Sunday, November 23, 2008

ANWR Boat Tour

Here are a couple of Pix from Aransas. More to come!

Daddy Whooper, and

Whooper Chick.
So to keep some of these pictures in order, I've decided to edit this post instead of adding a new one. One thing that may not be obvious from these pictures is that Whooping cranes are really big birds. They stand five feet tall -- that's almost as tall as me!

On this last trip, we saw about 26 whooping cranes on the single trip. Captain Tommy said it was a record for him! We saw these magnificent birds really up close -- as the pictures above show. We also got to see a great little drama.

One of the adults captured a snake! I can't be sure, but I think this may be the female -- you'll notice that she's really shaking things up.

It's not too long before Junior comes over to investigate. You'll notice that the snake isn't real excited about this idea -- it's wrapped itself around a bit of brush and is hanging on for dear life!

But in the end, Mom relents and Junior has lunch!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Western Canadian Geology

As mentioned before, I'm a bit of a geology buff -- but far from being an expert. We began our two-day train trip across Western Canada on the dry side of the mountains. That will be obvious enough from these photos. I was impressed by all the outcrops, upthrusts and places where erosion shows us what lies beneath the surface.

In this picture, notice the different colors in the rock: iron and copper for sure, but there are probably others. Marc's the chemist in the family, I'm sure he could tell us more.

Here, you can see a bit of outcropping where the soil has been eroded away to show the rock beneath.

Here's another example.

Mountains are formed in a couple of different ways. These are "upthrust" mountains formed when two tectonic plates press against each other and causes "wrinkles". You can see how the rock has been pushed up at an angle.

I love this shot that shows the different types and colors of rocks exposed by the water's cutting path.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Why I love living in the country

I had a really pleasant surprise today. I was sitting out on the front porch, enjoying a really fine day when a gray fox trotted across the driveway. Of course I didn't have my camera handy (sorry). So I searched the web and found information on the Gray Fox -- with color pictures. What a really handsome animal!

Gray Fox (Desert USA)
Gray Fox - Wikipedia
Wild Animals of Crestwood -- scroll past the Red Fox, for a very nice photo

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Western Canada by Train - Day 1

A portion of our trip to Canada included a two-day train trip from Vancouver to Banff. We were in a "domed" car, which means that we sat at the top of a two level car (the dining area was on the bottom). The top part of the train car was domed glass which, combined with the height, allowed for excellent views. Unfortunately, it did not necessarily make for excellent photographs.

There were several reasons for this. One was the glass -- reflective and curved. A more common reason was that we were constantly moving, and along the tracks were old telephone (or perhaps even telegraph) poles and of course trees. I took over 500 shots on this trip -- here is an example of what a lot of them looked like.

OK, I'll try not to show too many of these, though there is one more below.

If we were to count up how many birds of a given species, probably the two that would come to the top are Bald Eagles and Ospreys. (OK, and Canada Geese and probably Common Mergansers.) Along the train tracks, however, we were able to see a lot of nesting Eagles and Ospreys. Take a look at this Eagle's nest -- when you compare it to the length of the pine needles, you can get an idea of how huge it, and the bird on it, are.

This next shot is one of my most disap- pointing shots of the whole trip, and I plan to inflict it upon you, regardless. [grin] This had the potential to be a great shot, even through the telephone wires. Unfortunately, because we were moving, and I was trying so hard to take shots quickly, I used autofocus on my camera (something, I usually avoid). Well -- you can see the results with this Bald Eagle.

The Osprey is a "fish eagle" much like the Bald Eagle, though they are often listed as a separate species. I heard once on a PBS nature program that fish eagles are usually black and white. Like the Bald Eagle (ok, it's really a dark brown), the Osprey is mostly "black and white" in coloring. I especially liked this nest with all the colorful strings hanging down -- even ospreys and eagles like colorful, soft bedding for their chicks!

This next shot gives an idea of the territory we were going through. Transportation -- both trains and vehicular, travel through the lowest parts of the mountains. So you will often see a stream to your left or right. Here you get the tracks, the road and the stream all in one shot.

In my next post, I will include a lot of "geology shots" for all my rock-hound and geologist friends. But suffice to say that there are some areas in the mountains that were difficult or dangerous to put a track through, so tunnels were often necessary. Here's a spot where we had a nice curve coming up to a tunnel ahead.

All through the trip, we would travel along a stream and sometimes come to a wide spot, where there were lakes. I kept seeing these black and white birds floating in the water. It took me a while to identify them as common mergansers -- another bird for our life list.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Whale Watching" Trip

Part of our trip included a whale watching tour. This was something I was really looking forward to, though we were only likely to see Orcas, not any of the larger whales -- but that was ok. I just wanted to see whales!!

Of course, the first thing we saw were Bald Eagles -- a lot of them on this trip. However, as I was later to discover, we were mostly moving the whole time, so not all of the photos turned out this well.

We saw three types of "seals". These are Elephant Seals. Awww, what a sweet picture of cuddly seals.

This next bunch are Harbor Seals. They really blend in with the rocks. I call this "What I did for my summer vacation" -- just lay around and blend in with the surroundings. [grin] Note the one seal in the water -- if you can find him!

The third type of seal we saw was the Northern Sea Lion. I have cropped out this one individual from the herd on the rocks. It may not be obvious from the photo, but what really impressed me was the coloring on these beautiful animals. From their dark brown flippers (and wet underbellies) to the very light tan on top, they seemed to display every shade of a rich brown. I just thought they were really beautiful.

We were able to add another bird to our life list. I saw these birds everywhere, but couldn't quiet identify them, so I got some help from one of the crew. These are Pigeon Guillemots. Note the red feet!

And of course, leave it to me to spot the raccoon climbing up the rock face.

Here's a close up.

Now, if you look through all these photos again, you'll notice that there is something missing. Yep, that's right. We did not see a single whale of any kind on our "Whale Watching" tour. Sigh. Well, sometimes that's just the way it goes.

Butchart Gardens

Our first day activity on the island was to visit Butchart Gardens. These gardens had been the personal project of a wealthy Victorian lady to cover up an ugly quarry that was the family's business. Over the years, the gardens grew to become the new family's business.

April is still early spring in Canada, so few of the mid-summer type flowers were blooming, but there were lots and lots of tulips and other bulb-type flowers. Red, of course is a popular color, here matched with white bachelor buttons.

I also found these black tulips to be interesting. As you are probably aware, black flowers do not occur naturally (that I know of). Most "black" flowers are a very dark blue, red or purple. Either way, they catch the attention.

Something you find in a lot of formal gardens are fountains and statuary. Butchart Gardens is no exception. I particularly liked this statue of a boar. It is considered good luck to rub the boar's snout -- that's why it's remained so shiny.

Fish always make a good match of statuary with a fountain. Though I must admit, the boar is still my favorite.

I took this next picture in the original garden designed to cover the quarries. I love the juxtaposition of nature and technology. I call this photo: "Nightshade Unplugged".

Here's a shot of the "Rose Garden". I was a little sad that we were too soon to see all the roses in bloom. The fences around the garden were all "rose fences" with the rose canes trained to follow the fence wires. I'll bet this garden is spectacular in mid-summer.

Here's an overall shot of another of the gardens at Butchart. Hmmm..., I don't remember exactly which garden this is -- it's lovely, though!

Finally, as we were finishing our garden tour, we looked back at the last garden (the Japanese Garden, if I recall correctly) and could see the harbor through a break in the trees. This sudden jolt of real life in the midst of the idyllic gardens really struck me. It seemed to bring about a completeness. I think it also reminded me that the next day we would go whale watching -- something I was really looking forward to! But that's for the next post...

First, an apology

Well, hello. Yes, I'm still alive and I wish to apologize to everyone for taking almost 6 months to continue the blog. I've been struggling with some real motivation issues -- not that it's an excuse, I suppose I've just been lazy. Of all the photos I took on the trip to Canada, I picked about 100 that I want to share. Unfortunately, I'm an average photographer with a lot of help from my photo editor. So I'm looking at about 100 photos that need to be edited to share with you. That may have had a bit of an influence on my motivation. ;-)

So, after being chided by some of you to "get with it" -- I decided that I need to do just that! Fall migration is happening, and we're about to get more birds in the area to photograph, and I really need to get all my trip pictures online first. So following will be another engagement of the Canada trip photos. I won't promise that I'll get them all up right away, but it's a start!

Thanks for your patience!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Trip to Canada -- Ferry ride to Vancouver Island

The next day we took the ferry to Vancouver Island. These ferries are not like the small boats we have around the Gulf Coast -- these are ships! They have multiple decks for vehicles and two for people. The windows all the way across the ferry in the picture are Deck 5, the lower of the "people decks".

This is a picture of one of the British Columbia (BC) ferries entering "the pass".

The pass is a narrow straight with a lot of shoals that ships pass through between the City of Vancouver and Vancouver Island. On both ends of the pass are tight headlands where ships have to turn into and out of the pass to get through.

The portions of our vacation where we were out on the water, were where we saw the most birds. Unfortun- ately, the movement, distance and bright reflections off of the water (even with a polarized filter) were less than ideal conditions for getting good shots. Here is a picture of a juvenile Bald Eagle flying across the pass. I included the entire shot to show the majesty of the scene, and a somewhat blurry close-up of the bird.

We saw several smaller birds, that were difficult to identify (even once the photos had been enlarged!). These birds are probably Pigeon Guillemots (I'll have better shots of them later on).

Another -- less than fabulous shot is a new addition to our life list -- the Common Loon.

Of course we saw lots of seagulls. While we were told that there were 17 different species of Gulls in the area, I was only able to identify two: Glaucous Gulls and Thayer's Gull. I am fairly certain this juvenile gull is a Thayer's. This is probably one of the best bird shots of the trip! Below is a series of shots of an adult Thayer's flying by.

Trip to Canada - Vancouver

We've been home from our trip for about a week. We were both sick when we returned (though thankfully not during the trip!), so it's taken us a while to get around to posting the pictures!

We spent our first day in Vancouver and did almost nothing! We stayed in the hotel and Marc fed seagulls from the hotel room!

We did stay in some pretty nice and architecturally interesting hotels on our trip. The Vancouver Fairmont hotel had some nice Gargoyles on the corner of the building opposite of our room.

So as I said, we were pretty lazy the first day (it was a vacation, ok?). These are the only two pictures I took (I know Marc got more). I promise more pictures to come.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Woodpecker Update

Well, I haven't seen the Pileated again, but I did see a female Red Bellied Wood- pecker, and this time I was able to get a shot!

You can't see the reddish blush that gives the bird it's name, but you can see the white central tail feathers that distinguish this bird from the Yellow Fronted (along with the more red instead of yellow on the head), and the gray atop the head that identifies this as a female.

Signs of Spring

We are well into the Spring season here -- rice has been planted and the preacher is praying for rain!

In our woods, the blackberries are starting to bloom

and in the fields we're seeing Scissor tailed flycatchers ... and not much else!

On the roads, however, we see all the animals who have gotten out along with the cars and trucks and met with a bad end. Yesterday, there was a large dead bird on the road -- it looked like an owl. My guess is a barred owl -- it was basically brown, and I didn't notice any "ears" -- though it's hard to tell when you're driving by.