Archive for May, 2010

Ottawa, May 24

May 25, 2010

Sunday, 23 May

We got up early and drove to Frontenac provincial park, most of the way to Kingston.

More forest, predominantly deciduous, rock at and near the surface, lots of lakes and streams and mosquitoes. Well, not as many mosquitoes as there could have been. It was okay. As always, beautiful things to see, some of them obvious from a distance, but many of them only visible to those who looked carefully.

We saw plenty of evidence of beavers, but no beavers themselves.

One of the small animals we found was what is commonly called a daddy long-legs. Not to be confused with the spider of the same designation, these are not spiders at all, but harvestmen. Among other differences, harvestmen have center-mounted eyes atop turrets.

There were lots of dragonflies of several designs. Many, many pictures, most of which I’ll spare you. But notice on this one that the leading edges of the wings is open, not covered with a membrane.

When we first saw her, I thought she had an ovipositor embedded in the soft dirt of the trail. I still think that’s true, but I don’t know whether it is natural and normal for her to shed her tail down there for the hatchlings to eat. The sacrifices a mother makes!

We saw several of what looked like dragonflies from the head and body point of view, but resembled butterflies with their wings folded. They also flew more like butterflies than like dragonflies. As best I could tell from the insect book later, they are a variety of robber fly. But later, I concluded from further web research that they are probably damselflies, possibly calopteryx demoiselles.

The most interesting things were small animals, but there were also some really pretty fungi.

Jacky saw a leaf move, turned over the leaf and found this little guy:

We found two more of them back at the parking lot:

As we left the park, we came upon a painted turtle crossing the road. We saw two or three more of them as we drove back to Ottawa.

Another good day.

Monday, 24 May

We moved into town today. I spent the day in meetings, while Jacky and our hostess wandered downtown Ottawa. I got out for a walk along the canal.

After the meetings, Jacky and Anna and Mike and I wandered over to Bytown market, where we came upon the Black Tomato restaurant. Outdoor courtyard, very nice. Hot jambalaya, really hot. Enough, even for me.

 It’s the Queen’s (Victoria’s) birthday, a holiday. On the way back from the restaurant, I stopped to take a picture of the parliament buildings with its celebratory illumination. A city bus came along in front of me, but the driver stopped and waited until I had taken my picture. I thought that was just really exceptionally nice. Thank you very much!

Ottawa, May 22 2010

May 25, 2010

Saturday 22 May 2010

Jacky and I flew to Ottawa on Thursday. We were on separate flights due to scheduling difficulties, but I caught up with her at O’Hare and we finished the trip on the same plane, albeit with separate seating. I got a first-class upgrade on the flight from Chicago to Ottawa, which means they gave me a little foil baggie of pretzels. Otherwise, same as everyone else. Be still, my beating heart!

We’re staying with friends who probably appreciate anonymity, then moving into the Crowne Plaza hotel for my conference on Monday.

On Friday, we hiked around some of the trails in the greenbelt. Several interesting things to see, including jacks in the pulpit! Neat!

I found a little spider, at least eight headlights, carrying an egg sac.

On Saturday, we did nothing in particular. Met some other friends for an hour or two of afternoon tea and a backstage tour of Kanata little theatre. In the evening, we sponsored dinner for our hosts at the Green Door vegetarian restaurant.

Finding scorpions!

May 15, 2010

A few weeks ago, I went out looking for scorpions. I found a ringneck snake and a western skink, which made the hike well worth it, photographically speaking, but no scorpions. Once the undergrowth dries up, the scorpions disappear for the season, either retreating further from view or maybe even estivating. In any event, the season is rapidly passing.

I went to Saratoga summit, hiked down Skyline to the Sea trail, detoured on Nutmeg trail and several little stub trails, looking for interesting things to photograph.


Although there were creatures of interest, millipedes and even tiny black almost legless salamanders, there didn’t seem to be any scorpions.

I thought I’d go down Beekhuis road trail – the name always makes me think of a Dutch bakery – to the Saratoga toll road and back past Travertine springs and Castle rock. Lots of people out, a number of backpackers probably coming up from the Waterman gap trail camp.

And Beekhuis road trail proved to be the jackpot!

The small ones are almost white; I suspect they are this season’s hatchlings.

The black dots atop the head, if you can call it a head, are the eyes. Not a whole lot of mouth visible.

They are said to be voracious predators, but they recognize large animals (me, for example) and duck under cover when they can.

Darker color goes along with larger animals, and may indicate that they are a year or more old. I really like the rivets around the edges of their armor.

I wonder if the bulgy ones are pregnant, or whether they were just lucky in coming across something large and delicious.

My previous record for finding scorpions is four in one day. Some years, I don’t find any at all. Today I lost count. I think it was somewhere between seven and twelve, before I finally stopped investigating likely habitat. Truly my cup ranneth over!

Well, toward the end of the day, I did pull up yet one final patch of dead bark. No scorpions, just a centipede!

Nice hike. Beautiful country, Castle rock and the San Lorenzo valley. Lots of people out enjoying the day.

There was a little girl, maybe 3, dressed in a beautiful flouncy pink dress, way the hell and gone out on the trail, the trail thickly populated with poison oak. I sure hope her parents knew about poison oak, or she will be in for an unfortunate birthday surprise.

16.5 miles, 3700 vertical feet.


Grant ranch circumambulation

May 9, 2010

In late 2002 I damaged both Achilles tendons; my logbook for 2003 is almost empty. That’s when I had to quit doing long distance bike rides and take up long distance hiking instead. It’s better now, but I still need to be careful: if my ankles hurt, I take a day or two off. The steep hike on China’s great wall was enough load on my ankles that I have been taking it easy since then, 15-mile hikes on the weekends with less than 3000 feet of elevation gain. But I thought I might be okay for a serious hike this weekend: the Grant ranch circumambulation, 21.2 miles, 4500 vertical feet.

Sore ankles. I’ll take a few days off.

Usually the camera focusses on the nearest objects. Once in a while, it actually pays to read the user manual: there is a setting on this camera that causes it to focus on the most distant object instead, in this case Lick observatory.

One of the more interesting spots on this hike is a little stream whose bed is actually the trail for some little distance. It tends to dry up in summer, but at this time of year, there are likely to be small animals if you look carefully, maybe turning over a rock or two.

I have no idea what these little guys are. Insect larvae, I suppose.

I don’t think I have ever seen a western skink in previous years, but this is the second one in a month. Interesting how either the population of various animals waxes and wanes over the years, or maybe how my ability to perceive them changes.

These are more along the lines of the usual lizards we see all over the place.

Lots of butterflies. I liked the way this one was just casually perched on a nascent grass seed.

Calero, Rancho Canada del Oro

May 1, 2010

Where do I go today? Well, there was a flyer the other day about the wildflower glories of Rancho Canada del Oro, Golden canyon ranch. Turns out it adjoins Calero open space preserve, in the Santa Cruz mountains near Morgan Hill. It’s far enough that I have never been to either of them, and new trails are always interesting.

The country is largely open oak forest, densely populated with poison oak. The Calero trails are often narrow and overgrown, and it was pretty slow going, watching the vegetation at the same time I was looking for interesting things to photograph. (255 pictures today)

The first adventure was a wild turkey who tried to lure me away from her nesting area. I obediently let myself be lured into following her down the trail, but after fifty feet, turned back to where I had first seen her. Sure enough, within five seconds, she was back, trying once again to get me to chase her. I suppose we could have played this game all day….

Wildflowers, indeed!

Lots of photos, most of which I’ll spare you. The next really interesting thing was spotting the little yellow crab spider. Eight eyes easily visible here!

The butterflies are out:

There were some slightly larger animals, too. An alligator lizard, for example, with a dozen ticks behind its jaw.

And while we’re into reptiles, how about a gopher snake!

I figured the flyer mentioning Canada del Oro would get the crowds out this weekend. And indeed, there were several cars at the Canada trailhead, people who would rather drive the extra few miles than walk in through Calero. But I only saw three or four mountain bikes, half a dozen hikers, one equestrienne all day. I suppose I could complain about the crowded trails, but it would only elicit hoots of derision.

The trails are better at Canada del Oro, and the California poppies are in full bloom. Wildflowers, indeed!

Lots of small animals like to munch on California poppies, but when something large like a David shows over the horizon, most of the small animals, well trained by Darwin, scurry out of the bowl and down onto the backside of the flower. With care and caution, however, …

More butterflies. There were even swallowtails, but too flighty to be photographed.

A few damselflies or darners.

The grasses already have heavy seed on them; in a month, this will be golden and dry, but today was the right time of year, really special.

15.6 miles, 2700 vertical feet. Great day!

Looking for scorpions

May 1, 2010

It’s that time of year. I have only found scorpions in the Table mountain area of Stevens canyon (also in Sanborn open space preserve), so Stevens canyon is where I went last weekend, April 25. Bottom line: I didn’t find any scorpions, but I found a few small animals that made the hike worth while anyway.

The ringneck snake was especially cool. I had no idea they would lurk under loose patches of bark!

And around here, at least, we don’t see that many lizards with bright blue tails.


The legs on these tiny black salamanders are so short that people sometimes mistake them for snakes.

There was also a garter snake, the first of the season. Nice day!