June – July 2013

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June 24, 2013 by Rokman61

In mid-June I had occasion to spend a few days in Salmon Arm (a smallish town in south-central BC on the Trans-Canada Highway).  The occasion was presented when our son Dave was sent there by his employer to fill in for a week for someone on holiday.  Since his accommodation was covered, I took the opportunity as a chance to poke around in this interesting corner of the Province.

Remember you can click on images to get a larger view – mostly on landscape-formatted (wide) images, less so on ‘portrait’ (tall) photos.

Dave’s job is to run the planer at a small mill that specializes in high-quality red cedar products.  He gets to operate some of the peripheral machinery: in his words, it’s “Like a big Tonka toy”.

Dave drive loader 2013.06.11 i1846

A few of the birds I encountered.

Salmon Arm is located on the southern tip of Shuswap Lake, a well-known venue for summer boating and watersports.  At this location there is a large marshy shoreline which is a nesting area for Western Grebes – the birds famous for their water-walking courtship performance at mating time (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_fEU1UPm9c).

Grebe Western 2013.06.11 1260

A few Clark’s Grebes also nest here, one of the very few places in BC.  I was too late in the season to see the dance, and didn’t come across any Clark’s, but I did observe this pair of Western Grebes passing a small fish.

Grebe Western fish pass 2013.06.11 1324

The bird on right is a classic Western Grebe.  Clark’s Grebe is very similar, distinguished by showing some white extending above and in front of the eye.  The two species do hybridize, and the bird on left with paler plumage above the eye could be carrying some Clark’s genes.  (Enlarge for a closer view).

Grebe Western:hybrid? 2013.06.11 1312

This pair of Killdeer were noisily racing around on the front lawn of a private residence – the ‘lawn’ in this case – cleverly consisting of crushed stone – no watering, no mowing, etc.

Plover Killdeer pair 2013.06.11 1338

Killdeer nest on patches of bare open ground, and presumably this is their claimed patch.  When still, they blend in amazingly well with the gravelly substrate.

Plover Killdeer 2013.06.11 1350

Brewer’s Blackbirds winter in large flocks with starlings and other blackbirds, usually around barns with lots of cow effluent.  It’s a treat to see them in their nesting habitat, often foraging around standing water.  A fairly plain bird, but subtly iridescent, and an eye that can get your attention.

Blackbird Brewer 2013.06.013 1466

This one is a Willow Flycatcher – no attempt to hide for him.

Flycatcher Willow 2013.06.11 1296

These Tree Swallows were foraging over a wetland in a clammy drizzle.  Hunting must have been marginal, so maybe they were taking a break and discussing strategy?  Despite the dull light, their blue colour almost glows.

Swallow Tree group 2013.06.13 1462

Swallow Tree 2013.06.13 1460

Butterflies – I’m guessing at the name of the first one.

Coma Green 2013.06.12 1436

Green Coma

Swallowtail Anise 2013.06.12 1412

Anise Swallowtail

Some flowers:

Tiger Lily Lilium columbianum 2013.06.11 1363

Tiger Lily Lilium columbianum – a native wildflower

This one is some kind of rose – growing wild but I assume it is not a native.  The pink colour is just so intense.rose 2013.06.11 1251

Meanwhile, whilst driving around the countryside near Salmon Arm, I came upon a small flock of Angus-type cows.  Conspicuous amongst them were a few unusual ones; these apparently are a special breed of beefers developed by a local stockman – known as Oreo Cattle.

Oreo cattle 2013.06. 13 i860


Change of pace:  mystery photo – maybe you can guess what it is?  Abstract art?  (Answer at end of blog).

Mud spatter 2013.07.07 1990

Back in the Lower Mainland – here are a few more birdies.

Chickadee Blk-cap 2013.06.15 1510

Black-capped Chickadee

Violet-green Swallows are often seen zipping around overhead – little missiles, white below and dark above.  One needs to see them perched close to fully appreciate the gorgeous colours for which the bird is named.

Swallow V-G 2013.06.151537

Many of my previous postings have included a shot of a Great Blue Heron.  I’ve missed out lately, so here I am back on track.  This bird has nabbed a large Brown Bullhead, a type of catfish native to eastern North America, and now found all through the Lower Fraser drainage.  Because the fish has three large spines (on its gill covers and on the dorsal fin) the heron could not swallow one so large, so had to give it up.  Although not a native fish, the bullhead provides a major food source for our nesting Ospreys.

Heron GB catfish 2013.06.05 1217

Why not two Great Blues? – sort of a make-up for past misses.  This one is a young-of-the-year.

Heron GBH young 2013.07.07 2060

The adult Bullock’s Oriole is a brilliant orange colour, which I have yet to catch in its full glory.  This one is a first-year male – not too shabby itself.

Oriole Bullock's 2013.06.05 1237

Yellowthroat Com 2013.06.15 1555

Common Yellowthroat.

There is an interesting story behind the Anna’s Hummingbird.  The epicenter for this species is/was California, but it has been spreading northward along the coast for many decades.  In the 70’s it was a rare find in Vancouver, and now it is common, even abundant in our area.  The first one appeared in our yard about 5 years ago, and now they nest in the neighbourhood and are present daily at our feeders.  They do not migrate, so we have these sprightly gems all through the winter.  Here is a youngster from this year’s batch.

Hummer Anna's im 2013.07.13 2193

Each year we have Dark-eyed Juncos nesting near the house, often in very busy locations.  These birds nest on the ground, and manage to produce at least two batches of young per summer.  Here is the second nest of the year, neatly tucked under some dry leaves to form a bit of roof.  The second image shows how well-hidden the nest site is.

Junco D-I nestlings 2013.06.26 1609

Junco nest 2013.06.26 1626

Here one of the parents waits impatiently for me to finish taking the baby pics.

Junco D-I 2013.06.26 1619

A family Barred Owls that reside in a small park near our home are very accustomed to people and generally go about their business without regard to gawkers.  These two young-of-the-year went about their grooming, stretching, and interacting as I took my photos.  The pics look a bit strange because the birds are in deep shadow with very bright sun in the background, requiring a bit of ‘processing’ to bring them out.

Owl Barred 2x young 2013.07.05 1921

Owl Barred 2x young 2013.07.05 1919

More swallows, this time a rather sad story.  At Pitt Lake near Vancouver, there are two roofed wooden tower structures intended for wildlife viewing.  A few years ago they hosted active nesting colonies of Cliff Swallows, and it was a real treat to be able to watch them go about their business at very close range.  In about 2009 or 2010, the nests were mysteriously destroyed, the swallows disappeared, and did not nest for at least two seasons.  In early July I discovered that they were back at one of the towers, actively building several of their unique mud nests.  The photos are on the murky side as the nests are tucked into dark corners under the roof.  The second pic shows a swallow adding a pellet of mud to its structure.

Swallow Cliff nest 2013.07.02 1890

Swallow Cliff nest build 2013.07.02 1880

Here they are gathering mud from this mound in the marsh next to the tower.

Swallow Cliff gather mud 2013.07.01 1868

When I examined my images, I realized that one of the birds I had photographed was a fledgling, as indicated by the wide gape (base of the bill) and fuzzy plumage.  Of interest, where did this bird come from?  From a single nest that had not been previously reported, or from another nearby nesting locality?

Swallow Cliff fledgeling 2013.04.02 1874

And the sad part – within a week or so it was reported that the nests had been trashed again, and the birds were gone.


 A few non-bird subjects . . . .

Deer Black-tail 2013.07.11 2099

Columbian Black-tailed Deer (= Mule Deer)

Whiteface Red-waisted 2013.07.16 2333

Red-waisted Whiteface

I had no idea what species this one was, but when I grabbed my dragonfly book it just happened to open at the exact page and it flew right out at me – a Four-spotted Skimmer.

Dragonfly 4-spot Skimmer 2013.07.03 1840This one was an easy ID – an Eight-spotted Skimmer.

Skimmer 8-Spot 2013.07.19 2518

Dragonfly Dot-tailed Whiteface 2013.07.02 1843

Dot-tailed Whiteface

One day my good friend George announced in his blog that he had come upon an astonishing hatch of little skipper butterflies in a park near his home.  He photographed hundreds – no, thousands! – of the tiny  flutterers.  I went out to check for them in similar habitat close to my home and found nary a one.  So Norma and I had to head into town to take in the show.  As advertised, they were everywhere.  This first pic shows over two dozen.  The second pic has a lot more – count’em if you can.

Skippers Euro 2doz 2013.07.07 2003Skipper European many 2013.07.07 1996Most were on the abundant flowers of Purple Vetch (Vicea sp.), but they were also on virtually anything in bloom.  Here are three on Red Clover (Trifolium pratense).

Skippers Euro red clover 2013.07.07 2018

Here is a closer view.  The species is the European Skipper (Thymelicus lineola), an introduced one.  George presents a wealth of interesting information on this species in his blog, considerably more than I include here.  Check it out at http://burnabybirdguy.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/butterfly-bonanza/

Skipper European 2013.07.07 2056

In our yard we often get a few white butterflies, which I just assumed were ‘Cabbage Whites’, a common alien garden pest.  When Norma checked them out more closely, some turned out to be native Pine White butterflies, here seen feeding on oregano blossoms.

White Pine 2013.07.27 2645


One of my very favourite places to visit each summer is Cypress Bowl Provincial Park, in the Coast Mountains just north of Vancouver.  Despite this area being a highly developed venue for the 2010 Olympics, there is some fine quiet habitat in the little valley between the two developed slopes.  In particular, the sub-alpine vegetation along the Yew Lake trail is most interesting.  A few random selections:

Bunchberry Cornella canadensis 2013.07.11 2171

Bunchberry Cornella canadensis Cornus unalaschkensis

(Note:  I had assumed this Bunchberry was the species canadensis, and labelled it as such.  A good friend has corrected me: the tiny flowers are bluish, rather than yellow as in canadensis, so the correct species is unalaschkensis, which is a hybrid between canadensis and suecica or Bog Bunchberry, which has blue flowers and a bluish tint to the bracts.  I had also used an obsolete generic term Cornella.  These flowers are tricky!)

Slender Bog-orchid (Platanthera stricta) 2013.07.11 2154

Slender Bog-orchid Platanthere stricta

Copperbush (Cladothamnus pyroliflorus) 2013.07.11 2151

Copperbush Cladothamnus pyroliflorus

Fern Deer Blechnum spicant 2013.07.11 2166

Deer Fern Blechnum spicant

Sitka Mountian-ash Sorbus sitchensis 2013.97.11 2134

Sitka Mountain-ash Sorbus sitchensis

There are many varieties of mountain-ash in our urban landscape – this one is our only native, and provides a striking splash of brilliant red colour when in autumn foliage.

Deer-cabbage (Fuaria crista-galli) flowers 2013.07.11 2129

Deer-cabbage Fuaria crista-galli

Deer-cabbage (Fuaria crista-galli) flowers 2013.07.11 2133

Deer-cabbage Fuaria crista-galli

Stink Currant (Ribes bracteosum) 3013.07.11 2183

Stink Currant Ribes bracteosum

False Azalea (Menziesia ferruginea )2013.07.11 2126

False Azalea Menziesia ferruginea

Bogbean Menyanthes trifolia 2013..07.11 2115

Bogbean Menyanthes trifolia

Bogbean again, showing flower head.Bogbean Menyanthes trifolia 2013.07.11 2118

Subalpine Spirea S. densiflora 2013.07.11 2136

Subalpine Spirea Spirea densiflora


Back in the lowlands, and July being the relatively ‘slow’ time for birds, flowers again get proportionately more attention.  Here are a few of the more prominent native species we are likely to encounter in the coastal area.

Hardhack (Spirea douglasii) 2013.07.07 1943

Hardhack Spirea douglasii

This is the native species of spirea that occurs abundantly throughout our damp lowland areas.  Note the towering form of the flower heads compared with the flatter ones of the very similar species from Cypress Bowl (above).

This one is a common tall shrub, also found in damp coastal areas.

Ninebark Pacific Physocarpus capitatus 2013.06.17 1575

Pacific Ninebark Physocarpus capitatus

This photo was taken from our deck, as we are treated to quite a show each summer.  Despite its specific name, it blooms profusely in July in the lowlands. (BTW, the genus for this species has recently been changed from Epilobium to Chamerion).

Fireweed yard 2013.07.18 2463

Fireweed Chamerion augustafolium

The native flora are most interesting to some of us, but it is often the non-natives that are most conspicuous.  Some are rather aggressively invasive and hence quite undesirable, whereas others are arguably benign and add extra colour to our landscapes.  Some examples.

Flag Yellow (Iris pseudacorus) 2013.056.17 1564

Yellow Flag Iris pseudacorous

Vetch Common Vicia sativa

Common Vetch Vicia sativa

Daisy Oxeye? Leucanthemum vulagre 2013.06.30 m1639

Oxeye Daisy Leucanthemum vuagre

One day I happened upon this shallow lake that hosted a rather stunning display of waterlilies.

waterlily pink many 2013.07.19 2489I’m not sure of the botanical classification of this one – presumably it is a cultivar derived from a species in the genus Nymphaea.  Interestingly, some blossoms are intense pink while others are very pale, with virtually no intermediates.

waterlily pink 2013.07.19 2493

Nymphaea sp.

.waterlily 3x pale 2013.07.19 2521


When the flowers are done, then cometh the fruits.  In many instances I find the fruit is every bit as colourful and interesting as the blossoms – sometimes even more so.

Red Elderberries decorate our lowland scrubby areas every July.  Unlike the blue elderberries of the dry interior, which are noted for use in pies, jellies, and wines, the berries of our species are mealy and un-appealing for consumption – but they look good.

Elderberry Red Sambucus racemosa 2013.06.30 m1659

Red Elderberry Sambucus racemosa

Elderberry Red Sambucus racemosa 2013.06.30 m1670

Red Elderberry Sambucus racemosa

Oregon-Grape Mahonia nervosa? 2013.07.07 1937

Oregon-grape Mahonia nervosa?

The oregon-grapes berries may look appetizing and are said to be good for jelly, but I would rate them as very poor eating.  Here are some blue-coloured berries that are quite the opposite – delicious!  These are commercially grown fruit at a ‘U-pick’ near home, and provide one of my favourite kind of summer recreation.

Blueberries 2013.07.27 i2011

Blueberries Vaccinium sp.


Just at month’s-end there were two more shorebirds that presented themselves as co-operative targets.

A young-of-the-year Spotted Sandpiper – it won’t get its spots until next year.

Sandpiper Spotted 2013.07.31 2734

Wandering Tattlers nest in alpine tundra in the far north and winter along the coast from California south.  A very few come through our area each year, but usually don’t stay for long.  This one was a most accommodating individual, and had retained its breeding plumage – something we rarely see.  When I went out to photograph the bird, it had been parked on a rock without moving for some time – waiting for the tide to recede and expose his ‘table’.

Tatler 2013.07.26 2538

I wanted to get a better angle on the bird, so crept down on the rocks and found a comfortable perch.  Just then the bird started to move around, slowly working its way towards me.

Tatler rear 2013.07.26 2621

Eventually it came TOO close to fit in the picture frame!

Tatler portrait 2013.07.26 2616

Next it began to forage actively – here it is consuming a small crab.  One observer reported watching it eat six crabs in a matter of several minutes.

Tatler eat crab 2013.07.26 2594


Finally, here is the source of the ‘abstract art’ – Dave’s recmobile.

Mud spatter Dave truck 2013.07.19 1959

This posting seems to have gotten rather long!  Congratulations and thanks if you managed to get this far.

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