Giant Helleborine


The Giant Helleborine is a wild orchid that grows in western North America.

It is found in a small portion of southern British Columbia, yet it is not particularly common. Indeed, it takes some effort to locate even a single population. But, it is assuredly (but rather sparsely) found around Kootenay Lake. And when located, one’s calendar will say: it is mid July.

However, when found, the Giant Helleborine does grow in a profusion of many dozens of plants and hundreds of flowers.

The Giant Helleborine grows in wet areas.

It grows on stalks containing multiple flowers. 

Mycorrhizal fungi supply nutrients that the Giant Helleborine cannot obtain otherwise.


Posted in wildflowers | 4 Comments

Foster parent


A brood parasite is something that one reads about, but does not actually expect to see.

The story begins with the Brown-headed Cowbird, a warm-season species that lays its eggs in the nests of other birds and so outsources its chick-raising obligations. As such, the cowbird is a brood parasite, which just means that it cons others into becoming foster parents for its chicks.

An initially unidentified fledged chick was begging as it sat deep among the branches of a tree.

But when a (tiny) Yellow Warbler responded by feeding it, the identity of the (large) chick was revealed as a Brown-headed Cowbird.  

With a constant demand, the cowbird kept its foster parent busy searching for food to satisfy it.


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Ground squirrel pups


Having shown some less-than-cute baby animals, it struck me as appropriate to show some societally more acceptable babies. The first things I ran across were some pups of Columbian Ground Squirrels.

Columbian Ground Squirrels are usually found in fields where an adult sentry stands over a burrow. Their pups have not previously been apparent to me. However, when Kokanee Creek Park was closed for five weeks starting in April, this normally skittish ground squirrel cautiously spread in response to human absence. That led to the opportunity to see its pups.

When the Park opened again in mid May, this Columbian Ground Squirrel was spotted at the south end of the spawning channel. And this is where the pups were seen starting in early July. 

At the beginning of July, three Columbian Ground Squirrel pups appeared at the same place the adult had been seen a month and a half earlier. 

I didn’t get them all in the same view, but did manage a shot of one pup feasting on leaves. 


Posted in mammals | 3 Comments

Baby arthropods


Babies are cute. We seem to be hard wired to protect those adorable infants with their rounded, over-sized heads, large eyes, and chubby cheeks, whether they be human or animal. We just adore them. 

Well, maybe not all of them. How about baby arthropods? 

What I believe are mosquito larvae were spotted in a puddle early in June. Our revulsion is probably a result of what we anticipate the adult females will do. 

These spiderlings were seen in the grass. No one finds them cute, and arachnophobes fear them. Just maybe, all babies are not perceived as being cute.

But, did I get the identification correct? Are those mosquito larvae? What is the species of those spiderlings?


Posted in bugs | 2 Comments

Factious ospreys


Nature is not bucolic. Animals attack one another with tooth, claw, and bill. Other species are seen as either food or competitor — in either case they must be attacked. I have watched animals assault prey. I have seen eagles harass ospreys in an attempt to steal their fish. I have seen ospreys attack herons (who knows why?). Spiders devoir flies. Bears and birds prey on fish. Everything captures and eats those tasty voles. It is just a matter of eat or be eaten. There is nothing personal here, folks: you are merely food.

While I have watched ospreys fight over access to a nest site early in the season, I had not previously seen them fight over a fish. But, that is what two of them were doing on this occasion.

A female osprey flies in with her partially eaten fish.

She lands on a branch to eat it further, but is watched by another osprey that covets the fish.

The chase begins. This is only one scene from a vigorous back and forth between the two of them.

In the end she triumphs and settles down to consume her fish.


Posted in birds, fish | 2 Comments

June goulash


This is a collection of images from June, none of which has had a posting of its own. Curiously, there are no mammals. Although I saw mammals, none of them produced interesting pictures.

The first shore bird to arrive each year is normally the killdeer, which usually can be seen as early as mid March. Strangely, the first one I saw this year didn’t appear until mid June. 

A just fledged dipper chick sits on a log overlooking the creek. It is still too young to feed itself and desperately wants a parent to come along with some food.

With summer, redstarts have flowed into this region. This is a female.

A male Red-winged Blackbird flies past. 

While a female Red-winged Blackbird prepares to fly. 

The fact that this small creature looks rather like a wasp is a ruse to discourage a bird from eating it. It is actually a harmless little hoverfly collecting pollen from a daisy. 

A Bank Swallow leaves its cavity, having fed its chicks, which are, as yet, not visible.

A male Northern Flicker (red-shafted) flies past. 

A crab spider waits patiently on a daisy for a meal to arrive in the form of a fly or ant. 

A female Common Yellowthroat flits through the brush looking for insects.

The male Common Yellowthroat reveals how the bird was named. 


As does the Common Yellowthroat, the Warbling Vireo searches for insects to eat. 

The Osprey has a blind spot when it comes to property rights. It regularly builds its nest on human-built structures, but then complains bitterly when humans happen to pass by. Its mantra seems to be, if I am here, it is mine. 


Posted in birds, bugs | 3 Comments

Wild Turkey presence


When I was a child on the shore of Kootenay Lake, there were no Wild Turkeys to be seen.

Returning to the lakeshore in retirement, I was surprised to see a few. Since that time, the proliferation of turkeys is probably satisfying only to coyotes.

Why are they here? Apparently they were introduced in the states of Washington and Idaho as a way to satisfy hunters. Sigh….

A Washington website states: “wild turkeys … were introduced to Washington beginning in the early twentieth century.” These turkeys apparently did not head north. However, an Idaho website tells us that: “Wild turkey populations have taken off in Idaho since Idaho Fish and Game first introduced them in the 1960s.” It is a portion of this plantation that seems to have sought refuge around Kootenay Lake, for a few were apparently seen around Salmo later in that decade. 

However, the purpose of this posting is merely to record a milestone in our history of the Wild Turkey. By an accident of the preservation of ephemera, I have a page from the BC Naturalist from the Spring of 1987 (Vol. 25, No. 1, p. 6) that notes: “West Kootenay Naturalists were excited to find two WILD TURKEYS near Nelson on 27 December.”

This event, over thirty years ago, was an early stage in our turkey infestation, all apparently a consequence of Idaho’s introduction.


Posted in birds, commentary | 3 Comments

Fog drops on web


A recent posting showed a few characteristics of fog: fog wave. However, fog offers a far richer variety of features than those I showed there. Here is one more: fog drops that have collected on a spider’s web. 

Similar pictures offered on the web are almost always described as being dew drops on a spider’s web. This is patent nonsense. For dew to condense on an object, there must be a marked temperature difference between that object and the air. The thread of a spider’s web is much too narrow to sustain such a temperature difference. Dew does not form on a web.

However, as a collection net for fog drops drifting past, a spider’s web is superb. While large obstacles distort the movement of the air flowing past them so that the fog drops are merely carried around them, the threads of a spider’s web are so tiny that they intersect and collect the fog drops.

Fog drops collect on a spider’s web.


Posted in weather | 3 Comments

Osprey nest maintenance


There is an osprey nest I have been casually watching. Usually a female is incubating there, but a male attends her. I have been waiting until chicks hatch and are big enough to peek over the edge of the nest.

The chicks are not yet visible, however something interesting occurred. While the female was off the nest, the male flew in with a stick to add to it. One might think that nest renovation would all have been done by this time of the year, but apparently it carries on.

A male osprey adds another stick to the couple’s nest.


Posted in birds | 8 Comments

Fog wave


Rain during the day moistened the air. Clearing at night allowed cold moist air to drain to the valley bottom where by morning a fog had formed.

The fog drifts along the shore and back and forth across the Lake. 

Where the fog drifts through the shoreline trees, sunlight casts crepuscular rays.

My favourite scene, however, is of the fog arching in a giant wave over an obstacle, in much the same manner as water flowing over a rock in a stream.


Posted in weather | 4 Comments