When we think of hummingbirds we think of flowers, spring, summer, sunshine, and warm weather. But here in the Northwest we have a unique species of hummingbird that breaks the rules. Anna’s Hummingbird, Calypte anna, is found up and down the West coast into British Columbia. Oh they love the warm weather alright and you’ll see them throughout the summer, but this tiny hummingbird is a year round inhabitant that toughs out some real frigid winter temperatures. This is a fairly recent development. Depending on the source consulted Anna’s hummingbird began to extend its range northward from California in the 1950s or 1970s. What exactly contributed to this is unknown but one reasonable explanation is the increase in human population in the area and the resultant expansion of feeders and backyard gardens the bird is so fond of.

The first photo with the puffed up feathers was taken in January 2017 at a temperature of about 20 degrees. This tough little bird was out there every day for about a week in these same low temperatures. Hummingbirds are able to tolerate this by going into a semi hibernation state. Other photos show a male displaying color and a female displaying the common metallic green of the species.

If you have a feeder or have been around these hummingbirds for any length of time their noticeable and constant twittering is unmistakable. They are vocal little things. Every now and then, however, you’ll hear a puzzlingly loud, sharp chirp. I am familiar with the calls of just about every bird in my Northwest backyard and this strange chirp confused me for some time. One day I was absolutely determined to locate the source of it. Much to my surprise it turned out to be an Anna’s hummingbird. According to one source the males make this sound during their dive bombing mating display. At the conclusion of their high speed descent they suddenly spread open their closed tail feathers and mechanically produce this unique sound. I cannot say that this matches my observation, however. The bird I observed seemed to produce this sound while sitting on a branch. Was it made by a sudden expansion of the tail feathers? Perhaps. I hold open the possibility as well that my own observations were mistaken; maybe a male hummingbird was “chirping” somewhere nearby and the bird I was watching reacting to that. We have a lot of hummingbirds around here. More to follow when the weather warms.

One final note about this tough little avian. The bird was named after Anna Debelle who later became Anna Massena by marriage and “Grand Maitresse” to the Empress of France in the 1880s. Exactly how this relatively unknown woman became associated with the bird that now bears her name requires further research but I suspect it has something to do with whoever first described the bird. I leave it to the reader to look further into the history of Anna Debelle. I’ll look further into her hummingbird.


Our Pacific Northwest Birds and Habitat, Craig and Joy Johnson 2011

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Audubon Guide to North American Birds

SF Gate


Aquarium of Boise

The other day I read and posted an article about the problems the Aquarium of Boise was having with its roof. Despite several visits to Boise I had never heard of the aquarium before.  Last week during a snowy afternoon I decided to fix this oversight and I was very pleasantly surprised. Below is my review of the Aquarium of Boise:

Where can you watch a stingray ballet, pet one of their marine cousins, observe a crocodile, enjoy an aviary of exotic birds, stick your hand into a tide pool – and do it all indoors? The Aquarium of Boise, of course!

This zoological gem of unique animal exhibits is located in downtown Boise, Idaho just off the Highway 84 Cole Road exit and is open every day of the year except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Encompassing 10,000 totally indoor square feet the aquarium, as the name implies, primarily focuses on ichthylogical species from marine and freshwater environments. But visitors are in for a pleasant surprise thanks to the imagination and vision of the aquarium staff. In addition to aquatic species the aquarium features a reptile exhibit, an aviary, educational posters, and hands on lectures with live animals. It is truly a mini zoo.

These photos do not adequately relay the scope of the aquarium. Go here for more:  Aquarium of Boise

Several of the aquatic exhibits encourage physical contact with the animals but the most unique is the bat ray exhibit. Bat rays, Myliobatis californica, are members of the ray fish family but are distinguished by a far more prominent head. This feature combined with the outstretched fins of the animal give it a bat like appearance, hence its common name. The Aquarium of Boise has a number of these fascinating animals in a large, waist high enclosure. Stand close to the side of the tank and the rays will swim right up to you and pop their unique heads out of the water like puppies waiting to be petted. And you can pet them, too! It is an amazing experience.

There are numerous other aquatic exhibits from tide pools to enormous aquariums bursting with brilliant color. Reptile enclosures feature a variety of snakes and lizards plus a dwarf caiman crocodile, a species not normally encountered in any zoo. The aviary is alive with the sound of lorikeets, small vividly colored parrots. Every single exhibit is generously spacious for the animal and immaculately clean. Every animal is in vibrant health and obviously well cared for. Staff members are not only extraordinarily knowledgeable about the creatures in their care they are very present and eager to talk about them.

With its indoor setting the Aquarium of Boise is truly unique yet it is spacious enough for children and adults to comfortably walk about and explore its numerous zoological features. And there is more to offer still. Lectures are provided for school and outreach programs, and the aquarium is open for special events from “weddings to corporate parties, graduations, to community gatherings.”

I’ve seen many other small city aquariums but none compare to the Aquarium of Boise. During your next trip to the city I highly recommend a visit to this beautiful facility. In fact, you ought to go to Boise just to see it.

Aquarium of Boise

The Garden Centipede

The Garden Centipede

The most common type of Chilipoda (the class of invertebrates we call centipedes) is the Garden Centipede Lithobius forficatus. They are, in fact, the most common centipede in our country. Seldom more than 2 inches long (50 mm) these little arthropods are often found under logs, leaves, or rocks throughout forests and backyards. Our moist Northwest climate does not bother the Garden Centipede at all as it prowls about its subterranean world hunting other small invertebrates. Like all centipedes they have venomous fangs called forcipules which are actually legs, a adaptation unique to centipedes. Thanks to my new tripod I was able to get several nice macrophotography shots that display the various parts of centipede anatomy. The first picture gives an idea of the relative size of the centipede, the second shows the body plates with one pair of legs per segment as opposed to millipedes which have two. Photo number three is a head shot. Note the antenna and dark eyes. The eyes are simple sensors of darkness or light. Centipede antenna, however, are very sensitive physical and biochemical detectors. They are the animal’s prey detector and the primary instrument by which the centipede senses its environment. The fangs are the rounded appendages at the side of the head. The last photo (in which the centipede decided to prop itself up on a worm) shows the extended rear legs. These legs are not used for walking. In some species they are used to grasp and hold prey.

Northwest Color

Sure, we’re known as the Evergreen State. And with good reason; we’ve got gobs of green over here pretty much year round near the coast. But we can boast our own contribution to the world of fall color too. Maple trees and our year round resident Anna’s hummingbird help to brighten things up.

It’s Salamander Season!

The rains have returned and with it one of my favorite species of wildlife – salamanders. We are blessed with many of the little guys here in the Northwest. Here’s a few of the most common. They’ll probably even turn up in your backyard.

Harbor Seal Lazy Day

30% Off Entire Stock of Halloween Aquariums at

Harbor Seal life is a good one – provided you’re not being chased by an Orca.

Dedicated to the wildlife of the NW United States – and wildlife worldwide.