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Weekend Expedition 51: Wild Research Butterfly ID workshop


This weekend, I went to the UBC Botanical Garden to cover another Butterfly ID workshop for Wild Research. This was very similar to last year’s event, basically a crash course in family and species-level ID of BC butterflies and a pitch to take part in the BC Butterfly Atlas project. This project is a citizen science initiative aimed at documenting diversity and trends among butterfly species across the province.  The classroom learning in the morning was followed by a walk around the grounds to catch and ID butterflies found amid the large botanical collection, which represents several BC habitat types.


Getting the ID sheet squared away with the field guides.


This kid was the focus of much of my attention! Super cute and periodically voicing her opinion on the proceedings.



ID quiz!


Seriously, the kid was pretty adorable.


We learned about diversity and ecology of butterflies, as well as planting a garden with butterflies in mind.


Butterflies can get to be about this big! (Taisha Mitchell was actually talking about planting for butterflies, and did a great job!)


I think I can see the speaker and the screen in her glasses. Enhance!


Well I guess that only works in the movies…




A Western Tiger Swallowtail in the garden.



Captive-reared Painted Ladies were on hand in case no wild ones showed up!


I am not sure what she is planning to do with this Painted Lady, but my guess is eat it!


A beautiful Halictid on the way to the Alpine section.


Getting familiar with the sweep net is an important component of the indoctrination training.



The pond in the Alpine section is actually a good place to find Pacific Treefrogs!


Weekend Expedition 41: Reifel Sanctuary with Wild Research


I realize that the Weekend Expedition is getting a bit repetitive, and I resolve in the New Year to shake things up a bit. In fact, I make you a promise. Starting in January, things will be different around here!

I did get away again this weekend, and it was back to Reifel Bird Sanctuary, again with Wild Research.This time, it was not as productive WRT raptors as previous visits, but we did see a Peregrine, some eagles, a Cooper’s Hawk, and a Rough-legged Hawk. The main attraction of Reifel is the ridiculously human-acclimated birds. Cranes feeding from your hand, chickadees landing everywhere…It is like a meetup group for bird flu lovers!


The cold winter air has moved on, and the canals and ponds are melting. The atmosphere was very much like standing in front of a cool mist humidifier.


Mike Hrabar captured this shot of some artistic use of the GoPro to record feeding pigeons.


Mike shooting with his new 300!


The reflection from the ice really makes these ducks pop.



Paul Levesque channeling Steve Zissou.


incoming cranes!


I just love the calls of these elegant birds.


After Reifel, Mike and I headed down to 64th St. (On Boundary Bay) to check out some Long-eared Owls. This one was the only one there, and not very active. Pretty though!

Highlights from the Wild Research Butterfly Workshop

Today I helped out with a Wild Research workshop on the BC Butterfly Atlas and citizen science at UBC Botanical Garden. Here are a few of the memorable pics.


not a butterfly! An Arctiid moth!


Painted Lady



Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui, Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae)


A White-crowned Sparrow sings his heart out!


A Halictid, likely in the genus Agapostemon.


It gets exciting!


Mourning Cloak (Nympahlis antiopa, Nympahidae)



Did I ever mention we have European Fire Ants (Myrmica rubra) in Vancouver now?






Weekend Expedition 5: Iona Beach with Wild Research


A beautiful springlike day was a great change from the last Wild Research fieldtrip. Wow. The spiders were crawling, the birds were singing, the frogs were calling and there were warblers and ladybirds, caterpillars and flies.

This bird ID fieldtrip didn’t provide a plethora of species, but it was a very pleasant outing nonetheless. I definitely need to get back for some early insect photos if we get another nice day like that.

Please see below a gallery of images obtained on the weekend expedition to Iona Beach.

Weekend Expedition Plans: Iona Beach With Wild Research

It is time for another outing with Wild Research, this time to Iona Beach, another great wintering bird location. Iona Beach is located just to the North of Vancouver International Airport, and offers several habitats, including freshwater and brackish marshes, ponds, beaches, dunes and tidal riverbanks. I will be out snapping shots of the birders and the birds, hopefully with some nice light!

Weekend Expedition 2: Stanley Park with Wild Research

This weekend expedition was much like any you might venture to make on a winter day in Vancouver: grey and rainy! The rain was not severe though, so with the camera protected by a big umbrella, I headed out with Wild Research for a birdwatching trip led by Elly Knight, a grassland songbird researcher at SFU. The mission today was to get out and see some waterbirds as well as some passerines that make their homes in wintertime Vancouver. I was along to document the fun, as well as to offer my own, often unreliable, ID help! Click on any image below to see a gallery of the resulting shots.

Planning Weekend Expedition 2: Stanley Park with Wild Research

Wild Research is a local consultancy group offering environmental services as well as public education. I have been invited along as an event photographer for some local bird identification trips. The second such trip (Saturday!) is to Vancouver’s famous Stanley Park, which is a great location for both waterbirds as well as forest species.   It is also one of my favorite photography destinations.

Ibycter 2013: a year of photos and blogging


2013 has been a great year for shooting as well as for getting my images out to people who are interested, via this blog! There are so many decent images to choose from, and I am a bit pressed for time right now, so I  will organize the pictures that stood out for me phylogenetically.



One of the beautiful Ammophila featured in Ibycter Illustrated. Photographing sleeping Hymenoptera at sunrise gave me a new appreciation for mixing ambient and flash.


I love the way the dew sparkles on this Lycaenid.


In 2013, I got to indulge myself with many opportunities to shoot Coelioxys, my favourite Megachilid.


Using flowers as colourful backdrops was something I explored in the gardens this year.


Not the best technically, but it was great to come upon this scene of predation between Laphria and Apis. Productive slacking indeed!


Another Laphria found on a window provided a good long photo session so I could explore lighting against the sky.


The end result of a syrphid rearing experiment! Feed your syrphid well!


Some time spent in Victoria in the spring was a good time to revise papers and look for beautiful snakeflies!

This was my favourite of the bunch, with the water droplets adding to the interest.

After this shot, I resolved to shoot more ants, but unfortunately I did not follow through. This was the best ant I shot all year.


I explored a bit of underwater photography with micro-aquaria, but could use some more practice.


I got to use the Monster Macro Rig to good effect in lush grasses, where it excels.


And more Coelioxys!



This was a great year for spider photography, and I shot many species, such as this uloborid, Hyptiotes gertschi.


Although I worked out a hypothetical method for better jumping spider photos, I never put it to use. I got some decent jumper pics nonetheless,


While exiled in Port Moody, we managed to witness some dramatic spider action.


Fieldwork at Island View Beach provided a good excuse to shoot black widows and other great animals.


I managed more than my fair share of crab spider shots, like this one during some time in the community garden.


This dramatic shot of a Woodlouse Hunter was a big hit.


Some of the studio shots I took of jumpers at Iona were also pretty dramatic. This Habronattus ophrys male was pretty on black.


Jumpers also stand out on white.


I found several long philodromids this year, which look elegant stretched out in their concealed mode.


Following a gravid Cellar Spider was a great lesson in spider reproduction.

Starting to harden up and recover movement.

This molting clack widow was a great treat to see.

(non-human) Vertebrates


Shooting seals underwater was a highlight late in the year, thanks to aquiring a GoPro.


Getting out to YVR with the Wildlife Control people was a really fun experience. This molting Peregrine tiercel was one of the better shots I ever got of a peregrine.


I indulged my crow photography habit more than a little in 2013


A family of raccoons provided entertainment and photo ops all through the year

duck for blog1

This snapshot of an injured duck led me into some community activism, and was ultimately used in newspapers and at council meetings.


I git some decent shots during feeding time for some barn swallows.


This eagle in a cottonwood highlights the gentle light you can get on a bright summer day under the shade of a tree.


Probably my favourite bird shot this year, this male Annas hummingbird was spectacular in the evening light.


A studio session with Jasmine the cat provided some ammunition in the war for equality.


These trumpeter swans emerging out of the clouds were also a favourite.


Sandhill Cranes up close are kinda crazy looking!


I lost my good friend and adventuring partner this year. Maggie was an awesome dog and I will miss her greatly.



I got out several times with Wild Research on birding trips. This shot of Paul Levsque channeling Steve Zissou was fun.


The most fun I had with people was some of the outreach we did bringing insects and spiders to kids.


Antonia with maggot art at the Halloween Spooktacular


Meeting Alex Wild and others at the ESC in Guelph was an unexpected boost.


Attending Alex Wild’s insect photography workshop with Mike Hrabar was a great way to start the conference.


Sometimes going out mushroom hunting with friends is the best cure for the fall blues.


Catherine Scott, my scientific collaborator and fellow member of Team Caracara has a great smile and killer stats insight.


Getting out and speaking up for what matters is important. This was shot at the “Stand Up For Science” rally in Vancouver.


OK, here are several more shots of kids with bugs. What could be more awesome?




People gathered together for Moth Night. A great way to spend a summer evening!



Doing Barn Owl work with Sofi was pretty fun. We managed to capture several owls.


A butterfly outing!

Tavi and Viorel

Tavi and Viorel


Antonia with a great stonefly!

Weekend Expedition 21: A spider hunt at Iona Beach


This weekend expedition, I put out the call for our lab members to join me in a trip to Iona Beach, which is just bustling this time of year with all kinds of wonderful creatures, especially some wonderful spiders. I was joined by Catherine Scott, Samantha Vibert, Matt Holl and Nathan Derstine from our lab, and the newly-minted Dr. Gwylim Blackburn of UBC. We were heavily loaded with spider experts, as Catherine studies the western black widow, Sam has studied the hobo spider, and Gwylim is an expert in salticid behaviour and evolution. Luckily for us, Iona Beach was a field site for both Samantha and Gwylim, so they knew the good spots to find the best spiders.


A chrysidid seeks bee nests to parasitize


A male Yellow-headed Blackbird. This population at Iona Beach is a very disjunct coastal population of a normally Interior bird.



A male Salticus scenicus (Zebra Jumper). Look at his amazing chelicerae!


Sam enjoys the Yellow-headed Blackbird


We checked out the progress on the new Wild Research banding hut.


A male Tree Swallow watches his mate’s nest box.


The female peeks out.


Gwylim handles a newly-shed garter snake


So bright!


A male Habronattus americanus traverses a log.


A large female Trochosa wolf spider hides under a log.


A female Hobo Spider (Tegenaria agrestis) under a log at the beach.



A very large female Habronattus americanus was unimpressed with our match making (we tried to bring a male in to see courtship).



The male Habronattus americanus, resplendent with his bright colouration.


This jumper Matt found is is Habronattus hirsutus.


A female Phidippus johnsoni looks out from her egg sac.



Gwillim and Catherine searching for Habronattus ophrys.


Nathan scans the ground carefully. H. ophrys is very elusive!


A beautiful Philodromid (running crab spider) under an aster.

At the end of the day, I did some studio shots with the Habronattus ophrys and the Habronattus hirsutus, as the first one at least has very poor photo documentation.


Habronattus hirsutus


Habronattus hirsutus


Habronattus ophrys


Habronattus ophrys

Weekend Expedition 11: A composite

This Weekend Expedition is a composite of 3 trips, the first, on Saturday to Boundary Bay, where Catherine and I were shooting pics for the final Wild Research fieldtrip of the winter. The light was pretty awful for photography, but the trip was interesting nonetheless, as we were able to see several species of raptor (including some snowy owls) as well as various passerines.

Sunday I went out with Maia Smith to try out her Canon 7D, specifically the autofocus capabilities thereof for photographing birds in flight…I was amazed at how much easier it was to lock on and stay locked on to flying birds than using my own lazy Canon 60D. This point was driven home forcefully later that day in Deep Cove, where I was unable to get good focus lock on a Red-tailed Hawk and Raven sparring in the sky.   I really need to improve my technique with the flying birds, but perhaps in addition it would help to have a fully capable autofocus system…

Anyway, enjoy the pics below.