Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Macro Monday: Green

I am off on a nerdy birdy weekend at the moment. So, no long winded post this week - phew, what a relief for us all! Just some soothing photos to, hopefully, please your eyes. That always assumes that I can get online to post them whilst in the wilds of the B.C. Interior.

Sword fern (Polystichum munitum)

Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum)

Anyone know? My ID books are in Box 4 somewhere in the bowels of my garage.

For more Macro Monday, go here.

My Heart Nearly Broke.

A few days ago, the biggest fear that I had about moving to a new house and a new neighbourhood appeared to becoming a reality. My little Tessie was lost. As I wandered around my garden and the surrounding area, calling her name, my heart leapt every time I saw a white flash that could be her face, every time I heard a noise that could be her mew. My calls became more urgent and then more pathetic as I tried to choke back the tears, as I tried to not think the worst. I began to think that I would soon be writing the post that I have always dreaded. The kind of post that when you start reading, your breathing becomes shallow and your eyes start to prick. You start pleading and hoping, oh please no, please not that. The kind of post that when you get to the end, big fat tears are rolling down your face, plopping onto your keyboard, falling into your coffee, concentric ripples expanding outwards, ever increasing, just as your hope for a happy ending is ever diminishing. Well, I am happy to announce that this is not one of the posts. Tess, the cat of the walnut-sized brain is safe and back at home, once more ensconced under the bed as the chaos, noise and dust of the renovations continue.

If I am honest, she was only actually missing for less than two hours, but that was quite enough time for me to think of all the worst case scenarios. To start designing lost posters, to start thinking of all of those what if scenarios (most of them involving cars, blood and a poor, hurt, frightened little kitty hiding in someone’s shed, never to be seen again) and tormenting myself with the question of why I didn’t get her in when I had the chance and when Mr. DBM suggested that I get her in. I also had time to get quite angry with an irresponsible dog owner. Now, I love dogs, and normally I don’t care if they are running around off leash, but when one comes into my garden and spooks my cat so that she runs off and can’t be found, I can get a little angry. And worse, the guy claims that it couldn’t possibly be his dog, since he has only just let the little sod out (the little sod was my wording, not his). However, I know it was his dog, since I saw the little black and white Boston terrier running around my garden and I heard family members calling him – I believe his name is Arthur. So, when I met the guy in the wooded area behind my house and I saw him looking for his dog, here is the conversation that ensued:

Me: “Have you lost your dog?”

Little Sod’s Owner: “Yes, I have you seen him?”

Me: “Would he be the black and white Boston terrier that was running around my garden completely out of control and that just went haring under the fence over there?

Little Sod’s Owner: “Oh yes, thank you.”

Me: “Perhaps you should have better control over your dog. Might I suggest a leash, or perhaps one of those collars that gives your dog an electric shock when he completely ignores you and all your family members?”

Little Sod’s Owner: “Well, he didn’t really do anything wrong, did he?”

Me: “Actually, I believe he came into my garden, scared the living shit out of my cat, who has now disappeared and is probably lost and gone forever.”

Little Sod’s Owner: “Oh, that couldn’t be my dog, I only just let him out.”

Me: “ Then how come I saw him in my garden half an hour ago, how come your wife and son were out calling him over and over again and how come I now know is name is Arthur if he has been inside all this time. Or do your family members enjoy roaming the neighbourhood chasing after a non-existent dog?”

Little Sod’s Owner: “No, not my dog, couldn’t have been. And even if it was, it is not as if he has done any harm.”

Me: “Well, I beg to differ and if I don’t find my cat, I will be suing your ass off, collecting dog shit to post through your letter box and making a voodoo doll of you to stick pins and needles into day and night for all eternity.”

Of course, that conversation only took place in my head. The real conversation was more like:

Me: “Have you lost your dog?”

Little Sod’s Owner: “Yes, I have you seen him?”

Me: “Would he be a black and white Boston terrier?

Little Sod’s Owner: “Yes.”

Me: “He just went under that fence over there.”

Little Sod’s Owner: “Thank you.”

Me: “You are welcome. Oh, and if you see a fluffy black and white cat around, can you let me know. Thank you.”

Sometimes, flicking the safety switch that disconnects your brain from your mouth is a good thing. Let’s be honest, if I didn’t have that switch, I am pretty sure that I would have been punched on the nose a few times and I certainly would not be gainfully employed. If I ever lose control of that switch and start saying what I am actually thinking, I suspect that I could end up in some very hot water very quickly.

Tess’s little adventure does have a happy ending. After a tearful breakdown I went back into the house to start making up my “LOST” posters. After 10 minutes of more worry, I had to go back outside to look for her. I opened the back door and there she was, just sitting there. I picked her up, hugged her half to death, scaring her even more, and then she bolted under the bed for the rest of the evening.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Macro Monday: Look Into My Eyes........

Last Monday slipped by under a mountain of boxes and in a haze of drywall dust. Yes, we have finally moved - 155 boxes in total, 36 so far unpacked. The rest are happily ensconced in the garage, waiting for their contents to be rediscovered once the renovations are complete. We are now living upstairs, sans kitchen or washing machine, and we have been reduced to washing everything in the shower. Still, as everyone keeps telling me - it will be worth it when it is all finished. But when will that be? I stubbed my toe on a dinner plate in the shower yesterday morning..........

Still, life goes on, and so I am back with a Macro Monday post. These photos were taken this morning at half past stupidly-early o'clock. Why can't birds have a lie-in on Sunday like the rest of us? And don't they know that it is a long weekend here in Beautiful British Columbia? Oh well, he is gorgeous isn't he, so I suppose it was worth getting up ridiculously early for.

He is a sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus), so called due to his pencil thin legs. I know that it is a he since he is very small  - females can be nearly twice the weight of males - (and because Derek the Master Bander told me so). These hawks show the greatest disparity in the size of males and females of any American hawk.  Male or female, these are not large hawks, being no bigger than your average jay or dove. If you look into his gorgeous bright eyes, you will immediately know that he is only in his second year, since adult birds have blood red eyes.

For more Macro Monday, go here.
For more Faces of the Week, go here.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010


Oh no, not you dear readers, I would never refer to you as a bunch of suckers. I am, of course, referring to the subject of this post - the answer to Macro Mystery #3.

What we have here is an ochre starfish (Pisaster ochraceus), or sea star, if you prefer, since it is not a fish, but then a whale shark is not a whale and a jellyfish is not a fish, but that doesn't stop us from using their names, does it!?! Sorry, getting sidetracked by one of my pet peeves ........ back to the story - an ochre starfish chowing down on a mussel. But how on earth is it ever going to crack that hard shell, and there is no way that it could ever open one up, could it? Well, it doesn't have any thumbs, and I am pretty sure it does not have a knife to cut the mussel's strong muscles, does it?

The answer lies in all of those tiny little tube feet and the power of suction. Starfish have what is known as a water vascular system, a series of tubes filled with water that run throughout the starfish's body. This system is unique to the echinoderms, a group of animals that includes sea urchins, brittlestars, sand dollars and feather stars. Along the length of some of these tubes, you have the tube feet. Each is tipped with a little sucker pad and at the base is a bulb. So, if you squeeze the bulb, the water will be forced into the foot, which will then extend. If you release the pressure on the bulb, the water will leave the foot and it will retract. Think turkey baster. So what this starfish is doing is extending its feet until the suckers touch the mussel. Water is then drawn back into the bulb of the foot and this causes the feet that are against the shell of the mussel to stick onto the shell due to the vacuum formed. Now, one tiny little tube foot cannot exert much force, but hundreds of the them can. Not enought to completely open the mussel perhaps, but then the starfish as another little trick up one of its five sleeves........

The evertible stomach. Yep, our spiny-skinned beauty has two stomachs, one of which it can extrude from its body and slip into the slightly cracked open shell of a bivlve, such as our unfortunate mussel here. Once the stomach is inside the shell, digestive enzymes are secreted, the contents of the shell broken down into a soupy liquid which is then drawn back into the starfish, along with its first stomach. Digestion can then be completed by the second stomach. I guess the starfish has to hope that it maintains its grip on the mussel, or it could be curtains for the evertible stomach!

Any interesting facts about the mussel? Not really. I am told that they can be very tasty, but I have a policy of not eating whole animals, including all the digestive tract, rectum, anus and all, so I wouldn't know about that. The golden brown threads that you can see around the hinge of the mussel is the byssus, or the "beard". The mussel squirts out these threads as a liquid, which it then coats in an organic varnish. The sticky threads attach the mussel to the rocks, so allowing it to live right on the edge of the rocky shore without being washed away by the crashing waves. These adhesive threads are very strong and are not degraded by salt or fresh water. They are so good at their job that scientists have now identified the genes that code for the proteins used to make the threads and inserted these genes into yeast, so that they can harvest the proteins by culturing the yeast. I don't think the yeast cells mind too much. Byssal threads from another bivlave, the Meditteranean pen shell, has such fine byssal threads that they can be woven into a very fine and much sought fabric known as sea silk. Rumour has it that this golden coloured silk may even be the famous Golden Fleece, as searched for by Jason and his Argonauts.

So, there you have it. The organisms are the orchre starfish, aka the purple starfish, which is obviously another stupid common name, since it is fairly evident from the photo below that many are in fact bright orange, and the mussel. One mark for each, half a mark for starfish. So I guess that means that most of you got half a mark for starfish, well done you, but Englishmum gets a full mark for getting the mussel! Well done - and no, this is not a case of nepotism, she really was the only one to get the mussel. A bonus mark goes to Jabblog for originality.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Macro Monday Mystery #3

Since I am a little busy at the moment  (box 105, if you are interested), I thought that I would leave it up to you to write my blog this week. Well, really, why should I be the one to do all the work around here? So, here is my macro photo for this week. All you have to do is tell the story of what on earth is happening here. Marks will be given for the names of the organisms involved and for what is actually going on. If you haven't got a clue, marks will be given for original and/or completely made up information.

If I have time, I will be back on Wednesday, maybe, to explain what is going on, unless some bright spark has already come up with the answer, then I won't have to. So, could someone please, please be a bright spark, since I am moving on Thursday. Thank you!

For more Macro Monday, go here.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Macro Monday - Feeling a Little Bit Crabby.

Today, I am feeling a little bit crabby. It might have something to do with the fact that I was up at 4:30am to go birding (why, oh why do birds have to get up sooooo early!?!). It might also have something to do with the fact that I am now up to box number 93. Or perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I was up at 1am worrying about what faucets I should be installing in my new kitchen, whether it is really worth spending $25 per square foot for a glass tile backsplash and if I should get slate flooring in the mud room. Since I couldn't get to sleep and to stop me from obsessing about fireplaces and window treatments, I ended up reading my book - "Insomnia" by Stephen King. Thanks Cortes!

So, to go with my mood, here is a little crab - the sally lightfoot crab, Grapsus grapsus.

These crabs dance around the rocks on their tiptoes, easy to see, but difficult to catch. As you walk across the black, desolate rocks, you will find a wave of brilliant orange and flashing red fanning out before you as these crabs skitter and scurry away from you, always one step ahead. No matter how fast you are or how stealthily you stalk these cunnig and conniving crabs, the end result is nearly always the same - a gorgeous photograph of a rock where once a crab crouched. Obviously, I did manage to sneak up on a couple of rather sluggish and lethargic specimens and snap a couple of somewhat decent macro shots.

It is rumoured that these crabs are named after a nineteenth century night club dancer, who captivated, teased and tantalised her audience with a swirling red and yellow dress. Hmmm, I am not entirely sure that I would want a crab named after me. 

PS This is a little bit of a cheaty post, since these colourful crustaceans have appeared in a previous post. Oh well, I did mention that I was feeling a little bit crabby, didn't I?

For more Macro Monday, go here.
For more face of the Week, go here.