Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Montreal is thataway.

Sometimes, here in the north country, we pretend we're in the tropics.

Montreal, 5111 km. Quadra, 6.

(Evening coffee at a beach shack, near the 50th parallel.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Calm

After a difficult week, plagued with griefs both personal and public, I spent this afternoon sitting in deep woods, watching a creek and a kingfisher. Life goes on.

Creek off the Quinsam River. The kingfisher is there, but invisible.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

And a few more spiders

They're exploding all over! Up in the corners, young cellar spiders hang, leggily. Miniature males, species unknown, prowl the walls looking for fat females. (Wrong place, guys! The girls are just outside the window.)

And at ground level, the big hunting spiders guard the fort against sowbugs and stray cobweb spiders.

A big male, on the leg of a garden chair. (I disturbed his cozy hiding place under my yard waste bag.)

And another, in the house, at the edge of her messy web on the bottom of a Mexican shopping bag.

Look at that web again. In the frass, there's the remains of her last molt, down in the right-hand corner; the leftovers from another spider meal; half a sowbug, all the juices sucked out; and something squarish that I can't identify. A beetle, maybe?

These spiders are difficult to identify. There are three similar species, and the rules for identification have changed. I think these are Eratigena agrestis, but then again ...

Years ago, they were called Tegenaria. Worried about the bad name some of them have, I wrote a post listing some of the differences between the species, here. But since then, they've been re-classified as Eratigena, an interesting name because it is an anagram of the letters of Tegenaria.

From BugGuide, on the Giant House spider, Eratigena duellica:

This spider (like its relatives T. domestica and E. agrestis) was imported from Europe into the ports of the Pacific Northwest. The first known N. American record was from Vancouver Island in 1929. It did not reach Seattle until 1960. 
The greater European house spider (E. duellica) is not dangerous to people. Some people may be intimidated by their size as male legspans can reach 4 inches (100 mm). However, Rod Crawford has never known one to bite a human (though they certainly could if they tried); they are so docile he uses them as hands-on demonstrators for school children. 
The Hobo Spider (E. agrestis) is often confused with this spider. If you are unsure of the exact species, just be mindful of this confusion, and use caution when dealing with the spider. (See E. agrestis for more information about the hobo spider). 
The presence of giant house spiders is a deterrent to the establishment of hobo spiders indoors. It out-competes and displaces the hobo spider indoors and male giant house spiders often kill male hobo spiders (without necessarily eating them)!

So it's still wise to keep my distance from these spiders. Unless I can measure the legs; they look the same as the harmless giant, and are about the same size, except for those long legs. And if E. agrestis bites, it could be a bit of a problem.

This little guy's no problem at all:

High on the wall, out of the hunter's range, a tiny yellow and tan spider, stopping for a rest. It's so far to where the girls are!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Diadematus

For the last month, a small cross spider (Araneus diadematus: a much prettier name than "cross", as in "grumpy") has been hanging out under the garden hose support. I have been careful, unrolling and storing the hose, not to disturb her web, but the hose slipped from my hand Monday afternoon, and broke her web. So she climbed on the hose itself. Good thing I'd finished watering for the day.

And now I could reach her for a photo shoot.

One year when we were living in Delta, these spiders were thick on the cedars and on my walls; fat, healthy-looking weavers, and hundreds of tiny babies, with their tiny webs full of gnats. They spun new webs across the lawn and over the doors every night, so that day after day, we caught a face full of spider silk. The next year there were fewer, then fewer still.

And now, here in Campbell River, I have gone all this spring and summer without seeing more than this one. I wonder why that is.

Last night, when I went out to water, the hose and wall were spiderless.

I'm sorry, Miss Diadem; I hope you found a safe home.

Monday, July 09, 2018

And now I have crane flies

First there were spiders, then moths, then more spiders chasing the moths. And now the nights are lively with jittery crane flies. They come in two sizes; small ones, about 3/4 of an inch long, and the big, hysterical ones, 4 1/2 inches toe to toe.

One slowed down finally. I found him dying on my dinner table.

Nose to wingtip, 4 cm. The legs, though are 6 cm. long. No wonder some people call them "Daddy longlegs"!

This is a male; the end of his abdomen has graspers to hold his mate. She will have a pointed tail end, with an ovopositor.
Flying about, they look like huge mosquitoes. But they don't have the mouthparts to attack humans, and most adults don't eat at all; they're too busy mating and laying eggs.

This is one of the smaller crane flies, very much alive. The three-pronged grasper is visible at his tail end.



Sunday, July 08, 2018

Morning visitor

I found this moth sleeping on my pillow in the morning.


Such a beautiful feather coat!

And headdress!

I protected her from the cat in a plastic container, and she seemed to want to dance.

"Swing to the right"

She's one of the owlet moths, but I don't recognize the pattern on her wings, so I've sent her in to BugGuide for an ID.

Update: She's a Pickerelweed Borer moth, Bellura densa.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Welcome home!

Hydrangeas, alyssum, and Sweet William at my door.

Up a few steps, so they're just at eye level when I leave the car.

So pink!

For a minute, there, I can almost forget the news.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Growing on logs

Life settles in everywhere, even on old, salt-sprayed, sand-blasted, wind-scoured, sun-dried logs on the dunes.

Fine grasses on a fat log appreciate the extra sunshine the height gives them.

Moss, lichen, grass,and a red-stemmed Ceanothus.

Yarrow taking advantage of a smidgen of soil caught in a cut.

Lichen and a baby salmonberry shrub.

Oyster Bay dunes.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Midnight visitor

Summer nights are busy around here. Crane flies of all sizes dance crazily from corner to corner, moths flutter in the open windows, then can't find their way out again. Chia, the cat, chases them, racing and leaping from table to chair to fridge; sometimes she catches one and eats it. Sowbugs trundle along peacefully, checking out sinks and flowerpots, looking for water. The mosquitoes are hungry; so are the spiders, which patrol the walls, ceilings and floor. I'm hoping they get the mosquitoes before the 'toes get me.

This little green emerald moth was parked on the wall above my desk. In the morning, I found her at the kitchen window, already looking a bit frazzled; half her feathers were gone. I blame the cat.

Common emerald moth, Hemithea aestivaria.

These are distinguished from other emeralds by the pointed hindwings, and the dotted fringe. I'm calling her a female, but that's just guessing; she's hiding the tips of her antennae, which would have comb-like projections on the tips, scent organs to help the male find his mate in the dark.

More moth photos coming up.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Barely made it

I ran out on a last-minute errand, leaving the camera behind. And on my way home there was a triple rainbow, three full bands, the entire bow showing, with two pots of gold, one behind my house, one on Quadra Island.

And me without a camera!

I got home, ran for the pocket camera, since the big one needed a lens change - no time for that!

7 minutes to sundown, and the tail end of the rainbow over the museum woods.

The rest of the rainbow had faded. And that pot seems to have moved a few blocks away. Oh, well.

Down at the pier, the crowds were settling in to wait for the fireworks; I was happy on my empty street with a rainbow and orange clouds.

Last gasp. Sunset in 6 minutes.

A Skywatch post.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Hairy cat's ear

A plague in my lawn, a pest on the dunes. But still beautiful.

Hypochaeris radicata

Common cat’s-ear can produce over 2000 seeds per plant ...(Whatcom county)


A blue-grey sunset

On a typical west coast summer day (cloudy, with occasional rainy bits, 5 minutes of sunshine) all the colours are muted, shading from blue to bluer. Even the sunset is blue.

And, if the water is calm, the cruise ships are out.

Holland Line ship. 8:46 PM. This and one other were heading south, freshly emerged from Seymour Narrows.

Seymour Narrows, just north of Campbell River, has been called ""one of the vilest stretches of water in the world." (by Captain George Vancouver). Of course, that was before we blew up Ripple Rock in mid-channel, but it is still treacherous. The current can reach, through this narrow bottle-neck, 750 m. wide, up to 15 knots, or about 28 kph. On top of that, it is extremely turbulent.

Seymour Narrows is notable also because the flowing current can be sufficiently turbulent to realize a Reynolds number of about 10^9, i.e. one billion, which is possibly the largest Reynolds number regularly attained in natural water channels on Earth ... (Wikipedia)

So the cruise ships come through, one after the other, at the top of the tide, when the water is changing direction. It's too risky at any other time of day. Or in bad weather. On calm evenings, they slide by silently, their captains breathing easy after a tense passage.

Two hours after I took this photo, I was on the pier, in central Campbell River, watching the current. Now it was pushing north, dragging logs and kelp along. I could see the movement all the way across the channel to Quadra Island. No boats were out. A fisherman on the pier estimated that the current speed at that moment, slowing down here at the wide mouth of the Narrows, was about 5 knots, or 9 kph.

And here's the light just before sunset, at 9:12:

Looking north, towards Willow Point. A hint of magenta on the water.


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A few more sunset photos

The colours of the sunset change from one moment to the next.

Tyee Spit, 9:22 PM. Looking north.

9:26 PM. Looking northeast.

9:32 PM. Looking north.


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Sticky feet

Spiders love my kitchen sink. And my bathtub. Maybe they're looking for water, but these are not safe places for them. Mornings, I find them there, scrabbling away at the bottom, trying to climb the damp walls. They can't make it, and I help them, draping a dishcloth or towel over the edge so they can climb out.

Today, though, I found this one very peacefully exploring the sides of the bathtub, never slipping or falling. I wonder about her feet; they look hairy. In some of my photos (blurry, except for a foot or two) they seem to be bifurcated, with two "toes". Are they stickier than most of the other resident spiders' feet, I wonder?

Brown spider, about 1/4 inch long, not counting the legs.

I found an interesting article on Mother Nature Network, titled, "The odd, adorable mystery of hairy spider feet".
"About half of the spider families have claw tufts. These animals usually have only two claws at the tips of their legs, and are usually hunting spiders, who pursue their prey," Platnick says. "Web-building spiders typically have three claws; the two paired claws, like those found in hunting spiders, plus a third, smaller, unpaired claw that helps them maneuver on their silk threads."
...
"The claw tufts of these spiders provide additional adhesive properties, making it easier for the animals to climb," Platnick says. "For example, many tarantulas can even climb up glass, despite their relatively heavy weight."

Here's one of my very blurry foot photos:

A bit hairy, and it seems that it's two-toed.



Monday, June 25, 2018

Late afternoon at Oyster Bay

In these days, just around the solstice, the sun slides down the sky slowly, so slowly. At this latitude, 50°North, it reaches its highest point at about 1:30 PM, not directly overhead, but at about 64° above the horizon. And sunset comes at 9:30 or thereabouts, so it takes 8 hours to drop those 60°.

At 8:30, the sun is just under 8° over the horizon. And its light is orange. I wandered in the pre-sunset dusk at Oyster Bay.

Hawthorn, half green, half red, side-lit. 8:27 PM.

View from the far side, looking south. The pilings and purple martin nest boxes, normally a dingy grey, look warm in this light. 8:31.
Pilings, eagle, rocks. Looking from the breakwater east across Georgia Strait. 8:32.

New pickleweed plants and sand ripples, inside the breakwater. 8:38 PM.

8:54. The sun no longer reaches this area of the shore, but there's still a reflected mauve light from the sky. Daisies and logs.



Saturday, June 23, 2018

Dreaming under a pink sky

Resting Beaver, Tyee Spit, at sunset:

9:42 PM, facing southwest. Just visible: wings of an active float plane, down at the dock.

This is a DeHavilland DHS-2 Beaver. These were produced from 1947 to 1965, and many are still slogging away, hauling people and equipment to our isolated coastal communities. They have been called, the "workhorse of the north".

Friday, June 22, 2018

Pink dusk

The sun has gone down behind the trees, but the light remains.

Canada geese and diving ducks, 9:31, looking northeast from Tyee Spit.

And from the far side of the spit, looking southwest.9:34.

Sunset was at 9:30.

Another Skywatch post.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Last stop

A miniature beach-side parking lot beside the Arts Council Sibyl Andrews cottage  makes a handy shady spot to park, and a pleasant end to a long, low-tide beach hike. I forgot my sore feet while I checked out the flowers growing over the cottage fence.

Daisies, California poppies, foxglove, lathyrus, rocks, under shady maple.

Branch of Juniper tree, with cones. 6:57 PM, two and a half hours to sunset, but the sun is already low in the sky behind me, reaching only a few isolated branches.

Rose, with miniature long beetles. (Or are they flies? Too small for my tired eyes.)

Blueblossom Ceanothus. These are blooming everywhere this week.


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Red and black and shiny eyes.

A pair of red and black jumping spiders were patrolling the wall outside my window in the late afternoon. Like all jumpers, they were very active, and it was difficult to get near without trampling my flower bed.

Phidippus sp., probably P. johnsoni, possibly female. A large spider, almost 1 cm. long

This one, slightly smaller, may be a male.

If these are Phidippus johnsoni, the female will have a black stripe down her back, while the male's back is almost entirely red.

Double selfie in PJ's headlight eyes.

The fangs have a greenish sheen; I tried to get a decent look at them, but neither of the two wanted to cooperate. I know where to look for them now, so I'll try again another day.


Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sunset over Oyster Bay

With the longer days, sunset goes on and on, with the colours changing from pink to mauve to yellow to orange, then finally fading back to a warm violet. And there's time enough for me to drive down to Oyster Bay to watch the show.

9:20, facing the sun as it finally drops behind the trees.

9:18 With my back to the setting sun. The warm light highlights the usually greyish swallow nest posts and the rocky bank behind. Even the mud looks interesting.

The "official" sunset today was at 9:32, but when I left to go shopping in the cool of the evening, at 10:00, the sky was still streaked with orange and mauve lights. Only a few more days before the sun starts going to bed earlier again, though.

A Skywatch post.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

New word: tafoni

Chapter Number Umpteen in "Why I love blogging."

I've been looking at holes in sandstone for a few years, wondering, not knowing how they were made. Twice, I've written posts about them, here and here, mostly full of questions.

And I've been given some answers on Facebook!

The holes have a name: Tafoni.

Sandstone rock with empty tafoni, Edgewater beach, 2010

Tafoni (singular: tafone) are small cave-like features found in granular rock such as sandstone, granite, and sandy-limestone with rounded entrances and smooth concave walls, often connected, adjacent, and/or networked. They often occur in groups that can riddle a hillside, cliff, or other rock formation. They can be found in all climate types, but are most abundant in intertidal areas and semi-arid and arid deserts. (Wikipedia)

"Small cave-like features ..." And "often ... adjacent ..." That describes the ones I find on our beaches. Other sites mention that they can be large, even room-sized, but our shore tafoni are rarely much more than a couple of inches across.

Often the holes line up around the edge of a flat lump of sandstone. This one is on Stories Beach. (No, I didn't put the small stone on top; that's how I found it.)

But what causes these? How do they form, and why? Why in these positions?

Explanations of their formation include salt weathering, differential cementation, structural variation in permeability, wetting-drying, and freezing-thawing cycles, variability in lithology, case hardening and core softening, and/or micro-climate changes and variation (that is, moisture availability). (Wikipedia)

That's a partial answer, but seems to leave out any biological factors. So what about snails and limpets? And the anemones in the pits?

Tafoni full of tiny snails. Willow Point Beach.

Some researchers believe that, in addition to salt weathering, mollusks and other marine life may also initiate tafoni. They do this by creating small holes in the rocky coastlines, where they attach themselves and extract minerals. The hole grows larger over time until eventually the mollusk, or other organism, drops off. The hole is then left to the elements, like wind, rain, and tidal water. (WorldAtlas)

"Salt weathering". What is that?

Mixing salt cations and water can produce a supersaturated solution. When this solution evaporates, salt crystals precipitate in pores spaces. The resulting crystalline solid precipitated between mineral grains can exert stress and readily cause mineral breakdown. (Tafoni.com Weathering)

Several sites explain this in simple terms. Salt weathering shows up on shore rocks periodically wetted with salt spray. In the intertidal zone, the rocks are underwater most of the time, but spend several hours in the open air daily. In the summer, they are exposed to warm sunlight, and dry out completely.

As the rock dries, the salt crystallizes. These salt crystals expand forcefully enough to create small cavities. In intertidal areas, the drying periods are shorter than on the upper shore, so intertidal tafoni tend to be small.

Thousands of tiny snails in tafoni, Willow Point Beach

So here's my idea, so far: the larger sandstone rocks standing above the intertidal floor dry out sooner, and spend more time out of water. This may be part of the reason for the arrangement of the tafoni. Here, salt crystals create small pits in the soft rock. Tiny snails find food in these holes, and dig them deeper; they have the grating radulas for this task. Limpets also bore into rock to create protected sleeping caves.

More weathering occurs. Wind, waves, crystalizing salt, and some chemical reactions depending on the material forming the rock, all may play their part.

And then along come the anemones. Do they enlarge the holes themselves, maybe by chemical means? Or do they just expand to fit the holes they find?

Anemones in sandstone pits, Edgewater beach, 2010

That still leaves the question of arrangement; why do the tafoni so often form along the rim of sandstone piles? Why do they sometimes cover the whole rock? Why do they often riddle one rock in a group and leave the rest free?

Rim tafoni.

The more I learn, the more questions I have.

Such fun!

(The site, Tafoni.com, has much more information, under many headings. Start with Tafoni.com/Definition and go to -Locations to see tafoni on Mars.)