Down to one owlet


This morning I went back to see the Great Horned Owl nest, after an absence of more than a week. Worryingly, there only seems to be one owlet in the nest. I am unsure where the other one might be. It may have succumbed to predation, or possibly is out of the nest nearby. I recorded a bit of video yesterday evening, and in it the mother owl feeds the chick in the nest, then carries a headless rat out to the west of the nest. It could be that the the other chick is out there and the parents are still feeding it. This is probably the last year this nest will be in use, as the snag is very nearly rotted through, and will not likely last another winter. You can see the whole nest move as the adult takes off or lands.


The female did some “allopreening” of the chick.


Yesterday morning the female was actually driven off the nest by a guy yelling at his dog. This is the first time I have seen the owls disturbed by people nearby.


Last evening, about 20 minutes after the female disappeared with the headless rat, she re-appeared without it. This gives me some hope the other chick is still out there being fed.

Weekend expedition 46: A few shots from Vancouver


Catherine and I have been in Vancouver for a few days, catching up on some school-related business at SFU, and saying hello to our friends. We made a special trip on Sunday to say hello to Stanley Park with our friend Samantha Vibert, and here is what we saw!


Samantha with a juvenile Araneus diadematus. Shortly after this shot was taken, the spider ballooned right off her finger!


A Golden-crowned Sparrow.


A bright eyed and eager-looking Towhee!


This long-jawed orbweaver was tricky to capture with a non-black background, as I had forgotten to charge my second speedlight’s batteries.



A red velvet mite looking red and velvety, which they like to do.


Ensatina! ensatina! (That is how you spell it right?)



This brown Green Lacewing (Nothochrysa californica) was freshly emerged, and looking rather wonderful. Thanks to v belov for the ID!



A mystery egg sac. Any ideas what it could be?


Amaurobiids are extremely abundant in the old firs and cedars of Stanley Park (and everywhere on the coast).


This one has a cool-looking carapace.


Catherine doing some knitting on a gorgeous spring day.


Of Gulls and GoPros



I have written about gulls before, and exploiting their love of potato-based baits to get close up photos, and I have written about using a GoPro. This time, I combine the two, for a 120 fps free-for all, slowed down to 1/4 speed for your edification.



Along the way, I also managed to snap a few other cool shots.


This is a still from the GoPro. Note the extreme distortion and the off yellowish cast.


And here is a shot from my Canon 60D.



A Pigeon Guillemot on a oddly pleasing background.


When the sea looks like this, it is almost like a woodcut.

Looking over the edge…


I can identify a lot with this little Great Horned Owlet, looking out from its nest. I am about to leave my nest too, having basically completed my PhD thesis and getting word that my committee is willing to allow me to defend. I have been busy, revising manuscripts (I submitted three papers this week!) and networking to try to get funding for a postdoc. I have a few good leads, but definitely nothing solid at this point…

I am ready to switch directions a bit, to start examining animal behavior from a landscape perspective (an owl’s eye view?) so that I can gain skills and experience I will need to fulfill some scientific goals of mine. I feel a bit like the uncoordinated chick though, in that I am uncertain how to go through the motions to make this work. A scary time!

Anyway, I have done some more shooting at the Great Horned Owl nest last evening (surprise surprise) and have made some videos and pictures I think you will enjoy!

First, Here is a chick getting a bit cavalier about scratching.



And here is the arrival and departure of the female owl (sorry about the weird edit!):


A picture of the mother and the largest chick. The mother is considerably larger than the male, who I have never seen on the nest.


The smelly world of the River Otter


In the life history of most mammals, olfaction plays an important role, especially for social interaction. Scents tell these animals the identity and sex of individuals, as well as the sexual receptivity of females. It is tough for us humans to appreciate the scent-filled lives of these animals, but the other day, Catherine and I got a first-hand demonstration. On Saturday, we watched a River Otter (Lontra canadensis) using scent to mark his territory. River Otters do not have exclusive territories, but rather overlapping ones, and have encounters with other otters frequently.


The male river otter at dawn, swimming westward around Clover Point in Victoria.



First he stops for some grooming.


Then, he checks previously laid down scent marks near the splash zone on the rocks.


Next, he does his thing, no doubt leaving a strong scent (otter poop is one of the smelliest poops, personal observation). The poop is called a “spraint” and is used as a type of scent mark. Urine also functions in signalling.


The otter smells further marks and rubs anal glands along the rock. Doing this deposits a “jelly”, which is another type of scent mark. He was also rubbing his neck on the substrate.


Further westward, he meets another otter scent marking. Some neck sniffing to start with.


Then it escalates.


Seems to be a standoff, with much vocalizing and baring of teeth.


A bit of a pursuit.


Some further vocalizing and tooth-baring.


Finally, one otter adopts what I think is a submissive posture, while the other continues examining scent marks. Shortly thereafter, the otters continue on their separate ways.