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.

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