Saturday, April 25, 2015

Why is it

... that when the tide goes out, all the sensible little beasties head for deeper water, or bury themselves in the sand, or hide under stones and logs; anything to keep from drying out. Except the Asian mud snails; they look for places to sunbathe, high and dry.

On stones,

On logs.

Note the tidepool in front of the log; very few snails remain there, and they're scrambling for the edge. Behind the log, on higher ground, the snails are so thick that in places they hide the stones.

They do the same thing in my aquarium; they spend at least half their time clinging to the walls above the water level, and sometimes leave the tank and go for walkies on the counter. Sometimes I find one behind the tank, dry as dust, completely sealed in, looking dead. I drop him back in the water, and he wakes up - and heads for the top again.

They don't eat out of the water; just sleep.


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Friday, April 24, 2015

Intense colours

Beach pea, just getting started:

First lathyrus flowers of the season.

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

But I like the owl, too.

A sun-bleached log high on the beach looked like a good place to rest a while. And it had an interesting cut-out, besides.

What do you see here?

The shapes and textures set my imagination going; I see a worried face with a big, blobby nose, an owl, a dancing rabbit, and ... what's that in the middle?

I didn't imagine that. It's real.

Either the camera was very fast, or that's a slow-moving fly. I can even see the stripes on its thorax!

Zooming 'way in.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Barnacles on his knees

Beauty yesterday; the beast today.

The largest hermit crab in my aquarium is a hairy, shaggy, scruffy, awkward old geezer. He's far too big for the shells he wears, so his back feet, there to hold the shell in place, hang out, uselessly. And his main pincer is too big, again, to be used. He drags it along the ground, a dead weight doubled underneath him.

And he has barnacles on his back.

"Barney", with his right pincer curled back, and the tiny holding leg dangling.

Three good-sized barnacles, and a couple of tiny ones, along his waist. It looks like he's growing seaweed on his back, too.

More barnacles on his knees and ankles.

The shell he was wearing for the photo shoot also has barnacles and a two-tentacled worm, to boot. Today's shell is a bit larger, and black. He changes his shell every day; he likes variety. And when you're twice as big as your competition, you get to choose any shell you want, occupied or not.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Watch out for the coat!

On the underside of a rock at the end of the boat ramp at Boundary Bay - almost at the high tide line - I found a white and brown, squirmy, translucent bit of live jelly and wavy bits. It wouldn't sit still for its portrait, so I popped it in a bag with seaweed for protection, and brought it home.

He* wouldn't sit still in a bowl of clean water, either. I gave up and added him to the tank, where he promptly disappeared. He showed up two days later, and this time, he posed for me.

The opalescent nudibranch, Hermissenda crassicornis, hanging head down, belly outward. Isn't he beautiful?

Also known as the long-horned or thick-horned nudibranch, for the two long extensions in front. ("crassi ..." = L. "thick", "cornis" = L. "horn", as in unicorn, ".)

He's  about one inch long, usually, but sometimes stretches a good bit beyond. The "horns" are part of the foot. In this belly-forward photo, we can see the mouth and the two rhinopores. (More ancient languages, this time Greek: "rhinos" =  ῥινός, "nose", "phore" = φορος, "bearing".) All nudibranchs have these; they are scent or taste receptors. And on the right side, facing us, just above the head, that round, pearly button is the anus.

Along his back, he wears clumps of cerata, that function as gills; they wave about continuously in the current. In many of his cousins, the inner coloured area is orange; this guy only has tiny specks of orange.

Side view, showing the cerata and rhinophores.

He looks so soft and helpless; when my largest hermit came over to check him out, I cringed. Those huge pincers could have chopped him in two with no trouble, it seemed. But the hermit backed off and lost interest immediately. And "Herm" just kept on about his business, not in the least worried. He has his own hired bodyguards, in his coat.

This nudibranch eats anemones and hydroids. And digests everything but the stinging cells; those he stores in the tips of the soft cerata. And they still work, even in a foreign body, protecting the sea slug just as they protected the original anemones.

Browsing in the red algae; top of the head, with its distinctive markings.

He seems to have settled in happily to my aquarium; he wanders about, nibbling on whatever's growing on old stones and shells, and spending a lot of time in the red algae bushes.

 It eats hydroids, but the diet also includes small sea anemones, bryozoans, colonial ascidians (Aplidium solidum, botryllids), annelids, small crustacea, tiny clams, dead animals of any sort.  Will eat other Hermissenda. (From

He shouldn't starve in the tank. Even though there's no other "Herm" for him to eat.

*These nudibranchs are hermaphroditic, with both male and female organs. Since this guy has no mate, he's not a mother, so "he" will do for him. For now.

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

This may help

Because those crabs were too well camouflaged, here's a marked-up copy of the photo:

Crabs in red, hermits in green, green ribbon worms in yellow.

And there's a full-sized photo on Flickr, here.

Now, I've got to sleep. Tomorrow, my new critter!

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Saturday, April 18, 2015


On the underside of one smallish stone on the White Rock beach, life happens. Abundantly.

Flatworms, flatworm egg masses, barnacles, crabs, hermit crabs, snails, mussels, green ribbon worms, amphipods, and no telling what else.

Examining the photo, I found 6 crabs. Can you find them? And check out the varied colours and patterns of the flatworms while you're at it.

I uploaded a larger photo than usual, to make the search easier. If you right-click on the photo, you get an enlargeable view. (At least, that's the way it works for me.)

And I'm going to be busy the next couple of days, with an urgent assignment and a big garage sale at the same time, so I won't be posting 'till Monday. But then, I've got a beautiful new critter to show you!

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

More than he can chew

Yesterday a tiny green flatworm was out hunting snails.

Small mud snail, smaller green hunter

He chose one snail after another, and slithered around and around and around each one, looking for a vantage point to pull the snail out of its shell. Only trouble was, he was far too small to manage it.

He wasn't all that hungry; in the photo you can see the dark spots in his belly; undigested food. Another worm, maybe? An unwary amphipod?

I saw him again this afternoon, on the glass wall. He was completely green; all his food had been digested.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Elegant in black

The dunlins were feeding on Boundary Bay this afternoon; small flocks criss-crossed from sandbar to sandbar, some coming, some going, some more coming back. They never stay long in one place. I noticed that when they run on a sandbar, they all run at about the same speed, usually in the same direction, so that from a distance, they look connected, like wheels on an axle.

One group had a few odd-balls; I could see, even at a distance, solid black patches. I tiptoed up as close as they would let me; still too far for the camera's liking.

Black-bellied plovers, in full breeding regalia.

The paler version is either a female, or immature.

Some of the dunlins are wearing the black aprons, too.

And far away, halfway across the bay, a rafts of ducks and gulls waited for the tide to drop. It was going out too slowly for me; I left the birds and came home for supper.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015


This ...

Fern, unfolding

... reminded me of this ...

Anemone, unfolding.

Sometimes form follows function. Sometimes, it doesn't.

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Wordless: Apple blossoms and lichen

Elgin Heritage Park.

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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Yellowlegs and oysters

At the mouth of the Nicomekl River, where it empties into Boundary Bay, the native Olympia oysters line the shores and pile up in shallow water. A discarded tire serves as a handy anchor point.

The water here is knee-deep to the long-legged yellowlegs.

The presence of a hard substrate or anchor surface is a key component to colony development, in conjunction with other suitable features such as flushing flows and adequate nutrients and food organisms. ...
Larval oysters tend to affix to the undersides of horizontal surfaces. The young oyster (“spat”) crawls with the foot along the surface of substrate and secretes glue from a “byssus” gland, which attaches the shell to the substrate.  (From Ibis, UBC)

The Greater yellowlegs was wading back and forth in the clear water, looking for food, and occasionally calling loudly. (Listen to his call here; the last of the alarm calls.) There were no other birds to be seen.

Hunting, hunting ... There's gotta be a fish here, somewhere.

Zooming in on the yellowlegs.

When I see one alone, it's hard to tell which it is; Greater or Lesser? Unless they're side by side, they look and act alike. And both species are likely to be found at this end of the Nikomekl.

The two yellowlegs species are very similar. Size is marked different when they appear together and can be compared against each other. Greater Yellowlegs's bill appears slightly upturned and blunt-tipped, while Lesser Yellowlegs's bill is straight and sharp-pointed. Lesser's bill is always dark, while Greater's bill is grayish at the base in nonbreeding season. Voice is best distinguishing character: Greater gives three or four piercing notes, Lesser two rapid, softer short whistles (sometimes or or three). (From Cornell Lab of Ornithology.)

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Striped leggings and red, red lips

... Barnacle outfits, that is.

Acorn barnacles on a stone, feeding. The inside of the shell is a deep red.

Long, pale legs, and shorter dark green legs. Another barnacle in the background, smiling.

A barnacle has 6 pairs of legs, putting them between the decapod crabs and shrimp, and the 14-legged isopods. They should really be called "dodecapods" (from the Greek δώδεκα dōdeka "twelve" + ποδός "foot"), although we usually forget that those waving fans are actually feet, modified into feathery cirri, to capture food and absorb oxygen from the water.

And then there is the thirteenth appendage:

The same barnacles. One on the lower right is starting to extend his long penis. It's hairy, too, but not striped.

Each barnacle is hermaphroditic, which is handy, because they can't wander about in search of a suitable mate. Any other barnacle will do, as long as it is within reach of that long, extensible penis.

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Thursday, April 09, 2015

Wild geranium

Along the railroad tracks below the White Rock cliffs, railway crews have been at work, stripping out vegetation, churning the soil, dumping gravel. But some plants are never discouraged.

Geranium robertianum, with a sprig of trailing blackberry leaves.

Herb Robert.  Also known as Stinky Bob,  Red Robin, Death comes quickly, Storksbill, Dove's Foot, Crow's Foot, Dragonsblood, Bloodwort. And also, by gardeners, "That horrible weed." It grows anywhere, rapidly, and re-seeds itself enthusiastically, crowding out or completely smothering everything else. Luckily, the roots are shallow, and it is easily torn up. It always comes back, though.

Before I found its "real" name, I used to call it Stinky Geranium. It is one of the geraniums, and it does have a pungent odour, especially noticeable when you're ripping out armloads from your tidy landscaping.

The flowers are small, but their pink colour has a special carrying quality, so that they can be seen from a distance, even in shadowy undergrowth. The leaves turn red in dry conditions; on a wet bank, or in your lettuce plot, they're all green.

I wonder, though, where it got the name, "Death comes quickly." Nothing kills it.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Good provider

Laurie was always on the lookout for good spiders for me. And even though he's gone now, he left me well provided for. Cleaning out his gardening supplies this afternoon, I found some of them.

A nice little fat steatoda on a plastic bin.

And a good sized tegenaria on a 2x6.

I only had the little pocket camera nearby; I hadn't thought of spiders before I started work. And by the time I'd run to get the big camera, the critters had all gone into hiding. When I do his garden tool chest, next, I'll start work with the good camera within reach.

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Monday, April 06, 2015

Busy bubbles

There are three bubble shell snails in my tank. They're doing their best to turn that into thirty. Or three hundred.

Lone bubble shell, Haminoea japonica. Belly view, through glass.

Two bubble shells. The one in back has been following the other's slime trail from the far side of the tank, and is about to catch up.

At last! And the two slipped under the sand together, to indulge in their favourite pastime.

These snails are hermaphroditic; at each mating, one takes on the male role, the other acts as the female. The next time round, they may switch. And both are capable of laying eggs.

Their second favourite pastime. Laying eggs.

The eggs are expelled through a genital pore just behind the head. Each yellow egg is encased in a tramsparent jelly capsule, that is just barely visible in these photos.

As she lays the eggs, she curls away, leaving a crescent shaped jelly mass glued to whatever surface she has chosen (in this case the front glass wall of the tank.)

I'd never seen a bubble snail's mouth before; it's usually completely shrouded by the head shield and the lower foot.

The eggs should hatch in about a month. Unfortunately for the bubble's plans of conquest, the infants don't survive in the tank. They're probably swept up by the pump within hours of hatching.

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Saturday, April 04, 2015

Judging by appearances

Female wigeons always seem to be smiling.

Life is good.

And herons are always grumpy. Has anyone ever seen a happy heron?

"Hmmmph! Another dratted photographer! Can't even catch supper in peace!"

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Friday, April 03, 2015

On a green overpass

Another hermit portrait

Hairy hermit and limpet on eelgrass; spiral tubeworms on limpet.

Just because.

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Thursday, April 02, 2015

Love in the springtime

I made a quick trip to the beach to pick up eelgrass for my hermits, and on the way back to the car, stopped at the duck pond to watch the redwing blackbirds nesting in the central island. They're busy in there, chattering contentedly, but visible only in snatches as they bustle about in the reeds.

One male came out to take a breather on the fence, where a crow had already settled in.

"What do you think you're doing? This is MY fence!"

And I witnessed two birdy conversations that surprised me.

While I was still out on the sand flats, a gull flew overhead, making a strange, muted sound, almost musical. I looked up, and saw that he had a big clamshell in his beak; maybe that accounted for his voice, I thought. He flew out over the water, then curved back to a sandbar, coming in low, too low to drop a clamshell and have it break. Odd. And then he landed beside another gull waiting there, and handed over the clam.

A gull sharing food? Now that is love!

Back in the park, the sun was setting, and a robin high in a cottonwood was telling the world to "Cheer up, cheer up!" Good advice; I stopped to listen for a moment. And heard a quieter voice from somewhere near the trunk, a simple series of chirps, repeated every time the male robin took a breath. A female in the nest, wanting something? She was insistent, and finally the male dropped to the lawn and went hunting for worms. The chirping stopped. She'd got her point across. Supper would be served soon enough.

That's love, too.

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Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Never want for wonder

A crab is stalking around the tank, pincers raised, ready for action. He sees me nearby and threatens me, but when I touch the glass at his face, he looks at my fingertip for a moment, then realizes it's bigger than his pincers. And off he scuttles, to hide under a clamshell.

Laurie would have laughed.

But he's gone. He died Saturday night. He won't laugh at my critters, nor watch his garden bloom. He won't be bringing me spiders in pill bottles. He won't be taking more photos of Mount Baker across the water, or peering into tidepools, or leading parades of hungry mallards at Reifel Island. Or rousting me out of my morning doldrums to "go a-jaunting."

Hey luv     let us go a-jaunting    o
        when the red-cheeked sun
in her walking-out attire
        rises laughing over the horizon
scooting by watchful hawk and eagle
        down to the jaunty seagull's hangout
rocky shore    sandy beach    weedy marge
        where tireless tide's urge to push and pull
from bygone sagacity rules
        poseidon's fishy realm and aphrodite's foamy origin
where awareness begat sentiency
yes    our home too: briny and ozone
        whose thriving presence invigorates
while we alert and observant    poke and peer
        thrilled    and often chilled    never want for wonder
for this is a force beholden to no-one
        and like love    provides and demands
generous and severe
(One of his poems, mmix)

Always looking onward. He didn't face the camera often.

And when he did, he was usually clowning.

I have been touched and comforted by the messages you have sent me, here, on Facebook, on Twitter, and in "meat space" with letters and hugs and a card shoved under my door tonight. Thank you all!

While Laurie was still with me, I passed on your messages to him. He didn't say much; he was beyond much talking, but he smiled.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Blogging break.

Just a quick note, for those who missed it on Facebook. Laurie's gone into a hospice. And there's no internet there, so I won't be posting for a few days.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Round Tuit

I've been holding onto this photo since last September, waiting till I got around to searching BugGuide for a match. It's a moth that I found on the wall by our door in late afternoon.

The wing pattern echoes the feathery antennae motif.

Enough procrastinating! I spent the evening on it tonight. And after scanning all the "white moths" (2933 moths) and all the moths with a mention of feathery antennae (only 52) on BugGuide, and umpteen more on Google, I gave up and submitted my photo.

Which I should have done to start with, long ago.

The feathery antennae mark this moth as a male. He uses them as a "nose"; they're loaded with olfactory receptors - up to 60,000 in some species. And what he's smelling is a female, emitting her alluring pheromones. Somewhere, maybe miles away.

So sensitive are these organs and so characteristic and powerful is the scent, that a female has been known to summon a male from eleven kilometres away. At such a distance there must be as little as one molecule of scent in a cubic yard of air, yet it is sufficient to cause the male to fly in pursuit of its source. (From AskNature)

UPDATE: The BugGuide people are so quick! The moth is a Phantom Hemlock Looper;  Nepytia phantasmaria. Here's a link to a female: note the straight antennae.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Snail in a bottle

Round and round and round ...

... and no way out.

It's his own fault; he came in on his own, riding on the BirdCam. I'll send him back outside in the morning.

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Yesterday's mushroom

The rain stopped. The sun came out. The puddles dried up. So I went out and picked the mushroom from yesterday's photo, and brought it in to Laurie, sitting in the shade, watching new leaves dance in the wind.

Looks tasty. Smells good, too.

The gills have the colour and texture of dried apple slices.

Just another unintended resident in the hospital garden. And there's a whole patch of them, coming along nicely.

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Rainy afternoon, with mushroom

... In the hospital garden.

Red leaves, and sky-coloured flowers. And one mushroom.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Green and white lichen

The Canada/US border marker on the Boundary Bay beach has a tall cement base, lapped at the bottom by the highest tides. Looking for seaweeds the other day, I made the marker my turn-around point, and stopped to look at the marker itself.

On half of the Canadian side, above the reach of the tides, a colony of interesting lichens has settled in.

Green spots, up to about 3 inches across, with white borders.

There's even a little broken heart.

I was just carrying the little pocket Sony, since I'd come directly from the hospital, so the detail gets lost in noise. Next time, I'll make sure to carry the good camera, and get a better look.

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