Saturday, March 29, 2008

 

Lighten Up

If you have been looking at this blog for the past three weeks and thought the images looked quite dark, you are not alone. I've had my new laptop for just a short time, and it's obvious that images that look fine on its very bright screen are quite dark on my desktop monitor, which I'm guessing is closer to what most people have. So I've edited the images. Here's a new one of the fledgling owl.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

 

Something New

Now that I'm unemployed and don't have to fly to get to places quickly, I can take my time and see the sights along the way. I spent much of the day in Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in western Kentucky and Tennessee. I took a drive through the Bison and Elk Range, where I saw about 40 bison and two elk. There's also another few dozen bison in a pasture a few miles south.

It's still too blustery to say spring has sprung, but there are many, many wild yellow daffodils throughout the area. It looks like a charming area, but I can envision it being overrun with people during the summer.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

 

49

It was my last full day in Florida. I snapped a few more butterflies before leaving the Lower Suwannee area. I didn't notice until I looked at this image on my computer that the butterfly's head and body are caked with pollen. Click on the image to see the closeup.

Tomorrow I'll be driving through Alabama on my way northward. It will be my 49th state, leaving only Oregon. Maybe I'll get Oregon later this year.

Of course I'm claiming credit for Michigan and Washington even though my presence there was limited to the Detroit and Seattle airports. I've had pointless debates about whether such states should count. Absent official notification to the contrary, I'm claiming them.

What I think is even more pointlessly impressive is my '94 Camry has been in 34 states. Think about it.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

 

Flutterby

My northward return journey has begun, and my modest goal for today was to find a little patch of ghost crabs in Lower Suwannee NWR. I found them under the boardwalk on the Dennis Creek Trail in the southern part of the refuge, although there weren't as thick as they were when I saw them several years ago. I got a few snapshots, but to see what I was trying to get it probably would be best to wait for the video to come out.

But when I got there, I discovered my videocam battery was dead. Fortunately I have a 12 volt inverter, so I was able to go back to the car get enough of a charge in 10 minutes to get the video. Now I know why I bought that inverter thing.

As I was leaving that part of the refuge, I saw something along the road a hundred yards away. I stopped to get my DSLR out of the trunk and carefully drove up to catch a few shots of this fox.

I headed northward from there and turned onto the Nature Drive, which turned out to be swarming with butterfies. I stopped at a couple of locations and snapped away. I'll post more images when I get home, but here's one example. Click on the images for larger versions.


Friday, March 21, 2008

 

Back Scratcher

I went back to Honeymoon Island to get some more osprey shots today, and saw something I've seen there before. One osprey took off, circled, and landed on the back of another osprey. I know what the obvious explanation is, but I don't think that's what they were doing. Click on the images for larger versions.

I saw the two owls again today, but their posing wasn't nearly as good as yesterday. If you look down instead of up, you are likely to see tortoises and armadillos crawling through the underbrush, although I didn't see last year's nonchalant racoon.



Thursday, March 20, 2008

 

Best Owls Ever

There's no place like Honeymoon Island State Park near Tampa. Not only is it the best place I've found to see nesting osprey, but for the past few years there has been a Great Horned Owl nest on the island. The best image I got a couple years ago was distant and murky, but today I was lucky enough to get this shot of the fledgling and the mother.

I got lots of osprey shots and no doubt will get more tomorrow. In addition to fish, some of the ospreys were hauling vegetation, perhaps to fix up their nests after recent windy days. Click on images for larger versions.



Wednesday, March 19, 2008

 

Venice

On my way from Ft. Myers to Palm Harbor, I stopped at the Venice rookery. Blue herons, egrets and anhinga were busy building nests. This blue heron made several trips to get sticks. Click on the images for larger versions.



Tuesday, March 18, 2008

 

Ding

I think Sanibel Island near Ft. Myers demonstrates what is right and wrong with Florida. It's beautiful, but way too crowded. I headed out to "Ding" Darling NWR on Sanibel today, and endured horrendous traffic getting on and off the island. While I was there I did get a few decent snapshots, including this pelican splashing around in pursuit of fish.


Monday, March 17, 2008

 

Twinkies

The last MLB game I attended was last August at Fenway Park. I was on my way out of town, and the Boston Red Sox were on their way to winning the World Series.

Now that I've moved from Red Sox Nation to Twinkie Territory, I thought it was appropriate that this visit to Ft. Myers included not a visit to City of Palms Park to see the Red Sox, but instead a stop a few miles away at Hammond Stadium, the spring home of the Minnesota Twins.

The Twins were unable to keep some of their stars from last year, so will be depending heavily on first baseman Justin Morneau and pitcher Francisco Liriano. During today's St. Paddy's Day game with Florida, Morneau had one single and a hard out, but Liriano looked like he's still not 100% from his surgery more than a year ago. I don't know that the Twins have the firepower to stay competitive with other teams in their division.

Regarding the Florida Marlins, even though they won this game 5-3 it would be safe to say no one in the stadium had ever heard of anyone in their lineup. The most surprising thing was when the Marlins put up a few runs, I saw a few guys raising a cheer. Apparently all four of their season ticket holders decided to carpool and make the drive from Miami.

If I'm counting correctly, I've been to all nine current spring training facilities in Arizona, but only two (the two in Ft. Myers) in Florida. Hammond Stadium is a fairly standard 7,500-seat spring training facility with decent parking. One thing I didn't like is the berm/lawn seating is a fairly small area down the right field line rather than in the outfield.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

 

Warbirds

I was at the TICO Warbirds Air Show in Titusville, Florida today. Here's a few samples. Click on the images for larger versions.

F-16 Falcon smashing moisture out of the air

P-51 Mustang

Heritage Flight with F-15 Eagle, P-51 Mustang, and F-16 Falcon


Thursday, March 13, 2008

 

Alligator Farm

Today my route took me through St. Augustine, so of course I had to stop at the Alligator Farm and shoot egrets and storks for a while. When you have a 500mm f4 lens the temptation is to use it for everything, but the rookery at the Alligator Farm is so close that it's best to back off to 250mm for flight shots.

But sometimes only the 500mm will do, and that's what the second shot is. Click on the images for larger versions.



Tuesday, March 11, 2008

 

Ft. Sumter

Today was my last full day in Charleston before moving on to St. Augustine. In the morning I took the Ft. Sumter tour to see where the first shots of the Civil War were fired.

I'm sure in the 19th Century a harbor fort made sense for coastal defense when you also had control of the nearby mainland. But if all the land around you is hostile, you are just a target for enemy artillery practice. It's best to give up and sail back to New York, which is what the undermanned Yankees did when the Rebs started lobbing shells at them.

Much of the original fort was blasted into rubble when the Yankees came back, 1863-65, so the structures on the island actually were built after the Civil War. Still, it's a fascinating old fort, and it was my one chance to get out on the water here.

In the afternoon I headed up to Cape Romain NWR to see the Red Wolves. The enclosure is on a trail behind the Sewee Visitor Center, which is shared by the Fish & Wildlife Service, Forest Service and others. The Red Wolf used to cover much of the Southeast but is now endangered.

There was one wolf in view, and I got the below image through plexiglass. Click on the images for larger versions. I also hiked the mile-long trail to some small ponds, but no images resulted from that.



Monday, March 10, 2008

 

Washo Reserve

I went to the Nature Conservancy's Washo Reserve north of Charleston today looking for osprey. After all their web site says the reserve is "one of the largest concentrations of this bird on the east coast." I saw a few flying around but I didn't see any that appeared to be nesting. Perhaps it's slightly early.

I also got rather lost. Usually I can follow a map, but I looked at the trail map before, during and after my hike and was never precisely sure where I was. Trail markings are sporadic and I considered myself lucky to find my car as quickly as I did. Of course I forgot my handheld GPS.

Without any osprey coming close, about the only photo op was this gator lurking in one of the ponds. Click for a larger version.


Sunday, March 09, 2008

 

Charleston

I arrived in South Carolina yesterday after getting sideswiped by a winter storm in Kentucky. Today was "Warship Day" as I went over to see the Hunley submarine at noon and the Patriot Point fleet in the afternoon.

The Hunley was a Confederate privateer that was the first submarine to sink an enemy warship in 1864, but was lost on that same mission. It was recovered from the ocean floor in 2000, and has been undergoing conservation in Charleston ever since. No photography is allowed in the conservation area, so I don't have any shots of that.

But the USS Yorktown is outside for all to see. It's moored at Patriot Point along with a destroyer, submarine, and Coast Guard cutter. I've been on the USS Intrepid which is from the same era as the Yorktown, so the experience is similar. It's been a few years, but I think the Intrepid has more exhibits and more pristine aircraft displays. But I'm sure its location in New York brings in more revenue and makes that possible. But anyway...

I was sitting on a bench on the destroyer, the USS Laffey. I could not believe how narrow it was. It's only 41 feet wide! On this ship, 336 men lived in cramped quarters for months at a time, and from time to time went into battle. As I get older, and particularly today after I banged my head going up one of the low stairways, I find it harder and harder to believe that humans do such things.

Click on this image of the Yorktown to see a larger version.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

 

Southeastward

Today was the first day of a three-week journey, and there will postings as I proceed. I drove across Iowa today, stopping at a couple of familiar sites to see how they have changed since January.

When I stopped at Neal Smith NWR southeast of Des Moines a couple months ago, the roads were snow covered but very passable. Today they were a muddy mess and I turned around without completing the full loop. I saw only one elk (antlerless) off in the distance, but the bison herd was closer to the road and I got a few "environment" shots of them and the big cottonwoods. Click on the image for a larger version.

After that it was off to Lock and Dam 18 to see if any eagles remained. As I drove across southeast Iowa, I actually saw 3-4 eagles near Radar O'Reilly's home town (Ottumwa) and saw quite a few hawks along the way. As I approached the dam about an hour before sunset I thought at first all the birds flying around were seagulls, but closer examination revealed about 20 eagles mixed in, both flying and roosting.

Rather than trying to add to the batch I posted in January, I got out my new video camera and tried it out. My Canon ZR60 gave up the ghost after three years, so I replaced it with a cheap Panasonic PV GS90. I stuck with a standard definition videocam rather than HD not only because it's a lot cheaper but the HD cameras seem to top out at 10-12x optical zoom, which is sort of useless for distant wildlife. The Panasonic has a 42x optical zoom. The image stabilization and the zoom seem smoother than my old Canon, although it seems as though the plastic case couldn't be much thinner. So, another new toy. When I get home I might try to put together a couple minutes of video for the web.


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