Tag Archive | Vancouver

Weekend Expedition 30: A day off in Stanley Park


A picture of me, with a sizable prey item, trying to hold it together!

It has been a busy couple weeks here in Vancouver, preparing manuscript revisions for an upcoming paper and writing grant proposals for upcoming fieldwork. They way it is looking now, I may soon be travelling to Honduras in the fall for a 3 week expedition to survey for Red-throated Caracaras and Scarlet Macaws in a remote region of Olancho. This trip will also be to familiarize myself with the terrain, meet the local conservationists and researchers, and get rolling on some permitting issues pertaining to future fieldwork. This is an exciting development for species and habitat conservation, as well as for my harebrained scheme to continue research on my favourite loud birds!

Anyway, with all the excitement, it has been tough to find time to go out to shoot, but that is exactly what I did yesterday, hanging out in Stanley Park, and seeing what the late summer had to offer.


At first, I thought this fly was a member of the Orthorrhapha, the group including horseflies, but Morgan Jackson of Biodiversity in Focus correctly ID’ed it as a Tachinid! Don’t believe me? Check out the closeup of the antennae! The species is Euthera setifacies, one of only two species of Euthera in North America.


That’s a Cyclorhaphan, man! Those antennae are aristate!


The Himalayan Blackberry is still being visited by pollinators, but the vast majority of the fruit is ripe.


The ripe blackberry is under heavy attack by Drosophila suzukii, an invasive species of vinegar fly from Japan. This is male shows why  the species goes by the common name “Spotted-winged Drosophila”.


This male Common Aerial Yellowjacket (Dolichovespula arenaria) is also a harbinger of fall. Their colony cycle is almost finished, reproductives are being produced, and within a month or so their nests will decline.


When the Bald-faced Hornets (Dolichovespula maculata) start nectaring, it is also an indication their colonies are in decline. Because much of the sugar for the adults is produced by the larvae (trophallaxis!), when larval numbers are low, adults must find other sources of fuel.


A Sierra Dome Spider, Neriene litigiosa (Linyphiidae) has a snack at the top of her dome web. As fall approaches, these become extremely apparent in almost every salal bush.


Our largest native slug, the Spotted Banana Slug eats some skunk cabbage.


The termites are flying, and their long wings and slow flight make for easy snares for web-building spiders. I like how the green of the fern is reflected in the translucent wings.


A Pacific Forktail (Ischnura cervula) hangs out by the water.


A Black Dancer (Mystacides sepulchralis) a type of Caddisfly, rests near Lost Lagoon.


Some kind of Nematus sawfly.


A raccoon checks out the situation before crossing the water.


I love how they hold their tails out!


Those without tails make do.



A very late brood Mallard Duckling from water level.


I was excited to see this male Pine White nectaring.


The omnipresent Woodland Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanoides).


Skippers can be pretty cute!


A lucky Goldenrod Crab Spider (Misumena vatia) takes advantage of the skipper abundance.


An introduced Drumming Katydid female (Meconema thalassinum) hangs out on a fern. Check out Piotr Naskrecki’s awesome blog post showing katydids ovipositing!


A colourful background makes this bumblebee pop!

Cheapskate Tuesday 25: Einige Kleine NachtSpinnen


A few weeks ago, I suggested a Rat Safari, as a budget-minded wildlife photo expedition that is easy to do in most cities. Today, I bring you a budget spider safari, which Catherine and I conducted in the tiny  park across the street. For this to work, I needed some constant illumination in the subject area, so I simply taped my Fenix E-05 flashlight to the lens hood of my 100 mm, which illuminated the spiders for easy focusing. The lighting for the shots was simply accomplished with a single diffused speedlight on the Monster Macro Rig. I hope you enjoy the photos, and are inspired to go find some little night spiders yourself!



Realm of the Amaurobiids: These Hacklemesh Weavers are the most abundant of the spiders we found. Their disordered web flanking their retreat is laid as a trap for unwary passing insects.


Some webs are more sparse than others!


Here is a freshly-moulted Amaurobiid.


We guess that this is a male Steatoda hespera (Therediidae).


These small orb weavers (Araneidae) were out in small numbers.


A nice big sac spider (Clubionidae)! This is a female.


Could this male sac spider be the same species as the previous? It is difficult to tell. There are hundreds of species of Clubionidae in Canada.


Here a male Amaurobiid tackles an introduced Drumming Katydid (Meconema thalassinum)



A bad idea threatens wildlife in our local park

Duck with fishing hook, Hastings Park

This poor young Mallard has a hook embedded in the wing, and likely a broken wing from trying to free itself.

Yesterday, I took my dad down to see Hastings Park, one of the very few natural areas in my neighbourhood. After making our way along the shore, we came to the north side of the pond, where we stopped for a while to watch a heron preening. After a time, we noticed a group of young Mallards sitting on the shore. One of them had its left wing drooping, as if it was injured. We thought at first that the raccoon we had seen earlier had attacked it, but closer inspection revealed that the poor duck had a fishing hook stuck into its wing. Evidently, the bird had become snagged on the hook and broken its wing trying to free itself.

How could this come to be? Why was there a discarded fishing hook hanging from one of the branches?

Well, the story behind this actually is more than a bit creepy. Stan Taylor, another nature enthusiast was there when we met this unfortunate duck and  gave us the background. A couple months ago, the administrators of the park (which is a private company!) and the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC decided it would be fun for the public to be able to fish in the pond, and so they plowed a route down to the water (in bird nesting season) and installed a dock for people to fish from. They also released 900 sterilized rainbow trout for people to catch. The rules were supposed to be that the fishing was only to occur at that specific dock, but people began fishing all around the pond in the height of nesting season, trampling down vegetation and leaving waste all around the park.


Here is a hook hanging in Hastings Park on June 11, ready for a frugivorous bird to grab it.

This is a really ill-thought out idea, that goes in direct opposition to the planning that has been done by the Hastings Park Conservancy and the recommendations of the Friends of Hastings Park. Instead of a quiet urban refuge for wildlife, the powers that be want to make this quiet park into a far different place, where people learn how to kill aquatic animals for sport. I am not against fishing  per se, but this tiny little pond is not the kind of place for it. Here in East Vancouver, we have so little in the way of habitat for wildlife, that every little bit should be carefully managed.


130 species of bird have been sighted in Hastings Park, and there is an active eagle nest in a large cottonwood.

Anyway, I have sent the pictures and a letter to the Parks Board and put up the video on YouTube. This unfortunate bird is probably only one of many that have been or will be adversely affected by this change in the way the park is used. Hopefully this will help change some minds about having an unaccountable private entity control one of our public parks.

Hastings Park is one of my favourite nearby places to go to see wildlife, and it would be a shame if injuries like this become the norm for the birds nesting and migrating through the park.

For more information about the controversy, see the following links:

Article in Vancouver Courier

Opinion Article from Vancouver Courier

Metro Article


Weekend Expedition 22: Strathcona Park, Vancouver


This Weekend Expedition was to the wilds of Stratchcona Park (no not that one). This is a large park in East Vancouver that features some huge cottonwoods, playing fields and a big community garden! Also, there is a bald eagle nest in one of the cottonwoods, so it is just the place for an insect/raptorophile such as myself.


These chicks will likely fledge in a week or so. I thought this was a cool shot showing them all stacked up in the morning light.

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There are many ways to enjoy the park, like biting your best friend’s head at full gallop!


A Cranberry Girdler (Chrysoteuchia topiaria) rests on a grass stem. The gardens are a good source of pests!


A male Wool Carder Bee (Anthidium manicatum: Megachilidae), a European import, waits on Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantina) for a female.


A female Wool Carder gathers Lamb’s Ear fibers for her nest.


The Varied Carpet Beetle (Anthrenus verbasci) is a gorgeous flower feeder in the summertime.


Coming in!


Honeybee in a poppy.


A  pretty little ichneumonid  (Mesostenus thoracicus)grooms.


The under-log fauna. Isopods are actually quite attractive little beasts.


A large stinkbug on a dead daisy.


A Linnaeus’s Spangle-wing (Chrysoclista linneella), sits on a trunk. There were hundreds out today, flying around a grove of European Linden.


This crab spider enjoys the haul of Spangle-wings.

Happy accident

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I was off shooting in Hastings Park this evening, using the Monster Macro Rig and having a good time shooting immature insects. Everything was working as advertised, and I got a few decent shots of caterpillars, sawfly larvae and a nymphal seed bug.  The beauty of this rig is that the background and subject are both lit at a tiny aperture, making motion irrelevant and achieving the look a tripod shot might.

Then the batteries in the subject light died just as I was shooting a damselfly…


Although it was not the shot I intended, I am pretty pleased with the result! This is the type of thing that gives me just the boost I need. Maybe I will try a series of silhouettes next.

Weekend Expedition 15: Hastings Park


This Weekend Expedition, we set out to go to North Vancouver’s Maplewood Park. Just a short bus ride across the bridge, right? Well, if is if you manage to catch the bus! Catherine and I arrived at the bus stop just as our bus was pulling out…And it was Sunday, so the next one was in 25 minutes. No problem! Lets just walk to the next bus stop and wait there.


This bus stop was awesome, we had knitting to do and Tobey Maguire (Spiderman!) to keep us company. Except the next bus didn’t stop for us! Apparently, our special bus only stops at the first stop (not that they are labelled or anything. Thanks TransLink!). Rather than wait another 25 minutes, we decided to change plans and head to Hastings Park, a few blocks away. Have a look below to see what we found!


The crows are nesting!


this looks a lot like Brumoides histrio, a type of Ladybird beetle (Coccinellidae). UPDATE: this is actually Brumus quadripustulatus. Thanks V. Belov!





We call them harvestpersons. This one appears to be a harvestchild.


first Odonates!


To me this looks like an Anthomyiid. Anyone else have an idea?





I think this syrphid turned out pretty nicely.




The first Damselflies of the season!


I liked how the drop on this lupine magnified the details.


A Sawfly


This Ichneumonid was hunting on the Lupines




taken with the Monster Macro Rig…Even though the leaf was moving, the whole exposure is with flash, so no problem.


I wasn’t the only photographer there. Check out this guy with a large format camera!






Chironomid midges!



This Red-winged Blackbird was doing an awesome job defending his territory.


This was my favourite photo of the trip…This heron was unconcerned with me after I had squatted observing for a while. I was apple to approach really close.

Cheapskate Tuesday 13: Little progress on the Salticid Startler®, but here are some more bees!

I have made little progress on the Salticid Startler®, owing to other commitments, but I have purchased some nail polish for the chelicerae and paint for the bodies. I will update when I make more progress. In the meantime, have a look at Mike’s new 50 mm 1.8L lens! Some creative work with red pinstriping and he has got about 2 bucks more on the resale value. He also has a great conversation piece!

And as an update to the Weekend Expedition post, here is some more video and pictures of the large Solitary Bee (I haven’t figures out if they are Colletes or Andrena) colony.


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Beeflies were standing by to parasitize the nests.

Weekend Expedition 14: Pacific Spirit Park


On this Weekend Expedition, Catherine and I found out what just a tiny bit of Pacific Spirit Park has to offer. It is really large, and we did not cover very much ground!

Since this was a joint effort, we decided to concentrate on forest invertebrates, which worked well during our last field season in French Guiana. Catherine is really good at spotting things!

The first of her great finds was this lovely Dance Fly (Empididae). They look a bit like Robberflies, and in fact are somewhat related (both are Orthorrhapha). The Empidids are a really diverse group, so if anyone has ID suggestions, I would love to hear them!



The second major find is what looks like a gravid Wolf Spider. This big girl was sheltering in a rotted log, and impressed us with its lovely large abdomen.



And check out these Net-winged Beetles (Dictyoptera simplicipes). There were a whole bunch in a seeming mating aggregation on a rotting log in one dark little section of the forest. So colourful!

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Those have to be one of the most impressively bright insects of early spring that we have!

The second bright spot in these dark woods was this gorgeous male Amaurobiid, sheltering in a knot hole in a snake fence. You can see his modest hacklemesh web and his dark retreat. These spiders are fascinating and beautiful, and I would like to learn more about them…


A fern frond for colour and contrast in a small patch of sun.


The author in situ

The author in situ. Photo by Catherine!

As we left the park, this Equisetum emerging from the moist soil near Camosun Bog was a beautiful sign of spring.


But wait! There’s more! On our way out to a bus stop, we were immediately impressed by a large gathering of bees in Chaldecott Park. These were Andrenids (update: they may have been Colletes) busy mating, digging nests and provisioning them. There were hundreds if not thousands in this small 20 m sq. patch of grass. I did not get a good chance to shoot them really well, because a big rainstorm was coming, but I think I will head back out there this afternoon with Mike to examine some of the bees for parasites. This patch might also be a good spot to put in a temporary fence to keep folks from damaging the nest site. With all the concern for native pollinators, it seems like a good place to try to protect.



Colours boosted to emphasize bees.


The same as above, with yellow and green pushed to white and desaturated. Look at all those bees!


at the burrow



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Weekend Expedition Plans: Pacific Spirit Park

One of the largest wooded areas in Greater Vancouver is the former UBC Endowment lands, now known as Pacific Spirit Park. Of all the large parks in the region, I have spent the least amount of time in this one. I do not live close by, and it takes a while to get there, but I thought it might be fun to check out. Highlights of some of my past trips included Ceruchus striatus (see below), one of our few stag beetles… Stand by for a full report Sunday or Monday!

Pretty bad photo, but a pretty badass beetle!