Posts

How little slugs are made.

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I am a great believer in probability. This, of course, refers to the chance of a particular event occurring. The caveat here is that any particular event will eventually occur with or without me, so really the question becomes, "What are the chances that I will witness the occurrence?"

This then is, as Shakespeare said, "Is the rub." Every time you put yourself in any particular situation there is a chance you will be witness to some specific event. Nature rarely values randomness, so the likelihood that an occurrence will happen can be mitigated or enhanced by factors such as time, location, and activity. A good example of this relates to the bears that live in our area. The more times I go outside and the farther I stray from my yard the greater the chances of seeing a bear. That chance increases in the spring and decreases in winter. Day, night, availability of food, and other such variables enter into the equation, but there is 0 chance of me witne…

The black-throated gray warbler.

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Although there are many species of warbler, I have only seen a few. The most common ones around here seem to be the yellow-rumped warblers. Occasionally though, I get treated to seeing one I have never witnessed before. Such was the event when the black-throated gray warbler came down to the feeding station.

Warblers tend to be small perching birds, eat insects, and often utter pleasant vocal songs (hence the name). In the last few years I have photographed yellow-rumped, yellow, Wilson's, and Townsend's warblers. While photographing a group of pine siskins I noticed another bird coming to see what all the excitement was about. It was a female black throated gray warbler, the first I have ever seen, and it stuck around long enough for me to get a couple of good pictures of it. It's presence here was unusual; they do not eat from bird feeders because they are strictly consumers of insects. These birds tend to stay in thickets and heavy underbrush and so are rare…

Pine siskins at a feeding station.

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I have mixed feelings about bird feeders. I love the fact that they attract quite a variety of birds, especially if you have several of them with a range of food types. The above photo was taken near Cultus Lake while we were camping there. The feeder hangs from a metal rod which reduces the likelihood that squirrels or cats will interfere. Although most of the birds present were pine siskins, there were other visitors including a species I have never seen before. It was spectacular watching the maturing chicks trying to get their fill.

There is a downside to feeding the birds. The food, regardless of its type, attracts mice, rats, bears, and even the occassional raccoon. I have also found that neighbourhood cats like to hide in nearby undergrowth hoping for an easy target. Unfortunately, they often succeed. Young birds need to learn to forage without the benefit of handouts; there is a risk of causing them to starve in leaner times because they cannot fend for themselves…

There's more to flowers than just their beauty.

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With summer past and fall well entrenched, flowers seem but a distant memory. Their beauty, although often enhanced by breeding and selection, can still be enjoyed at the florist's or perhaps a conservatory if you have the erge to be surrounded by their sensory inducements.

Next time you look at a flower, take a moment to explore its magnificance. The beauty of flowers isn't just about their scent, soft nature, and brilliant array of colours. Although appealing, the real artistry they possess comes down to the cellular level and the function each part plays in the reason for their existance.

I photographed the central part of the purple and yellow flower shown above as I was intrigued by the pattern and variety of colours. I used my macro setup usually reserved for insects and other associated microfauna; the small aperture and multiple flashes produced an appealing image. If you look carefully at the photo you will see tiny yellow flecks. Those are the grains of …

A Muskrat Tale.

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Although we have muskrats here in BC, I have never seen one. I lived in Alberta for 10 years and saw plenty of them. While visiting north of Edmonton I borrowed a kayak and went out on a lake for a paddle. There I had an unexpected encounter.

I had just finished a trip to the long end of the lake and had turned around to head back. Ahead of me, not 40 meters, a furry animal entered the water and proceeded to swim parallel to the shoreline going in the same direction. I wasn't immediatly sure what it was but as I gained on the hard swimming creature it dawned on me that it must be a muskrat. Beavers are larger, possess a wide, flat tail, and usually announce the presence of strangers with a loud slap of it on the water's surface just before disappearing leaving a trail of bubbles. This beast just kept swimming. I paddled quietly behind it, slowly gaining ground, or in this case, water. Once I was within about 3 meters it began to show signs of anxiety by diving und…

Photographing the sun using HDR.

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The sun is incredibly bright; so bright in fact that including it in an image will likely wash out much of the image. Expose for the sun and everything else is a silhouette. Expose for everything else and the sun overpowers much of the scene. One of the best solutions I have found for this is using a technique called HDR.

HDR stands for high dynamic range. The dynamic range of any visual media is the number of stops between absolute black and absolute white. Many scanners only have a dynamic range of 4 or so while jpegs from a digital camera run around 8. A decent DSLR will give you a dynamic range of 12 when used in RAW mode. Although this represents the caputure of a huge range of light values, it is just not enough in some cases. Photographing an early morning scene with the sun in it where you want details in all areas is a good example. The fact is that even the best RAW capture will not have enough range to get it all. Enter HDR.

I have used HDR built into some c…

The purple rimmed carabus beetle

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While visiting my son in Alberta, I had the opportunity to hunt around for "critters." I always expect to find something exciting but often my hopes go unfullfilled. I had decided to look for salamanders native to Alberta. These belong to the mole salamander family and include tiger, long toed, and blotched salamanders. I turned over every loose board, rotten log, and fallen tree that I could find. Even large stones and cement blocks were worthy of peering under; the search came to no avail. However I did come upon a pair of really large beetles.

Large black beetles that you find underneath earthy substrate are often ground beetles but may in fact be darkling beetles. Generally ground beetles have a shiny sheen to their exoskeleton, especially the back wing covers (elytra) and top of the thorax (pronotum). Darkling beetles tend to be a flat black. To understand the difference, consider black paint that is either glossy or satin. If you can picture that then you…