Thursday, September 29, 2016

Tyrannosaurus rex

There's something inspiring about driftwood. People, from toddlers to ancients, seem compelled to rearrange it, to create something new of it. Fences around sandcastles, teepees or hideouts leaning on logs, shacks simple and complex, roofed or open to the sunshine, full-sized art installations, barricades and territorial markers, circular "rooms" with a fire pit at the centre, bagel holders, flagpoles (I saw one today with a purple t-shirt as a flag); all doomed to disappear with the next tide or the next winter's storms.

At sundown this evening, I met a driftwood dinosaur.

Young T-rex, human-sized, Stories Beach

He's built near the top of the intertidal zone, where only the worst storms will reach him. And his creator intends him to last: he's put together with many brass screws.

I don't know why he has a rock in his head.



Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The better to hug you with ...

In the last clover still in bloom, fresh from the shower, a hard-working crab spider lays in wait.

Maybe there will be a last bee of the season.

"Come to my arms!"

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Goblets and towers

This is a pixie cup lichen.

Cladonia sp., possibly C. gracilis.

Cup lichen growing with mosses. The flattish "leaves", called thalli, are another stage of the same lichen.

Thalli of the Cladonias are composed of two parts – the squamulose primary thallus, developed on the substratum, and the secondary thallus consisting of erect podetia - pointed or cup-forming outgrows, occuring on the upper surface of the primary thallus. (Lichens in the Pieniny)

And I've found a match for the towering cup lichen that I posted a few days ago.

Cladonia verticillata.

And, following a comment on that day, I'm renaming it for my private memory bank as the "Dr. Seuss lichen".

See what I mean? Image from The Architecture of Dr. Seuss.

Lichen found here.


Monday, September 26, 2016

Orange mosscaps and brown boletes

Moss is everywhere in our coastal rain forests. It forms thick cushions under the evergreens, buries rotting logs, climbs the trees and dangles from overhead. Out in the open, it carpets rock outcrops; there, in summer when the rains fail for a while, it turns grey-green, dry and crisp; it makes a crunchy sound when you walk on it. The rain comes back, and overnight, the moss is soft and bright. It holds the water like a sponge, providing a cozy home for moisture-loving mushrooms, slugs, and sprouting ferns and salal.

On one of these rock outcrops, I found Orange Moss Agaric mushrooms (aka Orange Mosscap).

Tiny mushrooms. The largest is about 1 cm. across the cap.

These mushrooms grow around the world, but always in association with moss. Seemingly identical mushrooms found on wood turn out to be a different species.

A large, pale beige mushroom, growing under salal at Echo Lake. With slug nibbles.

A bolete, after a hearty slug meal.

There are hundreds of bolete species. Some are edible and quite good. I used to harvest them in the Bella Coola area; added to a meat dish, they disintegrated to make a smooth, nutty gravy.*

Instead of gills, the boletes have tubes that end in small pores on the underside of the cap; it looks like a fine plastic foam, soft to the touch, and usually damp. Inside, I often find small, white worms beating the slugs to the delicious flesh. (I never cooked the wormy ones.)

The underside of the boletus above, greatly magnified. To the naked eye, it was just foam.

The large mushrooms were on the shore of Echo Lake. The mosscaps were a bit further down the highway, on a rocky hillside.

*Want to try boletes? Here's a useful page on preparing them for cooking. And here's a recipe.**

**Caution: some boletes are poisonous. Be sure you know what you're collecting before you try them. Never eat one with red pores. And it is rumoured that the Orange Mosscaps are mildly hallucinogenic.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The competition. And a banana slug recipe

I went looking for mushrooms and found slugs looking for dinner. Chef's special: mushrooms on the stalk, with fresh rain dressing.

Black slug, Arion ater.

Everywhere I went yesterday, there were black slugs, all dressed in blue-black finery, partying in the wet moss and mud.

If you encounter one and are feeling bold, poke it gently. It will tighten into a ball and start wobbling side to side, very slowly. It is one of nature's most inexplicable and strangely mesmerizing performances, worth watching if you have a lot of time to kill. (E-fauna, article by Hugh Griffith)

I didn't know that, or I'd have been poking slugs until dark. Next time.

Banana slug, Ariolimax columbianus. Our native slug.

This was a small specimen, in a hurry to leave while I tromped around him, trying to find firm footing on a wet slope. I like the striped border of his foot.

Another banana slug, in a spotted coat, eating a mushroom.

Banana slugs, like the bananas they're named for, can be any colour from green to yellow to spotty brown to black. They are the most commonly met slugs in this area, and can grow up to 25 cm (10 inches) long, like the big cooking bananas (plantains) in the produce section at the store.  And yes, you can cook and eat a banana slug.

I had the slugs with ketchup and they were oh-so-good. I was very surprised. The texture was like a cross between mushrooms and calamari. It was hard to pick out a specific “slug” flavor; they tasted deep-fried, oily, and subtle. (From a recipe for Deep Fried Banana Slugs.)

Interesting, but I think I'll stick to the plant variety.

The slugs were eating mushrooms at Echo Lake.

Mushrooms tomorrow, some not even chewed yet!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Pink and green lichen towers

It rained all this morning, but around supper time, the sun shone between the clouds; the perfect time to look for mushrooms again. I had two hours before sunset, so I hurried west and combed mossy hillsides to see what I could see.

On a mossy log, I found this strange lichen.

Frilly towers, multiplying stems with each new level. I don't know if the blue-black ones are the same species.

As far as I can remember, I don't think I've seen lichens like these before.

And yes, there were mushrooms. Photos tomorrow.

Friday, September 23, 2016

With my nose to the glass

I've been watching some of the smaller life in my aquarium.

Like this female Calanoid copepod carrying her egg sac behind her.

The copepod is the basic food group for many marine organisms, including my anemones.

Some scientists say they form the largest animal biomass on earth. ... copepods almost certainly contribute far more to the secondary productivity of the world's oceans, and to the global ocean carbon sink than krill, and perhaps more than all other groups of organisms together. (Wikipedia)

In my tank, the copepods are about 1 mm. long, and visible only when the light hits them against a dark background.

The sand dollar was trying to climb the wall, pushing with the stripy spines until he was almost vertical. But there was nothing to eat on the wall, and he gave up and crawled back into the sand.

A tiny piece of broken crab shell, with the remains of a barnacle.

When the lined chiton came close to the glass, I was able to see the tiny hairs on its girdle.

I brought home two stones with big barnacles for the leafy hornmouth snails to eat. Once they were in the tank, the sand that came along with them got up and started to walk about. With a lens, I could see that they are snails, as small as fine sand grains. And in short order, they had all crawled down and merged into the sand on the bottom of the tank.



Thursday, September 22, 2016

Encounter

Great blue heron in minimalist blue landscape.

Waiting for the tide

"So peaceful! Except ... what's that horrid ... person ... doing in my water?"

"Nasty, splashy creature! Ruined everything!"

Herons on foot are so graceful. In the air, they're not.

I had to laugh.

X

And then he settled down at the other end of the beach, and posed again.

"Watchful, now. That pest is walking my way."

It's not my fault he parked between me and the path to the car.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Butter side up

The world under water is swarming with predators small and large, and to survive, an animal must be fast, poisonous, armed, encased in body armour, or securely fastened inside another structure. Limpets have opted for the body armour on top, with a solid attachment to a rock or other solid structure beneath.

They amble along, scraping away at their green dinners, unmolested under their domed roofs, ignoring the world around them. If I come across one moving and touch it gently, it immediately clamps itself down to the rock, and becomes immovable. Crabs pick at their shells hopelessly then; they can't break through.

But occasionally, a crab is fast enough to grab an edge before it is sealed to the rock, and tough enough to pry it up. The limpet tumbles to the floor beneath, and becomes dinner on the half-shell.

It's rare that a limpet survives the meal. But this one did.

And here he is, broken shell, torn mantle, and all, peacefully eating algae on the glass.

I don't know how he managed it: any time I've seen a dropped limpet, it was toast.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Squinty

This small cellar spider hangs from the ceiling near my window, day after day, waiting for an incautious mosquito or blundering crane fly. She eats them and cuts them loose from her skimpy web; when I dust the dresser beneath her, I find crane fly legs and wings longer than her entire body. (But not longer than her legs; never longer than her legs.)

Long-bodied cellar spider, Pholcus phalangoides*.

These spiders look so delicate, so fragile, that it is surprising sometimes to find one halfway through eating a huge, hairy, large-fanged house spider.

The remains of a Tegenaria with the cellar spider who caught it. Compare the relative sizes of the pedipalps (feelers/grabbers, centre front, just above the fangs).

At first glance, it looks like she has two eyes, instead of the usual eight; they're arranged in two clumps of three, with two tiny eyes in the centre.

Zooming in. She's got a fat belly; she may be pregnant.

*The meaning of the name, Pholcus phalangioides, is uncertain, but it probably means "Squinty-eyed critter that looks like a harvestman"; both of these and the crane flies share the nickname, "Daddy long-legs".

Monday, September 19, 2016

Red eyes, blue eyes, twisty eyes

Grainy hand hermit crabs have red eyes.

Grainy hand hermit, Pagurus granosimanus.

And Hairy hermits have blue eyes.

With two parallel stripes. Pagurus hirsutiusculus.

Another blue-eyed hermit.

Except when they're seen from the back of the head.

Then they're all twisty.

Zooming in. Brown and yellow spirals.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A bit of everything

The fall rains have started, so I took the highway west, looking for mushrooms, in the spots where I found them last fall. It's too soon; I found only one group, near Strathcona Dam.

Unidentified mushrooms, with slug nibbles.

The search was not without its risks:

Hungry predator overhead. (About 10 feet up. I couldn't see her web at all.)

Cross spider, Araneus diadematus, on the shore of Upper Campbell Lake.

I wonder: how is it that I walk down a trail unmolested, return immediately, and run face-first into a spider web across that same trail?

It was almost sunset by the time I'd found the mushrooms, so I went on ahead to the dam to watch the light fade.

Glow beyond the hills. Facing southeast, from the top of the dam.

Weeds on the rocks. Elk River Road bridge straight ahead.

Looking northwest. 7:22 PM.

So: few mushrooms, so I'll have an excuse to go that way again next month. A narrow escape from spider fangs. And a peaceful half hour on the dam; this trip had everything!

The arrow points to the dam.

A Skywatch post.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Baikie Island in the sunshine

On a rainy afternoon last January, I discovered Baikie Island, a half-reclaimed piece of formerly industrial land, still littered with rusting metal, assorted construction material, greasy wood. A releafing project was underway, and a couple of paths were gravelled. The birds were settling in. I promised to come back when the sun was shining.

I was almost too late. The fall rains have set in, and they've not been gentle; it's no time for walking in the rain with a camera.

But we had two sunny days this week; I hurried down to Baikie Island right away.

Yellow and brown grasshopper, (Melanoplus bivittatus) waiting for me at the entrance.

People have been hard at work this summer. The old construction material has been hauled away, even to the rusting steel embedded in the mud at the island's tip. There are new signs, and the blackberry canes trying to close the paths have been cut back. Trails, as yet unofficial, but well marked and cleared, lead to lookout points along the river bank. There are a few benches facing the water.

Now, at the turn of the seasons, a few flowers are still blooming; as long as there are sunny days and insects to pollinate them, it's worth the effort.

Some sort of pea flower, growing at the edge of the water. About 6 inches high.

A mint, possibly field mint, Mentha arvensis. At the edge of a soggy grassland.

And one wild rose, the last on the shrub.

But it's fall; time to get the seeds finished and ready to go.


Common California aster, Aster chilensis. Violet ray flowers with yellow disk flowers. At river's edge.

Most of them have gone to seed. I like the way the dying petals curl up into tight rings. Here, they're brown; in the photo above, they're purple.

Fat, red rose hips.

Snowberry. Most of these will stay on the shrub over the winter.

More snowberries. Aka waxberry. Other berries feel solid, or at least full; these are soft and dry to the touch, as if they were mostly air.

"One Stl'atl'imx story indentifies the berries as 'the saskatoon berries of the people in the Land of the Dead.'" (Plants of Coastal BC)

The old mill pond, with Canada geese. (Two groups.)

The first trail completed leads straight down from the bridge to the tip of Blaikie Island. A second trail leads from the parking lot, around the pond, and up the banks of the river as far as the highway to the north.

I can't resist a trail going somewhere new.

Here, the trees close in, creating welcome shade after a long walk on a sunny day.

Big maple leaf, caught on its way down.

Coming in closer. The light shows the needles behind the leaf.

Big maple "airplanes", almost ready to fly.

Fuzzy little shelf fungi on a dying tree.

Long pine needles. Western white pine? Needles, I think, in clumps of 5, about 4 inches long.

Map from the parking lot kiosk. I walked from the tip to the NCC Channel. Ill have to go back, next sunny day.