Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Trail Cam Update
I was able to bust loose from Chicago for the week and had time to check my trail cam in Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota. Last check was in October, and although there were only 102 image (not a big number for five months), there were some decent shots of elk, deer, and a lone coyote passing in front of the lens. From the parking location several hundred feet above the camera, I saw a herd of about 30 elk on a hillside several miles away. I don't know if I will get much at this location, but I left it attached to the same tree, just pointing it more to the right. Hopefully that herd will include this area in its wanderings. The most recent camera activity was four days ago as several antlerless elk were headed down the hill in the general direction of where I saw the herd. Click on each image to see full size.
Deer in October snow
Elk headed down
Elk headed up
Coyote in the snow
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
I was skeptical back in 2004 when South Dakota State began its journey from NCAA Division 2 to Division 1. I thought the women's basketball team could have competed in Division 1 long before then, but I wasn't too sure about the men's football and basketball teams. After all, the football team was not a D2 power, and the basketball team had only occasional success with just one national championship in 1963. (Although I still maintain we got screwed in the 1985 championship game.)
Now nearly 10 years later, I have to say the move was a success. The football team is regularly ranked in the FCS top 25 and has made several playoff appearances. After Summit League Tournament wins yesterday, both Jackrabbit basketball teams are NCAA tournament qualifiers, the women for the fifth straight year and the men for the second straight year.
Leaving aside the FCS football situation (which I now think is a great fit) and the women's basketball team, I still wonder about the future of being a so-called Mid-Major in men's basketball. At least in D2 basketball the ultimate goal was obvious - winning the national tournament. Now in D1, the goal for teams like mine is to win the conference tournament, have a good enough season overall to get a 13 seed in the NCAA tournament, and pull off a shocking upset in the first round. With the top "college" players turning pro after one year, teams like Butler and Gonzaga can rise from the ranks of the Mid-Majors to compete for the title, but I have no illusions that the Jackrabbits will ever rise to that territory. The numbers are simply against them. There are 340 Division 1 schools, and maybe 10 conferences that are better than the Summit League. The best team in the Summit League is probably the 65th best team in the country.
ESPN's Joe Lunardi projects the SDSU men to be a 14 seed in the West Region, playing Michigan at Auburn Hills, Michigan. ("Neutral" site, really?) I can't help but cast a covetous eye on his projected Midwest bracket where #14's opponent would be #3 seed New Mexico at a real neutral site in Austin, Texas. New Mexico has the #2 RPI behind Duke and is 26-5 on the year, but one of those losses (and the only one at home in The Pit) was 70-65 to SDSU on Dec. 22. This excerpt from an article by Richard Stevens of GoLobos.com explains some of the circumstances surrounding that win.
"The Jacks were at a severe disadvantage playing UNM in front of 15,278 in The Pit and that was compounded by the mode of transportation the Jacks used to reach Albuquerque. They played Wednesday night in Nashville -- losing 76-49 to Bellmont -- and their flight was cancelled due to weather. They took a two-day, 1,220-mile bus ride to The Pit."
As a fan of a Mid-Major team, I don't have to worry about the Jackrabbits surviving and advancing through six tough NCAA Tournament games. I just hope they can recapture the pre-Christmas magic they had against the Lobos for one great win in the first round. And I shouldn't be greedy, but two wins would be legendary. A player like Wooden Award Finalist Nate Wolters doesn't come along very often, so please just go ahead and do it this year.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
I had a work assignment starting in Miami yesterday, so I took the opportunity to fly into Tampa last Thursday and drive through Florida. I hit a few familiar places, including the flagship National Wildlife Refuge, "Ding" Darling on Sanibel Island. Eleven years ago I saw a young yellow crowned night heron with bright orange eyes who ignored me as I snapped his portrait. The picture below is so old it was actually shot on FILM. Saturday in exactly the same spot, I saw another yellow crowned night heron hunting for little crabs. I lingered for a while and got some interesting (digital) images. Click on images for larger versions. I had just three days to shoot, but there will be lots more Florida pictures when I have time to go through them.
Monday, January 21, 2013
Fort Madison Eagles
Since 2004, I've been trekking to the Mississippi River in January to find bald eagles. As usual, I headed to the dams near Burlington and Keokuk (Iowa). The town in between, Fort Madison, has provided infrequent eagle views in the previous years, but this year it was the place to be. There were several large branches just offshore that the eagles found convenient. Click on images for larger versions.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
The calendar said it was time to head down to Squaw Creek NWR in northwest Missouri to see eagles and geese. This year the geese decided to take off at the end of November, but the eagles were still there, perhaps about 50 of them scattered around. I will have to get out my bird ID books as I go through the photos to see what kind of hawks I saw, but these two (of course) are bald eagles. Click on the images for larger versions.
Sunday, October 28, 2012
Trail cam cat
Last week I was able to retrieve images for the past six months from my trail camera in Wind Cave National Park. I'll post more images when I have time, but in addition to elk I also found this puzzling series of three images which were taken 1 second part at 2:00 p.m. on May 2, 2012. It appears to be a cat, not a coyote, so I asked mountain lion expert Dr. Jon Jenks of South Dakota State University to take a look. He thinks it's probably a bobcat. Click on the image for a full-sized version (and you can decide for yourself).
I changed the batteries and left the camera in the same spot, so we'll see what happens in the next six months.
Wednesday, June 06, 2012
Twice in a lifetime.
Coverage of the transit of Venus across the face of the sun yesterday often referred to it as a "Once in a lifetime event." Sounds good, except for those of us paying attention back in 2004, it happened then also. It's one of those quirks that Venus transits occur in pairs separated by 8 years, then not again for more than 100 years.
This transit occurred during the last week of a 7-week work assignment in New York City. It was a mostly cloudy evening, but the clouds parted for a few seconds at a time and gave a view of the planet crossing the face of the Sun. Although I have the equipment necessary to photograph such an event, it's tucked away in my basement in South Dakota. I didn't lug a telescope and tripod along on my trip to New York.
So what I had was my point-and-shoot camera, image-stabilized binoculars, and a plastic solar filter held in place with cardboard and tape. No tripod, so I held the camera up to the binoculars eyepiece. Due to the clouds and the difficulty of locating the Sun in the viewfinder, I got only five shots. Four were blurry and this one was halfway decent. Click on the image for a larger version. That's Venus at the top, of course, but also note the sunspots in the middle.
Here's a shot from the 2004 transit taken with my digital SLR, a 300mm lens, and a couple of teleconverters. I also took some film SLR shots, but the photo processor lost my film! Another reason to go all digital.
Saturday, June 02, 2012
High (Price) Line
It's my last weekend in New York so I'm snapping the last few pictures from here EVER, but I can't post until next weekend because I'm without my photo editing computer. My hotel is in Chelsea these two weeks, so I headed west down 23rd today and found the High Line.
The High Line was an elevated rail that has been transformed into a city park. It's nice. But it's not $154 million nice, and it's still only two-thirds done. I can't believe they sunk that much money into such an inconsequential swatch of acreage. Where I come from, they could build a park about the same size for $2,000. But I'm from a state with plenty of bare land and only 11 people per square mile.
After 21 weeks here the past three years, I'm New Yorked-out, in case you can't tell.
Monday, May 21, 2012
Saturday, May 12, 2012
In my visits to New York City, I haven't spent much time in Queens except at the abomination known as LaGuardia Airport. So I hopped on the 7 train today and rode it to Flushing Meadows. My first stop was Queens Botanical Garden, a modest facility compared to the New York and Brooklyn gardens. Entry was only $4, so it was priced appropriately.
It did have a few things I haven't seen elsewhere, including something called a White Fringetree. But roses have started to bloom in New York and tomorrow is Mother's Day, so I start with those. Click on the image to see additions to the New York slide show, starting with the roses.
After the garden, I continued on through Flushing Meadows - Corona Park and saw the Unisphere and some other stuff that must have been really cool during the 1964 World's Fair. Maybe not soo cool now.
Sunday, May 06, 2012
New York Butterflies
There is a butterfly exhibit until May 28 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. I don't have my big camera and macro lens with me in New York, so the Canon S95 had to do. I was happy with the snapshots I got. Click on the image to see the butterflies, or click here for all of my New York photos from this year.
Saturday, April 28, 2012
New York again
For the third straight spring, I'm in New York City for an extended assignment. So of course that means flower pictures. I made it to Brooklyn Botanical Garden today for Sakura Matsuri, whatever that is. I never really figured it out, but there were many people, many in costume, many with a Japanese theme. Fortunately they hadn't trampled all the flowers yet. The azaleas, peonies and rhodos were in full bloom.
I'll keep adding to this gallery, flowers and otherwise, through May and perhaps part of June. New York Botanical Garden has a Monet garden exhibit opening May 19, so hopefully I will be able to make it up there for that. Click on the image to start the slide show.
Old Picture of the Week
Back in 2004 I visited the new Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles Airport in Chantilly, Va., a branch of the National Air and Space Museum. One of the major displays was the space shuttle Enterprise, which was used for unpowered test flights in the 1970's. On April 27, 2012, I happened to be in lower Manhattan as the Enterprise flew (on the back of a 747) up the Hudson River on its way to Kennedy Airport and eventual permanent display at the Intrepid Museum in New York. The Enterprise is being replaced in Virginia by the shuttle Discovery.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Elk and Bighorns
Early April isn't the ideal time to visit the parks in the southern Black Hills. The wildlife babies aren't running around yet, and the landscape is still brownish. But I'm still working in Chicago most of the time and my annual 7-week trip to New York City is coming up soon, so I figured today was my last chance before summer to check my trail camera in Wind Cave National Park.
The camera clicked off 3,600 images in my four-month absense. It turned out that only 125 of them had anything interesting in them, and the rest were triggered by shadows and wind. There were images of elk, deer, coyotes, grouse and ravens, none as good as my last batch. The first image below is probably the best of the bunch and shows an elk on Feb. 27 with a thick winter coat. There was still plenty of battery power remaining so I moved the camera 200 yards east, which hopefully will catch the elk and other critters as they come up out of a ravine. I'm guessing my next check will be in September.
The thousands of false triggers did tell me something – it was a warm, open winter. There weren't more than a couple inches of snow at any time, none after Feb. 11. Daytime temperatures were usually above freezing, and it was 80 degrees as soon as March 10, 90 degrees on March 30!
After I took care of the trail camera, my next stop was a campground in Custer State Park where I had spotted some bighorn sheep earlier in the day. Four rams were in the campground, grazing and loafing. I snapped pictures for perhaps an hour, but after a while all four were laying down and acting drowsy. It's the wrong time of year for butting heads. Click on the images to see the respective galleries. There are only three new images in the updated trail cam gallery, but even though I was only there a few hours I got carried away and posted 34 images (mostly bighorns) in a new park gallery.
Tuesday, February 07, 2012
Friday, January 20, 2012
I made my annual eagle pilgrimage to the Mississippi River last weekend. I arrived at Lock and Dam 18 near Burlington, IA at about 1 p.m. to find the viewing platform and adjacent parking lot closed due to construction. So it was down to the boat launch in the recreation area, where for the first time I can recall, they were actually launching boats. It has been so warm this winter that there were just a few ice cubes floating in the river.
There were a lot of eagles in view, but most of them stayed well out of camera range. I took some distant shots, and a few turned out like the first one shown below. There were a several eagles roosting above the road on the way out of the recreation area. When I bought my car three years ago, I got a sun roof specifically to drive down this road and get the second shot. Click on the images for larger versions and to launch the slide show.
I continued on south to my other favorite Mississippi River location, the Keokuk waterfront. It was mostly cloudy, but with better light the next morning I "rushed" down to the waterfront. Unfortunately it's very difficult to rush through Keokuk because there is a stop light on just about every corner. Fifteen stop lights later, I finally arrived and got some decent shots. I headed up to Burlington mid-day and got a few more distant shots over the water, and closer but infrequent flight shots as the eagles made their way back to roosting areas.
This was the ninth straight year I've hit Keokuk/Burlington to see the eagles. On a scale of 1-10, this year was about a 6. This works best when the weather is cold enough to freeze the river and concentrate the eagles around the open water below the dams. Just looking back through previous years, I think 2008 was the best recent year.
Sunday, January 01, 2012
Photo of the Year 2011
Once again, snapshot opportunities were limited in 2011 as I was afflicted with employment for the second straight year. Candidates for Photo of the Year included New York City scenics, bighorn sheep large and small, and various other critters. The winner was snapped in April at the Sertoma Butterfly House in Sioux Falls, SD. No, the image is not upside down. I think the orientation is one reason I like this shot.
I've never picked an insect before, so this is a first. This is also the first winner snapped with my 100mm macro lens, which I bought with good intentions many years ago but haven't used very much. The prize, as usual, is an all-expense paid trip to Keokuk, Iowa to hunt for wintering eagles. It's on the schedule for two weeks from today.
Click on the image for a larger view.
Here are my POY selections for 2002-2010.
Junior I 2002
Gentoo Penguins 2003
Little Brothers 2004
Bald Eagle 2005
Blue Jay 2006
Eagle with fish 2007
Great Horned Owls 2008
Custer SP Bighorn 2009
Keokuk Eagle 2010
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
New 2012 calendar for sale at Lulu.
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
On my way out of the Black Hills today, I finally found one (1) member of the Bighorn species, a lone ewe grazing near the Custer State Park Visitor Center. I hung around for a few minutes to see if more of the flock would appear, but they didn't. So I guess the sighting of the day was a couple of coyotes roaming the fields. (Or was it my first-ever ID of a prairie chicken?) Click on the yote image to start the slide show.
After four months living in downtown Chicago, I was struck by the magnificent desolation of South Dakota, especially this time of year when the bikers and other tourists are long gone. I-90 across the state was devoid of traffic. When I was photographing the eagle, I was parked on the shoulder of a state highway for 25 minutes and zero (0) cars came by in either direction. If you want to get away from it all, South Dakota in winter...or late fall if you want to get technical.
Monday, December 05, 2011
As Long As I'm Here
While checking on my trail camera, I took a few snapshots around Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park. An eagle I'm sure I've seen many times before was one of the main subjects, along with some pronghorns, turkeys, and prairie dogs. Update: On 4/10/12, I drove past this tree, which is (was?) my favorite dead tree. It looked as though it had been hit by lightning because the top was shattered and the were big limbs on the ground. No sign of the eagle, so apparently the both of us are going to need to find a new favorite dead tree.
I've been looking for Bighorn sheep in the usual locations in Rapid City and Custer SP, but haven't found them. I've got one more loop through the park Tuesday morning, so this photo group might not be complete yet.
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