Saturday, June 15, 2019

Rainforest hideaway

There's always a pond ...

With glowing mushrooms. And invisible (to the camera) damselflies.

At the end of an unused driveway. It was late afternoon and the shadows were long; damselflies darted in and out of the shade, creating brief flashes of blue light.

Friday, June 14, 2019

So busy

Lupins ...

New buds at the tip, seeds starting to form at the bottom. Time's a-wastin'!

And bee ...

With orange saddlebags.

Same bee, same lupin stalk, but so many flowers! So much work!

Taken by the side of the highway north, in a brisk wind. The lupins sway from side to side, but the bee seems in control, landing precisely on each flower, no matter what way it's moving.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Daisy whites

Sometimes it takes a little thing to point out how much we are polluting our environment. I stopped to take photos of daisies beside the highway north. They were covered in dust and pockmarked. Even the bees were dusty.

Then, high on the cliffs above Brown's Bay, 4 kilometres from the highway as the crow flies, I stopped at another daisy patch. Not a speck of dust in sight, even though the road (not frequently travelled, but still) was gravel and bare dirt.

Daisies and unidentified fly. As shot; no cleanup needed. No dust.

Daisy with syrphid fly.

Cropped from previous photo. I think that fly is transparent: I can see the individual florets of the daisy in the "yellow" stripes on the fly's abdomen. Again, no touch-ups needed.

One daisy, many buds. And another syrphid fly.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Underwater at Brown's Bay, take 2

It's been three years since I visited Brown's Bay. That day, the water was calm, the surface still. On the plastic floats underneath the docks, I found a collection of plumose anemones and other tentacled critters.

This time, I saw them again, but the tide was coming in, the water racing, the docks rocking, and the wind ruffled the surface; the white anemones were visible only as whitish blurs, the rest of the underwater communities almost invisible. But there were a few sheltered spots, between boats and the dock, under the edges of the restaurant's outdoor seating. And I found something (I think) that's in all the books, but that I have never seen before.

Under a much-faded bumper ball, a group of what I think must be goose-neck barnacles. With magenta lips.

The assorted kelps attached to the underside of the restaurant float made a pleasant contrast to the deep greens of the water.

Seersucker kelp (top right) and (maybe) broad-winged kelp, with a fringe of another seaweed.

Deeper underwater, bull kelp and much-frayed blades of another one or two kelps.

Moon jelly.

In deeper shade, on the back side of a float, a few white plumose anemones, a large barnacle, other anemones (the ones I saw in 2016 had red stripes on a beige column. It's too dark to see them here. 

The gravel road in is much improved since the last visit; there are a few potholes, but nothing big enough to swallow a tire. I'll plan a drive down again soon.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Basket of babies

I was standing on the fuel barge at Brown's Bay, watching a kayaker over against the cliffs when a swallow buzzed me, so close I felt the breeze of his wings. Startled, I turned to watch him. He circled, then sped back towards me again, this time missing me by a couple of feet.

He must have a nest near here, I thought, and started to move away, looking down at my feet first; footing can be dangerous at the back side of a barge, with ropes and ridges and gaps and no fencing. And there, underfoot, was a mass of bird droppings. Directly above me, a few inches away, there was the nest. No wonder the parent was upset!

Swallow's nest, a neat little basket of babies.

That's the tail of one of the parents. The other one was still worried about me.

I moved to the far end of the barge and waited, hoping the parent would come back to the nest, but he waited me out, and I couldn't get farther away without swimming.

I left and walked down the docks instead. At a floating office (fishing charters, I think) now closed, I found another nest, this one with chicks big enough to peek over the edge. Noisy chicks; I heard them before I saw the nest.

Waiting for mom and dad with the catch of the afternoon.

This pair of swallows was more relaxed, maybe because the fuel barge is beside the restaurant and the main docks, where there are 'way too many people. Down here, one swallow sat and watched me from a distance, while the other went to feed the hungry chicks.

Swallow, proudly proclaiming he's a White Wolf. I had left the office by then, and was back on the docks.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Biting off more than I can chew

At the end of a busy day, I drove down to Brown's Bay, stopping by the Ripple Rock trail on the way. Walked and drove and clambered over rocks for three hours, then came home to water the garden, and finally fell asleep downloading photos with my finger hovering over the delete button.  Good thing the originals were still there!

Thimbleberry flowers and green berries, Ripple Rock trail.

I'll start processing the Brown's Bay photos tomorrow. When I recover from today.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Courtship in slo-mo

Spiders are among the most patient of animals. They spend their lives waiting. They build a web and sit in it day after day, unmoving, waiting for dinner. If it comes, good. If not, they eat the web and build it again the next day. And sit waiting again.

Comes time to raise a family; the male finds his mate, parks himself nearby and waits. Waits for her to be in a good mood, maybe. Waits for her to have fed so she won't think of him as dinner, maybe. Waits. For days, sometimes weeks.

Cellar spider female, waiting.

A female cellar spider set up shop in a corner of my living room. A male found her there, and built his own minimalist web about 8 inches away. And sat waiting, watching her.

And the male. About half the size of his prospective mate.

All day he sat there, not moving, watching, waiting. And she sat in her web, waiting for flies. And maybe watching her suitor; facing him, anyhow.

I saw them first at 8 in the morning. At midnight, they were still there, in the same positions. This morning, the male sits forlorn in her web; she's gone. I found her, hiding in a secluded haven where her new family will be safe.

And her mate has lucked out; he has not been eaten. This time. He can live to wait again.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

A quibble

I must go down to the sea again,
To the lonely seas and the sky,
And all I ask is ...
(Apologies to John Masefield)

A dose of reality: that loneliness is deceptive. The sea has no space for loneliness. Under that apparently calm surface are teeming multitudes of busy lives.

And the sky; from here, we don't see the mobs of mosquitoes, flies, butterflies, ballooning spiders, and the like. The swallows see them though, and dart through the clouds collecting supper for the little ones.

I had gone down to the boat ramp to get new water for my aquarium. The day was cool and grey, welcome after a taste of summer; as I left, it was starting to rain. The tide was turning and everything, air and water and rocks, seemed momentarily in stasis.

One "lonely" crow.

But there were crabs and jellyfish in the water at the foot of the ramp, snails and barnacles on the rocks. And that crow is watching a quarrel, a horde, a squabbling, shrieking, greedy melee of gulls, fighting over the cat food I had just left at water's edge. (The cats had rejected it. I think they read the labels and refuse to taste anything other than the most expensive brands. But it was full of fish and chicken innards and ground corn and fish oils; ideal gull food. They had left all their perches on the rocks around to come to the party.)

A few seconds later, the crow joins the fun.

Fishing harbour seal, leaving the school to come and see what was going on on shore.

Every so often, out in the channel another black head would pop up. Harbour seals, following a school of fish. I counted four heads up at the same time: no telling how many were down there feasting.

One of the gulls on the boat ramp, taking a breather. The food's almost all gone, anyhow.

... And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

Can't argue with him there!

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Shopping is such hard work

I discovered one of my hermit crabs in the process of choosing a new outfit. I'll let her tell the story.

Let me see; this one looks new, and it's my size. It's empty and clean inside.

So I'll try it on.

Yes! It fits perfectly!

Let me check the back, and the pockets. Yes, it's all snug and there are no holes. Good!

The outside feels good, too. I can reach almost to the tip.

But wait. Before I go, let me look at the old one again. It served me well.

And I think, now it comes to it, that it did feel more comfortable. Well broken in, and that little hole at the back made for good ventilation.

I'll try it on again.

Yes. You know, travel-stained and chipped and all, it does feel better. I'll keep it, after all.

And off she went, leaving the new outfit behind for the next shopper.

The hermit is a hairy hermit, Pagurus hirsutiusculus, an old-timer in my aquarium. Her shell is just under an inch long. The shells are imports, found in a dollar store, washed and boiled. They seem popular with the hairies, not so much with the grainy-hand hermits, who like big, sturdy shells.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Aquarium update

Surprising happenings in my aquarium! Up until a few months ago, almost every time I changed the water in the tank, I removed everything so that I could scrub the walls without scratching them or upsetting the residents. The hermit crabs and crabs went in one dishpan, the snails in a yogurt container, the barnacles and shells with anemones attached in another, seaweeds and eelgrass in a bucket, and so on. While they were there, I fed the hermits, checked over everything for problems, weeded out dying seaweed.

And, putting everything back, I counted. At last count, there were 40 hermits, most of them tiny. And 4 crabs. A varying number of snails; up to 70, down to about 40 (the big anemones eat them and I go to the beach for more.)

Orange-striped green anemones in old barnacle shells.

After the debacle with poisoned water this winter, I'd not been able to find a reliable source of water, so instead of bringing in new every couple of weeks, I've been cleaning and changing the filters a couple of times a week, adding fresh, filtered water as needed to bring down the salinity. I've scrubbed the walls and weeded, but without emptying the tank; it all takes time. So I haven't been counting my resident population.

Pink-tipped green anemone with her baby (clone) in an old moon snail shell.

The water situation improved. I found a source of safe water, and cleaned out the tank. And counted the hermits and shore crabs. I expected to have lost a few over the winter; nothing lives forever. But when I counted (three times, to be sure) there were 43 hermits, and still the 4 crabs, full-grown now. The tiny hermits were bigger now; I didn't see any pinhead-sized ones. But they were all there. Amazing!

A couple of the crabs were carrying young. They took good care of their brood, but of course, it was all a waste, wasn't it?

Out in the wide ocean, the baby crabs (zoea and then megalops) are microscopic free-swimmers that become part of the plankton, the base of the food chain that feeds invertebrates, fish, birds, and ultimately us. Life is precarious out there; everything is looking for a tasty bit of wriggly meat. Ma crab has released thousands of zoea; only a very few will survive.

In my tank, predators are few. The oysters, the anemones, the worms; that's about it. Except for one big, starving, insatiable predator: the pump and its filters. It sucks in seaweed fragments, incautious amphipods, copepods, and of course, all the crab and hermit crab babies. I never expect any native-born youngsters in the aquarium; the filters eat them.

Oyster lips and orange-striped green anemones

So I never expected this. I was watching a young hermit, when I saw a crab-like movement underneath an old shell. Crab-like, but too small. I had to get out my hand lens to look at it. And it was a crab! A Baby Crab! Tiny, tiny, really tiny; a new pre-adult, apparently grown from scratch in my tank!

And now, checking carefully under stones and shells, I found two more, one about 4 mm. across, the other a whole cm. across.

The second smallest. Very shy, running away from my and my camera. His "carpet" is a shard of broken abalone shell.

Over the winter, I've brought home a couple of handfuls of eelgrass and rockweed, a blade or two of red algae: it hasn't been a good winter (or spring) for fresh beach veggies. I always check this over very carefully, looking to see what live things have hitchhiked. There were a few tiny periwinkle snails, no hermits, an amphipod or two, and no crabs. And a damaged jellyfish last week, which the crabs ate. That's it.

So maybe, just maybe, those extra three hermits are also home-grown, not three pinhead hermits I'd missed before.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Here's looking at you

Sometimes, out of the swirling mists, a pair of bright eyes* appears, startling in their intensity.

Hairy hermit, Pagurus hirsutiusculus

*And antennae. Can't forget those antennae!

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Tea party photo op

A yellow jacket queen dropped in to visit a couple of days ago. I fed her a few drops of sugar water "tea" and she stayed to drink it while I took her photo.


She's a Western Yellowjacket, Vespula pensylvanica. These are one of the only two species of yellowjacket that have the main eyes completely circled by yellow. (See BugGuide's species key.) Those little bright dots on the top of her head are also eyes; three of them. They mostly distinguish light from shadow. The other eyes do most of the work. Yellow jackets have excellent vision.

Females have 6 abdominal segments; males have 6. Females have 12 antennae segments: males have 13. But the males are smaller than the queen.

Like a cat, she washes her face after the meal.

The thing about taking photos from an inch away is that only certain bits end up in focus. Here, a couple of appendages showed up; I don't know what they are.

"Gotta go now. Thanks for the tea!"

I trapped her with a glass and carried her outside. I don't want her making a nest in my windowsill flowerpots.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Gulls doing a mini-Pelican dive

I posted this video to the Facebook page, "The worst bird photographs ever." It belongs.

But I think it's interesting, even if the video is Worst Bird quality.

I've never seen gulls do this before. The water was shallow, at low tide. I couldn't see if it was fish they were catching, or crabs maybe. And my pocket camera couldn't tell, either.

Then it ran out of batteries. That'll teach me to go out without the proper camera.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Wings like petals

Better late than never: it's almost June, and the weather gods think it's summer. Everything is in bloom. The streets are lined with flowers, red, pink, yellow, lilac, white. And I'm still processing photos from when it was still spring, three weeks ago.

The indian plum had just burst into flower at Oyster Bay.

And they had company.

I didn't see them at first; the two (and a head) flies on these flowers have white wings that look almost like indian plum petals themselves.

Zooming in on that photo.

In another couple of photos, mostly out of focus, I could see that the flies have a striped abdomen, and, I think, reddish eyes.

Their friends and families were hanging out on the crabapple blossoms.

Five crabapple flowers, a dozen flies. That big monster hiding in the background is an ant; these flies are tiny! Three of them are nose down in the center of the first flower, as if drinking from a fountain. (Click to see the photo full size.)

Back to work: I've got some moss photos to crop and clean (sand on the lens) and a batch of wasp photos still in the camera. I'll catch up one of these days.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Sometimes I'm lazy.

Sometimes I just sit and look out the window. And there's nothing there; just sky. And the plants and bits of glass on my windowsill.

In the afternoon, when the sun is behind the house, my kitchen window stuff is silhouetted. The cats are metal, with glass eyes. Chia, the real cat, prefers to sit in the gap in the centre, in front of the glass elephant. I like the way the green lawn (where the sun still shines) is reflected on the ceiling above the window. Photo taken from my favourite chair, while I was being lazy.

And then I remember I haven't watered them today. So I do that; then there are the flowers outside that need water, and the dog that has a ball she needs thrown, and the car that ought to be washed after my last trip down a logging road, and ...

End of lazy spell.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Almost missed them

So, so tiny!

Spreading stonecrop, Sedum divergens. The white flowers (in focus and not) are Shepherd's cress, Teesdalia nudicaulis.

I found these on the sandy dunes at Oyster Bay. A patch a foot across, no more, just at shoe height.

With my fingertip for size. That fingernail is 8 mm. long; I have tiny nails.

The plants will eventually sprout taller stems, up to 6 inches tall, with showy yellow flowers.