Wednesday, July 8, 2009

lost and found

Last weekend, D and I took part in MEC's paddlefest at Jericho Sailing Centre, where we learned and practiced our paddling technique and practiced some rescue techniques, whereby we'd flip our kayaks, unattach our spray skirts whilst our underwater, and pop to the surface of the water, in a time span that seemed like one second. I wore a hat through most of the day, but realized that the flipping might cause my hat to float away. I threw my hat into the cockpit of the kayak and forgot about it. That is, until I tipped the kayak over to empty it of its water and the heavier-than-seawater hat.

This was no ordinary hat. It is the first and only hat that I've ever purchased. I bought it as an almost-souvenir at Eatons, one of Canada's iconic large department stores, as it held a closing-out sale many years ago. The hat doesn't even fit that well, but it has served me well through many hiking and camping trips.

So when I lost it, my heart sank. I hate losing things in general, but this was one time I felt there was a good chance of recovery. I made a plan the next day to return to Jericho beach during the low 0.8metre tide. Our kayaking was during high tide, so there was a good chance that even if the hat sunk to the bottom, I'd be able to walk out to it. Plus it gave me a good chance to do a bit of beach combing.

On this slightly drizzly weekday morning, the beach was void of any human activity. Gulls quietly turned over shells to look for the odd clam that hadn't returned into the sand in time. Beds of mussels lay in wait for the tide to return. Starfish abandoned by the low tide and disoriented on the sandy part of the beach struggled to find their bearings.

A Great Blue Heron looking for some shoreline morsels

A green anemone showing off it's glowing tentacles

On this quiet, cloudy morning, I saw many examples of life eking out an existance on a beach that would be, on a welcoming sunny weekend, filled with the cacaphony of humankind.

These clam shells littered the beach. When I was eight, they served us these clams in miso soup in Japan. Around that same time, these same clams were inadvertently introduced to BC waters in ballast water, water routinely flushed out by ships to aid in balancing their loads.

Yet I did not find that which should be properly on my head while I walked the length of the waterline.

I decided to return by way of the high tide line where the hat could've joined the disattached seaweed other flotsam. It was there that I noticed articles of clothing that were placed on or around the beach logs. Ahh, the makeshift lost and found section! And soon enough, I found my hat, wet and covered with sand, by waiting patiently for me to find it.

I quietly thanked the beachcomber who must've brought it up to the log to dry. My heart smiled as I collected it to rinse it off in a tide pool.

My day was starting off exceptionally well. I found my hat. The beach life continued what it has done for millenia, siphoning, filtering, sifting, hunting. Peacefully. Until I peered upwards to see this bald eagle being chased out of the neighbourhood by resident crows.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Thetis Island, my favorite place on the southern coast of BC

The first time I visited Thetis Island was maybe 15 years ago. To get there from Vancouver, one must take two ferries. About 5 hours of travel. So it is remote, though it is physically close to the well populated Vancouver Island.

Back then, I had already developed a passion for spiders, through hours of watching those in my back yard. But Thetis Island was a paradise for spiders.

In the city, I've only seen one species of araneus. Usually araneus diadematus (below)

But out on the island, on a warm summer evening walk back to the cabins, I saw dozens of male araneus courting females already swollen with eggs. And there were at least three different species of araneus. Some were spotted, others were pale yellow. I saw two specimans of argiope on the island (my first time seeing such a large spider characterized by a zigzag pattern on its web). There were different species of funnel weavers.

This past weekend, armed with a camera, I returned to see whether this paradises biodiversity had changed. I was pleasantly surprised at my new discoveries.

At the Chemanus ferry terminal, we saw the closest living relative to a seahorse in BC waters, the pipefish:

Also at the ferry terminal, I saw these animals for the first time. They lived on the side of the barge, amongst the sea anenomes. They looked like some type of abalone, but strangely have one side of the shell raised giving them a scallop like appearance.

These animals, nonexistant in polluted Vancouver harbours, thrive amongst the harbouring boats.

At night, I decided to see what was in the water, and found these hovering fish feeding on the plankton. They looked a bit like unnaturally floating sculpins from the top side.

I recently became a bit more interested in birds due to some other nature blogs I've been following. Good thing too, as I was able to identify these sapsuckers (previously, I would've just called them woodpeckers).

I've seen kelp crabs before, but have never gotten an underwater pic of them.

Probably the highlight was watching this beast perch and warm himself in the afternoon sun.

A turkey vulture. Southern Vancouver Island is apparently the northernmost part of their range, so it was quite a treat to see these. There were a number of raptors in the sky riding thermals, and my guess is that quite a few of these were turkey vultures.

And my search for araneus at night was rewarded with this guy. The colour is quite a bit lighter than the orange ones I see in the city, but its shape is roughtly identical so it's probably just a colour morph, rather than a separate species.

Unfortunately, this was the closest thing to a new species of spider I could find. I suspect that later in the summer, they'll be even more active as the males compete to mate.

Lots of other wildlife, but these were the first time I've seen, photographed and identified these. We did see our first wild owl, but by the time I got my camera turned on, it was off into the trees.