Bear cub

 

Underscoring the frequency of black bears in the valley this summer was the appearance of a first-year cub. It was the second bear to come along, but it walked right up to me, while I was sitting beside the Lake, before it realized that I was there. I snapped its picture with my phone just at the moment it looked up and said to itself: oops. 

 

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Lewis’s Woodpecker

 

In the southeastern portion of the province for a few months in the summertime, one gets a small population of a strange bird. A few Lewis’s Woodpeckers have arrived to breed.

The Lewis’s Woodpecker lives year-round in the southwestern US, but come summer, a small number head far north to breed here. In years of birding, I have only seen it here twice and on those occasions, it was high in trees a long way off. This year, I discovered a small population, and visited it repeatedly with my grandson, Finn. As before, it was high in trees and was significantly difficult to photograph. 

Underscoring the oddness of this bird, All About Birds says: “The Lewis’s Woodpecker might have woodpecker in its name, but it forages like a flycatcher and flies like a crow. It has a color palette all its own, with a pink belly, gray collar, and dark green back unlike any other member of its family. From bare branches and posts, it grabs insects in midair, flying with slow and deep wingbeats.”  

The adult Lewis’s Woodpecker has a pinkish face and belly.

Its back and wings have a dark (greenish) sheen. There is a greyish band around its neck.

It would spend a great deal of time in snags, both flying out to catch bypassing insects and looking for insects in the wood. Picture by Finn Grathwol.

The reddish colour is missing from the juveniles.

The most spectacular picture of it flying after insects was captured by Finn.

 

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Osprey and eagle

 

The ospreys have three chicks. And for the longest time, that was all there was to say. Then, a year-old eagle got involved and things quickly got interesting. 

So, let’s start at the end. What was a juvenile eagle doing with its claws up as it falls from the sky? Photo by Cynthia Fraser.

The day started with a visit to an Osprey nest with its three chicks.

Nothing much happened, so we left to do other things. When we returned there were two adults (and one visible chick) in the nest. The adult on the right is the (larger) female. Still nothing was going on, so we left just before the time things got interesting. Apparently, a juvenile eagle then came by and attacked the nest, whereupon the female took to the air to defend the homestead.

Now the osprey and the eagle were all over the sky with the eagle chasing the osprey. Here are the participants: the osprey,

and the juvenile Bald Eagle. The chase went on for maybe ten minutes with the two of them rarely close enough to be in the same picture.

At one point, the eagle became aware that it was about to be attacked from above.

The osprey was diving on his back with its feet deployed. The eagle did a barrel role and brought its feet out to defend itself, but in that position it was falling. Near the lake, it righted itself and flew off, it having lost the battle with a smaller but more skilful bird. Photo by Cynthia Fraser.

 

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Fighting butterflies

 

The butterflies were fighting.

This came as a surprise to me. I had always thought of butterflies as being cooperative and peaceful creatures, but it seems that they can have conflicts. 

This fight went on for ten to 15 minutes. I chose only three pictures to show the fight which seemed to be all accomplished with the forelegs.

There were two participants, a Canadian Swallowtail Butterfly (I think) and a Pale Swallowtail Butterfly. The Canadian Swallowtail was puddling, an activity where male butterflies sip nutrients from the soil which are then used in procreation. For the Pale Swallowtail to have attacked it, the source of nutrients must have been strongly confined. I suspect that it was urine deposited by a deer.

The Canadian is on the left with its proboscis busily extracting nutrients, when it was attacked by the Pale.

They have switched sides in this and a subsequent image. The Pale is attacking the Canadian, which continues to puddle.

The Pale tries to push the Canadian from its position, but it persists in puddling.

 

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Whitetailed males

 

It is less common to see male deer, but there were a couple beside the Lake.

Two male whitetailed deer in July velvet

A portrait

Navigating the Lake

Time for a consultation

 

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Blaze again

 

This is a good year for black bears in the valleys. Some years I see very few to none. This year, I have seen many. In particular, there is one bear in my neighbourhood that is easily recognized as an individual for it wears a blaze. 

A blaze is a common feature in eastern North American (or so I am told), but here it is rare enough to bestow individuality. Although not the only bear seen, this blaze-wearing bear has been a sometime resident for two months. 

As it searches for food around homes, it has evolved from favouring clover (a month ago) to feeding in cherry trees (now). 

The black bear was about five metres up a cherry tree. It wore the blaze on its chest. This is distinctly unusual in this region.

I watched the bear for a while, but towards the end it became uncomfortable with my presence and made a quiet huffing. (Huffing is a sound made by an apprehensive black bear. Huffing does not lead to an attack.) So, I drifted away and left it to eat cherries.

 

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Iridescent cloud

 

Yesterday, at about noon, there were wave clouds in the sky. I was admiring these when the sun moved over slowly behind one. Then the most marvellous series of colours appeared close around the sun. 

The iridescent colours were very bright, normally too bright to look at and so are rarely noticed. However, by decreasing the camera’s exposure, I was able to capture a bit of it.

 

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Deer moult

 

This posting was prompted by the scruffy-looking female mule deer that was feeding on clover in the picture on the right.

There was something odd about it. Her body is adorned with whitish splotches. Yet, it seemed too early in the year and she seemed too big for this to be the result of the spots displayed by fawns.

Better look at a side view.

This is a moult pattern. The orange is the summer pelage; the white is what is temporarily left over from the winter. But, that pelage is dark, not white. What is going on?

I have seen the same pattern on a male white-tailed deer and even posted about it. As the same thing seems to be going on with the white-tailed and the mule deer, I will use white-tailed deer to explain what I know.

In the summer, deer wears a orangish pelage for camouflage. Now, humans clearly see an orange deer against a green background. But, that is not the case for all animals. Deer have two colour receptors (at the long wavelength end) and don’t see the difference between orange and green; they both look a neutral grey. So, the deer thinks it blends in with its background. But more to the point, the principal predators, coyotes and wolves, have the same deficiency and see orange and green as shades of grey. This is actually a good summer camouflage for deer.

However, moulting is a fact of life for deer that must renew its fur and the winter brings a duller brownish shade which blends in with the colourless surroundings. It also provides more insulation, for in winter there is an undercoat of (what are called) guard hairs.

There is a remaining problem. The spring moulting shows the orangish pelage, but with flaky whitish patches. I think these patches are the underneath guard hairs of winter, which vanish in the summertime. Is that the colour of the guard hairs? I cannot determine this, but this one picture of a winter deer with claw marks from a cougar suggests that the underfur is that colour.

So, both deer species go through a spring moult at this time whereby the pelage looks orange with white streaks.

 

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Black bear cub

 

I was close.

 

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Evening Elk Herd

 

Photographer: In exemption of the first, by Cynthia Fraser, the photos here are taken by Finn Fraser Grathwol. More of Finn’s photos can be seen at @finnfrasergrathwolphoto on instagram.

In the late evening (read: very low shutter speeds and blurrier photos) on the way back from Arrow Lakes on Canada day, we (myself, my dad, and Cynthia) came across a herd of 15-20 Rocky Mountain Elk, the local subspecies, by the side of the highway. Judging by the antlers, the herd appears to be almost exclusively comprised of females and 1-2 year old young males, referred to as cows to bulls, respectively.

Below, courtesy of Cynthia Fraser, a larger-scale sample of this herd is pictured, including a few month old calf. 

Here, a mother and her son pose for a family portrait. 

Two males; note the difference in antler length – perhaps signifying a slight age difference.

A different male rests — or rather uses his mother for a chin rub — it is unclear what behaviour is being exhibited. 

A young male elk times his obligatory nose cleaning perfectly with my camera’s shutter. 
 

 

 

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