This Weekend Expedition was an important working trip, to collect wild stock for Catherine’s western black widow colony. Catherine studies the sexual communication of these beautiful spiders, and requires wild stock to work on. The purpose of this trip was to collect adult females, as well as egg sacs to give the annual boost that her colony requires. We set out Sunday morning to Island View Beach on the Saanich Peninsula of Vancouver Island to turn over logs and search for a hidden treasure of Latrodectus hesperus.
On the ferry ride over, Catherine begrudgingly shared her breakfast with some gulls.
And became a big star!
Providing some close up views of gulls flying over water!
Island View Beach
Catherine explains the double pocket technique: load one pocket with empty vials, and transfer to the other as you collect the spiders.
Jeff and Chloe search a log
Devin traversed the dunes.
A rare overwintered male black widow. It is darker than ones reared in the lab.
A not-yet-adult female black widow.
Black widows were not the only spiders we found of course. Here is a female hobo spider with her egg sac.
A river otter chows into a large sculpin at East Sooke Park.
This weekend was the Victoria Day Holiday in Canada, so what better way to spend it than out searching for cool things in and around Victoria? Over the course of the past four days, I traveled on the Saanich Peninsula, out to East Sooke, and around the city to various localities to take pictures of natural things. I also spent some time by the seaside in Oak Bay, shooting intertidal creatures for the Cheapskate Tuesday post to follow. I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as Catherine and I enjoyed taking them!
The Bald Eagles nest at Oak Bay Firehall every year, and are great in the evening light!
Juxtaposition of a rainbow and a robin.
Three bird species in this shot!
My shots of a Camponotus ant colony…Myrmecos here I come!
This was my favourite of the bunch, with the water droplets adding to the interest.
This hydro right-of-way near Prospect Lake is great edge habitat where I like to go to find lizaards and snakes
Full of invasive Scitch Broom of course, but that one is never going away….
Gulls near Ogden Point.
Ah, East Sooke Park! The access trail is full of slugs, and used to be full of Red-legged frogs as well, but these are getting very rare indeed.
Western Red-backed Salamander.
Trees, light and rocks.
Maggie was our faithful, slightly insanne companion for the hike.
Amphipods mating in a tide pool! Check out those claws!
Epiphytic growth on a fir.
Stonecrop is common in the drier rocky areas.
Catherien examines a spider?
Unidentified elasmobranch. ID suggestions? The jaws were 16 cm across.
teeth of aforementioned elasmobranch.
Sculpin above calcareous red alga.
Lots of pink!
I like this, sea and sky and rock, together with crab.
A River Otter feeding.
Looking south across the Strait of Juan de Fuca at Washington State and a US Coast Guard ship.
Isopods abounded too!
Catherine takes a break in the spring sun.
Canadian Forces CF18, Note the false canopy, drop tanks and live Sidewinders. My brother tells me it was a coastal patrol flight.
Maggie’s mission is to retrieve stuff, even kelp. It is in her nature!
A Northern Alligator Lizard at Mt. Tolmie.
Many species of birds were feeding on very abundant caterpillars on the Garry Oaks.
Frugivore turns insectivore!
Granivore becomes insectivore!
Dysdera crocata, the woodlouse hunter! We found a male and female beneath a log.
I am back in my real hometown: Victoria, BC, looking after my mom’s dog Maggie while my mom makes a trip to the Rockies. Because I am getting out twice a day with the dog, and sometimes can be persuaded to go out shooting with my brother, there is a good chance I will get some decent photo opportunities. Here is some of what I got yesterday.
Aedes togoi, an introduced mosquito from Japan, was first discovered in Victoria by my entomology professor Richard Ring. This one was hanging out at Cattle Point adjacent to the rock pools where it breeds.
The other day, when I was out searching for aquatic insects for my new aquarium photography setup, I came to a small pond in the forest just below the school, and could have swore that a Red-legged Frog jumped into the water. I did not want to stir up the pond to much, so I told myself I would come back to confirm.
This morning, after sending my predation manuscript to my coauthors for their input, I went down for a peek. Sure enough, right at the border of the pond, was a beautiful Rana aurora! I took a few photos before letting the frog go on its way. I checked the pond with a net, and found that it was full of eggs and larvae, so this was not the only one! I am excited to see this, as this species has been declining across its range in BC (though they were quite abundant when I was a kid). It is good to know that despite the super pro-development forces at this school, that there still remain parklands that can support these frogs.
This weekend, I will be giving a talk at the Science Rendezvous at SFU (part of a national science festival), so perhaps in the morning I will do some more exploring of the wooded areas near the school. If anyone is interested in attending, my talk is at 12:30!
Piper Spit is the main, official entrance to Burnaby Lake Park. It is also a great waterfowl haven, with nest boxes for wood ducks and reed beds. I will go there tomorrow morning with Mike and Catherine to try my luck at shooting excessively cute Canada Goslings! I will of course have the full (heavy) kit with me so any cool insects or spiders are also fair game…
Last night, a chance photograph of a large Cellar Spider led to a wonderful discovery. Our Pholcus phalangiodes is gravid!
These Longbodied Cellar Spiders are temperate representatives of a largely tropical group of spiders, and are common members of the household fauna. This gravid cellar spider has a large distended abdomen and through the cuticle you can see her ovaries with their developing eggs.
The newly yolk-filled eggs are white, and as they mature, they become dark towards the end of the abdomen. I am expecting that soon we will see this female brooding her package of newly-laid eggs soon, as this one did in the same spot last year.
Within a month or so, these will hatch into gorgeous little translucent Cellar Spiderlings which will remain close to the female until after their first molt.
Despite her advanced gravid state, our Cellar Spider has not lost her long-limbed lean look, which is probably easy if you are a Cellar Spider! For more information about the reproduction of this impressively leggy species, see here.
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!
Isn’t it gratifying when the lessons you teach your students stick?
Antonia Musso, who was my entomology student in 2010, correctly identified this as a Stonefly (Order Plecoptera) and that they are best preserved in ethanol. She also remembered the most important lesson…Bring the cool insects to me!Adam Blake was quick on the species ID, determining it to be Pternarcys californica(family Pternarcydae). His photo is here.