Wildlife on Walks to Trent

I walked (part-way) to school yesterday (Saturday) and today (Sunday), when the weather was chilly but sunny.

The only bird that I photographed yesterday.  Still can't get over how brightly coloured and amazing the male cardinal is.


Sarah and the spider

This afternoon was a very emotional afternoon as our school held a memorial service for my labmate Sarah who was killed last month in a car crash.  As someone who is not very good at expressing emotions, I volunteered to coordinate and help with the service set-up rather than stand up in front of people and talk about what Sarah meant to me.

Before the event, I noticed a spider on the floor trying to hide away.  Knowing that the spider might get stepped on once the service starts and how Sarah was an advocate for the values of all life forms, no matter how big or small (Sarah once rescued a moth on a lake and waited for its wings to dry and fly away before she left), I think it was a sign and so I picked up the spider and brought it to my office (and later back home).

I took some photos of this orb-weaver spider (Family Araneidae) before letting it scurry away in the kitchen knowing there are critters in there (because the kitchen is not very well-kept by my fellow roommates).

Orb-weaver spider (Family Araneidae)

Orb-weaver spider (Family Araneidae)

In the service, the reverend and some friends told several meaningful verses from the Bible, our supervisors and others shared their memories of Sarah, and in the end Sarah's sister and husband shared some of Sarah's journals entries from her field season.  Overall, it was a beautiful and emotional service.

Rest in peace, Sarah.

The story behind goldenrod galls

This school semester, I am one of the teaching assistants responsible for the labs of the course "Advanced Ecology".  The lab for the next month is natural selection of gall fly (Eurosta solidaginis) larvae from predators based on gall size and height as selection traits.  This lab is actually quite popular among universities and colleges (try Googling "goldenroad gall lab"), even though I did not do this when I was an undergraduate in UBC.

If we think about it, natural selection is an interactive link between the studies of ecology and evolution - how organisms grow and survive in its habitat (through biotic and abiotic selective forces and traits) and how this leads to phenotypic variations among species and populations.

In early spring, E. solidaginis fly adult females lay eggs on goldenrods shoots.  The developed fly larvae borrows into the plant and secretes chemicals that cause the plant to grow abnormally in the region occupied by the larvae.  The gall fly larvae can be parasitized by the wasp Eurytoma gigantea in the summer and predated by avian predators in the summer.  Fly larvae in smaller galls are more likely to be attacked by parasitoid wasps since a female wasp needs to insert its ovipositor into the gall to lay its eggs; therefore, there is a selection force towards larger galls from parasitoid wasps.  There is also a beetle predator named Mordellistena convicta that bores into galls to lay its eggs next to the vulnerable fly larvae.  On the other hand, since birds are visual predators, galls that are large and high above the ground are more likely to be predated by birds; hence, a selection force towards smaller galls from the avian predators.  The importance of gall size and height above ground have significant selective influences on the fitness of the fly larvae, and by measuring the galls and determining the fate of fly larvae inside the gall, we can graph predictor and response variables to determine the selection gradient, which is basically the regression coefficients (which can either be linear or non-linear).

Here are some photos of goldenrod galls, which are quite variable in nature.



Heart Rock
I found this heart-shaped rock covered by snow while walking around and supervising the students.  Neat!  This reminds me of the heart-shaped cloud I saw almost three years ago.


Sunny snowy day & Photographed a nuthatch

Wow, this frigid cold temperature (~ minus 20 degrees C) takes some use to, especially for someone from Lower Mainland, where it rarely drops below minus 5 degrees C in the wintertime.  Nonetheless, this is exactly what I always want to experience in a "Canadian" winter, and sunny winter days are my favourite time of the season because I can go out and take photos without worrying my camera getting wet from the snow (although now I realize I need to worry about my freezing hands and fingers).

Light powdery snow on the ground.


Snowy Trent on a Saturday

It snowed a bit here in Peterborough on Friday, and when I went to school yesterday, there was a nice blanket of snow on the ground.  And last night's wind was crazy, with the winds gusting and howling through the streets.  Anyways, I didn't go to school today because of the weather and here are some photos that I took yesterday.

Snow on the field.


Rose of the day: Barred Owl

Shortly after 12 PM today, a friend of mine posted a photo of an owl on Facebook and said "Owl in Jackson's Park".  All of that was enough for me to stop everything and replied back "where", and then I was gone.

Well, actually, I had to wait for another hour or so before the bus come to take me home, but I don't see owls that often in the wild (I can pretty much count all of the times that I have seen owls), and so I was pretty excited.  Owls are pretty special to me because my first Great Horned Owl reaffirmed my passion for nature and wildlife, especially during a time where my future was very uncertain (and somewhat still).

Anyways, the owl that my friend saw was a Barred Owl (Strix varia), which was a species that I have never seen in the wild before, so this was a lifer for me!  It was resting on a tree on the side of the trail, but because it was so well-camouflaged and today was quite cold (therefore fewer people in the park), it was able to have its moments of peace.

Barred Owl (Strix varia)

Barred Owl (Strix varia)

Barred Owl (Strix varia)

Barred Owl (Strix varia)

Barred Owl (Strix varia)

I snapped a few photos and then just stood there quietly and admire this magnificent creature.  I could look at it forever, but my presence was probably not good for this bird and so I left eventually.  I love owls!

Walking to school (part-way) yields wildlife photos

Hi all, I am back in Ontario (since last Thursday, actually).  For the past three days, rather than just busing to school and then work for several hours, I decided to exercise a bit by walking a part of the way to school, especially when the weather has been quite nice lately - chilly but sunny.

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) or maybe Hairy?
On Tuesday, I wasn't having much luck seeing wildlife until I saw this woodpecker pecking underneath the bark.  I actually saw a similar one at the same tree last month (but it was too cloudy and so I didn't post about it).  Initially, I thought it was a Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) but now that I have taken a closer at the beak-to-head ratio, I am not so sure anymore, especially because the photo is taken at an angle. 


Brown Lacewing (Family Hemerobiidae)

There was a Brown Lacewing (Family Hemerobiidae, or so I guessed) in my house today.  This gave me a chance to try out the LED ring light I got last week.  Overall, it works just fine by providing a decent light source in poor (indoor) conditions.  It's probably not as good as a (ring) flash but it will do for now.

I "propped" the light onto the Raynox 250 lens and was able to get some (slightly blurry) photos.

   Brown Lacewing (Family Hemerobiidae)
Lacewings are a good creature to have around in your gardens because it feeds on soft-bodied insects, such as mites and aphids.


Second outing of 2013 - Boundary Bay revisited - Attempt 2

The past few days my mother and I have been paying close attention to the weather forecast and hoping for good weather so that we could go out to Boundary Bay again to look for Snowy Owls (since last time was unsuccessful).

Despite the 90% POP, the rain still did not show up in the morning, so my parents and I decided to take the chance and go out to Boundary Bay again right after lunch.  The rain did not come at all this afternoon and we even saw a bit of sunshine, so that was pretty much a success in itself.  The lighting wasn't that great today, so I had to set most of my minimal ISO to 800 for the birding shots, hence the "noisy" photos.

Lots of Northern Harriers flying around today.


First outing of 2013 - Boundary Bay revisited

It has been more than four years ago when I first visited Boundary Bay Park.  With another year's Snowy Owl migration, (fairly) good weather today, and recent news report about starving owls, my parents were intrigued to see these owls for themselves.  After some searching, I found out the best spot to see these owls is Boundary Bay, and that was where we headed to today.

Before I start on today's post, I strongly suggest people read this person's post about Snowy Owl photography or any wildlife photography in general - treat the owls (and other wildlife) with the same private space as you would with any other creatures and humans.  I personally would not like it if I know people are photographing me, especially from close distances.

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