Friday, May 25, 2012

Black-throated Gray Wobbler

Black-throated Gray Wobbler
Black-throated Gray Wobbler

Last weekend I stumbled upon a single Black-throated Gray Wobbler in Campbell River, a Vancouver Island town that is prime habitat for many different species of feral shopping carts.

Like the very similar Green-throated Gray Wobbler, this is a cart that can be fairly secretive for most of the year and very difficult to find. You're more likely to see this species in the spring when it moves into more open areas during rutting season.

Note the black decorative plumes on the right side of the male cart in the photograph below. Typically males of this species will have plumes on both sides of the basket. When competing for available females, jostling males will often lose plumes in the violent contest for a mate. More attractive, stronger males retain more of their plumes, and thus are more desirable to females.

An older Black-throated Gray Wobbler
that didn't fair too well in this spring's rut.

On the edges of established breeding territories you'll find the less successful males. This older male had retreated from the main arena, a little worse for wear after an encounter with a younger cart.

Listen for the clashing of the baskets and the low rumbling moan of the wheels of these rutting Black-throated Gray Wobblers in the quieter areas of small towns and cities on Vancouver Island this spring. It is a spectacle like no other.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Tofino Trundler

I was out on the west coast of Vancouver Island this weekend and stumbled upon a rare species of cart endemic to the coastal towns of Tofino and Ucluelet.

A rare Tofino Trundler. Note how this shy cart uses
its cryptic colouration to blend in with its surroundings.

The Tofino Trundler is a very mellow cart and is non aggressive. Shy in nature, it spends most of its time rolling around the docks hoping to pick up any sort of scraps left behind by locals and tourists. Fairly unimposing and small in size, it is recognized by the patina of rust that is a result of constant exposure to the maritime air. Red highlights are noticeable in the right light conditions.

Count yourself lucky if you happen to stumble upon this delightful little trundler. Numbers have never been very high at this northern extent of its range and its solitary nature makes it difficult to find.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spawned Out Crimson Wanderer

This is the time of year to be on the lookout for Crimson Wanderers as they make their way up the small creeks on Vancouver Island to spawn. It's a challenging time for female Wanderers: after the eggs are laid they spend their energy protecting the eggs, the males are off elsewhere gathered in small herds.

Sometimes the females don't survive the two weeks that it takes for the eggs to hatch into small aquatic nymphs. Such is the case with this female Crimson Wanderer that my wife Jocie discovered at the mouth of the Trent River south of Courtenay, British Columbia.

A Crimson Wanderer found on the Trent River estuary.
What appears to be a sad and tragic end to the life of this beautiful cart (and possibly its young) can also be seen as part of the circle of life. While this Wanderer wanders no more, its decaying body will continue to provide vital nutrients to other feral and wild carts.