Friday, March 06, 2015

Test shot: cloudy night, with moon

As I was coming home tonight, the moon was playing peek-a-boo behind dark clouds. I stopped in a handy parking lot to get a photo before they swallowed it altogether.

No man in this moon.

The little pocket Sony was fast enough to deal with camera shake without a tripod in the dark. (The curvy car door doesn't make a good substitute.) The background was noisy, though; I don't know if all the colours were from the Home Depot lights behind me, or from the moon's halo in the clouds.

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Thursday, March 05, 2015

Just another pretty face

Blue-eyed shore crab, looking at her reflection in the camera lens.

"Handy mirror!"

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Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Fly on the wall

The first indoor fly of the year. He was still lethargic, since I've turned off the heat, so he stayed put while I climbed on a chair and reached up, camera in one hand, slave flash in the other, balancing shakily on tiptoes. I got two photos before he turned and ambled off, out of my reach.

I love his outfit: blue-striped jacket with black beads, and a steam-punk hat. (Click on photo for full-size view.)

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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

As seen by the BirdCam

Birds by day...

Junco and box of heather

Sparrow and cowslips, just opening.

And sometimes a coon by night ...

Just passing through.

And with every batch of photos, a few shots of my bare feet. But I'll spare you those.

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Monday, March 02, 2015

Sand dime

It's too small to be a dollar.

So I measured it: 11/16 inch. The size of a Canadian dime.

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Sunday, March 01, 2015

A mouthful of centipedes

Rows of spores on a hart's-tongue fern in Laurie's shade garden.

Asplenium scolopendrium, I think.

A cluster of spores makes up a sorus, from the ancient Greek for "pile, heap". In the hart's-tongue, the sori are long rows; in our common native ferns, they're round dots. These long sori reminded somebody of a centipede, so the fern was named, in Latin, for a centipede: "scolopendrium".

(They look more like caterpillars to me, but according to the naming conventions, the first person to describe a plant or critter gets to name it.)

Here's the whole fern. And the fronds are supposed to look like deer's tongues. With centipedes on the underside.

The imagination boggles.

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Flash mob

Baby crabs love the light. Swarms of them jitterbug on the aquarium wall by a side light. Here they are, dancing attendance on a visiting Nassa snail.

She may be eating a few as she goes.

When I collect an eyedropper-full of these and look at them under the microscope, most of them are the wriggly, leggy crab zoea. Some will be copepods, and there is a certain amount of detritus; floating bits of shrimp, snail poop, shreds of algae and the like. I wash off the slide in the water, and within minutes, the critters are dancing in the light again.

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Friday, February 27, 2015

Bouncing back

Sometimes the resilience of tiny critters bowls me over. I carefully remove every hermit and crab I can find from the sand in the aquarium, then churn the sand around, back and forth, changing the water and churning again several times, to get all the crud out. Then I pour in clean water and smooth everything out, and a pinhead-sized hermit bounces to the top, not in the least disturbed by the upheaval.

I scrub down a wall, then notice that I've dislodged an infant anemone and it's caught in my towel. No problem; I rinse out the cloth, and the anemone drifts away in the current. A bit later, I find it happily anchored on a fresh piece of seaweed.

Tonight, cleaning the tank again, I ran my fingers through the sand in one corner, looking for a tiny clam I'd seen there two days earlier. I didn't find it; it will show up eventually. But once everything was back in its place, I happened to look at that corner, and there was a miniature tubeworm, standing tall, as if there had been no major earthquake in that spot just half an hour earlier.

Feather duster worm, about 1/4 inch tall.

My hermits get in a fight. One ends up maimed, with both pincers gone. She struggles along, avoiding confrontation, holding her food with her spare mouthparts, hanging around the roots of eelgrass, unable to climb it. And then she molts, and stretches out her new pincers, still baby-sized, but serviceable. Next molt, she'll be back to normal.

"See my new hands!"

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

In the absence of raccoons

I keep the BirdCam loaded and aimed at my birdbath, where raccoons occasionally come to drink. Every few days I check the photos. Usually, they're of juncos and chickadees, chickadees and juncos, and sometimes a raccoon tail, just leaving. This week's take was a disappointing series of me, out in the night murdering slugs.

As I went to replace the memory and start the camera going again - never give up! - I saw movement on the edge of the lens. A little springtail going around and around, following his own footsteps, like Piglet. The BirdCam delivers, one way or another.

"There's gotta be an end to this path."

"Maybe back this way?"

I'll have to send this in to the Springtail group for an ID; Entomobrya sp. or Orchesella, possibly.

While I'm at it, here's a carpet beetle that dropped in to visit. He's a giant alongside the springtail.

Not a raccoon, either.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Pink beach

I made a quick run to the beach to pick up goodies for my hermits and crabs, but it's been a busy day, and by the time I drove into Beach Grove, the sun was setting behind me.  The tide was halfway out, and the beach, when I finally got there, was dark grey, except where tidepools reflected the pink of the clouds above. There were a couple of ducks and a heron in the distance, and I could hear gulls arguing over supper, but couldn't see them in the dusk.

A perfect time to try out a new camera, right? I took a half dozen photos, then got to work looking for eelgrass. By shape; I couldn't see colours any more, other than the pink sheen on wet areas.

The ducks. At maximum zoom, in the dusk. The photo turned out lighter than what I was seeing. Yes, the water was pink. What looks like a dead body on the sand is a log.

With the pink light, even mud with worm poop looks good.

I chased down the heron, but he flew away and all I got was a blur of wings. And by the time I'd collected my small bag of seaweeds (mostly rockweed and a kelp holdfast), the first star was out. Time for coffee at Tim Horton's, and the road home.

My hermits are happy tonight, swarming over the seaweeds and peeling the skin off the holdfast.

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Monday, February 23, 2015

New camera

One day without a pocket camera was one too many. I went out and bought another; a little Sony like the last one. This one is the DSC-WX350.

By the time I got it home and set up, it was too dark to take it for a run outside, so I took a few trial shots into the aquarium.

Red algae, a shred of sea lettuce, and the little blue anemone.

Hairy hermit.

Juvenile leafy hornmouth, bearing three very tiny baby blue anemones. 

One of the miniature orange hermits, on eelgrass.

So far, so good. It's about the same size as the one it replaces, but with better zoom. In this first test, it gives me good colour; difficult through algae-coated glass. It's fast, so it stops even walking hermits in their tracks. Unfortunately, the photos are noisy, and focussing is iffy on tiny things. But I do like its speed.

I won't be using it for my critters, though. The real test will be tomorrow: skies, stuff, buildings, roadsides, people.

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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Hard to believe

It's still February. Last year at this time, we were snowed under:

Snow in my maple tree, Feb. 23, 2014.

This year:

It's cherry blossom time!

Pink everywhere I look

The magnolias are starting to bloom

A tree full of white flames.

And today I took Laurie down to sit in the sunshine again, but it was so hot, even he had to move to the shade.

These last 4 photos are the swan song of my trusty little pocket Sony; it has now developed a bad smear of something inside the lens and I can't clean it. After 4 years of sand, salt spray and the occasional saltwater bath, rain, mud, sticky kid fingers, a few falls, and more sand blasting, it has earned its retirement.

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Friday, February 20, 2015

So many choices!

Small hairy hermit in a shell that looks a bit too roomy contemplates a bargain basement selection.

The little white one looks like it would fit.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Pink and white

Laurie's Daphne is blooming again!

I love the rumpled buds.

These plants are slow starters, and picky about their conditions, to boot. And Laurie planted his at the wrong time of year, then it had a difficult winter, too much water in the summer, and no care this winter at all. I'm surprised to see it still growing.

They are supposed to be extremely fragrant, but I haven't noticed any scent. I just discovered why:

The scent is so thick that on warmer days it can envelop a neighborhood. (From Portland Nursery)

Oh. We haven't had any "warmer days". Not even warm days. I'll wait for a sunny afternoon, and check again.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Four eyes

Just another hermit portrait.

"Hi, there!"

In a full-face view, those two little dark spots in the mouth look like eyes, as if the hermit were carrying a little pet. A mousie, or a kitten, maybe?

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Burning sky

We've had a couple of glorious days. Yesterday and today, I took Laurie down to the Garden Walk to bask in the sun. (He basked, I sought out too-narrow stripes of shade.) And then, on the way home this afternoon, I was treated to a head-swivelling, eye-blistering sunset. Pink everywhere overhead, to the south, east, and north; and to the west, flaming yellows and oranges, simmering down to reds in my rear-view mirror as I turned into our driveway.

The traffic was heavy, so I pulled into a bus stop by an open schoolyard near home to get a photo.

5:43 PM. 

This was 10 minutes past the "official" sunset time, as given by But isn't this a sunset?

Looking at one of the sunrise/sunset pages, I noticed that our "sunsets" fall after sunset, during the twilight period. To confuse the matter, there are three ways to measure this twilight: there's Civil twilight, Nautical twilight, and Astronomical twilight.

  • Sunset is
 "when the last part of the Sun is about to disappear below the horizon (in clear weather conditions)." (And over a flat horizon.) (
  • Civil twilight
... begins at sunset and ends when the geometric center of the sun reaches 6° below the horizon (civil dusk). Civil twilight can also be described as the limit at which twilight illumination is sufficient, under clear weather conditions, for terrestrial objects to be clearly distinguished; at the ... end of evening civil twilight, the horizon is clearly defined and the brightest stars are visible under clear atmospheric conditions. (Wikipedia, CT)
  • Nautical twilight begins
... at sunset and end(s) when the center of the sun is 12 degrees below the horizon. In general, nautical twilight ends when navigation via the horizon at sea is no longer possible. (Wikipedia, NT)
  • And Astronomical twilight goes on until 
... the center of the sun is 18 degrees below the horizon. From the end of astronomical twilight in the evening ... the sky (away from urban light pollution) is dark enough for all astronomical observations. (Wikipedia, AT)
There's a handy diagram on Wikipedia that sort of clears this up.

Wikipedia, by TWCarson

Complicated, and irrelevant to my purposes. I would like to propose a useful new category of twilight: Fiery Twilight. I'll define it as beginning when the first tinge of yellow or pink shows up in the eastern sky and ending when the last hint of glowing embers dies in the west. The length of time will vary, except that it will invariably be too short.

Another Skywatch post; two this week!

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Monday, February 16, 2015

Mr. (or Mrs.) T.

The first plume moth of the season was waiting for me by the door when I came home this afternoon.

Morning glory plume moth, Emmelina monodactyla

I have found these around here before, and had tentatively identified them as the Morning glory* moth. Tonight, looking again at the samples on BugGuide, I found a helpful annotated photo, which more or less confirms the id.

The markings pointed out on the photo are:

  • the curved wing tips. Check.
  • Three dots along the centre back of the abdomen. Check.
  • A dot near the centre of the wing. I think I see them, although I'm looking at it from below, so I'm not really sure.
Next time, I'll know what to look for.

The caterpillars of these moths feed on Convovulvus species, including our pestiferous bindweed. But one of my neighbours planted Morning glories last summer: I'll check her plants for the caterpillars later on.

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Sunday, February 15, 2015


The skies have been grey, blue-grey, grey, greenish-grey, grey, and rainy grey for days, but this afternoon Laurie said, "Look! Blue!" And there it was, a small blue patch that faded as soon as I went to the window.

On the way home, it appeared again; blue sky to the south, between clouds. Waiting at a traffic light between trucks, I took a photo through the car window. Good thing I did; 10 minutes later, when I parked at home, the clouds had closed in again.

Just goes to show; the sky is blue, after all.

A Skywatch post.

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Saturday, February 14, 2015


Boundary Bay, end of January:

With tiny eagle, heron, gulls and ducks.

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Friday, February 13, 2015

In a wet garden

In our gardens, it's spring. Leaves are unfolding, flowers budding or even blooming. Laurie's three-year-old leeks, that he planted hoping for leek soup, but that never grew more than a few inches, have sprouted again, for the third year. (They won't end up in soup this year, either.)

And Laurie is lying on his back in the hospital, staring at the grey sky through his window. So I took my little pocket camera and went out to take a few photos that I could then show him, back at the hospital. The minute I went outside, it started to rain. I kept going and took a few fast photos anyway.

Hellebores. Laurie's are whitish. Mine, back in the shade, are barely sprouting now. They will be deep purple.

One of Laurie's collection of ferns. With the leaves neither of us had the energy to remove in December.

Perennial bleeding hearts, just sprouting. Mine, in deep shade, are white; his will be a strong pink.

Running back to shelter across the lawn, I had to stop to look at this droplet on a branch of the linden tree. The building behind me and a tall evergreen are reflected here, upside-down.

I had to leave the camera open on the seat beside me all the way to the hospital, to let it dry out. And Laurie smiled at his little row of leeks.

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

The search continues

Somewhere there has to be the perfect outfit. Is this it?

White shell, black shell, fat shell, thin shell ... hmmm ...

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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sand in his teeth

Found on Crescent Beach:

"That's not my spinach!"

Eelgrass washed up on the west shore of Boundary Bay and around the corner at White Rock piles itself up in great, knotty heaps of rotting black bands, smelly and usually covered with flies. On Crescent Beach, on the east shore, it blows up above the tide line onto the gravel, and dries into these short brown ribbons. No flies, no noticeable odor.

It is probably the effect of the wind, which is much stronger and more constant on Crescent Beach.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Black-eyed babies

The water in my aquarium was cloudy. It shouldn't have been; I'd just finished a complete tank clean-up. But all the residents seemed happy and busy, so I let it be.

Early this morning, just after the tank lights came on, I noticed movement along the wall nearest a light; little flecks of light, dancing in clouds of smaller flecks that moved like flocks of starlings, swirling, coming together, then washing away in the current, only to turn and spin into the flock again.

What were they? I fished some out with an eyedropper and got out the microscope.

Zoea! Crab babies! Cute, big-eyed, dancing babies!

This is one of the "big" flecks of light. Big eyes, long spines in front, long tail.

Side view

These were hard to photograph, since they are never still. But the tiny specks were even worse:

Three zoea, and a few of the tinies.

At first, I thought the littest specs were copepods, and the zoea were eating them, but looking closely, I realized that they moved differently, were a different shape, and were continuously waving a bunch of little legs. First molt of crab zoea? I don't know.

One dancing zoea, dozens of little critters. The dark spot in the centre is part of their body; the eyes are smaller, at the front. One near the tail of the zoea shows a clear profile.

There were thousands of these.

Three zoea, one showing off his headgear.

The female black-clawed crab had been carrying eggs when I first saw her. When I changed the water a couple of days ago, they were gone. I think these may be her babies, freshly hatched.

And mostly, freshly eaten, too. Many marine invertebrates, like crabs have thousands of offspring at a time; the world they are born into is so dangerous, so full of hungry mouths, that most of them die in infancy. The thousands I saw this morning are gone; checking the tank half an hour ago, I found only three dancing zoea. The barnacles and anemones have probably finished off the rest.

More info:
 Apart from the Dromiacea, all crabs share a similar and distinctive larval form. The crab zoea has a slender, curved abdomen and a forked telson, but its most striking features are the long rostral and dorsal spines, sometimes augmented by further, lateral spines. (Wikipedia)

One of Haeckel's drawings. A typical crab zoea, for comparison. (via Wikipedia)

From SeaGrant, Alaska, here's a photo to show the size of these babies; these are red crab zoea.

Zoea and pencil.

There's a photo of a group of zoea, apparently through a microscope, at that link. And Keith Davey, in Australia, has a couple of wriggly gifs, showing the zoea and the megalopa stages of baby crabs.

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Saturday, February 07, 2015

Does it fit?

You've got to try on quite a few outfits before you find one that really fits. This one may be just a little too roomy for a small blue hermit.

"It's pretty, but it would make me look fat, don't you think?"

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Friday, February 06, 2015

Hungry legs

On a small stone in the aquarium, dozens of acorn barnacles are fishing:

Yes, those are their legs. Lots of hairy, sticky legs.

Some barnacles fan the water, back and forth, back and forth. Some unroll their long legs, wave them once, and immediately roll them back inside the shell, over and over. Of these, each one has his own rhythm, some faster, some slower.

These tiny ones mostly just keep their fans spread out, retracting them briefly from time to time to see what they've caught. Copepods, baby crabs, and leftover shrimp crumbles, probably.

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Thursday, February 05, 2015

Gold in the dust

Found in the dust in a corner:

Long-dead sowbug carcass, spider webs.

Just because I liked the colours.

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