Wednesday, April 24, 2019

AKA swamp lanterns

I did find those skunk cabbages. Behind a stand of salmonberry canes, on the far side of a slippery, muddy creek. Not accessible from the trail system. Typical skunk cabbage behaviour. (I passed another thickly-populated patch in a separate wetland yesterday. It was just as unreachable without jungle-whacking tools and high rubber boots.)

Two loners had separated themselves from the pack. I could get close to one, in camera range from the next.

This one was on my side of the creek. Fresh and new, with small leaves. The leaves around it, down in the mud, are creeping buttercup, an invasive species.

The spadix and its enclosing spathe. The white flowers are lined up along the spadix.

Inflorescence of numerous, densely packed, perfect flowers in a cylindric spike 7-12 cm long, the spike on a 30- to 50-cm long stalk and subtended by a yellowish bract similar to the leaves in shape but much smaller ... (E-Flora) (my emphasis)

"Perfect flowers" just means that they include male and female parts, but I'm sure the beetles find them perfect based on different criteria. The flowers have four petals, closely clasped around the centre.

The skunky smell attracts flies and beetles, which pollinate the flowers. It is rare to find a flower spike without them; this one is new, and seems not to have gathered any yet.

Another young plant, with one mature flower spike, two hidden new ones. And more buttercups.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

More like millions

I did say thousands of pink fawn lilies, didn't I? I might have understated. Here's one small patch beside the trail.

42 pink fawn lilies.

I did a quick Google maps measurement: the trails I followed around Nunns Creek cover about 10 hectares, or 25 acres, 100,000 sq. metres. And the fawn lilies were thick over most of that area.

In the photo, the longer, mottled leaves are fawn lily leaves. The smaller, heart-shaped leaves are false lily of the valley, still not flowering. The yellow patch is where the sun shines. This wood is mostly in deep shade.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Hidden treasure

It was all because of the skunk cabbage. I saw a patch of it through the trees as I drove past, and went looking for a trail entrance. I'd never visited Nunns Creek before; from the road, it looks like a difficult tangle of forgotten undergrowth, almost completely encircled by large commercial sites and weedy vacant lots. But I wanted to see if I could get near that skunk cabbage without rubber boots.

At a corner of the lot, behind a patch of untended, weedy shrubs, I found a sign and what looked like a trail head. I parked and went in. Weeds, broken trees, more weeds. And then - a patch of pink fawn lilies. Then more, dozens more, hundreds more, thousands more, all along a network of trails, going deep into the bush. In spots, they were joined by bleeding hearts. And, dotting this carpet of pink and green, a scattering of trilliums, white and pinkish.

A pair of pink fawn lilies, with their blotchy basal leaves, and a few bleeding heart leaves.

A young trillium, still small, very white.

An older trillium, pink. With a crab spider that I completely failed to see until I blew up the photo.

I circled around, walking down every branch of the trail system Except this one: it was barricaded.

More flowers tomorrow.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

They broke the heart

"And beside the stone there were wild flowers growing, small flowers of such beauty and perfection that they broke the heart. They broke the heart."
Alexander McCall Smith, Blue Shoes and Happiness

Miner's lettuce. Montia parviflora, I think.

Seen beside the trail in Nunns Creek Park. More flowers tomorrow.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Tiny climber

No matter how well I scrub the inner walls of my aquarium, the edges stay green. Where the glass is joined with silicone, algae grow, becoming part of the adhesive material. And the littlest hermit crabs climb these strips of algae.

Hi, there!

Friday, April 19, 2019

Big, crabby family

Another of my green shore crabs is in berry. And this time, she consented to a photo session, showing off her brood under a bright light.

Hemigrapsus oregonensis, in berry.

A female green shore crab may carry up to 11,00 eggs; the average is around 4,500. That's a lot of babies! And she takes good care of them fanning them and picking out bits of dirt (with those huge pincers!) and pumping water around them. They are protected by a feathery "blanket" along the edges of the abdominal plate, and held in place, as well, by those spiky pleopods visible on the right side here.

The eggs move into a second stage of growth while still in the egg. I think these are second-stage: look at the next photo. You can see their eyes! (Click for a larger size photo.)

Looking out at the big world.

I doubt that any of these will survive after they hatch as zoeae; the tank doesn't contain their usual predators, such as jellyfish, but the pump substitutes quite efficiently. But you never know; A couple of the crabs now in my aquarium grew up from babyhood here.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019


In the backwaters of the Campbell River Estuary, between the wetlands and the abandoned industrial wasteland, one lonely boat hides away.

The Hecate, at anchor.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Piece of cake. Not.

I found this patch of moss growing on old, crumbly pavement behind an equally crumbly log in a vacant lot.

Miniature palm trees and striped poles.

Mosses are difficult to identify, but this one looked easy. A forest of tiny, spiky trees, and those distinctive, long, multicoloured sporophytes, growing on a mineral base. I looked through all my saved photos. Not there. Those sporophytes weren't in my guide book. I carefully plowed through all 206 E-Flora species. No luck.

I pondered the Juniper Haircap moss, but the sporophytes didn't match. And the photos showed little red-brown crowns on the "trees".

I Googled until my eyes were watering. And finally found it.

Juniper Haircap, after all.

UBC Botanical Garden photo, by Daniel Mosquin. Creative Commons.

It all depends on the time of year. And whether its male or female. And how old the sporophytes are.

It grows in two phases; the first phase has no sporophytes. The sporophytes grow only on the female plants. Male and female plants may grow in separate clumps. (USDA). The males have those reddish crowns; the females don't.

Male Juniper Haircap stems. Photo by Ian Sutton.

Then the sporophytes, growing on female plants, show up in the second stage. At first, they are upright and slender, but as they age, they bend over and fatten up. Most of the photos I found showed the older sporophytes.

Nothing is ever easy, is it?

Monday, April 15, 2019

Leafing out

A couple of trees in a vacant lot between the highway and the river.

New leaves and, I think, catkins.

Twin trees.

I have to confess, I erased a mess of industrial buildings and trucks in the background of this pair of trees; they were distracting from what I was looking at, the trees themselves. From the first photo, I deleted only an intrusive Home Depot sign.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

April flowers

Along the Myrt Thompson trail.

Red flowering currant. They are growing wild in the bush along the river's edge, but this and a dozen or so more have been planted as part of the restoration project.

Sign near the beginning of the trail

Text of the sign:
Myrt Thompson Restoration
This trail winds along the banks of the river and through the heart of the estuary. After a century of industrial use by the forest industry, the Myrt Thompson trail is now being restored to provide habitat for a wonderful array of wildlife, including bald eagles, cedar waxwings, and black bears. Invasive species such as Scotch broom and Himalayan blackberry have been cleared by volunteers and replanted with native species. These plants will provide a diverse habitat for avian wildlife. Riverside vegetation also helps to protect the riverbank from erosion and provides hiding places for juvenile salmon.
The eagles were much in evidence this week. A couple of years ago, I saw many piles of bear scat. It's too early this year for them; they'll show up when the berries ripen.

More red-flowering currant. Looks like there will be a good crop of berries. For now, they'll attract hummingbirds.

Salmonberry flower. More bear bait coming up.

A lineup of salmonberry buds.

I think this is Pacific crabapple, Malus fusca.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Beware of the trees!

Before all the new leaves cover them, I stopped to look at bare logs and tree roots along the Myrt Thompson trail and found them a bit worrisome.

Tangled roots at the river's edge. The water frequently covers this spot, washing out the silt, leaving the roots a couple of feet above ground.

Shades of Old Man Willow! This tree has captured an unfortunate hiker.

Another capture. "Oh, woe, woe, woe! I've been swallowed by this log and I can't get out!"

Snag. Looks vicious. May bite.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Crow and new leaves

Caught in passing ...

He looks upside-down, but he's just turning to watch me as he goes.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Early leaves

Green is bursting out all over. I walked down the Myrt Thompson trail, that follows a spit of land in the middle of the Campbell River down to the estuary.

The river breaks itself into several channels here. Low water today: sometimes it covers those grassy banks. I think the new leaves on the right are elderberry. They put out large leaves very quickly. A couple of black specks on the far shore (on the left) are a pair of eagles.

Red alder leaves and overwintering cones.

Willow catkins and baby leaves.

Looking downriver, out to the ocean and Quadra Island. And more new green leaves.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Hermit in a new coat

Through the glass, darkly ...

A photo taken in passing, without scrubbing the glass wall of the aquarium first.

One of the smaller hermits, in a brand new shell. And an orange-striped green anemone in an old shell. And a heart.

I occasionally find a batch of small shells in a thrift or dollar store, bring them home, boil them in case of disease, dry them, boil them again, and donate them to my hermits. Sometimes they get used; only the hermits know which ones are acceptable and which ones aren't. It makes a change from the old, algae-coated, often broken (see the shell this hermit is climbing over), everyday batillaria shells that most of them are wearing.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Non-predatory spiderling

Last summer, I begged a tiny clipping off someone's spider plant; just a couple of inches long. It spent the winter on a shady, cool (cold, often) windowsill, and now it's sending out its long shoots and spiderlings. And flowering!

Three flowers, two buds. And the beginnings of a new plant.

The petals are about 1 cm. long.

Anyone want a clipping?

(It's been raining, I've been sneezing and sniffling; I've stayed inside, out of the wind and rain.)

Friday, April 05, 2019

Pink and yellow

More orchids. This is the second blooming this year.

Half opened flower. The buds are a strange, curved triangle shape, like a half of a crescent moon.

Taken inside, in the orchid's favourite spot, under a yellow lamp. It grows happily here, not so well anywhere else.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Small Blue-eyed Mary

High in the trees, I now see the beginning of green; here and there, leaf buds are starting to open. In the understory, little Christmas-tree lights shine, yellow-green where stray rays of sunlight reach the new huckleberry leaves.

But down on the ground, in the dry meadows and evergreen-shaded dunes around Oyster Bay, brown prevails. Dead grasses from last year, brown seed stalks, dead leaves cover the ground. The moss is a slightly greenish tan.

Crossing the meadow, I noticed a couple of patches of green beside the path, barely up to my shoe uppers. And they were speckled with blue. I got down on my knees to look.

Small blue-eyed Mary, Collinsia parviflora. And a few blades of new grass.

The flowers are from 4 to 8 mm. long.

Looking closely, the flowers seem to be halfway detached from the bracts; they aren't. The flower twists as it grows outward, so that the open petals are on a lower level than the stalk. (See this E-Flora photo.)

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Half-seen birds

... at Kitty Coleman Park.

Cawing crow, mostly in silhouette. On a hemlock branch.

Happy harlequins, on a calm sea.

And in the forest, a woodpecker pounded away on a tree, over and over, pausing between each sequence; to dig out a grub? Listen for fleeing grubs? Wait for his brain to stop ringing? Not long, anyhow. I heard him, walked down the trail until I located the tree, and stood squinting against the light, trying to see the bird. Impossible. Until he decided to switch trees, and I caught a glimpse of his shadow as he disappeared behind a fat old Douglas fir.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

New white trilliums

Spring. There are flowers everywhere, yellow, pink, purple. Under the trees in the shady woods at Kitty Coleman Park, a short drive south of here, white trilliums were joining in.

Trillium ovatum, the Western trillium. White when they're new, turning pink as they age.

Most were still barely open.

Fully open, these will spread the three petals almost flat.

This is an "ant plant". My guide book, Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Mackinnon and Pojar), explains:

"Each seed has a little, oil-rich appendage that is attractive to ants.The ants lug the seeds back to their nests, where they eat the appendages or feed them to the larvae and then discard the remaining seeds on their rubbish piles. This is a reasonably effective mechanism for seed dispersal, especially for plants of the dim, becalmed forest floor. Ants disperse up to 30% of the spring-flowering, herbaceous species in the deciduous forests of eastern North America. Our forest flora is less dependent, but we do have several spring-flowering "ant plants", including bleeding heart, inside-out flower and wild ginger, as well as trilliums."

The Kitty Coleman forest is mostly evergreen; cedar, hemlock, old-growth Douglas fir, and sword fern, with a few red alders to provide more shade in the summertime. I didn't see any ants.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Spring hyacinths

My hyacinths are blooming!

Wish I could post the perfume, too.

The house is on a hillside, so that the driveway is a few feet below the lawn and flower beds, held in place by a retaining wall. When I drive in and open the car door, the hyacinths are a few feet away, and hyacinth perfume surrounds me. A beautiful welcome!

Sunday, March 31, 2019

New-born thimbleberry wasps

A month ago, I collected a few thimbleberry galls, brought them home, and split one apart to look at the larvae hidden inside. (Story, here.) I stashed them afterwards in a plastic container and set them aside in a cool spot.

This week, I opened the container. And several tiny wasps have burrowed their way out.

The larvae as they were a month ago.

Another one of the galls, this week, with exit holes.

And one of the newly-emerged wasps, Diastrophus kincaidii. About 2.5 mm long.

Another one, bent over, showing off her wings.

Wasp # 3. Wasps have that tiny waist; it seems strange that it can support the weight of the heavy abdomen.

I just checked again. There were three galls, all on the small side. And now there are a dozen new wasps, freshly emerged. I left the lid off; I don't know where they'll go, since I have no thimbleberry canes nearby. Maybe they'll find an alternate host in the raspberries.