Saturday, December 03, 2016

Little grains of sand

And the littlest hermit:

In a shell about the size of a grain of rice.

And smaller than the food pellet he's running to capture. Ambitious little critter!

Friday, December 02, 2016

Spreading the word

I was crouched down on the path, peering intently at a wet log, when a woman walking her dog stopped to ask, was I alright?

I showed her the birds' nests.

Bird's eggs, or mini chocolate candies?

The "eggs" are spore cases, waiting their turn to flee the nest.

The nests are "splash-cups". When a raindrop hits one at the right angle, the walls are shaped such that the eggs are expelled to about 1 m away from the cup in some species. (Wikipedia: Nidulariaceae)

And then, there were the pixie cups:

The spores grow in nodes along the lip of the goblet. None visible here.

And the crust:

Unidentified porous fungus, with spiderlings and cream jelly dots.

And, as always, the orange jellies.

Good enough to eat. Really. But too tiny to harvest.

The dog walker thanked me, and went on her way, marvelling. And so the insanity spreads.

On another log, a few more of the rusty-gilled polypores were busy decomposing the wood:

Rusty-gilled polypore, Gloeophyllum sepiarium, about an inch long.

And a young-un.

About two weeks ago, I had seen this sepia mushroom near a few rusty-gills, and wondered what it was. I checked it again this Tuesday, and it had turned brown and black and matched the others.

(First five; Tyee Spit. The youngster is by Woodhus Slough.)

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Blue light

The rain stopped. The sun came out. And I had a free afternoon. I headed north, looking for snowy peaks, up where the water floats down frozen and white.

Half an hour out, it started to rain again. I drove on through, the rain settled down to a blue mist, and there were the mountains, with their whitened rock faces peeping through the clouds.

Just before sunset, I found a vantage point near Sayward Junction, and pointed the camera out of the car window.

Pasture between the hills, and H'kusam Mountain, blue in the mist and the distance. It's 1,645 m. high.

Bare tree, wires, and H'kusam

I drove home through a drizzle. And back in Campbell River, the sky was clear, with stars.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A thousand leaves, a thousand uses

Yarrow, still blooming, between rainstorms:

Achillea millefolium; aka Thousand-leaved clover, Angel Flower, Squirrel Tail, etc.

My guide, Plants of Coastal BC, has the usual brief description, then a long section on the BC First Nations medicinal uses of the plant, broken down by tribal groups. Each one used yarrow for a different purpose: "... as a poultice; ... a sore throat gargle;" for childbirth, to purifiy the blood, for headaches and as an eyewash, for diarrhea and as a bath for invalids. "The Squamish used it to cure measles." Elsewhere, it also repelled mosquitoes and prevented baldness, cured toothache, angina, and flatulence, and drew the venom out of spider bites. And so on and so on ...

My opinion, offered tentatively, is that the plant is so common, so attractive, so pleasantly aromatic, that people everywhere decided it must be good for something. And when they tried it and got better from what ailed them, as people generally do, they attributed it to the yarrow. Either that, or the plant is miraculous, which I doubt.

And it's edible, as well. I found a recipe for pasta with a yarrow dressing, which sounds interesting enough to try some day.

And then, it's just beautiful.

Each "flower" is a cluster of about 5 ray flowers, with the tiny, cream, disk flowers in the centre.

Zooming in. Sometimes the ray flowers are pinkish; these are waxy white.

This specimen found on Tyee Spit.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Nose to the glass

A few random aquarium shots, taken while I waited for a hermit to try on a new shell.

"First dibs!"

Very small crab, just outside his present burrow underneath an oyster.

These crabs always amaze me. I knew he was digging under the oyster before he appeared at his front door, because the whole oyster was bouncing up and down. And the oyster is at least 10 times his length and width, thick and solid. And yet, the crab, standing on his tippy-toes, bounces the whole thing on his back.

I weighed a rock that a crab lifted a couple of years ago; the rock was at least 100 times the crab's weight!

Tiny hermit in an unusual shell. It looks like two broken shells cemented together.

In the second-hand shop, looking over used shells. Someone chose the polka-dot one, and is wearing it today.

Val, festooned as usual, with broken shells and a red algae scarf.

Barnacle eater, looking for the barnacle patch after I moved it. A channelled dogwinkle, probably. The shell is a deep, purplish blue.

Algae-eating snails, like the mud snails and the limpets, move along the glass, their jaws moving rhythmically, cleaning off microscopic algae as they go. Looking closely, I can even see the radula, the belt of tiny teeth inside the mouth.

These predatory snails just hurry about their business; their mouth is never seen on the glass. When they reach a barnacle, they extend a proboscis with the scraping radula* on its tip, bore through the barnacle's shell, inject digestive juices, and then suck out the semi-liquid mess. From an observer's point of view, all that can be seen is a snail stuck on a barnacle, and then later, an empty barnacle shell.

*Microscopic photos and diagrams of this can be found on A Snail's Odyssey.

Monday, November 28, 2016

"Does it make me look fat?"

What does a hermit crab do when times get tough? She goes shopping!

One of those tough times is when I scrub their tank. First, they get low tide when I drain the tank, then I chase them down, lift them out, and park them in a dishpan. Then, likely as not, the cat comes to look them over, so I give them a shell to hide under.

An hour later, the procedure is reversed; they're captured, one by one, so that the later ones get plenty of time to panic, and then dropped in the tank to go tumbling down to the sand. They usually land upside down, but quickly scramble to their feet.

Then they go shopping. For new outfits.

"I like the colour of this one."

"Good detailing here."

"Let's look at the inside; smooth, clean, pink. Yes!"

"So I'll try it on."

The switch from one shell to the next is almost too fast for the eye to capture. This is their most vulnerable moment, when any watching crab may try for a pinch of soft hermit butt.

"Quick! Pull, twist, grab, push. And I'm safe."

"But I won't give up on that old shell. This one seems a bit loose; maybe a size too big? Does it make me look fat?"

"No, I don't think it fits, after all. Back to the old suit."

"Shopping's done. Lunch time!"

Several other hermits dropped by the spurned shell, picked it up and inspected it, but none tried it on. Maybe another day.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Lady B., Earth Mover

One of the things crabs do best (and most) is dig. Dig and dig and dig, making holes, burrowing under rocks, undermining oysters; all day and all night. And when they've finished a burrow to their satisfaction, they up stakes and move on, to dig somewhere else.

I discovered Lady Bird* digging right up against the aquarium wall, and videotaped her.

*Named for her "feathers".

Friday, November 25, 2016

I wonder if it's edible

Or maybe I could play with it, roll it around a bit. It's wriggly!

And I think it's unkind of my human to keep it in the water like that, where I can't reach it.

... says Chia.

Her human here: I'm working on a crab video, and a hermit crab sequence, so posting may be light for a couple of days.


Can you believe these are still blooming, near the end of November?

One of the many weedy yellow asters.

I brought it inside, to dry it off, of course; it's still raining most of the time.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Sleeping kittens

In the spring, they will be pussy willows.

Waving the last yellow leaf of fall.

Cosy in their woolly coats.

Those "coats" actually do help keep the sleeping pussy willows warm.

The soft, silvery hairs that we see are the "fur coat" that helps to keep the developing reproductive parts warm. Remember, pussy willows emerge in early spring when it's still quite cold. But when the sun shines, the temperature of the center of the catkin can rise above air temperatures by trapping the heat from the sun with it's insulating hairs. (Nature North)

Taken at Tyee Spit, on a shrub leaning over the water of the Campbell River delta. Last March, I took a photo of the new pussy willows here, probably on the same willow.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Pink lace petticoats

A very old-fashioned mushroom, with frilly white skirts rucked up to show off the pink lace beneath; this one always looks out of place, growing as it does, on wet, stained, old wood.

Common Split Gill mushroom, Schizophyllum commune

When the weather is dry, it folds those lace petticoats underneath to conserve moisture. In wet weather, (which we've been having plenty of) it fans out again.

The same mushroom, with another, smaller one.

Schizophyllum commune is easily recognized. Its tiny fruiting bodies lack stems, and they attach themselves like tiny bracket fungi on the dead wood of deciduous trees. Unlike a bracket fungus, however, Schizophyllum commune has what appear to be gills on its underside, rather than pores or a simple, flat surface. On close inspection the "gills" turn out to be merely folds in the undersurface--and they are very distinctively "split" or "doubled" (enlarge the illustrations). (Mushroom

This mushroom grows all around the world, year-round, so there are many photos on the internet. However, almost all of them show the underside, the split "gills". Even my trusty Guide shows only photos taken from underneath. A pity; those lacy skirts are too glorious to be passed by like that!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Ducks in the distance

I must confess; sometimes, briefly, I envy those people down on the shore with their foot-long (or more) lenses attached to their cameras, and their sturdy tripods to hold up those lenses, too heavy for human hands. Because they can point that equipment at a bird that we can all barely see, press the shutter button, and record the gleam in the bird's eye, while I'm still squinting into the light, wondering if that circle on the water was made by a diving duck or a loon.

Briefly. Then I look at the lenses: heavy. And the tripods: heavy and awkward. And am glad that I can be more flexible, and that my back doesn't ache, even if my birds are dots on the slough.

Woodhus Slough, with buffleheads and mallards.

Bufflehead female, off Tyee Spit, with tree shadows.

Coming closer: Barrow's Goldeneye female, by Tyee Spit airplane dock.

A few minutes after I saw the Goldeneye, I was on my knees at an old log, taking photos of lichen and miniature polypores. Do that with your foot-long lens, will you?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Amethyst gills

I don't like to rip up a mushroom, even for identification; what if it were the last of its kind, and I've stopped it growing and reproducing? But there were several patches of rosy, purplish mushrooms in the open evergreen woods beside Woodhus Slough; they could spare one.

Pale lilac gills and a rough stalk.

The cap is grainy, slightly translucent, brown with a hint of rose.

This has been identified for me as Laccaria amethysteo-occidentalist. I couldn't find a common name: Amethyst Laccaria will have to do.

The younger mushrooms have a rosy, purple cap. As they mature, the cap turns brown. I picked one of the larger ones.

The stem is slightly swollen at the base.

The description of this mushroom on Mushroom Expert, and of its relatives in my Guide, demonstrate how difficult it is to identify any mushroom in the field.

Here's the cap, for example:

Cap: 1-7 cm; broadly convex, becoming nearly flat; often with a central depression; the margin even or inrolled, not lined or slightly lined when wet; nearly bald, or finely hairy-scaly; deep purple, soon fading to brown or buff. (Mushroom Expert)

So: it's convex or flat or concave; it's nearly bald, or hairy; it's lined or not, it's purple or brown or even buff. And so it goes. They're like snowflakes; no two are identical.*

What is usually a constant is the habitat. This one grows under conifers (check) west of the Rockies (check), and appears in colder weather (check).

When I had finished taking photographs, I replaced the mushroom in the moss, upright, so that it could deposit its spores without too much loss from its travels.

*Not exactly true. It depends on your definition of "identical". See: "Nano-snowflakes can be exactly alike."

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Rainy evening

I had been intending to go down to the docks to look for the diving ducks that fish these waters, but was delayed running errands, and here it was, past 5. And the sun sets at 4:30 these days; it was getting dark, and pouring rain to boot.

But the camera was waiting in the car, and my jacket was already wet; why waste an outing? I got the camera into its rain gear, and went down to the boats.

At the bottom of the ramp, a dead harbour seal was floating, half out of the water.

A sad picture, but the spotted hide is interesting.

The head seems to be intact, but skin was sloughing off the back feet already. The creamy line across the centre back seems to be a cut. He may have been in an accident with one of the boats.

Maybe someone ignored this sign. Photo taken with flash, which reflected off the falling rain to make that paler circle of blue. The house is one of the harbour buildings, out on a pier.

Warm light reflecting off ridges on the ramp, and, directly under the light, off raindrops slanting down.

Just lights, warm and cool, on the water.

There was one bird; a great blue heron, looking miserable in the rain. I lightened the photo up quite a bit; he was barely visible.

I went back to the car, got the camera out of its rain gear, changed the settings to cope with the fading light, suited it up again, and went out, to discover the heron just flying away, a dark, wide-winged shadow flitting behind the masts of the boats.

And here are the boats, with all the little lights and someone's bright yellow rain gear.

The darkness and rain blurs out distances, so that the masts and equipment blend in with the traffic lights beyond, the fish and chip shop across the street, and even the houses in the next block above.  In spite of the dark and the wet, it felt cosy, somehow; as if the people in all those little pockets of warmth and light were connected by a common thread; the hour maybe, the time to finish off today's work, and get a hot meal on the table.

And I went home, dried off the camera, hung my jacket to drip over the tub, and cooked up a batch of chicken and mushroom soup.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Super moon, shy moon

Tuesday evening, I was meeting friends at Willow Point. All the way there, the supermoon hovered over the water, a humongous, glowing disc, laying down a wide silvery path from shore to shore; it was hard to concentrate on my driving.

We met, dropped bags and books, and rushed out with our cameras to get supermoon photos. And the dang thing went and hid!

Photo taken with my little pocket Sony.

Looking back to the lights of Campbell River. With a couple of other disappointed moon watchers.

A couple of hours later, I drove home in the dark. There was no sign of the moon.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Butter fingers

At feeding time in the aquarium, as the hermit crabs race about, grabbing goodies, squabbling over them, mugging their erstwhile friends for a tidbit, trying to hog two or three meals (that's what all those extra mouthparts and pincers are for, aren't they?), the shrimp drifts down, casually, as if moved only by the currents in the water. As if he had no real interest in the proceedings. But let him drift within reach of a food pellet, and suddenly he's galvanized; faster than my eye can follow, he has bounced up to a handy perch, carrying his catch.

Three feet for perching, five for holding onto the food.

But he's not as efficient as the hermits and the crabs; even using several feet to hold on to the food, it slips out of his grasp and falls to the sand below.

And down he goes after it, breaking out all those extra swim fins to get there before the hermits do.

And the food pellet is snagged by a speedy crab. The shrimp drifts away; no big deal, not interested, really, not at all, he's not hungry, anyhow.

Rinse and repeat. It usually takes him three or four tries to collect a meal and get it into a safe place.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

York Road beaver pond

I've never seen any beavers in the bit of pond that borders the road; I've never seen a hint of the dam. But every time I pass by, I stop, just in case.

This visit, there were misty reflections and wet grasses to reward me.

Something down below is bubbling, making circles on the water.

Common rush seed head, soaking wet.

Tule and grasses and their angled reflections.

Just wet grass, dry on the inside, wet outside.

Wet winter grasses, in ditches, crispy and cold; so tempting! Oh, to be a kid again, in rubber boots and a wool jacket that Mom would hang over the wood stove to drip dry when I came home!

I've been remembering a cold winter afternoon, years and years ago, when I was a kid in school in White Rock. My brother and I took a "shortcut" home from school. (These shortcuts usually took much longer than the usual roads, of course.) Our route involved walking down the ditch, and through a culvert under the road. The ditch was full of dead grass, pale yellow-brown, glittering with frost in the shadows, dripping wet where the winter sun had reached it; it rustled icily as we passed through. There was a smell of soggy mud, with overtones of rotting hay. So much more inspiring than the boring sidewalks and picket fences of the street!

Zooming in on those dead grasses.

York Road. I do love these country roads!