Saturday, November 29, 2014

Snowfall...and Christmas cactus in bloom

One has to wonder what evolutionary reason there is for a Christmas cactus to bloom during the coldest season of the year. They are native to Brazil, where there aren't really seasonal changes in light, yet the blooming is triggered by the changes in light. Last night, we had our first snowfall of the season, and last week, the Christmas cactus opened its first blooms.  According to Wikipedia, they are also known as Thanksgiving cactus, which seems more accurate for those who live in the United States.

 

About four blooms have already fallen off, but it looks like it is roughly on par with what he displayed last year (which shows a diminishing trend, as far as blooms go).

As with previous years, any bud that isn't an inch long by the time the others bloom will probably fall off in the next week or so.

Other observations:
- the timing for this year is the second earliest, compared with prior years of sitting in the same spot
- it is rarely the same branch that hosts a flower, year after year.
- a few leaves have dropped since last year, but they've been replaced by new ones.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Salmon in the city

It's salmon season!  Last year, I tried to make it out to Tynehead regional park, in Surrey, to check out the spawning salmon.  I had arrived late in the day, and didn't get any decent photos or video.  This year, I got a bit more time in with the fish, and managed to get a few short clips.  Black corners are due to post-straightening of the video.

Although the water looks quite murky in the video, visibility was around 2 feet or so, which is more than adequate for viewing from above.

The fish in the videos are chum - we did see coho as well, which are a solid red colour, but they preferred the safety of deeper waters and wider streams.

Salmon never cease to amaze me.  Imagine spending years never touching anything except for the ocean itself, then migrating into and breathing a corrosive feeling freshwater fluid.  As you move into smaller streams, you try to keep away from the rocks that nick and scratch your thin skin, but weeks of navigating the shallows have you mentally and physically exhausted.  The stream doesn't stop moving at night, and neither can you.  You see moving shadows above the water, and you're not sure if they are a bird or bear looking for a quick meal, or just some innocuous human watching you, but you dart away to be safe.  The stream seems to end - at least the visible part of it, anyway.  Water is still proceeding in the form of a waterfall, and you take a blind leap, hoping you jumped far enough, that what you will land on is water as well. Failure could mean getting tossed headfirst onto a rock that has claimed the lives of many before you.  You finally find a spawning pool where you find other survivors.  The act of spawning itself is what probably will do you in.  When you spawn, not only do you release your milt or eggs, but also your will to live. You have fulfilled your purpose in life...and now you have a purpose in death, that of feeding the birds and other scavengers who in turn feed the forest.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Life in a box planter

We don't have any actual land where we can grow vegetables, so we make do with box box planters on wheels which we cart around to the sunniest spots on our back deck.  Tomatoes have historically done quite well in these planters, so we put them in again this year.  While shooting photos of the bright yellow flowers, I noticed a spider who had made her home in one of the prime locations for insect activity.


She's a member of the family Theridiidae...I couldn't get a good shot of her abdomen, so I won't be able to get any more specific with her identification.

Also on the tomato plant was this colourful creature.  It's a rhododendron leafhopper, a pest whose presence can only be forgiven for the splash of colour it contributes.  As per its namesake, it is designed to hop with powerful legs (the long leg that stretches from underneath its wing all the way to its eye), fly a short distance, hit something suitable with its fairly hard nose, and look for a leaf where it might suck sap.  In this case, its mouth part can clearly be seen embedded into the primary vein of the leaf.

Leafhoppers in large numbers are known crop pests, weakening any plant by depriving it of its sap.  They digest the sap, then excrete droplets of sugary water from their abdomen, much like aphids do (the drops you see on your windshield after parking under a tree is due to sapsucking insects such as these).

Bigger!

I saw a new species of note last month.  There was no way to miss this large moth, probably the largest I've ever seen, on the side of the school where I walk the dog.



This is a Polyphemus Moth, a member of the giant silk moth family. We are at the upper limit of its range, here on the west coast.  Consulting this website, it appears they are fairly common in the US.

It's unfortunate that I didn't see its wings opened, as I would've seen beautiful purple eyespots on its 6-inch wingspan.