Saturday, November 01, 2014

Colour morph

Because it's Hallowe'en!

Spiky, leggy, fang-y.

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Friday, October 31, 2014

He's got plans for this.

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.

What do you think he's up to?

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pale pink

Unidentified flower, found at the local Potter's:

Like a flower inside a flower.

(Leftovers from 6 weeks ago. I'm really behind on photo sorting.)

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Unexpected colour

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.

On one of the petals, a dust spot moved and, under my magnifying glass, turned out to be a yellow and black spider.

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.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Four hermits

In a contemplative mood.

On a collection of shells

Misty morning, with barnacles

Turkish towel stalk and red algae

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Suicidal hermit?

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.

A few hours later, he was still on the eelgrass, still nude. That wasn't right. It's not safe; the crabs were already patrolling beneath him. A freshly-molted hermit belly is a highly-prized delicacy, and they weren't planning on missing out.

I shooed the crabs off to the other end of the tank.

Later, finding the hermit still naked, I caught him and put him in a bowl with a selection of shells. In a couple of minutes, he had selected one and climbed inside. Good! I put him back in the tank.

In the evening, there he was back up in the eelgrass, without the shell. Why? That's asking for trouble!

I found him a different assortment of shells and gave them to him in a bowl. Again, he got dressed immediately. Maybe the last shell was just a bit too small. Back in the tank.

In the morning, he was in the eelgrass, nude. The crabs were back, watching him.

Three more times, over two days, I took him out and presented him with good shells. Each time, he put on a shell, then discarded it as soon as he was back in the tank. Why, why, why? Talk to me, Hermie!

His abdomen is reddish purple; some have green bellies. The barbs at the end hold the shell in place.

Laurie said that maybe he was itchy. Maybe he'd got fleas. (Copepods and/or mites? Possible.)

Then Val, the big anemone, started shutting down, pursing her mouth disapprovingly. She does that if the water's not quite up to her taste. I've been changing it regularly; the last change was only two days before, but if there were too many mites . . .

I took everything out of the tank, scrubbed the walls (goodbye copepods) and triple-rinsed the sand. Cleaned the pump, discarded old eelgrass, scraped off invading orange-striped anemones, removed two big worms and washed off their slime. Filled the tank with new water, well chilled; replaced everything. Hermie went back last, in a nice new shell.

Fingers crossed.

Two hours later, Val was happily feeding, and Hermie was still in his shell. Tonight, he's still ok.


The little blue anemone, on clean eelgrass. Eats hermit food; likes shrimp.

But it would have all been sorted out earlier, if he'd just thought to tell me he had an itch.

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Good weather for ducks.

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.

I'll have a hermit story tomorrow, whether what this guy's up to makes sense or not.

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Dinner on the lawn

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.

*Three halves and a sprinkling add up to one whole. The categories overlap.

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Friday, October 24, 2014


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.

I was able to get within 6 inches for this shot, with the camera resting right on the cement slab. I eased in half an inch closer, and they hopped it.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Snails don't talk.

So this is wordless.*


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Wednesday, October 22, 2014


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.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Weathered leftovers

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.

Some of the vacant lot critters, tomorrow.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Mixed messages

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.

Here's the view from our vacant lot, Saturday afternoon.

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.

A Skywatch post.

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Find the spider

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?

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Saturday, October 18, 2014


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.

UPDATE: She's a cobweb spider, Enoplognatha ovata, form redimita. Her spiderlings will overwinter in the leaf litter, so I'll put their leaf back under the begonia where I found it.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Aquarium assortment

These photos of tank critters have been piling up in a corner, over the past month or so. They're all from Boundary Bay; some only temporary residents in my tank, some that look like they're planning to stay.

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.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Hungry flowers

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.

The tallest of these plant-like animals is about an inch high, and the individual "flowers" are barely visible without a lens. They sway constantly in the current, or bounce as hermits walk up and down the eelgrass. And out of the water, they collapse, so I've been trying to take their photo through the glass.

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.
The reproductive polyps are more difficult to distinguish in these photos. The empty cone near the top of the last photo may be one of them.

An empty reproductive polyp. Photo from 2011.

The hydroids will release the next stage, the medusas, from these reproductive polyps. I have seen them swimming near the parents, but in this tank, they end up in the pump, and don't survive.

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