Just Because

This unplanned shot didn’t seem special when I took it. Just another bunch of dandelions gone to seed in the lane.

Back at the computer, however, it popped off the screen. I fell in love with the crisp outlines, the bright colours, the dark background.

Even the ordinary can surprise us.


Common dandelion   Taraxacum officinale

Fly By

The wild roses put on a colourful show this spring — their pink blossoms dot roadsides, fence lines and wooded areas.

I got quite used to finding a small long-horned beetle in almost every flower. But when I noticed a not-quite open blossom that looked black inside I came up short.

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It was filled with flies!

Were they feeding? Mating? Staying warm?

Moments later they were gone and I was left to ponder the mystery.


Prickly rose   Rosa acicularis

One for the Books

It was a bizarre sight. If I was a tabloid writer I might have titled this piece “Mosquito Eats Caterpillar”.

Caterpillars appeared on the honeysuckle about the same time as the flower buds.

My early attempts to photograph the critters caught only the back end — the head was buried in the cluster of buds. In fact, to the casual observer they look surprisingly like the buds they dine on.

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Caterpillar on twining honeysuckle

When I finally found a caterpillar stretched along a thin branch I took several shots. About the third shot, “holy cow” blew past my lips.

Was that a mosquito?

Indeed it was. It had landed on the caterpillar and as I watched, it sank its sharp little proboscis down into the unsuspecting bud-eater.

The yin and yang of spring.

P.S. How rare is this? If you’re so inclined, you can dip into the research.

 

 

 

Honeysuckle

This wild twining honeysuckle is betwixt and between.

It can’t make up its mind if it wants to twine around the pine tree or just loaf along the ground. Its stems are weak and the sections between the nodes are hollow. Which may explain its lack of enthusiasm for heights.

That said, it obviously hasn’t read the book that says it can climb 5 metres or more (about 15 feet) on trunks of deciduous trees. Maybe it’s allergic to pine.

Nature can be a puzzlement.


Twining honeysuckle   Lonicera dioica var. glaucescens

Drift Line

The magical space between high and low tides is one of my favourite places.

Twice a day the push-and-pull of the sea brings discoveries. Glass floats. Fishing line. Driftwood. Shells. Seaweed. Broken bottles. Litter.

On one recent trip I found a nearly complete shell of a red rock crab. In life it is mostly red, except for the black tip on each claw. But the open, empty shell is worthy of a painter’s palette — red, orange, yellow, mauve, brown, white.

Who would have guessed?

The Silk Makers

I wrote recently about The Silk Road. This is the rest of the story.

How many mouths does it take to eat a tree?  Not the wood. Just the leaves. All of them.

That’s what has happened in our corner of the world. Most of the aspen poplar have been completely defoliated by armies of small black caterpillars.

The caterpillars, or larvae, are the second stage in the life cycle of the Large Aspen Tortrix.  The name Tortrix comes from a Latin word meaning to twist. When you see the leaves they’ve been feeding on, you can see why that name was chosen.

These photos and captions tell more of this tale …

Some pupae have already split open, releasing the adult moths. I imagine we’re in for quite a show when the big hatch happens.

We’ve had defoliations in the past, but I don’t recall anything like this — it stretches for kilometres in all directions.

Although this feeding frenzy sounds disastrous for the aspens, it’s not as gloomy as one might expect. The trees are already sprouting new leaves and before long will look more like they should at this time of year.

Conditions this year are different. Winter was mild. Spring came early. It turned hot. Rainfall has been little and sporadic. Are we seeing the effect of climate change? Or merely a brief climatic blip?

It’s an ongoing evolutionary dance as we each strive to adapt to our world.


Large aspen tortrix   Choristoneura conflictana
White spruce   Picea glauca
Trembling aspen   Populus tremuloides

 

Blimey, Look at All the Barnacles

They live in the intertidal zone, that narrow strand between high and low tides.

If you’ve ever rubbed up against them you won’t have forgotten. They’ll peel the skin right off you. A swimmer’s nightmare. A painful jolt to a hiker who stumbles into them.

Cousins to crabs and lobsters barnacles are curious creatures.

Free-living in the ocean at birth, little barnies attach themselves to rocks and logs and crab shells. Cement themselves to the surface and never move again.

They thrive underwater. Their legs, morphed into frilly appendages, sweep the water for food, drawing particles down into the opening of their self-made home.

Plates — kind of like folding doors — surround the opening. When the tide goes out they clamp shut to keep out predators and protect the barnacle from drying out.

Acorn barnacles are common on the shore I visited. Not sure why the word acorn was chosen. Someone must know.

Thatched barnacles — a type of acorn barnacle — have vertical ribs like skinny fingers on the walls of their homes. Sort of like thatching on a cottage.

Check out the photos. You’ll see the difference.