Category Archives: Science

Bald Eagles

Early this morning I spent some time taking images of bald eagles feeding on dead salmon. Despite the rain it was a nice way way to start the day. Click on one of the photos to open up the gallery.

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Northern Flicker – Male (Red Shafted)

I spent some time this morning taking images of a Northern Flicker which is a type of woodpecker. You wouldn’t expect to see a woodpecker on the ground, but the Northern Flicker spends a lot of time there digging for ants and beetles with their slightly curved bill. In eastern North America the Flickers flight-feather shafts are lemon yellow and in the west they are rosy red. The Northern Flicker has beautiful plumage and this particular bird with the red moustache stripe is a male. Click on the photo to see a larger version.

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Good News

The New Democratic Party followed through on one of its campaign promises and announced that they are banning grizzly bear trophy hunting in British Columbia, which will take effect on November 30, 2017. Individuals will still be able to hunt grizzly bears for their meat and environmental groups are concerned about this loophole.

I recently spent a week photographing grizzly bears. They are beautiful animals and it was a humbling experience. There is a strong argument for stopping the hunt:

1.) Bears are vulnerable – nine of the province’s fifty seven grizzly population units are listed as threatened.
2.) Sound science says the hunt can’t be maintained – more bears are being killed than government quotas allow.
3.) Living Bears are worth more – bear viewing companies directly employed an estimated 510 people in 2012, in contrast to hunting guide outfitters, who created a mere 11 jobs.
4.) Grizzly bears are an integral part of the ecosystems where they live
5.) The vast majority support a ban – eighty seven percent of British Columbians want the trophy hunt banned in the Great Bear Rainforest. Eighty per cent of residents want the ban extended to the entire province.

You can see my grizzly bear images and purchase prints here.

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The Great Blue Heron

The most commonly employed hunting technique of the Great Blue Heron is wading slowly with its long legs through shallow water and quickly spearing fish with its long, sharp bill. It’s the largest North American heron. As I was watching this heron, I noticed it was very patient and consistently catching small fish. Click on an image to see a larger version.

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Osprey ( Pandion Haliaetus )

I spent a few evenings taking images of an adult osprey as it was feeding on fish. It would fly just off the shore as the tide was coming in, looking down for fish in the water. The pattern it was flying reminded me of the circuit planes fly around an airport. The osprey would fly downwind over the ocean and then turn upwind as it hunted for fish. By flying into the wind it could fly slower and hover more easily before diving into the water feet-first to grasp its prey. When it caught a fish and began to climb it also shook itself like a dog when it steps out of water. The osprey is the only bird of prey that feeds exclusively on live fish. After catching a fish it carries it headfirst to make it as aerodynamic as possible. I feel truly blessed that this beautiful raptor let me spend some time with it. Click on an image to see a larger version.

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Telescope Time

Last night the sky was clear and I was fortunate to spend some time looking through a large telescope. When viewing the moon I could clearly see craters caused by asteroids and meteorites colliding with the lunar surface. In one crater there were two mountains inside of it and sunlight was shining on its peaks. Later in the evening Jupiter rose and four of its moons were visible. Click on the image to see a larger version.

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Lunar Halo or Moonbow

As I was walking home this evening there was a beautiful full moon. You could also see a moonbow, lunar halo or lunar rainbow. This is caused by the refraction of light through high altitude clouds. It generally means that rain will fall shortly. The moon bow was only visible for a short period of time before a heavier layer of cloud covered the moon. Click on the image to see a larger version.

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The Salmon Carcass

In October, drawn by natural forces, the salmon return to the rivers which gave them birth. They fight their way upstream against powerful currents, leap waterfalls and battle their way through rapids. They also face dangers from those who like the taste of salmon: bears, eagles, osprey and people.

Once the salmon reach their spawning grounds, they deposit thousands of fertilized eggs in the gravel. Each female digs a nest with a male in attendance beside her.

By using her tail, the female creates a depression in which she releases her eggs. At the same time, the male releases a cloud of milt. When the female starts to prepare her second nest, she covers the first nest with gravel which protects the eggs from predators. This process is repeated several times until the female has spawned all her eggs.

Their long journey over, the adult salmon die. Their carcasses provide nourishment and winter food for bears, otters, raccoons, mink and provide nutrients to the river for the new generation of salmon, much as dying leaves fertilize the earth. Click on the image to see a larger version.

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Surfacing

Two resident killer whales or orcas on the move. These are the most commonly sighted of the three populations ( residents, transients and offshores ) in the coastal waters of British Columbia. They are the largest member of the dolphin family. Residents’ diets consist primarily of salmon, and have extremely tight family units called ‘matrilines’ and each matriline has its own distinct calls. You can see the saddle patch behind the dorsal fin which helps in killer whale identification. This was the pioneer work of the late Dr. Michael Bigg. Seeing orcas in the wild is a humbling experience. Click on the image to see a larger version.

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Arctic Tern and Chick

The Arctic Tern is a seabird that migrates every year from Antarctica to its Northern breeding grounds. I took this photo last summer in Iceland, which means the adult had migrated a distance of 70,000 kilometres. The Arctic tern sees two summers each year and their migration is one of the longest in the animal kingdom. The average Arctic tern lives about twenty years, however, National Geographic and the University of Alberta concluded in 2010 that more than 50% of the species will live past their 30th birthday. National Geographic calculated that during the lifespan of 30 years, an Arctic tern would have migrated over 2.4 million kilometres, the equivalent of traveling from Earth to the moon over 3 times. Click on the image to see a larger version.

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