Because it's Hallowe'en!
|Spiky, leggy, fang-y.|
Notes and photos from wanderings in the Lower Fraser Valley, BC., with a few thrown in from Bella Coola and other BC visits. Favourite spots: Reifel Island, Boundary Bay, Mud Bay, Strathcona, White Rock, Cougar Canyon, etc...
Maybe he's redecorating. Maybe he's just cold. Or he's heard we're due for a hard winter.
A scrawny black squirrel has been trying to steal a rag rug from my doorstep for the last few days. I caught him on video this afternoon.
It is still raining, but I went out and did a bit of garden clean-up; cut rotting hosta leaves, dead-headed the astilbe, murdered a few slugs, trimmed a hanging basket. And brought in the last of the hydrangea flower heads to dry for a winter bouquet.
These hydrangeas were pale blue, but as they've aged on the shrub, they have turned a dark, dull purple. Looking at them inside, under a bright light, the purple split into splotches and veins of vibrant blues and reds.
|Three different flowers here.|
|If you look very closely, you can see the silk thread leaving her spinnerets.|
|She's about the right size to hunt springtails and mites.|
Life would be a lot simpler if the animals could talk. Take my small community of intertidal critters, for example. I keep a close eye on them, checking their water quality and temperature daily, making sure they're enjoying their food, they're happy and healthy. Are the hermit crabs all busy; are they waving their flags about, not fighting? Is the big anemone open for business? Are the bubble shell snails still mating? How about the leafy hornmouths; do they have enough barnacles to eat? And so on.
But if something changes, how do I know what's gone wrong?
There are currently 38 hermits in the tank. That means that every few days at least one of them molts. The usual procedure, then, is that the newly-soft hermit climbs up into the seaweed, out of the range of hungry crabs, until he hardens off. An hour or two later, he comes down again and selects a new shell, slightly larger than the last one he was wearing.
I found a mid-sized hermit in the eelgrass a few days ago. His leftover molted legs and carapace were on the weeds below.
|New, fresh, clean skin and hair. Now he needs a new shell.|
|His abdomen is reddish purple; some have green bellies. The barbs at the end hold the shell in place.|
|The little blue anemone, on clean eelgrass. Eats hermit food; likes shrimp.|
It has been pouring rain all day. We'd been planning to go to Cougar Creek Park to look for ducks, but we weren't in the mood for rain gear and wet cameras. Instead, Laurie sorted his tools and I processed photos and puzzled over unusual hermit crab behaviour. I don't think the ducks missed us.
A watery photo seemed appropriate.
|The business end of the aquarium pump. in operation.|
My lawn is half native weeds, half moss, half invasives, and a sprinkling of grass*. And, in season, mushrooms.
|Reddish brown, glossy 'shroom. But what's that on the stalk?|
|A hungry slug. There are slug holes in the cap, too.|
Grasshoppers are extremely frustrating beasties. They hop away from directly beneath your feet, you see them fly and land, you know exactly where they are. But they aren't, not any more. They're over there. Or behind you. Or further on. So you take a step in that direction, and they erupt from beneath your feet, from a spot you've just examined thoroughly without seeing any sign of them.
You see one sitting still on a patch of bare earth, and you sneak up on it gradually, barely sliding your feet along inch by inch, hardly breathing. It doesn't move, doesn't seem even to be looking your direction. You raise the camera to your eye, slowly, gently, and there's nothing there. It's watching you now from 10 feet away.
So when I saw a big 'hopper in the centre of a cement slab the other day, I was surprised when it stayed put as I walked over to it, even as I got down on my knees in the mud next to it. That close, I realized why; there were two of them, and they were busy.
|I think these are Melanoplus grasshoppers. I'll send them in to BugGuide to be sure.|
Making my way along the side of the hill in the vacant lot, I pushed through a thicket of broom and found myself face to face with a pretty stink bug. But by the time I'd pointed the camera his way, he was on the far side of the branch. And no matter how I manoeuvred, bending the plant, crawling underneath, squeezing into a gap on the far side, twisting the branches, twisting myself, he was always on the far side of every twig or branch.
|Probably the red-backed stink bug, Banasa dimidiata. I never got even a glimpse of his back. That's a small weevil on this side.|
|A more typical view of this obstinate creature. Only one claw in focus.|
|A little snail, more co-operative, probably because he's asleep.|
More photos from the vacant lot: things found underfoot.
|In an abandoned cement ring, water, seeds and other detritus is caught in a spider web. I liked the patterns reflected in the water droplets.|
|Just a dying leaf, belly up.|
|Zooming in to show the pattern|
|Leaves and a Nike hoodie. I often find good clothes here, just dropped as if on a bedroom floor.|
|Well, fire-starting stuff, anyway. Part of a 4'x8' sign for "Luxury Duplexes".|
|Face under leaves. Another part of the sign.|
Sometimes, when the clouds threaten rain, the sun doesn't get the memo and keeps right on shining, sneaking underneath the clouds to warm the trees. I love the contrasts in these moments; all dark blue-grey above, yellows and greens below.
|Looking east, with the sun shining low in the sky behind me.|
|Alders, weed trees, in early fall colour.|
|Future forest. At this time of year, it's under a few inches of water. Most of the two-block vacant lot is alder and blackberry bush now; this section is still mixed weeds and baby alders.|
|Facing west, where there's still a patch of blue sky.|
It's been a while since I visited our vacant lot across the street. It's almost a small forest now, with a small clearing in the centre, half underwater. And I've come back with a stack of photos; weeds and seeds, skies and water, human leftovers, and some interesting critters. Skies tomorrow, I think.
For now, here's a hiding spider. I turned over a board under a stand of alders by the creek, and there was her messy web, and a flash of brown as she raced for cover. She's in the photo: can you find her?
|Yes, there she is.|
|Now do you see her?|
I brought in a begonia leaf to give my caterpillars some variety in their diet, and found a tiny red and yellow spider on the underside. Two days later, the caterpillars had remodelled the spider's home, adding windows and a door.
And look what was inside!
|Spiderlings behind a web curtain|
|And looking out the window.|
|Mother and baby. Mommy is 1/2 centimetre long.|
|The remains of the leaf,, with spiders and aphid.|
|Watching over her brood.|
|Zebra leaf slug, Phyllaplysia taylori. It hung around for a couple of weeks, then disappeared when the eelgrass rotted. *UPDATE: He showed up this morning, alive and well.|
|Barnacles on a clam shell|
|Tunicates on eelgrass blade.|
|Three of the Leafy Hornmouth snail hatchlings, pinhead size.|
|Egg case of bubble shell snails. They lay one or two of these a week. I've never seen babies.|
|I think this is another orange striped green anemone; the orange stripes often fade, possibly depending on the diet that week.|
|A new anemone, unidentified, on sea lettuce.|
|The newest anemone, on a blade of eelgrass. One of the brooding anemones, like those I found a year ago. It may not survive; they do not tolerate exposure to air, and I found it on the beach.|
My hermit crabs love hydroids, so I bring home "messy" eelgrass, covered with assorted hydroids and diatom fuzz. Usually, they clean all this off overnight, but this time, they've left me a small cluster of Obelia, right beside the glass wall of the tank.
|A tangled mess, growing from the end of a blade of eelgrass also coated with pink tunicates.|
|Zooming in. Among the hydroids, some small critters have laid their egg masses. To the naked eye, these are just specks of white dust.|
|Some of the taller stalks, showing the polyps in different stages of development. The feeding polyps (the ones with tentacles) sting tiny swimming critters, such as copepods and smaller plankton.|
|Life cycle of an Obelia. Image from Kent Simmons, U of Winnipeg.|
|An empty reproductive polyp. Photo from 2011.|