Weekend Expedition 48: Iona and McDonald Beach, Pacific Spirit Park


Ochlerotatus dorsalis, a saltmarsh breeding mosquito, is abundant at both McDonald and Iona Beach. This one was particularly persistent and bit readily on my hand.

This weekend, Catherine and I made a few quick trips around the area to hit some of our favourite haunts. The weather was nice, but after a long week including a move back to the Lower Mainland, we were not up for major exertion. Here are some of the cool things we saw.


An dew-covered weevil at McDonald Beach.


Here is another shot of the Ochlerotatus dorsalis. This light-coloured, day-biting mosquito is super-pretty.


The forest of Pacific Spirit Park was full of harvestmen. They could be found on almost every bush along the trail we walked.


This sac spider posed for at least a few frames before dropping to the ground.


A freshly emerged muscoid fly. You can see the ptilinum poking out from the front of its face (just above teh antennae), which it used to pop the cap off its puparium.


A particularly robust springtail on a fallen leaf.


This damsel bug appears to be feeding on some kind of nematoceran fly.


At Iona Beach, there are oodles of non biting midges (Chironomidae) as there are sewage ponds nearby as well as less-polluted man-made ponds.


A male zebra jumper.


This cuckoo wasp was diligently exploring every nook and cranny in this dead log, looking for a host nest for her eggs.


I love the metallic sheen on these. They are also notable for having a very hard exoskeleton, a trait shared with other nest parasites such as velvet ants (Mutillidae).


This shot is pretty cute!



Osprey are always hunting around the ponds at Iona, and this one made several flybys.


The Yellow headed Blackbird can be found at Iona, one of the only places on the coast where it occurs.











Weekend Expedition 47: Some shots from Island View Beach


Catherine and I spent our last full day on the Island visiting her field site at Island View Beach. The weather was cool with a bit of rain, and it was a good time to explore the driftwood and dunes looking for arthropods.


The Formica obscuripes colony I visited earlier this year was busy and seems to have some reproductives emerging.


These ants are colourful and charismatic.


The winged adults were not flying (yet) but seemed ready to do so when conditions are right.


A dance fly (Empididae) waiting on a grass leaf.


A male Zebra Jumper (Salticus scenicus) scoping around for females. These guys have massive chelicerae!


A soldier among workers of the western subterranean termite, Reticulitermes hesperus.


There were quite a few Dysdera crocata hiding under the logs. Catherine and I learned that these can live up to four years in captivity!


A particularly large and pretty giant house spider, Eratigena duellica.


This tiger crane fly bears some superficial similarity to a male black widow… The same long orange-yellow legs with dark joints anyway.



Another crane fly from head-on.


I do not know what this spider might be, and this is the only shot I got…Any ideas?


Tenebrionids live a long and presumably boring life. This one is feeding on moss, which I guess is good, but not my favourite.


This Phidippus johnsoni was the only other jumper we encountered. The Habronattus were not active.


Of course, the widows were quite abundant as usual. We saw many females, none with egg sacs, and no males…Our search was not extensive though. We were hoping to see some of the large overwintered morph males such as the one I encountered last week.


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.


Weekend Expedition 45: Nesting Great Horned Owls!


So yesterday, my brother Colin and I went out to see a hummingbird nest…And I realized we were quite near an area which has supported nesting Great Horned Owls for a number of years. I had never really had a tripod with me or a fast lens, so I had never gone into this dark and gloomy part of the forest to find it. Having both things on hand this time, we went to have a look, and to our surprise, the nest was quite visible from a nearby walking path!  What a great day out!


Here we can see one of the chicks poking its head out to have a look. It may seem from these pictures that the adult was concerned we were there, but the majority of the time the bird seemed to be snoozing, only briefly opening its eyes.


Here the adult does some preening, while the chick has a look at a dog walking by on the trail.


I love how distinguished these owls look.


Here is a rare frame where the adult and the chick watch while we change positions.


Here is a shot of the adult with two chicks, one alert and one yawning.



In case you are wondering what the hummingbird nest looked like, have a look at this beauty!



And in other bird nesting news, check out this shot my brother got of a Cooper’s Hawk grabbing a branch for a nest just behind where the hummingbird nest was! Photo by Colin McCann.

Weekend Expedition 44: French Beach Bugs


This weekend Catherine and I finally got out for an outing in the woods. Her knee is still bad, so it had to be somewhere with not much hiking involved, so we chose to go to French Beach. This park out past Sooke is getting out farther into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and thus has a bit more of the character of a wild west coast beach than those closer to Victoria. Unfortunately for us, the weather had taken a turn for the worse, and the temperature was much chillier than the previous day. We did manage a bit of arthropod hunting, and had lunch before a spat of freezing rain sent us back to Victoria.


The beach was a bit dreary and cold, but that is pretty normal this time of year. If we had managed to get out on Friday it would have been much nicer.


Our first arachnological find was this remarkably still wolf spider. Here is an example of a “naturally chilled” arthropod that retains a normal posture.


We did some excavation under the bark of a downed Sitka Spruce, and found this svelte centipede.


We were delighted to find a lovely Pseudoscorpion under the bark. I am sure the diminutive creature was less happy to see us.


Of course, some lovely Amaurobiids were to be found as well.


Royalty: a formerly-winged reproductive Pacific Coast Dampwood Termite.


At the end of the day, the weekend expedition was a success, as it got us out and active and showed us that there is a life beyond thesis writing!

Weekend Expedition 43: Don Rafael’s farm


We did manage to get out on the weekend for a small expedition, to see a working farm/ranch and some remnant oak and gallery forest near Gualaco. This was a muddy undertaking, as there had been some considerable rain the night before. We did see some cool stuff, including this Laughing Falcon (Herpetotheres cachinnans).


The scrubby ranchlands do not have very large trees,



Catherine and I rode this horse, which had a fresh vampire bite wound on its neck, across the river. That is our host, Don Rafael, on the right.



We checked out some cattle up the road, and their parasitic flies as well.


Upon returning home, we did some shooting of insects and spiders. This is some kind of blister beetle (Meloidae). Catherine has more spider photos here.


A nice jumper that we found inside our window.


Tortoise beetles are awesome!

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!

Weekend Expedition 40: special edition! Seals underwater!


I thought it prudent to get a small video camera to document upcoming fieldwork, so that I can provide PR materials for granting agencies. For this purpose, I got a GoPro, a small “action cam” which has a watertight housing and super wide lens. To put it through its paces, Jeff, my brother and I took it down to Fisherman’s Wharf in Victoria for a close up look at the Harbour Seals. The following is the result.

Not bad eh? Given decent lighting, it does fine video. The still images from it in poor lighting are pretty noisy though, and it probably be best not to rely on it for still shots in the evening:


Nonetheless, it does have a certain gloomy charm.


With the SLR from the surface though, the seal image quality is much better.



The gulls were also looking fine against the reflection of the sky.




So the verdict. Seals and GoPros: a good combo!


Weekend Expedition 39: Winter begins at Burnaby Lake Park


Breeding season is long over, but the eagles still hang out at their nest on the south shore.

I have been super busy this weekend, up at the lab doing work. The semester is coming to an end and I still have so much to do! This weekend expedition was just a couple hour jaunt to Burnaby Lake before heading up to the lab. I hope you enjoy the shots!

We are down to the winter bird fauna now, and Song Sparrows are hanging tough.

This female Wood Duck adds a splash of colour to the wintry scene.


The remains of spawned-out salmon were pretty common out at the mouth of the creek.


Goose bath!


A scaup was diving down and scavenging on dead fish, as were the mallards.


Another Song Sparrow, who was feeding on seeds near the lake.

Weekend Expedition 38: Over Victoria


Uplands Park, a favourite place of mine to take pictures.

This weekend, Catherine  and I came over to Victoria to celebrate my birthday in Victoria with my family. As a present, we went in a flight in a Cessna 172 with my brother, who is a pilot with the Victoria Flying club and a photographer as well. This was Catherine’s first flight in a small plane (although she has been in a helicopter), so we gave her the grand tour of Victoria from the air.



Checking the fuel for water and debris.


Victoria on a hazy fall day. This is typical light for this time of year, and you can see the Olympic Mountains across the Juan de Fuca Strait. .


HMCS Regina (foreground) and HMCS Ottawa (behind) at dock in Esquimalt. They have material laid around them to protect the ocean from fuel spills, but I wonder, given our current government’s stance on oil spills on the coast, why they bother.


The Gorge Waterway.


My mom’s house, and where I grew up!


Clover point, where later in the day we attended a large protest against the pipeline.


Chain Islets, a good place to see breeding birds and resting seals.


Island View Beach, from the air.