Tag Archive | BC

Weekend Expedition 29: life isn’t all slo’ mo’


Well, we have been working hard for 9 days with the Photron SA-5, and this weekend was mostly busy as well. I managed to get some time out to take some photos amongst all the high speed madness. Most of these shots were taken during 6 minute downloading breaks with the camera, and I also snuck in a quick trip to the local community garden.


Culiseta incidens, probing my finger.


tanking up!


Graphocephala fenahi, the rhododendron leafhopper.



A beautiful syrphid bumblebee mimic, Eristalis flavipes.



A flower longhorn in the community garden.



A western yellowjacket delves under bark for prey.

OK, you have made it to the end of the photos. Did I ever mention that I am part American? The following 2 videos were shot at a whopping 10,000 frames per second.



Weekend Expedition 28: Nature outing with Hastings Park Conservancy


This Weekend, I joined local naturalist Istvan Orosi and members of the Hastings Park Conservancy for a guided walk around the pond at Hastings Park, my local greenspace. While Istvan kept an eye out for birds (he is master of the Audubon Bird Call!) I mainly scanned the foliage for insects and spiders.

This week was big for the Conservancy, as the Vancouver City Council heard arguments for the transfer of governance of the park from the PNE corporation (which is not doing that great a job for the wildlife) to to the Parks Board.  The Council will decide the issue in a special session Aug. 1, but I am not really hopeful the governance will change.

In the meantime, here are the pictures I took on Saturday!



An impressive male Tetragnathid, or Long-jawed Orbweaver, which seem common near bodies of water.



Green Lacewing resting in the shade.


A bird-dropping mimic caterpillar, which I believe is that of a swallowtail butterfly.


We spotted a Golden-rumped Warbler, which was a treat.



A nice Ichneumonid.




A crazy looking nymph, which I believe to be Heterotoma planicornis, an odd member of the Miridae.



The star of the show, out in the middle of the pond was a Green Heron, a rare bird in the Vancouver region.


Behold the Green Heron!


Moth Week Expedition at SFU!


Last night, in celebration of National Moth Week, we set up a sheet and some lights near the Insectary Annex at SFU to see what kinds of nocturnal insects we could attract. Because the location offered a clear view of the woods, we brought in a substantial number of the scaly, winged creatures. About 15 people came to enjoy the show, and we saw some pretty cool moths and other nocturnal beasties!








Check out the gallery below to see some of the insects and spiders we found!


Cheapskate Tuesday precluded due to owls!


Sorry, no Cheapskate Tuesday today, as I just got back from another Barn Owl trapping adventure. I need to get to sleep!


Perching on the truck to investigate before capture, this big girl left a souvenir for us.


Owl banded, “transmittered”, and ready for release.


An hour and half after release, we tracked her to a property about 1.5 km away.


Weekend Expedition 26: Biking out to Iona


Trying my hand at bike-borne photography, this is my shot of a jet coming in to YVR. Note the Guaranteed Terrorist Proof® Fence!

This weekend Expedition, my dad and I paid a visit to Iona Beach, a place that has been very productive in the past.  We took our bikes out there, the better to enjoy the scorching sun and cloudless skies…

Like many hot and dry days, this trip was not as productive as it might have been, with many critters deep in shelter, and those that remain active remaining VERY active. Nonetheless, we did turn up a few cool animals, and I hope you enjoy the pics!


The unhappy remains of a green lacewing?


This little garter snake was under a log near the beach.


A Philanthus gibbosus beewolf, so called because they feed their young bees.


A Damsel Bug (Nabidae) haunts the under-log world.


There were few jumpers evident this time, which was a bit of a disappointment, but I did find this one female Habronattus.


A Hobo Spider (Tegenaria agrestis) is actually a pretty elegant looking thing!


There were many nymphal grasshoppers around, or as I like to call them, spider food!


A female Wolf Spider with a nest and an egg sac!


Check out the markings on this Hobo!


The dreaded Dysdera crocata, or Woodlouse Hinter.


A tentful of caterpillars on alder.


I wish I knew my grasshopper well enough to even say what genus this is in…



The buttonflowers can be productive for Hymenoptera.


Bembix Sand Wasp. Check out its crazy labrum!

All in all, the Expedition was not terribly fruitful. In the future I need to get out closer to dawn so as to take advantage of the less-active insects and better light…I made up for it Sunday with a bit of grant-writing at home and some prep for Cheapskate Tuesday.

Barn Owling with Sofi


Sofi and an adult male Barn Owl from several years ago.

Last night, my dad and I went out with my friend Sofi Hindmarch to do some work with Barn Owls (Tyto alba) out in Ladner. I have known Sofi since she was in her masters program, and have been helping her catch and track owls for some years now.

The first task for the evening was to band some chicks in nest boxes Sofi has been monitoring. We checked four nest boxes and saw several owls at the sites, but only one of them had any young inside. This old box in a barn had three chicks.


Sofi carefully removes the chicks from the box.



This owl thinks this is the worst thing ever.


This little guy was pretty calm, but the older chick was snapping and hissing.


My dad watches the proceedings.

After we checked all the boxes, we headed out to try to catch an adult owl. Sofi is continuing her studies on the potential for rodenticide poisoning of Barn Owls in areas where toxic baits are used. Because birds are susceptible to these poisons, and because the threatened owls are such voracious rodent predators, they may be at risk of poisoning. To assess the potential for this type of poisoning, Sofi needs to tag owls with radio tags and do many hours of telemetry to determine where the owls are foraging. In order to do this, we need to catch the owls and fit them with the radio transmitters.

The traps we use are called Bal-chatri traps, and are basically just a wire cage covered in monofilament nooses. Each of the traps has 1 or 2 mice inside, and they are secured by an elastic cord (to lessen shock) to a weight. 

At our first site, near Tsawwassen, a Great Horned owl arrived within seconds of our setup, which forced us to pack up and move to another location. These large owls are able to kill the smaller Barn Owl, so it is not advisable to have them near the trapping operation.

Our second site was free of larger species, and after 20 minutes our so a Barn Owl came in to investigate. The owl perched on the ladder secured to the truck for a while, and made several passes over one of the traps. The owl finally pounced on one trap, and from experience, we knew to let it hang out a while. Often they are not caught, but just feel around for a few moments to try to get mouse. If you rush out too early, the owl will get away.

Sure enough, the owl was not caught, and went over and perched on a sign to think things over. After a short time, it was flying again, and dropped decisively on the trap. We waited again, and the owl flew up and then turned immediately and was back on the trap. Sofi did not think it was caught, but the way it pivoted during its little hop told me it had been snagged, so I rushed out to grab it. It was caught, and the owl turned just as I was on it and tried to swipe my face with its talons. After I had it in hand, it calmed right down, and more so when we hooded it with a cotton bag.


This was an large older female owl, and had the molt to show it.

After measuring and weighing the bird, we put the transmitter on and examined it for fit.


Here is the transmitter in place on the back.


Sofi shows the specialized serrations on the second talon, which is thought to be an adaptation to remove ectoparasites.


Wow! My very own owl shot! Photo by Sofi Hindmarch.


A gorgeous bird.

The most important part of the evening is shown below, the successful release of the owl, unharmed. I may not be much of a all night partier, but if it is an owl party, count me in!


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Weekend Expedition 24: Long Weekend in Victoria


This halictid peering out of a burrow was probably the coolest shot I managed.

This Canada Day Long Weekend, Catherine and I took the ferry to Victoria to visit my mom and chill out in the record-setting heat. This was great for the party people, not so great for our skin and the photographic opportunities. Strangely enough, very hot and dry weather is not very good for nature photography, as the light becomes very harsh very quickly, and those few insects that have not retreated to shelter from the elements are zipping around like maniacs with their metabolisms in high gear.

I did get some decent shots however, it was just a lot more painful than it might ordinarily have been.


The first day, Catherine and I kayaked out to Discovery Island, just off Oak Bay, where a wolf has been living (!) since this winter.


Although the voyage over was scenic and the water calm, I did not trust my ability to hold the camera free of the salt spray to shoot the seals and seabirds we saw. When we arrived, the overheated little island yielded little photographic material. It was also ridiculously hot.


We did not end up seeing the wolf, but we did find some of its droppings, which were still fragrant and moist.


One lowly Chestnut-backed Chickadee was the best I could come up with.


Later that evening, walking on Dallas Road, we did some gull and dog shooting.


a monster!


This little guy was having a ball.


The heat created some interesting haze effects on the water.


Maggie, my mom’s dog is more sedate, but still a great model.


The cliffs at Dallas Road (in Beacon Hill Park) are  a great place to find solitary bees, including Anthophorids, Megachilids and Halictids. These sandy cliffs are great for burrowing species.


A beautiful little Halictid.



IMG_1516 IMG_1560


It was so rich with Hymenoptera, but so hard to shoot them in the sun, I came out Tuesday at dawn to try to catch them when they were less active…


Unfortunately for me, the only insects that were slowed by the dawn temperature drop were a couple crabronids. All the Anthophora shot out of their burrows pre-heated and ready to work!



I did manage one shot of Anthophora bomboides peeking out of its burrow.


Frustrated in the morning, I went out late Tuesday afternoon for some shooting at Uplands Park.


Some kind of flower-feeding scarab.


A juvenile katydid!


Small robber fly with aphid prey.

Weekend Expedition 23: Swallows around Vancouver


This weekend Expedition was a bit of a walk in the park, specifically two parks: Stanley Park on Saturday and Maplewood Park on Sunday. Nothing much was going on, and to be honest I was a bit worn out from Barn Owl work on Friday night; Sofi and I banded three chicks in rural Richmond and checked some nest boxes.


I am cute, but I cause fatigue!

The original intention was to go out and get some last-minute Pollinator Week shots to wow you all with, but I got to Stanley Park late, and the best thing on offer were these lovely Barn Swallow chicks being fed by their parents. Over the course of the next three hours, I practiced shooting their incredibly high-speed prey deliveries, and saw the world of insects from the “FEED ME!!!” perspective of the chicks.  Most of the prey seemed to be pupal Chironomidae, which were presumably taken by the adults skimming on the wing.




Adult and chick together


The reverse-the-head maneuver. I often use this when eating nachos, just to show off.



The bright colour of the youngster’s gape is evident here. An easy target for the adult to aim for.



I imagine this  would be somewhat disconcerting the first few times.



Sears Portrait of the chicks.


Contented and sleepy. This phase lasts approximately two minutes.









Other species of swallow were also around, such as this juvenile Violet-green Swallow.



An adult Tree Swallow beside a juvenile Barn Swallow.


And an adult Violet-green Swallow.


At Maplewood Park, we saw some Purple Martins perched above the beach.


Female Purple Martin.


The killer pollinator shots will have to wait for later in the year!