Precocious goldeneyes


The male Common Goldeneye Duck is in his breeding plumage from October to June. That presumably means that he is prepared to breed, not that he is about to breed. So, I thought nothing of it when three strapping lads swam by in mid December, each decked out in breeding plumage. What then happened was unexpected.

In December, three Common Goldeneyes swam by. Spring is a long way off.

Suddenly, despite the absence of females, they began to exhibit courtship behaviour: each tossed its head back.

This was followed by head pumping,

And water twitching. These actions are all courting behaviour.

Apparently satisfied that they now had their act together, they flew off: “OK, now let’s go and find the girls.”

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Roadside sheep


Two perquisites of rural living are the occasional presence of megafauna alongside a road, and the ease with which one can pull over to watch them. So it was that I was able to offer my compliments to some Bighorn Sheep. 

Sometimes the sheep were highly visible, such as this ram striking a classic pose on a cliff.

Sometimes they were much less obvious, such as this one peeking through the grass.

One ewe passes another on a cliff face.

And a juvenile ram bounds up the slope.

All in all, each seemed to enjoy an unhurried life. 

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Fetching birds


I usually oblige my camera when it asks to be taken for a walk. Unfortunately, my camera does not always reciprocate my kindness by fetching an interesting variety of subjects. On recent jaunts, it has retrieved only birds, but at least it was fetching fetching birds. A dozen are below.

The Great Blue Heron is a favourite of mine—maybe I identify with its cragginess.

The Canada Goose is not a favourite. While it is lovely at a distance, it is messy on one’s lawn. Here are two of over a dozen flying by.

Nearby perched a goshawk. Etymologically a goose hawk, our local goshawk seems to lack a taste for geese.

The American Coot is an easy bird to find in the winter, but a difficult one to photograph. Pictures usually show featureless black plumage with an over-exposed bill. It is satisfying to capture both feather detail and bill shading.

Similarly, a distant view of the male Bufflehead Duck usually offers starkly black and white plumage. Only a closer look reveals iridescent colours on the head.

Black-billed Magpies prefer extensive meadows and grasslands, of which there are few around the Lake. This magpie was found in Harrop.

A Merlin hunts from a high perch.

It would have found these American Goldfinches tasty, but didn’t see them.

Ring-necked Ducks (male, female, male) float on the Lake.

While a Mallard leads Wigeons across the sky.

A pair of Bald Eagles sit in a tree. The larger (upper) one is the female. 

Finally another heron steps out during a snowfall.

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Bubbles in ice


The stunning beauty of bubbles in the ice of a frozen pond could cow a fantasy artist. The accompanying pictures were taken by Irina Peters and Doug Thorburn in the subalpine high above Kootenay Lake.

Bubbles had formed in the ice when freezing had forced dissolved gasses out of solution. The gasses dissolved in the water had come from pond sediments that had outgassed as a result of the bacterial decomposition of algae and detritus: carbon dioxide from respiration, methane from methanogens, and hydrogen sulphide from sulphate-reducing bacteria.

There appear to be three different structures in these pictures: frost crystals on the surface, columnar bubbles, globular bubbles. The suspicion is that the columnar bubbles might be CO2, while the large bubbles could be burps of methane. Can anyone add insights?

(A posting two years ago showed pond bubbles in the summertime.)

Three structures are seen in the ice of the mountain pond: frost crystals, columnar bubbles, globular bubbles.

The columnar bubbles are possibly the result of COcoming out of solution.

This scene rivals a fantasy artist’s creations of alien cityscapes. 

The pictures of Irina Peters and Doug Thorburn are used with permission.

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Dipper scoffs eggs


A dipper sat on the border ice of a creek. It used the ice as a platform to dive for eggs of a Kokanee salmon. 

The dipper’s forays were surprisingly successful. The dipper acquired a Kokanee egg on perhaps a third to a half of its dives. It brought the egg back to the ice shelf and devoured it there. The golden colour of the egg indicates that it has been fertilized; this is a Kokanee that will not swim in the Lake.

What was particularly interesting was that the dipper would often retrieve a string of eggs from the base of the creek, but would then seem to initially deposit them on the ice.

It would then retrieve them individually and eat them one by one.

My favourite shot was of an apparently botched retrieval where the egg went flying though the air.

Posted in birds, fish | 3 Comments

Beach cusps


A delight of a lakeshore walk along a sandy beach is the occasional appearance of beach cusps: a natural rhythmic pattern of small cusps and bays. On the main website, I offer somewhat more spectacular views along with an explanation. Also, there is a Wikipedia article that discusses unresolved aspects of the explanation. 

Here the periodicity of the beach cusps has been accentuated by a dusting of snow.

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Miscellaneous birds

Continue reading

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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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