Weekend Expedition 61: a wintry Island View Beach


Here is a great shot my brother got using his iphone of Catherine posing with a male widow.

This weekend, our last for winter break in Victoria, Catherine, my brother and I headed up to Island View Beach to see what we could see. After the hectic holiday family-related chores (presents and cooking) it was great to get outdoors on a non-rainy day.


First up was a Tegenaria, which like most of the spiders we found was dewy under the frozen boards and logs we turned.


This doesn’t really count as a natural pose, but I was taking advantage of the dawn sky.


Centipedes are much much more cooperative when cold!


I think that winter centipede photography will be my go-to technique from now on.


We actually have no real idea what this spider is… Possibly a gnaphosid, but we did not get a great look at it.


The winter sky at dawn is often quite beautiful, provided there is not an impenetrable cloud bank to the east.


Again, a centipede, looking elegant and not thrashing about wildly!


We found some winter male widows, which are almost always big and black and female-like.


Catherine found an overwintering queen Vespula pensylvanica. She was totally quiescent and could not be woken up for a photo shoot.


More obligatory widow shots! We were quite happy to see the widows doing so well.


Some kind of tiny Lentinellus-like fungi.


This is a recently-metamorphosed ground beetle of sorts. So nice to see these not scurrying around rapidly! The non-black colour is also really helpful for making a good exposure.


This one is definitely a gnaphosid. we saw the prominent spinnerets!


Catherine provokes a penultimate male widow into defensive silk-throwing.


Just after this, he was docile and cooperative for some photos showing his beautiful palps.


On the way out, we saw a number of Golden-crowned Sparrows.


Winter time can be a great time for photography, even of insects and spiders!


Weekend Expedition 58: fun in Stanley Park


This weekend was quite busy, with the Entomological Society of British Columbia conference taking place Friday and Saturday, taking up most of my time. The conference was quite good, and Catherine and I gave some well-received presentations. This Sunday, I celebrated by heading out to see what I could see in Stanley Park.


The fall colours really make for some gorgeous backgrounds, especially thrown out of focus with wide apertures.


The omnipresent diurnal raccoon crew near Lost Lagoon.


I added some more to my body of crow portraits. I especially like this one’s mouth!


Such gorgeous birds!


Not much was happening on the insect front, perhaps because of the recent heavy rains. I found this Meconema in the rhododendron garden.


Herons are always fun to shoot, even in relatively boring light.


Amanita muscaria, looking good enough to eat (probably shouldn’t though!)


Weekend Expedition 57: Thanksgiving in Victoria


This weekend, Catherine and I visited Victoria, for the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday. The weather was not super cooperative for outdoor activities, and Catherine was working hard on her PhD NSERC proposal, but we did manage one trip out to Island View Beach to check up on the local arthropods. I also went for a stroll in Uplands Park to get some of the following shots.


This is how the rain looked on Saturday morning…


Better to be sheltered inside, or under the eaves of a house!


Quite a few grasshoppers were out and about. This one I shot as it was hiding on a Garry Oak leaf (you can see I was holding a white card below).


A juvenile wolf spider looking odd and elegant with two very prominent eyes.


A Dysdera crocata male in Uplands Park.


An Aphaenogaster occidentalis worker carrying brood in Uplands Park. This species does well in Garry Oak meadows.


Catherine, my friend Jeff, and a borrowed golden retriever (Jackson) at Island View Beach.


The fall selection of resting Hymenoptera was much more limited than previously, with this impressively-ovipositored ichneumonid being the only example we could find.


Resting snakes were about though; this garter snake was torpid and remained in a ball rather than trying to flee when we found her under a log.


Spiders were to be found in large numbers though, this being Arachtober and all. Here is a tetragnathid backlit with a bare flash.


Here is a running crab spider, of the genus Tibellus; the same one appears at the top of the post. These are very elegant-looking little spiders, and make great photographic subjects.


Most of the creatures we found were covered by a light dew. This cranefly sparkles.


This female Araneus diadematus was particularly large. That is Catherine’s finger for scale.


Speaking of large, here is a giant! A giant house spider, formerly Tegenaria duellica, now this species is called Eratigena atrica. Since Catherine is scheduled to give an upcoming talk on spider bites (and how they are very unlikely) at the ESBC conference, we decided for an illustrative photo shoot.


Here is the same spider sinking her fangs into resting peacefully on Catherine’s nose.


Apparently, the feet tickle. Not that I would ever try this, that would be crazy. 


A female Castianeira we found under some old plywood.


A penultimate male black widow. These ones that overwinter always seem to be more robust and darker than the juveniles that develop quickly in the summer. I would imagine this is a textbook example of phenotypic plasticity; one that deserves more careful study.


Again with an eye to Catherine’s upcoming talk, we took some shots of black widow defensive behaviour. Here a female throws glue-like silk on an offending finger. This is so reliable, I might have to try this in a studio setting with some nice backlight!


Last but not least, on our final morning in Victoria, we walked on Mt. Tolmie, where we found this male Anna’s hummingbird, still defending territory. It is impressive these little birds are still nesting in the cold wet fall!

Weekend Expedition 56: To the realm of the pikas



This weekend, Catherine and I were invited by Sofi Hindmarch and Brian Coote (along with his kids Alexa and Jamie) to go down to Mt. Baker, a stratovolcano in Washington State near the Canadian border. On Sunday, we went on a trip to Lake Ann, a 13 km alpine trail. Catherine had to sit this one out due to knee issues, but I went to document our trip. This was my first outing to the alpine zone in quite a while, and it was not disappointing!


A Hericium abietis! These are great edibles, but as we were in a reserve, we did not take it. There were also numerous King Boletes nearby.


Alexa stops for a water break.


The view going up the trail, Sofi in the lead, followed by Jamie and Alexa.


Near the crest! 


An American Pika, Ochotona princeps. These odd lagomorphs make a whistling alarm call when disturbed.


These animals prefer talus slopes, and spend much of the summer gathering and drying plant material for a long cold winter buried beneath the snow.


We saw these giving alarm calls in response to both Red-tailed Hawks and some kind of mustelid (possibly a marten or a mink).


At the end point of our trip, I found this wolf spider under a rock.



To prove we did it: Brian, Sofi, Jamie and Alexa in front of Lake Ann.


Of course, on the way down I could not resist more pika shots.




Yet another pika scanning the skies.


Blueberry break on the way back.


Much needed fuel for the last leg of the trip.

Weekend Expedition 55: Fashion shooting at Island View Beach


This weekend I went to Victoria, and spent both Saturday and Sunday morning at dawn at Island View Beach. The usual cast of characters was about, so I took the opportunity to do some experimentation with background, lighting, composition and cropping. I am sure you are all getting a bit tired of Coelioxys now, but they make such great models! They are awesome for practicing macro photography with.

If there are any suggestions from other photographers regarding what else I could be doing with these photo ops, please let me know in the comments!


Here is a wider shot showing the beach behind and the rising sun. I like shooting these kinds of shots, but it is difficult to get great results with the setup I have now.


These two are shot against the beach grass, with its characteristic pale green.


The same two shot against the blue sky. and cropped to portrait. 


Here is a natural-light shot of a Coelioxys. The light has a different quality to it, and it is difficult to get a sharp shot.


Megachile perihirta against the rising sun.


Dragging the shutter to make beautiful rim light on the hair.


BC Day Long Weekend part 1: Camosun Bog


This weekend was a long weekend here in BC, and I managed to get out of the house quite a bit (I also completed revisions to my thesis as well as 1 paper). I took so many photos I will have to break them up into several posts. This first set comes from Saturday evening, when Catherine and I visited Camosun Bog, a small bog in Pacific Spirit Park.


A geometrid caterpillar rearing up in response to being disturbed,


A female Phrurotimpus borealis, a gorgeous corinnid which we saw previously at Mt. Tolmie in Victoria.


Some eggs under bark in the forest.


A linyphiid on her web. I find these some of the most challenging spiders to shoot well.


Evening was coming on, and as the dark approached, the jumping bristletails started appearing.


Our coolest find of the evening was a bunch of assassin bug nymphs. These are in the subfamily Emesinae, in the genus Empicoris. Look at the awesome hook-like hairs of this nymph, which will hook on to debris to make a Ghillie suit kind of camouflage.


Emesines are slow-moving ambush predators, and it is not hard to get them to pose.


Here is one of the adults we found. While not difficult for photography, it eventually got sick of the shooting and flew away.


This shot shows the raptorial forelegs to good effect.

Weekend Expedition 52: Return to the exit ramp


Last week, Catherine Scott, Sam Evans and I returned to the Annacis Island exit ramp to see the amazing array of salticids in all their glory. A rather odd place for a Weekend Expedition, but we found there is abundant life to be found in a noisy, chaotic industrial zone roadway.


Believe it or not, a concrete barrier provides great habitat for spiders! All the cracks, gaps and holes are good for retreats, and the busy roadway provides an endless source of maimed and stunned insects to serve as prey.



Most of the jumpers we found were smaller sized, but there were a few larger Phidippus as well.


This Phidippus female looks especially pretty on her drab background.


One of the most common spiders was Salticus scenicus, the introduced Zebra Jumper.


Here a Salticus scenicus female munches on a maimed moth.


Other arthropods are to be found on the concrete as well, such as ground beetles, ants and honeybees.


We found this crab spider in the rock fill of the bridge. It has a colouration reminiscent of Evarcha jumping spiders.


I am not sure who this cutie is, but she kept raising her palps up in a really endearing way.


Here is an Evarcha showing off some stunning eyes.


I did manage to find another male Habronattus decorus!


Their colouration is remarkable, but it is hard to convey in a photo!


Catherine and Sam found a couple male Habronattus ophrys males! We had no idea these beauties were to be found here; we had found them previously at Iona Beach.




Behold the awesome eyebrows and palps!



We stopped for some emergency calories at a local organic eating establishment McDonald’s and found this interesting contraption, well guarded by a furious chihuahua!



Feel the fury!

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 50: Richmond Nature Park


Wow! I can’t believe Weekend Expedition is turning 50! Seems like just yesterday we were at Richmond Nature Park, bringing bugs to kids and speculating how cool it would be to walk around and see the place. Catherine and I saddled up after a long week to see what we could see in this Richmond gem, a bog forest habitat just off Westminster Highway. The day was bright and sunny, but it was cool on the trails.


A male linyphiid (sheetweb weaver) hangs out on Oregon Grape.


These staphylinids seem to be having a sex party on a flowering Labrador Tea.


Catherine and I got our animal feeding jollies at home before setting out: we now have some really fat spiders!


Some prime spotting by Catherine: a female Snakefly!



This (lauxaniid?) is feeding on the corpse of a barklouse.


I really like how this chironomid blends into the lit-up leaf.


This one, in contrast, stands out.


This place is full of blueberries, all along the trails. None ripe yet though!


Here is a male Philodromus dispar in silhouette.


We found a whole bunch of rhaphidophorids (camel crickets) under some bark.


Back out toward the entrance was a newly-fledged Rufous Hummingbird.


Mama would come periodically with food.


The fledgling was already feeding itself as well!


This throat-stabby feeding looks painful, but seems to work well enough.


The whole scene was quite wonderful to see. In only a month and a half, they will be shipping out for a long migration south.



Weekend Expedition 49: you don’t have to go far!


This weekend I spent close to home, working on my final thesis tweaks before it goes out to my committee. Instead of going on a proper expedition, I decided to explore our new neighbourhood of Kerrisdale. Right near our house is a largely-disused railway line that has some good habitat, including tall grasses and saplings, so that is where I rambled. In addition to finding the cuckoo wasps on Friday evening, I also saw a bunch of other cool stuff!


At the top of the grasses where I found the chrysidids, I encountered many large sac spiders (Clubionidae). These fearsome-looking spiders all seemed to be feeding on the same thing: Aphids! With these huge chelicerae and fangs, it seems to be a bit of an overkill!


Check out the chelicerae on this girl!


Also interested in aphids, these Myrmica are milking a thriving colony on a sapling. I figure these are Myrmica incompleta, a fairly robust species.


Myrmica are rather fascinating ants, and a genus I am working with. More on this another day.


These ants have quite the herd of aphids!


On a quick trip to Trout Lake (in East Van), I found some little katydid nymphs. These appear to be meadow katydids, a welcome change from the introduced drumming katydids.


A robust dolichopodid (Long-legged Fly) by the side of Trout Lake. They are quick!


Not quick enough for this tiger fly (Coenosia spp.)!


Here is a Coenosia looking regal and dramatic in the sunset.


This golden dung fly (Scathophaga stercoraria) was also looking regal (and probably freshly-eclosed).


Back at the railroad tracks in Kerrisdale, I found these Lasius taking honeydew from a scale insect on an oak sapling.


and some mating Coleophora deauratella (red clover casebearer).