Friday, August 28, 2009

Butterflies, Sauk Mountain

On the way back from Newhalem, we took a hike through the meadows Sauk Mountain, which was glorious. We saw pikas and marmots, heard the haunting tones of a varied thrush and thorougly enjoyed ourselves.

The view (that's the confluence of the Sauk and Skagit rivers):

The flowers (shown here with pine siskin).

...and the butterflies.
Mylitta crescent on orange agoseris.

Um, some kind of blue. Genus Plebejus, I think.

Clodius parnassian.

And a fine looking unidentified caterpillar.

Other kingdoms, Newhalem

Fungi: The elegant agate-like fans of Trametes versicolor, or Turkey Tails.

Protista: Fruiting bodies of Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa or coral slime mold.

Plantae, Fungi, and Bacteria: come together in the lichen Lobaria oregana. Along with a fungus and an algae, these lichens have nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria. When they fall from trees, they fertilize forest soils.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Raven conversation, Sitka, Alaska

This video is the latest from The Old Duffer's Nature Cinema, a fine, fine blog.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009

Douglas squirrel, Newhalem

Is that a tail or are you happy to see me?

I had the good fortune to spend the past weekend camping in Newhalem. My son plucked this little fellow out of the Skagit River. He's a tailed frog, an amazing little creature that lives in rushing mountain streams. The tadpoles have suction cups to hold on to rocks. The tail is how I can tell it's a male. It's not really a tail but a reproductive structure. They fertilize internally, then the female lays the eggs.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Good for the sunsets, bad for the lungs

NASA Earth Observatory has a revealing picture of smoke hanging over B.C. and Washington a couple of days ago.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dome spiders mating, Discovery Park

At this time in summer, spiders and their webs get larger and more conspicuous. In Discovery Park, the most often seen types are orb webs, and dome webs.

Here's a dome web.

And here are some more. In most of the webs, a single spider sits upside-down in the middle.

But some had two spiders, who were busy making more spiders. Here's how spider making works: the male (on the right in this picture) carries sperm on his palps - a pair of appendages in front of his fangs. (The male in this pair had red palps, as if he was holding a pair of boxing gloves.) The palps fit into the epigyne, a plate under the female's abdomen.

Both palps and epigyne are shaped so that only males and females of the same species can link up.

Here you can see the male's palps. I thought they looked like tiny boxing gloves. A couple of times, they unhooked, and quickly backed off each other. Then the male would move toward the female, plucking at the web as he came forward, and they'd clasp again.

This web had three. The male is at the bottom. A female is just above him and a second female is in the upper strands. How did that happen?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Osprey and crows eat a fish

I watched an osprey eating a fish in Discovery Park. As it ripped at the flesh, a variety of birds came by and perched on the same dead treetop. A pair of northern flickers, a goldfinch, some house finches and an Anna's hummingbird came and went, and the osprey went on eating, although it did look up when the hummingbird buzzed a foot from its face.

But when a pair of crows arrived, I thought that meant trouble for the osprey. All the crows would have to do was caw a certain way, and every crow in the neighborhood would swoop in for a mob attack on the osprey. Whenever I've seen crows encounter a lone raptor, that's what happens. But not this time.

Turns out that eating a fish while perched on a tree is a little messy, and the osprey was dropping fish bits as it went.
The crows watched the osprey as it ate.
Every so often the larger of the two would swoop below, pick up a fallen scrap of fish and eat it. Once the crow passed bits to its smaller companion.

You can hardly see it in the photo, but this crow is eating what looked like a bit of fish guts.

When only the tail was left, the crows moved on.

I can see how staying quiet around the feeding osprey gave an advantage to the pair of crows, even though they only ate scraps. After all, if the crows called in a gang, and if that that gang managed to seize the fish, the most those two could hope for is a portion of the fish.
This way they don't have to share the fish they find, they don't risk getting hurt by a big dangerous bird and, because they didn't hassle the osprey, it might let them approach and bum another meal in future.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Found on gumweed

Gumweed grows on the dunes around the beaches at Discovery Park and attracts an amusing variety of insects.

Yellow-faced bumble bee.

A solitary wasp, I think. Here's a guide to telling if a bee is a bee. It can be tricky.

Another mystery flower feeder. I like the groovy blue eyes.

This wasp had different business. Other, tinier, insects were feeding on this flower head was at work on the flower, and the wasp was laying eggs in the insects' bodies.

Fireweed gone to seed

At the beginning of summer, it was a swathe of pink, with insects and birds flitting all around.
These days, the fireweed flowers in Discovery Park's South Meadow have given way to fluff, but that didn't stop two male Anna's hummingbirds from chasing each other and doing high speed diving displays over the patch.

Here's a nicer picture from another part of the park.

Heerman's gulls at Discovery Park

Heerman's gulls breed in Western Mexico and then fly up to these parts from August to December. I like their gray feathers, red beaks and dark feet.

Time to preen and stretch.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

More than 300 Humboldt Squid stranded near Tofino

They're big, they're numerous, and they didn't used to come this far north.
The Globe and Mail has the story.

Green Lake grebes have more eggs

The pair of pied-billed grebes nesting in Green Lake have new eggs. I could see five. Given that there were none when I last looked in, on July 27, and pied-billed grebes have an incubation period of about 23 days, that means they won't hatch until about August 19.

Settling down.

The youngster from the last clutch was fishing alone at the north end of the lake.

Previous posts:
June 3: one egg.
June 10: seven eggs.
June 27:first hatching.
June 28: second hatching.
June 30: three babies, two eggs
July 1: still three babies, two eggs
July 3: three babies, one egg
July 6: two babies, away from nest.
July 21: One baby left, but what are the parents up to?.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Slave raiding ants

The anthill is about two feet tall. It sits near a roadside in Ruckle Provincial Park. Three inch wide tracks radiate around it, cleared by hundreds of ants on the colony's business, which turns out to be more than gathering food.

The biggest ants here, the ones with the imposing jaws, are members of a species (Formica aserva or something similar)that raids other ants (also of genus Formica), carrying off pupae. When those pupae emerge, they join in the work of looking after the colony.

I saw at least two other kinds of ants in this colony.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Northern alligator lizard, Russell Island

So fun to see, I took two pictures.

the mad cone bomber

Excuse the soft focus. Douglas Squirrels don't do a lot of standing still. This one woke us up most mornings, felling cones from a nearby Douglas Fir and chattering shrilly. Once in a while, a cone would hit tent nylon.

Pea crab

Found a pair of pea crabs nestled in a tube under a rock. I'm not sure what built the tube, but it wasn't the pea crabs. These odd, double-wide crabs insert their soft bodies into tube worm tubes, clam shells, shrimp burrows, anywhere that will allow them shelter and a flow of plankton and detritus. They're freeloaders, but not exactly parasites. It appears the scientific term is "commensal indwellers."

Red crossbills on long-dead alder

I came across a pair of red crossbills as I was walking along the beach near my parents' place on Saltspring Island. I took some pictures of the male. What a pretty guy.

They were on a dead alder that had been stretched across the beach for at least the last five years. I guess they were eating insects because there's no way that tree has seeds on it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hello, beautiful

We spotted this magnificent banana slug sprinting (by slug standards) across the grass on Saturday.