Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The brown lands

The Campbell River rushes down towards the sea from John Hart Lake, knowing where it's going, and not wasting time sightseeing. But then it hits the flats, and loses all sense of direction, wandering about, making side trips, back-tracking, stopping at interesting corners, following a sleepy duck or a browsing raccoon, making circles around little islands, carving out a lagoon or two, checking out interesting tree roots ...

It gets there, eventually, but in the meantime it has created a wild, muddy, grassy maze, green in the spring and summer, brown all winter.

The end of the estuary, from the Myrt Thompson trail. The fence protects recently re-planted native vegetation.

Sign near this veiwpoint, with old map of the estuary.

Text of sign: Estuaries form where rivers meet the sea.
Rivers slow as they flow through coastal floodlands and out into the Pacific Ocean. Silts and nutrients settle to form fertile delta soils, mud and sand banks and various marsh habitats. The diverse specially adapted marsh plant communities and wide flat intertidal areas are exposed twice a day by the tides and are teeming with tiny worms, snails, and crustaceans.
These are the most biologically diverse wetlands along the Pacific coast. They provide ideal feeding and resting areas for millions of waterfowl, shorebirds, wintering birds of prey, salmon stocks and many other life forms. They are essential to the survival of hundreds of fish and wildlife species, and the people relying on them.

Y en español:
Tierras pardas.

El Rio Campbell corre hacia el mar desde el Lago John Hart, sin perder el tiempo dando vueltas, como que sabe bien para donde va. Luego llega a las tierras planas y pierde toda idea de urgencia y se pone a dar vueltas, regresar a mirar alguna esquina interesante, seguir el rastro de un pato dormilón o de un mapache en busca de cangrejos de río, hacer círculos alrededor de una islita, colarse bajo las raíces de los árboles, descansar en una laguna perdida ...

Llega al mar, al fin, pero en camino ha formado un laberinto lodoso, lleno de plantas semi-marítimas y pastos, inhóspito para los humanos, pero un paraíso para los pájaros, verde en primavera y verano, y de una variedad de colores café en el invierno.

En la primera foto, se ve el estuario desde una península a medio rio. Las redes protegen plantas nativas recién sembradas.

La segunda foto es de un anuncio cerca del camino.

Dice: Los estuarios forman donde los ríos llegan al mar.
Los ríos corren lentamente através de tierras inundables y salen al Oceano Pacífico. Allí en la delta, cienos y materias nutritivas se depositan y forman tierras fértiles, bancos de lodo y de arena, y pantanos de varios tipos. Las comunidades de plantas pantanales adaptadas especialmente a estas condiciones, y las áreas planas litorales se exponen al aire dos veces diarias por las mareas, y abundan en gusanos, caracoles, y crustáceos.
Estos son los terrenos humedales con más variedad biológica en la costa del Pacífico. Proveen areas ideales donde millones de pájaros acuáticas y playeras, aves de rapiña que pasan aquí el invierno, salmones y muchos otros animales descansan y se alimentan. Son esenciales para la sobrevivencia de cientos de especies de pescado y otros animales salvajes, y de la personas que de ellos dependen.


Friday, January 24, 2020

Busy scene

(Text in Spanish at the bottom: el texto en español sigue al pie de la página.)

The little periwinkle snails are hard workers. They scrape away the algae from the walls, from the oyster shells, from the eelgrass, and the filter intake. Here's one cleaning up the shell of a young hermit crab.

Hairy hermit, Pagurus hirsutiusculus, still very small. They lose their orange colour as they grow. 

Most of my crabs are quite small, but there's one huge one (huge by shore crab standards anyhow). His pincers are wide and powerful. The snail shell above, on the right shows what he can do; he breaks the shell of a live snail to get at the meat. He is otherwise not aggressive; everybody else gets out of his way; nobody challenges him.

But  nothing goes to waste. An orange-striped green anemone has set up shop in the abandoned snail shell.

Plumose anemone, Metridium senile, surrounded by seaweeds (Pacific rose, Turkish towel, eelgrass, a fragment of sea lettuce) and broken shells. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Los caracolillos trabajan constantemente. Raspan el algae de la pared, de las conchas en el piso, de las algas marinas, y hasta de la tubería del filtro. Aquí en la primera foto, uno se ocupa limpiando la concha usada por un cangrejito ermitaño.

El beneficiario es un ermitaño peludo, Pagurus hirsutiusculustodavía muy joven. Al crecer, pierden el color anaranjado.

La mayoría de mis cangrejos son pequeños, pero uno es grande, enorme según el tamaño normal de su especie, Hemigrapsus oregonensis. Sus pinzas son grandes y fuertes. En la foto del cangrejo ermitaño, la conchita rota al lado derecho sirve como muestra de su actividad. Con las pinzas, aprieta la concha de mar hasta romperla, para comerse la carne.

Aparte de eso, no molesta a los demás habitantes del aquario; nadie le hace frente.

En el agua, nada se desperdicia. Una anémona (Diadumene lineata) se ha instalado en la concha rota donde está protegida pero expuesta a la corriente que le trae sus alimentos.

En la segunda foto aparece la anémona emplumada (Metridium senile) rodeada de algas marítimas: rosa pacífica, toalla turka, lechuga marina, y una hoja de Zostera marina.



Thursday, January 23, 2020

Snail on a messy wall

(Text in Spanish at the bottom: el texto en español sigue al pie de la página.)

A periwinkle snail climbed the wall of the aquarium, feasting on the algae that infests the glass.

Sitka periwinkle, Littorina sitkana. About 5 mm long.

Usually, I clean up the background, removing algae spots and the scratches on the glass. I left them as is, this time; the algae is an essential part of the scene; it's the snail's dinner. And the scratches belong there, too. The snails make them, dragging their hard shells over the surface of the glass. Algae take advantage of them to grab a toehold.

Un caracolillo, Littorina sitkana, que mide más o menos 5 milímetros de largo, se ocupó en comer el alga que crece en la pared del aquario.

Normalmente, limpio la fotografía, borrando las manchas del alga y las rayaduras del vidrio. Hoy las dejé porque son un elemento esencial de la situación; el alga es la comida del caracol. Y las rayaduras las hacen los mismos caracoles, arrastrando sus conchas sobre el vidrio. Y esas grietitas les sirven al alga para fijarse a la pared.




Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Playdough log

(Text in Spanish at the bottom: el texto en español sigue al pie de la página.)

On the outer shore at Oyster Bay, among the logs at the upper storm level, one log stands out. First, it's twice the size of any of its neighbours, a bit over 5 feet in diameter; even partially sunk into the sand, the top is at my eye level.

And then, it has been eaten away by teredos, water, salt and wind, rotted and bashed until it is shaped like a mass of childrens clay, squeezed and bulged and twisted. There's no bark left, and the wood is perforated by tiny holes, like a sponge. Mosses and lichens and jellyspot fungi have colonized it; winter storms toss broken shells on top; there are always a few rocks as well.

Yes, that's a log. With a nest of rock eggs. As found.

The roots of an old branch. And more rocks. A few blades of grass add to the life aboard.

On the next log over, because I could reach these: Jelly Spot fungi, Dacrymyces stellatus.

I've been asked to provide text in Spanish for the blog. Con gusto.

En la costa exterior de Oyster Bay (Bahía de los Ostiones) entre los troncos que descansan al nivel más alto de las mareas de invierno, un tronco se destaca. En primer lugar, porque su diámetro es el doble de los más grandes de sus troncos vecinos.

Y luego, porque se ha deformado de tal manera, por la acción de los teredos (almejas que parecen lombrices y que comen madera), por el agua, la sal, el viento, y todo lo que el viento y las olas le avientan; hasta que ahora se parece más bien a una masa de plastilina que los niños han machucado, aplastado y torcido. Ya no tiene corteza, y la madera está perforada con los túneles de los teredo hasta que parece una esponja. Allí crecen los musgos, el liquen, y hongos "Punto de Gelatina", Dacrymyces stellatus: las tormentas del invierno le echan pedazos de concha; siempre hay algunas piedras encima.






Sunday, January 19, 2020

Tidal ice

The Nunns Creek marsh is a tidal wetland, a series of connected pools at low tide, mostly water at high tide. So the ice rises and falls and breaks up over hummocks of grass and shrubs.

Low tide. A branch of the creek, with shaped ice.

The tide rises to the top of the ditch.

In mid-summer, this is dry at low tide.

Ice caught high on the reeds, while the surrounding ice dropped as the tide went out.

And then it snowed. And now it's raining. Ah, BC!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Where the ice was

I took photos of the wetlands under ice just in time. Now they're under a foot of snow.

View over the southeast end of the marsh, looking northeast. The hills beyond are on the mainland.

There is a sign beside the road; I stopped to read it.

Description of the restoration program.

The sign reads: Environmentally Sensitive Fish Habitat. Discovery Harbour Shopping Centre Ltd, developed and managed by the Campbell River Indian Band and Northwest Properties in conjunction with Federal Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Wildlife Service conducted a low marsh restoration and planting program in the Campbell River Estuary within Lot 136 and Spit Road in 1997 and 1999. As part of the estuary restoration plan, relocation of Old Spit Road occurred and natural estuary was re-established. Designed by TERA Planning Ltd, the planting was completed by members of the Campbell River Indian Band.

(This whole area had been used for logging operations, heavy equipment and other industrial uses for most of the last century. Now, it is being restored, piece by piece.)

Continuing with the text of the sign: To assist the natural recolonization of the estuary area, salvaged vegetative material was stockpiled for use. Approximately 800 sq m of plant material, including Lyngbye's and other sedges, spikerush, hairgrass and other low marsh species were removed and stored in a donor site. The existing slough was not touched.

(Me again. I'd never heard of these wetlands species. I looked them up. Lyngbye's sedge is "often the most dominant species in tidal marshes ..." [Plants of Coastal BC] "This is a pioneer species, one of the first plants to colonize the mud of tidal flats in its range. [Wikipedia]

Spikerush is not a rush, but a creeping wetland sedge. Hairgrass would be the tufted hairgrass, Deschampsia cespitosa; it is a native perennial grass about a metre tall. Some of the photos I took of the ice look like the base is this grass.)

Back to the sign: The eastern half of the program was conducted in the spring of 1997 and the culverts at Old Spit Road were opened at that time. This included the removal of shrub vegetation and soil, followed by the establishment of a network of channels planted with approximately 400 sq m of the stockpiled vegetation (or 20,000 15 cm x 15 cm cylinders of marsh material.)

A lot of work! The shrub vegetation removed would have included the invasive Himalayan blackberry: there is still a heavy infestation in the area between this wetland and the river bank.

Photos from the sign

The western half and the area under the Old Spit Road were replanted in early 1999. Construction was similar to that done for the eastern half. This phase saw the decommissioning of Old Spit Road itself. This project has created approximately 2 ha of low marsh. The new marsh is now an important contributor of fish nutrients and provides rearing habitat for your salmon.

I went looking for this old road last year. I found the end of it, but it petered out in a few metres. It's bird, bug, and fish habitat now. And maybe chocolate lily habitat, but I'll have to forgo looking for them.

Under the roof of the above sign. Juvenile salmon live here!!

Google map of the area, with my labels.





Thursday, January 16, 2020

Birding at a distance

It was a day for small birds, birds that usually are hidden behind the leaves. And for a few big birds, 'way off in the distance, so they were essentially little birds, according to my eyes and camera.

A kingfisher! Not only did he park not too far away, but he stayed there while I took enough photos to get one more or less in focus.

A young robin, all speckly.

Zooming in on him. It's 8 below zero, Celsius. How these tiny critters keep from freezing is a never-ending wonder. I'm wearing long johns, layers of warm clothes, gloves, a tuque and a hood and I'm still cold.

A little green-winged teal. Poor photo, but I'm glad I got it; I haven't seen one of these for several years.

A sparrow on the frozen path beside the river.

Usually the little brown birds flit around in the undergrowth; on this frozen afternoon, sparrows and robins and towhees came out to the path, where the sunshine sort of softened the frozen ground.

One of a flock of golden-crowned sparrows.

And the bigger birds, looking small:

Mallards sleeping in the sun. The white stuff on the island behind them is ice.

An eagle, as I usually see them; a white spot at the top of an evergreen.

Birds, birds, birds. All too far away. Right to left: a flying duck, a bufflehead, several small flocks of diving ducks, probably buffleheads, a Cessna, and an eagle. And what looks like two waiters on stilts carrying trays of goodies.

Photos I took that wouldn't even have qualified for the Worst Bird Photograph page: a V of honking Canada geese, towhees against the light, and a pair of diving common mergansers, another bird I haven't been seeing for some time.



Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Nunns Creek icelands

Winter is finally here. Two days ago, it was warm and rainy; today, the temperature dropped to -8° Celsius (17.6° Fahrenheit). I passed by the Nunns Creek wetlands; today they are icelands.

Frozen solid, warmed by afternoon sun.

I walked down to the edge of the ice, over ground that is usually too wet and muddy to dare. It was rock hard.

More photos tomorrow.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

The innocent look

Those sleepy eyes, that gentle pose. She's pretending.

Don't mess with Corsa! She's lightning fast and her claws are sharp.

Corsa is my landlord's cat; I kitten-sat her when she was tiny and therefore she assumes it is my responsibility to provide soft sleeping spots and full food dishes forever more. But ever since I had to hold her down to cut her out of her collar when she got her leg caught in it and her head all twisted because of it (I can't figure out how), she growls and slashes at me any time I come too close.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Weird, just weird

This is just strange. I've never seen snow like this before.

In the ditches beside the highway there was about an inch of snow, but more exposed areas were clear. Except on certain of the weeds. And two puddles. There, the snow was individual blobs, like small flakes, but each one separate. And only on ice or organic material. But not on moss or evergreen needles.

The rocks are dry. The weeds are damp.

I thought at first that the blobs were the remainders of hail, but no, they were soft as new-fallen snow.

Ice on a puddle. With mini-snow blobs.

And why did the ice form in long sticks?

So confusing!

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

Somewhere there is sunshine

I had the afternoon free and the camera packed. But the day was a dark grey, with patches of rain. Too dark for photos, too unpredictable for walking. And the tide would be high again until after dark. (Sunset was at 4:38.) Time to get out of town; maybe I could find the sun.

I decided to go north. That way, I might find snow, too. The camera and I would like the light; sunshine on snow!

Fog, fog, rain, fog. And more fog. The only colours visible in the watery light were grey, dingy browns, and the greyed dark greens of the evergreens. After the Sayward turnoff, about 50 km from home, where the highway climbs into the hills (and there are warnings to carry chains) snow started to show up on the side of the highway. And up ahead there were tiny patches of slightly blue sky. I drove on, hoping.

I found sunshine!

See? Sunshine on the trees and the valley beyond! No road goes there, though.

The sun came and went, playing peekaboo behind the mountains, then merging back into the fog. Tall trees bordering the highway hid the mountain peaks. I found an abandoned logging road and went up to get a better view.

My logging road. A few metres farther up, and the view was gone. The light patch on the hillside is a clearcut logged area.

Around the next bend. No sunshine visible from here. A bit of snow, behind the trees on the left.

The highway dipped down into the Woss Valley and the roadside snow disappeared. Fog settled in again. Farther north, it started to rain. I turned around and came home. There was snow on Mount Huksan, behind Sayward, visible sometimes when the clouds lifted for a moment. Dim fog merged gradually into dimmer twilight, even before sunset.

I was glad to see the lights of home twinkling over the water under a foggy full moon.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Bird seed on stalks

Dock in winter:

On the shore of Tyee Spit

A common wetland plant, that loves wet feet. Here the water is brackish; half salt, half fresh, where the Campbell River merges into the ocean. In the winter, the vegetation is reduced to grasses, the dock, bare hardhack and wild rose stalks, plus, of course, the horribly invasive Himalayan blackberry.

Each plant may produce up to 4000 seeds, which are eaten by sparrows and finches. And when they return in the spring, by red-wing blackbirds. The seeds float, so they add to the ducks' diet, as well.


Sunday, January 05, 2020

Pink sponge

At high tide the other day, I found half a dozen torn sponges just above the water line. Most were bleached white already.

Fragment of sponge, on stones washed by waves. With kelp.

A larger piece,damaged, and with what looks like burn marks, but still retaining a bit of pink colour.

These sponges are tough! I brought a couple home and tried to tear apart the smallest, which was already shredded around the edges. I couldn't rip it at all. There was a stick inside it that I wanted to see, and I finally had to get the scissors and cut it apart. (It was just a big sliver of wood; I thought it might be something else.)

The other sponge I brought home was still pink, and looked healthy, so I dropped it into my aquarium. It spread out some, looking well.

Sponge, as found, inside the aquarium.

The hermits and crabs are scavengers. Any time I add dying material to the tank, they eat it immediately. The sponge, they have left alone. It's four days now. I added a blade of kelp with a bit of stipe at the same time; they've eaten all of it, but don't even nibble at the sponge. It still retains its pink colour.

Is it still alive? How can you tell?

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Pine siskins

What do tiny birds like pine siskins do when it blows and storms? In the gap between rainstorms, I passed a red alder, loaded down with catkins and busy pine siskins.

18 pine siskins on this half of the tree.

I haven't seen these little birds for some time. They travel in flocks, swarming over a tree or shrub for a few minutes, then going on to another. They don't have a fixed route, seemingly choosing their next feeding spot on a whim. They arrived at this tree just as I passed; by the time I'd taken a few photos they were on to another, one tree at a time.

They are mainly seed eaters, foraging for any small seeds from a large variety of plants, dandelions to pine trees, also taking insects where they find them. On this tree, they're mainly focusing on the tiny cones, although one was checking out a catkin. They would find seeds in the cones, and maybe an insect or two in the catkins.

Pine Siskins are fairly common, but their numbers can be difficult to estimate due to the large and hard-to-predict movements they make each year. Partners in Flight estimates that populations have declined by 80% since 1970. ... The Pine Siskin rates a 10 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score and is considered a Common Bird in Steep Decline. Domestic cats, red squirrels, hawks, jays, and crows can prey on adult birds or on their eggs or young. ... Pine Siskins' fondness for mineral deposits can lure them onto dangerously busy roadways salted to melt ice and snow. Loss of habitat from forest-clearing may be balanced by new commercially planted coniferous forests, and by the Pine Siskin’s willingness to nest in shrubs and ornamental trees. (from Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

Bits of yellow cheer

Friday, January 03, 2020

Mallards on the estuary

In the light of today's news: fire, floods, war, assassinations, wilful blindness: I almost feel guilty for living where the skies are blue and gentle, where the ducks chatter among the wet grasses and bathe in the blue.

Wish I could pass on some of this peace.

Viewing platform and blind, Campbell River estuary, high tide, three wigeons.

As I passed the couple with their toddler a few minutes later, the kid was calling out, "Duck! Duck! Duck!"

Mallards. These long grasses are never dry except in mid-summer.

I'm not sure what's underneath the grass; rocks, or more probably, small tree stumps. The little strip of land is not accessible except with hip waders, even at low tide. And except in mid-summer, the mallards sleep and rest here.

Mallards and wigeon.

Walking on water.

Itchy, itchy!

Another Skywatch post.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Double sky.

It stopped raining. The sun came out; the sky turned blue. A brief respite. By mid-afternoon, the rain had returned. But I and half the town dashed out to soak in a bit of sunshine. On Tyee Spit, a constant stream of couples and kids took the path to the bird blind. I joined them.

View from the blind. Even the industrial complex on the far side of the estuary looks good!

Tomorrow: chasing mallards.

A Skywatch post.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

2020!

So here we are. 2020. It's just gone midnight here; we're late to the party in slowpoke BC. I know the rest of the world has given up and gone to bed already. But we get there, eventually.

So it's 2020. And just last week, wasn't it, I was staying up all night working on my daughter's computer on New Year's Day, 2000? Seems like yesterday; seems like a century ago. Time's a funny thing.

Anyhow, here's to 2020! Wishing you a good year; wishing you courage, wisdom, and fortitude: we're going to need it.

From my windowsill while it blew and stormed outside.


Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Knees up, Mother Brown

I've spent several hours over the last three days just trying to take a photo of one spider. She's set up her web in an antique cabinet on my wall, where I can reach her easily. But she's too smart for me.

Cellar spider, Pholcus phalangoides. More legs than spider.

These spiders spin long, fragile, almost invisible lines of silk, in no particular pattern, stretching far from their resting place. I see patches where they have caught prey here and there, but most of the lines seem to be a warning system. So the problem with taking her photo was that as soon as I got anywhere near, she went into hiding. Even cautiously positioning my flash attachment a foot away, with no other movement, made her leave.

When the flash hits her directly, she looks grey. In normal light, she's pale brown.

Or maybe she decides not to run away. She has another strategy: a touch on her web, far away from where she waits, and she begins to dance. She vibrates and spins rapidly, too fast even for my old eyes, let alone the camera.

... And whirling round and round. Whirling round and round. Whirling, whirling, never twirling. Whirling round and round. (From children's version of "Knees up, Mother Brown".)

Setting the camera on autofocus sometimes works, if the background is right. Otherwise, since the spider is so pale, the camera decides I want the wood grain, or the leftover bits of web. With manual focus, I have to get close enough to see what I'm getting, and by then, she's gone. She's in cahoots with the camera.

This afternoon she moved to a spot where I could insert the camera and one hand, but couldn't see my screen. And the flash was already set up aiming sort of that way. So I set the camera on manual focus and took almost 100 blind shots; something would work, I hoped.

I got knees.

Knees up, Mother Brown

And hairy legs.

And shiny eyes.

It seems that the patterns on her abdomen are not on the surface, but the internal structures, seen through a traslucent skin. I'll have to find another one and take more photos to confirm this.