The glory is a beautiful phenomenon that is only rarely noticed. Its rarity results from the requirement that your shadow must be cast down onto a cloud in the centre of the glory. Mind you, to see your shadow in the centre, you must be fairly close to the cloud, but that was normally the case when seen from a mountain. Thus we get names for it like the Brocken bow and spectre (19th century, Germany) and Buddha’s light (a couple of thousand years, China). The name, glory, is rather old and speaks to the assumed beatification of the person whose shadow appears surrounded by the colourful rings of light.

One of the easiest ways to see it these days is from an airplane, although the type of cloud, the wings, and the seat position often prevent a sighting. As such it is rarely noticed, plus the height of the plane above the cloud usually eliminates the shadow. It has been seen from mountains around Kootenay Lake, but flying in and out of the region provides the easiest observations.

The glory is often seen together with the cloudbow, so, there is an overlapping drop size that is common to both phenomena. Yet, it isn’t perfect. The cloudbow seen earlier lacked a glory (drops a bit too big?), and this glory lacks a cloudbow (drops too small?).

The glory seen on the stratocumulus when flying out from Kootenay Lake is a phenomenon of single scattering. Notice that it isn’t seen in gaps between the clouds where photon penetration has resulted from multiple scattering. The pattern is a series of concentric rings with reddish to the outside and bluish towards the centre. There is a faintly visible third ring. The aircraft is too high above the cloud for a shadow to be seen.


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Dipper eats


The Kokanee salmon have visited the creeks, spawned, and have died. The bears, the eagles, and the vultures have left after eating their fill of both live and dead fish. Now only some mergansers and mallards stay to consume the remaining Kokanee carcasses. And the dippers dive and bring up some of the eggs in ones and twos, whereupon they are consumed one at a time.

A dipper surfaces from a dive with an egg in its bill that is quickly eaten. The eggs come in two flavours: golden — which are fertilized; cream — which are unfertilized. This egg is golden.

“I’m off to find some more.”


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Last Sunday, I watched something over the Lake that I had not recalled seeing with such clarity before: two different mechanisms for droplet formation from the same source.

A decade, or so, ago, I wrote a piece about the two mechanisms for droplet condensation. There I criticized teachers for getting it wrong, by saying that cold air cannot hold as much water vapour as warm air. This was despite it having been known for two centuries what was actually happening. That essay is called condensation. Here, I will just accept that, and go with what is correct.

Condensation might occur when two parcels of sub-saturated water vapour mix. Or, it can occur when water vapour is cooled. 

Typically, clouds (or fog) near the surface result from vapour mixing — in which different forms of cloud result from different mixing circumstances. In this scene, the cloud (fog) at the Lake’s surface is the result of vapour mixing. It is known as steam fog and can result when quite cold air overlies much warmer water.

Typically, clouds well above the surface form as a result of vapour cooling — in which different forms of cloud result from different cooling circumstances. The convective towers of cloud that arise high over the Lake’s surface is the result from this water vapour cooling. 

This scene was a little uncommon. Usually, when cold air flows over warm water in the fall, the high winds cause the convective towers to warp up as steam devils. In this case, the cold air must have arrived overnight and it was now calm. This resulted in convective towers growing out of the steam fog.


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Giant ichneumon wasp


What is any wasp, let alone this one, doing around here in the later half of October? Most wasps have died out except for their queens who have bedded down for the winter. There are a great many species of wasp and a great many species of ichneumon wasps in particular. What is this one, a giant ichneumon wasp, doing here now? 

This giant ichneumon wasp is particularly interesting: it is large; it lives less than a month; it does not sting; the female has a very long ovipositor.

It settles on wood and drives its long ovipositor into the bark and deposits an egg on a horntail wasp. The egg then parasitizes the horntail wasp. 


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Elk & harem


home again

For much of the year, elk travel in herds of females and juveniles. Separately, males travel in smaller herds or as individuals. However come fall, a male will form a harem of perhaps a half-dozen to a score of females, and mate with each one.

I encountered a group of at least a half-dozen females, and one male. It was a little difficult to tell the number as they kept dipping in and out of the foliage. 

It was twilight as I encountered the harem. The first view of the male was from the side.

There were perhaps over a half-dozen females in this harem.

Here is some of a number of females hanging around in the harem.

The male looks on.


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Grizzlies &


A few days ago, I visited Bute Inlet to watch grizzlies hunt pacific salmon in the local streams and then posted a sequence to grizzly bear feast. Here are few more, plus another large mammal. 

A grizzly bear scrounging a stream for fish emerges dripping water.

This freshly caught salmon is still very much alive.

A male elk was seen.

And another was in the forest.

A grizzly whisks a salmon from the stream.

A cub and his mother work on a portion of a salmon.


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Grizzly bear feast


On October 3rd, I visited B.C.’s Bute Inlet to watch grizzly bears fattening up for hibernation by eating freshly caught salmon. The visit was during the spawning of chum salmon, so the grizzlies were predating a different species of salmon than those found around Kootenay Lake. I watched about a dozen bears catch and eat salmon. Here are two.

A female grizzly bear catches a salmon in the shallows of a river flowing into Bute Inlet. The fish is still very much alive and is struggling. 

The bear carries the struggling fish to the shore, or at least to the really shallow waters.

The grizzly lays the now dead (?) fish at the water’s edge. Meanwhile, another bear approaches. At first I thought that there would be a clash, but it turned out that the other bear was the female’s cub.

Mother and child examine the fish.

Then eating begins.

Mother tears the fish apart and they both eat.

“OK, that is finished, let’s find another.”


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A cloudbow is just a rainbow formed by the much smaller droplets found in a cloud or a fog. It is as huge as a rainbow in that it spans nearly a quarter of the sky. But, it is nearly white with only a touch of colour. 

Indeed in this case, it is the very small size of the fog drops that produces the lack of colour. As with the rainbow, light is refracted as it passes through each drop but diffraction causes the the light to spread out causing the different colours to overlap and mainly give a broad white bow.

The cloudbow in the picture has a variable intensity. As it formed in a thin fog, there are more droplets in the brighter upper portion than when looking down toward the water.

As this one formed over water (and was seen from a boat) there is an apparent reflection of the bow seen in the picture. 

I took many pictures of portions of the bow, but in the end I particularly liked the exceedingly wide angle picture taken by my son, (also named) Alistair Fraser, and so show his shot.


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Sea lions


Sea lions: When posted, I called these seals. Mike C set me straight — so, sea lions it is.

There is a point to showing sea lions in this posting: I am at the Coast. I am not at my usual place of the Lake. Sea lions serves this purpose in that they are not found inland. 

However, the next few postings contain pictures that could have been taken at either place, but they are from the Coast.

A sea lion expresses its opinion.


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Juvenile Turkey Vulture


This is the time to see a variety of juvenile birds flying around. They are as large as adults and they haven’t migrated yet. Further, they often look different from the adults. And, they are sometimes different in other ways.

The Turkey Vulture is one of those migrants. We have it from mid-March to mid-October when it breeds here. The juveniles look a bit different from the adults. 

First, a picture of an adult taken a few weeks ago. It has a red head and half of its bill is ivory.

Yesterday’s juvenile has a dark grey head and beak. This gradually shifts to adult colours over the course of a year or so. There are some other differences, but this will do for now.

I try not to disturb animals. Most of the time, when I am spotted, the animal just leaves. But there is another behaviour that seems confined to fresh juveniles: curiosity. On this occasion, I was quite visible as I was walking on the beach. A juvenile Turkey Vulture flew by overhead and on spotting me, it came down for a closer look. It then flew by repeatedly — maybe a half-dozen times. I have noticed this same curiosity with a few other fresh juveniles. 


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