Monday, October 24, 2016

Sunday, October 23, 2016


Still more fall colour ...

Red alder

A few dahlias are still blooming in spite of last week's storms.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Homeward bound

The north end of Vancouver island tends to the vertical. Rocky cliffs spring straight up from the shore, as if we were halfway up the mountainsides already. Which, if you consider the height from the nearby sea floor, up to a kilometre underwater, we are.

Even Campbell River, with its rushing rivers bringing down silt to lay out beaches along our shore, is mostly built on the hillside. The lower highway runs close to the beach; streets leading off it climb steeply. From a couple of blocks inland, we can see (on sunny days) across the low islands of the Discovery Passage to the mountains of the mainland.

Typical street view.Two blocks up.

I live on the first block above the highway, so that coming home at the end of the day, I'm usually curving down a side hill, watching the sweep of the strait below me. It's a good feeling, even when sea and sky are grey. And when the sun is shining, I almost hate to get home.

Looking across the Georgia Strait towards Powell River on the mainland. Mitlenatch Island dead centre ahead.

Lighthouse, Quadra Island

The opposite shore, and the mountains of the mainland. (With fresh snow.)

A Wikipedia map might be helpful here. We are at the junction of Discovery Passage and the Georgia Strait, which stretches on down to the Lower Mainland, and the beaches we used to frequent on the border.

Discovery Passage is 1.7 km wide between Campbell River and Quadra Island. (The view in the photo above.)

A Skywatch post.

Friday, October 21, 2016


Maple leaves, sparkly clean after a week of rain.

Red, red, red. I thought the black dot at the top was a bird, but zoomed in, it turned out to be a flying spider.

A different variety of maple; the leaves turn red each at its own pace.

Fallen leaves

I'm not sure of the variety of these maples, except that they're not Big Leaf Maples, which have large, deeply indented leaves.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A bit of wind

I wanted a few grey weather photos. It was raining again, so I took a couple through the open window of the car. Then I walked down to the water's edge, just a half step above the level of the highest waves, hunkered down for a low shot, and a freak wave pounded in, soaked me to the knees, and almost bowled me over. End of session.

Wet and windy. (Fresh breeze, 33 km/h.) Near the 50th parallel. The only boat out there is the Quadra Island ferry.

I'll try again another day.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Colour and pattern in a fallen Big Leaf maple leaf.

Collected from a pile in the gutter. Ephemeral beauty.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Snail on a yellow leaf

After dark this evening, in the dim light of a parking lot, a magnolia's leaves glowed so brightly yellow that I had to collect a few to bring home. A tiny snail was riding on one.


It was about 1/8 of an inch across, curled up in the shell, where it didn't stay long. This was a very active snail, or at least a snail in a hurry to get out of the light, constantly on the move, even seconds after I had been handling it, always waving its head from one side to the other.

I have never seen a land snail with this spotted mantle, that flows out and over the edge of the shell, like a moon snail's does, in the ocean, nor one that never extends its eyestalks and lower tentacles more than these rounded bumps. I couldn't find any snails like it on the web.

Almost a curled-up cat pose.

I subjected him to lights and house warmth for a few minutes, then took him out to the garden and the rain.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Wood, feathers and choppy water

On Tyee Spit, just before sundown.

Bear and gull. Taken from the shelter of the car. It had stopped raining, but the wind was cold and wet.

It looks like the storm is over, with only minor damage done. The water in the channel was still agitated this afternoon, and there were very few boats willing to brave it, but the ducks were bobbing merrily on the waves, and flocks of gulls were cavorting in the wind.

Willow Point, 5:05 PM. Small black dots in the water are ducks; larger ones are new logs coming in.

The Quadra Island ferry, starting across. 6:29 PM. Sunset was at 6:26.

6:34. One lonely fishing boat heads north, in the quieter water off Quadra Island.

According to the weather people, we can expect another 9 days of rain, but it will be "light". And the wind is down to 18 km/h., a gentle breeze on the Beaufort scale.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Itsy bitsies

There are 33,000 spiders on my front lawn. More or less. Or, at the least, an average of 5,000*. And a few have moved inside to share my space; estimates range from about 30 to 100 spiders in an average house at any one time.

So where are they? Here, there's a small one behind the microwave, and a big female under the printer cabinet. And one turns up in the kitchen sink or the bathtub, several days a week. Where are the other 25 to 95?

Mostly, they're tiny.

I've been posting my daily spider to the Arachtober pool this month, but now the standard is to post 2 daily for the rest of the month. And I've run out of spider pics. And it's raining too hard to go poking around the lawn looking for one of those 5,000. So I took the camera, a flashlight, and the big hand lens, and searched every cranny in my house.

I found 6 spiders. Very small spiders. One was just a dust speck on the wall and I had to check with the magnifying lens to be sure it was a spider.

Cute, isn't she?

Slightly (very slightly) larger, on an antique rustic cupboard.

I don't know what that yellow thing is. It looks like some sort of beetle. I found the remains of several miniature critters in crevices, insects or crustaceans that I couldn't recognize.

Almost invisible. A cellar spider, with her egg sac, in an antique Nootka basket. She must be an adult, given the eggs, but she's much smaller than any cellar spider I've seen up to now.

This guy's about 2 mm. long. He's in the crack of a sculptural branch Laurie brought home some 30 years ago from Chase.

Out in plain sight on the wall. About 1/8 inch long, body length.

Beside the others, she looks gigantic, but she's still a youngster. Trapped in a drinking glass, trying to climb the wall.

Now, maybe if I pry off the baseboards. And climb under the sink and check the underside of the counter. Or ... Those other 89 spiders have to be somewhere!

*Using Turnbull's figures: 842 spiders x 40 (approx.) sq.m., or 130.8 x 40.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Weather report and a smart hollyhock

They call it "active weather". Here in BC, that means rain; pouring, pounding, piercing rain. Horizontal rain, at times, as the wind picks up. New gullies carving themselves out in driveways, the streets littered with branches and pine cones. Flattened gardens, tossing boats in the harbour, mud slides, roaring creeks bearing fresh logs. In flood areas, such as Bella Coola, residents are battening down, emptying basements, gassing up the generators.

(I remember my mother, years and years ago, tying the canoe to the front porch, and ferrying all the neighbourhood kids to the bottom of the school hill, in Tahsis.)

With this round of October storms, so far, we've been lucky here in Campbell River; the Lower Mainland has seen many large trees uprooted, power outages, and one death. We've just had heavy rain, but they're warning us of winds gusting to 80 km/hr tomorrow.

I've got my candles ready, and enough food cooked for three days, ready to eat cold, if the power goes out. The trees in the front yard have been pruned and the debris cleared away yesterday morning; we're prepared.

So is my tall hollyhock. I went out this afternoon to look at the garden; most of the plants are lying on the lawn or in the mud. But the hollyhock, taller than I am and planted on an upper level, bent almost double and ducked underneath the roof of the carport.

It's not raining here. A lucky spider came along for the ride. (On the leaf between the two buds.)

If possible, I'll get out tomorrow and take weather photos.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Along the Myrt Thompson trail

The river:

Fall colours. If you look closely, (click) you can see the light streaming past the trees on the headland, and the rain of tiny falling leaves into the water.

Zooming in, a bit later, with ducks. the faint ripple at centre left is where a pair of harbour seals went under while the camera was busy focusing.

Water under the bridge, carrying leaves and detritus from the river bank.

Companions along the trail:

Running sparrow.

Grasshopper with a yellow face: Melanoplus sanguinipes.

The name, "sanguinipes", refers to the red legs (from the knee down) visible below the leaf in this photo.

Herb Robert. The leaves often turn red.

And a map:

Google Earth view, with my captions.

I still have to explore the Raven Channel trail. If When it ever stops raining.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Optical confusions

The Campbell River estuary spreads out into a maze of back-channels and quiet pools, protected both from the sweep of the river and the storms and tides of the salt chuck downstream. For many decades, it was used as a storage site for log booms.

Screen grab of 1965 aerial photo, with enhanced contrast, from City of CR. The long, white rectangles are log booms.

The booms are gone now. The last photo where they appear is from 1980. The lagoons lie sleepily under the sun where the logs once rattled their chains.

Old boat, at anchor. Someone is fishing off the forward deck.

Walking the Myrt Thompson trail, I deviated from the official route to visit the abandoned log dumping site. These days, it is an empty space, still paved in spots, but gradually being reclaimed by broom and trees. At the edge of the water, massive steps, stairs for a giant, rusted and warped from long years in the rain and the river, lead down into the water, probably where logging trucks long ago tipped their loads. (On the aerial photo above, it's near the angle in the orange dotted line, at the bottom of the long line of log booms.)

Just inland of these steps, large logs are chained in a row, a barrier between the paved area and the drop into the river. They've been there for many decades now; the wood is silvery-grey and silky to the touch, and deeply carved into fist-deep depressions.

Section of log.

When I look at this photo, my eyes insist on turning the holes into hills, with steps up, like so many eroded Mexican pyramids. The steps go down; the lighter, flat spaces in between are the outer surface of the log.

Another log, with more holes. The shadows and the bits of gravel at the bottom of some holes keep this in perspective.

On the broken pavement beside the logs, a grasshopper led me a merry dance, waiting until I would be a couple of metres away, then leaping up and flitting away, never too far, so that I could see him land. But when I approached, staring at the spot so as not to lose it, he was just not there. One cautious step more, and yes, he'd been there all the time; now he was on his way to his next hiding place in plain sight.

Hills become holes: the grasshopper became sticks, became a grasshopper, became stones. My poor eyes!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Audience of one

Beauty has its hazards. You get used to it, and you stop paying attention. And the golden moments are lost in a welter of fussing about shopping bags and battery chargers and to-do lists.

All summer long, the crickets have been presenting their nightly chorus on my lawn every evening. Such a warm, happy, summery sound! I listened, and listened, and then forgot to listen. I didn't even notice when the season ended and the chirps fell silent.

But I was reminded again this Sunday afternoon, walking by the river in the sunshine, when I heard one lone cricket celebrating the warmth. I looked around and soon found his mate, resting on the side of the path.

Field cricket, female. She doesn't sing. But she does listen.

The background of stones and sticks made it hard to see her, so I tickled her with a dried leaf until she walked onto it, meaning to transfer her to a solid background. She had other ideas; she crawled into the curled edge of the leaf and anchored herself there. No amount of shaking would dislodge her.

"You can't see me in here."

Is it a trick of the light, or is the tip of her ovipositor red?

I left her there, by the side of the trail, listening to her chirping mate.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

All tattered and torn

Poor little cabbage white! Life has not been treating him well.

But as long as there are sunny afternoons, and yellow Brassicas, he'll keep flying.

The cabbage butterfly prefers purple, blue and yellow flowers over other floral colors ... (Wikipedia)

On to the next flower; delicious nectar!

On the Myrt Thompson trail.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

One hour before sundown

It's that time of year again, when the days grow noticeably shorter. The long, slow dawns, when the orange glow warmed my window at 5:00 AM, are no more. Now, I make my morning coffee in the dark. And a short walk on the beach after supper means that I come home with the headlights on.

This is Stories Beach, just south of the 50th parallel north, four days ago, starting at 5:47 PM. Sunset is at 6:49.

5:47, looking Southeast. The sun is off to my left, 9° above the horizon.

Looking up.

10 minutes later, looking Northeast. The beach and the lower trees are in shadow already.

And today's sunset will be at 6:40, nine minutes earlier. Our day will be just over 11 hours long. It will go down to 8 hours by mid-December, with the sun barely 16 degrees over the horizon. Time to dig out my winter coats!

I've been looking at a site that gives all sorts of data on the sun's position at any given time or place, SunEarthTools; a map, graphs, tables; anything you can think of to ask. One curious number I noticed is that noon today is at 1:08 PM. Words mean different things depending on the context.

A Skywatch post.

Friday, October 07, 2016

The better to hear you with

I found this mosquito sleeping beside my front door.

Culex, probably the Northern House Mosquito, male.

... and I let him be; he's a guy; he won't bite.

The female is the nuisance, and sometimes deadly. Her mate wanders around drinking plant nectar and caressing aphids; he's not interested in us. In the day, he sleeps. At night, he listens.

Those big, feathery antennae are his ears, so sensitive they can pick out a female of his own species as she flies by, on the hunt. Each species has its own buzz frequency, up to 500 beats a second, and the males buzz at a different rate than their mates.

These "ears" are among the most sensitive known in the animal kingdom. (E-Fauna, Culex pipiens)

The song changes when a couple meet and hit it off; they modulate the wing speed to match each other's, taking themselves off the "available" list.

They mate, and the female gets hungry. She needs blood for her eggs to develop properly, so she goes hunting, whining in your ear when you're trying to sleep, sneaking up on you at dusk and raising welts on your ankles and the back of your neck, ignoring your somehow immune companion and dive-bombing you.

Or worse: driving in the Chilcotin in the summertime, we drench ourselves in repellent any time we want to stop and stretch our legs. Otherwise, within seconds a horde of ravenous mosquitoes, thousands of them, a swirling black cloud of them, descends to feed. There's no batting them off; a fresh batch is already settling on the swinging hand.

"What do they eat when they can't get human?" we've asked.

Birds, mainly. But they'll take dogs or other small mammals. And while they're waiting, they'll fill up on plant juices, like their mates.

Do birds itch, I wonder?

Gaudy noodles

I've been collecting water and goodies for my aquarium all summer from a peaceful beach; a barricade of logs, a bit of gravel, a stony strip, and acres of sand in a protected bay. The water is clear, the wading easy. And the top of the rising tide brings in fresh sea lettuce and eelgrass, salad and exercise equipment for my critters combined.

Now, as the sunlight fades and the storms increase, the offerings cast up on shore have changed. Turkish towel and kelp lose their grip and are swept inland, along with rockweed bladders and sheets of red algae. I'm finding oyster shells, picked clean, and crushed crab carapaces; in the summer, these would have washed ashore whole.

A couple of days ago, the waves brought in a generous helping of red noodles.

Red noodle salad on a carved bark plate.

Succulent seaweed, Sarcodiotheca gaudichaudii. (Love that name!) As found.

Also in this photo: eelgrass strips, sea lettuce, rockweed, red algae sheets, Turkish towel, a curly-edged purplish kelp, and a branched, brown seaweed.

I brought home a handful, cleaned it, and floated it in a white tray for a better look.

Still looks good enough to eat.

Detail of knobby section of plant. Reproductive structures, maybe?

They say it's edible, but my hermits looked it over briefly and turned up their collective noses at it. So I didn't try it, either.