Thwarted bluets


The sex was good, but quickly things went downhill.

Tule bluets are damselflies, the smallish cousins of dragonflies. While we have a number of species of damselflies, the tule bluet is the one I see most frequently along the lakeshore. August is time for bluets to mate. Their requirements are few: a partner, a place to perch while mating; and undisturbed access to a place to lay the eggs.

Male and female tule bluets are easily distinguished by colour: the male is bluish, the female is yellowish. Initially, the male transfers sperm from near the tip of his abdomen to the end near his thorax. Then he uses claspers on the end of its abdomen to hold the female by the back of her neck. She, in turn, swings the tip of her abdomen around to receive his sperm. So far, so good.

The couple flies off together to lay the freshly fertilized eggs. He continues to hold her neck and accompany her so as to protect his investment from the incursions of nearby single males, who would highjack her and replace his sperm with their own.

As the couple searches for a place to lay their freshly fertilized eggs, they are relentlessly harassed by single males who wish to take over the female. Here, another male has attacked the couple by climbing on the female’s back during flight.

If running the gauntlet of interloping single males isn’t enough, another problem emerges. The bluets lay their eggs on aquatic weed that has breached the surface of the lake. This year, the aquatic weed has yet to grow tall enough to reach the surface so the damselflies cannot get to it. As I watched, only one couple managed to get close to some weed, but they failed to reach it. Between the relentless harassment and the inaccessible weed, it was not a good morning for bluet couples.


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July goulash


This is a collection of images from this July that did not have postings of their own.

The idiom, snake in the grass, implies treachery. In reality, our garter snake is harmless.

This Cedar Waxwing seemed intent on expressing its opinion.

Here is a Wild Turkey mommy with her eleven chicks.

Mommy osprey has torn off a bit of fish and is feeding it to one of her three chicks.

A female Western Tanager rests between flights.

A juvenile robin has a speckled breast.

We get many different flycatchers during the warm season. This is probably the Dusky Flycatcher.

This family portrait shows mommy osprey (in the back) with her three chicks.

Normally, it is the white-tailed deer that is seen in the valleys. This, however, is the mule deer.


Posted in birds, herptiles, mammals | 2 Comments

Flickers fledged


There are only a few days during which one can watch flicker chicks being fed at the entrance to their cavity nests.

When they hatch, chicks are small and rest inside the cavity, so each parent has to go inside to feed them. Chicks become big enough to peek out just before fledging.

This cavity nest contained four chicks. These pictures were taken during the short interval when they were visible. They have now gone on their way.

“Hello, daddy.”

Father has arrived with a crop full of ant’s eggs and is feeding one of his four chicks.

Both parents feed the chicks. Here mommy has arrived to attend to them.

She flies off to fetch more food. A parent’s work day is long.

At the cavity’s entrance, three of the chicks pose for a farewell picture before flying off.


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Sipping minerals


When encountered in the alpine, Bombus melanopygus was sipping nectar from an Alpine Milk-vetch(?). Farther down the mountain it was seen on the ground, apparently sipping minerals from rocks. This was unusual.

The first observation of melanopygus was mundane: It was visiting vetch for nectar.

Later it was seen fighting over access to something on the ground.

The bumblebees then started puddling on the rocks. They were presumably sipping needed minerals in solution from the rocks. Butterflies do this, but it was an unexpected sighting for bees.


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Gibson errors


We drove to Gibson Lake.

Gibson Lake is one of the many satellite alpine lakes that hang over Kootenay Lake. On the way there, I was asked two questions: Might we see Indian Paintbrush? Might we see a Hoary Marmot? To each, I answered: It is unlikely. I had previously only seen each of these species at somewhat higher altitudes.

I was wrong. As we walked around Gibson Lake, the first thing we saw was a Hoary Marmot, and soon after that, some Indian Paintbrush. So much for my insights into the distribution of nature around me.

Indian Paintbrush was growing alongside the trail around Gibson Lake.

The Hoary Marmot was a real surpise. It sat beside the trail around the lake.


Posted in mammals, wildflowers | 5 Comments

Finn’s chicks


I went out to visit local nature with Finn, my 15-year-old grandson. We took many pictures. Here are two that Finn took of chicks being fed.

We started the day by watching a flicker father feed his chicks. Daddy has closed his eyes as he regurgitates ant’s eggs from his crop for one of his chicks.

We then visited an osprey nest, where Finn managed a superb shot (one that I have long sought): an osprey parent delivering a fish to its excited chicks in the nest.

Finn’s pictures are used with permission


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Osprey chicks


This is the time of year to see fresh osprey chicks peeking out of nests around the Lake.

Often the chicks are seen interacting with a parent.

At another nest, three chicks look out at a parent in an adjacent tree. The chicks are distinguished by white-fringed wing feathers, and orange eyes, rather than the adult’s yellow.


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Osprey and fish


There was a time when local sport fishermen demonized the osprey: How dare that bird prey on (what was fantasized as) their fish? Clearly, we need to kill the osprey. Locally burned pilings still stand as a mute testimony to torched osprey nests atop them. Sigh…, yahoos are timeless.

Leaving aside the fact that ospreys have fed on local fish for millennia prior to the arrival of the upstart fishermen, there is the secondary question of whether those fishermen correctly assessed the situation. Were the osprey actually depleting the favourite fish of the sport fishermen?

Here is the situation: humans prefer to catch and eat salmonid species: salmon, trout, chars, freshwater whitefish, graylings. Ospreys prefer to catch and eat fish that are particularly slow moving and thus easy to catch: suckers. Suckers are fish that are spurned by humans (too bony). So, the yahoos burned osprey nests on a nonsensical claim of prior rights, but based it on a flawed assessment of the (imagined) harm they inflicted.

An osprey lifts a sucker from the Lake. Osprey take other species, but suckers are a favourite.

Yet, ospreys have their own peculiarities when it comes to protecting their fish. This osprey is returning to its nest with a headless fish. OK, it ate the (tasty) head earlier, probably before even bringing the fish to the nest. But then, in response to a perceived threat, it took its fish and flew off (it now returns). The reason the fish was removed is that it cannot be protected if left in the nest. Alas, an eagle is likely to steal it. It does not matter that the perceived threat was actually a passing human, the headless fish was protected by being removed.

Posted in birds, fish | 2 Comments

Wave-cloud iridescence


Waves form behind a boat travelling on the water. It is the relative motion that counts, not whether it is the boat that is moving or the water that is moving. In a similar manner, the air displaced by flowing over mountains can oscillate up and down in a series of waves. 

However, the thing about the upward displacement of air is that often the humidity increase in the lifted air is sufficient to produce cloud. The resulting wave clouds are characteristically rather smooth and lenticular in appearance. This afternoon, I watched as wave clouds hung over the mountains around the Lake. 

A feature of wave clouds is their rather uniform drop size. When seen in front of the Sun, these cloud drops give rise to one of the delights of wave clouds: iridescence. 

Wave clouds form over the mountains surrounding Kootenay Lake.

One of the wave clouds that appears in front of the Sun shows the iridescent colours that result from the diffraction of light through uniform cloud drops.


Posted in weather | 3 Comments

Giant Helleborine


The Giant Helleborine is a wild orchid that grows in western North America.

It is found in a small portion of southern British Columbia, yet it is not particularly common. Indeed, it takes some effort to locate even a single population. But, it is assuredly (but rather sparsely) found around Kootenay Lake. And when located, one’s calendar will say: it is mid July.

However, when found, the Giant Helleborine does grow in a profusion of many dozens of plants and hundreds of flowers.

The Giant Helleborine grows in wet areas.

It grows on stalks containing multiple flowers. 

Mycorrhizal fungi supply nutrients that the Giant Helleborine cannot obtain otherwise.


Posted in wildflowers | 4 Comments