will I convince a hermit to pose with a pin?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Meanwhile, back at the ranch ...

While I've been poking around weedy fields and stony beaches, life goes on apace in my aquarium. Snails are laying eggs, the amphipods are pairing up, and the anemones splitting up. (That's fine; that's how they multiply.) I counted 39 hermit crabs tonight, when I changed their water. About a third are youngsters; some are barely pinhead size - a small pinhead, at that. And there are two new crabs, a couple of millimetres across the carapace.

I've begun to bring in water from the shores at high tide again, instead of using the commercial aquarium salt and filtered water, since I learned that the local aquarium is using water from their doorstep. And my animals are much happier! Their colours are brighter, they're more active, a few that were damaged by the marauding crabs have recovered. The commercial salt has (probably) all the minerals and trace elements sea creatures need, but it's all dead stuff. Sea water is alive; it's swarming with planktonic plants and animals, the base of all marine food webs. And so is my aquarium, now.

Limpet on the glass, scraping away at spots of green algae. The pointed extension is its gill. And the bright green tube just inside the shell is limpet poop, digested algae.

A small chiton, about an inch long. It arrived on a rock with barnacles for my snails.

Another recent addition. The crabs ate his companion before they were deported.

Several small anemones have appeared in the tank. This one, I think, is an orange-striped green anemone, well to the back of the tank on the old abalone shell.

That limpet again, still eating, with its antennae extended; celebrating that wonderful feed coming up!

Down at the beach, looking for water, I took this next photo. The incoming tide usually is carrying something: driftwood, ripped up eelgrass, long kelp whips, scraps of sea lettuce, and this last week, hundreds of lions' mane and moon jellies. This time, the algae was the colour of yellowed sea lettuce, but instead of sheets, it was a thick paste, with thicker blobs.

Green scum, unidentified algae.

I waded in and collected my two gallons of water, pushing aside the algae. It was fine; my anemones received it with enthusiastically waving tentacles.

Sunday, August 21, 2016


On sandstone exposed when the river goes dry, underwater come the fall rains, a bluebell plant homesteads in a sheltered corner, digging its taproot deep into the stone.

Common harebells, in the Oyster River bed.
Oyster River sandstone beds.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Decisions, decisions!

My grandkids were visiting, and we were coming home from exploring Woodhus Creek, when we met a deer family, two adults and a fawn, beside the road. The kids got out of the car and walked over, and to my surprise, the deer looked at them and went on browsing.

I stayed in the car, taking photos through the windshield.

The larger adult, looking well fed, chewing a mouthful of greens.

The fawn, and, I think, the mother. She's skinny, as if she's been nursing her baby.

Mother and fawn

The girls were sensible enough to keep quiet, move gently, and not approach too closely. The fat adult moved back into the bush, came up against a chain-link fence (visible in the top photo), and returned to go on with his meal. But the mother was nervous, and after a few minutes, she crossed the road, where the bush went on, without barriers, all the way down to the river.

She waited. The fawn tiptoed timidly out onto the road, and almost all the way across, before he started to wonder if this was the right thing. Here he was, halfway between one adult and the other, and not sure where to go. Neither of the adults moved to call him.
We humans all held our breath.

Which way? Which way?

(Aren't those the cutest little toes?)

Thinking it over

Eventually, the fawn went back to his starting point. The mother dithered, debating her next move. Back across the road to her fawn? Or stay there, on the path to safety, calling her baby to come on? She couldn't make up her mind, and we were not helping, just being there.

We loaded the kids back into the car and drove on.

Luckily, no other car came down the road, hurrying around the blind corner ahead, while the youngster stood, doubting, on the centre line.

We were here.

Friday, August 19, 2016

How old is a flower?

Bees can tell.

An older flower, and a honey bee with full bags of pollen.

And a young flower.
And this gumweed flower is half-way between the two above.

Gumweeds are composites; their flower heads contain many smaller flowers, the petal-like ray flowers around the edge, and a mass of disc flowers in the centre. The individual flowers mature first at the outer edge, then progressively inward, with the youngest flowers in the middle.

Look again at the flowers above; the younger flowers are still closed, the recently mature ones, where the bees are busy harvesting, have protruding anthers loaded with pollen, and on the outer edge, the tiny flowers are busy making seeds. Each single flower will produce one seed.

The ray flowers are sterile.

Still here. Moving on tomorrow.