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.