Sunday, October 13, 2019

Red plastic pumpkin?

I keep coming back to this photo and wondering about it:

Pattern and floater

I was looking at the patterns of reflections and transparent waves along the shore of the estuary, and this thing, whatever it was, got in the way. It looks sort of like a toy, probably plastic, draped with eelgrass from its travels. It was too far from shore for me to reach it and get it out of there.

But it makes an interesting contrast to the weeds under and above water, and the reflection of the dried grasses on the bank and the blue of the sky.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Unlucky in love

He tried, he hung around, he brought her presents, maybe, but ...

She ate him, anyhow.

Cellar spider, female, with male (see his big pedipalps in that package).

Or maybe it was not bad luck; he was being the ideal father, sacrificing himself, even to his precious body fluids, to ensure the well-being of his children. She will now lay her eggs, strong and healthy, nourished by all that nutritious spider juice.

He's a hero!

Red, yellow, violet

The day trip to the fish hatchery and Bear Creek Nature Park pushed a collection of photos from August and September to the "Hold" folder. Going back to it now. There are flowers:

Geraniums in a window box, Strathcona Lodge, Upper Campbell Lake.

Bee on gumweed, Grindelia stricta. Tyee Spit, Campbell River

Common aster, Aster chilensis, I think. Gold River.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Caution required

And a few more mushrooms ...

Alcohol inkies, inky cap, tippler's bane. Coprinus atramentarius.

Like shaggy manes, they turn black and oozy as they mature, but these have relatively smooth caps. These are buttons. They're edible, as long as you stay away from alcohol for two days after eating them. They deactivate a human enzyme that protects us from the effects of alcohol, so that the alcohol, not the innocent mushroom, gives us a batch of nasty symptoms; a hangover amplified.

More inkies, maturing.

An amanita button, possibly Amanita muscaria, as found, ripped up and left to die on fallen leaves.

Don't try eating these! Hallucinogenic, poisonous, sometimes lethal. They do look tasty, though!

Two flat brown shelves on a old stump. Artist's conk, Ganoderma applanatum, I think.

From my mushroom guide: "It has been calculated that a single large specimen of artist's conk can produce 30 billion spores a day during the summer months, for a total of 4.5 trillion spores annually! This is the source of the brown dust-like coating that often covers the surface of this conk.

You can try to eat these; I hear that the flavour is "mild", but really, they're tough as old-growth lumber.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Predatory fungus

An amazing fern-eating polypore:


Side view.
It's on a decaying stump, blanketed with dead leaves and moss, shaded by evergreen ferns. Which the polypore has latched onto. I tugged on it; it's as immovable as the fungus itself.

Top view. 

And the polypore, in turn, has become slug dinner. Chewed chunks, top centre, far left.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Jungle blanket

Anything that sits still in the rainforest ends up with a green quilt.

Moss on a burl.

I've been struggling to learn to identify the many mosses in our forests, with limited success. I think this may possibly be electrified cat's tail moss, Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus. I could be wrong, of course.

Species name referring to the triangular leaves and the occasional three-rowed arrangement of the uppermost leaves of some stems. ... Commonly called the rough neck moss or shaggy moss because of the untidy leaves at the shoot tips. A whimsical name, electri­fied cat tail moss, has gained some popularity in British Columbia.
Distinguishing characteristics:
The very coarse, pale yellow-green plants with usually untidy divergent leaves of the main stem tip and upper branches, the strongly pleated, somewhat wrinkled leaves and the two strong midribs serve as useful characters. (E-Flora BC)

Zooming in.

Coarse moss: check.
Triangular, wrinkled, pleated leaves: check.
I couldn't get a clear view of a double midrib.
Divergent leaves at upper stem tip: check.
Yellow-green (spring green): check.
On logs, rocks, and here, a rotting burl: check.

But I still could be mistaken. Moss is as confusing as gulls or mushrooms.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

It's a jungle in there

"Rugged". That word comes up repeatedly in descriptions of Vancouver Island's terrain. And with reason.

Bear Creek wetland creek, off Oyster River. The circles in the water are from resident salmon.

Processing photos from Tuesday's trip to the salmon hatchery, I was impressed again by how impenetrable our bush is. The photo above is in an area that has been logged off repeatedly, cleared, cleared again; "managed". It is barely a dozen steps from the holding tanks for salmon fry (I was standing on the plank bridge beside the first tank), a stone's throw (thrown by me, with my old, gimpy shoulder) from the fence and the Oyster River Enhancement Society main office.

And yet: try walking through that! Scrambling, rather, sometimes using both hands as well as feet. Carefully, though; there's Devil's Club in those bushes, amply deserving of its name, and cunningly disguised as harmless thimbleberry bushes. And sudden pit traps, hidden under coats of moss or dead leaves. And trailing blackberry vines to grab your ankles and tip you over. And fallen trees barricading any clear spaces, clear only because the tree knocked over the Devil's Club on the way down.

The creek looks walkable, but watch out for waist-deep silt pools, looking as if they're only inches deep. And slippery, slidy slime. And more fallen branches, only half-anchored in the mud, ready to roll underfoot or to jump up and swat you. You'll need a good, sturdy stick; two feet aren't enough.

A few steps up the slope: cleared space beside the gate. Maple, cedar, evergreen fern, young alders, and blackberries. There are always blackberries. Give it a couple of years, and you'll need a machete to get to the sign.

It's the rain that does it. The rain, and the mild seasons, never too hot, never too cold. The rain and the mildness and the "intricate topography" (another synonym for "ruggedness"). And the isolation: a ten-minute drive from the populated coast takes us into bush untouched by anyone but the occasional loggers and fishermen. Who mostly stay on the trails, because it's too hard to cross that bush without land-clearing machinery.

It's bear country. The bears had been at the tanks the night before we arrived, leaving the leftovers from their breakfast for the ravens and the crawdads. They walk through this bush as if it were a highway. On all four feet, of course. And wearing thick, protective, furry armour against the Devil's Club.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Anonymous 'shroom

The mushrooms are up. This one was in the wetlands around the Oyster River.

Mushroom and mixed herbs.

Also present: salmonberry leaves, cleavers, moss (probably Oregon beaked moss, Kindbergia oregana), Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum), young reeds or rushes, and something with clasping leaves, unidentified. It's raining most days now, and everything is green and growing fast.

As usual, I paged through my mushroom book, and, again as usual, ended up with a couple of tentatively possibles, but probably not. Mushrooms resist being named.

Friday, October 04, 2019

This red chocolate is black

Black chocolate. Slimy black chocolate.

It's a slug; it has to be slimy.

Chocolate slug, aka red slug, Arion rufus, at Bear Creek Nature Park

But isn't it beautiful?

I didn't know this until I checked E-Fauna: these shiny black slugs are just one colour morph of the European Red slug. Sometimes they're light brown with a dark head and orange foot. Sometimes they're just pale brown without the keel. Or they may be chocolate brown. Or even orange. (Links go to E-Fauna photos.)

They may even be bright red, although E-Fauna doesn't have a photo of one, and I've never seen one. I've seen all the other colour morphs, without realizing they were all the same species. (Like cats or dogs, their coat colour is whatever turns up in the shake of the DNA.)

They're an exotic species: our only native BC species is the big banana slug. I see those mostly in the woods; the little Chocolate eats my garden flowers. And my lettuce any year I dare plant any.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Under the autumn maples

And fall is upon us. Under the trees at Bear Creek Nature Park (on the Oyster River) it rained steadily. A warm, dry, orange rain; maple leaves weaving a cozy blanket for the earth beneath.

The woods were glorious, if the ravens were not:

One, or maybe two ravens. Easier to hear than to see.

Down below, we walked in semi-dusk; above on oddly twisted trunks, the leaves blazed in the sunlight.

In spots, the sun filtered through to the ground. Here, a few dead branches, woodpecker-drilled bark, moss, lichen, trailing blackberry, and the maple leaves.

Maple tree out in the open.

And underneath that maple leaf blanket, a miniature flower:

Unidentified. White, bell-like flowers with pale lilac veins.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Oyster River crayfish

I spent a morning at the Bear Creek Nature Park with friends, visiting the fish hatchery on the Oyster River. The river here meanders, sprawls through a wetland, branches out into hatchery channels and side streams. It's mostly shallow and dark, even as the overhead greenery turns yellow and rains down. In a muddy pool, we found a crayfish.

Signal crayfish (also crawfish, crawdad), Pacifastacus leniusculus. Under about 6 inches of water, competing with the reflections from trees overhead.

There is only one native crayfish species in BC – the Signal Crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus). This species can be identified by its uniform brownish coloration, white or light coloration of the claw joint, and the smooth surface of its carapace and claws compared to that of nonnative species. (Fishnbc)
They have a white to pale blue-green patch near the claw hinge [me: here it's blue-green], like the white flags that signalmen used for directing trains—hence the name. (Wikipedia)

This critter appeared to be about 3 inches long. (It's hard to be sure underwater because of the refraction.) We caught one in the Campbell River a few years ago; it was a bit bigger. They usually grow to about 3 1/2 inches, but can reach as much as 8 inches, given, I imagine, a healthy diet of leftovers and a long life. (Wikipedia) They can live as long as 20 years. Which I find amazing.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Arachtober First

Arachtober already! Where has the time gone?

And here's my first spider for the month:

See her?

She's waiting in her tunnel in the hardhack beside the beaver pond, hidden as much by raindrops as by hardhack leaves.

Web with raindrops.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Shy Napoleon

I tried out a new lens, a 70 - 300 mm. It turned out not to be really compatible with my camera body, so I returned it, but it would have been wonderful for those shy shorebirds. Here are some Bonaparte's gulls, well beyond the reach of my present lenses.

Bonaparte's gull, Xema sabini, non-breeding. In season they have black heads.

They are the smallest of our gulls, about the size of a crow, and relatively shy.

On the beach they are always foraging at the very edge of the water; they don't pester human visitors asking for treats.

I got too close. The leading edge of the wing shows white in flight. There's another gull flying with them, obviously larger, with a yellow bill. Bonaparte's have black bills.

The species is named for Charles Lucien Bonaparte, a French ornithologist (and nephew to the former French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte)... (Wikipedia)

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Midnight visitor

I rolled over in bed, and there on my pillow, a tiny moth was resting. I rolled out and went for the camera.

A caddisfly, not a moth.

 I've sent its photo in to BugGuide and to INaturalist.

(Updated: on INaturalist, it's been identified as a caddisfly.

Saturday, September 28, 2019


The trails and stairs going to the Elk Falls river bed are long and steep; going down, my old knees protest. Going back up, I have to stop to catch my breath. And then I lean on the railings and look at whatever's just in front of me.

This time, it was a section of Douglas fir trunk.

Moss, lichen, salal, shed needles, growing on crevassed bark.

And then there was a patch of Western Maidenhair fern.

Adiatum aleuticum, with the ever-present, ever-green sword fern in the background.

Double-checking the name, since it once was included with the Eastern species, I came across an interesting pair of quotes:

The name, maidenhair, originated from another plant — a European bog species that young girls once used to turn their hair blonde. (Central Coast Biodiversity)


The Quinault burnt the leaves and rubbed ashes in their hair to make it long, shiny and black. (Native Plants, PNW)

But other sources say the name refers to the black root hairs, or, conversely, to the glossy black stems.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Cutting edge

Summer on Vancouver Island is the time for large-scale wood carving or driftwood sculptures. We discovered a whole new installation in "downtown" Gold River (population 1,212). Wolves, bears, crabs, eagles, fish; our native totemic species. With one exception:

Bears (with teddy bear mascots) and a pair of chimps (or sasquatches). Very modern, up-to-date chimps. (Probably sasquatches.)

Already addicted to his phone. It's a Sassung™.


And another modern bear:

Must have his coffee!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Sky and reflections, Oyster Bay

I'm still catching up with photos from the last busy month. These are from Oyster Bay, just after sunset, three weeks ago.

The sky, facing northwest. The sun has dropped behind the trees. 7:44 PM

And the reflection of that sky in the water of the bay.

Sundown today was earlier: 7:12 PM. And sunrise tomorrow will be at 7:11 AM. We're down to 12 hours of sunlight, and it is shrinking fast.

A Skywatch post.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

No name creek

Flowing into a no-name lake.

Tumbling down from the bank above the road,

pouring under the road, and winding down to the lake.

Scenes in a rainforest. A rainforest built on ancient piles of rock, mostly vertical. Everywhere we go, there's running water, trickling over cliff faces, oozing through the moss, scouring the boulders. Racing, pouring, seeping, falling, tunnelling. A constant undertone to the voice of the forest, the murmuring of the leaves, the scraping of branches.

On any road, like this one, the drop down to Brown's Bay from the highway, I pass dozens of little creeks bursting out into the open where the road made a gash in the forest. This one falls into the end of a tiny lake with no name on the map; just another of the puddles that dot the island.

From the other end of the lake, a darker line on the satellite view on Google Maps meanders down the hill to Brown's Bay, then disappears. Underground, under the man-made roads and parking lots, evidently, because then the creek appears on the beach, flowing into the salt chuck, where they all end up.

Monday, September 23, 2019


One more photo from the beaver pond.

The last yellow waterlily (Nuphar polysepala) of the season, and floating-leaved pondweed, Potamogeton natans.

This pondweed has two types of leaves; long, thin ones that grow underwater, and the floaters that lie flat on the surface of the water, green fading to coppery brown. The stems grow up to 2 metres long, although the pond here seems to be about a foot deep; soft mud at the bottom could possibly add another foot or more. I slipped and fell into one of these ponds years ago; we were catching frogs in what looked like shallow water, but standing in the pond, the water came up to my waist.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

More beaver lore

When my granddaughter was little, I took her places; to the parks, on gentle hikes, sometimes up steepish hills. She ran ahead, and I followed as quickly as I could. Sometimes, I had to rescue her; not often.

These days, when she visits, I take her to my favourite places, sometimes up and down steep hills. And she still runs ahead. And I still follow her, but slowly, cautiously. She hasn't had to rescue me yet, though.

I took her to see the beaver pond.

The beaver lodge, as I have always seen it, from the side of the highway.

We went down the back trail, to look at the pond from the other side.

The water lilies are almost all dried and brown now. Good beaver food.

On the way back, she headed off, straight through the bush where I had sort of wished I dared go, to see the beaver lodge from the back side. I followed her, one careful step at a time until I reached her, standing on a rise, looking down on the lodge.

The lodge, from the back side. The beavers have made a sort of trail over the muddy back end.

After that, we had to hike up the road and scramble through the bush to the other end of the pond, to get another view. I didn't make it down the last hill, and looked for mushrooms while she took water-level photos. On the way back, we passed a gap in the trees that gave us a glimpse of a muddy bank. And it was full of beaver tracks!

Beaver tracks, going and coming. The heavy tail blurs many of the tracks as the beaver walks, but there are a few, in the left angle of the X of branches, that show the five strong toes. It looks like the beaver's trail heads into the bush just behind them.

The beaver's front paws are smaller, the rear ones are as big as my hands. The hind toes are webbed, but not the front ones.

Since beavers live near water, their tracks are often found in mud, which gives good detail to the prints. Beaver tracks show webbing on the hind feet. Hind tracks can easily be six to seven inches long. All feet have five toes. The prints show five toes on the hind feet and four toes on the front feet. The fifth front toe sometimes registers, but not on all surfaces. Front tracks can be two to three inches long. Claw marks show in the tracks. Beavers walk plantigrade, or flat-footed. The large tail sometimes leaves a drag mark in the trail. (

Reading up on beavers, trying to confirm that these were, in fact, beaver tracks (but what else could they be, behind a beaver lodge?) I learned of a couple more features that I should be able to find in the area: scat, sometimes deposited on the edge of the pond, and scent mounds.

Beavers establish scent posts near their ponds. These are composed of a mound of mud, grass and sticks piled up into a dome-shaped mass. The beaver rubs castoreum on the mound. Some of these mounds can be huge, measuring a foot tall and three feet across.(Bear Tracker)

I think I know where to look for these. A project for next summer!

And I still haven't seen hide nor hair of a beaver here!

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Polypores, here and there

Wherever I go in the woods, there are polypores.

Red belted polypore, above Elk Falls.

Sweaty young polypore, on the shores of the beaver pond.

Strange grouping, broken or eaten. On the side hill beside the Campbell River.

Another sweaty one. Behind the beaver dam, I think.