Three of three

Getting back now to posting about the second trip down to Jordan Lake and the, what, twelve pics that will accompany it? And it was a slow day, but I’m also cheating a little.

Right as I was bundled up to leave, through the back window I heard a red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) calling, obviously quite close. Since I had the camera more-or-less in hand, I tried slipping quietly out the back and looked around carefully, but saw nothing. I was just turning to go back inside when I heard it again, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity – it was clearly within 30 meters. With the help of the second call, I spotted it within a minute, then slowly eased around to obtain clearer views. I needn’t have bothered; the hawk was completely unconcerned with my presence, though granted, I was being slow and quiet, but I was within ten meters and it still wasn’t paying me much attention.

red-shouldered hawk Buteo lineatus perched mellowly in tree off back yard
This is cropped, but not by a hell of a lot, and it occurred to me afterward that I had not seen the huge bullfrog by the backyard pond since before this guy’s appearance; frogs and toads are the principle diet of red-shoulders, and while the bullfrog was typically out at night, had the hawk caught it out during the day, the massive meal that it would have provided may well have provoked the hawk to return. I’ll be checking to see if I ever spot the frog again.

And then I went to the lake. The activity was notably absent, with only one or two osprey making any attempts at fishing, and some very distant eagles passing by. But I do want to show this minor little trait that I caught.

tip of osprey Pandion haliaetus wings just after entering water, showing splash pattern
This is an osprey (Pandion haliaetus) just after hitting the water – all you’re seeing are the ‘wrists’ or wing joints peeking above the water. Clicking on the image will take you to the full-frame of the image, which shows the wide splash pattern and even the arcs of the returning droplet (to the right) – osprey tend to hit the water hard, often arresting their dive with their wings, while eagles prefer to snatch a fish during a low pass without getting more than their feet wet. When they’re not just harassing osprey into dropping their own catches, that is.

osprey Pandion haliaetus perched on snag finishing off a fish
This is not the same osprey, who actually came up empty-taloned after that splash, but another who already had a fish when we arrived (the Inestimable Mr Bugg was along this time.) While deep in the trees quite some distance off, the splash of white that appeared and disappeared at times was visible, if you watched carefully, and so we crept up on it to get a fairly close vantage, while the osprey studiously finished off its fish.

One more, before we move on.

osprey Pandion haliaetus in flight
Just one that cruised over without spotting any fish to provide some action shots, but check the focus – both wingtips are softer, but the head and eyes are sharp. That’s what I’d always aim for, but the camera often isn’t that specific. I’m a little surprised that the depth-of-field wasn’t higher than this, though – might have been fairly close, I don’t recall.

Some time later, as things had been too quiet, a great egret (Ardea alba) took off from a distant spot and cruised over the lake, exhibiting a behavior I’ve never seen from a wader before.

great egret Ardea alba backing over deep water
I knew this was over deep water, and the egret suddenly began backing, like the osprey do, and slowed into a near hover over the surface – you can tell from the reflection roughly how high up it was here.

great egret Ardea alba reaching into water from near-hover
And then, barely moving forward, the egret reached into the water almost negligently and snagged a fish – I was almost unnprepared for this shot, but it came out nice.

great egret Ardea alba dipping toes in water after snagging a fish from a near-hover airborne position
with a flex of its body to help arrest its downward motion, the feet slapped water but the egret was already in motion again with its capture, while I blinked and reflected that I hadn’t even thought they were capable of such a maneuver, something you typically see from birds much smaller and more agile that egrets.

great egret Ardea alba flying off with fish snagged while in flight
And off it went with this smug look on its face, probably thinking I’d been too slow and startled to snag it all; I admit I was pleased to have even seen the stunt, much less captured a decent sequence of it. Bizarre, and I’m left wondering if the egret could have gotten airborne again from water it could not wade within if it had floundered (heh!) the catch and entered the water.

There wasn’t a lot else to see, and we changed to a different location to wait out sunset while seeing what could be found there. Not long after arrival as we explored the lake edge, a great blue heron (Ardea herodias herodias) croaked loudly as it left its position high in the canopy above us, only to fly no more than 20 meters and alight in a treetop again – I failed to see the point, but I was happy to get the shot, given that the light angle was much better for this than anything that might appear over the lake itself.

great blue heron Ardea herodias herodias perched in treetop near sunset
I could have done with a little more light on the face, but hey…

After that things were too quiet and we waited for a sunset that, as usual, performed poorly. That was when I got the spider pics in part two, and otherwise just a few silhouetted birds because we could only see into the west from this new vantage. But I offer a quick illustration.

bald eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus in silhouette showing distinctive profile
This is a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) passing, able to be identified by the silhouette if you look for a couple of telling details. Big of course, but with a more prominent head and neck than the similar-sized vultures. Wings held flat, though that’s not too evident here, with a slow beat pattern. But most especially the beak, that huge Durante-schnozz that nothing but the eagles have. Now a comparison.

osprey Pandion haliaetus in silhouette showing identifying characteristics
This is an osprey, smaller of course but this can be hard to tell from any distance at all. The wings will also be held flat in a glide, though they tend to glide less often and so the faster wingbeat will be displayed. But the telltale again is the beak, nothing at all like the eagle’s. The wingbeat is comparable to a crow, as is the size, but crows almost never glide or soar and their wingbeat is usually constant – and of course they have a straight, thick beak. But knowing these traits will help identify what you’re seeing even a great distance.

And finally,

pair of adult bald eagles Haliaeetus leucocephalus soaring off together into the sunset, kinda
Once again, we saw a pair of adult bald eagles soar off together right around sunset, heading in the same direction as before; I don’t pretend to know why this is, especially when there is often no sign of either earlier in the afternoon, and they don’t always remain together as they cross the lake in a southwesterly direction. But we’ve seen it three or four times now, so I’m going to call it a habit. And it makes for a nice closing image, even when the sky could easily have been better, had it made the effort.

Planning produces failure

Oh yes, oh yes, another holiday has come around, and hopefully you are totally unprepared for this one, because it’s Fuck Foresight Day, the day when we discover (hopefully, except, well, you know what I mean) that we didn’t think about consequences when we should’ve. If you’re on top of things running behind like you should be, you have no plans to celebrate this and are caught totally off guard: no gas in the car right before you have to run out in a hurry, discovering that that really was the last roll of toilet paper, guests coming over with no clean dishes in the house (and if you’re the type to have special dishes for guests, you’re completely out of line with the day, you commie.) It needs to be noted that this holiday has no fixed schedule and is not determined in advance – no one is even sure who’s responsible for it.

In proper manner, I went out this morning and shot 87 frames before realizing that today is going to be a little busy, and the next few days may add a buttload of pics to the sorting folder – which already has 1800+ photos awaiting my attention. Plus another post, that is not this one. I shouldn’t even be typing this, so go me.

Anyway, while I’m here, I’ll compound the error and really get into the spirit of things. It’s been a little while since I’ve been checking out the neighborhood pond, and with clear skies following two days of dreck from Tropical Storm Ophelia, I figured I’d see what might show itself. There wasn’t much – except a hugely cooperative green heron (Butorides virescens.)

green heron Butorides virescens perched on snag
Helpfully, this little guy jumped up onto the branches here from its spot down on the weeds on the water, where it may have remained unnoticed by me because of the bank dropoff there. This was about ten meters off, which is nice, so I froze except for my shutter finger and began firing off frames, This was not the notably undersized green heron that I’d spotted there before, which I was hoping to find so naturally it wasn’t going to happen today. But this heron was helpful enough to turn its head for different profiles and lighting during this, and I regretted not having anything to reward it with – gotta start carrying a pocketful of minnows.

green heron Butorides virescens yawning
The heron advanced up the branch a little, obscuring its position slightly, but was kind enough to allow me to take a few steps for a better vantage – slowly, casually – without getting spooked. I wasn’t in ideal position to capture this yawn, but you gotta love the tongue.

green heron Butorides virescens showing lensing hotspot alongside eye
I’ve pointed this out before, but it’s been a while so it’s okay. Just note the bright spot to the lower right of the eye here, where the eye itself, or what we think of it anyway, is in shadow, but the convex curve of the cornea catches the light from the side and focuses it onto the face of the heron, a nice indication of how far the eyes stick out beyond the skull, While I imagine light like this affects vision to some extent – similar conditions decrease contrast in the camera at least – such ocular anatomy allows the heron a very wide field of view, even down underneath its chin; sneaking up on one is virtually impossible, and I imagine the fish find it hard to escape too. I have anouther image from the session that illustrates this even better.

green heron Butorides virescens seen from rear showing eye curvature
Not done with being cooperative, the heron popped down from its branch onto the shore, even closer to me than before – this didn’t seem to make sense, but perhaps it was trying to get back down to its hunting area in the lake weeds. Still, we get a nice look at the momentarily raised crest and the eye from behind now, where we can actually see the pupil twice – straight through, and distorted in the cornea. Like I said, cooperative.

Anyway, enjoy the holiday, and by that I mean, make disgusted noises while you kick yourself, but enjoy doing that.

Tripod holes 39

five baby American alligators Alligator Mississippiensis clustered together on log alongside Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk, Everglades, Florida
N 25°56’36.64″ W 81°28’12.33″ Google Earth location

There was no question that this one was going to enter the lineup, and I purposefully stalled it to appear today, within two days of its 24th anniversary. This is on slide film so I only have the date developed, but I remember this trip fairly well and know I was further north on this date, because reasons – I just can’t recall if I made it down here the next day or the day after that, but no matter. The location also isn’t precise, because I’m not sure exactly how far along the path I was, but it’s still close enough to get you there, and there remains a reasonable chance that you could see the same thing when you go, because this is Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk in the Everglades, Florida, and there are always alligators there. You cannot imagine the delight that I felt when I came across these guys, small enough to know that they hatched that season, perhaps only days previously, and right alongside the path as the verge dipped into the channel alongside. Which meant that I (and everyone else watching in fascination) were within easy reach of the mother alligator, who was almost certainly very close by yet remained completely unseen. This was not reassuring in itself, because the thicket of foliage could have concealed her not five meters away, and I shot all of my frames with the long lens (the Sigma 170-500mm, at that time) on a tripod from a respectable distance, ready to abandon it as a slight barrier if mama emerged looking for trouble. Meanwhile, the baby American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) watched us warily, clambering a little clumsily among the logs and tussocks, and wurfed like newborn puppies, a sound that I did not initially attribute to them but connected shortly thereafter, to my fascination – I did not possess any video capability at that time, or believe me you’d be hearing it for yourself right now.

I do not recall whether I had this as a specific stop along my way or simply happened across it while cutting through the Everglades on Tamiami Trail (Rt 41,) but I certainly did not anticipate this find. I’ve been back twice since and did not see any newborns, though I’ve always spotted adults and found young juveniles many kilometers further on – you’ll see alligators if you want to, without a lot of effort.

I think this trip was something like ten days long and covered numerous locations in Florida, and on returning I found that my chosen slide-processing lab was still trying to get established in its new location. I eventually dropped 24 rolls of slide film with a different lab, who returned the finished slides to me with a note that read, “These pics are gorgeous!” They managed to retain my business with that one…

Two of three

No, I didn’t go out to the lake for more photos, and it sure isn’t happening today as the side effects from Tropical Storm Ophelia have produced rain for about sixteen hours straight. I just realized that some of the photos from that last outing didn’t really fit in with the others (of which there are still plenty,) so I broke them off. Someone once told me raptors and arachnids don’t mix, and I’ve always remembered that sage advice. Who said it, I haven’t the faintest…

As I was walking along the lakeshore, there was lots of movement from the sand right near the water’s edge, quick but tiny – so small I had a hard time making out what they were from a standing position. Pausing and looking carefully, I eventually determined that some of them, at least, were tiny spiders, and I took a moment to snag a few frames.

minuscule wolf spider Lycosidae on wet sand along lake edge
I’m calling this a wolf spider (Lycosidae,) but that’s based largely on the body structure because I couldn’t see the eyes well enough – I doubt the overall leg spread topped six millimeters. I wasn’t inclined to get out the macro lens and get wet scrambling around on my hands and knees for the shot, plus I was still watching for raptors, so this was with the 150-600mm; I had to back off a little to get into the short focus range of 2.5 meters. Not bad for that, really.

A little later on, I’d taken a seat on a small rise, still sandy but dry, and noticed another spider, about twice the size, scampering along near me with her egg sac. This time I went ahead and affixed the Mamiya 80mm macro, but was shooting handheld without supplemental lighting.

still small wolf spider Lycosidae with attached egg sac
Several of the spider species carry around their egg sacs attached to their spinnerets – this one might have been 12 mm or so in spread, so I’m trying to imagine how small the spiderlings are when hatched. With that eye pattern, I’m fairly confident this is a wolf spider, and they typically carry their young around on their abdomens for a while after hatching, though without strong magnification I’d never know it. Maybe I should plan a session looking for things like this…

stacked image of tiny wolf spider Lycosidae with attached egg sac
Since I was shooting in available light and it was getting on towards sunset, this was wide open at f4, and is actually a ‘stack’ of two frames: one had the abdomen sharp, one the cephalothorax. Where would we be without Photoshop, or in this case, GIMP? Well, shooting with the macro flash unit at f16 and doing an even better job, really.

And finally,

waxing crescent moon with 'trailing' clouds
I knew the moon would be visible, and eventually located it among the scattered clouds. I waited for some to pass, and snapped this at the right moment, giving me the impression of a cannonball in flight. And now you can’t unsee that either.

One of two (or maybe more)

These are images from the first of two visits to Jordan Lake this week, and I’m not absolutely sure there won’t be a third before I finish the post for the second, but even if not, there are a serious number of pics. So let’s get started.

osprey Pandion haliaetus wheeling overhead showing entire underside
These are from Monday, which was more active yet still not as much as I’d hoped – I don’t expect anything to beat this day in June but it would be nice. And like the osprey (Pandion haliaetus) above, occasionally one of the birds out there would provide a nice pose.

I’m still after a good shot of the point of entry for a diving osprey, which remains difficult. I had made a minor change to the autofocus system, assigning a ‘lock’ function to one of the buttons on the back right under my thumb, so when I saw a bird starting to dive, I could lock autofocus and prevent it from hunting or grabbing the background horizon as the bird was about to hit the water. As yet, I have not been able to use it, because the autofocus has to be correct first before I can, and so far it’s been hunting just as I was trying to track the osprey’s descent. This might be partially my fault, because I still have to shift my grip slightly to hit the button and it may be causing my aim to wander slightly – this could be enough given the distance of the birds and thus the small AF target, but generally things are happening fast at that point and I’m not really concentrating on evaluating technique.

Also not helping is exposure compensation, to some degree illustrated below:

osprey Pandion haliaetus just before entering water after a fish
You see, I have some over-exposure dialed in for birds against the bright sky, which works well for images like that at top, because the brightness of the sky (and how little of the frame the birds take – that one’s significantly cropped) would cause the exposure functions in the camera to darken things down to ‘average,’ middle-tones, so I over-expose to keep things at the proper brightness – generally 2/3 to one full stop. But then, as the bird crosses the horizon and has a much darker background, this function is making things too bright and actually slowing down the shutter speed. That’s probably not the case here, as we’re about to see – it’s probably just focus wandering.

osprey Pandion haliaetus immediately after splashing down
Because this is a split-second later, same background conditions, and this time the focus locked on just fine and the action is adequately frozen. Still trying to, not perfect this, but at least improve it significantly. Boosting the ISO may help, but there’s a balance point between speed and quality, and I’m playing with that too. I was all ready to do some experiments the following day, and of course then the birds were pretty much not hunting at all.

It was a windy day, making the lake surface choppy but providing plenty of thermals for the raptors to glide within, and the vultures were taking full advantage of it, even though I wasn’t paying much attention to them. But I did watch one approach a perched osprey in the distance – and so did the osprey.

turkey vulture Cathartes aura approaching osprey Pandion haliaetus perched in dead tree
As close as they appear here, it’s a line-of-sight kind of thing and the vulture is a lot farther from the osprey than that. Vultures aren’t too territorial and I’ve never seen or even heard of one harassing anything else (that was alive, anyway,) but the osprey appeared none too sure of that as it approached.

turkey vulture Cathartes aura circling around and landing behind osprey Pandion haliaetus perched in dead tree
But the vulture, used to perching in entire flocks, just wanted a spot of its own in the inviting tree, and the osprey wasn’t fazed by that, once the vulture had taken its perch. This was a turkey vulture (Cathartes aura,) though the black vultures were also quite present that day.

A little later on, the osprey had left and more of the vultures were taking up the tree. I just liked the moment in time captured here:

trio of turkey vultures Cathartes aura in various locations on dead tree
I looked closely at the original frames, and there’s just enough resolution to make out the red heads, making these all turkey vultures. However, in hanging out and waiting, I’d taken a seat on the sand of the lakeshore not too far away from the decimated carcass of a large fish, and my stillness and the overhanging shade tree convinced a black vulture (Coragyps atratus) that I wasn’t around, and it cruised in to land nearby. It saw me at the last second, because I was raising the lens to track it, but this wasn’t enough to discourage the bird and it simply veered off a little and landed farther away.

black vulture Coragyps atratus trying to determine if the photographer poses a threat
It had landed perhaps 15-18 meters off and eyed me warily, but there was carrion there, and it didn’t take long for the large bird to start sidling closer, not hopping as they often do – this required a little more caution, so it stalked carefully, but not too slowly really.

black vulture Coragyps atratus portrait against lake
I still had compensation dialed in for shots against the sky, so this was a little bright and has been darkened slightly in post, which makes the lake look that way. But even the sound of the shutter wasn’t deterring the vulture.

black vulture Coragyps atratus working on carcass of dead fish on lakeshore
Seriously, there wasn’t enough left of the fish to make a decent snack, but the vulture wasn’t absolutely sure of that. This was taking place not ten meters away from where I sat, yet the bird wasn’t overly concerned. Soon, about five more vultures saw the activity and came swooping in, but as I raised the camera they all said, “What, are you nuts?” (or reactions to that effect) and veered off, only one landing much further off before deciding it wasn’t worth it and taking off again. My model here soon followed, and as I type this, I realize that it should have become a Profiles of Nature. Ah well – I have enough birds in those anyway.

There were also at least five bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) present, though mostly at great distances, just close enough to make out age-specific markings but little else. One came reasonably close for a portrait, revealing as it did so how old it was.

third year bald eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus wheeling overhead
The stripes along the face are indicative: this is a third year juvenile, and will gain its adult plumage next year. I’m not sure that I had an example of the third year plumage this clear, but I do now at least.

At least one pair of adults were cruising past in the distance at one point, and individual adults later on, but I couldn’t say for sure whether these were the same ones or not – they did at least seem to prefer the same spot, well down the lake from me. But then, just a tad closer, another pair started wheeling around close together – very close, at times, and then they started ‘interacting.’ The following animated gif (pronounced, “IN-kor-EKT-lee“) is a sequence of seven consecutive frames shot within two seconds as I watched.

animated gif of two juvenile bald eagles Haliaeetus leucocephalus, likely second-year, harassing one another
The potshots, of which there were several, were unmistakable, but at no point did either veer off and change direction or anything; since I’ve seen this before, I’m inclined to say this is play behavior among siblings, practice for the real actions of harassing other birds like osprey for their fish, one of the ways eagles get their food. We’ll illustrate these two a little better.

full-frame view of two juvenile bald eagles Haliaeetus leucocephalus interacting in distance
This is one example of the frames I was capturing, uncropped to give you an idea of the distance involved and my view through the camera – yes, this is at 600mm, so they weren’t much more than specks to the naked eye, difficult to determine that they were indeed eagles (mostly by the wings held flat while gliding, and the slower speed of their flapping pattern when they weren’t.) Now we’ll look at the same frame a bit tighter.

pair of juvenile bald eagles Haliaeetus leucocephalus, probably second-year, demonstrating harassing behavior
The one on the left is clearly a second-year juvenile, but the one on the right might be a first-year; speckling on the head and underwings may or may not be present. Still, since it didn’t try to flee under this harassment but continued on its path, I’m leaning towards these being siblings just goofing on one another.

Without more action to be seen, I eventually wrapped it up and headed home. But then a bit later on as I was doing yardwork, I spotted another raptor sitting in a tree about a hundred meters off, grabbing the camera and long lens again and slowly stalking it. The stealth turned out to be unnecessary, since the hawk wasn’t paying the least attention to me or the various neighbors who marched by directly under it.

juvenile Cooper's hawk Accipiter cooperii perched nonchalantly on dead branch
I was initially identifying this as a juvenile red-tailed hawk, partially because I’d heard one call only a few minutes before, but on closer look I’m pegging this as a juvenile Cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooperii) instead – the red-tail’s belly band is missing. It was big enough for a red-tail and acting like one – normally the accipiters are quite shy and avoid people quickly, and this one couldn’t have cared less not only that I was standing right underneath it, but conversing with neighbors as I was doing so (this is never my doing; I remain silent when stalking critters, but too many other people fail to understand this concept, and I’m polite enough not to ignore them or glare at them.) Anyway, if you want to understand my identification uncertainty, take a look at the photos for juvenile Cooper’s hawks, and then sharp-shinned hawks, and finally red-tailed hawks.

That was only part one. More on the way.

Coupla portraits

Just a pair of portrait perspectives taken yesterday – nothing deep or meaningful.

hummingbird clearwing moth Hemaris thysbe resting on butterfly bush Buddleja davidii
Late yesterday morning I was surprised to find a hummingbird clearwing moth (Hemaris thysbe) remaining perched on the blossoms of one of the butterfly bushes (which I keep forgetting are now Buddleja davidii, and not Buddleia – quite an annoying change, to be honest.) While I’ve actually never seen either Hemaris species holding still at all, I know they must alight to sleep and it got kind of chilly that previous night, but it was also late enough (with enough full sun) that the moth should have been well-awake and warm by that point. It remained in place long enough for several close portraits and detail shots, and even while I was removing old, dead blossom clusters, but then was gone when I turned back during this task. I’m glad it stayed long enough at least.

And then, much later:

pair of juvenile green treefrogs Dryophytes cinereus perched on empty planter
A pair of tiny juvenile green treefrogs (Dryophytes cinereus) were hanging out together on a planter on the front walk in the evening, and very nicely got together in the frame as I was shooting. From the size difference, I would say that they were different broods, but the largest (in the back) wasn’t even half adult size – nothing handy for scale, though the planter wall itself is only 10mm thick, if that helps. Which means the foreground one could perch comfortably on your thumb.

Amusingly, I rotated the planter gently to try and achieve a head-on view of both, but they remained oriented the same way, turning as the pot did to keep facing in their original directions. It’s counter to expectations, because they were both sitting there unmoving without any apparent focus, but they both definitely wanted to be facing that way. Pardon me.

Tripod holes 38

boat on small inlet/bay on Ocracoke Island, NC
N 35° 8’35.12″ W 75°53’9.32″ Google Earth location

Ocracoke Island, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, is an interesting place, and on several visits I saw this exact same tableau – I couldn’t tell you exactly when this particular image was taken, but sometime in the early nineties is close enough. There was something evocative about it to me, and when you go to the aerial view you’ll start to get an impression why. First off, Ocracoke is a very narrow island, so you can call this a creek if you like, or an inlet, or a bay, but it’s safe to say the length of this body of water isn’t significant in any way. Moreover, there are no houses or structures of any kind in the area, and barely a path to this mooring spot without even a dock, basically in the middle of nowhere on an island that’s 85% undeveloped and bare. It just seems odd that there was always a boat there, and if you use the Google Earth program to roll back the dates, you can see that it’s there about half of the time, still.

To me, it gives some idea of the atmosphere of the island, which is a tourist destination yet brings to mind a seaside fishing village from a century ago in many ways. Sure, there are roads and hotels and souvenir shops, mostly around the little harbor, but there’s also someone’s boat tied up in the middle of a salt marsh far from any indication of owned property. Hopefully, the image is carrying the laid back impression that I always got while visiting.

Which has, woo, been a while. I was thinking that I hadn’t been down there since I moved back into the state, but I checked my image stock; I’d been back there with Jim Kramer in 2006, so it’s only been 17 years since my last visit. I gotta stop doing things like this – I don’t need the reminders of how time is passing…

This evening, even fartsier

Again, sunset looked promising, so to the neighborhood pond I went. Again, sunset didn’t live up to its promise, so I chased a few other pics while there.

Notably, the bats were active, and while I had only the 18-135, I got a couple of frames that worked. You get to decide which crop works best for this one, though – vertical?

unidentified bat against faint sunset colors
Or, horizontal?

unidentified bat against faint sunset colors
I was just winging it (heh!), not expecting to get too much with the shorter reach of the lens, the velocity of the subject, and the fading light, but I was pleased to pull a little wing detail out of a few frames. This is nearly full-resolution:

unidentified bat against almost no sunset color
Don’t ask me for the species, because I could see no color any better than this, plus I was unable to even judge size/distance. I did see a brief dogfight while there, two bats winding around so close together they overlapped in multiple frames, but what that was all about I can’t say, because I’m a discreet neighbor.

Plus, I chased a couple of other compositions while I ensured that the sky would get no less boring.

lone American sweetgum Liquidamber styraciflua leaf on water with reflections of nearby trees
Getting a sharp frame of this took some playing around, because the light was disappearing, but by intentionally underexposing I was able to get this. What I like about it is, the leaf is totally isolated on the water – the thick ‘stem’ is simply a reflection of a branch, but it’s easy to escape notice.

And finally,

unidentified dragonfly on water reeds against faint sunset reflections
As the color was fading from the clouds, I had to crouch and move around a bit to put it behind the dragonfly, but at least it’s more than acceptably sharp. For ten minutes of playing around all told, it works for me.

No chimping!

Isn’t that what Mama Celeste always said? Something like that, anyway. And you have to be a certain age to even have the faintest clue what I’m talking about…

I went down to Jordan lake today, for the first time in weeks, because really, it’s been too hot to do so otherwise. It was plenty hot today, but not quite “pass out after 30 minutes” hot. I didn’t stay too long, because “not quite,” plus there wasn’t a whole lot of activity, but I did get a few images anyway.

Here’s the story. Not too long after picking a vantage spot, because I’d already seen some osprey (Pandion haliaetus,) I witnessed one in the distance do a completely vertical dive, flare out at the last second, and crash into the water – my tracking, however, was off and I missed the action. Then I watched the bird attempt to climb back out again.

osprey Pandion haliaetus trying to climb out of water with large fish
This was the first attempt, but it never got fully airborne and settled back into the water after a few seconds, which gave me the distinct clue that the fish it had captured was quite heavy for the bird.

osprey Pandion haliaetus resting before second attempt to climb out with large fish
It took better than 30 seconds just sitting in the water, the longest I’d ever seen one treading water after a capture, before it made another attempt to climb out.

osprey Pandion haliaetus finally getting airborne with large fish
Which it did manage, but it took a running start, and the osprey covered at least six meters horizontally before managing to get the fish clear of the water. This image, not the clearest I’ve shot, shows why though: the fish was far too close to weighing what the osprey did (especially since birds have hollow bones and are much lighter than they appear, while fish tend to be pretty dense – no judgment though.)

But luck was with me, in that the osprey turned towards me rather than away as it circled back towards a perch.

osprey Pandion haliaetus approaching photographer with large fish
I’m more than happy with this shot, but it gets even better.

osprey Pandion haliaetus doing water-removal shimmy while approaching photographer with large fish
This was as the osprey had finally gotten enough altitude to feel safe with the maneuver, and did its typical hard shake to rid itself of excess water, which always causes a dip in height. But even this isn’t enough – we have to go in tighter on the same frame.

cropped version of previous shimmy pic
Yeah, I approve. Feel free to tell me what the fish is if you like.

And then the mistake. I watched as the osprey continued circling and eventually got high enough, with obvious effort, to take a perch with the fish, well over a hundred meters distant so my view wasn’t all that great. Here I broke my cardinal rule, which is, “No chimping,” this referring to looking at the images on the LCD of the camera. There are two main reasons: one, that the tiny little preview won’t tell you anything crucial about the image, and two, when you’re doing that you’re not watching for more subjects or further developments. I wanted to see if the photos above passed muster while things seemed quiet, and I paid the price. Because I heard the alarm calls of an osprey and looked up too late to find, right out in front of me again, an osprey and a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in the air rather close together, with a splash in the water underneath. Apparently the eagle, from a perch I hadn’t discovered, had popped out to steal the fish from the osprey, who took off with it out over the water before abandoning it. Osprey are faster and more maneuverable than eagles, but not while burdened so, and eagles are lazy. However, the eagle missed the fish dropping and circled around without even dipping down towards the water, at least giving me a few decent frames.

newly adult bald eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus with mottled plumage
The mottling visible on the head and tail, and under the wings, tells me the eagle is just four years old, molting out of its third year plumage into adult coloration. Nice enough shot for me, but I should have captured the harassment action, in addition to this, and missed it. Lesson learned, the hard way.

A little later on, I witnessed the same eagle (discerned by the coloration) and an osprey out over the water again, only the osprey had no fish – I’d been watching close enough to know that no captures were made in the area. It might have been the eagle being territorial, but we’re well past nesting season and the area was rife with ospreys, so I suspect the eagle thought the osprey might have had a fish and was giving chase, breaking it off just as I was trying to focus on both of them. But almost negligently, it turned back towards shore, then dipped quickly and snagged its own fish almost as an afterthought.

newly adult bald eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus heading off with fish
See! You can catch your own, you lazy sod. I’ll leave commentary on this being our national symbol to others.

Things quieted down a bit following that, and after sitting out there for a while and seeing nothing else happening, plus the sweat running down my spine, I wrapped things up for the afternoon, but not before being a little fartsy with a perched osprey and a commercial airliner climbing out high overhead. Plus those clouds made me suspect the weather might turn uglier before too much longer. Still, this is okay for returning to the lake for the first time since late July.

commercial airliner cruising out high over perched osprey Pandion haliaetus

You know I’m good for it

Two follow-ups for this post, both of which I came across early this morning. The first is frivolous yet still formed this trivial frustration to me for, um, a while. I mentioned in a previous post that there was this distinctive theme music to Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, one of the first TV programs that revolved around naturalism and wildlife, and you are obligated by law to give this entire name because they always did – it was also among the first programs wholly sponsored by a single contributor, an insurance company, and they made sure you knew it. The host would resort to these incredibly contrived segues into a commercial, one of the most memorable traits of the show. The other, that everyone who watched it remembers, is that the host, Marlin Perkins, this soft-spoken and urbane gentleman always in a suit and tie, would display the tame and innocuous critters in a studio setting, and then pass the reins over to Jim Fowler, the younger sidekick who did most of the field work and would routinely get his ass kicked wrestling with anacondas and running from angry giraffes. Yes, this was absolutely the genesis of Crocodile Hunter some decades later, except not as unbearably smarmy or contrived.

Anyway, the point I made in that earlier post was that the show had this specific theme music that I could not find anywhere – my guess is that they did not secure the rights to it for subsequent home video release and switched to the closing or secondary theme or something. Stumbling across that very post again last night, I got motivated to search again, and like before, I was only turning up this other, super-mellow version – this was getting so bad that I was actually doubting my memory (which, granted, came from when I was less than 9 years old so, you know, decades ago,) when suddenly I located it! This was both a completion of this ludicrous task set for myself many years ago, and vindication that I’m not completely senile yet. I present to you the theme that I always remembered (shortened a bit here):

Theme from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom

I had toyed with the idea of getting out the MIDI keyboard and reproducing it from memory, and now I wish I’d done so, because it would have been interesting to compare the two and see how close I’d come.

The other follow-up is a lot more recent and far less self-centered. Just over a month ago I posted about spittleblower David Grusch’s testimony that the US government and/or military had evidence of crashed extra-terrestrials – according to vague and unnamed sources and all that typical horseshit. But a few days back Brian Dunning at Skeptoid tackled this same testimony, only with a hell of a lot more effort and research involved. Dunning was even more disparaging that I was about Grusch bringing up Roswell, but more specifically, he tracked down the origins of another of Grusch’s claims, which turned out to be… less than stellar, shall we say? Dunning also revealed that Grusch was significantly less ‘security-minded’ in interviews several weeks before the congressional hearing, as well as his close ties with the same ol’ UFO blowhards that keep appearing again and again with the same ol’ stories and the same ol’ utter lack of anything the slightest bit substantial. Long story short: don’t invest in those quantum-drive hovercars juuussst yet…

[Among those that look into UFO/UAP reports critically, there are a lot of red flags: Roswell, as mentioned, and all of the names Dunning relates as well as Leslie Kean, Billy Meier, Whitley Strieber, Bob Lazar, and Betty Hill; Majestic/MJ-12; To The Stars Academy; Skinwalker Ranch; and plenty of others. While I would never recommend simply dismissing anything out of hand, the frequency that these people and items have been tied to failed promises and proven bunk is telling all by itself, and association with or referral to any of them is simply bad news. Skeptoid had covered a lot of these, and so has Bad UFOs.]

Okay, now back to video editing…

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