This woodpecker has a similar colour pattern to the larger Hairy Woodpecker (28) and both species are found here in about equal numbers. The bill on the Downy( Picoides pubescens) is proportionately smaller though, less than the length of the head, which gives is a delicate look. Both species are frequent visitors to our suet feeders. Not surprisingly, Downy Woodpeckers spend more time foraging on smaller branches and thinner tree trunks than Hairy Woodpeckers do.
A bright ray of sunshine, Ranunculus occidentalis is one of the earlier flowering plants along the forest edge and in the meadow at Leaning Oaks. Western buttercups have variable numbers of petals and there are seven recognized varieties in western North America. There are up to 14 petals according to EFlora and eight in Pojar and MacKinnon. (Plants of Coastal BC)
Red Squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) were more numerous here when we first moved to Leaning Oaks, but in the subsequent years our population of Eastern Gray Squirrels (see 5.) has burgeoned. Our native Red Squirrel; a much smaller species, doesn't seem to do very well with Gray Squirrels here, and they only seem to co-exist for short periods of time. The Red Squirrel in these photo has done better than the others and has been here off and on since August - a record 7 months! Given the size of the population of feral house cats and the number of Gray Squirrels in the area, we are amazed he has managed survive.
Our first Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) for the year, appeared a couple of days ago on March 24. They regularly return sometime in the third week of March and they are usually around until mid-September. The latest record we have for Leaning Oaks is September 21. The exact date records have been much easier to record since all of the sightings go into eBird. There has been some concern and speculation that the rise of Anna's Hummingbird numbers have led to the decline in Rufous Hummingbirds. That may be true, however there are many other perils that confront the hummingbirds including habitat loss on wintering grounds and changes in flowering phenology with changing climate.
Ruby-crowned Kinglets (Regulus calendula) are found here in the fall, winter and early spring, but they don't linger here through the summer and do not breed at Leaning Oaks. Our records span the period from the second week of September through to the second week of May. Occasionally we hear snippets of song, particularly in the spring, but the most common vocalization we hear is a low husky note. Once in a while they make a long series of these, often when they are agitated and that is a good time to investigate and look for a Northern Pygmy-Owl or some other predator.
The interactions between Ruby-crowns and Anna's Hummingbird here provide some winter time drama, since, for reasons unknown to us, Anna's Hummingbirds seem to have a dislike of Ruby-crowned Kinglets and spend time harassing and dive-bombing them.
While we have not found any statistics, we are fairly sure that this is among the most dangerous organisms on the property, and indeed the entire west coast. These slippery films of algae, found mostly in the wet winter months are found on soil, rock, concrete, tree trunks, decks, docks and boardwalks. The algae species form bright green (when hydrated) films of single-celled algae. The coatings they create can be very slippery indeed, and our guess is they cause more bruised tail-bones, broken bones and falls than any other organisms on the coast.
At one time they were all classified as Protococcus, then Pleurococcus, but now its known that a whole suite of algal species are involved, including algae in the genera Pluerococcus, Apatococcus, and Desmococcus. One of the best studied of these is Apatococcus lobatus, a common biofilm algae on tree trunks. Interestingly, it is repels water, and hydrates itself only using water vapour. Some of these algae are known as aeroalgae, living their lives as aerial plankton. By some reckonings, these are the most numerous organisms on the planet.
The first time that a Mallard stopped at the pond that we built we were so excited. Until then there had been fly overs -but no reason for them to stop. It didn't take them long to habituate to us and dogs and activity all around. The rain of seed from the bird feeders may have helped. There have been some major scuffles as various males or females have vied for pond rights and mating rights.
There were at least three years where we found duck eggs that had been eaten by the ravens. The smashed eggs were always in the same spot on the meadow. Two years ago, however, I was away at a regatta when I received a short video clip of a parade of wee yellow fluff balls swimming in the water! They didn't stay long, but it was wonderful to know that they had found a secure place away from the marauding ravens.
What is not to love about a slug that can grow up to 25 cm in length, is hermaphroditic, can be any colour from the darkest of solid chocolate brown to yellow with black spots, greenish with brown spots to nearly albino and produces the most extraordinary slime or mucous in prodigious quantities? This mucous is used for locomotion, aiding in keeping the skin from drying out and as a form of communication between slugs. More on the slime here (very cool stuff!):
Ariolimax columbianus plays a very important role in the decomposition of leaf litter. And sometime lettuce seedlings.
Oh and if you lick it, you tongue will go numb.
Yahoo-there are some flowers out in the meadow! Even if they are the European exotic weed Cerastium pumilum, it still is nice to see. It is a late winter/early spring annual, with tiny flowers that will bloom for about a month. Although it is sprinkled along the trails and meadow at Leaning Oaks, it likely doesn't impact any of the native vegetation.
Although there are at least 11 species of tick that have been found on Vancouver Island, Ixodes pacificus is the most common species here at Leaning Oaks. It actually has a restricted range in BC, found along southeastern Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and on the mainland from the border to the Sunshine Coast. Females are larger and reddish and males are smaller and black. We almost never see ticks except when we find them on one of the dogs, or, more rarely, ourselves. Since they are now known to carry Lyme's Disease we try to make sure we get them off as quickly as we can. The photo is of a tick after it has feed on the dog. For an interesting presentation on ticks and Lyme's Disease on Vancouver Island see :
For information on removing ticks and symptoms to be aware of after a tick bit see:
Two biologists on a beautiful property armed with cameras, smart phones and a marginal knowledge of websites took up the challenge of documenting one species a day on that property. Join along! Posts and photographs by Leah Ramsay and David Fraser (unless otherwise stated; started January 1, 2014.