Ground Squirrel


I sometimes see the Columbian Ground Squirrel during my wanderings. Although I try to take pictures, usually little more than a head is seen cautious peeking from a burrow, and it quickly vanishes.

Yesterday, I was pleased to see one standing upright on a log where it was visible from head to tail. This one quickly hid also, but not before the camera went click. 

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Bombylius major


Mid April prompts a number of annual events: ospreys return (saw another one today), taxes, and the proliferation of Bombylius major. For some years, this blog has devoted a posting to this fuzzy little bee-mimic fly—all in mid April. For that is the brief time they are with us. Only with last year’s posting did I discover why that is and wrote:

It only appears in the spring because that is the time solitary bees temporarily leave their nest sites unprotected. Unlike the social bees, each solitary bee lays her own eggs and does so in a small tunnel she has provisioned with food such as nectar and pollen. She then seals the entrance. However, for the short time it takes to do this, the tunnel entrance is open and that is when the Bombylius fly comes by and deposits its own eggs inside. The Bombylius larva emerges, feeds on the provisions meant for the bee larvae; it then changes form and eats the bee larva, itself. Bombylius has only a short time in the spring to give its offspring this opportunity.

So, I note that there were at least two different species of solitary bees roaming my lawn. Bombylius seems to have timed things right again.

That this Bombylius fly has also been foraging among the dandelions is evident by the yellow pollen on its face.

The Bombylius fly is hovering below the flower, but stabilizing itself with is forelegs.

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Osprey’s back


There has been a sprinkling of observations of Ospreys around the Lake in the last little while. It is April and males have started to appear; Soon females will return. 

The first osprey I have seen this year is shown below. It is on the nest erected by Nelson Hydro and equipped with a camera by Columbia Wireless. This is the nest that last year, a chick, dubbed Nel, was orphaned, sent to rehabilitation at Coast, and subsequently returned and released at Kokanee Creek Park.

With luck things will go better at this nest this season, and maybe Columbia Wireless will allow us to watch it all on line.

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Dusky Grouse


In April 2014, Doug Thorburn sent me some pictures of a Dusky Grouse. Last Sunday, he again photographed the spectacular display of this uncommon resident of the coniferous forests of the South Selkirk Mountains. 

Below are two pictures of the male (plus a lagniappe).

The bonus is Doug’s more recent view of the yearling male elk.

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Elk in forest


Doug Thorburn’s camera has provided me with a recent, but uncommon, view of Elk grazing in the forests of the South Selkirks high above Kootenay Lake.

Elk are social animals, but at this time of year, groups of cows, calves, and yearlings live apart from the bulls. This small group seems to contain a cow and a yearling female and male—the later with unbranched spike antlers.

This is probably a yearling female. It is too early in the season for calves.

A yearling male, with unbranched spike antlers, is in the foreground.

The cow, and both yearlings appear in this shot.

Doug Thorburn’s pictures are used with permission.

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Otter visits


For three consecutive mornings, an otter has paid a short visit to a local dock. It arrives, defecates, preens, looks around, and leaves.

An otter monitors its surroundings at daybreak.

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Some birds seem to have their own version of a child’s game, king of the castle. I have watched gulls and geese (the latter only during the mating season) play a game which involves approaching a perched advisory from behind to displace it. (There are other species that seem happy to share a perch.) 

A few days ago, I noticed an interspecies version of the game.

A Belted Kingfisher was watching for fish from atop a piling.

Abruptly, it dived over the side.

It was quickly evident that the kingfisher’s departure was a result of a Northern Flicker approaching from behind. Here the ascending flicker is seen on the left while the displaced kingfisher is partly hidden by the piling.

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“I am told that it is appropriate to wear a special bonnet today.”

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Guttation is NOT dew. Dew (condensation from vapour) would give no hint that the growing season had begun; guttation does.

I have often marked the beginning of spring with a picture of guttation—to me the best indication that plants have begun to metabolize. It is a sign that the plant—in this case grass—is pumping xylem fluid from the roots to the leaves. During the day, such fluid is transpired. However, on a cold night, the stomata have closed and the fluid is extruded through the tip of the blade (at a hydathode) to give guttation. 

On earlier occasions, I would often lie on the grass and take a macro image of the guttation drops, each hanging from the tip of the grass blade. On this occasion, the striking nature of this backlit image was more compelling. 

Guttation: spring is underway.

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Goose for breakfast


From the moment I spotted the fresh carcass of a Canada Goose on the shore, I knew it would be worth watching. Now, what might take an interest in this?

The first visitor was a three-and-a-half year old eagle (note, the dark flecking on its crown).

This was followed by a succession of ravens,

And a dog that was only dissuaded from stealing the prize by its (human) pack leader.

The most photogenic scavenger was an adult Bald Eagle: “Love the giblets; Hate the feathers.”

Interestingly, this eagle was driven off by the persistent harassment of other geese. Were they merely mobbing a predator, or were they objecting to the desecration of a colleague?

Following this, a one-and-a-half year old eagle landed and tried to reach the carcass. It, too, was harassed by other geese that loudly blocked its path.

My favourite shot was of the adult bald having breakfast at sunrise.

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