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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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rainy afternoon on the beach

My little aquarium was getting bare, and the hermit crabs looked bored; nothing to eat but crab munchies, nothing to climb on but bare shells. It has been raining off and on, but Sunday afternoon it looked as if the sun might even deign to show its face. I took the chance and went down to the beach for goodies to re-stock the tank with.

The rain started as soon as I stepped onto the shore. But it was just a gentle drizzle, straight down; there was no wind. And the tide was high, the eelgrass at the edge still green and fresh. I walked south, filling my bag. Eelgrass bearing limpets, hydroids and tunicates; sea lettuce for the crab; stones covered with barnacles to feed the leafy hornmouth snails; green, knobby rockweed plants, mainly for climbing on. A small male crab to keep my female company. A couple of unusual Hairy hermits, very large, very hairy, and wearing the tiniest of breechclout shells. And a few periwinkle snails; Val, the big anemone, loves these.

And then I walked back northwards, taking photos. Grey water, grey stones, grey sky. It was beautiful, but no camera could ever capture it; the beauty compounded of the smell of rain on salt water, the whisper of waves, the feel of slow raindrops on my face and hands, the muted call of birds in the distance, the grey light and the glint of water on stones and seaweed.

I took a few photos, anyhow.

A few walkers, well bundled up for the rain.

Sailboats at anchor. Barely visible in the distance, a line of geese with a few ducks.

A rotting log, colonized by barnacles, snails and hermits.

Three kinds of snails. And can you find the orange-striped green anemone?

Stones, barnacles, seaweeds at the top of the tide.

Grey on grey, with every other colour muted.

At the top of the beach, semi-protected by the cement walls, a sea rocket in full bloom. They seem to shed the water, even in a hard rainstorm.

At home, I discovered that I'd brought back more than I'd thought, hitchhikers on the eelgrass; a blue anemone and more hermits and snails (some quite tiny). More on these, later.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Our neighbour's yellow rose*

*Well, almost wordless.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Masked dancer

Laurie brought me a spider in a pill bottle. A busy, dancing, jittery little beastie; I had to take his photo through the plastic wall of the bottle.

Laurie says this looks like someone running. Maybe in a mask, and with a few extra arms?

He's made a rudimentary web inside the bottle already, and dances on it head downward.

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Different strokes

This was disappointing. I've seen videos and read descriptions of mating slugs, stories of couples dangling on a rope of their own slime, twisting and intertwining in a slow aerial dance.

So when I came across two slugs in the shade of a flowerpot, obviously mating, I expected something of the same sort.

No. And who am I to decree what counts as fun for someone else, slug or whatever?

They maintained this position, almost without moving, for 20 minutes.

I moved the pot away, to get better light, and kept an eye on them. For all of those 20 minutes, they lay quietly. The only motion was a mite that kept running around at high speed, over one, then the other, then back again. The only other change that I could see was the slow drying of the cement they lay on. I thought that would be uncomfortable, since they had chosen a dark, wet spot, so I brought some water to moisten the cement, and spilled a bit too much. Then there was a response:
Shrinking slugs

The large slug contracted and curled up, and then the lump of connected tissue separated into two translucent balls, still touching. They lay like this for another 10 minutes before they finally retracted their innards and separated.

I'm sure they enjoyed it, anyhow.

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Saturday, October 11, 2014


I've been setting out hulled sunflower seeds for a chickadee with a damaged beak, and recently he's been sitting in the rhododendron scolding when he can't find them. "Dee dee dee, where's my dinner?" The BirdCam caught the reason:

"Nom, nom, nom!"

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Shift workers

Just outside my back door, a cobweb spider has laid claim to a gap between a post and the wall, and is raising a large family. The first of her spiderlings left their egg sac three weeks ago.

Mamma, babies, and future babies in the second sac.

Yesterday, I checked her web. There were no spiderlings; they've gone off to start their own webs. But there was a third egg sac. Busy mother!

I was standing on a stool, looking to see if any of the little ones were nearby, and almost hit a much bigger spider with my head; she's hanging right over my door where a tall man is likely to find her in his hair.

Watch your hat!

And directly above the door, in the angle between wall and ceiling, another spider was huddled, as if to keep warm, her legs pulled in close to her body. Not hunting; she's a web maker, and there was no web.

Sleeping spider.

I went out today again. The big hat-catcher was still hanging in the same place, and the sleeper hadn't moved. The days are colder now; has she just shut down for the winter, I wondered?

I just went out again, with flashlights, at 2:00 AM. There's no sign of the big spider, nor of her web. But the sleeper has built herself a messy web near her corner, and is sitting in it, waiting for night-flying critters.

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