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.


And lots of flowers, of course.


Clematis (?)


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


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.


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


"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

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.



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