Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Three fluffy baby grebes

By 11 a.m. this morning, there were three fluffy baby pied-billed grebes in the nest and two eggs. The parents took turns with the task. One would dive around, forage, fix up the nest and feed the babies. The other would sit on the eggs.
The babies clambered over whichever adult was on the nest, often stopping to snuggle under its wings. And they ate a lot.

Funny, the pink on their faces matches the pink on the willow leaf in the last picture.

Previous posts:
June 3: one egg.
June 10: seven eggs.
June 27:first hatching.
June 28: second hatching.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Grebe hatchling number 2

I came to Green Lake to check on the pied-billed grebe nest this morning and found no sign of the baby that hatched yesterday.
But one of the remaining six eggs had a hole in it.

Soon enough, another hatchling arrived.

The adult's first response was the same as it had been for the first hatchling. It started chewing at a nearby water lily.

And back to the nest, to feed the baby and remove the eggshells. It carried the eggshells away from the nest, and dove with them.

After a while the baby became more lively and started peeping.

The other adult arrived and changed places with the parent who had been there at the hatching. The chick tried climbing on the adult's back. Check out those feet.

It proved quite difficult.

Still trying.

Ah, made it. The baby is now tucked under the grown-up's wings. I hope it stays safe.

Dragons and damsels, Green Lake

I came by Green Lake about 4 p.m. on a warm, sunny afternoon, and found myself quickly distracted by dragonflies.
Pachydiplax longipennis (Blue Dasher)

Libellula forensis (Eight-spotted Skimmer). This was the hardest to photograph. They seldom stopped, and when they did, they chose perches close by the water. They were amazingly active, jousting with each other in the air and swooping down to touch the water.

Ischnura erratica (Swift Forktail), which like all damselflies has a very athletic way of mating. The male grabs the female behind the head using special claspers. They fly around. Then the female bends her abdomen forward to get his sperm, which he is storing in a special compartment in his thorax.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

First grebeling

I stopped by to see the pied-billed grebe nest, and found it unchanged, although the adult seemed restless. Twice she (or he...they are identical in plumage and habits) left the nest, covering the eggs with bits of nest material.
Then, as I was taking a picture of something else (to come in a future post), s/he called. So I started watching more closely. One of the eggs started moving.

Sure enough, it hatched.

Hello world.

The parent left the nest and found food for the chick, which started to waddle around the nest and cheep. Then the adult came back, picked up half the hatched eggshell, and dove down with it. S/he repeated the procedure with the other half. Then she called a couple more times, climbed back on the nest, and sat on the remaining eggs, with the chick nestled against her/his feathers.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ant lions are amazing.

Myrmecos has a play by play of an ant lion making a kill.
This particular ant lion is in Florida, but similar ones hunt in dry spots in the Pacific Northwest, too. Next time I see one of those dips in the sand, I'm going to take a closer look.

A big gulp

A BBC crew took this underwater footage of gulls and common murres feeding on herring, and then got a big surprise at the end.
The video is part of the BBC series Nature's Great Events. The David Attenborough-free American version, Nature's Amazing Events, is now perched atop my Netflix queue.
Via Huckleberry Days.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Cormorants and sandstone

Heather Reid chronicles a visit to a colony of double-crested and pelagic cormorants, nesting in the honeycomb weathered sandstone of Gabriola Island.

The many nests of the marsh wren

Rock Paper Lizard has a post about the marsh wren, its habit of building several nests in its territory, and its call, which sounds to me like a fight between a starling colony and an dot-matrix printer.

Bat colony makes salmon restoration tricky

Washington Department of Natural Resources biologists would like to remove the man-made structures in Woodard Bay, to restore salmon habitat in the conservation area northeast of Olympia. There's just one problem: the wildlife. More than 2,000 bats roost under the former industrial site's 3000 foot-long pier. Here's the story from the Olympian.
Via Sightline Daily.

Hood Canal summer chum on the rebound

The Kitsap Sun has a story about the recovery of the Hood Canal summer chum, a population of salmon that came close to extinction in the early 1990s.

More webcams

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has a webcam aimed at a burrowing owl nest near Pasco. The best time to check is when the owls are most active: dawn, dusk and night time. If you look around the WildWatch program site, you can snoop on a variety of Washington fauna. Live at the moment: big brown bats, western bluebirds, ospreys, eagles, barn owls, salmon, harbor seals and great blue herons.

Friday, June 19, 2009

J pod is back

Most local orcas have stayed away this spring, but this week J pod showed up near Jordan River on Vancouver Island. Here are the details from Watching our Waterways.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Plankton blooms color Hood Canal

Plankton blooms are streaking Hood Canal with red and orange Watching Our Waterways. So far they don't know of anything toxic, but wow, that looks odd.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pied-billed grebe nest, week 3

There's the floating nest, safe and sound. I think the eggs will hatch some time next week.

Green Heron at Green Lake

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

Salish Sea orcas elsewhere this spring

Watching Our Waterways has a report about how most of K and L pods and all of J pods are somewhere unknown.

Corals and brittle stars off the B.C. Coast.

The Finding Coral Expedition has some wonderful pictures from 1500 feet down in South Moresby Gully.

For more on the expedition see this post

Acidic ocean threatens Pacific Oyster

The Seattle Times has the story.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Enter El Nino

Cliff Mass gives a report on what looks like a new El Nino. Hmm. I wonder if that might explain all those recent sightings of Brown Pelicans in Puget Sound?

Sexual and surface tension at your local pond

Wanderin' Weeta chronicles the lives of waterstriders.

Maple seeds make tiny tornadoes

Read all about it in Wired Science.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Western tiger swallowtail, Green Lake

Researchers blame junk food for stunted crows

Researchers at Binghamton University, New York have found that baby crows in the suburbs are smaller than those in the country. In this New Scientist story they talk about whether junk food is to blame.
It makes me think of an experiment John Marzluff mentions in his book "In the company of crows and ravens." A child did an experiment seeing what kind of paper bag Seattle crows would investigate first: a brown paper bag, or a white McDonald's bag. The McDonald's bag was the clear winner.

Shift change at the grebe nest

I visited the pied-billed grebes at Green Lake this morning. I found one on the nest, which looks larger and sturdier than it did last week.

Then another arrived, and adjusted the edges of the nest while the first one rose off the eggs.

Looks like there are at least seven eggs in there.

With one off and swimming away, the second one climbs on.

It makes small adjustments to the nest...

And sits.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Anna's hummingbirds fastest vertebrates for their size

So says New Scientist story about Berkeley hummingbird researcher Chris Clark.
When male Anna's hummingbirds' do courtship flights, they do dives and loops, causing them to sustain accelerations that would leave a human being out cold. (Fighter pilots pass out at 7 g. Anna's hummingbirds can do 10 g).
There's a video with the story, but I can't seem to get it started.
Here's a more detailed take on the story from Not Exactly Rocket Science.
Here's a male Anna's hummingbird I photographed on my street in March.

Zoo grizzlies demonstrate importance of bear-proofing

On Saturday, Keema and Denali, the resident grizzly bears of Woodland Park Zoo, showed zoo patrons what happens when you don't bear-proof your campsite. Here's a photo gallery by Seattle P-I photographer Clifford DesPeaux. And here's the report from Woodland Park Zoo blog.
Looks to me like the bears had fun.

Those pesky beavers

The New York Times has a story describing how beavers have become pests in much of the country. It focuses on Massachusetts, but the same things happen in the Pacific Northwest.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Washington's only wolf pack gets mixed welcome

Here is a Seattle Times story about the mixed responses ranchers and others in the Methow Valley have given a new wolf pack -- Washington's first since the 1930s. A pair of wolves migrated south from Canada to found the pack.
Here's a Conservation Northwest photo of six of the pack's cubs last summer.

Sundews at Pyramid Lake

Jenny Lee of Chattermarks has a fine account of a hike up the Pyramid Lake Trail.
She has some lovely pictures of sundews.

Wood ducks leaving the nest.

Lee and Karen Rentz of Shelton, Washington have posted a series of youtube videos, captured from a camera inside their wood duck nest box.
This video shows the whole brood of what looks like 18 wood ducks and one hooded merganser scramble for the hole in the nest box. I feel for the last one.

Earlier videos show hatching, the mother incubating the eggs while getting visits from another wood duck. It also catches a hooded merganser laying an egg in the box.
Here's another video of another wood duck brood leaving the nest, but this one is taken from outside, showing the ducklings make the leap from the box to join their mother. Watch it with sound. The thumps are great.

Via Tweeters

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cottonwood snow

The Tangled Nest has a some fun pictures of cottonwood seed falling thick and fast in Seattle's north end.
For another cottonwood blizzard in B.C.'s lower mainland, visit Rock Paper Lizard

Purple martin colony

Purple martins are a species that nearly vanished for this area. One reason: a finicky taste in nesting sites. They like cavities overlooking water.
So a dedicated group of bird nerds has been bringing them back by building nest boxes and gourds in suitably scenic locations.
This pair is at the beach by the Ballard Elks Club. Both birds, but especially the female were gathering bits of nesting material, and stuffing it into the hole. Often bits of what looked like straw would fall out.

A glaucous-winged gull/western gull hybrid was also nestled on eggs on one of the pilings.

Barred owlet, Golden Gardens Park

Most months, I participate in Seattle Audubon's monthly bird count in Golden Gardens Park. This month, the count organizer suggested we show up early and check on the barred owl family breeding in the woods there. They have three owlets, all fledging and fluttering awkwardly between the trees.

The youngster was low on a maple next to the trail, constantly giving begging calls.
After a while, it hopped to the trail.

And into another tree.

Eventually, Mama owl arrived with something to eat. She passed the food to the owlet, and sat with it for a little while, before flying to a nearby branch.

Zebra jumping spider and breakfast

As seen on the pineapple sage in my driveway.
I love how jumping spiders look. With the furriness and the big carnivore eyes they look almost cute -- but not quite.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Looking for coral on the British Columbia coast

The Living Oceans Society is launching a scientific expedition on the RV Cape Flattery to document deep sea coral in Dixon Entrance, the Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound. They leave on June 8, and plan to use two submersibles to explore the sea bottom. Deep-sea corals and other slow-growing life forms are threatened by a fishing practice called bottom trawling, which scours the sea floor.
Here's a story from the Victoria Times-Colonist.
Here's an explanatory video:

One of the submersible pilots, Michael Reusher, is blogging about the expedition for Deep Sea News.

Poisonous but pretty

Scientific American has a creepily beautiful slideshow of poisonous mushrooms.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pied-billed grebes on Green Lake

A pied-billed grebe sits on a floating nest.

Another grebe comes up with a beak-full of brown plant matter, and she (or he) steps off and starts gathering plant matter too. There's one egg in the nest. According to my reading of the bird books, there may be up to six more on the way.

Both birds dive among the lily pads, bringing back more nest material.

Visit here for an update.

Ducklings keep cool

At Green Lake, two ducklings take refuge in the shade of their mother.

Monday, June 1, 2009

More sights at Discovery Park

Salmonberries are ripe.

Pileated woodpecker.

Swift forktail damselfly

Parade of pollinators

Wild roses are blooming in Discovery Park, and an amazing variety of insects are flying up to feed from them. Here's a sampling with speculations on the animals' identities.

Looks like genus Megachile to me, perhaps a leaf-cutter bee.

Genus Bombus. Maybe a yellow-faced bumble bee?

Another Bombus. Red-belted bumble bee, I think.

Flower longhorn beetle and, um, some kind of small stripy not-very-hairy bee. A resin bee, perhaps, such as Dianthidium?

Ladybug on beach pea

Photographed this morning on Discovery Park's south beach.