Sunday, May 1, 2016

Little Blue Bee

I found several of these roving on California poppies in my yard. Some kind of sweat bee?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Rounding a curve in a trail in Magnuson Park, I noticed a pair of withered willow leaves that seemed strangely symmetrical. On closer inspection, they weren't leaves at all.
They were the wings of a sphinx moth. A biiig sphinx moth.
That's my not-especially-big thumb. I figure the fore-wing of this beastie measures five centimeters. Looks to me like a Smerinthus opthalmica, a lumbering nocturnal moth whose caterpillars feed on willow and cottonwood. The adults don't feed on anything. They don't have the mouth parts. They are just around to make caterpillars.
S. opthalmica aren't the only monster moths haunting our nights hereabouts. There are other sphinx moths, and giant silkworm moths including the gloriously named Polyphemus.
Here's another angle on the creature.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Four hummingbirds in a pink tree

Spotted this female Anna's Hummingbird working though the blossoms on a cherry tree in the Washington Park Arboretum. Then she stopped, and perched, sticking out her tongue from time to time. (I think she was cleaning the pollen off her beak). I noticed more movement in the blossoms: one, two, three other female hummingbirds going from flower to flower. Two of the females flew away, a subadult male and an adult male flew in, and they all kept eating and leaving each other alone - at least for a while.
Then the adult male started chirping and doing loop-de-loop territorial displays, right over the tree. This did not appear to have any effect on the three other hummingbirds peacefully guzzling nectar, and after a while he stopped, drank some nectar from the flowers, and then flew to a nearby tree, where he let off volleys of chirps - what I call the squeaky bicycle noise. And the others kept eating.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Raindrops on Pussy Willows

The soggy marshy bits of Magnuson Park make an odd kind of wetland. To be precise, it's a wetland themed garden, constructed, dredged and planted to approximate what the area around the park was like before 1916, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finished the Ship Canal, and lowered the level of Lake Washington by about nine feet. There are of course important differences between this and a natural wetland: crushed limestone trails, metal bridges, and above all, drains, so that the water doesn't inconvenience its human visitors too much.
The result is joyously birdy. Starting at the end of January, red-winged blackbirds start calling. Ducks, coots and pied-billed grebes forage around the ponds. And this weekend, the willows are blooming.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Where the slugs roam

Taken on July 26 on Salt Spring Island, during a rare, wet interlude in this summer's drought.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Satyr comma, Oak Bay Native Plant Garden

Out for a stroll between rainstorms this weekend, I came across this beautiful fellow catching some sun on a patch of yellow marsh-marigold. It's a satyr comma. I don't know how this insect is anything like the man-goat hybrids that cavorted around the god Pan, but the comma name is for the white mark on his lower underwings. This species hibernates as adults, emerging on warm days. I suppose that a good chunk of Saturday in Victoria qualified as a warm day. There were two of them in the Oak Bay Native Plant garden. I think they were both males. One reason I think this is that both had the same bright coloring. The other is that in between spells of basking in patches of sunlight, they would fly at each other, in a flurry of wing-beats, sometimes touching. It was probably quite a savage scene from a butterfly's perspective.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

No dragonflies

Yesterday, I spent a sunny half-hour sitting by a nice little pond. The things I do for science. My reason for being there is the Dragonfly Pond Watch Project, a citizen science project aiming to record the movements of five different dragonfly species: common green darner, black saddlebags , wandering glider (the most widespread dragonfly on the planet, according to Wikipedia), spot-winged glider, and variegated meadowhawk. I like the idea of these creatures zooming hundreds of miles on their shiny wings, and I would love to see some of them on their journey. Yesterday was an unlikely day for it, because the earliest any of them are expected to show up is April. I did see yellow-rumped warblers, chickadees, robins, and two tree-loads of pine siskins. A male red-winged blackbird let off a volley of sound from a bush next to me, as a female picked through the branches. A ruby-crowned kinglet ventured within arms length. Two song sparrows sang at each other, a flicker let off a hicupping tirade and a male rufous hummingbird zipped by, making that mechanical chirp that always reminds me of a 1980s sci-fi space laser. A male Anna's Hummingbird did diving displays over the pond. When he went off, a female quietly came in and gathered fluff from the top of some of the cat-tails. No dragonflies, though.