Going Nuts!

The hazelnuts are ripe.Some are still on the tree.

I hurry to collect them from the ground as the wind knocks them down, before the  dogs pick them up and crack their teeth trying to get into them. Hazelnuts are so tasty.

But it looks like there is even more competition for the nuts. The Steller’s jay has figured out that this is the time the hazelnuts are ripe. He scolds me as I pick up his lunch.

Another one gets wind of the news. “Did I hear you say the nuts are ripe? Forget the birdseed in this feeder then.”

“Now I just have to get down from here. Ooooh! It looks like a long way down.”

“Might as well go for it. Nothing for it but to jump. Sheesh! I hope I don’t break a leg!”

“Well, you could fly down,” I say.

“Hmpf! I knew that!”

 

 

Bathtub Banter

Even birds need a bath now and then, but  Mrs. Golden Crowned Sparrow is astounded that her privacy is being invaded.“Go away, you junkie from Oregon,” says Mrs. Golden Crown, “and stop staring while I have my bath.”

“Such rudeness!” says the Oregon Junco. “Calling me a junkie!”

“Oh good. He’s gone. Now to wash behind my ears….”“Oh, for heaven’s sake! How can I blend into the tub when you come along and attract attention with your black soldier’s helmet?”“I can see that I’ll have to ask Mr. Golden Crown to come over to stand guard.”

“Come on, Mrs. G.C. Will ya hurry up and get out of the tub? Can’t you see this guy needs a bath? His face is quite black. You come on down here with me. I’m sure you already  smell as pretty as these flowers.”

Pane Pain

The birds know that summer is over and it is time to go south. They don’t like to be too cold anymore than I do, and it’s hard to find food  if there is snow on the ground. Even cold rain doesn’t make it a hospitable environment for providing seeds and/or insects for birds to eat.

The air is fairly vibrating with birdsong, as the birds gather in ever growing flock numbers to eat like crazy and do little practice flights in preparation for the big trip  south.

Unfortunately, with so much activity many of the birds try to fly through my windows, thinking there is a flight path to the other side of the house. It breaks my heart and sometimes their necks or wings, when they hit. The guilt I feel is huge.

After hearing three thumps on my windows in a short space of time, I found a bar of soap and drew lines over the panes so the birds could see that there is a barrier in their flight path.

One little warbler type had hit a corner window just before I soaped it. He had a soft landing on a deck chair cushion. He stayed there for several hours. I worried and felt so bad for him as I watched his tiny traumatized wings quiver.

Then, apparently the time was right. He pooped and flew away. I hope he doesn’t have a bad headache. I’m so glad he survived.

Beach Fishing, Anyone?

I would feel safe enough fishing from a little skiff. I wouldn’t mind the mystic, misty fog that will burn off later in the day.

But going ashore to fish from the beach has given me pause. All sorts of dangers lurk there, right next to those horse clams that squirt water through their siphons like a mini fire brigade.

Remember them, squirting water into the air? Well, just look what is going on behind their backs.What if I’d been standing on the beach fishing, and it turned out to be the bruin’s favourite fishing spot? I think I’d stay in the skiff, thank you.

But worse yet, what if you heard wolves howling the night before, you go to the beach to fish in the morning and a friend calls over to tell you he just saw a wolf running away. You go to explore, and find that wolves have taken down a good-sized deer.

A pack of wolves would tear at the hide, pulling it right off the hind quarters to get at the meat under it. I apologize to the squeamish readers, but this is real life and death–the kind of thing we Disney fans deny ever happens, when in fact it is going on all the time. It must go on. Wolves have to eat too. But you’ll excuse me if I’m not overly in love with wolves or want to transplant them to every part of the country.

Next time I’ll post something sweet and not too real. I know that for many of you this is hard to look at. I didn’t like it myself, but it’s real, it’s true, and it’s happening out there in the real world.

No, I wasn’t there that day, but the Captain was. He took these pictures.

Cougar Kittens

Thanks to Rhonda Hanuse for sharing this photo and her story with us.

A couple of weeks ago,  Rhonda and her daughter Cheyenne were driving home near Port Hardy on northern Vancouver Island.   As they rounded a corner,  in the distance they saw what looked like a deer but wasn’t.

“What was that?”

Rhonda reached for her camera and clicked away but was too late and she only got pictures of trees. She braked and slowly pulled over to the side of the road. She turned off the ignition and opened the two front windows a crack.

Cheyenne tapped her on the shoulder. “Mom look.” She pointed to the tall grass on the side of the road. The grass swayed in a straight line. The movement stopped a short distance away.

Two cougar kittens peeked out. Rhonda took pictures through the car window.  One kitten looked toward the bushes where the mama had crossed.  The mama cougar chirped to them from the other side of the highway;  the kittens chirped back to their mom.   After a while the more confident  kitten crossed the highway.   The second kitten kept an eye on Rhonda and her daughter. It started to cross only a few steps behind the first kitten, but had to turn back quickly because of an oncoming truck.  Moments later, with mama-cougar chirps and no more traffic, the second kitten tried again and crossed safely.

For Rhonda and her daughter Cheyenne, this experience was priceless.

I’m so pleased that Rhonda agreed to share this photo and her story with us.

 

Waterworks on the Beach

I borrowed these first two images from the Internet. I hope the owners won’t mind. I couldn’t find a name to give credit to.

These are horse clams. I’ve heard they make a tasty chowder, but they can be very chewy if not prepared properly. I think the idea is that after a lot of work to clean them of grit and sand, and taking the stomach contents out, you can either grind the meat or  pound the dickens out of it and cut it small before frying the pieces – quick and hot –  like you would octopus or abalone.

My only experience with trying to cook horse clams happened many years ago,  before I knew how tough they could be. I gave up after several minutes of not being able to chew through the first piece. Horse clams are probably named for their large size (see the ruler under the photo of the clams), but I’ve heard that even the smallest of that family will give your jaws a good workout.

Now that I’m older and wiser, I might try again, doing it the right way (but I’d have to be desperately hungry).

The diagram below shows the foot of the clam (on the left). The clam uses this for digging down into the sand. The siphon (on the right) has intake and outflow tubes. When the clam is digging down into the wet sand, the siphon helps it move along with its “water jets.” In the photo below, taken by the Captain, right into the sun, he has nevertheless captured the horse clam action. If you look closely you can see the water squirting about two feet into the air as the horse clams frantically dig to hide from him.  Actually, the tide has been going out and the clams don’t want to be left “high and dry.” (Now you can see where that expression came from.)Do you see the squirts of water going into the air all along the beach? It’s almost as tricky as running through a sprinkler to walk along this beach. Be prepared to get your legs wet.

Get in Line

The commercial salmon troller (not to be mistaken for a trawler) is shown here in early June, all tiddled up, ready to leave for the summer fishing season in the Queen Charlotte Islands (now called Haida Gwaii). But now that the season has ended, the boat is a bit tired and ready for some TLC. Like every summer, it has taken a beating, pounding into the waves in bad weather. Rigging, fishing lines, gear,  equipment, and even other boats have rubbed on its hull.

The question friends and acquaintances most often ask after it’s all over, is “How was your season?”

The main thing is to survive the elements, stay safe from the many hazards that can befall a fisherman. Beyond that, it’s a case of trying to be in the right place at the right time and hook some salmon that happen to be swimming by.

Commercial fishermen work hard to supply us with fish to eat. Turns out though, that we humans have to get in line. No, I don’t mean the line in the grocery store. I mean get in line behind the more aggressive predators. Here’s how it comes to be that way.

This year, the Captain tells me, it has been an exercise in frustration. Yes, there were good days, but there were extra obstacles besides the ongoing bad weather. The blue shark below is one example. Often they are quick to take advantage of the salmon’s inability to escape the hook. This one was unlucky and bit the lure himself.

Sometimes the Captain might hook a salmon and before he can get it into the boat, a shark has helped himself to a meal.  Here is what’s left of the fish after the shark has taken a bite. I’ve blurred out the deckhand’s face for the sake of his anonymity.

And then there are the pyrosomes, a new phenomenon in northern waters this year. They are not really a jellyfish although they could easily be mistaken for them. They are really small creatures (zooids)  held together in a colony by a gelatinous substance. If they break apart, they just multiply and grow again. Soon we could be overrun … er .. overswum?? with them.

The deckhand holds the hoochie (a lure meant to simulate a squid), which has the hook hidden inside its rubbery, synthetic tentacles. Some pyrosomes are snagged on the steel cable and slide down to where the monofilament line is attached, while others are snagged on the monofilament line itself and slide down to the flasher or the hoochie beyond it.   A hook that is covered with pyrosomes won’t attract a fish, so the lines have to be cleaned off constantly.And then we have the same old deadly predators, the sea lions, who often follow a boat, lazily waiting for a salmon to be caught so they can snatch it off the line for their own easy meal.

With a lot of stress and frustration, the fisherman does his best to catch enough fish to sell to the buyers who will supply the stores to feed humans. Looks like we have  to get in line behind these more aggressive feeders and take what they leave us.