Having fun with Tiger Beetles

Today I’m having fun working on something I quite enjoy – looking at insects through a microscope.  What I’m specifically doing is an attempt to determine which Omus species of Carabidae (or Cicindelidae, if you’re inclined to elevate Cicindelids to the family taxonomic unit).  To this end I’ve been reading published keys by Hatch 1953, Choate 2001 & 2003, Pearson Knisley & Kazilek 2006 and several other published papers; I’m quite enjoying working through the specimens I found on the property over the past several months, along with material from further afield.  The question: are the large dark beetles found here Omus? and if so, which species? (there are several described species they could be).

What is amazing to me is that I can locate much of the published information while not standing at the reference desk in a large university library – the mterial is available online.  I don’t need to be within walking distance of a reference collection, as many of the collections have been photographing their specimens and making the photographs available online.  Upshot is I can do a lot of digging from anywhere in the world that has a network connection.


The laptop computer is a great way to access all kinds of information.  Here it’s displaying the photoshop z-stack (focus stack) of images I’ve taken of the Cicindela that’s under the microscope – visible above the laptop screen in the image.


The microscope is a Leica MS5, which is a parallel-optics path stereo microscope.  This means that additional elements can be inserted into the optical path without parallaxis shifts occuring.  The photo-tube is inserted above the body and below the viewing head of the microscope, and the Nikon D90 is plopped onto the optics tube.  One can get photos such as this:


This is the business end of a Tiger Beetle – they feature huge mandibles with sharp teeth, big eyes that are good at seeing movement, and metallic colours which makes them a favorite for beetle folk.  Here I’m trying to capture an image that shows the clypeus extending laterally past the antenna socket.


This is a better image of the clypeus extending lateral to the antenna insertion socket.  The images needs annotation to indicate this, I’m working on that part of the problem later on tonight.  This is actually a z-stack image built from 15 images from the Nikon D90.  Each image features a slightly different focal plane as the camera is moved to descend through the part of the insect I would like to havei n focus.  Photoshop has a z-stack (focus stack) feature that aligns the images and then constructs elaborate image masks to bring out the elements of the image most in-focus and assemble the whole stack as one image.  Lots of mathematics going on in Photoshop.

The big question: are the six black nocturnal cicindelids genus Omus?  And if so, which species?  Stay tuned to find out, as I’m still trying to find out!

Fun one can have on when not on the boat.  And is there a relationship between the beetles and the boat?  Answer: yes.  The boat is named Tiger Beetle, and tiger beetles are fast, carnivorous, colourful, and have a silly name (who would ever name a tiger affter a beetle, eh?), and I’ve had fun painting the two tiger beetles on the sides of the boat.  So above are what the real thing looks like.

– rob/beetle

Choate P.M. 2001 The ground beetles of Florida (Coleoptera: Carabidae) including tiger beetles, tribe Cicindelini. (prepublication manuscript) Dept. Entomology and Nematoology, University of Florida.
Choate P.M. 2003 Illustrated Key to Florida Species of Tiger Beetles – (Coleoptera: Cicindelidae).
Hatch, M.H. 1953 The Beetles of the Pacific Northwest Part 1: Introduction and Adephaga. University of Washington Press.
Pearson D.L., Knisley C.B., Kazilek C.J. 2006 A Field Guide to the Tiger Beetles of the United States and Canada: Identification, Natural History, and Distribution of the Cicindelidae. Oxford University Press.

An evening at Sucia Island

Beetle had a most pleasant evening at anchor 14 miles distant from Roche Harbor, namely here at Sucia, just beyond Orcas Island. This is a sandstone island, unlike most of the islands around here, and as a result has a lot of fossils that appear as the sandstone weathers. The island sort of resembles the tines of a fork, with the main part of the island forms the crossbar that connects the tines and you anchor in between the tines in a series of long thin narrow bays.

Duncan had run over in the Monaro (that boat runs easily at 20 knots) and was on a mooring in Snoring Bay – that’s a super narrow inlet with two moorings. We followed in Beetle (running easily at 7 knots, only we were upstream salmon again and making 5 knots good) and went around to Echo Bay, which is the largest of the anchorages at Sucia. Crab pot in shortly after arrival (no keepers, one little Dungeness crab), then ran the dinghy back around to Duncan and we spent part of the afternoon towing the kids around on their dad’s surfboard; the kids were standing up on the board, holding the tow rope in their hands, and doing really well at staying up during the turns.

Another run around with the dinghy brought over foodstuffs from Beetle and we had fresh rock crab (from Roche Harbor), pasta, and chicken (from the store at Roche).And then a run back afterwards in the dark with tremendous phosphorescence going in the water – it was fun to watch the fish streak away from the dinghy as we rode along. NOAA is calling for the light frontal system we’re currently experiencing to continue passing through today and tongiht, which keeps temperatures down and the marine layer in place.

Plan for today is to retrieve the crab pot and head on over to Westsound; there will be boat cleanup from this 10 day run up to Canada, and see how things are fairing on Orcas Island. Also spend some time sorting through photographs that have been taken along the way, there’s some cataloging and catching up to do.

Enjoy the day! We’re up and about at this end, and see what the day brings.

– rob

At Roche Harbor

It’s a somewhat chillier-than-it-has-been morning at anchor here in Roche Harbor, there is a high marine layer coupled with solid fog out in the passages between the islands, plus two little fronts are moving through. The forecast called for chance of showers, that hasn’t happened yet that I’ve noticed.

We are anchored next to Evviva, the 50m power boat complete with helicopter on the upper rear landing deck, apparently the boat is owned by the founder of Bayliner. It’s huge! The seaplanes are also making their presence known, with several last night and the second one this morning came in and landed directly behind Beetle (they flew past Evviva at about head height), causing a small Macgregor boat to suddenly swerve out of the plane’s path. We’re in a resort town, and the traffic and clientel would sure back that up. There’s a super convenient grocery store right on the wharf in front of the resort, and bocce ball courts in front of the lime kilns (kilns no longer operational). Lots of fun to be here. ​ We played bocce ball for a while and discovered that Cameron is quite good at it.​

Yesterday we departed Port Browning mid-morning and tooled on out to Boundary Pass, this time with zero fog to contend with. The current was with us through to Stuart Island and then we were upstream salmon over to Roche. My brother was already at anchor in Roche Harbor with his family on Dad’s Monaro. The goal was to hook up with them on the US Customs dock, head out to anchor Beetle, then run in with the dinghy to the wharf and see what’s what. The US Customs lady let us back in to the country (always nice that they will do that), no problems with the checkin. It was interesting to watch her hold up the passport and carefully compare my visage with the image in the passport – I must still look enough like the picture that she let me go. And Kristen was asked to remove her sunglasses so the agent could see Kristen’s face, which must also look like her picture, so Kristen was allowed in as well. It’s a busy Customs dock, when you’re done you are expected to depart immediately, which we did.

​After bocce ball ​
Duncan ran the Monaro around the bay to Garrison Bay (or cove?) ​ as the anchorage would be better for them​
​. Garrison is​
located perhaps a mile further into the bay and ​has​
shallower water than Beetle cares for, so I followed​ them in the dinghy and we all went for a walk at English Camp. There was almost a war right here on San Juan Island over a pig, resulting in the Americans setting up a camp a bit further down the island and the English setting up their camp right here. Sounds like for the next 12 years they observed each other, never shot at each other, and finally the Germans stepped in as mediators and declared the island was the proprty of the Americans. Most civilized ‘war’, as it were.

This morning the crab pot is down, hopefully there will be crabs tonight as Kristen is looking forward to ​having ​
a crab for dinner. I’ve been reading a book called The World Rushed In, which is the diary of a fellow that traveled in 1849 from ​New York
t to California to participate in the California Gold Rush. It’s rather well done, as the author/historian has added a great deal of information surrounding the events to add context to what the original diary writer is describing as he travels across the US by ox cart. I had forgotten that the California Missions were Spanish builtin in the 1700s to prevent the Russians from staking claim to California. This is the sort of stuff we learned in 4th grade California History class, and something I had not through much about since then. Kinda fun!

​Beetle ​
​at anchor in Roche Harbor, as observed from the Monaro. The little boat in back is Evviva, with the helicopter bringing up the rear. The sky is remnants of the small front moving through.

​Kristen in the water at Gambier Island, with the camp where we went for a walk in the saddle of the island behind her. The water was 70 degrees, super warm for up here.

​Our neighbor here are Roche Harbor. Note the helicopter on top! Everybody should have one of those toys. They are using an anchor bridle on their chain, something I haven’t see a lot of the big yachts do up here.​

​The noisy neighbor takes off, not very far from our stern. He went by perhaps two boat lengths away, and they go fast!​
​ Much fun to watch.​

​And here’s the stripped-down military boat hanging out at Gambier Island. A rather unusual sight in amongst all the greenery of the islands. Hopefully the artifical reef group can resolve any issues and place the boat underwater right where they want it to be.​

– rob

Thursday night at Port Browning

Tonight we’re anchored off the pub at Port Browning, and have already been ashore for a most excllent nachos (small, though it was huge), fish & chips, and a Browning burger. It’s calm now that the wind has died away and shifted around to the northwest, it’s quite dark, and the water in the anchorage is glassy calm and is busily reflecting the anchor lights of the boats that are here and which remembered to switch on their anchor lights.

We had a delightful sail across the Strait of Georgia in 8-15 knots of wind from the southeast, no swell, 1-2′ chop that was easy to move through. We had a debate as to when to leave given the forecast choices of 10 knots from the NW or 5-15 from the SE on a forecast incoming light front. We elected to go for the SE breeze as that would let the boat build up apparent wind speed as we’d be beating into the breeze, as opposed to sailing slowly downhill in light air. The breeze filled in perfectly as we bopped out across the Strait aiming for Active Pass. Unfortunately we were early to Active Pass, so instead of arriving at or near slack instead we arrived 9 minutes after maximum flood (which meant we were uphill salmon again through the pass). And Active Pass is indeed active, what with two ferries going by side by side in opposite directions, then promptly two more appeared from the south end and met up with a third one coming in from the north, and then the Seaspan truck ferry played through, at which time the seaplane zoomed down the channel and stopped briefly in Miner’s Bay before taking off again for points somewhere else. It was indeed active.

A couple of things of interest: when departing Port Graves we were surrounded by large driftwood logs sneaking up on us, and Kristen avoided them on the way out. They have lots of large logs floating around that part of town. We also learned that the large military ship temporarily moored in the cove is now owned by the Artificial Reef Society of British Columbia (everybody should have one of those), has been stripped of nasty ingredients, and is awaiting sinking around the corner in Halkett Bay to form part of an artifical reef intended for use by recreational divers. The folks in Halkett Bay appear to wish the boat to be sunk somewhere else. So the ship remains in Port Graves for the moment. It is a bizarre sight, a relatively ugly military derelict anchored in front of green trees in a rather nice cove – it stands out a bit.

The plan for tomorrow is to cross the border at Roche Harbor, and see what’s happening there!

– rob

Wednesday evening in Port Graves

It does appear that I placed Beetle somewhere else in last night’s post; in fact, Beetle is at anchor in Port Graves – somewhere on Gambier Island. This evening the crew is well fed (ravioli and sausages), well swum (Kristen swam about in the 70 degree water), and well walked (we went for a walk ashore – quite nice).

We also got the RIB out and running on plane with two of us in the boat and the 10hp Nissan does just fine, in fact better than it would do with the Achilles LSR. The fancy dinghy wins hands down as a super boat for getting up and about to inspect the local scenerey. Around the corner in the next cove are two yacht club out-stations, each with very nice docks and gangways to shore and facilities. They even had some boats at the docks enjoying the amenities!

I spoke with Todd at Sure Marine and he isolated a problem with the Danfoss electronics module; he is sending to me a replacement module plus an LED troubleshooting light that will fit on the module, might make things easier in the future should problem recurr. Odd thing about the phone system when in Canada is I can not get my messages as stored on AT&T’s voicemail system; the handset I have does not know how to dial for voice mail messages internationally, and when I try to telphone myself (and thereby get into the voicemail system) Rogers of Canada figures this out and shuts down the call – why would anyone call themselves? go figure… I have learned that it is necessary to set all this up in advance of going international, as AT&T
international customer service could not figure out a way for me to retrieve my messages, either. Sometimes it’s the little things that are strange, eh?

Kristen and I dinghied ashore at the government pier and walked up past all the blue squares of paper nailed to trees by the folks at the Catholic/Christian camp that own the land inshore of the pier; a sign at the foot of the pier indicates that if you are a hiker you are welcome to walk along the path and inland to the properties’ edge and thence onto the Crown land beyond. Which we did. A pleasant walk it was.

Now that nightfall is essentially here, the dinghy is stowed in anticipation of some sailing tomorrow as we head across the Strait of Georgia towards the Gulf Islands on the Canada side. Perhaps Port Browning will be our anchorage Thursday evening.

And the image is what you see when looking forward into Montague Channel, with the tall mountain beyond. Porteau Cove is to the right of the image, and we’re on top of the relatively shallow morraine beneath us. Glaciers can sure cut through rock!


– rob

Grays Harbor

Evening! – it is Tuesday night, the sun has just plopped down behind the hillside to the west, and it is calm here in Grays Harbor, a mere 16 miles (as the boat floats) to the north of downtown Vancouver. It’s a world of difference, there to here – here there are 6 boats and it is quiet; there there are several million people all busy doing their thing in the big city. Amazing what one can accomplish where there are no roads.

Yesterday Kristen and I visited the University of British Columbia (UBC) to see the Museum of Anthropology. It’s a large space, lots of glass and height in the concrete structure, and inside are displayed ​a ​
series of totem poles full height – so having the extra tall roof and glass-to-the-ceiling is an excellent feature for displaying elements that are easily 60 feet tall. ​The collections include a large variety of Pacific Northwest tribal art, artifacts, carvings, and information about them – well worth visisting. ​
The museum is straight forward to get to from ​the ​
Stamps Landing dinghy dock – walk up to Broadway and Cambie and hop on the 99 line bus, which takes one straight down Broadway to UBC. The most interesting part of the exhibits (for me) was the series of rooms with seemingly random artifacts in it, plus drawers below the artifacts housing similar items – you can open the drawers if interested. The rooms are an effort to show the visitor a bit of what it is like back in the collections, out of sight from the museum visitor. ​ The bits in the rooms I found most interesting were the Native American Indian war bonnets (feathers that the chief might wear), and the Asian calligraphy pens and inks and brushes.​

Today we departed Vancouver’s False Creeek anchorage and wandered up Howe Sound, the first significant inlet north of Vancouver. It’s a popular cruising area, particularly Gambier Island – which is where we are this evening, anchored in Grays Harbor. The head of the inlet is an estuary environment fed by the Squamish River and the area has had a lot of heavy industry over the years – a huge copper mine, pulp mill, brick making, and logging are mentioned in the guide books. The outfall from the rivers turns the water into a light green color the further up the inlet you go, and we went as far as the change in depth marked by the glacier’s morraine before turning to round Anvil Island and Gambier.

Now that I have internet access going (even here!), I can​ include​

a couple of images of what we’re seeing:

​Vancouver, with the hi-rise apartment buildings along False Creek. Lots of people live here, they are all busy and up to something! David Lam Park is just beyond the trees, and the grassy area acts as a sort of quad for the folks that call the area home.

Kristen being grillmeister with fresh salmon procured from the Granville Market. We’re in Grays Harbor, where we are surrounded by tall hills to each sdie with lots of trees growing up the steep slopes. Trees must be good at hanging on, as often they grow in what appears to be nothing more than cracks in rocks.

​​Sunset tonight. It’s going to be a dark dark night given there are very few lights in the area; if we’re lucky the sky will remain relatively clear and we should have most excellent stars.

– rob

Saturday and Sunday in Vancouver

Today Beetle is experiencing TELUS, an apparently large cellular telephone and interent access company, courtesy of a newly acquired (and activated!) SIM card and 1GB of cellular data access. It works pretty well, too.

The driver for this expansion of on-board technology was the Canadian Coast Guard suggesting that they had received numerous telephone complaints from captains on the large party boats that drive around in False Creek around dinner time (for those in San Francisco, imagine a 200′ long Hornblower party boat). The friendly Cost Guard fellow said they had no authority to ask me to move, but he was asking me to move anyway if I would not be too put out by the request, as the party boats were unhappy with several boats near or in the transit lane and Beetle was one of them. No problemo, up and reanchor inshore of the ‘Italian’ boat just in front of us, and that’s when the FCD Guest WiFi access ended – I guess the short move was enough to put the fancy RogueWave WiFi antenna out of range for FCD Guest.

Add to that the inability to land at Granville Island due to the wooden boat show boats occupying the dinghy spots, Kristen and I went ashore at Stamps Landing (most protected dinghy landing so far found), and discovered the Telus store is four blocks up from the landing. The fellow there provided a SIM card, activated the card ($35 charge for entering the SIM card they had just sold you into their computer, where I am certain it already existed, ouch! – makes on think of airlines charging to check a bag onto your flight), and then the rate is $30/1GB good for a month. That’s three times the going rate in Mexico, and 1/8 the charge that AT&T charges for the same thing. The gizmo works, I’m online, that’s fun. I need to keep track of the various SIM and APN information I’m accumulating slowly.

Last night was a super get together with Rob and Debra on Avant – cruisers we met in Mexico and their house is here in Vancouver (not far from False Creek on the light rail line). We had a tremendous dinner including salmon – lots of fresh salmon running around right now – and the fish Debra and Rob did up on the barbecue was quite possibly swimming around the night before. And super nice mushrooms on the grill. Lots of fun to hear stories, learn about places to visit up north in BC, and get the lowdown on local happenings, history, and where all the houses went that used to be across the alley (turning into four story urban housing). Their boat Avant is over-summering in the Sea of Cortez, hopefully without any pesky hurricanes coming by and so far there have been none, and they in turn are here enjoying the pleasant summer in Vancouver and avoiding the oven of Mexico.

Plan for tonight is to find the sushi restaurant, and at 8:30 there is an outdoor screening of Hook in the Lam Park, and that might be fun to see – in fact we probably can watch it from the boat if we want to.

All goes well here!

– rob