Thursday, August 22, 2019

Apples and a break

Apples at Oyster Bay. On a tree without tent caterpillars.

And still out of reach.

I've been busy this week, sitting at home pounding away at my keyboard, and have a pile of non-blog photos to deal with and camera manuals to study. I'll be taking a few days off from the blog. Back soon!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Volunteer planter

An ancient piling at Oyster Bay, unused now for many decades, enjoys a second useful life as a tall planter.

Young alder growing high above the bay.

A kingfisher uses this piling as a perch from which he can watch for small fish. It's at the end of the sea wall, and the only approaches are in plain sight from a good distance away. I tried once to sneak up on him, doing my old tree impersonation after every couple of steps. When I was halfway to camera range, he up and left.

I'll try again.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Some rabbits have many feet

... or so it seems. Here's a rabbit's foot clover as proof.

Rabbit's foot clover, Trifolium arvense, aka hare's foot clover, stone clover, or oldfield clover.

The hairy heads supposedly look like rabbits' feet. It is a annual or biennial plant, native to Europe, and introduced here. It likes dry ground,

... typically found at the edge of fields, in wastelands, at the side of roads, on sand dunes, and opportunistically in vineyards and orchards when they are not irrigated. (Wikipedia)

Here, it is growing beside the sandy trails in the dry meadow just inland from the dunes at Oyster Bay Shoreline Park. There were many two years ago, few last year, and this year they're back in force.

Another couple of plants, with wild strawberry leaves and runners. And a critter with long antennae.

They are so pale, and so fuzzy, that in the noonday light, they almost disappear, seeming to be a pink haze over the ground, until you get down to their level. In this meadow, that's at ankle height.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Not a spider

So it wasn't a spider after all. I posted a photo of a spider look-alike a few days ago.

This little guy, about 3 mm. long, on gumweed.

I counted 8 legs, but I sent it in to BugGuide, and they count 6 legs and two antennae, which makes it not an arachnid.*

Ken Wolgemuth, on BugGuide, says it is "an aphid of some sort."

Interesting: I've seen many black aphids, but always in a mass covering stems and leaves of a whole plant. I've never seen (that I knew of) one out for a walk on his own.

Now this, I know for sure, is a spider:

Fat house spider, Steatoda, probably bipunctata, probably female. On the wall above my desk.

*Update: not 6 legs and 2 antennae; they're 6 legs and 2 "corniculi, a pair of tubes that come off the back of an aphid's abdomen," as Christopher Taylor tells me in the comments. He adds that they may be used to release chemical compounds.

From WikipediaThe cornicle (or siphuncule) is one of a pair of small upright backward-pointing tubes found on the dorsal side of the 5th or 6th abdominal segments of aphids. They are sometimes mistaken for cerci. They are no more than pores in some species.
These abdominal tubes exude droplets of a quick-hardening defensive fluid containing triacylglycerols called cornicle wax.
Thank you, Christopher!

Friday, August 16, 2019

Sundown on the estuary

Cool and windy, with a light scattering of clouds. I went to Tyee Spit to watch the sun go down.

8:23 PM. Campbell River estuary. Tyee Spit on the right.

8:36 PM. From the bird blind.

8:43 PM. "Official" sunset was at 8:37.

As I left, another photographer was arriving, loaded with cameras. He had missed most of the colour, but the glow persists.

A Skywatch post.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

White gum, yellow petals, blue-black spider

It's gumweed (Grindelia stricta) season again. The dunes and the meadow at Oyster Bay are bright with all their yellow blooms.

And more, about to burst into flower.

The white stuff is glue. Very sticky. It doesn't hold back the petals when they flare out, though. The little white critters are whiteflies.

Half opened. With a blue-black spider.

I hadn't seen the spider until I looked at the photos. In the field, I'm too busy trying to focus on a petal swaying in the wind to see all the details.

I've never seen a spider this black here before. The legs are pale, and there's a brown patch on the cephalothorax. I can't identify the spider, so I'll send it in to BugGuide. They're good; they even identified my newborn spiderlings!

Here's the spider, cropped out of the photo above.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Happy campers, tenting

There's an old apple tree beside the path at Oyster Bay. I stop there often, to look at lichen in the winter, and apples in the spring.

Little green apples, late June

I stopped again the other day. The apples should be ripe by now, and maybe I could pick a couple. But someone had been there before me.

Yes, the apples are ripe. And the tent caterpillars are busy.

The dark mass in the centre of that tent is made up of amassed caterpillars. If you click and zoom in, you can see their outlines.

Another branch; a feeding site, not used for overnight. The caterpillars huddle together for warmth, and this was a cool afternoon.

I pulled a couple of leaves away from this clump, exposing a few of the caterpillars inside.

Western tent caterpillar, Malacosoma californicum. Colours vary, from black to green to orange, and even pale blue, but all have that lengthwise stripe and long hairs. And all build the same webbed tents.

Another one. He seemed to be asleep until I touched him with a blade of grass. Then he hurried to get back under cover.

Caterpillar poop in a feeding site.

Leaves consist largely of nondigestible components, and it has been estimated that tent caterpillars void as fecal pellets nearly half of the energy they ingest. As a consequence, a colony of caterpillars produces large quantities of fecal pellets. (Wikipedia)

Skeletonized leaf, with webbing.

Western tent caterpillars build their tents on willow trees, cottonwood, apple, plum, cherry, and oak. This colony is on apple; later, I found another tent on a bitter cherry tree (Prunus emarginata).

Bitter cherry twig with feeding tent.

The trees are not really harmed. The caterpillar populations increase and decrease in cycles of from 6 to 11 years. In between, the leaves grow back and the tree thrives. The moths and their hosts are native species, and they are well adapted to each other.

I didn't get any apples. Somehow, all the apples on the trail side of the tree were missing, although the caterpillars hadn't touched those branches. On the far side, there were ripe apples, all too high, and too surrounded by webbing, to reach.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Grey otter

Nature doesn't need a chainsaw to make log carvings. She does quite well with wind and water.

Otter, Oyster Bay dunes. All he needs is whiskers.

Update: He has been also identified, on Facebook, as a harbour seal, or else as a Komodo dragon. If he's the dragon, he's out of his normal habitat.

Grey day

It's been a typical Vancouver Island summer; a few hot days, and the rest are cloudy or rainy. Yesterday was about normal: rain in the morning, a ray or two of sunlight around noon, then the warm light vanished, and everything turned a soft grey. Grey skies, grey water, greyish green trees.

Before the rain started up again, I walked around Oyster Bay. When everything is grey, the different colours of grey stand out. The grey rocks had more colour than the grey seas.

Rocks along the breakwater, looking south. There's a hint of blue sky thataway.

The breakwater, looking north. Logs and rocks and the edge of the inner bay.

A couple of multicoloured rocks.

And on one of those rocks, a sea slater, Ligia pallasii. A creature of the night, not often seen in daylight.

I tracked the sea slater for a while, trying to get a head shot. He wasn't interested. I hadn't even seen the little fly until I looked at the photo. These flies were all over the shore,looking mostly like hopping sand grains.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

One feathered eagle

Every year local chainsaw artists gather in a park at Willow Point to carve logs into sculptures. This year, there were dragons, bears, eagles, salmon, among others. I walked around looking at them; marvelous! Some were beautiful. But they were too new, too bright, too alien to the park around them: I looked at my photos and deleted them all. Another day, after a few rains.

And then there was this old totemic eagle, who's been standing in the shade for 8 years, gently blending in.

Someone seems to have thought he needed feathers. Only one available, though. In the background, a brown bear.

Friday, August 09, 2019


I woke up in the middle of the night and turned on the lamp a few inches from my pillow. And found it in the middle of a population explosion.

Newly hatched spiderlings on the lampshade.

The whole lampshade was covered in these miniature crawling specks. So cute!

But I moved the lamp away. And spent a good part of the night sleeping in a chair.

Setting out to explore the world.

Hairy legs. And so young!

The next day, a cellar spider moved in. It was so small, so almost transparent, that I could only see it when the light hit it on a certain angle. Predation begins early.

Today, all the spiderlings are gone, moved on to their new hunting grounds, apparently not near my pillow. (I hope!) Only the cellar spiderling remains.

I'm sending their photos in to BugGuide. I don't really expect much of an id, but the abdomen pattern looks interesting.

*Update: BugGuide identifies them as Steatoda grossa.

Full pantry

A couple of weeks ago, in a dark corner at the entrance to my carport, I noticed a tangly web, filling the whole corner. With a tiny spider near the centre. And an egg case she was guarding.

She's a common house spider, Parasteatoda tepidariorum, a good fly and moth catcher.

She catches more than flies, though. Last week, she had the leftovers from her latest meal hanging in the web.

Unidentified spider, probably Tegenaria domestica. Three times or more the size of his captor, not counting those long legs. Meals for a week!

How she does it: she stings the joints in his legs, where he has a flexible membrane rather than the hard exoskeleton, over and over, darting in and backing off before he can catch her. She knows her web; he doesn't, and gets stuck on the glue she avoids.

Spiders extend their legs using hydraulics, rather than muscles, as we do. To run, they increase the pressure in the cephalothorax (the head/upper body section), sending blood down the legs. Small muscles then return the liquid to the body, returning the legs to the relaxed position. So a shot of paralyzing poison to the legs soon invades the whole body. (From a previous post: see the entire story, "Unequal match: the sad story of Fang", here.)

When I found it, she had eaten her fill, and cleaned up most of the web she used to tie him up, leaving a bit holding that one leg. She eats the leftover web, too; spiders recycle.

The egg sac was empty yesterday, and no spiderlings were in sight. I swept up the corner and the messy web. I'm sure it will be back in a day or two.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Next generation, all rolled up.

Another flower garden resident:

Hard-working mother. That's a load of eggs to cart around!

She's a wolf spider, Lycosidae, but I've spent an hour looking at spider photos on BugGuide, (they have 11,500 photos of Lycosidae alone!) and found only one similar, across the channel on the mainland, also unidentified, except as a juvenile. This one. at least; I know she's adult, and female.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

In formal dress

I went out to water the garden and found this black and white beauty on a gladiolus stem.

Banded laurel borer, Rosalia funebris

His* body, not counting those antennae, is a bit over an inch long.

He's dressed formally in black and white; a white top with a black shield in centre back, a long coat-tail with three white bands. I love the two white buttons on either side. Legs and antennae are in alternating bands of black and white. And look at those fancy shoes with the two yellow-fringed toes!

The larvae of these longhorned beetles eat wood, but since their eggs are usually laid in fallen wood rather than living trees, they're not a threat to local landscaping. The adults feed on flowers.

*The antennae of the males are longer than their bodies; females have shorter antennae. I can't tell here, whether this one was male or female, because the antennae that were in focus curved around behind the next glad stems.

When I watered the glads, he hung on, not seeming to mind the rain, but when I returned after I hung up the hose, he was gone.

The species name, funebris, comes from the Latin for "funereal, mournful, gloomy", probably referring to the black and white colouring, but he looked cheerful enough to me.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Meanwhile, back in the tank ...

I've been too busy; travelling, running errands, catching up on paperwork (a form of procrastination to put off dealing with more challenging paperwork), gardening; all the things I do during a "lazy" summer. Sometime, weeks ago, I took a break and sat down by the aquarium to visit the hermits. And forgot to post the photos.

So here they are. Hermits and a crab.

Poor crabby. He must have tangled with one of the larger crabs, probably trying to hold onto his supper. He's lost a pincer. Luckily, he's got plenty of legs and mouthparts that can serve as spoons and forks, and the next molt, he'll get his pincer back.

Deep in the tank, colours are muted. It's like seeing through a light fog. Here, a hairy hermit looks back at me from her perch on Pacific rose seaweed growing on a stiff red alga. Pacific rose can grow from fragments left after it has been weeded out. I tear out whole handfuls every time I change the water.

A grainy hand hermit with colourful algae decorating his shell..

One of the tiny orange hermits in a brand-new shell. The seaweed here is broken, half-rotted rockweed. Good eating, the hermits say.

Grainy hand hermit (left) and small hairy hermit (right) on eelgrass.

Monday, August 05, 2019


A mixed flock of Bonaparte's gulls and sandpipers foraged peacefully on the shore at Willow Point. I approached them carefully, one slow step at a time, stopping often to pretend I was just another rock. It didn't work. They're too smart for me.

Mostly Bonaparte's gulls, 4 sandpipers, and one plover. And their reflections.

The breeding adults have black heads; younger ones are grey and white with a black smudge behind the eye.

And the one semi-trusting gull. But he's watchful.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Under the dock

Hurrying from the sailboat to the inn for supper, I paused, just a moment, to look down. Everything under that dock is covered with critters.

Plumose anemones, Metridium senile, and a bright red tubeworm.

Hanging on a chain, swaying in the current, a mass of mussels, a starfish eating them, and what looks like legs of at least one crab on the far side.

At the Campbell River docks, in the last few years they have been replacing the old log pilings with metal ones. I used to find many animals down along the logs; anemones, shrimp, crabs, mussels, nudibranchs, sponges, tubeworms, scallops, barnacles, unidentified blobs. And seaweeds, green algae, kelp, red algae, yellow fuzz. On the metal ones, nothing grows. I have peered down the cracks around most of them; they're a bit fatter, and leave less space around them in the dock opening. Nothing moves, nothing attaches itself. They're clean.

On old metal found on the beach, even metal not so old, barnacles and mussels find a home. On the chain above, all metal, only the part that is usually out of the water is clean. I'm wondering: are those new metal pilings coated with some wildlife-deterrent chemical agent?

Bit of old ship, Oyster Bay, in a high current area. Seaweeds, barnacles.

The pilings at the Heriot Bay wharf are logs. And they're home to thriving communities. I hope they don't decide to "improve" them.

Friday, August 02, 2019

Lazy day

Watching the islands float by, from the middle of the channel. Just a bit of green and blue scenery.

Cloud shadows on the mountain.

Mostly blues. Looking towards Cortes Island, I think.

Those rocks ahead, underwater at high tide, are where we saw the seals.

Ferry to Whaletown, Cortes Island. The Tachek, named for the Babine Lake community in central BC. She carries up to 26 cars.

Trail left by our ferry, heading home from Quadra Is. to Campbell River. She's the Powell River Queen, twice the size of the Tachek, but still a small boat.

We circled around, between the islands approximately in that pinkish circle.

A Skywatch post.