Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Hummingbirds and Trout

On the weekends, I volunteer with the Hummingbird Project of BC, banding hummingbirds and collecting data. "The Hummingbird Project of BC is a project initiated by the Rocky Point Bird Observatory. It is dedicated to the research and conservation of hummingbird populations and their habitats throughout BC." It has been so much fun getting involved with this project and so fascinating to see and hold these tiny little birds.
To capture the hummingbirds, we use a net over a feeder. 
 Birds come in for a drink and we drop the net down around them. Next we have to actually catch them inside the net! I got to do this for the first time last weekend and it was amazing to hold that tiny, light body in my hand.
 We gently wrap them in a "straight jacket" and check their legs to see if they have any bands on them. We also check the health of their legs. We measure the size of their legs and apply the band. You can imagine how difficult it must be to put such a tiny band on such a tiny leg!
 Next we take measurements and make observations. Do they have any pollen on their head/bill/throat? Does their bill have striations (indicating that it is a juvenile bird)? We measure the culmen (bill) length, and the wing length.
We use a straw (such a high-tech tool!) to gently blow the feathers apart so we can check the fat deposits on the bird. If it is a female, we also check to see if she has recently laid an egg or has one ready to be laid. We look for any parasites under the feathers and for new pin feathers growing. We count the number of chin feathers on the females.

 The last step is to weigh the hummingbird. The hummingbirds remain motionless while they are on their backs, but if you tap them, they will fly away. Sometime, we don't get any data on the weight :)

 Look at this beautiful Rufous male. It is amazing to get so close to such a tiny and fast animal.
 This male we captured already had a band from a previous year!
 Pretty fun "work" to be involved with!

 And I had to share another meal we had that was almost completely provided by our yard (and the lake!). On Father's day, I caught a nice little rainbow trout and fried him up for dinner the next night with our homegrown onions and dill. I also sauteed our homegrown zucchini and beets, and made a salad from all of our salad greens and broccoli. With some homemade ranch dressing made with our homegrown herbs, of course!
 And some sparkling rhubarb juice too.
It was well enjoyed by all!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Another Garden Post

Rain, rain, rain! The last couple of days have been full of rain, which the garden is just soaking up! Everything seems to have kicked into high gear and is growing fast during these long days of light leading up to Solstice.
 The seed heads are forming on the wheat.
 The beans are doing quite well. I am hopeful that we will actually get in a couple of harvests before first frost.
 The zucchini are starting to put out fruit and I've got a couple that are almost ready to eat.
 Some little pumpkins have started too, although I'm not sure if they got pollinated. I always hate to see them shrivel up when they don't, but if there are no male flowers blooming at the same time, what can ya do?

 Look at those potatoes take off! I think they are happy in this raised bed and I am hoping that the lighter soil will give me an increased yield.
 The willow hut has grown some leaves and the peas are growing up the branches.
 Kesten's sunflowers have started blooming and are being frequently visited by friendly pollinators.
 My woad is doing really well and I am excited to try dyeing with it this fall.

 My Purple Peacock broccoli and beats. I love the contrast of the greens in this bed.
 First strawberry!
 Fruit trees, rhubarb, strawberries, and raspberries. My pie/jam forest garden!
 Our raspberries are really doing well this year, from the look of things.

 The chickens are all growing up, and are slowly coming to trust me (maybe because I fell asleep inside the coop one afternoon?) From left to right: Snow White, Chickadee, Fish Face, and Blackbeard.
 And lastly, the tomatoes are just teasing me, taking their time to turn red. I am so anxious to bite into my first homegrown tomatoes of the season. Mmmmmmm. HURRY UP!
Maybe I'll make some more fresh mozzarella for the occasion.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Painted Ladies

Awhile back, we ordered 5 painted lady caterpillars. The caterpillars were tiny when they arrived, but very quickly grew quite large.
 The caterpillars ate their special food in the bottom of the cups and then, when they grew big enough, attached themselves to the paper towel at the top of the cup and hung down in a J-shape.
 Their skin splits up the back and is shed to reveal the chrysalis. The caterpillar remains inside the chrysalis for 7-10 days, until it is ready to emerge as a butterfly.
 I always thought that a butterfly chrysalis was one of the most beautiful things in nature. So delicate with such beautiful golden dots.

 The chrysalids are hung in the flight cage, ready for butterflies to emerge! I noticed that the chrysalids turned dark and the wings became visible when the butterfly was ready to emerge.
 I was surprised to learn that it takes only a few minutes for the butterfly to emerge. They must quickly unfold their crumpled wings and pump blood through them, or they will harden and be deformed.
 In this picture, a butterfly on the left has just emerged and the wings are starting to unfold. On the right is a butterfly that became stuck while trying to emerge. He did eventually free himself, but his wings stayed small and shrivelled and wrapped around his body, in the same position they grew inside the chrysalis.
 After the butterflies emerge, they excrete meconium, the red splashes you can see on the paper towel in the photo below. The meconium is left over colouring that was not needed for the wings. The yellow bowl below is the food for the butterflies. They can taste with their feet!
 After a couple of days, we released the butterflies outside. Butterflies only live for 2-3 weeks (and about 10 days as caterpillars and 10 days inside the chrysalis).

 Here's my poor little guy who will never fly.
 He also had a double proboscis! Caterpillars have simple eyes, with just one lens, but butterflies have compound eyes with hundreds of lenses.

 I released this guy in the strawberry garden and I hope he enjoys a few good days outside in the wild!
It's a short life, but they bring so much beauty while they are alive.
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