Thursday, February 18, 2016

Yes, it's spring!

My snowdrops are blooming. The shrub along the fence has come out in tiny green leaf buds. And it's raining. And raining. And raining. Looks like spring is here.

I went out for a drive in the rain and fog to look for more spring goodies, and found fat pussy willows hanging over flooded ditches, willows all decked out in yellow-green, a couple of trees dressed in white blossoms, eagles hanging out in pairs at the top of bare snags.

At the edge of the Comox valley, I began seeing snow geese trumpeter swans*. They're spread out, a couple or three dozen in each of many fields.

Acres of green veggies, and no mud!

From the side of the highway.

I left the highway and drove up and down farm roads, back roads, dead-end roads, a long, meandering circuit that, after an hour, led me back to the highway and home. I saw many swans, but none close enough for a good photo in the rain. But on a short gravel road, a deer and her half-grown kid crossed in front of me, ran a little ways into the bush, and turned to watch me.

It's quite dark in there, in the rain and near sunset. Her eyes reflected my flash back at me.

The eyes seemed too bright in relation to the flash; the light diminishes quickly with a bit of distance, and the deer were deep in the bush. I Googled deer eyes to see why. Turns out that they see the light twice.

The structure that causes glowing eyes in deer, dogs, cats and other animals is the tapetum lucidum. This is a layer of specially adapted cells behind the retina that reflect light. When light passes into a deer's eye, it strikes the many rod receptors in his retina, helping him identify the movement of potential predators. The tapetum gives his receptors a second shot at those rays of light, however, reflecting them back through the retina and doubling the chances of any rod receptor gleaning information from the outside world. When a bright light shines on the tapetum, it reflects a bright glow that can be seen from a distance. (From

Deer are more active after dark; they often sleep during the daytime, so their eyes are more adapted to low light levels. They have larger pupils than we do, and these can expand to almost fill the visible eye. In all the photos I took of these deer, the entire eye glowed.

The youngster, about half his mother's height, but old enough to have lost his baby spots. His eye glows bluish; his mother's have a yellowish/red border. This could be due to the angle of the light.

Coming home in a downpour, I noticed that the tide was lower than I've seen it yet this year. Another sign of spring.

*Update: I've been told they are trumpeter swans. I was surprised: they had those long necks, but I had thought that the swans were still rare. Now I've been reliably informed that there are about 60,000 on this flyway.


  1. Snow geese? ... or trumpeter swans?

  2. You're right, they do look like trumpeters. Unexpected; it's snow geese season. Thanks!


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