Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

Guess where I was New Year's Eve.

Here's hoping 2016 is a good one.

Shadows and Light

On the flight back from the Florida trip that provided the image for the last post, I noticed this out the airplane window:

Not one but two contrail shadows.  At different angles and converging on the anti-solar point. Curious, why would my plane have two contrail shadows?

Here is a shot that shows the two shadows against a thin layer of clouds, making them more obvious.

But wait there's more!

Hmmm ...

A clue:

Ignore the cloud bow and glory for a moment and look at the top of the image. Seems we were not the only plane in the sky that day.

Here's another clue:

Look closely on the left center of the image (click to bigafy). You can see the cloud shadows, which are also angled toward the anti-solar point.

So mystery solved. Contrails from the many planes that ply the eastern corridor along with shadows form the clouds, because of perspective all seeming to converge on the point, the anti-solar point.

Ok, now you can look at the glory.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Flying Thru the Crown

Remember this post Flying Thru the Crown?

(You are reading it now ...)

It is an OPOD!

(If you are counting at home that's six OPODs.)

Saturday, December 19, 2015


Despite the high temperatures we've been having of late, last weekend was in the 70's and xmas eve is forecast to be close to 80!, we've still had some cold mornings.

And if the conditions are right overnight we get this:

Frost crystals growing on the deck railing.

Very cool to look at. Very hard to photograph.

Saturday, December 5, 2015


The morning after Thanksgiving I opened my front door and looked out over this.


Lots of webs.

Webs everywhere. Completely covering the front yard.

How many spiders? What species? 

Web (pun!) searches came up empty. There were links to a fungus, but the fungus was a summer phenomena. And to events in Texas and Australia. But nothing like I saw.

It happened just this one morning. A very foggy morning. But we've other foggy mornings before and since, with no webs.

It was very cool looking. Although I imagine it would creep some people out big time.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

You Know It's Been Awhile ...

Time to change the bird seed methinks.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Bad Day

The zebras on either side of the river were calling. It was a sad call, apparently to group members separated. Some which had crossed. Some which had not.

And despite the fact that there were thousands of zebra on the goal side of the river, the urge to be with the specific group was greater than the threat from the crocodiles. And zebras, in small groups, continued to return to whence they had come.

This was not always a wise choice. The crocs knew the zebra were here. And they cared not for the direction they crossed.

And both zebras got slammed.

Given the size of the crocs it is rather amazing that they made it across.

But not unscathed. If you look closely (after bigafying of course) the larger zebra's left front leg you can see blood spurting out.

But they did make it across. Although I don't think that's the best place for junior to stand. Just sayin'.

Nor was it the best place for mom to rest. Methinks there's a cliche about frying pans and fire that might be appropriate here.

I can only think that junior is in shock here. How else to explain that it does not move away from the leopard?

It seems junior has finally figured this is not the place to be.

Now just when you thought it could not get any worse ...

We thought there would some tug of war action, but the crocs are too big for their own good. They can't lift themselves up over the rocks.

And the prize remained just out of reach.

The leopard ate its fill.

And then washed it down with a nice long drink from the river.

It seems the leopard was rather lucky. Bigafy the image above and look at the cat's left rear leg. It too is injured. An injury that prevents it from running and jumping full bore. This beast will have a difficult time hunting. Thus prey that falls into its lap is a godsend.

We would come back the next morning and the zebra was gone. Did the leopard pull it up into the trees? Did the crocs find a way to get to it? Did lions or hyenas or some other predator claim it as there own? We'll never know. But the fact that there were no remains to be seen leads us to believe the leopard dragged it away.


To recap:

The grass is not always greener on the other side of the river.
Mama zebra is leopard food.
Baby zebra is an orphan.
Crocodiles do all the work and get nothing for their trouble.
Leopard gets a meal or two, but still is injured and can't run.

You might want to bookmark this page to review the next time you think you're having a bad day.


My thanks to Laura Keene for the use of her 500 mm lens for some of the above images.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Please Be Extra Careful When Using the Level Crossing

Our second to last day in the Maasai Mara, and we stopped at a river crossing to see what was happening.

We found zebras gathering at the river's edge. Drinking.

And then crossing.

And crossing.

And crossing, in rather large numbers, successfully fording the last barrier to migration's end.

But there was danger lurking.

In the form of very large Nile crocodiles.

Which led to a change of plan. Albeit temporary, as they would all need to cross eventually, to get to the remaining food sources. But it seemed that the zebra were sensible creatures, recognizing danger and reacting accordingly.

Appearances can be deceiving, as some of the zebras, despite the obvious crocodiles in the river, not only decided to cross, be decided to cross back to the side they had just came from. This can't be good, right? But these three made it back without incident.

The crocs aren't just there for a swim however.
To be continued ...


The title of this post comes from a phrase repeated again and again on the train I rode into the city on my recent trip to Newcastle. It seems to be a bit of a problem across the pond. And it seems zebras aren't the only dim witted species when it comes to dangerous crossings.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Dreams of a Thanksgiving Feast

It's that time of year, when the turkeys gather in flocks.

And visit our yard.

And the newest member of our household is quite captivated.

But I think that ...

... this is an eyes bigger than belly situation.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Anti-Crepuscular Rays

Driving home from work the other night I was presented with this view.

I pulled over, got out my camera, took a shot.

And then I noticed the full moon peaking up from behind the trees. So I moved up and took another shot. Alas, last night we set the clocks back an hour. And for the next few months I'll be driving home in the dark. Goodby twilight sky. See you next spring.


You can learn more about anti-crepuscular rays, and other stuff up in the sky, here. (But you knew that, right?)

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Nevermore ...

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door— 
Only this and nothing more.”

It was actually us tapping at the door, the bird was already inside.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

It did make us all smile.

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
    Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
    Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore 
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

More ominous than I had expected ...

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
    And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
    And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor 
Shall be lifted—nevermore!


Our friend Barb is a veterinary nurse. And this is one of her patients. It seems the owner needed a bird sitter and Barb readily accepted the job. She invited us over to visit (and I had just  put crab cakes in the oven!). As you can see, rather than sit on old statues, this raven preferred sitting on humans. A very friendly bird. 

Although for some reason it did not like my eyes! 


It pecked at my eyes on multiple occasions. I don't know why. It had no interest in anyone else's eyes. Only mine.

Where is my dinner jacket ...

Eventually we became drinking buddies, enjoying wine ...

One of my many talents ...

... and cheese. (Although it seemed to mistake my ears for cheese all too often ...)

This is not the species of raven Mr. Poe would be familiar with. This is a white-naped raven, an African native, one that we saw there on our recent trip. It is not at all clear how this bird came to be a pet in New Jersey. And rather then nevermore, this bird was prone to asking, "what?". Repeatedly. 


Happy Halloween!

Images of yours truly courtesy of Patty Rehn.
Verse from The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

They Do Like Their Tea ...

I recently visited Newcastle, England for two weeks on business. The rugby world cup was in progress and several games were in Newcastle during my stay. Thus hotel rooms were at a premium. And I was not able to get one in the city, instead staying at a hotel at the airport. It was close to my office, but a thirty minute ride on the Metro, the local commuter train, to Newcastle proper.

And one of the stations in Newcastle was "Monument". Intrigued, I got off to see what this was about. Here is the monument, with plenty of rugby fans (there was a giant big screen TV directly behind me, showing a game, with food a beer tents set up throughout the square).

The chap on top is none other than Earl Grey, he of tea fame.

Here is a close up, alas he is not holding a cup.

It seems the Earl was involved in a bit more than tea drinking. He served as prime minister and during his tenure the reform act, abolishing slavery throughout the British Empire, was passed.

And here I thought it was just because the British liked their tea. See travel does inform and educate. Even if it is just vicariously through a blog post. You are welcome.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Optical Phenomena in the Land of Newton

I recently took a business trip to England. The home of Sir Isaac Newton, he of the famous prism experiments, the beginning of the science of optics. Our understanding of color begins with these experiments.

In his Opticks, Newton explained the colors of the rainbow. Like this one, a double bow, seen over the Newcastle airport.

It was in the cab ride from the office I was visiting to the hotel, right at the airport, that I first saw the bow. "Get your camera out," said the cabbie, "there's a gorgeous rainbow, a double bow." So I did.

And got the shot above of arches, natural and man made.

If you look closely at the shot above you can see the supernumeraries.

And in the shot below, taken form my hotel room, we see Alexander's Dark Band. Note the change in brightness from the inside to the outside of the main bow.

Newton may not have been able to explain all these rainbow phenomena. But he got us started. (And I'm sure he would have been fascinated by photography, especially the chemistry of film photography and the alchemy of the development process, turning silver into images.)

I've over-processed the image below, to make more obvious both the supernumeraries and the brightness contrast inside and outside the main bow.

Newton would have fully understood the explanation for he phenomena shown below.

The 22º halo. Ice crystals acting as prisms refracting the light (of the sun, not the lamp).

Often seen with the 22º halo, sundogs are another ice crystal phenomena.

Newton thought of light as particles and thus would have a hard time explaining the birefringence seen in the cockpit window of this airliner. (I had seen the linked OPOD and thus was on the lookout for this, and quick grabbed a shot as I boarded the plane.)

The colors are explained by the interference of light waves. Newton was half right so to speak, as today we think of light as both a particle and a wave. Although I have no idea what Sir Isaac would think of quantum mechanics.

And I'm not sure what Newton would have made of these next two images.

This is the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, over the River Tyne in Newcastle. The bridge tilts over to let ships pass, although not many ships come this far these days. And I didn't get to see it tilt.

Not being flat, the surface of the water distorts the reflections in wavy and loopy patterns.

And this one, well this one is just for fun!

Although it might have been a bit to abstract for Sir Isaac's tastes.