Feisty Pygmy


The feisty Pygmy Owl is with us year round, but is only seen in the valley bottoms during the winter. Apparently the recent cold was enough to drive it off the mountainsides for one visited my yard on Wednesday. 

This fist-sized owl was perched in the same alder tree that waxwings had used the previous day as a staging post. It seems to know that a perch beside a rowan tree affords good hunting of other birds.

It revealed its two fake eyes on the back of its head as it scanned for prey.

“Lest you doubt my prowess, please note my sharp claws and my blood-stained beak.”

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Bohemian invasion


When a flock of perhaps two hundred Bohemian Waxwings disturbs one’s nap, you know you have been invaded. 

The Bohemian Waxwings used an alder as a staging area from which they repeatedly flew about four metres to a rowan tree (mountain ash). This picture only hints at the many waxwings weighing down the alder branches. 

The objects of their attentions were the nearby rowan berries, to which they flew in waves.

They attacked the berries vociferously.

They underwent contortions to grab them from any unlikely perch.

Berries were either scarfed on the spot,

or carried off.

My favourite shot was this one of crossed waxwings, each with its prize.

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Mirage & eye height


The recent cold outbreak has produced striking mirages on the Lake. The water being above freezing and the air being well below produces a large temperature gradient in the lowest few centimetres of air and a more gentle one a bit above. This is an ideal setup to give an inferior mirage, and they abound. 

The Harrop cable ferry appears as an inferior mirage as seen from Kokanee Creek Park. The distance is 4.5 km and the intervening water is too rough to give a simple reflection. The appearance of the mirage depends upon the height of the eye above the lake’s surface, which for this picture is about two metres. The water upon which the ferry sits and the bottom of the hull have vanished only to be replaced by an inverted image of the upper portions of the ferry.

When the eye level is lowered to a metre above the lake’s surface, only the superstructure is seen, both right way up and upside down. (In the intervening time the ferry moved across the narrows.) If the eye is moved within a few centimetres of the lake’s surface, the whole ferry vanishes.

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Rowan feast


A feast of rowan berries (a.k.a mountain ash berries) has been prepared and the guests flew in to enjoy it.

A red-shafted Northern Flicker helped itself.

As did a Varied Thrush.

A Robin showed off its prize.

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Otter potty


I suppose that we should be grateful that River Otters have a strange compulsion to use boat docks as potties. If it were not so, we would not see them nearly as often as we do.

The otter swam to the boat dock and climbed out. While its tail whipping water drops, it used the dock as a potty.

Although its visit was brief, it did allow a portrait. 

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Official local site


bing.com (the Microsoft and Yahoo search engine) tries to add helpful information alongside its listings. So, if one searches for Vancouver Canada, out of the many million listings bing produces, it labels the one from the city, itself, as being the official one:

Vancouver — Official Site

Similarly, among the many results from a search for Selkirk College, bing obligingly says the same about this institution’s site:

Selkirk College — Official Site

Fair enough, that sounds as if it is a useful distinction for a listing.

If you now use bing to search for Kootenay Lake, you discover over a million results, but topping them all is the regions’s official site of (ta-dah):

Kootenay Lake — Official Site

Yikes, how did they come to that conclusion? What bizarre bit of algorithmic processing has prompted Microsoft to decide that a retiree’s hobby site can possibly be the official spokesman for the region?

Now, I suspect that various provincial ministries would justifiably protest my authority to speak officially on behalf of, say, trees, bears, bumble bees, lake levels, soils, or water purity. Yet, I have a face-saving solution for Microsoft: in the absence of staunch opposition, I will allow my site to speak officially on behalf of local rainbows—and just maybe steam devils (below). 

Microsoft-certified official local spokesman

With all of this in mind, I proclaim my favourite rainbow from this summer to be an officially approved bow.

And I might just push my luck and speak officially on behalf of steam devils also.

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Best grizzly ever


It is the best, most evocative, shot of a Grizzly Bear I have ever seen (and I have seen and taken many grizzly pictures). It was taken by Jim Lawrence, a wildlife photographer (Kootenay Reflections) and friend. 

The story of Jim’s shot can be found at the CTV News site, where Jim comments that “the picture reflects the gentle, intelligent nature of the animals.”

Therein lies the impact of an image such as this: It counters the longstanding scaremongering by wildlife magazines and taxidermists, each of which has a vested interest in demonizing these creatures. 

If Jim’s wonderful picture tips the balance against the hunting of Grizzly Bears, so much the better.

Jim Lawrence’s picture is used with permission.

Posted in commentary, mammals | 4 Comments

Coming and going


The fall is a time of many transitions. Here are two.

A Black Meadowhawk was seen flying around today. November 2nd is late for any dragonfly to be about.

Meanwhile, Bufflehead Ducks fly in. They are rare in summer, but common in winter.

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Look and listen


A birder spends time watching and listening; it seems that birds do likewise.

A Wild Turkey watches an intruder.

A Pileated Woodpecker listens for the possibility of insects in a utility pole.

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15-seconds of fame


Today on ten-minutes’ notice, I was interviewed for a BBC science programme.

Unexpectedly, I was asked to comment on an article in a British newspaper with the intriguing title:

Passenger’s amazing photo captures moment her plane flew directly over a ‘RAINBOW’

A good rule of thumb is that one should be on one’s guard whenever a copywriter uses the word, amazing. This was no exception. The picture was not of a rainbow but was the result of stress polarization in a birefringent aircraft widow—a phenomenon previously treated in this blog. 

The explanation and picture from that earlier posting is:

The aircraft window, itself, can show some interesting features. The stressed plastic of the window is birefringent and so produces colours when seen with polarized light. The light from most scenes is not strongly polarized, but a reflection from a body of water is, so the colours seen here are a consequence of both the reflection (from, in this case, Georgia Strait) and the aircraft window.

To me, what was particularly interesting is that the person who took the picture in the article, Melissa Rensen from London, Ontario, had come close to guessing what caused the colour in her picture: She speculated that it was the result of “the polarized window on the plane.” (The window isn’t polarized, light is polarized, but the window is birefringent). However, another photographer then misled her by suggesting that it couldn’t be in the window by pointing “out that the rainbow was beneath the clouds.” That other photographer was wrong. 

The colours seen require three things: polarized light (this comes from sunlight reflected off the water); a birefringent medium (the stressed plastic of the aircraft window); an analyzer (probably the second aircraft window—they are double). The colours do not appear against the clouds in her picture because the light from the clouds is not polarized.

It all goes to show that copywriters should do better research, and should bite their tongues when tempted to use the word, amazing.


Posted in commentary, weather | 5 Comments