End of 2012

Yesterday my parents treated some family friends to an end-of-the-year lunch.  After a satisfying meal, we all headed to Queen Elizabeth Park for a stroll.  I saw my first Steller's Jay of the year but it was too well hidden for a photo.  The weather was nice during lunch but became quite chilly when we were out walking around.

Not much wildlife was observed.

No bees, but good to see some effort put into bee conservation (although the website on the board does not seem to be functional - www.masonbeevancouver.com).

This is probably my last post of 2012.  Last night I spent some time reviewing what I had done this past year - I took two very rewarding trips to Ottawa and St. Louis to learn more about pollinator taxonomy and pollination ecology; I resumed with my project with a second field season in the Yukon (although the results weren't as rewarding as I had hoped); heavy workload in school - TAing and working on my thesis; and the year ended on a sad note with a friend passing away less than three weeks ago.

Not sure what 2013 will bring for me (probably graduation, work, applying for jobs and potential PhD positions, etc), but I think I will be ready for it...

May 2013 bring good health and fortune to everyone.  Cheers.


My Christmas present: Yongnuo WJ-60

For the longest time, my macro photography always run into the problem of not getting enough light on my subjects, especially when I am extremely close to the subjects and with shallow depth of field.  This usually results in blurry and/or noisy (ISO-wise) photos.  A proper flash would be a solution, but in macro photography, a ring flash is probably even better.  However, being a poor graduate student, I cannot afford $100+ things on my hobby and am always looking for cheaper alternatives.

I found this Chinese-made macro photography LED light on e-bay and the seller actually has an e-store here in Richmond, and so I ordered one recently and picked it up today (for less than $50) at some apartment.

Here's what the light looks on my camera.  It takes 3 AAA batteries and has a plastic mount for you to put on the flash hotshoe or you can use the provided rings (comes in 58 and 62 mm sizes) that allows you screw directly in front of your lens.

When I "hang" the light in front of my 40-150 lens with Raynox 250 (because Raynox 250 is 49 mm, not 58mm) - the left photo is without the light and right photo with the light.  The extra light allows for a faster shutter speed and thus a much clearer photo.

Photos taken with the light properly screwed onto my 70-300 lens.  Left: without light; right: with light.  Once again, the extra light significantly improves the shutter speed and the overall image quality.

Since it is winter, I am forced to test the light on a plastic small car I found in my drawer rather than testing it on actual insects or flowers.  I can't wait for the summer to start to try it outside.

Hope everyone else had a pleasant Christmas.


Rare sunny break = bike to south dyke

The sun made a brief appearance this afternoon, and I used this opportunity to go out and exercise for a bit by biking to the dyke.

 Golden Sunset
Sun was getting to set as I arrived (just after 3 pm).


But now no more...

Drove my mom to the library today to get some books.  Afterwards we went to Terra Nova for a walk.



After learning about the passing of my friend, I just can't stop thinking about it.  I kept thinking that this is all just a bad joke or a dream, but then I would realize it's the truth and I need to accept that.  I would then think about her family and friends, and how happy they probably were when they know she was going back home early for Christmas, but now no more.

My friend loved all forms of life and was very passionate about conservation and sustainability.  She was definitely someone who was going to make positive impacts in others' lives, but now no more.

A sad day

My friend, now no more.

My heart now also goes out to the families of the victims of the Newtown shooting.  The world is feeling very grim lately.


RIP, Sarah.

Dear all,

I apologize for not posting yet this month.  Life has been incredibly busy leading up to today when I flew back to BC for the holiday season.  However, shortly after I landed, I received an e-mail from my school saying that a fellow labmate and friend has passed away in a car accident while driving home from Ontario to South Dakota for her birthday and Christmas break.  She was someone I shared trips with during our field courses in Ottawa and St. Louis.  Her project involved studying raspberry pollination in Algonquin and given her interest in entomology, she was someone I can share my insect collection stories with, as well as our common interests in animals, graphic novels, fictional novels, and movies.  She is definitely someone I have a lot of admiration for, and someone that I will miss a lot.

Rest in peace, Sarah.

I wish everyone safe travels during the holiday season.

With a heavy heart,



Collection of assorted photos in November

November had been extremely slow, photography and blogging-wise due to the combination of poor weather, thesis writing, and uninteresting things to blog about.

Here are some photos taken in the second half of November.

Found a bird nest on the ground on the 14th when the weather was nice and I walked from where I live to school (takes about 1 hour).

Reminiscing June 28th in Ivvavik

After surveying one of my study sites of Moss campions (Silene acaulis), my field assistant and I hiked past the southernmost part of the park (that I had been to).

Ivvavik landscape dotted with purple vetches
During the most productive part of the year, this landscape was covered with purple Northern sweet vetch (Hedysarum alpinum) plants.  Therefore, the land was alive with various pollinators visiting the flowers - sulphurs, whites, bumblebees, etc.  Hard to imagine Arctic full with so much life, for most people.


Reminiscing July 10th in Ivvavik

Once we learned that we will be leaving Ivvavik on July 16th, my field assistant and I decided to take a day off on July 10th and go on a hike north along the Firth River and go to places that we had not yet traveled to and see what kind of plants, animals, and whatever Ivvavik has to offer us on that day (and also see if we can find spots to cross the Firth River, or so my field assistant imagined).

Firth River, Ivvavik National Park
This is a nice fishing/painting spot called "Pole Cache Spot" because there is an Inuvialuit pole cache just close by.


North American Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum)

I saw a Porcupine dozing off in the sun behind the school building on Saturday (Nov 17).  It was on a tree while I was standing on a hill close to it, but it was still at least 10 m away from me.

Sleeping Porcupine
So peaceful-looking.

Waking up.


Sunday Collage

Some photos taken on the drumlin this afternoon before I went to my office and did work.  Nothing overly exciting.  Saw a Pileated Woodpecker but missed the opportunity of taking its photo.


Biked to Lakefield on Sunday and now I am sick

The weather last Sunday was quite nice but it was definitely colder than the last time I biked to school.  I decided to bike to Lakefield Sewage Lagoon to do some bird-watching.  I saw many Ringed-billed Gulls, Buffleheads, Common Goldeneyes, Lesser Scaups, Chipping Sparrows, and maybe some Goldfinches.

However, by the time I returned from the lagoon and came back to my office, I immediately know I caught a cold because of a sore throat.  Three days after, here I am sick as a dog.  Hope it passes soon.

Here are some photos from the trip.  The photos are pretty self-explanatory and I am too sick to describe each of them.



Happy Halloween from the Jumping Spiders of Ivvavik

Personally, I wouldn't consider Jumping Spiders (Family Salticidae) scary at all (they are darn cute, if I'd say so), but there are many people out there who are just misinformed and scared of spiders in general.  So, to these people, hopefully these will scary the bejeezus out of you (and then visit this post to be better informed about spiders).

Unknown Jumping Spider (Family Salticidae) in Yukon


Flower visitors to soapberry (Shepherdia canadensis) flowers in Ivvavik

The weather had been relatively bad the past few days (but nothing as bad as the one faced by people on the east coast), especially last night with heavy rain and strong winds.  It is currently just rainy and wet out at the moment.

Anyways, here are some more photos from Yukon.  This field season, I was more or less continuing to study the pollination of soapberry (Shepherdia canadensis) with a few tweaks here and there, and pollination of another (gyno)dioecious species - Silene acaulis (moss campion).  But here are some of my photos of insects visiting S. canadensis.

Unknown ant visiting soapberry flower
Unknown ant species (Formicidae) visiting female flowers.


Birds of Ivvavik National Park

Here are some of my better bird photos from this summer.

Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus muta) - winter plumage
One of the first animals that we saw in the park once we arrived - a male Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus muta) in winter plumage.


Hiking around Canal Nature Area at Trent University

The weather here in Peterborough has been quite similar to the typical weather that Vancouver gets at this time of the weather - overcast, rainy, and depressing.  So you can imagine my surprise and excitement when I saw nothing but blue sky when I opened the window in the morning.

As I grabbed my bike and headed to school, I kept debating if I should do work in my office or at least spend a few hours outside and enjoy the beautiful weather.  In the end, I decided to do the latter before I go working in my office.  Last year, around this time of the year, I was hiking on the other side of the road, this time, I visited the Canal Nature Area.



Some landcape photos from Ivvavik

Despite this week being a reading break, I am still busy with my research - lots of playing around with R trying to perform the right analyses and creating the correct figures.

While working on my project from Peterborough, I can't but help think of how beautiful the landscape is up in Ivvavik.

Snow on the ground in May
Snow-capped mountains at the end of May.


Owl-banding 2012, Take 2

I went owl-banding again last night. We caught a total of five owls yesterday despite a brief period of rain.  However, there were many people present - intern, volunteers, students, bander, etc, definitely a packed cabin.

Once again, I didn't take too many photos.  Here are pretty much the only ones I took.

Screen shot of the video below.  Such an adorable creature, NSWO.


Autumn in Jackson Park - Take 2

I wasn't overly satisfied with the photos that I took on Monday because the leaves were not bright enough!  I went back to Jackson Park today hoping to see a more expressive forest, and I was right.

Combined with the sunlight, the leaves produced a blend of beautiful colors worthy of being photographed.

Looking up
Torch of tree.


Thanksgiving Autumn

One thing I really want to do lately is to go out and take photos of the gorgeous display of autumn here in Peterborough, especially as I walk through neighborhoods with beautiful red and orange maple leaves every morning to the bus stop.  This Thanksgiving break finally gave me a chance today to bike to Jackson Park and take some photos.

Colour Palette
The explosion of colours is just astonishing!


Northern Saw-Whet Owling

Northern Saw-Whet Owl banding has begun again this year, and last night was my first night this year.  I just got home around 1am, and here are some photos.

Putting bands on it.


Soapberry (Shepherdia canadensis) pollen grains

This is what I am working on nowadays - counting soapberry (Shepherdia canadensis) pollen grains from the female stigmas that I collected over the summer.  We used the staining technique as described in Beattie 1971.

Here are some images of the crushed stigmas and the pollen grains on it.  Searching for literature, the only images of S. canadensis pollen grains was presented in Pellatt et al 2002 (see Figure 4).

Female stigma with pollen grains.

Image of pollen grains enlarged.  The length of one pollen grain is about 37 micrometers.  Photo taken with Nikon Coolpix S4100 through the light microscope.


Beattie, A.J. 1971. A technique for the study of insect-borne pollen. Pan-Pacific Entomologist. 47:82.

Pellatt, M.G., Mathewes, R.W., and Clague, J.J. 2002. Implications of a late-glacial pollen record for the glacial and climatic history of the Fraser Lowland, British Columbia. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 180: 147-157. Link.


Wordless Wednesday - American toadlet from 2010

A friend just identified this toadlet for me.  These photos have been in my "Unknown" folder from the 2010 field season for a while now.

American toadlet (Bufo americanus) from 2010

American toadlet (Bufo americanus) from 2010

American toadlet (Bufo americanus) from 2010
American toad (Bufo americanus)


Getting outside again

I finally did something outdoorsy this week.  Went to school on Sunday, but not before I went for a walk through the Lady Eaton drumlin next to the campus.

Unknown kill.  Pigeon feathers?

Birding in Presqu'ile Provincial Park

Sorry for the delay, but here are the photos from last Sunday when I was birding at Presqu'ile Provincial Park with Trent's ornithology class.

Waking up early and waiting for the school bus just after 6am.


Musk-oxen in Ivvavik National Park! Amazing!

Despite only a few glimpses of the caribou migration this year, this year's wildlife viewing was honoured by the presence of Musk-ox (Ovibos moschatus) near our campsite.  Musk-oxen are usually found in high arctic islands and very rarely ventured down south into the treelines.  However, for some unknown reason, this herd of seven adults and one calf came to our campground in the first week of June and stayed around for at least for a week.

Lots of photos below, just a heads-up.

Musk-ox (Ovibos moschatus)
They were first spotted by an elder in our group.  On the first day (June 9th), they were on the other side of the creek and up the hill.


White Underwing moth (Catocala relicta)

It was rainy and windy here in Peterborough yesterday.  While working in my office, I noticed a large moth outside my window.  I decided to retrieve it out of the rain and wind and bring it back into the office.  It was very pretty and fluffy, and so I brought it home with me to take a few photos of it.

Here are some photos that I took last night.  This morning, with the weather being sunny, I brought the moth back to campus and released it.

White Underwing Moth (Catocala relicta)
Photo taken with the Raynox 250 attached to the Olympus 40-150mm.  I made some mistakes in the previous posts saying it was the Raynox 150, sorry.


Visitng Riverview Park and Zoo for the second time

I biked to school early this morning to meet with my supervisor to talk about a potential paper that we can write.  In the afternoon, since I didn't bring the power cord for my laptop to school today, I had to go back home early once the battery was drained.  When I bike to school, I have to pass through the Riverview Zoo, so I decided to stop at the zoo today and take some photos.

Serval cats (Leptailurus serval) enjoying the afternoon sun.


Sneaking nature outing into a busy life

Almost a week has gone by without me taking any photos.  Life has been just incredibly busy with my data analysis, teaching assistantship (teaching R program to undergraduates and graduates.  How on earth did I end up with this gig!?), among many other things.

Anyways, I went out for a short bike ride on Saturday after spending most of my day inside the house.

Young Waxwings on tree tops.


Photos of Ivvavik from the air

Here are some of the landscape photos that I took in Ivvavik National Park.  There are many more after this batch.

May 29, 2012 - second (and successful) attempt to fly into Ivvavik.  The first and follow-up tries didn't go so well.

Mackenzie Delta


Porcupine caribous in Ivvavik National Park - 2012

This is my second and final year at Trent for my Masters program, and hopefully I will complete my thesis before next summer.  The point is that I will probably be very busy and won't have much time to do any "fun" stuff.

Anyways, this field season, the caribou migration did not go through Sheep Creek like last year.  Instead, we only saw a few stragglers, and some lucky people got a chance to see parts of the massive migration during times of day when most people are sleeping.  The migration still occurred (on other parts of the massive migration pattern) but just not in front of our eyes.

Porcupine caribous (Rangifer tarandus granti)
We only saw a few at the beginning of June.

Porcupine caribou migration (Rangifer tarandus granti)
Then returning caribous with calves towards the end of June.

Only two decent photos from this entire field season.  Bummer.


Caterpillar, Bee, and Rainbow Sunday

Today is International Rock Flipping Day (9/9).  I flipped some rocks behind my office building this afternoon, but it seemed too disturbed (basically a gravel mound from recent constructions) to have much biodiversity.  Too bad.  I did saw some ants and tiny tiny critters though, underneath the rocks, but that was about it.

Saw this pretty caterpillar on my way out of the building.


Dall sheep of Ivvavik National Park - 2012

I didn't take a whole lot of sheep photos this year (last year's sheep post), probably because they were everywhere this year, particularly when they were outside the tents while us humans were inside sleeping.  It was a rude awakening for sure.

All of these photos came one day, just past midnight, while I was heading to bed.  A large group of sheep were passing through behind the garage shed and some were standing on top of the dirt mounds.  The lighting wasn't the greatest at that time since the hill blocked out the sun but nonetheless I got some nice photos to share with you.

Dall sheep (Ovis dalli)


Ground squirrels from Ontario...and then Yukon

Yesterday, a chubby Groundhog (Marmota monax) ran across the sidewalk in front of me while I was going up to my office.  It always takes a while for my brain to process what I am seeing, especially for animals rarely encountered.  At first I thought it was a badger, then a large muskrat, and eventually my brain settled on Mormota sp., the most sensible and logical choice.  Plus it looks awfully like the Hoary marmot that I saw in Yukon.



Mystery death of a Cuckoo Leafcutting Bee

Yesterday, after working from my office for a while, I went out behind the office building and looked for wildlife. First creature I saw was this Metallic Green Bee (Genus Agapostemon) visiting these aster flowers.

Love its colour.


Complete Rainbow(s) in Ivvavik

In the early morning of June 10th, 2012, I was outside my tent and saw a beautiful (almost?) double rainbow across our field site.  I grabbed my P&S camera and took several photos.  I just stitched them today using a free software called Microsoft ICE, and it actually worked better than the program I have been using.

(Double?) Rainbow Across the Sky

What a gorgeous sight (and site)!  I think Yukon and NWT have produced some of the most spectacular rainbows I have ever seen in my life, or maybe it is just because the landscape the rainbow bridges (for example).  Since this summer was my second field season, I doubt I will ever come back again.  Quite sad to think about, actually.


Bridgenorth Trail & Miller Creek Cons. Area revisited

Last year, I biked to a nearby conservation area called Miller Creek.  However, the biking was not as safe I preferred since I was basically biking on a busy country road.  However, near where I live now, there is a close trail that takes me there and through the countryside.  I biked through it today and like the trail quite a lot - quiet, safe, easy, etc.

Saw a dead frog on the hot gravel road.


Black Swallowtail and (almost) Blue Moon

I was at school yesterday (Aug 29) doing some work.  After a while, I brought my camera out with me to go on a stroll behind the building.  I didn't see anything worth photographing until I saw this Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) visiting the clovers.  Swallowtails are pretty difficult to photograph since they are very fast flyers and rarely stay still in one spot.  I was chasing it around (from a non-disturbing distance) before I took this decent photos.  The males are brighter and with a yellow band near the edge of his wings; thus, this is a female.



Exploring the Lady Eaton Drumlin

Went out shopping in the morning to get a few more things that I still need for my new place, e.g. kettle, spatula, etc.

On the way to the store, I spotted this toad on the hot gravelly trail.  It's good to always bring my P&S camera with me.  You'll never know what you might encounter.


2012 Peterborough Folk Festival

I had been pretty busy the past few days.  I arrived on Tuesday, checked out and agreed on a new place on Wednesday, packed on Thursday, and moved into new place on Friday.  Phew.

I took a break today and biked from my new place to where the Peterborough Folk Festival is held this year.  This is last year's post.

The weather was beautiful and many people showed up to participate.


Back to Ontario

Photo taken on the shuttle bus going from Pearson airport to Peterborough.  First Ontario sunset of the summer.. so far this year.
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