Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Photos of the Week

Western Tiger Swallowtail

Having spent much of my lunch break taking photographs, I headed back inside the building and back to work. Walking through the building I noticed something on the bush outside the windows. Looking closer I saw it was a large butterfly. I watched it for a few minutes expecting it to flutter away. But it didn't move. I decided to take a chance on it staying put and headed back through the building, out the doors, and back around to where it was. It was still there so I got out my camera. As usual, I took photos as I approached, since you never know how long it'll stay. In this case it sat perfectly still as I got closer and closer. With the camera within inches, I had just about decided it must be dead when suddenly it came back to life and flew away. Strange, but I'm not complaining since I got some good photographs. I've seen a few of these flying around outside my second floor office window so it was nice to catch one up close.

I also saw another jackrabbit, this one seemed smaller than the one I usually see, maybe a juvenile.

Jackrabbit

And lots of flowers, of course.

flowers

Clematis (?)

flower

Iris up close

Nearing the end of the lilacs and they are shedding their flowers on the ground.

fallen lilac flowers

On the other hand, the water lilies are just starting.

water lily

There are lots of these bluet damselflies around the pond (not sure exactly which species), many of them mating. (This was taken with the ZS100 telephoto since they won't let you get close enough for the normal macro mode.)

Damselflies mating

And one of my favorites, the fishing spiders. This was smaller than the ones I usually see with an egg sac. I've seen a few larger ones with swollen abdomens, presumably getting ready to lay eggs. The females are much larger than the males ~ 60mm versus 10mm.

Fishing spider with egg sac

I don't usually think of Cedar Waxwings as summer birds, but there were a group of them in the apple trees. Hard to get a clear shot though.

Cedar Waxwing

It seems like I've been taking and posting a lot of photographs lately. It's hard to resist - summer is such an explosion of life after our frozen winter.

See all 25 photos

Monday, June 19, 2017

Hawk Story

Swainsons Hawk with gopher

Walking home (a common start to these stories) I heard some birds in a tree up ahead. I couldn't see them so I approached slowly. First I saw two magpies squawking, then a crow cawing, and finally their subject - a hawk.

It's not uncommon to see birds harassing a hawk, but usually to chase it away from their nest or territory, and often in flight.

The hawk was also calling, but not the strong loud call I would expect, it was a softer, more plaintive call. I wondered if it was a juvenile?

I backed up and got the tree between me and the hawk so I could get my camera out of my pack without scaring it away. I've done this enough times that I can take my pack off, get out my camera, put the pack back on, turn the camera on and zoom it, without taking my eyes off whatever critter has caught my eye.

Camera in hand, I carefully approached the tree. I took a few shots and then realized I was shooting against a bright sky and the hawk would be too dark. When I moved to adjust the camera the hawk took flight. But the flight was slow and awkward, There seemed to be something tangled around its legs. It landed in a tree not far away so I approached slowly again and this time got some better photos. The magpies and crow also followed. The hawk flew again, but still not very well. This time it landed on the ground. Once more the other birds followed.

It looked like the hawk had something tangled around its legs, possibly fishing line. I wondered whether I should be calling a wildlife rescue person, but since it could still fly it seemed it would be hard to catch. In the end I decided to let nature take its course.

Swainsons Hawk with gopher

My guess was totally wrong. When I got home and looked at the photos on the computer I could see the hawk had a gopher. It must have been the weight of the gopher that was making it hard to fly. And the other birds were probably trying to harass it enough that it would drop its tasty prize. Based on the photos I think it's a Swainson's Hawk. Normally they eat insects, mainly grasshoppers and dragonflies, but during breeding season they feed their chicks small mammals like gophers. In the winter they make one of the longest migrations of any raptor - all the way to Argentina.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Spider at Work


I've been keeping an eye out for the fishing spiders but up till now have only seen a few tiny ones. Then when I took a walk around on a morning coffee break, I saw three big fat ones. (Presumably females getting ready to lay eggs.) I didn't have a camera with me but I figured they'd still be around at lunch time. Unfortunately, the grounds crew decided to redistribute all the floating water plants that the spiders like to sit on. So there were no fishing spiders to be seen.

I noticed a different spider on a web, but as soon as I approached it ran out of sight. I noticed another web to the side, also with a spider, which instead of running away seemed to just be running around. Then I realized it was in the process of building its web and I got this video. I expect these webs to be quite uniform, but this guy didn't seem too worried about getting it exactly right. I don't know what kind of spider it is.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Photos of the Week

Untitled

Now that summer is (more or less) here, there's lots of living things to take pictures of. It's hard to walk to and from work without a few stops for photographs.

I'm told these little orange flowers are Scarlet Mallow, a native prairie plant. I noticed lots of them at Pest Hill when I was out kiting with my paraglider. Nice that a native plant has survived here.

Scarlet Mallow

I always feel a little guilty photographing big showy flowers. But eye candy like that is such a tempting target. I come by it honestly, my father loved to photograph flowers as well. Of course, their attractiveness is "by design", flowers evolved their flashy outfits to attract pollinators.

Milkweed (?) flower

Bachelor Button flowers

Irises are a favorite.

Iris flowers

Iris flowers

Iris flower closeups

Innovation Place runs its sprinklers early in the morning before I arrive, which is nice because I like the way the drops of water sparkle on the greenery. (Easier to see if you click on the photo to view it larger.)

water drops

A pair of Mallard ducks have been hanging around the pond at Innovation Place. They were sleeping peacefully until I got a little too close for their comfort. The male quacked at me for disturbing them.

Mallard duck complaining

They moved over to the island, safely out of the way of the annoying human. The female (on the left) is already getting back to sleep while the male keeps an eye on me.

pair of Mallard ducks

At this point I noticed the good reflections. This next shot is actually flipped upside down, but it's hard to tell.

reflections

See all 28 photos

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Shelley looked out the window and asked "What kind of bird is that?". I recognized the Northern Flicker's red on the back of the head and black on the chest. They're a kind of woodpecker, but unlike most, they often feed on the ground. Ants are a common food, which might explain why it was on our lawn - we have lots of anthills.

Northern Flicker

I just watched it at first, assuming it would fly away. But it hung around so I went and grabbed my camera. First I took some photos through the window. Then I went outside quietly and stuck my head around the corner of the house. I got a few shots but it was moving around too much and most of them didn't turn out. Then, finally, it flew away. I'm surprised it hung around as long as it did.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Revelstoke

"There is just as much beauty visible to us in the landscape as we are prepared to appreciate, and not a grain more." - Henry David Thoreau
sunset

We made a brief stop in Revelstoke on our way home. It wasn't a very colorful sunset, but still nice.

silhouette of bird against mountain sunset

I took a bunch of flower photos, most of them just from gardens, not wild.

flowers

Iris

I heard this robin singing loudly and had to search to locate it in a nearby tree.

American robin

See also my Bear Truth post

See all 21 photos

Saturday, June 03, 2017

The Bear Truth

Social media was echoing with news of a black bear in a tree in Saskatoon. I felt sorry for it. Little did it know what it was getting into when it wandered that way.

Checking into the hotel in Revelstoke there were signs warning of a black bear in the area. After supper we went for a walk and happened to encounter the bear. It was happily chowing down on the fresh greenery. It looked up, weeds hanging from the sides of its mouth.

black bear eating weeds

People think of bears as such fearsome creatures. But they are not really hunters. Yes, they are strong with big teeth and claws. But the claws are mostly used for digging, and the teeth are most likely to be chewing plants. (Up to 85% of their diet comes from vegetation.) Of course, they will defend themselves, especially a mother with cubs, but if anything we should empathize with that. More people get killed by dogs (26 per year in the US) than by bears (3 per year in the US).

Black bears have better eyesight than humans, so it could probably see us better than we could see it, but after a short time it gave up looking at us and went back to its salad. The wind was blowing towards us so it couldn't apply its even better sense of smell. It was still aware of us and would glance up occasionally. It was a pleasure to watch it (and take photographs) in a natural setting. (Albeit near the hotel and highway.)

Meanwhile, back in Saskatoon, the bear was dead. Apparently it didn't respond well to the drugs to reverse the tranquilizer dart and was euthanized. Sad.

We are reminded that the land we inhabit was First Nations land before it was "ours". I'd like to add the reminder that Homo sapiens were hardly the first inhabitants. If anyone has a rightful claim to this land it is the animals (and plants) that were here long long before any of us.

Of course, that will be meaningless if you subscribe to the belief that Homo sapiens is "special" and that the earth was "given" to us to "use" (aka trash) in any way we feel like. Then again, that point of view isn't working out too well for us or our planet.

I wonder what will become of the bear we saw in Revelstoke. How long before it discovers the hotel garbage? Or some tourist gets too close trying to take a selfie with it and we "have to" kill it. Or it just forgets to look both ways when crossing the highway.

black bear

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve

The best part of visiting this nature reserve wasn't the herons (we only saw one from a distance) but the rabbits. We found them on the paths in several places, but one in particular was quite a cooperative subject.

rabbit

Moving slowly, I got quite close to it and then crouched down to take photos. After I stopped moving it settled down and when back to nibbling on the plants. But then I was surprised when it started to move towards me. It was obviously aware of me and would stop and look at me every so often. The closer it got, the more nervous it was, until finally it made a break for it and dashed by me and then Shelley and continued on down the path. I'm not quite sure why it was so determined to go past us down the path!

rabbit

I also enjoyed the flowers and insects:

flower

bee on flower

And a few reflections:

reflected flowers

See also, Shelley's photos of the rabbit sneaking by me.

See all 9 photos

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Vancouver Zoo

After crossing back into Canada near Abbotsford, we were close to the Greater Vancouver Zoo so we stopped in for a visit.

grizzly bear

The zoo covers quite a large area and is mostly outdoors in a park like setting. Unfortunately it's not very good for photography since most of the enclosures are heavy chain link fence, and often several layers of fence. And many of the enclosures are large, which is good, but it means the animals can be far away. So I didn't get a lot of photos, but it was a beautiful morning and we had a nice walk around.

grizzly bear

The bald eagles were injured, rescued birds.

bald eagle

Wild eagles were flying overhead.

bald eagle

arctic fox

caribou / reindeer

iguana

flowers

See all 15 photos

Friday, May 26, 2017

Getting Whacked

After several mellow flights earlier in the day, we launched at Woodside mid afternoon on a hot sunny day. I got some good lift off launch and found some stronger thermals over the ridge. I ended up the highest and was feeling pretty good about it. I cruised along the ridge heading back to where I'd found the last thermal and I heard my wing get hit by some turbulence. All of a sudden my brakes went soft. Actively piloting, I automatically pulled some brake. But they stayed soft. I looked up and my wing was an ugly mess from what I assume was a large frontal collapse or a stall and it was no longer flying. I thought about it for a split second and went hands up, trusting my wing to recover. I don't recall being afraid, just trying to figure out what was happening and how to deal with it. Thankfully, I can often stay quite calm in dangerous situations. Then again, I've also had times of deep fear that I just couldn't shake.

I remember glancing down to see how much height I had. Luckily I had lots, but it gave me a good reminder why it's not a good idea to fly too close to the terrain!

I didn't think about my reserve (parachute) at all. Hopefully if the wing hadn't recovered I would have thought of it! I was flying my new lightweight harness (Supair Radical 3) with a front mounted reserve so it was right in front of me. The front mount is a bit awkward, but it's definitely more accessible in flight than under the seat ones.

The wing (my new Geo 5) recovered, opened back up, and resumed flying, as it is designed to do. I don't even recall much surge. It was over in seconds. Although I wasn't far from launch, no one  even noticed my brief moment of "excitement".

I immediately turned away from the top of the ridge where the strong thermals were. My first instinct was to get down and on the ground as soon as possible. But it wasn't that rough away from the ridge so I decided to "stay on the horse" and keep flying. I didn't stay up as long as if I'd stayed on the ridge but I found some mellower lift and had a decent flight cruising around.

After I landed I felt a bit shaken and a little queasy - perhaps delayed effect from the adrenaline.

On a more positive note, Shelley showed off her hard earned ground handling skills when the shifting wind blew her wing off to the side as she was launching and she calmly stepped under it, kited it level, turned and launched smoothly. The instructor next to me even commented on what a good job she'd done.

Oregon

splash!

After our brief sojourn in Bend we headed back to the coast, taking a slightly different route to get us to Newport where we stopped in at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. It's not a huge aquarium, but quite nice - worth visiting if you're in the area and like that sort of thing.

sea otter

Horned puffin

fish

We camped at Cape Lookout State Park. (A coastal paraglider soaring site, but the winds were wrong.) We walked to the beach to watch the sunset, saw other people enjoying a glass of wine, and went back to the car and fetched the bottle of Ortega we'd bought at Symphony Vineyard near Victoria. It made a fine accompaniment to the the wonderful show of waves and setting sun.

sunset

As usual, I wasn't using a tripod but I attempted a few shots with slow shutter speeds. This was 1/8 of a second. (Sitting and braced, and thanks to a stabilized lens.)

sunset

Although the color of the sunset stood out, the backlit waves were also interesting in black and white.

wave

Of course, I couldn't resist a few reflection shots.

sunset reflections

Barn swallows without a barn were using the side of the campground washrooms as a substitute.

Barn swallow

Walking to the washroom in the morning I spotted this light show and couldn't resist going back for my camera. Beats a hotel lobby!

sun through the trees

See all 32 photos