Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Orange buzzler. (The name makes sense if you've heard one.)

Previously on Rock Paper Lizard:  (My account of the Varied Thrush).

I saw a number of them this week, while wandering around one of my old haunts, the Richmond Nature Park.  There were small groups of thrushes, in the deep deciduous woods that enclose the eastern portions of the trail loops, and in the more open bog forest in the northwest corner of the largest loop trail.


For a second or two, a Varied Thrush was at the very beginning of the Twin Peaks opening credits, giving that remarkable 1990s show instant Pacific Northwest cred.  The bird on screen was silent though, not singing.  It was a female, looking a bit impatient.  They don't like being filmed, or photographed.  The one above is uncharacteristically inquisitive-looking.  Usually they turn their backs to you, like this:


(Video by Mid-Valley Media Group, Oregon).

Monday, March 13, 2017

Nature Park revisited: Hemlocks in bogs.

Herein I plagiarize myself, from this very blog, about this very bog.  In 2008 I wrote about the different growth habits of western hemlocks in a mixed deciduous forest and the adjacent remnant peat bog in the Richmond Nature Park.

That was shortly after I had stopped working at the park, where my activities had included managing volunteers in the endless task of invasive species removal.  For the past decade I haven't been back to the park much, mostly for Christmas bird counts and the odd special event.  Our son, who was not yet born when I started working there, is now a volunteer, which was what brought me there today, waiting for him to finish.  I went for a walk, with a phone from the future (relative to when I started working there), and took pictures.

And now the plagiarism begins (except for the photos):

Western hemlock, typical appearance.

Me (2008): The western hemlock is typically the most graceful of the native conifers, with a drooping leader (top branch), long branches that sweep downward, and feathery needles that stick out from sides of the twigs, producing flattened, fan-like foliage. It is the hemlock of the lowlands. As you climb the coastal mountains, you find it replaced by the mountain hemlock, which differs in having a somewhat less droopy leader, relatively shorter branches that tend to point upward, and needles that grow from the twig in all directions, like the bristles of a bottle brush.

Bog form.

Here in Richmond, at sea level, land of the western hemlock, where there are patches of peat bog interspersed with mixed forest, one notices a strange thing. The western hemlocks that grow in the nutrient-poor, acidic, Sphagnum-based peaty soil of the bog resemble mountain hemlocks in relative branch length and shape, and in needle arrangement. They look like mountain hemlocks -- church-steeple narrow and bristly, instead of spreading, graceful and feathery. In places where topsoil has been dumped on top of the bog (unfortunately, that includes most of it), the western hemlocks are tall and graceful, right next to frazzled mountain-looking bog-dwellers.

Bog form.

Is it the acid? I don’t think anyone knows. Another odd thing, the boggy ones seem not to produce cones. A bog is tough neighbourhood in which to grow. (/2008).

Look at this beauty, a lonely dancer, out in the bog.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Agog in the produce aisle.

These are the flower heads of Romanesco broccoli

From Wikipedia :"...also known as Roman cauliflowerBroccolo RomanescoRomanesque cauliflower or simply Romanesco, or more simply Broccoflower, is an edible flower bud of the species Brassica oleracea. First documented in Italy, it is chartreuse in color."

I was mesmerized by their fracticality, which isn't a word.  I posted this picture in Instagram and quipped about a bushel full of fractals. (Which refers to repeated iterations of a geometric or mathematical pattern, such as a Fibonacci series--which this plant exemplifies.)

Also from Wikipedia: " The inflorescence (the bud) is self-similar in character, with the branched meristems making up a logarithmic spiral. In this sense the bud's form approximates a natural fractal; each bud is composed of a series of smaller buds, all arranged in yet another logarithmic spiral. This self-similar pattern continues at several smaller levels. The pattern is only an approximate fractal since the pattern eventually terminates when the feature size becomes sufficiently small. The number of spirals on the head of Romanesco broccoli is a Fibonacci number.

It is a plant worth looking at, for a long time.

Apparently you can also eat it.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Snow geese in Richmond, November 2016

This is turning out to be a very big snow goose year in Richmond, BC.  I haven't heard any reliable data, but a general opinion is that there sure seem to be a lot of them this year.  I don't know how you would count them once they're here.  They course around the city and beyond, dropping by the hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands into parks, schoolyards, and wilder areas near the mouths of the river.  The flock in these pictures is grazing between Garden City Road and St. Albans Road, half a block south of Blundell Avenue.  Large numbers have been visiting this green space over the past week.  Today, I would estimate that there were between 10 and 20 thousand -- but how the heck to count them?  They were in every corner of several acres of sports field divided up by baseball diamonds, tennis courts, and school buildings.  I'm certain that this is the biggest flock I have seen in this city since they started overwintering here a decade or so ago.

This seems to be a "bigger" year than the last big one (2011-2012), which was when our son did a school  project on Snow Geese in Richmond.  A lot of information on the geese can be found here.

Snow geese, from Siberia to suburbia.

A diamond in the rough, a needle in the haystack, a blue morph.

Even a single bird is striking.  A flock of thousands is something else. Something a lot bigger.


Saturday, August 15, 2015


A species of mosquito fern (Azolla sp.) has blanketed the man-made slough at Terra Nova Rural Park in Richmond BC.  In places it looks solid enough to walk on.

It isn't. It's a billion tiny floating ferns.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Blue Hawaiian

Please, not here too.

You would think paradise is easier.  

It isn't.

The place wipes you out.

Yet you'll sell your piano to go back.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

How it went down. (The green flash).

About 6:35, ten minutes to sunset.  Time to start taking pictures.

The beach at Fort DeRussy Park is a good spot, quieter than the rest of the strip.

It's getting close, dropping like a stone. A big yellow burning gaseous stone.

Down in front!

Okay, good.
Two guys started talking about the "green flash," and whether tonight was a good night for it.  I missed it a few nights earlier, perhaps because I had too soon rendered my retinas temporarily blob-struck.  Some claimed to have seen it.  


Supposedly in the second(s) after sunset, the longer wave-length blue-green light makes a last desperate grab to stay in the present day, and a green crescent, or even an upward-shooting ray can be seen.

This night I was ready for it.  A good night, clear horizon, calm weather, no deer-like staring at the thing.

December 31, 2013: I watched the sun go down from exactly the same spot, the sun setting on the year.  When it sank into the sea, the beach erupted in cheers as if it were the ball in Times Square, which, given the time difference it may as well have been. There were no green-flash exclamations or musings.  Everyone was probably already drunk.

There it goes, and faster than you would expect.  You know how a cough drop melts away in your mouth if you have the patience not to chomp it to bits, how that last little bit is one second there, and then gone?

This time, no one cheered.  Ho hum, another day over, mumble about what to do next.

But do you see it?  The green flash.  Had the camera shutter opened a split-second earlier, it would have been clearer in the picture, because it was there.  I saw it through the view-finder.