Cloudbow & glory


I no longer travel much by plane, so my opportunity to see cloudbows and glories is not great. But last week, I flew to the Coast, and for most of the way the plane was above a thick layer of stratocumulus. Now a thick layer of cloud decreases the contrast of these optical phenomena, but you make do with what is available and I did see both together.

Last year, I posted two pictures: a cloudbow (taken from a boat), a glory (taken from an aircraft). Although, each showed the same portion of the sky, the antisolar point, they did not show the other phenomenon.

This very wide-angle picture of a cloudbow was taken over a year ago from a boat. It shows most of the bow and a (supposed) reflection, but it does not show a glory. The photo was taken by my son, Alistair M. Fraser.

Also taken about a year ago from a plane is a telephoto shot of a glory. There was no cloudbow in the scene.

Last week, I was on a plane going to the Coast, and there appeared both phenomena. But, both are somewhat faint, possibly due to the thick cloud. The glory is on the left and a portion of the cloud bow is on the right. In a paper entitled, Simulating glories and cloudbows in color, Stanley Gedzelman says, “Glories are generally more distinct for clouds of droplets of as much as ∼10 μm [about 10 microns] in radius. As droplet radius increases, the glory shrinks and becomes less prominent, whereas the cloudbow becomes more distinct and eventually colorful.” So, the cloud in the glory picture above probably had most drops smaller than 10 microns radius, and above that, the cloudbow picture probably had drops very much larger. This just taken picture below, had drops in between in size. However, this scene does show the relative sizes of the two phenomena. (The wing and the edge of aircraft window is also on the left.)


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White-tail suckling


There are many white-tailed deer in the valley and they are, on the whole, quite visible. Yet there are some things that one rarely sees: rutting, mating, birth, and suckling. It is probably not that the deer has a sense of privacy, but that it has a sense of security about activities for which it, or its offspring, are more vulnerable to predators.

Last evening, I saw suckling.

This picture actually follows the next one in time and shows the fawn and parent having just separated. The fawn still has its tongue out and its hind legs are covered in mud.

This (somewhat confusing) scene shows the fawn suckling.


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Exotropia in bears


The word, exotropia, is not found in my computer dictionary. But it is found clearly on the web (e.g., wikipedia). It describes the situation were one’s two eyes, rather than looking at the same thing, are deviated outwards. In humans, exotropia is uncommon and is considered to be a problem to be corrected, for the two eyes then send two different images to the brain.

Bears have a marked exotropia at times. While the role that it plays in bears is speculative, the situation seems quite common and is apparently used to combine images to get a wider field of view.

I tried to learn about exotropia in bears, but found only one reference on the web. More on that below.

I start with two supposedly normal views of a bear’s eyes, one from black bears, one from grizzly bears. In these pictures, they are both presumably seeing the world in stereo for the pupils of each eye are looking at the same things. One assumes that, as with people, this is a bear’s default way of viewing the world.

A black bear looks at the world in stereo.

A grizzly bear looks at the world in stereo.

The next two pictures were used in recent previous postings, but now they are used to discuss exotropia. To see the effect, cover one eye of a bear to see where the other eye is looking, and then switch and cover the other eye. With each animal, the eyes are clearly divergent.

This black bear was fishing in a spawning channel.

This grizzly bear was fishing in a different spawning channel.

The only other reference I was able to find was one by a Vancouver-Island photographer and blogger, Wayne Barnes, who commented on the condition in 2012 and noted that V.I. black bears all seem to have divergent eyes (tofinophotography). On Vancouver Island, there were no grizzly bears and he had no data from the mainland.

My observations extend the condition to the mainland, and to grizzly bears. This suggests that it has remained a characteristic of bears since before the two species separated, about five million years ago. As the situation seems common in both black and grizzly bears, it is likely favourable for bears and can give them a wider field of view.


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Grizzly & Kokanee


A (female?) grizzly bear wandered by and began feeding on Kokanee salmon. Before wandering off, it had eaten perhaps a dozen Kokanee. A few days ago, I looked at black bears eating Kokanee.

I think the grizzly bear was aware it was being watched, but just went about its eating.

It was not particularly choosy. Sometimes it ate from the head first, and

… sometimes both, and

… sometimes the tail first.


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Bears in Park


Bears have arrived at Kokanee Creek Park.

Usually, it is earlier, but while black bears have been here for a few days, they seem to be a bit late this year. Well, it was a good huckleberry season at higher altitudes, but one reason for the tardiness is apparently some fresh paving on the mountain side of the highway. The equipment and traffic this entailed seems to have postponed their arrival. 

But they are here now. There were eight seen a couple of evenings ago. The attraction is the spawning run of Kokanee salmon, and the black bears need to fatten up before hibernation. 

However, this year’s bears only turn up at dusk. This is a variant on their earlier year’s appearance of coming at any time of day. Skittishly, they seem be trying to avoid people, but their timing makes it difficult to take pictures. While I watched last evening, there were two adult bears, plus a mother and two cubs, but the low light and the skittishness left me with only pictures of three of them.

In the dim light, the camera would no longer focus on the mother bear and her two cubs. The bears were off to the side of the creek waiting for some people to disperse.

The first bear to arrive is seen with a captured Kokanee salmon. Photo by Cynthia Fraser.

This black bear looks cautiously up at people on the bank of the creek.

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A week late


Late August is the time to start watching the Kokanee salmon run and all the results from it. Some of the results, the bears eating fish, has been diminished perhaps largely by the repaving on the road. This activity diminishes their access to the usual spawning streams. But, the birds have arrived for the pending feast. It is unclear to me what insights prompt birds to arrive prior to most of the fish.

Nevertheless, I did observe (poorly) an unfamiliar activity. While waiting for the fish to arrive, some of the juvenile birds fought. 

There is the odd fish available, but not yet a glut of them.

Turkey Vultures are here, but seem to have yet to find many dead fish.

The herons have gathered, some times in fours and fives.

Among the birds waiting for the fish to arrive were these two. Seen briefly (and with poor focus), it was initially not clear who they were, but the two of them were obviously fighting.

Only when they separated could I make out who was scrapping ahead of the fish feed. They were two juveniles: a Red-tailed Hawk (left), and a Bald Eagle (right). Presumably, when the channel was filled with fish, they would be feeding and not bothering one another. It is also possible that the impatience is partly driven by the fact that they are both juveniles and they are both combative raptors.


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Uncommon harasses rare


I have casually been watching for the Lewis’s Woodpecker and saw it two days ago, a little over two weeks later than those seen last year.

Birds have their niches. Some are adapted to water, some just to shorelines. Some want grassland, some thrive amongst trees. So, a forested land, such as around Kootenay Lake, may not appeal to those who thrive in a more open country.

Consider the Black-billed Magpie. This is a somewhat common resident to the west of the Great Lakes. Yet around here, where it is highly forested, they are few in number and largely confined to a small region where there is the desired open country with a few trees. For us, the magpie is uncommon.

Then there is the Lewis’s Woodpecker. It is blue-listed, which means that it is threatened — and that is based on the populated regions of which Kootenay Lake doesn’t rate. It is known in parts of southern B.C., see A Nest of a Lewis’s Woodpecker, but the reference maps just don’t include us for we get only a handful some years. Last year, there were maybe a half-dozen; this year, there seem to be two (and they are late). Not only does this bird like the open terrain with a few trees that the magpie does, but it sends few breeders this far north. For us, it is a rare bird.

I will start with two old images to set the stage for the two combatants. The first is the Black-billed Magpie.

The second is the Lewis’s Woodpecker.

The first time I saw the Lewis’s Woodpecker this year, it was high, small and distant. Alas, thereafter, it was even farther.

There are two Lewis’s in the scene. The one on the right is on a branch that apparently has something to eat in the top of it — something that the attacking magpie had previously figured belonged to it. This is the first of three attacks. After the magpie failed to drive off the Lewis’s, it temporarily retired to an adjacent branch.

On the second try, the magpie came after the Lewis’s Woodpecker which had climbed to the food. The magpie was again unsuccessful when the woodpecker fought back, and so it retreated.

On the third and last try, the Lewis’s stayed firm and the magpie retreated for good.


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Eagle juvenile


Two seconds.

That is all the time I had when I rounded a corner and startled a juvenile Bald Eagle (hatched this year). That is the time it took for the eagle from being in a hidden perch on my left, to flying in front of me, and then vanishing to my right. It was very close and didn’t all fit in the frame.

The first picture is a full-frame crop from the camera and is amazingly sharp. The second is a tighter crop of the head.


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I rarely see a chipmunk. And it is even rarer that I see one here in the valley. This is to be contrasted with seeing the red squirrel which loudly berates me almost every time I step outside. The odd thing is that I do not remember this relative sparsity of chipmunks as a characteristic of my childhood here. Back then, there seemed to be many chipmunks. 

But today I was visited by a chipmunk. It had found the bird-feeding corner of the deck — a spot that has also enticed a black bear (last year), a bobcat, a raccoon, and, of course, the squirrel. 

I believe this is a Yellow-pine Chipmunk. It said nothing and generally ignored people watching it. Note, its tongue is out. 

The chipmunk allowed quite a close approach. Well, there was food.


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Juvenile ospreys


Two juvenile ospreys have left the nest just this week. It seems a bit early for them and they were being watched by a parent in a nearby tree. We may be able to see them for most of the next month before they migrate to the south not to return for two or three years when they are ready to breed. 

The juvenile osprey are easily distinguished. Most striking are the topside wing feathers that look like they have been dipped in cream. Then there are the orangish eyes (as distinguished from the yellowish eyes of the adult). The breast band is somewhat characteristic for it usually vanishes with the male adult.

At one point, one bird flew off. Shortly afterwards, it returned and to maintain balance, the other stood and spread its own wings.


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