Nesting material


Nearly two weeks ago, I spotted a Townsend’s Warbler at the entrance of Kokanee Creek Park. OK, this is the season when this warbler is here. It seems to be collecting some nesting material. A day later and many kilometres away, I took a poor picture of a Yellow-rumped Warbler with what appeared to be the same material in its bill. 

But, what is this nesting material?

A Townsend’s Warbler with nesting material.


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Columbia spotted frog


I came for the amplexus of the western toad but stayed for a sighting of a Columbia spotted frog.

The Columbia spotted frog seems to be only found in the smaller lakes at a much higher altitude than Kootenay Lake. It is distinguished by being smaller than the more common western toad and it lacks the line of symmetry down its back. This true frog spends most of its time in water.

The Columbia spotted frog has a blond strip on its upper lip and a ridge extending back from the eye.

It is usually found in water at high altitudes.


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Striped coralroot


The striped coralroot orchid is widespread across southern Canada and western U.S. However, it is sparse throughout its range for it does not use leaves to synthesize food but obtains it nutrients from fungi in the ground.  

This orchid grows in a raceme of over two dozen flowers and often has many stalks.

I believe that the insect here is the wasp, Pimpla pedalis, a known pollinator of the striped coralroot orchid.  

It has the classic orchid form of bilateral symmetry and an enlarged lip (labellum).


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Bald Eagle nest


Eagles have returned to the nest and have produced one chick. Rapidly growing, now the chick looks almost as large as the adult, but is dark brown, being fed, and still lacks all its feathers and its skill to fly. So far, all it knows are the confines of the nest. Both parents bring fish to the nest.

We watched the nest for three days, and even during that short period, one could see the chick’s skills improve.

These two adults have only one chick.

In the beginning, the chick is mouth fed. Later, it foraged for food by picking at fish brought to the nest by a parent. 

Both parents caught fish and brought it to the nest. It is carried in the bird’s claws. This is the female. Photo by Cynthia Fraser.

The female brings a fish to an excited chick. Photo by Cynthia.

The chick would practice flying by standing up and flapping its wings. Its wings show many pin feathers which are the white lines extending from the beginnings of the feathers. These are seen (on the left) extending from the underwing coverts against the dark of the flight feathers, and on flight feathers (in the right) against the sky. They have a blood supply until the feathers are formed.


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Grizzly sow & cubs


I have often seen Grizzly Bears at this time of year, so I keep my eyes open for them. Although grizzlies are omnivores, I have usually seen them eating plants.

There were three Grizzly Bears: a sow and two cubs (probably in their second year). Photo by Cynthia Fraser.

It was a delightful sighting, for not only were they close, they were feasting among wild flowers that looked like larkspur. Now larkspur is somewhat poisonous to humans, but I don’t know whether it is for grizzlies. Nevertheless, the bears were ignoring the flowers. 

Rather, a clue to their activity was their long claws. They used them for digging for roots. Photo by Finn Grathwol. 

Here is one of the cubs digging in the ground. I have been told that they are after cow parsnips which apparently has nutritious roots until the plant sprouts. Photo by Cynthia.

There seemed to be a rather large amount of scratching going on. Photo by Cynthia.

One of the cubs. Photo by Finn.

Another cub that was unreasonably close.


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Mallard rape?


I might not have realized what was going on had I not seen it before: Five years ago, I watched the rape of a new mallard mother. Curiously, yesterday’s altercation took place within meters of the previous location, but this time visibility was diminished by overgrown bushes.

This is the time of year when waterfowl parade new chicks around the Lake. They come in two flavours, one parent or two parents. The distinction seems to be whether the parents look alike or not. If parents are hard to tell apart (Canada Goose, Loons), each flock of youngsters has two parents tending it. If on the other hand, the parents are easily distinguished, (Mallard Ducks, Common Merganser) only the mother tends the chicks. This later group is more vulnerable in that a father is not there to protect the flock. Indeed, the biggest threat seems to be from an over abundance of unattached males of the same species who see the mother as vulnerable and slow moving. This picture of a mallard and her chicks was taken a few days earlier.

Yesterday’s scene took place on the edge of and midst flooded bush.

Two mallard males came after the mother in the bushes leaving the chicks to wander on their own.

While most of the action took place in the brush amidst much splashing and squawking, at one point a male chased the female right past me.

Soon afterwards the female was back with her chicks. But, as she moved out of sight, she was again being chased by a male mallard.


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Fairy slipper deception


Our first orchid of the year, the fairy slipper (Calypso bulbosa) is beautiful, but remarkably deceptive.

There is a nearly universal contract between pollinators (such as bees) and flowers: The bees provide the flowers with pollination in exchange for nectar and pollen. The fairy slipper breaks the contract and provides the bee with neither of these, but entices it to aid in its own pollination. After a short time, the pollinator gives up in seeking its reward and moves on to other flowers, but by then, the fairy slipper has succeeded in pollinating its neighbours. The flower glues a compact mass of pollen, the pollinia, to the bee’s back and the bee does not seem to even know it is there. The pollinia (sing. pollinium) is then released at a nearby flower with the bee being none the wiser. And the bee gains nothing.

We have two varieties: western and eastern. Among other things, they are distinguished by the colour of their (fake) stamen. 

This is a few of the western variety of the fairly slipper. The white stamen are fake.

Among the western variety there were a few eastern ones. The yellow stamen are fake.

A Bombus mixtus is carrying two pollinia on its back as it moves on from the fairy slippers.


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April goulash


This is a small collection of pictures taken this April which didn’t have a posting of their own.

The Northern Shrike foraged in Kokanee Park for rodents for about three weeks this month before heading north.

The shrike rarely sings but one time in mid-month it let forth. Photo by Cynthia Fraser.

And then it flew in search of prey. Photo for Cynthia Fraser.

This picture of a toadlet was taken on April 20, which is surprisingly early. 

Canada Goose parents supervise their seven chicks.

A Downy Woodpecker was foraging for comestibles.

This confusing picture of Tree Swallows shows the changing of the food supplier for chicks. One parent is leaving the nest and another is arriving. The job is endless.


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The White Pelican is a big bird — it is probably the biggest bird we get. Mind you, the Trumpeter Swan is a bit heavier, but a tad smaller.

Although we get the Trumpeter Swan with far greater frequency, I have only seen the White Pelican a few times at the south end of the Main Lake, from which it probably heads to the prairie provinces to breed. Occasionally they have been seen travelling down the West Arm of Kootenay Lake (where I live). These are probably ones that are headed for the only pelican breeding place in B.C.: Stum Lake, about 60 km to the west of Williams Lake.

Today, eight of them were here travelling west along the West Arm. It was the first time I have seen this bird in its breeding garb.

Eight pelicans are coming along the West Arm of Kootenay Lake. Photo by Cynthia Fraser.

As they get closer they fan their tails and drop feet preparing to land.

When closer, they temporarily change their minds.

A yellow plate forms on the bill of a breeding adult. It vanishes when eggs are laid. It is the first time I have seen this plate.

Then they landed. The odd structure around the eye is mysterious.


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Killdeer mating


Recently I observed a pair of killdeer courting and mating at Kokanee Creek Park. Later in the same day, it happened again! Twice in one day!

At first, I only heard killdeer vocalizations. Remaining very still, I spotted a single killdeer standing, feeding and walking near the creek. By watching and listening, I realized it was communicating with another killdeer nearby.

The second killdeer was sitting on the ground with its tail spread, as if it were nesting.

However, I believe it was a male doing nest-scraping and courting vocalizations because it stood up and sat back down several times, spreading its tail towards the other killdeer and tossing out items with its beak as if to demonstrate its nest-building prowess.

After a bit of nest-scraping and pair-contact vocalizations, the two killdeer began walking around and near each other. To my surprise, the nest-scraping male, hopped up to ride atop the back of the other killdeer!

The female walked around with this male on her back for several seconds. As the male balanced and shifted his feet, the female tail feathers began to rise and the male seemed to wiggle slightly backwards. Suddenly, within a fraction of a second, the male leaned to the side and copulation occurred.

After this, the male dismounted and they both walked off in different directions while continuing to hunt and eat insects. This next photo was taken a few hours afterwards, during their second sexual encounter as dismount was occurring.

Killdeer pairs stay together for the breeding season. If an encounter is successful, egg laying will occur about a day after fertilization, followed soon by about 25 days of nested egg incubation, and the classic killdeer broken-wing nesting distraction behaviour that my father photographed in 2015 within 90 metres of this pair’s current breeding territory. 

Lake levels are currently low and expected to rise significantly in this pair’s breeding territory over the next months. I hope they build their nest on high enough ground.


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