Have a great 2017 - Clark and flowers

As 2016 comes to an end, it is time to focus on the positive things that had happened and look forward to the things that will arrive in the new year.

Nothing really exciting (or positive) happened during the first half of 2016, where I was pretty much waiting and planning for my third and final field season.  During my field season, I added several crucial components to my research and visited beautiful places such as Pikes Peak and Conundrum Hot Springs with my friend.  After coming back to Canada, I packed and moved to my own place in Ottawa and went on trips to Quebec City/Montreal and Toronto/Niagara Falls with my mother.  I was mostly busy during the school semester but still enriched my life by going to the Butterfly Show, Big Sky Ranch, and Museum of Nature exhibits.

In 2017, I will be attending a conference and defending my Ph.D dissertation (if everything goes to plan).  Aside from those, my future will once again enter a sea of uncertainties.  I will try to find jobs and think about what I want to do with my life.  I have been thinking about selling my photographs - either to stock photography and/or as prints to anyone interested in them, which means I should enter social media to promote my photos (hence the new changes to this blog).  We shall see if any of that come to fruition, but I will keep everyone posted if I do.

In the meantime, here are some more photos of Clark the cat.

Clark #008


Merry Christmas from Clark the cat

I am currently taking care of my labmate's cat while she goes home for Christmas break.  The cat's name is Clark (after Superman) and he is super adorable!

Merry Christmas!
I made a paper Santa hat today and put it on his head.


An afternoon at Fletcher Wildlife Garden with M.Zuiko 75-300mm F4.8-6.7 II

Compared to the last few days, today's weather was a bit more agreeable - sunny and not too frigid, so I went to Fletcher Wildlife Garden to test out my new lens.

Because of the sunny weather, I was able to increase the ISO to get faster shutter speeds and increase the depth of field, resulting in sharp images.  The auto-focus was also speedy and accurate, which was the main reason why I got this new lens.

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) enjoying the sumac.


Museum of Nature - Reptiles and others

Museum of Nature's current special exhibition is "Reptiles", and I have been there twice already (three weeks ago and yesterday) because reptiles are a group of animals that I interact with the least and I am fascinated by them.

The first animal that you will see in the exhibit is a fierce-looking Alligator snapping turtle (Macroclemys temmincki).  It is sad to see this large animal in a very small display area and is submerged in water all the time. 

Alligator snapping turtle (Macroclemys temmincki)
Alligator snapping turtle (Macroclemys temmincki)


Got a new lens & last full moon of 2016

Out of all the camera lenses that I own, the one I use the most is probably the 70-300mm, a versatile telephoto lens that is good for taking pictures of birds, moon, and even insects.  I remembered how excited I was when I first got it more than six years ago and how much fun I had using it during my trips to Ontario, Yukon, Colorado, and more.  And it was pretty much the reason why I continued my transition from Olympus E-620 to Olympus E-M1 just so that I could keep using this lens.

However, the need to use an adapter and the mediocre auto-focusing on the E-M1 have gotten me considering getting the native 75-300mm lens, which does not require an adapter and has a better auto-focusing capability.  During this past weekend, I found someone selling it online for a reasonable price and decided to buy it.  We made the exchange yesterday, and now I am eager to test it out when the weather is nice.

For now, I took some photos of the full moon tonight and this was the best photo I got (cropped).

Full moon on 2016-12-13

Have a great week!


Familiarizing with winter once again

Winter feels like it has arrived in Ottawa last week; and now, everyone (including myself and the animals) is getting used to the frigid temperature and icy/snowy road once again.  I have been very busy in November and December, mostly working on my research while maintaining some work-life balance.  Sadly, I have not taken as many pictures as I would like.

It was kind of sunny this afternoon, so I went out to the Arboretum and brought my camera with me.

One of the first birds I saw today - a Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens).


Supermoon on November 14, 2016

I was waiting by Dow's Lake last night hoping to photograph the supermoon - the brightest one since January 26, 1948!  

Waiting for the clouds to clear


Autumn colours, birds, and a butterfly(!)

This past week was probably the last few days of the year when signs of autumn are still pretty evident.  Soon the trees will be bare and the ground will be covered by snow once again.  I have an uneasy and sickening feeling about the future of the world given what happened just four short days ago in America.  But there is not much anyone can do except to stay positive and hang on tight to anything that brings you happiness, whether it is spending time with your friends and families and/or being outside and enjoying nature.

Autumn day stroll
People going out for a morning stroll.


Big Sky Ranch & Sarsaparilla Trail

This week is reading week at the university, so there are no classes for the undergrads and more free time for us grad students.  Today, I visited a place I have been hearing a lot about from my friend - the Big Sky Ranch Animal Sanctuary in Kemptville.  Big Sky Ranch is a place where animals (abandoned or unable to care for by their previous humans) are able to be adopted by new humans or to live permanently at this no-kill sanctuary.  The sanctuary is open to visitors most times of the year and is free of charge, but donation is definitely appreciated especially during the colder months when there are little to no visitors.  While my friend and I were walking around the sanctuary and enjoying the presence of all the animals, I cannot help but feel sad and angry at the people who would abandon their care for these animals.  But I am glad places like Big Sky Ranch exist and there are nice people who invest their time and money to improve the lives of these animals.  During our visit, all of the animals seemed to be well-cared for and their living conditions were clean and comfortable.

Here were some of the interesting animals we saw:

Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae)
Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae)


Tracking down pumpkin pollen & Autumn photos

The temperature has been dropping steadily since the last weekend, when I was helping my friend searching for male pumpkin flowers with viable pollen.  We traveled to two different farms outside of Ottawa, but we only got about three small vials worth of pumpkin pollen because of the recent frost.

One of the farms we visited was Saunders Farm, a popular place to go during autumn with all of its pumpkin- and Halloween-related activies.  We got to go on a hayride to look for flowers.


Butterfly Show at Carleton University

I went to the butterfly show at Carleton University last week.  Learning from my experience two years ago, I went there first thing in the morning so that I did not have to wait in-line or be surrounded by loud people.  Sadly, I was there for only 15 minutes before schoolchildren started to pile into the greenhouse.


I brought only my macro lens and small flash with me, and I tried to note as many of the butterfly species I photographed as possible.


September update

Ever since school has started, I have not been diligent in terms of bringing my camera with me and taking pictures, even though most days in September are quite pleasant.

Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus)


Touring Toronto and Niagara Falls

My mother is leaving Ottawa this coming Saturday.  This past weekend, we went on another two-day tour - this time to Thousand Islands, Toronto, and Niagara Falls.

Our first stop was seeing the islands at Rockport, Ontario.

St. Brendan's Church
St. Brendan's Church


Wildlife around Mud Lake - lifers!

This morning I brought my mother to Mud Lake, which she thought was the nicest place in Ottawa I showed her so far.

The first bird that welcomed us was this American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis).


Touring Quebec City and Montreal

I have been slowly getting settled in my new apartment for about two weeks now.  It is at a convenient location close to Dow's Lake, Arboretum, bike path to school, Ottawa River, and more.  Shortly after I moved in, my mother flew from Richmond for a month-long visit, so I have been hosting her since then and that explains why I have not been photographing or blogging as much.

This past weekend, we visited Quebec City and Montreal with a mostly-Asian tour group.  And like most tour groups, the schedule was packed and there was little free time to do anything else.

Château Frontenac
We left Ottawa early Saturday morning, and the first attraction was Château Frontenac in Quebec City.


Birds around Sawmill Wetland (Ottawa)

I returned back to Canada on Wednesday night, and since then I had been searching for my own place (and not sharing with any roommates or landlords) for the remainder of my degree (another 1.5 years left).  I submitted a rental application on Friday and now I am just waiting to hear back from the apartment manager.  This afternoon, I walked around Sawmill Wetland (maybe for the final time) and looked at the birds around the wetland.

Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus)


July update - Conundrum Hot Springs (July 15 - 16)

For my final hiking trip of the season, I wanted to go somewhere farther and a bit more strenuous.  I decided to hike from Gothic to Conundrum Hot Springs via Triangle Pass.  I invited my friend to come with me, and we left Gothic early in the morning and headed towards Copper Lake.  Before we get to Copper Lake, the trail splits into two and one directs us towards Triangle Pass.

View from Triangle Pass
View from Triangle Pass

July update - Some photos from Kebler Pass

In less than 24 hours, I will be flying out of Colorado and heading back to Ottawa.  Before that, I am currently packing up my lab equipment, some of my personal gear, and updating my blog.

Here are some of my photos from Kebler Pass.

Looking at the contact zone between Mertensia brevistyla and M. fusiformis.

July update - Pikes Peak (July 9 - 10)

After returning back to Gothic for one night (for real food and shower), my friend accompanied me to Pike National Forest to help me measure Mertensia alpina.

Taylor Park Reservoir
Passing by Taylor Park Reservoir (larger image here).  I was here almost two years ago.

July update - Rio Grande and San Isabel National Forests (July 5 - 8)

From July 5th to 8th, I traveled to Rio Grande and San Isabel National Forests to search for Mertensia lateriflora and M. ovata, respectively.

Lake San Cristobal
Stopping along the Silver Thread National Scenic Byway to take a look at Lake San Cristobal.


July update - Fourth of July celebration

My field season is slowly coming to an end.  I will be flying back to Ottawa in one week, and now I have more free time to do data entry and sort through all of my photos taken (thus far) this month.

On July 4th, in the past I tended to avoid people and all the associated celebrations by going on solo hikes.  This year, since this might be my last summer in Colorado, I decided to enjoy the festivities by going to Crested Butte and watching the annual Gothic to Crested Butte 1/3 Marathon and the Fourth of July parade.

The marathon finish line in Crested Butte.  I arrived early in the morning so there weren't many people around yet.


June update - Everything

Since arriving in Colorado, my life has been incredibly busy and interesting, which is why I have not updated my blog until now.  This post is a quite poor in terms of topic organization, I apologize.


One of my many research projects is to examine if Mertensia plants with different floral orientation are influenced by rain differently, and one measure of this effect is the number of nutlets (seeds) each plant produce.  To test this, I constructed and placed a rain shelter over a plot with several Mertensia plants, manipulated floral orientation (upward or pendant) of haphazardly chosen plants, supplemented pollen to these plants, and waited until the end of the flowering season to collect the nutlets.


Relearning the wildlife of Gothic

Yesterday I showed my labmate some of the common plants and insects (and birds) that she will likely encounter during her own research, which provided a good refresher lesson for me as well.

Gothic Mountain
Gothic Mountain


Road trip to Colorado

After three long days of driving, I am finally back in Colorado!  My labmate and I left Canada on Monday (May 30th), which may be a miscalculation because it was Memorial Day in US and we sat and waited in the car for almost two hours to cross the border.  Because of the delay, we spent the first night in Ann Arbor, Michigan (instead of the usual first night destination: Kalamazoo).

We saw two White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) outside our hotel the following morning.



Flora survey in Gatineau & macro photos of beetles

Yesterday I was at Gatineau Park helping out with the joint lab flora/fauna survey.  The survey is slowly coming to an end as the canopy closes over, the spring ephemerals start to set seed, and the pollinators complete their nesting stage.

White Baneberry (Actaea pachypoda)
In addition to some remaining trilliums, I found this delicate-looking White Baneberry a.k.a. Doll's eyes (Actaea pachypoda).


Wildlife at Mud Lake

Before checking out the blossoms at Lincoln Fields today, I was at Mud Lake watching birds.  One of the first birds I saw was this singing Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus), which I think is a lifer for me.


Blossoms in Ottawa

In one week, I will be leaving Ottawa and driving to Colorado for my third (and probably final) field season.  To get my body in shape, I have been walking quite regularly in the last few days.  Plus it gives me a chance to enjoy the blossoms along the canal.

Almost summertime along Rideau
It's almost summer-like here in Ottawa.


Exploring McCarthy Woods for new warbler lifers!

Yesterday I came across this blogger's post about all the interesting birds found in McCarthy Woods and nearby areas.  So today, I went there to look for them myself.

White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)
McCarthy Woods is quite beautiful this time of the year where the White Trilliums (Trillium grandiflorum) dominate the forest floor.


Blossoms and a sad finding

Last week at the Arboretum, I made a mental note of when I think the crabapple trees will start flowering so that I can return and photograph the blossoms.

I went back today and the trees were just before peak-flowering.


International Migratory Bird Day (2016)

Today is the International Migratory Bird Day, and here in Ottawa, there was an event at Brewer Park that included bird banding, birds-of-prey show, and guided walks around the park.

I was there mostly for the birds-of-prey, which was presented by the same organization from the Science by Night ten days ago; therefore, I had already seen three of the four birds.  But at least this time the birds were outside and able to show off their flying skills.

Fergus the Harris Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus)
The new bird was Fergus the Harris Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus), a bird found in southern US and Mexico.


Canadian Museum of History & Tulip Festival

Since living in Ottawa, one of the museums that I have not yet visited is the Canadian Museum of History.  This afternoon, I took advantage of the free Thursday admission and visited the museum for the first time.  It is very similar to the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at UBC with a primary focus on the history and culture of Canada's First Nations.  Personally I thought the collection at MOA is more diverse and interesting.

Here are some of the things that caught my attention (most of them are associated with animals in some way).

One part of "Poo wiltso; Whaler's Dream" (silkscreen) by Ron Hamilton.


Halictus bee at school & birds near home

Took more pictures of the Halictus sp. bees outside the school building this afternoon.

So much pollen on its hairy legs!


Canadian Tulip Pre-Festival (2016) & birds (and one squirrel) at FWG!

The popular Canadian Tulip Festival will begin in two days (here is one of my posts from two years ago).  To avoid the crowd, I went to Dow's Lake this afternoon to see if there are any tulips flowering beforehand.

Ottawa Tulip Pre-Festival
And indeed there were!


Burrowing Halictus bees on campus

During lunchtime, my labmate rushed into our office and announced that my supervisor was looking at many Halictus sp. bees outside the building!  I initially thought of the Colletes bees I saw more than three weeks at Gatineau Park, but these bees were just searching for nests and not mating.  I quickly stopped eating, grabbed my camera, and asked my labmate to show me the way.

Indeed, there were at least thirty bees flying on a little patch of soil just outside the building, and my supervisor apparently saw a parasitoid wasp earlier as well.  I can't believe I did not see any of this while walking by this morning.  I then sat on the ground (with my back turned to all the people walking by during lunchtime) and started taking pictures of bees burrowing into the soil.

Halictus sp. (family Halictidae)
I have many photos of bee butt sticking out in the air.


Science by Night at the Museum of Nature (2016)

This evening, a free event called Science by Night took place at the Museum of Nature.  In addition to the usual Thursdays' free open house (in the evenings), there were activities where the visitors could extract strawberry DNA, see birds of prey up-close, talk to paleontologists and park scientists, and more.  Since I have been to the museum many times already, the activity that interested me the most was seeing the birds of prey from Falcon Environmental Services.

Captive Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)
The Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus).


Trout lily survey

Why are the anther colours different in trout lilies?  This might be a question that enters your mind every spring if you enjoy exploring forests and watching ephemeral plants flower before the canopy closes over and the presence of biting insects dissuades you from entering the forest.

For those not sure what I am talking about, here is a photo I took this morning (in McCarthy Woods) of two trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) growing side-by-side that have different anther colours (red versus yellow).



Enjoying springtime in the Arboretum - pollinators visiting squill flowers

I went to the Fletcher Wildlife Garden and the Arboretum today hoping to photograph bees visiting flowers, since I know that Siberian squill (Scilla siberica) should be flowering by now and they usually get visitation from pollinators (based on last year's observation).

At the Arboretum, there were many birds species.  Here are some of them:

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
Male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) keeping an eye out for his female companion.


Enjoying springtime along Rideau Canal

The weather has been so nice lately that I walked along the canal several times this past week.

Last Sunday (17th)

Canal during springtime
Many people were out in summer clothes.


Fauna/flora surveying at Gatineau Park (2016)

It is that time of the year again where I help out with the survey of spring ephemerals and emerging bees at Gatineau Park.  To read more about it, check out my previous posts from 2014 and 2015 (parts 1, 2, and 3).

It is always nice to be back out in nature (especially after a long winter), to step on foliage and into muddy puddles, and search for anything moving, making sounds, or just being attractive.   Since it is only early spring here in eastern Canada, we didn't see any bees constructing new nests in the nest boxes and saw only some hepatica flowers in the quadrats.

While I was checking the nest boxes, I noticed this Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) pecking a tree nearby.

Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)


Checking for Spring around South Keys area

I went for a long walk around my neighbourhood this afternoon trying to document some of the organisms that are emerging and becoming more active/abundant with every passing day.

Hepatica (Anemone sp.)
Hepatica (Anemone sp.) - always the first ephemeral to emerge in McCarthy Woods.


Who is ready for Spring? Flowers, birds, and I.

Knowing that I was already two days behind in my "annual spring check-up at the Arboretum" (see my 2014 and 2015 posts) because of my busy work schedule, I decided to finish work earlier today so that I can go find the flowers afterwards.

The flowers seemed to bloom right on the calendar date (regardless of the type of winter we had) and when I got there this afternoon, most of the flowers appear pretty old already.  Sadly, there were no pollinators visiting the flowers.

Crocus sp.
This was the best image of the blooming Crocus sp. that I photographed.


New birds of the year

I took the long route to the bus station (around Sawmill Creek Wetland) yesterday, and I was very glad that I did - because of the birds that I saw.

Female Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus).


Waxwings in backyard & Photo updates

There was a large museum of waxwings (about 200 individuals - mostly Bohemian and some Cedar) hanging out in my backyard this morning.  I left my E-M1 camera at school yesterday so I had to use my phone and E-620 to document them eating the berries in the backyard.

Mostly Bohemian Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus).


Checking to see if winter is gone yet

I did some bird-watching this and last weekend.

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) at Fletcher Wildlife Garden last Sunday.


Bird-watching in FWG

I took the long way to school today via Fletcher Wildlife Garden hoping to see some signs of Spring.

Downy Woodpeckers (Picoides pubescens)
One of the first things I saw was this pair of Downy Woodpeckers (Picoides pubescens) fighting along the tree trunk.


Going outside and waiting for Spring

With rising temperature and melting snowpack, it is difficult not to think about Spring.  Nowadays, I try to go outside whenever the weather is nice and I need a break from computer work so that I can discover that first hint of Spring (from a flower, insect, bird call, anything!).

Almost a week ago, it was still pretty cold when I was walking along the Rideau River.

Male Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
Male Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)


Assorted photos in February

Here are some photos I took the past several days.

The Rideau Canal Skateway officially closed for the season yesterday and ended the shortest season on record (18 days).  Thankfully I got a chance to spend some time (walking) on the canal last Friday and to test my new lens.

Skater on Rideau


Updates & Visiting Mud Lake

This week is reading week at University of Ottawa, so there are no classes for undergraduate students, which also means a less hectic week for me.  One thing I was planning on doing this week was looking for Snowy Owls.  The approximate location of the Snowy Owls is not very close to where I live and public transportation does not even come close to the area, so I have been waiting for some free time and good weather in order to make this thing happen.  And today is finally the day!

Another thing that happened this week was that I came across an ad of someone selling one of the lenses that I have been waiting for a while now - the Olympus 60mm f/2.8 Macro Lens.  After some online negotiation and postponing the transaction because of Tuesday's record-breaking snowfall, I finally received this lens yesterday, and it is beautiful!  Because of the two above things, I set some goals for myself today - find Snowy Owls and test the lens.

Long story short, the first goal was unsuccessful because the road where I thought the owls may be found was not the right one and walking along a busy rural road (during wintertime) without sidewalks does not make me feel very safe (just like the time when I tried to bike to Bridgenorth).  After feeling a bit bummed and tired out, I decided to visit Mud Lake and photograph some birds (and macro shots too) instead.

Mud Lake is completely snow-covered now.  I took this photo with my new lens.  It is so much fun shooting with a sharp prime lens (not really the case for my OM 50mm f/1.8 lens).
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