Sunday, May 24, 2009

Saguaro National Park (April 2007)

My company used to host a conference every April in Scottsdale, Arizona. Economic issues saw the cancellation of the conference this year. But for the past several I would spend a few extra days out west and in 2007 visited Saguaro National Park outside of Tucson. I had planned to visit several places in the Tucson area, but I liked Saguaro so much I spent the entire day there. 
Having a sunny day with temperatures in the mid seventies (Fahrenheit) with a steady breeze made for a wonderful day of wandering in the desert. As you can see, I'm not the only one who had visited the area.

Sunday Six: May 17th

                                    Citizen Scientists ...

This is part of a group of volunteers who will be performing grassland bird surveys throughout New Jersey this May and June. Sadly, grassland bird numbers are dwindling due mainly to habitat loss at the breeding grounds. The picture was taken at Duke Farms during a workshop on grassland bird identification in the field. One of the target species, grasshopper sparrow, was the subject of my musically inclined 365 theme image.

                                    ... Doing Science

In the form of scanning for grassland birds. The purpose of the outing was to give the volunteer surveyors practice identifying and viewing the target species in the field. The habitat at Duke Farms is ideal for this. And there is no comparison between observing a bird in the field or only in a field guide.

                                    Tree Swallow

We saw approximately thirty species of birds amongst the group. Including this nattily attired tree swallow.

                                    American Toad

Not only birds make use of the grasslands. A variety of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians do as well. This fellow was pretty well hidden in the grass along the side of the dirt road. 

                                    Dr. Kristin Mylercraine

Of the New Jersey Audubon Society, shown here taking my profile picture, is the researcher overseeing the grassland bird surveys.

                                   Lichen Bench

Back at the Coach Barn there were several benches like this one. Clearly they haven't been getting much use of late. By humans anyway. The lichens seem to like 'em.
365 Theme 127: Grass, Turf, Lawn

Well, it's definitely not "turf" or "lawn". But it is definitely grass. This is another shot taken at Duke Farms, this of just part of what is one of if not the largest remaining grassland in New Jersey. It was a very hazy day, with fog and overcast skies, which explains the all white sky and the washed out tree line. 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sunday Six: May 10th

                                   Golden Heather

I spent Saturday morning at the Franklin Parker Preserve and had fun using my macro lens to take pictures of the wildflowers growing there. The Preserve is 9400 acres in the heart of the Pinelands National Reserve.

                                    Red Chokeberry with Ants

Look closely and you'll see that the black spots in the flowers are actually ants. I've long been fascinated by ants. It amazes me how such a tiny create can show such a wide range of behaviors including fungus gardening, "milking" of hoppers, and elaborate structure building. At one job I had the people I managed even got me an ant farm for my birthday. I set it up in my office. It freaked out some visitors. 

                                    Dwarf Dandelion

I've never quite understood the distinction between flowers and weeds. This sure looks like a flower to me. But if you believe the TV ads, it is really a scourge to be eliminated at all costs. Curious.

                                    Pine Sap

This stem appeared to have been cut relatively recently but there was no other evidence of cutting or trimming in the area. The stem itself is about the size of a US 25 cent piece.

                                    Mystery Flower

I've no idea what this flower is. Neither do two friends who are pretty good botanists. If you know what it is please let me know in the comments.

Update: We have a tentative ID, Teesdalia nudicaulis (shepherd's cress). And Mike was right, it's a weed.

                                    Old Cranberry Bog

A wide view of the preserve showing an old cranberry bog. You can see a couple of the pump houses in the distance. As I'm sure you've guessed, this one is not a macro shot.

Monday, May 18, 2009

In With The Old, Week Twenty

Valley Forge (November 2005)

My sister and her family live a few miles from Valley Forge National Historic Park in Pennsylvania. And my niece and nephew love to go 'hiking' their, where hiking means we walk down the same trail along a stream every time. I always bring a camera and have gotten a few nice shots. Including this one, although I missed the peak of fall color.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

365 Theme 246: Purple

A blue toadflax taken at the Franklin Parker Preserve in the New Jersey Pinelands. If you look closely you can see pollen grains on the petals. (As always, click the image for a larger version.)

365 Theme 193: Musically Inclined

A grasshopper sparrow at Duke Farms. Duke farms has some of the largest remaining grassland tracts in New Jersey. And this fellow is singing with joy about that. Or he's looking for a date. This species is threatened [pdf] in NJ, as much of the grassland in the state has been turned into farmland, which is some cases can be managed to support grassland birds, or into buildings, which cannot. 

I stole the idea for this theme from another 365 Challenger, but I cannot find my note with that person's name. If anyone knows who it was please leave a comment. Thanks. 

Update: In the comments Ellen pointed out that it was coffeemonkey from whom I stole the idea.
365 Theme 53: Clocks

This is the clock tower on the Coach Barn at Duke Farms in central New Jersey. This building reminded me of the Dr. Who's TARDIS, it seemed much bigger on the inside than the outside would lead you to believe.

Duke farms is a 2700 acre estate that is being 'developed' as an environmentally sustainable oasis in the center of the most densely populated state in the US. While there is currently limited access to the public, a major part of the overall plan is to increase access. To that end a new visitors center is planned to open in 2010. And Duke farms has partnered with the NJ Audubon Society to offer field trips, a program which began last year.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sunday Six: May 3rd

                                    Giganotosaurus carolinii

This is what greets you upon entering the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia or as my nephew calls it, the Dinosaur Museum. It is literally over the ticket counter right inside the front doors. It is slightly larger than ...

                                       T Rex

Who put the 'terrible' in terrible lizard. But T Rex has the bigger brain (slightly). The lighting in the dinosaur hall was difficult. It was dark with bright spots, windows and light fixtures. And trying to find angles that hid lights and signs and wires was tricky. Plus it was all hand held, resulting in plenty of soft or outright blurry images.

                                    T Rex's Foot

Significantly larger then her 'hands'. And I suspect rather unpleasant in everyday use.


On the top floor of the Academy is a butterfly garden. And this is one of the resident butterflies. I do not know the species, and as they are flown in from around the world I don't have a field guide to look them up (if you know please leave a comment telling me). I'm not sure if it is the travel or that the habit isn't right or if it is a normal lifespan, but the butterflies live here for only a few weeks. Update: Mike Sokorski, Butterfly coordinator for the Academy has left a comment id'ing this as Tithorea harmonia.

                                   Another Butterfly

Again I do not know the species. If you do please let me know in the comments. It was very warm and humid in the room housing the butterflies. And my lens (at least the filter) kept fogging up. I was lucky to get some clear images. Update: Mike has id'ed this one as Idea leconoe. Thanks Mike.


I'll end with a living not so terrible lizard. The Academy also has an animal rehab center. I'm not sure what this guy was in for. But he had a knack of almost posing perfectly and then at the last minute turning her head to a horrible angle. But I managed to get a pair of good shots including this one.
365 Theme 286: Skeletal

Yeah I know, another bird picture. Archaeopteryx lithographica. This is a cast on display at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sunday Six: April 26th

                                Arabian Lights Dance Company

Another shot of the belly dancers and their very colorful costumes.

                                       Dance Fan

Julie in the comments on my Skin theme image asked for an image of the "enthusiastic fans". Alas, this is the only one I have. This young man was very enthusiastic, and he actually joined in on two of the dances.


A much more serene view of the horizon and the tree line that the next night would be the stage for my lightning images. But this would be a good night and I would be up imaging until 5:00 AM.

                                       Leo Triplet

The three fuzzy patches in this image are the three galaxies that make up the Leo Triplet, namely M65, M66, and NGC 3628. This is one of 80 frames I took of these galaxies, the idea being that I can stack them and increase the signal to noise ratio. Each individual image was between 60 and 120 seconds and stacking them will give me a much greater effective exposure time.


M13, the great globular cluster in Hercules. Another not so great astrophoto. But still not awful for my first time out. As with the Leo Triplet I've got a number of frames I can stack to hopefully bring out some additional detail. But to get truly better I'm going to need to guide. And practice, practice, practice.

                                   Summer Milky Way

This shot was taken at 3:56 AM. We are looking south and the light dome is whatever town is in that direction. Our home galaxy, the milky way aches overhead. The ghostly red image of a person is my friend and fellow club member Jerry Lodriguss. If you want to see some truly superb astrophotos visit Jerry's site, Catching the Light. You'll be glad you did.
365 Theme 318: Tent

This was my home for three days at the Delmarva Stargaze. Note the sundogs at either side and sunbeams streaming out the top. This was Friday and the night would be so good I'd be up until 5:00 AM. The next night not so much as the lighting flashed all around us.
365 Theme 287: Skin

I've been to a number of star parties over the years. And generally the entertainment, if any, consists of astronomy and space science related lectures, the occasional sci-fi movie, and music with the most tenuous connection to astronomy on really crappy speakers. But the entertainment at the Delmarva Stargaze was a first for me and pretty much everyone else there, the Arabian Lights Dance Company in a performance of traditional and perhaps not so traditional (belly dancing to "Walk Light An Egyptian"?) belly dancing.  Several of the dancers were very talented, and compete in national contests and some appeared to be new. But they were all enthusiastic and obviously having fun. And I had fun watching.

Friday, May 8, 2009

365 Theme 157: In My Neighborhood

Albeit not recently. This is Hadrosaurus foulkii as on display at the Academy of Natural Science in Philadelphia. I was fortunate enough to visit on the last day of this exhibit.

It turns out that this dinosaur was discovered a scant 15 miles from where I live. Which meant it or others like it were wandering around in my neighborhood some 80 million years ago. And it became the the state dinosaur of New Jersey in 1991.
365 Theme 227: Past Its Prime

An ancient sea turtle. It actually looked rather small amongst the mesosaurs and dinosaurs in Dinosaur Hall.  

Thursday, May 7, 2009

In With The Old, Week Nineteen

Millcreek (January 2003)

Millcreek (March 2003)

Millcreek (March 2003)

Millcreek (April 2003)

Millcreek (May 2003)

Millcreek (October 2003)

The changing faces of Millcreek, the creek from which Millcreek Park in Willingboro, NJ gets its name. This park opened in 1973 and at the time was the largest municipal park in NJ. Millcreek flows into the Rancocas Creek, which is in the far background of these images. The sun is setting over Philadelphia and behind the trees on the right is NJ Route 130. But from this vantage point you think you are in the wilderness. Millcreek Park is less than two miles form my home and has a nice trail system that wanders through a wooded area bounded by the two creeks. A nice getaway close to home.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

365 Theme 122: Girl

I don't know this young lady's name either. I do know that she was quite apprehensive about having a butterfly on her head. Both her dad and I snap our shots before a staff member came and removed the butterfly.

This is another shot form the Dinosaur Museum, where the butterfly garden is a permanent exhibit. And a very hot and humid one. This image may appear a little soft as my lens would keep fogging up.
365 Theme 46: Chalk or Chalkboards

I went to the "Dinosaur Museum" last Sunday with my sister and her family. My nephew calls it the Dinosaur Museum and has a great time on each visit. One of the things I found interesting is that immediately adjacent to the Dinosaur Hall is a prep room where the scientists and staff work on actual fossils. I don't know this young lady's name, but she was working on a fossil while we were there . I don't think it was part of the Titanosaur trove that had just arrived at in Philadelphia (it had been on the news the night before). 

The Titanosaur is the second largest dinosaur found. The Academy has the distinction of twice finding the number two dinosaur. And as a Drexel Alum I find it cool that my school was involved.
365 Theme 357 What's For Dinner

Xiphactinus audax, although it looks a bit on the boney side. That's Tylosaurus prorigor preparing to dine.

These two are on display at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, PA, the oldest natural sciences research institution in the US. These are two non-dinosaurs mounted in Dinosaur Hall.