Saturday, August 31, 2013

Quick post on a busy day.

Worked late. Going antiquing. Have a moth.

Orange underwing, much frayed, on my wall.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Brief encounter

I found this yellow moth on a wall, stuck in a spider's web. I rescued him, and brought him in to recover.

Once he'd calmed down, I thought he might consent to a photo shoot. "Ok", he says reluctantly, "but only for a minute."

One wing, the one caught in the web, has lost many of its feathers.

Nice feathered antennae

"And now," he says, "I must leave you. Things to do, yanno?"

I turned around to adjust the light. When I turned back, he was gone.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Good excuses

Why it takes us an hour to walk one kilometre, on flat sand. It's easy going, with nothing to slow us down.

Boundary Bay, with Mount Baker, at low, low tide.

But we keep stopping to take another photo.

Clam in a tidepool, with refracted light, through a few inches of water.

Empty clamshell

Crab molt

Foot long polychaete worm, from my tank, returning to home base.

In every tidepool, hundreds of tiny, darting fish fled at our approach. These ones were "escaping" from Laurie, while I stood off to the side, without moving, except for my shutter finger.

Feather, pink and brown clam shell, worm poop, bird footprint, and a few sandy snails. As found.

Detail of feather. Worth clicking to see the tips full size.

Wave-carved sand patterns

Lugworm egg case. Most are large oval bags; this one is almost round. With worm hill and poop.

Tiny Baltic macoma shell. Most of the ones on this beach are pink. Very fragile; half the ones I bring home don't make it.

Speckled stone, with dwarf eelgrass, Zostera japonica. The stem just to the left of the stone has a row of seeds in a half sheath.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A bubble in the hand . . .

is worth any number in the eelgrass.

It's interesting, how once you've gotten familiar with the shape and movements of a critter, that you see them in places where you looked before, without finding any. Like the bubble shell snails; I've waded knee-deep in the eelgrass beds at low tide in Boundary Bay many times, and all I saw were crabs and isopods. This last time, I recognized the bubble shells, dozens of them.

They're easy to catch; they hang out on the eelgrass blades, and when they're disturbed, they just let go and float down to the next blade. And they're just as content to land on my hand.

I got this one still on his eelgrass. He's upside-down, twisting up to get a look at me.

Setting out to explore. Isn't he a cutie?

"Hi, there!"

These snails are incredibly fragile; their shells are paper-thin, and as brittle as eggshell porcelain. Other snails have thick, sturdy shells, essential for survival in crab country. Even so, I find many empty shells, peeled back by crabs to get at the tasty meat inside. How do the bubble shells, without that protection, manage to live?

Watching them on the eelgrass, it all became clear. As long as the eelgrass in underwater, it stands upright, swaying in the current. The crabs scuttle along underneath, but only the smallest climb the eelgrass; it won't support the weight of the larger ones. Up at the top of the bed, there are no hard edges, no stones, no crabs, nothing to squeeze or bang those fragile shells.

When a bubble shell drops to the sand, he buries himself immediately. I've been watching in my tank, as they just ooze down between the sand grains and disappear, in seconds. The next time I see them, they're climbing an eelgrass stalk, up to safety.

Bubble shell egg ribbon, on eelgrass

I have seen these egg ribbons many times, but didn't know which snails they belonged to. Now I do: I've watched the bubble shells laying them, gluing them to the eelgrass blades near the top of my tank.

There must be thousands of eggs in one ribbon, and a bubble shell will lay several ribbons over the course of a few days. Few of them survive, or we'd be wading through a mass of bubble shells. Hermit crabs love them; fish eat them, so do nudibranchs. Even in the gentle eelgrass beds, life is precarious.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


My face is a mass of blisters. Painful blisters.

I went to the dermatologist this afternoon, to have him deal with old sun damage. (Actinic keratoses, hard crusty spots across my cheeks and nose.) He said my previous treatments had been "not aggressive enough". He fixed that, with a spray can of frozen nitrogen.

Ow, ow, ow, OW!

I never used to use sunscreen. 'Way back when I was young, nobody did; we used suntan oil, hoping for a nice, deep tan. It never worked for me. I burned.

And then, when sunscreen was available, I still didn't use it, because . . . crickets. No reason, except laziness. Now I have blisters, and they hurt worse than the worst sunburn I ever got.

Moral of the story: Don't forget the sunscreen, people!

Too late for this face. Driftwood, Boundary Bay.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Éhecatl, Aztec god of the winds

Spotted above our parking lot yesterday:

Éhecatl, puffing away

If you don't see him, blow up the photo to full screen (left click, esc to return), and stand back. See him now?

And isn't he the spitting (or blowing) image of the Aztec portrait?

Quetzalcoatl-Ehecatl, the god who moves the sun and the moon. (Wikipedia)

Detail of Ehecatl's breath.

Éhecatl simply means "wind" in Nahuatl. It is pronounced with the short "e" (as in bet), and a short "a" as in paw:  E - e katl. (For the "tl", start to pronounce a "t", quickly flatten your tongue into the "l" position, and stop. A bit of practice, and you can do it as well as an Aztec.)

A Skywatch post.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Another hard worker

Rain or shine, dawn to dusk, holding on in spite of windstorms, baking sun, meddling neighbours . . .

this big cross spider stretches out her nets and waits, prepared to pounce.

She's obviously a successful hunter; she's big, about an inch long, fangs to spinnerets, not counting the legs. Broken threads in her web show where struggling prey has torn it. Off to the side, a green leafhopper, nicely trussed, waits for suppertime..

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Using her head

We've been working too hard. In the last couple of days, I've been pruning rhododendrons and rose bushes, cutting down volunteer Oregon grapes, and raking, raking, raking . . . Laurie went out and bought more soil, and several pots of ferns, then cut down a tree. Our backs are protesting.

Someone else has been busy in the garden, taking care of an old cherry tree.


It's a big job, but someone's gotta do it.

Going deeper.

The tree was badly pruned about 5 years ago (butchered, I think, is the correct word). It has sprouted new branches, but the heartwood is rotting out, and it's probably full of bugs.

The woodpecker has come back twice; she's almost down to the heartwood now. There's a small hill of punk wood and sawdust at the foot of the tree.

State of affairs this afternoon.

Does she ever get a headache?

*Post updated to correct her gender. Males have a red moustache, females don't.  I realized this, thanks to Steve Creek, who has a photo of a male feeding his chick.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Little green apples

The first yellowed maple leaf fell on the garden this afternoon, signalling the beginning of the end of our summer. And under the apple tree at Centennial Park, the ground is covered with small, wormy apples, half green, half red.

I bit into one. Too hard to chew, and sour, to boot.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Brown flowers, blue flowers, and white bird poop.

More Boundary Park photos; the details. Around the lake, first:

Cattails and stripy green water

Rushes. I used to make braids out of these, supposedly to use for something, but I never got that far.

Cross spiders use the rushes as framework for webs hanging over the water. Good mosquito control.

"Sedges have edges; rushes are round." I always have trouble sorting these out, so I was glad to run across this mnemonic, referring to the cross-section of the stems. Rush stems are also pithy, whereas sedges have solid stems.
Tall sedges, against the sky.

And up the hill under the trees:

On the floor of the evergreen "forest". (It's about as tiny as the lake below.)

Back yards merge gently, unfenced, into the mowed grass between the houses and the wild bush. This hydrangea is nearing its sell-by date.

Bird "whitewash" and rust spots on salmonberry leaves.

Blackberries are red when they're green. The black ones were delicious.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Birding Boundary Park

Just down the hill from us, there is a little park that we somehow have forgotten to visit. We remedied that this week.

Boundary Park, so called, I think, because it's on the boundary between Surrey and Delta, is a rather tame place, at first glance. A tiny lake, almost circular, well fenced, with a paved pathway all around it. The lawn is mowed, the weeds kept in check. A place to take the kids with their tricycles, or to sit on a bench and watch ducks. We walked quickly; the walkway lies in full sun, and this was a hot afternoon.

But beyond the lake, the park slopes upward, into a meandering green space between housing developments, heavily treed, partly wild, partly tamed. Here we wandered, dodging spider webs, appreciating the shade.

And everywhere, there were birds:

Crow on a rock

Mallards on a rock

Ducks without rocks

Rock without birds

Near this rock under the evergreens, we saw a pileated woodpecker. It wound around and around the trunk of a cottonwood, always disappearing just as the camera focused. I got one very bad, very small photo.

I don't think I've seen one of these around here before.

And there was a seriously endangered star-winged jay:

A backyard bird, very tame.

And not so tame:

Young heron frogging by the lake. Not very happy with us.

More park photos tomorrow.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Winged heart

At the edge of a tiny puddle of a lake, the dragonflies and bluets were dancing. This pair of bluets flew over to where I was looking for frogs (Plop! Plop!) and perched right in front of me.

The blue male was doing the steering; he already had the female firmly held by the back of her neck with the graspers at the end of his abdomen. She came along like a trailer on a hitch.

Landing. She's still trying to fly.

She rests, hanging loose.

He gets himself well anchored ...

... and pulls her back to his level.

She curls her abdomen forward.

He has already pre-loaded the sperm bank on the bottom of his thorax, from the genital organ at the tip of his abdomen. Now she has to get her own genital opening into position.

Almost there.

Contact! And they make a two-tone heart together.

I shifted position, getting a firmer foothold, and the winged heart flew away. She will lay her eggs now in a plant underwater. He will hold on, staying dry himself, keeping her safe, until she is done.

(And another heart for Clytie.)
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