Concrete Mites!

These photos together display the microscopic size of these little guys, and their large population. They were crawling about on every square foot of that concrete fence.


As everyone knows by now, I love bugs. And my fascination was very lucky during a recent visit to a National Gard training area in Oregon called Camp Rilea. While there I fortunately stumbled upon a bunch of little guys that I have been trying to accurately photograph for quite some time. I have seen these creatures numerous times before on locations ranging from my property in Washington state to my sister’s home in New York and at last the weather, sunlight, and my shutter speed were correctly aligned. The size, ceaseless movement, and habitat of these arachnids is extraordinary. What on earth are they doing? What do they eat? And why do they seem to love concrete so much? Many people know about mites but do not like them, a reasonable emotion. In general mites are parasitic animals that bite down on other small invertebrates and live off their blood. And that is the truth for all mites and ticks. And you thought you were making easy money! But what about these microscopic sized “concrete mites”? Why are they wiggling about on slabs of concrete when most other animals seem to dislike that material? The research I did answered these questions but not entirely to my satisfaction. Most sources claim that they are looking for insect eggs or other itsy bitsy living things to eat, even other mites But I thought there was something more to be discovered about them. Why do they seem to like concrete so much? One source I reviewed, from Ohio State University, gave a very reasonable explanation – they eat pollen, too! Now if you have hay fever as I do, the “June Bloom” in the part of Oregon I was in informs you immediately that pollen is exploding from the pine trees there. And it probably lands on slabs of concrete – a great banquet for these little mites if that is part of their diet. And considering their tiny size, cracks in the concrete could be a safe place to lay their eggs. So look very closely at the flat concrete spaces around your home or elsewhere and you may see these fast moving intriguing arthropods. Don’t be afraid of them. Unlike ticks, mite species are not harmful to humans. Mites prefer biting down on insects, spiders, and even vegetation. Ticks are bigger, and prefer the blood of larger animals including humans – as anyone who has had lyme disease will verify.

Primary References:

Pacific Northwest Insects – Merrill A. Peterson (a great book!)

Buckeye yard and Garden Online   Ohio State University

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Washington State “Grand Canyon”

Hello everyone! Of course I normally post nothing but wildlife pictures on this site but my visit last week to this place really surprised me. No, it’s not the more well known and famous Grand Canyon of Arizona, but it truly is a Grand Canyon; a surprising piece of geography right here in Washington state. And there is some wildlife there depending on when you arrive. Located in the southeastern part of the state it was a rather long drive from my home in Graham, WA yet it was worth every mile (and tank of gas). Be careful when getting direction, however. The Palouse Falls Sate Park website identifies it to be in a small town called Lacrosse. NO IT’S NOT! My wife and I went there IAW the address stated at the website. We got there and could not find the park. We finally saw a group of people in a small city park in Lacrosse and asked directions. These friendly folks  directed us to the actual location. The park is located outside of a town named Washtucna. Drive through that town off the exit from highway 26 and that road will lead to the park. The drive will take you at first through an astounding acreage of farmland. By the way, I mentioned this to a Palouse State park Ranger when we got there and he acknowledged the address mistake. Apparently this has been going on for some time. Parking limited so get there early on holiday weekends or choose another date. Whatever. You’ll like it!

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Insects Looking at You?

I Love Bugs!

When you first see these common insects around your home they look like this.

But then when you look closer you might see an odd face looking back at you!

I have worked with elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, and big cats. And yes, I love them all. But I also have a fascination for the little creatures that surround our daily life but often go unseen. I even created a book full of pictures about it titled “Let’s See What’s Under There!”. All of us of course, have seen a huge variety of insects. With about two million species known at present, they are the most widespread and numerous animals on earth. Considering their numbers, behaviors, and habitats it is just about impossible not to see or interact with insects at some point in your life, if not every day. But how often do you get to take a really close look? Well, if you’re a bug lover like me and happen to be in possession of a great macro lens camera, you see them up close a lot. Most people don’t. Okay. That’s what I’m here for. When you have the opportunity to look close their anatomy is quite fascinating: the mandibles, the compound eyes, tiny sensitive hairs, antennas, head, thorax, abdomen, etc. But from time to time something pops up that is a real surprise – like another face staring back at you! It’s a surprise alright. And I likes it!

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Waters Striders Again!

I had to share these pictures of one of my favorite insects – the Water Strider. Yes, you have probably seen these fascinating creatures quite a bit. But have you ever seen them mating? And thanks to a perfect position and lighting I was able to capture the tiny strands attached to their legs that allow them to walk on water. Made my day! I hope it makes yours.

Female Bald Eagle

Since it is Women’s History Month I thought I’s share these pics of a beautiful female showing off her captivating eyes and stunning outfit.

Why Do Pigeons Do This?

Rock Pigeons are well known city dwellers but why do they so often hang out above busy intersections? The example above, taken over Interstate Highway 5 near the JBLM Madigan Gate entrance, is just a small example. There are often many more of these birds at this overpass and I have seen this pigeon behavior numerous times at other similar locations. It confuses me. There is no food down below or shelter above, and these are certainly not quiet peaceful places to hang out. Could it be that the birds just consider this kind of location safe from predators? If anyone has an answer please let me know.

Alaskan Dall Sheep

I love Alaska! And no matter what the weather or time of year there is always some beautiful wildlife to observe. Spring and summer, of course, are the best seasons for that observation but winter is an especially good time to get close to Dall sheep. This herd was found close to the bottom of the steep Chugach mountain range along the Kenai peninsula outside of Anchorage. At this time of year the sheep often descend from their high elevations in search of food. During warmer weather they are usually just visible as small white specks up among the mountain peaks. Dall sheep are often mistaken for mountain goats since both are overtly white furred and achieve about the same 300 pound weight. A distinctive difference lies in their horn color. Dall sheep have brown horns while mountain goats have very black horns but also have a longer coat of fur. There is a range difference as well. Dall sheep according to most sources are not found in the southeastern part of Alaska. Where they are found, however, they are a favorite target of game hunters. I obviously prefer to hunt with a camera.

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery.

A Giant Pacific Octopus, Octopus dofleini, filmed at the Seattle Aquarium some time ago. Note the amazing size of the animal compared to the young observer. Also notice the animal’s unusual eye. The pupil is the horizontal line. According to one source, The Audubon Society Field Guide to the Northwest, the largest specimen on record was 16 feet long and weighed in at 600 pounds. That’s a lot of cephalopod! What a shame they have such short life spans.


Every now and then you read a book with something so new and startling it dramatically changes your outlook on things you thought you already knew. That is exactly the effect Sy Montgomery’s book had on me. I knew that octopuses had a reputation for unusual intelligence, but did you know that captive species enjoy being touched and petted like your family dog and actually become attached to certain people? Or that they also enjoy wrapping their tentacles around their human friends? That does not apply to all humans, though, only those they recognize as friends. There are some of our homo sapient colleagues they dislike or are afraid of. These people may receive a sudden drenching blast of water from the animal. In Sy Montgomery’s amazing book she describes how her initial fascination with octopuses led her to become more and more fond of them, and in the process of getting closer she discovered a surprising intelligence and consciousness she (and me) never knew existed. Throughout the book Sy relates her personal encounters with captive and wild octopuses. Of particular interest to our Northwest Wildlife lovers is her very close relationships with our Pacific Giant Octopus, some even at the Seattle Aquarium. The book also opens up a new way to view all of our animal friends; something I’ve pondered for a long time. What are they thinking? How do they perceive the world? How do they perceive themselves? Read this book and delve into an incredible animal adventure.

Wildlife of JBLM and Camp Murray

Just a small tiny sample of the wildlife on JBLM and Camp Murray.  Usually happens you are not expecting it so I try to have my camera ready at all times. I was out on the marsh in the recreational area of FT Lewis when an otter popped up and briefly stared at me. The coyote pup had been seen several times on a major roadway in Camp Murray but I only got this picture because I happened lean over and look at the storm sewer. Nuthatchs are fast moving birds that constantly flicker around a tree and rarely hold still for more than a second or two. I was eating lunch in my car by the horse ranch at FT Lewis when this little guy landed on a tree right next to me. And that fantastic red tailed hawk was caught taking a break right behind the operations center at Camp Murray.

From itty bitty birds to big black bears our military bases are loaded with wonderful wildlife. I won’t go into every single species I’ve seen out there, no way I could do that I one article, so pictured above is just a small sample. But what I have seen out there is wonderful indeed. In fact, I compare JBLM and Camp Murray to the Nisqually Wildlife Reservation. Each of these locations have fine walking trails, amazing marshlands, and beautiful forests. Nisqually has the advantage of marine life but for those of us on active duty or retired, JBLM and Camp Murray are free – and we can bring our dogs there to wander with us! Now that’s a real advantage; something rarely available in national parks. Don’t get me wrong. Nisqually is a great place for wildlife viewing and I do love it. Outside of harbor seals and some other marine animals, however, I’ve seen the same things on our military bases. Reptiles, amphibians, otters, beavers, an enormous variety of avian life, rodents, deer, elk, black bears, coyotes (of course), etc, etc. and a fascinating variety of invertebrate life as well. So get on out there and enjoy one more benefit of your military service.

Black Fox of San Juan Island

From what I’ve learned these unusually colored little canines are often seen on San Juan Island, WA, but not much anywhere else in the world. Certainly not a fox that I have observed before. They display a variety of color variations on San Juan; the normal reddish color more to the south of the island. The black species are genetic variations of the red and display a variety of black, red, orange like variations. This black fox popped up soon as we pulled into a view point on the eastern coast of the island and more to the north. Obviously accustomed to tourists it did not run away like most wild animals do. It paused in place allowing me to get good photographs. But its real purpose was to get a treat to eat. So we obliged and fed the little guy. It was much appreciated as you can see.