Saturday, January 31, 2009

I'm not sure what kind of fruits these are (or if they are technically even fruits). And I don't think winter is their season.

This mallard had a bit of difficulty getting from the water of the pond up onto the ice shelf on the bank. He was a little less wary then his companions, all of which fled when they noticed me. He climbed up on the ice, looked a me long enough for me to make a couple of images. And then decided to leave as well.

The same belted kingfisher from my February 1st Sunday Six set. This time showing off her stripes. 

I've always liked images like this. I think it is because of the combination of simplicity, black on blue, and complexity, the fractal nature of the tree branches. I hope you like it too. 

Taken with a long lens that compressed the fence segments as can be seen by comparison to the one segment parallel to the camera sensor. 

                                         Bee Hive

This week finds me at Pennington Park in late afternoon on Saturday. It was cold and I pretty much had the place to myself. This park is less than two miles from my home as the crow flies and is a nice spot for a quick getaway.  
                                    Belted Kingfisher

A very cooperative belted kingfisher. This gal had several perches that she would sit and watch the pond from. I was able to get a number of good shots, a first for me with kingfishers. 

                                         Sheet Ice

The pond is connected to the Rancocas Creek and is tidal. At high tide this log is completely submerged and overnight ice forms. As the tide goes out the ice looses its support, and eventually collapses. It is quite cool to be surrounded by crashing ice.

                                    Red-tailed Hawk

It is the time of year when red-tails are looking for love. This was one of a pair, where the male was displaying to the female. Alas they were far away and mostly behind the trees. This was the only usable image I managed to capture. 

                                    The Tide Coming In

The log shown two images above is now submerged, with just the topmost tip visible in the distance.

                                    Ducks on the Pond

The light has disappeared as clouds hid the sun and this image is almost devoid of color. While I was shooting the kingfisher images these ducks would fly in, notice I was there, and hightail it back out again. As I was leaving the park I walked past the pond and was able to get this image, before they all started swimming away.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Moon and Saturn (December 2006)

The moon is obvious. You'll need to look closely to see Saturn. It is that white spot at bottom center. Click here for a larger version (even then it will still be small).

Monday, January 26, 2009

                                   Great Horned Owl

This Sunday Six is three pairs of images. The first two come from my visit to Palmyra Cove Nature Park. First up is a great horned owl. My friend Kristina and I believe it is probably a male and perhaps the mate of the owl on the nest shown in the Eyes theme image. It was well hidden and flew off not long after we spotted it.

                                White-tailed Deer

There is a resident population of about forty deer at the park. Way too many for the 250 acres of parkland to support. Deer have made a great comeback in New Jersey. Reduced to only a handful in the early 1900's they are seemingly everywhere today, reaching pest proportions in many areas, as they will completely eat the forest understory. This destroys habit and leaves little food for other animals. And reeks havoc on plant communities.

                           Snow Geese Flying in Formation

The next two images are from Mannington Marsh in Salem County New Jersey. There are tens of thousands of snow geese in New Jersey. And we saw several huge flocks as we traveled. Snow geese can be seen flying in great flocks that seemingly stretch for miles. They fly in a loose formation as can be seem in this image.

                                    Snow Geese Landing

However, as the geese come in for a landing any semblance of order is completely lost. To quickly loose altitude the birds wobble, at times appearing to be flying upside down. Check out the bird in the at the top of the flock, left of center.

I wanted to get an image of the huge flock on the lake, but it was at this point that the battery in my camera died. No worries, I've got two more and one in my backup camera body. All dead. It turns out one was completely dead and would no longer hold a charge. The others just needed to be recharged. But no more snow geese images for me.

                                    Liquid Fire Sunset

Fortunately my car, a Ford Escape Hybrid, has a standard electrical outlet. And a really big battery. I plugged in my charger and by the time we got to the Money Island Road observing platform (the location for the Pink image and the Vapor image)  I had a fully charged battery.

This image of the now orange-red clouds was taken later then the Pink image. The sky really did look like liquid fire. 

                                    Great Horned Owl

Finally we ended our day with three great horned owls calling at each other, defending their territories, each in plain site. Wondrous. As it was getting dark longer exposures were needed. And this is the only image where an owl stayed still throughout the exposure. Bummer.

From the same viewing platform that I took the cooling tower image I took this of the twilit clouds after the sun set. There were pink patches and streams across the sky. The colors were gorgeous and became even more vivid as the sun set.

The area surrounding the plant is all wetlands. This section is managed by the power company as of their Estuary Enhancement Program (more info here [PDF]).

Sunday, January 25, 2009

In this case water vapor. From a nuclear power plant cooling tower. One of three such plants within 50 miles of where I live.

From the same spot as I made this image, I also photographed three different great horned owls, all of which were calling at each other.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

This Carolina Chickadee is certainly upside down. And it is doing it's best to pull the web inside out (it was struggling and took quite a while to get at whatever was inside).

And you get a good sense of how little this bird weighs when you realize that it is hanging with one foot on the dead leaf and the other on the web.

Look closely and you'll see them (click n the image for a larger view). 

This is a female great horned owl sitting on nest. My friend Kristina is the naturalist at Palmyra Cove Nature Park, which is directly across the Delaware river from Philadelphia. I visited the park on Friday, specifically to see this owl. Kristina had left me a directions and a map. Fortunately, she was there and able to go with me to the site. Otherwise I would have never spotted the owl. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Very Young Crescent Moon (April, 2005)

This very thin crescent moon is approximately 26.5 hours old. At the time it was the youngest moon I had ever observed; I've since gotten my record down to twenty-four hours. The record for naked eye observation of the youngest crescent moon is 15.5 hours and that with optical aid is 11 2/3 hours. You I've got room for improvement. You can read more about observing the thin crescent moon for yourself here. Good luck and have fun.

And shades of grey. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pay It Forward/Free Stuff for Freeloaders Meme

Here's the deal.

The first 5 people who comment here will get one of my photographs.

The only rule is that you have to make this offer in your own blog.

Let me know which image you'd like and I'll send you an 8" x 10" print. Leave your email address in the comments and I'll contact you to get the mailing address.

I scarfed this idea form Lawgirl, who has similar offer.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

This fellow was even harder to get then the winter wren. While the wren stuck mainly to the ground, this golden-crowned kinglet moved in three dimensions. I got a few ok images. This is the best of the lot.

A rail line used to transport workers and materials when building the dam runs along the Susquehanna State Park Trail. Once the dam was finished it fell into disuse.

What's missing? The ground under the rails.

Another Conowingo shot. Alas, what I thought was a pretty shell was perhaps a tomb. The snail, encased in ice, was still inside. 

Spanning the Susquehanna River. The closest is I95.

                                   Branch with Ice

I've recently joined the  Pinelands Photography Group, a photography club sponsored by the Pinelands Preservation Alliance. At our last meeting one of the members reported on his recent trip to the Conowingo Dam in northern Maryland and we decided to have an informal field trip this past Saturday. It was cold and ice was everywhere.

                    One of these Things is not Like the Others

The main photo attraction of Conowingo are the overwintering bald eagles. Hundreds stay by the dam as it functions as a fish cuisinart, providing easy pickings for both eagles and gulls.

                                   Tower Eagle

Alas, while the morning was bright and sunny, the eagles were not cooperating. They were on the far side of the Susquehanna River, like this one on the tower. A few, like the one in the prior image, were flying, but still distant. Most, and I saw on the order of 70 eagles, were perched on the trees lining the opposite river bank. 

                                   Winter Wren Says No

So I went looking for other photo ops. This winter wren was actively searching for food in the leaf litter. And here it is shaking its head, "no pictures for you!". I took about forty shots trying to get this guy. Most are more blurred than this (if the bird is even still in the frame). I have two keepers. Imagine doing that with film.

                                   Screaming Eagle

As I was packing my gear away a trio of eagles came soaring over me, I grabbed the camera and shot away. The blues skies had turned to gray which resulted in dark images. But I got a couple.

                                   Iced Branches

Did I mention it was cold?

Curved lines, vertical lines, horizontal lines, shadow lines ... how many different sets of lines can you find? This is the Conowingo Dam. For scale, there is a immature bald eagle (it's tiny) in the lower right hand corner (click on the image to bigify it or click here).

Saturday, January 17, 2009

I visited Conowingo Dam today (more images to come). It was cold. When I left my house at about 9:30 AM it was 10º F. When I next checked the temperature, at about 3:00 PM, it had risen all the way to 19º F. This is an image of the back of my camera, the whitish areas around the on-off switch is ice. The moisture in my breath has frozen on the camera. If you look closely you can see ice on and in the thumb wheel around the "SET" button. This wheel was literally frozen stuck. I could not move it. But other than the shutter button seeming to be stiffer than usual, the camera worked fine.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Long-eared Owl (January 2004)

This is the first owl I saw in the wild. It was in a stand of trees behind a bar in Thorofare, NJ. I was on a NJAS field trip for waterfowl, but the first place we were going to was closed because it was covered with ice. The second stop was also iced over. Even the Delaware river was lined withe ice. One of the participants on the trip (who was also a field trip leader) asked if we wanted to go see an owl instead. We said yes. There were actually several owls in this tree, but only this one was readily visible.

After this the trip broke up (it was very cold) but several of us decided to try a couple of the other planned locations for the day, one of which was Flood Gates Road. And it was there that I spotted a great horned owl on a nest. At first I didn't recognize what I was looking at, seeing only eyes looking back at me. Then it clicked in and I excitedly called over my companions.

I had gone on at least a half a dozen owl prowls and had never seen one. And now two species in one day. And I spotted one for myself. It was a good day.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Alas, not all of the buildings at Whitesbog are candidates for restoration. No shiny new roof for this building.

I went with ice.

Hmmm ... what's that looking at me?

... I think it's a ...

... squirrel!

Worker cabins being restored at Whitesbog. Note the shiny new roofs!

Another tundra swan image, as they fly away ...

Well one very cold feather anyway. Another Whitesbog image.

One of the many picnic tables in the village at Whitesbog. The metal in the background is the remains of a roof of one of the village cabins.

                                   Tundra Swans

The weather forecast had been for snow and ice this weekend, and I was hoping for some winter wonderland images. Nope, we got all of an eighth of an inch. My backup plan was to go to Whitesbog in the Pinelands National Reserve and photograph the overwintering tundra swans. The image above is the aforementioned swans leaving not long after I arrived. 

                                   Tundra Swan

The bird above was a straggler. As the name implies there are a number of cranberry bogs at Whitesbog. The bogs are flooded over the winter, I believe to protect the cranberry plants. The tundra swans find them an inviting place to spend the winter. I drove up on the far side of the bog they were feeding in so as not to spook them. I had my big lens, a Questar 700, so the distance was not an issue. As I was setting up a group of hikers came out of the pines on the other side of the bog. And off were the swans. I grabbed my camera, which had my 400 mm lens on it, and started shooting. I got a few keepers. But all of the swans, a hundred or so, had left.

                                   Ice Covered Cranberry Bog.

I wandered about to see if the swans had moved to another of the bogs, but did not relocate them. Most of the bogs were ice covered, and the birds need open water so they can feed on the submerged plants. They don't each the cranberries, but another plant the name of which escapes me. 

                                   Wind Blown Reeds

It was below freezing and the wind was gusting to about fifteen miles per hour. And the weather was changing rapidly. The morning forecast called for snow, clouds, and sun. And I experienced them all in the three hours I was there.

                                   Bog and Road

I've hiked around these bogs but today I was glad to have my car. I have a Ford Escape Hybrid, and small SUV with 4 wheel drive. The spent most of the drive in "golf cart mode", that is, running on battery power. The roads were in good shape and I don't think I went into 4 wheel drive at all (buts it's good to have on the sand roads in the pines).


Thanks to the work done by Elizabeth White, blueberries were first successfully cultivated at Whitesbog. They also grow wild throughout the area.