May 2014

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June 14, 2014 by Rokman61

I’ll start with a mystery photo – see if you can figure this one out.  The answer appears near the end of the blog.

Seaweed dried 2014.05.31 8721


May provides some of the most exciting bird activity of the year, as migrants pass through in waves.  On my outings I have been more focused on finding than photographing, so have a dearth of bird pictures to present in this posting.

Chipping Sparrows are abundant all across the continent, but happen to be relatively rare in our area.  I managed to get a few images of this one, and just when it was coming in close, my camera mal-functioned, so these are the best I have to offer.

Sparrow Chipping 2014.05.07 8660

Sparrow Chipping 2014.05.07 8661

Here are two birds that are locally common, but not easy to see, and even tougher to photograph.  The images are soft and ‘noisy’, because I had to shoot them in low light and crop them to enlarge the subjects.  Sometimes you have to take what you get.

The little Hammond’s Flycatcher lacks distinctively obvious markings, and is best identified by its calls.  Birders will notice the small, mostly dark bill and the touch of white behind the eye.

Empid Hammond's 2014.05.24 8665

The cute little MacGillivray’s Warbler is a fine singer but prefers to stay hidden in the understory.

MacGillivray's Warb 2014.05.24 8682

In contrast, here is a little bird that prefers to sing in the most conspicuous place it can find, the White-crowned Sparrow.  Of interest, this may be the most common bird you might encounter in highly urbanized areas – pigeons and crows excepted.

Sparrow White-crowned 2014.05.31 8744

On an outing to the North Shore, I came to a fenced and gated municipal waterworks facility.  This Guard Bear was sitting watch near the gate.

Guard bear Cypress 2014.05.24 8676

One day I was slowly stalking a small bird when there was a sudden explosion right in front of my feet – I had almost stepped on a Mallard duck.  Here is why she allowed me to approach so closely.

Mallard eggs 2014.05.16 i2646

Once settled on her ‘nest’ she is so cryptic as to be almost undetectable.

Mallard duck on eggs 2914.05.22 i2666

Cedar Waxwings are so natty-looking that it is difficult to pass up a photo op.  This is a young bird, that has not yet developed the red, waxy, wing-feather tips for which it is named.

Waxwing Cedar 2014.05.31 8769

Bonaparte’s Gulls are a small species that winter on the coast and move inland to nest on lakes.  Here is a party of young ‘bachelor’ birds who will not breed this year, will retain their winter plumage, and just get to hang out for the summer.

Bonaparte Gulls x4 im 2014.05.31 8712

Bonapart Gulls fly 2014.05 31 8717



Allow me now to feature a few flora for you.

The Photinia hedge in front of our home blooms sporadically most years, and occasionally profusely, as it did this month, and is quite stunning.

Photinia bloom 2014.05.22 i2661

Photinia sp, a hybrid cultivar

On a walk along the sandy beaches at Iona Regional Park, one encounters a landscape and flora that is very different from the inland fields or forests.   A few examples next.

This odd-looking but neat little plant is Large-headed Sedge (Carex macrocephala).  It grows on the low dunes where it helps to stabilize the sand.

Big-headed Sedge Caryx macrocarpus 2014.05.31 8729 Big-headed Sedge Caryx macrocarpus 2014.05.31 8731

This one is Beach Pea (Lathyrus japonicas), adding a touch of colour to the green and brown backdrop.

Beach Pea Lathyrus japonicus 2014.05.31 8746

I believe this is a species of bee-mimic hover fly, checking the blooms for something edible.

Beach Pea Lathyrus japonicus 2014.05.31 8759

Along the tide line, there is this interesting deposit of marine algae, aka ‘seaweed’.

Seaweed 2014.05.31 8726

Once dried by the sun, patches of the seaweed look like this – the subject of our ‘mystery photo’.

Seaweed dried 2014.05.31 8723

Back on drier ground: Sheep Sorrel or Sour Weed (Rumex acetosella) is a very common introduced weed, almost ubiquitous in lawns, roadsides, and fields.  When it produces its myriad of minute blossoms in May, it can turn an entire landscape reddish, as in this vegetated dune.

Sheep sorrel rumex acetocella 2014.05.31 8761


Meanwhile, remaining in the pink but getting back to algae . . .

Most everyone has heard of the dreaded ‘Red Tide’, but I can’t recall ever having seen the phenomenon.  Then one day I was walking the famous White Rock Promenade, and there it was!  A strip of pink-tinted water along a section of the shoreline.

Red tide 2014.05.30 8694

The colour is surprisingly intense when the light hits it at just the right angle.

Red tide 2014.05.30 8699

Wikipedia informs us that Red Tides comprise certain microscopic planktonic algae, and these tides appear when conditions cause the algae to ‘bloom’ or replicate by the billions.  The tiny algae get concentrated in filter-feeding animals such as clams and mussels, and they contain a substance that is toxic to vertebrates.  Hence the warning about ‘shellfish poisoning’ when red tides are occurring.  Just the very name of the organism responsible, ‘dinoflagelate‘, sounds hostile and threatening.


In my last blog I presented some small articles made from a very unusual type of wood, namely Cork Oak.  I have another oddity to present here.  This time the wood is a very common species and one of the most important timbers of the BC forest industry, namely Douglas-Fir.  One day at his job at the sawmill, son Dave came across a few planks of unusual colour – a dark purplish hue.  He brought me a few pieces to play with.  The first thing I noted was that it was unusually heavy, and contained so much pitch and water that when cut, it produced more of a paste than sawdust!  Presumably the colour comes from the contained resins.

Here is what the freshly-cut wood looks like.  This image was taken with a flat-top scanner, and the colour is very close to true.

D-fir purple scan 2014.06.12

I tried making a few items to see what they would look like.  Unfortunately the purple colour soon changes to shades of grey and brown, presumably due to oxidation and/or reaction to UV radiation.  However, the colour is still quite distinctive and interesting.

Wine-bottle stoppers.

Winstop purple fir 2014.04.17 8498

Another view, with a presentation block.

D-fir stoppers & holder 2014.06.11 9024

And a pair of ‘ManCoasters’, a CGio exclusive.

Mancoasters D-fir 2014.06.02 8887

Perhaps a good time for a cool one now.






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