Sunday, December 26, 2010

Winter peeps, Victoria

On my Christmas Day walk, I found a small flock of black turnstones, trotting around the edge of the rocks as the waves rolled around. Their high-pitched trilling voices cut through the sound of the sea.

The sky was amazing.

From an earlier walk, a flock of greater yellowlegs sheltering from a gale.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Out again after too long

I went to Discovery Park today, for the first time in months. There was a lot of noise from construction crews removing the remains of the small military installation, Fort Lawton, that used to take up part of the park.
I walked down the path thinking of work-a-day things: dinner menus, job applications, shopping lists, when I saw a small small movement to the side. I tried, as usual, to take a picture, and as usual, I failed.

But here it is, a tiny brown bird with a big beautiful voice, the Pacific Wren, formerly known as the Winter Wren. And then all of a sudden birds were all around me: a pileated woodpecker in the distance, a downy woodpecker in the alder above me. chestnut-backed chickadees on the bushes, and ruby-crowned kinglets and golden-crowned kinglets darting in and out of the sword ferns. It was as if I had passed through a magic door, and the quiet, winter-drab woods had come to chirping life.
No decent pictures though. My big mammal hands and eyes were too slow.
I did come across a handsome pair of fox sparrows in the meadow, on the way back.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Shore crab condo, Hornby Island

The shale on the beach where we stayed at Hornby Island was so soft that the shore crabs could dig burrows in it. We could see them scurry for cover as we approached.

Smoky Hornby Island

On Aug. 4 and 5, Hornby Island and much of mid-Vancouver Island was covered in smoke from forest fires. It was a weird scene. At the campground, I overheard a teenager talking on a cell phone saying "the sun is dead." Not quite, but certainly blunted, orangy red at 10 a.m. and still hot as can be. My lungs still feel it.
The ferry approaching.

My kids on the beach, south of Phipps Point, at about 6 p.m. You can see Denman Island in the distance. Vancouver Island, behind it, is obscured.

Purple martins, Buckley Bay

Open the door after you get in line for the Denman Island ferry and you can hear the happy, gurgling call of purple martins. Several families were raising young in boxes placed on pilings next to the ferry line up.

We could see two heads out of every opening. Every so often a male or a female would fly in, perch at the top of the piling and look around, then swoop over to bring them a food item, sometimes leaving with a white fecal sac. I watched one mother bring a dragonfly to the box, and then another. The father showed up a few minutes later, also carrying a dragonfly. He offered it to the young, but they must have been full. So it was a meal for Dad.

Golden Buprestid, Mount Maxwell

Why is it called a golden buprestid? Looks green to me. Anyway, my husband and his t-shirt need fear nothing from this glorious critter. Douglas Fir, shore pine and various wooden structures, not so much.

Pacific spiketail, Saltspring Island

Friday, July 9, 2010

Handsome fella, Green Lake

Red-winged blackbird making noise from a cottonwood tree.

And keeping tabs on who makes noise back.

Ohanapecosh, Mount Rainier National Park

We went camping at Ohanapecosh Campground at Mount Rainier National Park last weekend, far far away in that era when we were complaining about how summer was taking its time arriving. It didn't rain much, and we had a lovely, if heavily clothed time.
Ohanapecosh is the site of a long-ago spa town on some hot springs. The town has long since vanished, and the National Park Service has restored the area around, so we can view the wonders of thermophilic cyanobacteria.

And miraculous dripping brains...

Also seen: western coralroot.


Devil's matchstick, which is a cool name, as is...

red-naped sapsucker.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Prettiest slime mold yet, Discovery Park

Fred Rhoades tells me that these are the newly emerged fruiting bodies of Ceriatomyxa fruticulosa, or coral slime. Eventually these tendrils will become opaque and then become stippled with tiny spores on stalks.

Damselflies, preparing for lift-off, Discovery Park

It may not feel like summer just yet, but over in the North Beach pond, every log and piece of wood was lined with skinny insect bodies sporting electric blue highlights. Swift forktail damselflies.

Lots of them.

Last year, I photographed an earlier generation on June 1.

Gull eating sea star, Discovery Park

Among the many talents of the ubiquitous glaucous-winged gull: sea-star swallowing.

It takes some effort.


My mouth would feel odd too.

Looking a little lumpy.

Tadpoles galore, Discovery Park

Walk close to the water's edge and the surface churns, as little creatures dive for cover. But sit and watch for a while, and they start to emerge from among the leaf litter.

Nice legs.

Looks like this one is on the way to becoming a Pacific Tree Frog.

I must keep coming back here, and see how things develop.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Flower fly on thimbleberry, Discovery Park

Genus Sericomyia, I think.

Yellow-spotted millipede, Discovery Park

The bright colors on this glossy critter signal that it is poisonous. Poke one, and you're likely to get a whiff of almonds: the scent of cyanide. It's what allows the millipede to go about its business on the forest floor, without the tedious business of ducking under pieces of leaf litter. But poison gas hasn't stopped this one from picking up a passenger.

Salmonberries ripe, Discovery Park

... and I'm not the only mammal snacking on them.

Field trip afterglow with rufous hummingbird, Discovery Park

I'm still absorbing an amazing field trip I took on Saturday morning, led by Seattle Park ranger Penny Rose. The trip was part of a class on birding by ear, and she was a wonderful teacher. Rose is the kind of naturalist who can walk into a place and within seconds, can see and hear four times as many things as I could pick up in half an hour. I want to be just like her.
Among the sightings/hearings: 54 species, including four kinds of warbler and three kinds of flycatcher, three nests and the first Swainson's thrush song of the season. She also showed us through a trail I'd never tried before, but which will be one of my primary destinations in future. She calls it "bird alley."
Here's one of the characters you can find there.

We don't see many rufous hummingbirds in Seattle. It's possible that the city-loving Anna's Hummingbirds, who live here year round, make it hard for the migratory rufous hummingbirds to find niches. But this fellow is sitting pretty, guarding a territory that includes the big fireweed patch in the south meadow.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Spring cleaning, Montlake Fill

Big bleached snag, tree swallow singing away from a high branch, and in one of the holes, a tail.

There you are.

And drop the sawdust away from the hole.

A pair of chickadees were taking turns at this, flying in, taking out stuff, dropping it, preening, and flying in again.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Now Blooming in Oak Bay Native Plant Garden

This half-acre nook was first dedicated as a publicly owned native plant garden in 1939, but much of its current appearance is the result of diligent restoration done in the past 10 years by local activists. It boasts 120 native species, with many specimens rescued from building sites. April 1 showed the garden in its full glory, with fawn lilies...

...and more fawn lilies.

shooting stars

chocolate lilies

pink fawn lilies


satin flower

yellow wood violet

bleeding heart

blue-eyed grass

and the first camas.