Dave and I took a short trip out to the Sarita River to have a look at who would be eating the last of the salmon carcasses. We were expecting eagles, but also got a wonderful surprise – a juvenile trumpeter swan! (It may be a tundra swan… can any birders out there confirm?)
Category Archives: Fauna
In my job as a Marine Science Educator, I often get asked questions that I don’t know the answer to. In an effort to increase my own knowledge and better remember the answers to these questions, I thought I’d post the questions and answers here.
A few days ago, we saw a tiny juvenile octopus during a bottom dredge. A student asked me, “How many babies does an octopus have?”, which got me wondering about how octopuses reproduce.
It’s worth backing up a bit and reviewing some octopus biology. Here in Bamfield, we have two species of octopus that are fairly common: the giant Pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) and the Pacific red octopus (Octopus rubescens). They can both be found in shallow waters, including the intertidal, though the giant Pacific octopus can go as deep as 1500 m. Octopuses are known for their intelligence so much so that in some countries, they are considered “honorary vertebrates”. Octopuses also have complex physiology and anatomy when compared to most other invertebrates, including well developed eyes. Giant Pacific octopuses have even been documented to be able to recognize individual humans (though the sample size for the study was small) (Anderson et al., 2010).
Reproduction in octopuses is surprising. Both males and females are relatively short lived, and die not long after reproduction. In the male, the third right arm is specialized for reproduction and is called a hectocotylus. He uses this arm to insert a spermatophore (sperm packet) into the female. Within a few weeks of copulation, the male dies.
The female octopus can store the sperm and fertilizes her eggs once her den is ready. She will seal herself inside her den using rocks, and once the eggs are fertilized, she will lay anywhere from 20 000 to 100 000 of them in strings on the upper side of the den. She then takes care of the developing eggs by blowing sea water over them to keep them oxygenated and removing any organisms (such as bacteria, algae or colonial animals) that may grow on them. After several months (the length of time varies depending on species), the eggs hatch. The female then leaves the den and since she has not fed during the entire incubation period, she soon dies. The larval octopuses then spend some time as plankton before settling on the bottom to develop into adults. The life span of the giant Pacific octopus is about three to five years.
I found it surprising that the life history of octopuses seems to fall somewhere between r-selection and K-selection, given the high investment the female puts into looking after the eggs. But then I read that r/K selection theory is actually considered out of date! I learned r/K theory during undergraduate work in the early 2000s so I wonder if current undergrads are still being taught it. Something for another time.
Anderson, RC, JA Mather, MQ Monette, and SRM Zimsen, 2010. Octopuses (Enteroctopus dofleini) recognize individual humans. JOURNAL OF APPLIED ANIMAL WELFARE SCIENCE. 13 (3), 261-272
We still don’t have internet at home, so I’m posting fairly infrequent. That’s your first update. Secondly, I wanted to draw your attention to a blog that I’m really loving. It’s similar to our blog: recipes, ideas and thoughts on life’s experiences, but it’s all about city life in the UK instead of remote coastal living. Recently, Rutger posted an awesome and easy green tea ice cream recipe.
And finally, here’s some wildlife for you. In our new home, we’re absolutely surrounded by wildlife and I hope it continues to amaze us for years. I snapped this photo of a white tailed deer a few weeks ago.
The diversity of bird life also thrills us. I did manage to snap a few photos of the hummingbirds, but haven’t taken them off the camera yet. Yesterday we saw American Goldfinches, a Gray Catbird, a Red-Shouldered Blackbird, and several other species in a five minute span looking out of the kitchen window. And we’re not even putting out bird seed. More photos to come.
We received a hummingbird feeder as a gift in the mail (thanks, Mom!) and I put it out last night. It was almost dark by the time the water had cooled enough to put it outside, so we didn’t have any visitors; but this morning, as soon as we were up and having breakfast, the birds were too!
We read a bit about hummingbirds and it turns out that they fiercely defend food sources as soon as they find them. Sure enough, there was lots of action around the feeder this morning. The first bird to find the feeder had a good long drink, and as soon as she saw another bird approach, she darted after it, chasing it away. We also read that the females use their tails to make territorial displays — fanning and flitting them up and down to show their distinctive tail markings. We saw this over dinner tonight and I realize that I had seen this behaviour many times in the past, but always just thought the bird was stabilizing itself in the air.
If you’d like to get your own hummingbird feeder, the recipe for the nectar is really simple: 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. I started with 1/2 a cup of sugar and added 1 cup of boiling water (having the water boiling helps dissolve the sugar). I then added a cup of cold tap water to cool things down. The feeder should probably not be put out until the nectar no longer feels warm. Do not put food colouring in the water. The birds are attracted to the little flowers at the bottom of your feeder, not the colour of the liquid. Colouring the water just exposes them to unnecessary chemicals. Birds don’t need these artificial chemicals which may even be harmful to them. (I’d also argue that we shouldn’t be eating food colouring either!)
Over the next few days I’ll try to snap a few photos of the birds at the feeder. In the meantime, here’s the view from one of our windows. (Oh yeah, did I mention we moved out of our temporary accommodations into a house?!) This garden next door is absolutely incredible. No wonder so many hummingbirds are hanging around here!
Last night, the raccoon came back to the porch. This time, he seemed to want nothing more than to be let into the house, or maybe given a snack! (Of course, there’s no way we were going to risk opening the door, or think about feeding him.)
He sat at the porch door looking very sad. When he saw me eating a piece of cheese, he stood on his hind legs to get a better look. He must of sat there for an hour! I imagine someone must be feeding him, given how unafraid he was.
I managed to snap a few photos, one with flash and the others without.
It is wonderful to be so close to wildlife. Yesterday, three white tailed deer came charging up the road to our cabin and right by our window. It was amazing to see them in full gallop! Then, later at night, a raccoon found its way to our porch. It hung around for a good while and was curious of us. When we approached the window, it did too, and we stared at each other.
Photo by Sergey Yarmolyuk, wikimedia commons.
It licked the porch for a few minutes, leaving us wondering what was so tasty. Perhaps it was just having a drink, since it was raining and the porch did have a film of water on it.
Raccoons sure are cute – but it is wise not to approach or feed them. Their natural curiosity combined with their dexterity can make them real pests around homes. They break into garbage cans and sometimes into houses!
Bamfield is divided into a West and East side. The Bamfield Marine Science Centre is on the East side. To get to the West side, you have to take a boat; there are no roads to get there. Today we decided to head over to the West side and visit the beach there — Brady’s Beach.
We called the local water taxi and the friendly captain picked us up within a few minutes. We shared the ride with two tourists who were carrying a map that showed a new trail to Brady’s Beach. The usual way to get there is to take a fairly round-about route on the West side roads, so we were decided the new trail might be a fun short-cut.
Along the wooded and muddy trail, we saw several exciting wildlife signs: two fresh piles of bear scat, and deer tracks that followed the trail for a good distance. To be conscientious visitors in bear territory, we made sure to make noise as we walked and kept aware of our surroundings. I grew up in BC bear country, so while bears don’t scare me (and I’m generally very happy to see a bear at a distance), I know the importance of staying aware. (As a side note, does anyone else remember this awesome BC Ministry of Forest video about bear safety? It was a legend among BC camp counselors in my camp days, and perhaps still is.)
Needless to say, we arrived on Brady’s Beach NOT eaten by bears, but feeling a bit hungry ourselves. We built a small fire and roasted some smokies. Yum! Then, we made bannock — another throwback to my camp counselor days. Bannock a la camp counselor is a very simple recipe. Get some Bisquick, and mix in enough water to make a sticky dough. Wrap the dough around a stick and roast slowly over the fire. When it feels hard (no longer squishy), it is pretty much done.
Almost always, there is still a little bit of gooey dough left on the inside uncooked, but that’s just the way bannock over a fire goes. Carefully pull the bannock off the stick, and drop a bit of jam into the hole from the stick. Enjoy!
After our lunch, we walked back along Brady’s Beach.
Once we got to the boardwalk, the centre of activity on the West Side, we got a few groceries at the store, and walked down to the Boardwalk Bistro and had a lovely afternoon snack. The boardwalk is beautiful because the rhododendrons have been blooming (they’re almost finished). A lovely finish to a relaxing day.