Monday, February 16, 2009

Rainbow (July 2004)

The same week that the dam burst at the Girl Scout camp, and elsewhere in and around Medford, NJ, I was on a family vacation in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. And it was a rather rainy week there as well. This rainbow was produced by the same storm complex that resulted in the floods back home. 

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday Six: February 15th


My astronomy club, the Willingboro Astronomical Society, engages in a variety of public outreach programs, and this past Saturday we held a program for a GEMS (Girls Enjoying Math and Science) group. The GEMS program is part of the Girl Scouts. Our plan was to set up a number of telescopes and have the girls explore the night sky. Shown here is club Star Watch Director Bernie Hosko's scope, set up on the "beach". Alas, those lens covers would stay put as not long after this it started to snow, albeit only flurries. 

                                    The "Lake"

The "beach" is on the "lake". The lake is gone. On Monday July 12th, 2004 twelve inches of rain fell in one day. This resulted in a cascading wave of dam failures in the region, including the one here (if you look very closely remnants of the dam can be seen in the center of the image where the grass meets the tree line). The Girl Scouts do not have enough money to rebuild the dam.


All that remains of the lake is this stream flowing through the field.


This is Peanut, Bernie's dog and our unofficial star watch mascot. She loves exploring our star watch sites. As you might imagine, snow flurries make for rather difficult star gazing. So we packed up our scopes and headed indoors, where Bernie gave an impromptu program using his laptop computer and we had a lengthy question and answer session. The girls asked a number of interesting and insightful questions. And Peanut loved the attention she received from all the girls.


After saying our goodbyes we headed out to our cars and were greeted with this. Heavy snow with very large flakes (actually clusters of flakes). The snow had ended by the time I got home. But it was very pretty while it lasted.

                                   Yummy Snowflakes

The girls were at the camp for the weekend. And on the way to their cabins for the night they did the same thing we did when we first exited the meeting hall. A fun time was had by all.

Snow in the New Jersey Pinelands.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Monarch Butterfly (April 2004)

Taken at the Rancocas Nature Center's butterfly garden.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Iridescent Clouds. I remember the first time I saw this phenomena. I was at the Stella-Della Valley Star Party, and looked up at the sun. And saw colored clouds. I was astonished. And I've been been keeping an eye out for them ever since. I find them simply incredible.

Another shot of the sunset at Turkey Point. 

                                   American Kestrel

This is the smallest falcon native to the North America. It is often seen sitting on wires watching for prey. This bird doesn't have to hunt for prey, as it is another permanent resident of the Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge. At a very young age it imprinted on humans and now doesn't realize that it is a bird. Instead of heading off into the wild, it heads into civilization. 

                                    Barred Owl

Another shot of the barred owl used in the portrait theme. The Cumberland Winter Eagle Festival is held the first Saturday in February. It used to be called the Raptor Festival, but I guess to many people showed up looking for dinosaurs. There are talks, a vendor fair, and staffed outdoor locations to see eagles. And there were eagles to see.


Alas, I didn't photograph any eagles. While they weren't as far away as the moon, they were to far to get good images of. Or they were moving to fast as they flew by. There are several easily visible nests in the area, and there we knowledgeable personnel with scopes set up to view them. And each nest had a pair of birds setting up house. This year there are between seventy and eighty breeding pairs in New Jersey, up from one in 1982. 

                                    Turkey Point

The Natural Lands Trust maintains the Glades Wildlife Refuge in Cumberland County, and this is the view form the bridge at the end of Turkey Point Road. There is also an observation platform here, but it was full when I got there. The last event of the day was an owl watch. This is prime habit for short-eared owls. They roost in the reeds during the day and start to hunt at twilight. There were at least 100 people on the platform, the bridge, and along the road. We saw plenty of northern harriers, a couple of bald eagles, and an american bittern (a rather secretive bird). But we saw no owls. Bummer.


We did get to see a nice sunset. Note the distorted globe of the sun.

                                    Darkness Falls

We waited until we, but not the owls, could see no more. Then we left the owls to hunt in peace.

Of a barred owl. Sadly, one of these big black eyes is non-functional. This bird is a permanent resident at the Woodford Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge. The refuge takes injured birds, nurses them bag to health, and when they can releases them back to the wild. And when they can they put the birds to work, as traveling ambassadors of nature. I photographed this bird at the Cumberland County Winter Eagle Festival, an annual event held in February. More on this event in a future post.

This is actually a double portrait. If you enlarge the image enough, you can actually see me in the bird's eyes, although it's a rather poor likeness.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Black Vulture (February 2005)

In exactly two weeks, I make my now annual trip to the Florida Keys for the Winter Star Party. This image is from the first year I made that trek, from a place I stop every year on the way down, the Everglades National Park. February is an excellent time to visit the Everglades as there are no mosquitoes (yeah!) and is the dry season, so the wildlife congregates at the remaining water holes. I was maybe ten feet from this bird when I took the shot. I could have gotten closer, but my lens was too long. The birds, and gators, are well habituated to the presence of humans. It was a wonderful place to visit. And with the current temperature outside 16ยบ F I can't wait to get there.