Friday, October 20, 2017

Why is it

... that cats love boxes?

Or anything box-like. This week, Chia has been found in a waste-basket, the grocery bag I just emptied, the basket I store books to donate in, my new boot basket, my spare bedding box, and the cupboard I'd just taken the flash attachment out of.

"You knocked?"

And underneath a kitchen cart, too.

Schrodinger picked the right animal to put in his quantum box. Except that the cat has nine lives, so she is always alive.

(The camera sees. I should have dusted the inside of the door frame. Dings and scratches are ok; this cupboard was my grandmother's in her honeymoon house; it's entitled. But the dust is my fault. It's gone now.)

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Feels like home

It has been two years (and 4 days, to be exact) since I moved to Campbell River. And, though I still miss the Lower Mainland and the wide beaches of Boundary Bay, I'm glad I'm here. Every day, no matter what the weather, or what tasks I have ahead, I find myself smiling as I head out on my errands. There's always the water, always the trees and the latest colours, always the wide sky, always a hope of seeing a deer, or the seals playing off-shore.

Today, it has been stormy and wet again. But out in the Strait, whitecaps foamed around the tip of Quadra Island, and wispy mists streamed over the tree tops. On land, trees danced in the wind, dressed in their merry reds and yellows for fall; even the streets are carpeted in old gold. An eagle rested on the tip of a swaying fir, like an old-timer in her rocking-chair.

These leaves are from last October; today I was in a rush and left the camera at home.

Magnolia leaf, October 17, 2016

Central vein

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


Hermit crab, watching me watching her.

The "flames" in front of her are the remains of a kelp holdfast she's grazing on.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Warm and bright.

It's pouring rain outside. The wind howls and whistles in the shrubbery and rolls garbage can lids down the street. Leaves fly, paste themselves to my window panes.

Chia, the cat, insists on going out to see if the storm has stopped, then runs in, dripping, to shake herself off on my keyboard and screen and look reproachfully at me. It's all my fault, of course.

I paused this afternoon, to deadhead my petunias. In the rain, but they looked so sad! Even the newest flowers were shredded and drooping. The fall crocuses have fallen over, the geraniums have lost most of their petals. The nasturtiums are trying hard, but they're all spattered with mud.

Now my jacket hangs, dripping, in the shower.

The perfect time to scan my hard drive for forgotten spring flowers!

Hawkweed. A horrible pest, but still beautiful when I stop to look at it.

Teeny-tiny lemon balm flowers. Also a bit of a nuisance; it tends to take over its surroundings. But it makes a good tea or flavoured ice water.

More lemon balm. There's always more lemon balm.

Salmonberry flower. One of the first we'll see next spring.

Small, pale lilac flowers in the Museum garden, with pollinator.

Wild chokecherries. Oyster Bay, a bit later in the year.

What was this doing in the flower file? Little brown mushroom on a log, Tyee Spit.

I feel warmer and dryer, just looking at these. Let it rain!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Vain hopes

I found this fat spider behind my bed this afternoon. She's planning on rearing a large family; three egg sacs full!

But not behind my bed, she isn't!

A lamp cord makes a handy nursery.

I may be a good neighbour and move her broods carefully to a more appropriate home. Sorry, little mother, but I don't want a hundred spiderlings in my bed!

(Posted to Arachtober.)

UPDATE: She's been moved, with her brood, to a large glass jar. Just in time; an hour later, I checked to see how she's settling in, and there are a dozen or so spiderling specks wandering about, even ballooning!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Flowering Lithop

My stone plant bloomed!

First, there was a button between the two leaves, then an orange tip, then ...

First petals. October 2.

Side view, the same day.

Coming along nicely. October 4.

Full flower! October 8.

Zooming in.

Now, a week later, the flower has started to wilt. For that plant, that's it for this year; they produce, at most, one flower per plant per year.

But there's a button poking between the leaves of the plant next door! Such excitement!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Even the kitchen sink

From the catch-all drawer of forgotten or off-topic photos, I rescued the latest additions. Here they are, in random order; there's no unifying theme.

2. Number plate dug out of a garden, long ago, now resting on a household shelf.

Field cricket found dead in the middle of a school classroom the first day back. It's dry, desert-dry miles, in cricket wanderings, from an outside door. She probably died of thirst.

Look for a mature cricket and examine the end of its abdomen. Locate the paired slender appendages protruding backward from the sides of the abdomen; these are called the cerci and function like a pair of backward antennae.
Look between the cerci to see if an unpaired slender ovipositor projects backward from the end of the abdomen, resembling a spear or needle. ... Your cricket is female if the ovipositor is present and male if not. (From Sciencing)

In most of the photos I looked at, the female has one ovipositor. Why did this one have two, I wondered. I looked at her under the microscope; they're definitely twinned; there's a good gap between the shafts.

I found the answer on BugGuide: the shafts stay together while the cricket lives; when she dies, they may separate.

Top view.

From a northern expedition: Amour de Cosmos Creek, from the bridge.

The Steller's Jay is too far away, but I like this photo, anyhow. Sayward Junction farm.

Scraps of lichen on a twig. Near Upper Campbell Lake.

These Cladonia lichens are extremely common, but very difficult to see clearly, even on the ground; they're covered thickly with tiny scales, arranged in dense clusters.

Cement and wood structure, tossed up on the beach, and colonized by barnacles. Sometimes I wonder how they get there, so far from home.

Stone "planks" at the mid-tidal zone. This pattern of beach rock looks almost too regular to be natural.

Another view of the slabs underfoot.

And I had neglected to mention it earlier, but we're halfway through Arachtober already. We've each been posting a spider photo a day since the beginning of the month. These are two tiny ones that turned up behind (and later in) my kitchen sink.

On tap.

Tiny, tiny. On the back side of a clay tile.

And now that the drawer is empty, I'd better grab the camera and head for the beach again.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

On approaching birds on the beach

Killdeers are worrywarts.

There's no need; I never see them until they rise up in a panic and fly away, peeping frantically.

Gulls are calm (about people, not about food found by rival gulls), and think about my approach for a while before they decide to leave.

"Is it worth the effort to give up my nice, cosy rock?"

Mallards, off-shore, are impervious.

A peaceful afternoon paddle with the neighbours. Life is good.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Paper wasp nest

And, on the logs at the top of the beach, a wasp nest, abandoned now at the end of summer.

Looks like a paper tree.

This is a paper wasp nest, probably Polistes dominula, which builds open nests, not enclosed in a paper "football", like the yellow jackets do.

Identifying a Wasp or Hornet Nest
  • Paper wasps - Paper wasps build open and exposed nests that resemble an upside down umbrella. These nests can get quite large late in the season, and adult wasps will readily sting if they sense danger approaching. Some wasps build new nests on top of old nests, giving the false impression that they are reusing a nest.
  • Yellow Jackets - build nests that are surrounded by a papery covering, and are commonly found within wall voids or cavities in the ground. When disturbed, yellow jackets are quite aggressive, and can attack in large numbers. Yellow jackets are typically most aggressive in late summer and this leads to an increase in yellow jacket stings.
  • Bald faced hornets - build nests that are covered in a papery shell and European hornets build their nests in natural cavities like tree stumps, or in cavities within buildings.
  • Mud Daubers - construct nests using mud or clay. The nests are small, tubular mud shutes usually built either in existing cracks or crevices in masonry, stone or timber around homes, sheds and garages. (From Rentokill)

View from the top. Two of the cells still contain enclosed larvae.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

With the jawbone of a seal

I promised you a rotting carcass.

I have a photo, but I think I'll keep it under wraps. It's not pretty. (And if you're squeamish, you may want to skip the next paragraph.)

The body, twisted and torn, was lying on the rocks just out of reach of the latest high tide, almost dry. The skin on the legs and back was mostly intact, still slightly hairy. The feet, badly deformed, looked as if they had been flippers. There was no head; the vertebrae, stained black, stretched out of a gaping neck hole.

I found the skull a few steps farther down the beach, and the jaw just beyond that. They were cleaned and dry.

Skull, as found. The whole nose area and upper jaw are missing.

Turned over. The remaining portion of the skull is a bit bigger than my clenched fist.

And the lower jaw. Interesting four-pronged teeth. The back tooth is gone.

Teeth, flippers, hair, skull sutures, size: they made identification easy. It was a harbour seal. It must have died in the water, swollen and floated, and was washed ashore with the highest tide. I wonder how it was that the head and jaw were so thoroughly picked clean, while most of the body was left to rot.

The ocean is full of mysteries.

Monday, October 09, 2017

On the upper, upper beach

When I arrive at a beach, at almost any beach along our coastline, I face a series of tasks before I reach the intertidal zone. First, I have to find a passageway through the weed barrier, often infested with blackberry and other difficult plants. Then follows a scramble or climb across driftwood logs piled higgledy-piggledy at the top of the winter storm reach. Then there are rocks, sometimes small and shifty, sometimes large.  And then, the rotting eelgrass/seaweed belt.

I dislike this blue-black strip, sometimes as wide as a street; it may be dry on top, but it could be up to a foot deep, and wet, with no indication to warn me of random deep spots. My feet sink, releasing a foul odor. Flies and sometimes wasps buzz around me; the wasps follow me until I reach bare stones again. And it stinks; did I say that? It stinks of rotting vegetation, and sometimes of unidentifiable putrid carcases. I may have stepped onto or into one.

I reach the stones, rolling underfoot, but at least dry and clean. Then there's a second, narrow, line of dead seaweeds and other detritus, the leftovers of the latest high tide. That's fine; it smells of sea; if it's wet and slippery, I can just step over it.

Finally, the beach. If the tide is low, I can start exploring.

Last visit, the rising tide forced me back to the stretch between the dead seaweed belts. And I found it full of interest.

Eagle feathers. Everywhere, there are feathers.

Probably a gull feather.

Another feather. There are always more feathers.

A scrap of red coralline seaweed.

Jingle shell. This clam look-alike, or "rock oyster" (but it's not an oyster, either) has a hole in the lower shell. Byssal threads grow through this opening to attach the mollusk to a rock.

The lower (jingle) shell is thin and shiny. Tied with other jingles, it makes a nice, jingly wind chime.

Purple shore crab molt. At this level of the intertidal zone, there are no live crabs to be found, but their leftovers are scattered everywhere.

Another one, a male.

Tunnels in a strip of bark.

More tunnels, in a small piece of driftwood.

Another feather. The pale seaweed has been sun-bleached before it dried.

Two feathers, and dried eelgrass, toasted to blue-black. Sea lettuce retains its green colour until it disintegrates.

Bedraggled feather, wrapped in dried sea lettuce.

A rocky fish.

And there's always, always styrofoam. I filled my bag with a fair collection of it, a plastic water bottle, and a beer can. At least, I get a refund on the beer can.

And sho' 'nuff, there was a rotting carcasse! In the next post.