I took another trip up to 9 km. Bog two days ago. I was particularly interested in photographing two things, the Swamp Gentian, Gentiana douglasiana, a plant that is quite common in the bog, but that I have never taken the time to photograph, and the Ringed Emerald, Somatochlora albicincta, a dragonfly which is also common, and I have tried to photograph many times, but have never succeeded. The Swamp Gentian was the easy one, although it was certainly not a case of simply finding a plant and photographing it. These gentians grow low in among the sedges and as a result are difficult to photograph with a nice clean background. After spending quite a bit of time looking for a suitable plant I finally realized that there was only one way I was going to get the photo I wanted. I plucked a single plant out of the ground and wedged it in a crack in one of the many bare tree stumps in the bog and got my photo that way.
I try avoiding doing this sort of thing, but when a plant is so common that you trample them with almost every single step you take, somehow sacrificing a single plant for the sake of a photo doesn’t seem that bad, especially considering that I am one of only a handful of people who ever even visit this bog.
While I was at it I also photographed two other plants using the same technique. Bog cranberry, Oxycoccus oxycoccos, is another tough one to photograph as it is a low creeper with tiny leaves and flowers. The tiny flowers of this plant remind me of miniature shooting stars, Dodecatheon sp.
My final plant was the Great Sundew, Drosera anglica, which I have photographed before, but when I found a particularly robust plant with lots of leaves and some flowers as well, I couldn’t resist. Again I used the same technique, but in this case I just lifted the chunk of moss it was growing in from the ground and placed the whole thing on a log. Because nothing was rooted to the ground I was able to replace plant and moss right back where they came from.
I held little hope of getting the emerald’s photo as I had tried many times before without success, but well, you have to keep trying. The problem is that the few perched individuals I have seen have been very wary and have flown before I could get close enough to get a photo, and the flying individuals, which are quite common, only seem to hover very briefly. On this occasion I was siting on my portable 3-legged stool taking photos of another plant when an emerald stopped and hovered almost right in front of me. I quickly got my camera up and took a burst of about 5 photos, then the dragonfly moved slightly and hovered again. Another burst of photos and again the dragonfly moved slightly and stopped to hover. Twice more it repeated before it finally decided to fly off, leaving me amazed and ecstatic. Although many of the images were out of focus because the dragonfly was moving slightly, I managed to get seven shots that were quite good. So here are two photos I’m quite happy with.
The earliest dragonflies up here on Vancouver Island start flying around mid-April. But it is not until late June or early July, depending on the year, that things start to get really active. Well things are active now and I though I would write a short blog about it. My favorite place to photograph dragonflies is Little River Pond, a man-made pond a short 8 minute drive from my home. I have recorded 20 species of dragonflies there and on a typical summer day will regularly see 10 or more of those species. I spent a pleasant 2 hours there yesterday (June 25) and although I only saw 9 species, it was the number of individuals and level of activity that was impressive. Here are a few of the photos I took.
I will often provide a perch for dragonflies at Little River Pond. This is particularly helpful for the Common Whitetail which normally perches on bare ground. On this occasion a Four-spotted Skimmer decided to use the perch, and I couldn’t resist taking its photo. At a distance this is one of our drabbest dragonflies, but up close a freshly emerged individual is a real gem.
The Blue Dasher will often land on a perch I provide, but I much prefer it on a natural perch. The problem is that often it perches fairly deep in the grass where getting a shot without a cluttered background is difficult. On this occasion it landed on a grass stem that was isolated enough from the rest of the vegetation that I was able to get the out-of-focus background I wanted.
That Common Whitetail that I was hoping would land on my perch actually did many times and I got several shots of it. In the end though my favorite shot was one on a grass stalk. This was a coulorful grass stalk, aging and turning orange, and I had seen a Four-spotted Skimmer land on it and thought that would make a good photo. I set myself up and waited, and before the skimmer landed, a whitetail decided to land briefly and I got this shot. I decided to leave the dragonfly fairly small in the photo to enhance the composition with more of the grass stalk.
I couldn’t resist adding one last photo. I love the challenge of shooting dragonflies in flight and on this occasion the shot I got was of a pair of Cardinal Meadowhawks flying in tandem and ovipositing in the pond. For those of you who love dragonflies as much as I do, happy dragonfly hunting, and for those of you who haven’t developed the passion yet, I hope a little bit of this rubs off.
I went to 9 km. Bog yesterday with the local botany group, part of Comox Valley Nature. The bog is right at the 9 km. point on the road up to Mount Washington and is at an elevation of about 800 meters. This is a beautiful little bog that is a favorite location for me, mostly because of the dragonflies, but also because it has many unusual and showy species of plants.
On this trip however we were exploring the bog fairly early in the season and many of the more spectacular flowers were not in bloom as yet. But with a couple of very good amateur botanists along we were finding some of the smaller and less showy plants that can still make great photos. I have selected four plants that I thought made quite attractive photos. The first is a deer fern, Blechnum picant. I’ve wanted to photograph this fern for quite some time, but I have never found a plant that I could isolate enough from the background to make it stand out. On this occasion though I decided to photograph a single fiddlehead. One of the neat things about this fern is that there are two types of fronds, sterile fronds that are often in a whorl close to the ground and fertile fronds that stick straight up from the middle of the plant. This photo is of a single fertile frond as it is just unfolding.
The next plant is the seed head of the leather-leaved saxifrage, Leptarrhena pyrolifoli. This is one of the earliest bloomers in the bog, and we were too late to see it in flower. I have never seen this plant in flower, but my botanist friends informed me that it is more impressive when it is in seed anyway.
The next two plants are both sedges. I tend to overlook sedges for the most part, first because they are generally not very impressive, and second, because it takes an expert to identify them. Fortunately we had an expert with us and we were able to identify several species of sedges. The first one is the few-flowered sedge, Carex pauciflora, a tiny little sedge that is easily overlooked but was quite abundant in the bog although it is rather uncommon in the valley. To get this photo I had to pick three stems and stick them in a crack in a log to isolate them from the background.
The final plant, and the second sedge is the many-flowered sedge, Carex pluriflora. Although quite small and easily overlooked, I think it is a very pretty sedge and makes a great photo. This one was easily photographed in situ.
I have set myself the task of photographing as many species of plants as I can from Vancouver Island, and this trip added a few. I have largely ignored the sedges so it was nice to be able to get photos of a couple of species the could be identified.
Well, this spring has been one to end all springs! I have no pictures that go with this particular story or poem, but let’s just say that I’ve taken quite the beating of late. It never occurred to me to take pictures of any of the mice I’ve had to trap over the last months (since March!!) as they ended up dead, except for the ones in my suet feeder.
It looks like I won’t be feeding the birds this winter as a result since I do not have my cats to keep the mice away from the inside of the house.
One of the ladies who comes to help me with housework happened to point out a wasps’ nest a few weeks ago and yet I decided to just live and let live……until…..
Well, I walked into the large back room that used to have the cats hanging out in it and was cleaning up when I heard a very odd sound coming from the walls. Oh Lordie. I could hear the chewing from a meter away! It was carpenter ants!!!
I went weak at the knees and was glad I didn’t own a GUN!!! “Enough already!” I screamed inside! Then I had to call a pest control company.
Well, today all but the mice were taken care of. A very kind friend had been clearing away all the rotted wood from beneath and beside my old, dilapidated sundeck along with old plastic pots, junk, vinyl siding…..oh, the list was endless as was the junk left behind! It was good timing that he finished the day before I had scheduled the pest control treatment because although I was only planning on having the back wall drilled into and treated for the ant invasion, the pest control guy ended up spraying underneath the cleared out ant haven under the deck, and even suited up to get rid of that wasps’ nest.
Of course this meant that the three entrances to my house that I use were all off limits because of chemicals or angry wasps, so I ended up doing a very odd thing indeed. I had to use the front door which I never do!
So I wrote a poem that I hope makes you laugh. It was a tough day, but I did get a pic of a Western Tiger Swallowtail outside my home on some phlox once I made my exit to go over to someone else’s house for a few hours (the friend who had kindly done all the clearing and hauling away of junk). Sometimes you just have to get the heck away! We ended up having a really great talk about my favourite subject too. Butterflies!
Then I went for a walk in the park where I managed a shot of a Robin with what I thought was a freshly plucked worm in its beak, and a bumblebee which I have yet to identify. I have since had an email from Cris Guppy who states “I believe the “worm” in the robin’s beak is a pupa of a cranefly – the cranefly larvae eat the roots of your lawn. So yet another pest, although you can ignore it unless your grass starts to die.”
During my walk, I met up with an older gentleman, and he was very interested in learning about insects, from carpenter ants to butterflies! Yes, it was definitely GOOD to get away from the house and out into Nature…just for a nice and healing break and to feel useful again.
A special thanks to Gabe for all his help today, for the lovely cup of tea and conversations about the future of the Gorge Park Community Garden and what part I may end up playing in all this, and to my good friends Andrea and Charley who kind of coerced me into doing this blog in their gentle and kind way.
If I manage to wade through my challenges, I think I may find that life has its rewards. It always seems to come back to how we relate to ourselves and Nature. Having said that, I will add that I do wish some aspects of Nature would stay out of my house!!!
Enjoy the poem and hey, as you can see I have even included some pictures after all, taken after my pesky ordeal for you to enjoy. Please excuse any typos as it is late (again) and I’m not quite as sharp as I’d like.
All the very best to you and yours,
The Pesky Pest Promenade
Oh woe, oh woe, oh woe is poor old me
the pests have left me very weak at knee.
The humble ant, a common summer feature,
was chewing up my wall, the nasty creature!
All trembling as I’m no procrastinator
I called the local pest exterminator.
He came out to investigate things here
but couldn’t with his rather deafened ear
pick up the noise of all those ants a’munching
within my walls, while I could hear them crunching
a meter from the wall; but he agreed
to stop the critters’ too-destructive feed.
A few days later, just around the bend,
the man returned, my misery to end.
But then refused to please remove his shoes
so now I’ve got the dirty carpet blues!
The ants, I hope are in a better place,
than chewing up my walls right to my face.
And as my sanity was not the best,
it didn’t help to find a waspy nest
outside next to my favourite exit door;
I didn’t think I could take any more!
My hopes in being free of pesky raid
had really long ago begun to fade,
but the exterminator took his spray
and got ‘em too, their nest he took away.
Of course, all good things always come in thrice
and so I still have darling, pesky mice!!!!
Now too smart to go after baited traps,
they like my underwear drawers for their naps.
Oh woe, oh woe, oh woe is poor old me!
Sometimes I wish that I’d been born a tree
or else a butterfly now flying free,
though they all have their troubles as do I
they live their lives until the day they die…
© Annie Pang May 31st 2014
One of the biggest challenges in plant photography is photographing “belly plants”, plants that are so small and low to the ground that you have to get right down on your belly to see them properly and photograph them. The biggest challenge is often getting everything you want in focus and still maintaining a soft, muted background. I will often search such a patch of flowers for some time before selecting the one I want to try, only to find when I get down there that there is something wrong with the plant or the angle is all wrong. A recent trip to Helliwell Provincial Park on Hornby Island in the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver Island and mainland B.C. provided an opportunity to try my hand at several such plants. Here are some of the results.
The first species I have included is the poverty clover, Trifolium depauperatum var. depauperatum. This is a blue listed plant in B.C., with populations found only at Helliwell and in the Victoria area. For this photograph I decided to include some of the old, dried-up flowers and some of the leaves. I often find myself concentrating solely on the flowers and forgetting to photograph the rest of the plant, which is at times essential for positive identification of the species.
My second plant is tomcat clover, Trifolium willdenowii, another pretty little clover with a much wider distribution. I have seen this species in a number of areas on Vancouver Island.
The next species is another clover, white-tipped clover, Trifolium variegatum. Once again I decided to get the leaves in the photograph, making the challenge of depth of field more difficult. When I am searching for a plant like this I look for one that is already isolated from it’s background, is in good shape and that I can photograph with the sun behind me if I am out on a sunny day. My preference is to shoot on overcast days that are calm so that I can shoot at slower shutter speeds without any problems. The day I was at Helliwell was sunny and with enough of a breeze to make longer exposures difficult.
The next flower is another clover, but one that is yet to be identified. Fortunately one of the people on the trip is a very good amateur botanist, and hopefully she will eventually come up with an identification. This is in the same genus as the others, Trifolium, but identification to species will just have to wait.
Four tiny little clovers, and that was not all I saw and photographed. Rather than include all my photographs I decided to include just one last species. This is a clover that is not a clover. It is called the dwarf owl’s-clover, Tryphisaria pusilla. There are over 300 species of clovers world-wide and all are in the genus Trifolium. The dwarf owl’s-clover is not only not a clover (the genus name is a dead give-away), but is not even in the same family as the clovers. Clovers are in the pea family, Fabaceae, whereas the dwarf owl’s-clover is in the family Orobanchaceae along with the paintbrushes and louseworts. This is a small, rather non-descript plant that is easily overlooked. The flowers are incredibly tiny, and beyond the capabilities of my camera to photograph individually. Look for the deep maroon objects with a noticeable hook at the top. Although this plant is not considered to be threatened, it is not commonly found in the Comox Valley.
It may well be a year since I last wrote a blog so I thought it was high time I did. So much has changed on this planet, just in the passed year. It boggles the mind. Almost everyone I meet has gone so hi-tech that I feel like a fish out of water. So getting out in nature is all the more grounding and important, even if my walks are brief these days.
Here in Victoria it is hot and the sun feels scorching. Many friends and people I meet when I am out have told me how different the sun is feeling and I also feel it more and more myself. A harshness that seems to grow with each passing season. It is troubling.
Former sun worshippers I know are seeking shade, although many younger folks don’t seem to realize the dangers of our thinning ozone layer. I admit I have very low tolerance for heat…a strange thing for someone born and raised in Toronto. But I haven’t lived in Toronto for 35 years now and I have witnessed such changes in Victoria’s climate, especially in the last 15 years, that I find it truly alarming.
These days, I must go out completely covered prior to 4pm to protect myself (doctor’s orders!) no matter how hot it is. Not great for looking for butterflies, but the sun on my skin doesn’t feel pleasant this time of year the way it used to and after this past year I know only too well how deadly the sun’s rays can be.
This last week I have seen five different species of butterflies in Gorge Park but they were not landing until I walked into the territory of a Mourning Cloak this afternoon and got lucky. Happily, the companion I was with at the time was happy to wait with me while I tried a few “tricks” to get this lovely butterfly to land so I could get a few shots. And few they were indeed! This butterfly is probably one of our longest local living butterflies, sometimes living for up to 11 months. It is a hibernator, and over winters even in the prairies.
I had seen it a few days prior but it was illusive and I was short of time and never saw it except in passing. Today I had a bit more time and it definitely had a territory to defend, and my hat seemed to be attracting it. Its wings are tattered as one would expect in an old butterfly. It will mate and die and then in the fall or maybe sooner, it’s offspring will emerge. I have never had the luck of finding a fresh, young Mourning Cloak though, so all my pictures are of older ones.
I believe the Mourning Cloak is so-named because it’s wings are dark and trimmed with a creamy-lacy fringe on the dorsal sides of the wings, resembling a long, dark cloak. I wanted to share this with you and hope you get out and look for butterflies this spring and summer. With the climate changing so quickly and society speeding up faster than I feel I can keep up, my time in Nature becomes more and more precious to me.
It is something we just can’t afford to take for granted any longer and there are no easy answers any longer. My only answer is to keep writing when I can, and try to raise awareness where I can.
Be well and I do hope you enjoy this latest tale, poem and two poetographs. If I happen on other wildlife including butterflies, I hope to write about them again.
The Mourning Cloak
In the stifling heat getting late in the day
while walking a path in the middle of May
inhaling the pollen ’til I thought I might choke
I happened upon an old Mourning Cloak!
Over wintered, now flying so wild and free,
it flew dizzying circles all about me.
In the stifling heat getting late in the day
it flirted and skirted in territorial play
gliding upwards and downwards and this way and that
never landing until …well, I took off my hat!
I then set it down on a branch in a tree
and prayed that the butterfly’d come look and see.
For so few butterflies have I had time to find
too chained to the drudgery of the daily grind.
I asked once again, “please dear creature please land,
I’m weary and almost too tired to stand”.
It came! It returned and it landed right there
and then opened it’s wings up both tattered and fair.
I’m old, said those wings, but there’s still time to fly
and I got in these shots before it flew to the sky.
How grateful I was with my spirit renewed
that this creature of God had so altered my mood.
Oh yes, I was stifled and terribly hot
but for this moment in time, all my troubles forgot
I was dancing with Nature like an old Garry oak,
a bit old and tattered like the old Mourning Cloak.
It was time to go home and get out of the heat
and leave the dear soul to return or retreat
and be wild and free with the time that it had;
I walked up the path then, both happy and sad…
The full moon has risen and the heat carries on;
it is night as I write in the hours of pre-dawn.
Tomorrow will come far too soon it would seem
leaving this day behind in a hot, hazy dream…
© Annie Pang May 14, 2014
Well I haven’t posted for over a year now. I just found that I had taken on too much and decided to back off for a while. Now that I am back I am approaching this differently. I will not attempt to follow any schedule and I will probably concentrate more on the photography and less on the text. I am after all primarily a nature photographer.
A couple of weeks ago I went down to Union Bay, about a 20 minute drive south of Comox on the east side of Vancouver Island, to check to see if the Purple Martins were back at the nest boxes at the boat launch. Purple Martins on Vancouver Island nest in individual boxes set over the water rather than the large, communal boxes that most people are used to. As it turned out, the martins did not return to these boxes this year, although other boxes along the coast are now fully occupied. Instead the use of the boxes at Union Bay, and there are only two of them, was being fought over by several Tree Swallows and a couple of Violet-green Swallows. I spent an hour or so trying to get photos of these birds and here are the results.
As you can see this was one angry swallow.
Ready to defend it’s nest box at all cost.
Going in for the kill!
Looks like it is time to give up and let the other bird have the nest box.
Most of the time the fights were between Tree Swallows as in the first four photos. It was during these fights that I was best able to get photos as often the birds would be relatively stationary and predictably in front of the box entrance. Only once did a Violet-green Swallow come in for a landing when I was ready, and then I just got a shot without any interaction.
Ten days later when I went back to check on the boxes, things had settled down and it appeared that both boxes were occupied by Tree Swallows.
This blog is a bit late in coming but I’d like to post it for you to enjoy. It is short and sweet! Enjoy.
On May 26th, my confinement to the house had become unbearable so, at the first hint of sunlight, I decided that I must try very hard to get to Christmas Hill. The last time I’d gone had been by myself and it held many sad memories for me. Still, I was driven to face my demons and to embrace the hill again. I was convinced there might be some Western Elfins there but the weather had been damp and cool. Even though the sun was out at the house, when I finally arrived at the hill it was quite overcast. But I was determined to pass the time in the healing of nature, and so I climbed the hill once again.
What a daunting task it was and what made it more so was finding nothing at all other than some bumblebees, and not even very many of those. Not a single butterfly could be found. Yet I didn’t feel it was a waste of time or energy because I felt better this time. I was alone, weak, dizzy and light-headed, but I was doing it. I noticed things – really saw them. I didn’t take any pictures of the vegetation but the Yarrow was out and most of the Camas was spent and going to seed. How much I had missed!!
I did make it to the summit and only found a family of parents with their two children at the top. It was cool and breezy and, finding nothing, I decided I’d better head back down. On the other side of the hill I checked for Western Elfins. Each dwarfed Garry Oak was examined but there were no butterflies. I was so discouraged but soldiered on and decided it was time to throw in the towel.
Near the bottom of the pathway, however, a surprised awaited me. A hummingbird whipped around my head in the shaded light beneath the Arbutus and Douglas fir trees. A shot seemed hopeless but when I saw it was nectaring on Western Trumpet Honeysuckle I managed to get a silhouette shot. I thought “Better than nothing” and kept watching and listening. Then, to my astonishment, the wee bird landed on a branch very close by and it allowed me the opportunity to get a few shots. I knew that at least one of them had turned out and suddenly the world became a different place altogether. Gone was my weakness, my pains, all thought of worry. I was elated!
Such is the healing power of nature and my delight was complete when I came home and saw that indeed one shot had turned out perfectly and the silhouette leant itself to being lightened up with a bit of software as you can see.
I was inspired to write this poem, half of which was written in my car on the spot and the rest just now. Today I am exhausted from my exertions, but I have no regrets and I wanted to share this special moment of healing in nature with you with these pictures and this poem. Like many, I do not know what lies ahead for me in life, but for an instant in time, it didn’t matter because Nature had given me the present of Now. And Now is all we ever have. I think hummingbirds and all of wildlife know this and they make the most of the time they have. I could learn a lot from them. Two poetographs follow the poem.
A Hummer Hummed…
I searched the hill for butterflies in flight,
but to my disappointment I found none.
Then, waiting for me in the forest light,
a hummer hummed “Your life is just begun.”
She flew about my head with buzzing wings
and nectared on some honeysuckle sweet.
This miracle of nature’s wondrous things
seemed destined that the two of us should meet.
What joy! Upon a branch she chose to land
and quietly I moved in for a shot,
my camera slightly shaking in my hand –
yet luck allowed her likeness to be caught.
I climbed to find a dream upon a hill,
but something waited on the way down
that was better still…
© Annie Pang May 27, 2013.
Perhaps this is a strange title for a blog, but it centers around my garden, a friend’s garden, as well as the few shots I got along the Gorge which I have been walking regularly up until my garden called.
But I must include a picture I managed to get of a lovely Golden-crowned Sparrow right from my kitchen window. It posed so beautifully on the suet feeder and considering these birds are ground feeders, I felt I must include this shot first.
While on some of the walks along the Gorge I took very few pictures. On one walk, even though I had my camera, I was unable to get photos of two of the three butterflies I did see there. It was quite hot and so they were not landing. The first one I saw was a Mourning Cloak and what a surprise that was! I hadn’t seen one along there before. Then suddenly it was chased off by a Satyr Comma, which landed so briefly I could not get a shot of it either, but could see it clearly.
On another walk, I was able to get a rather poor picture of a Cabbage White butterfly which I will include below. It was such a long shot and I was lucky it landed at all, frankly. It had become so hot in Victoria so quickly that it made anything I saw impossible to photograph at the time.
But it was interesting to see an Arbutus tree growing out of the rock wall!! How resilient are our native species. If man vanished from this planet suddenly, is this not proof of how Nature would just take over and soon cover any evidence of our prior existence? It is a humbling thought indeed, and also a comforting one from an ecological point of view.
Arbutus growing out of the rock wall
The day the garden called was the day that three generous people from the Gorge Tillicum Urban Farmers group volunteered to come over and help me start getting my garden ready for planting. The task was far too overwhelming for me to undertake in my present state of health, and so my friends put out a call for help. Although everyone else in the group was busy, my friends, Kendell, Laurie and Brad showed up on a Saturday and I ventured out to try to do what I could which wasn’t too much.
That was when a little miracle happened. In all the years I’ve had my gardens, I’ve seen only three butterfly species; Cabbage Whites, Western Tiger Swallowtails (not out yet) and Lorquin’s Admirals. But this year was very different and it transformed me completely at the time. Brad and I were digging compost and later, Laurie and I found a shady spot to sit and weed….and when I saw a Cabbage White appear I went to grab my camera. When I returned, I was very surprised at what happened next. Every time the Cabbage White tried to land, something very dark swooped in and chased it off. And then it landed – a Mourning Cloak. I couldn’t believe this. I’d always gone searching for them when I’d had more aid for field trips, and often never found one, yet here was one in my backyard?? Well of course I took pictures.
It took off and returned many times. It even landed on Laurie’s jeans.
Mourning Cloak on Laurie’s jeans
Then it landed on my head! I knew it was attracted to my hat so I removed it and stuck it on a pole in the garden, and sure enough, the Cloak landed there many times.
Mourning Cloak on my hat
Several times it landed on some Yarrow seed heads. Yarrow, when in bloom is a very good butterfly nectaring source and if I keep the faded blossoms dead-headed it will flower throughout the summer.
Mourning Cloak on Yarrow
Here is a sideview of the Mourning Cloak.
Sideview of Mourning Cloak
The gardens were being prepared for both human and wildlife consumption, especially hummingbirds, bees and butterflies. The Red-flowering Currant is quite a favourite of the hummingbird although mine hasn’t gotten big enough to be of interest as yet. Once we have the plants in the ground I imagine they will grow rapidly.
We were all very happy to have such a visitor to watch us at our labours, as if to bless the garden. Kendell was good enough to bring along organic snacks for all to sample and so, with a Mourning Cloak in my garden, I had my very first tea party of sorts after our hard work.
Brad, Kendell and Laurie
GTUF, short for Gorge Tillicum Urban Farmers, is a group dedicated to producing our own food on the land we have. Being on my own now, that task is overwhelming as I mentioned, but I do hope, with enough helping hands, that many will benefit from my gardens this year. I just want to see the land used and my gardens there to welcome the butterflies and other insects.
Later that day, Laurie emailed me a picture of two butterflies for identification. They were two more Mourning Cloaks and it appeared that they were mating on the side of her Mason Bee box.
Mourning Cloaks, photo by Laurie
The next day I was invited over there to see what I could find in their garden. There was a fair bit of activity but my camera was only able to get this honey bee and a Paper wasp, or Thread waisted wasp, Mischocyttarus flavitarsis, as well as a Bumble Bee.
Laurie also had a different Bleeding Heart than my cultivar, and she felt it was probably the indigenous one.
Bleeding Heart flowers
Meanwhile, here at home, there was activity at night as well for awhile. I turned on my porch light and this attracted two different moth species. The first was a good sized one and although it decided to plaster itself on a window far above the ground, I was still able to get a serviceable shot. This moth is known as the Crucialis Woodling Moth (Egira crucialis) and it was a welcome sight indeed.
Crucialis Woodling Moth
The other moth I have found a few times is a “micro moth”, Alucita montana, or Montana Six-plume Moth and I have even found it in my office tonight as well as outside. Here is my best picture taken as I write this now in my office. The little guy let me get really close! Originally I was going to show this moth taken outside, but this picture turned out better.
Montana Six-plume Moth
Although I was certain I saw a Green Lacewing outside, I couldn’t get it to land so there were no shots to be had until a later date, but I did manage to find this male Cranefly at the time (family: Tipulidae).
Here is the Green Lacewing I got at a later date, again, at night. It was another long shot, but better than none.
So while I am still here in my home I am trying to enjoy as much of the wildlife as I can find. The Mourning Cloak returned briefly the next day, but then was off. They are mating now and I suspect, worn as they are looking, they will live longer still before they depart this world.
In closing, I will leave you with my best wishes, as well as a poem and one last picture of my Bleeding Heart cultivar. It is the food source for my favourite butterfly, the Clodius Parnassian, that I doubt I will see again since I cannot go back to the hills where they are found. But one never knows….one never knows.
I did once find one in a very unusual place that was not too far away….but then that is another story I may tell sometime….
The Garden of my dreams
What soothing balm does Nature bring
what wonders in the garden
with butterflies and birds that sing
with trees that fence my yard in.
I wander in my solitude
along the Gorge at times;
a Cloak of Mourning greets me there
and speaks to me in rhymes.
But there are times that come along,
and suddenly there’s life
for Nature sings her special song
and sings away my strife.
And in the Garden of my dreams
outside my very door
an ocean full of sunlit beams
now calls me to its shore.
The honey bee is buzzing and
the moths might come at night
for life is always all about
and flying to the Light.
May people join their hands to help,
to save my bit of land.
May kindness shown stay with me now
and help me understand
that Bleeding Hearts have beauty too
and Nature always heals.
May faded blossoms bloom again,
through cracks in concrete seals.
Though hardship faces all of us
in Nature must I trust,
to have this Phoenix rise again
from ashes and from dust.
Bleeding Heart cultivar
© Annie Pang May 9, 2013.
The first of March was a typical early spring day, overcast, dull and drizzely, so neither a lion nor a lamb, and the rest of the month remained pretty much the same way, although we got less rainfall than usual. Out at the pond spring was still gradually unwinding. The ducks remained active throughout the month and most days I would see all five species that were frequenting the pond, both hooded and common mergansers, buffleheads, ring-necked ducks and mallards. I spent quite a bit of time trying to photograph the ducks and managed to get several good photos of the female common mergansers, although the other species were never quite as cooperative.
Common merganser female
Common merganser female
On the third of March the pair of eagles were perched on the far side of the pond most of the time I was there, and it was only when another eagle came along that one of the pair took off and chased the intruder away. Unfortunately all this activity took place at such a distance and so quickly that photographing it was not possible. That same day though I found several spiders webs in the fence in the parking lot, so already the orb weavers were active. These are most likely from Araneus diadematus, the Cross Spider, but I will have to see the spiders later in the year to be sure.
By the middle of the month several plants were becoming more obvious. The leaves of yarrow were unfurling in many places, and at the east end of the pond little western bittercress was up and in bloom. This early in the year the bittercress is quite small and easily missed as the white flowers are tiny.
The other plant I looked for was the seaside rein orchid. This is an unusual orchid in that the leaves appear as early as late February, but then completely die off, and when the flower spike finally appears in July there are no leaves on the plant.
Seaside rein orchid
The seaside rein orchid is found in the field north of the river. This field is largely covered by roadside rock moss, Racomitrium canescens, which is a very common moss that is found in exposed areas like roadsides, open fields and even rooftops. It is easily recognized by its pale yellow green colour when wet, and almost whitish appearance when dry.
Roadside rock moss
The beavers are not the only mammals making the pond their home, as there is also a muskrat in the west pond. I had only seen the muskrat once before at the pond, but on one of my trips this month I managed to see and take a photo of it in the west pond. The impression I have is that the beavers stay largely in the east pond and the muskrat in the west pond, even in the winter when the high waters turn the two ponds into one large pond.
Woodland bird activity picked up through the month, and I began hearing robins singing in the area, as well as song and white-crowned sparrows, and Bewick’s and Pacific wrens. On the 18th of the month I had my first yellow-rumped warbler, and on that day I also had both ruby-crowned and golden-crowned kinglets and brown creeper. The last two species were both first records for the area. I have been keeping records of the birds I see in the area ever since my first visit, and prior to that a study of the area was done that recorded all the birds observed. The combined list is now 76 species. This list can be seen on the Comox Valley Naturalists Society’s website as an attachment to the Little River Area write-up under the Nature Guide. This link will get you to the area write-up.
The same day I also explored the Douglas-fir woods at the northeast corner of the property. In the middle of the woods there is a wood ant colony, and on this day the surface of the mound was swarming with ants. These ants go deep underground in the fall and spend the winter in a state of hibernation. Only when the days warm up again in the spring do they return to the surface and become active once more.
On one of my last visits to the pond in March I noticed the eagle back on the nest across the road from the southwest corner of the property. At this point I am not sure if it is really using the nest or not. If it is the young will eventually be evident. I will have to keep checking. Most of the ducks have left the pond, by the end of the month. On my last visit I only saw the mallards and a single ring-necked duck. The other ducks have probably left for larger ponds and marshes that provide more nesting sites and protection during the breeding season.
I have always found March to be a rather slow month regardless of where I am, but spring seems very slow to unfold at Little River Nature Park compared to other areas in the valley. This is in part due to how much disturbance the area has seen and how small the woodlots are. The field to the south of the pond was thick with Scotch broom up until recently when broom busting parties got rid of most of it. I suspect that it will take a few more years of constant broom elimination before many of the native wildflowers start to come back. The field to the north of the pond where the Little River flows through also has a broom problem, and one that has not as yet been tackled. Fortunately the broom is not so thick as to dominate. By the end of the month the leaves of several species of flowers were in evidence but I did not find any flowers. I looked for wildflowers in the northeast woods but could not find any. I suspect its small size and how much people-use it gets might be factors.