Sorting finds n+3

Once again, after a long session of sorting photos from the past few weeks, I have a collection of images not previously featured, all trivial (because I feature the good ones back when I unload them.) Well, except for this one:

milkweed seeds in misty conditions
I’m not sure how I missed this one when I did the initial fall colors post, but here it is now. This is a tighter crop than the original, and not too shabby for failing to use the macro lens.

great egret Ardea alba from behindThis one’s silly, but I already said that. You’re seeing the full frame to the right as the egret looked straight away from me eliminating the previous profile, and that really was enough to discard it, but I examine all images for critical sharpness at full resolution and automatically clicked on this one to check it. At full res, it revealed a small detail that I thought should be shown, and it only appears here because I’ve already discarded the image. I also didn’t want to take up any more space than necessary (which means that I shouldn’t even be posting this, but there’s necessary and there’s necessary,) so the small, column-right position means I have a bunch of space to take up in column-left. It’s not an exact science because screen resolutions and browser widths are all different, so I can only go on my settings for that and others likely vary. Phones are an entirely different matter, but no one’s reading all this on their phone anyway. I had a lot of images to go through this time, because I hadn’t cleared the Sort folder before my brother visited and we checked out several places to explore while he was here, having more time than originally intended – long story, that I’ll only go into here if I still need to take up even more space, but I’m starting to think that I’ve filibustered enough. How’s our space looking? Good? Then we’ll proceed…

great egret Ardea alba from rear showing eyesOh, boy, here we go again…

This is full resolution, and I draw your attention to the sides of the head, where you can see the eyes from here, and yes, for many birds this is enough to give them peripheral vision right around behind them, a full 360° horizontally at least, and knowing the egrets and herons, almost vertically as well – the shape of the skull provides a ridge that helps shield their eyes from the sun above, so there’s probably a blind spot straight up. Meanwhile, think of the shape of a catfish, and ponder how a bird like this manages to swallow one whole, through that beak and down that neck. It’s crazy, right? I’d say it was a freaking clown-car gullet, but almost no one gets such references anymore, for which we can be thankful, so I’ll just use the concept of a TARDIS instead. Oh, not into science fiction? Should I say something about women’s purses, or does that make me sexist in some manner? Whatever – I wouldn’t dream of depriving someone of their pop-psy superiority…

Moving on…

female mallard Anas platyrhynchos almost hidden behind leaves during pan
I was tracking this mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) as it came in to land, and still snapped a frame as it flew behind some bushes. Despite the heavy lateral motion blur from the panning, the bird is defined enough to be recognizable under all that. Still, I was taking a chance that I knew was unlikely to come out.

great blue heron Ardea herodias semi-obscured behind foliage
I like this one because even I can take a second looking at the frame to determine what I was trying to capture – and then that eye pops out. Similar conditions to the previous pic only much slower, I was tracking the great blue heron (Ardea herodias) as it passed momentarily in sight through gaps in the foliage, trying to maintain focus on the bird as well as nailing my timing. Got one, not the other.

wildly defocused seeds against sky
This was too trippy to pass up. As I was trying to get some photos of the blackberry lily seeds against the sky, the camera, for reasons completely indeterminable, started wandering focus to absolutely nothing just as I tripped the shutter – weird because the frames on either side were just fine. Part of this effect comes from the aspherical nature of the 18-135, which kinda of doubles the image in certain narrow circumstances. But you can understand why I called this one, “FearAndLoathing.”

That’s all for now, until the next big sort reveals even more nonsense. I know you can’t wait.

I was there…

… when the aliens landed.

I was out pretty late the other night, after a day of rain and drizzle, and the humidity and temperature made it just this side of fog. I drove past a scene and thought, I really need to come back and capture this, and so on returning home, I snagged the camera bag and tripod and went back out again. It helped that this was about a kilometer from the house.

lot lights shining through trees and mist at night
It was the mist in the air that made it work, but the fall colors helped a little. The original had a distinct greenish cast to it, so this version has been tweaked more neutral.

Almost as soon as I’d set the tripod up, right after I’d gotten the exposure levels in the right range, it started raining again and appeared to be in earnest, so I had to pack it all up – literally, ninety seconds of shooting time. Ah well.

No, it’s only some wastefully bright parking-lot lights up there, dog only knows why they’d be needed – you can see that I hid another down low behind the trunk of the central tree. Given more time to prepare and an assistant, I could have had some fun with creepy silhouettes in there, especially since this was only hours after Halloween, but not this time around. Maybe later on.

Things may go a little quiet around here shortly, as I get up to my ass in a new project, but there remain many frames that wait to be posted, so I’ll try to stay on top of them. Just you wait.

Visibly different, part 44

ripples on neuse River
Back in 1998, I switched jobs, necessitating a move into Raleigh, which also necessitated finding new natural areas to explore and chase snakes within. In short order, I found the Falls of the Neuse area, where Falls Lake emptied into the beginning of the Neuse River, seen (in part) above. Many years later I recalled the discovery of this spot as occurring some weeks or months after making the move – except that this frame on negative film occurs on the same roll as images from the previous place that I’d lived. Even then, film didn’t sit in the camera for weeks or months at a time, especially since I was shooting with the then-new Canon Elan IIe rig – I blew through film pretty quickly. There are no dates involved except for the same roll straddling the move, which occurred in the summer of ’98, and that’s close enough. But so much for my memory of the events; I apparently researched likely spots and quickly visited this one, and would do so regularly for the entire time that I lived there, as well as returning soon after I moved back into the state in 2004. That’s a long story that I’m not going to bother with here.

It’s not a good shot even by my standards at the time – I was just noodling around as I explored, not even bothering with the tripod, which I recall as being some basic offering from Ritz Camera or somesuch – I bought my first real tripod, a Bogen, while living in Raleigh, and that one still does duty as my cut-down macro tripod now. All that said, we jump ahead to, oh, a bit over a week ago.

ripples on Neuse River, slower exposure
Since my brother wanted to do some nature exploring while he was here, we went down to the Falls of the Neuse area and poked around – more of those images will be coming along. On several past visits, I’d shot a few frames trying to determine exactly where a particular slide that I liked had been taken – I recalled the general area but have never matched up the distinctive rocks. But, this frame seems to match up to the upper half of the one above pretty closely, if you look at the shape of those rocks as defined by the ripples. The tree is gone of course, but that’s not surprising – it was dead already in 1998, and the spillway out of the lake, a few hundred meters from here, is occasionally opened wide to control the lake level; I’ve seen this river two meters deeper than this, so the trunk being swept away in 24 years is actually pretty likely. I tried overlaying the images and they’re not a perfect match, though shooting angle and focal length would both introduce shifts in relative position, so that’s not a deal-breaker, and the rest of the details are so damn close that I think I’ve found a match. Moreover, despite the variation in water levels that’s common, it would appear that it was almost identical between the two shots – within a few centimeters of depth.

Differences? Well, besides the tree, there’s only the time of day throwing different light (we were there in mid afternoon this past trip, and I likely was working in the morning for the first frame.) The time exposure showing smoother ripples is the biggest difference, which I would credit to a tripod for the latter if I’d used one – instead, I counted on the stabilized 18-135 lens and held as still as possible for the 1/6 second shutter speed. Focal length is clearly different: EXIF info on the later frame shows 42mm, equivalent to about 67mm for the film camera, while examining the foreground rocks and leaves for the upper frame indicates that I was shooting wide, because you can see the bottom of the frame is almost looking down, typical of wide-angle curvature. I had a 28-105mm lens then so this was likely taken at 28mm. The rock at top right is more exposed, but that’s just vegetation anyway. Other than that, this particular area doesn’t look too changed at all, and from being there, I can tell you that it really hasn’t – a few trees have fallen, probably more sprung up, but the pools and paths and so on are largely the same. I just found it cool that I shot almost the same frame, a quarter-century apart, without even intending to.

Obligatory colors

autumn colors on American sweetgum Liquidambar styraciflua
I’m not quite going to make a post for each day of October with this, though it comes close, plus I still have plenty of photos to unload, but I’ll set a record for the year of uploaded images. Makes up for September being so slow at least. So let’s take a look at the autumn colors captured so far, with the idea that I may still have some more soon.

Above, the American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) is one of the better native performers in the fall color department – most of the other colorful species that I’ve seen have been landscaped trees, not appearing in any natural settings. This was at the edge of Jordan Lake and not too far along in color advancement, but it’s when I had the chance to capture it.

The other morning it was foggy, and I ventured down to Mason Farm Biological Reserve because that’s the best place within an easy drive to use such conditions, but the fog was weak and mostly just looking overcast by the time I got down there. Nonetheless, I did a comparison shot of a previous fog subject while there.

persimmon tree, possibly American persimmon Diospyros virginiana in slightly foggy condition
In doing this, I discovered that this tree was actually a persimmon, having caught it retaining fruit while the leaves had all been shed – most likely an American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) but I wasn’t close enough to confirm any details. I do know that the mammals in the area scarf down the fruit as soon as it drops, and even found what was likely coyote scat laden with persimmon seeds on the trail.

Strangely missing were the spiderwebs; normally such conditions reveal hundreds of webs everywhere, but they were quite sparse this time, and I can’t imagine why, but it greatly reduced my opportunities for mist shots. I settled for a bursting milkweed pod instead.

opening seed pod of milkweed Asclepias
There are a lot of varieties of milkweed and I couldn’t begin to pin this one down, so settle for genus Asclepias. Plus some unidentified ladder-like pods on a clinging vine. I only got a bare hint of the mist on this and other attempts just weren’t sharp, partially due to slow shutter speeds from the low light, partially due to leaving the damn macro lens sitting on my desk the night before – dumbass. But I’ll point out a little something while I’m here.

seed pod of milkweed Asclepias with minimal fall colors in backgroundThere was really only one tree showing decent color in the background, so I chose a shooting angle and position to enhance this in the frame as much as possible. Changing focal length can alter the rendition of background elements as well, so that gives two quick lessons: watch the background to see what can make things look better, and play around with the zoom to make the most of relative sizes and depth-of-field. For the record, the pic above was at 85mm while the one at right was at 22mm, both at f8.

I wandered closer to that very tree as well, probably the best display visible for that day and location – we’re still slightly before ‘peak’ colors, but that’s a misleading concept.

possible maple species showing varied fall colors
Trees tend to turn colors and shed their leaves on wildly varied schedules, so the goal is to catch as many species as possible close to their best colors, but what usually happens is, some are bright, some are not there yet, and some (like the persimmon) have already dropped all their leaves. I have yet to see a nice landscape with most of the trees looking ideal, and usually spend my time being selective about what you can see and what you can’t. None of these are blowing me away, but I’m hoping to improve this within the next week or so.

unidentified solitary white mushroom in forest
Not really any autumn color here, but I spotted the mushroom a bit off the path and wandered over to use it. Again, no macro lens, prompting the wider view instead because it was a nice stand of straight trunks for the background, with only one anarchist in there, which happens more than I’d prefer – groups of nice uniform trees are rare.

Coming back home, I got a few brighter examples, but these are almost always good at this time of year.

oak-leaf hydrangea Hydrangea quercifolia in damp autumn conditions
Many years back I’d seen the autumn colors of the oak-leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) and knew we needed them in the yard, and we haven’t regretted it since – they do well in the open shade, possess giant leaves, hold their dead flowers for close to a year, produce great displays in the autumn, and the critters love them. Of course, they look even better when wet. Just so you know, that foreground leaf is the size of a dinner plate. And if you look close, you can see that the colors are affected by the amount of sunlight they get: the second-largest leaf is still greenish where it was shaded by those above, with an even brighter green patch on the smaller leaf above and to the left of it – this bears a decently sharp outline of the leaf edge above it.

oak-leaf hydrangea Hydrangea quercifolia with dried flowers
Many of the Carolina anole pics from the past few months have shown these flowers, since the anoles love them as nighttime perches, or did until the first serious cold snap – I haven’t seen the juveniles since then, though the adults redoubled their appearances afterward, don’t ask me how this works. I think those flowers bloomed back in May.

However, a few days after these pics, I found two other common subjects, one on the very same plant.

tiny juvenile Copes grey treefrog Dryophytes chrysoscelis perched on oak-leaf hydrangea Hydrangea quercifolia leaf
This is a Copes grey treefrog (now Dryophytes chrysoscelis,) and I was unable to get the millimeter scale in the shot, spooking the frog off while trying, but that leaf is not the size of a dinner plate – more like my palm, and the frog is only on the tip. It had been sitting complacently in the center of the leaf, as they usually do during the day, but in the interval between initial spotting and returning with the macro rig, it had started to rain and this apparently provoked some action from the frog – it was alert enough not to brook the shenanigans of setting a tiny slip of paper alongside. ‘A little bigger than your thumbnail’ is close enough, anyway.

The same response from the rain was witnessed from the next one, too:

tiny juvenile green treefrog Dryophytes cinereus perched on blackberry lily iris domestica leaf
This green treefrog (Dryophytes cinereus) wasn’t on the hydrangea, but the blackberry lilies (Iris domestica) immediately alongside, and was just as tiny as the grey – both likely hatched from the backyard pond only a few weeks ago. I fired off this frame for ‘safety’ before I reached in to move the intervening weed, and I’m glad I did, because the frog shifted position and tried to hide as my hand drew close.

But there are some token autumn colors, at least, with a couple of bonus frogs. We’ll see what more can be dredged up shortly.

Best time for this – kinda

Marbled orbweaver Araneus marmoreus hiding under leaf
Just a quick Halloween-themed pic from today, that I really should have had up earlier but other activities took precedent. Once again, this is a marbled orbweaver (Araneus marmoreus) out in the yard, being far too shy for something the size of an acorn that looks like it eats halflings.

The trick-or-treaters have already come and gone, and we did the All Hallows Read thing again this year, to great reception – only one child didn’t seem that delighted to have a book, while the rest were gratifyingly enthusiastic. It says a lot when they hand the candy over to the folks to carry while they clutch their books possessively. I can’t recommend this practice enough, but it’s a lot easier if, like The Girlfriend does, you keep this in mind well before the holiday and collect books from thrift stores and bulk outlets. And the parents all remember us for this, too. It helps make up for the weird guy out at all hours of the day or night, prowling the yard for, you know, spiders and such…

“October?” That month is dead to me

Looking at the ol’ henge out in the yard, I see that we’re arriving at the end of the month, which means it’s time for another horrid example of what I consider an abstract image. I checked, but I seem to have nothing that fits with the theme of the day (that I haven’t already used,) so this is what we have, unless I sneak another in because I’m writing this hours ahead of posting time. This was, at least, shot this month:

leaf under running water of Neuse River
I feel safe in saying that, at least, I’ve fulfilled most definitions of ‘abstract’ with this, save for those pertaining to manuscripts. I can’t vouch for how many people would find this utterly confusing versus how many would have a good idea of what it is, so I’ll just blurt out that it’s leaves immediately under the surface of shallow, fast-moving water, ripples over rocks of the Neuse River back at one of my old haunts. The white scribbles come from shooting this in bright sunlight – they’re the reflections of the sun from the dancing water. It’s also a tight crop for more abstract goodness, the original frame looking like this:

larger version of previous image
That makes it a little easier to interpret, but minimizes the hieroglyphics, which were too distinct to obscure. This was taken handheld, aperture at f18 and ISO dropped to 200 to extend the shutter speed out to 1/13 second, which was just enough for the motion blur but fast enough that I could still hold the camera steady enough, even at a tight crop – the image stabilizing lens helped of course. Other frames weren’t so sharp.

Let’s do another that I happen to like, even though it really doesn’t qualify (even to me) as ‘abstract,’ but I don’t have anywhere else to put this one either.

sun breaking through gap among blue-grey berries
It took two frames to get the right effect, but I was getting sporadically blinded by that sunbeam and needed to use it – it required a very specific camera position. I neglected to fire up the app to determine what these berries are, even though I’ve seen and photographed them numerous times before because they’re right at the edge of the neighborhood pond. Red berries are way overrated.

More pics from various outings on the way – just getting together the time to work on them.

Will do for now

Wright Brothers Memorial in Kill Devil Hills with cooperative clouds
I think this will be the tail-end of the beach trip pics, as well as the last for the year – never really got a ‘proper’ trip in, with one thing or another, but at least my brother finally got down here to see the Outer Banks for himself, as brief as it was. We grew up with Jersey beaches, which are in an entirely different universe (a more crowded and overdeveloped one,) though he’s had exposure to some Florida spots. As the image indicates, we did hit the Wright Brothers National Memorial, and while I have plenty of images from previous trips there, the clouds were cooperating this day so I shot a few frames (including some goofy ones that you’re not getting to see.) And I only had to dub out two other visitors from this one.

sanderling Calidris alba contemplating existence
As mentioned earlier, the beaches themselves were nearly empty, of both people (which was great) and wildlife (not so much.) I did a few fartsy shots, enough to register “beach,” but not a lot else. This is a sanderling (Calidris alba,) the most common sandpiper in the area, probably venturing off on its own to pass gas. But this is misleading, because we didn’t smell anything because not far off was a small flock, and I caught them as they took flight in a reasonably dynamic shot, though it could be better.

small flock of sanderlings Calidris alba taking flight from shoreline
This is cropped from a wider frame, and I did another ‘panoramic’ version that may eventually get up into that banner slideshow at top. They’re small birds and thus take flight so quickly that the opportunity for cool ‘launch’ photos passes in milliseconds – I was lucky they faced more-or-less towards me as I fired off the frames.

There was a mix of gulls as well: the laughing gulls that you’ve already seen, a few that I wasn’t exactly sure about (given the change in plumage that several species go through at this time of year,) and a few really distinctive ones, both in coloration and size.

great black-backed gull Larus marinus mellow in the shallows
The dark wings and back, the pink legs, and the size all paint this as a great black-backed gull, nearly twice the size of the laughing gulls and five or six times the size of the sanderlings. I’ve only ever seen them a few at a time, at the most, hanging out with other gulls as if they’re chaperoning, and this is possibly the closest approach that I’ve captured (and I wasn’t even using the long lens.)

The beach we chose wasn’t even decent for shelling, much less finding coral or shark’s teeth, so I did a couple quick farsty shots with what there was to find.

shell fragments and stones leaving trails in sand from  receding breakers
Don’t try telling me you see the edge of a doubloon or something in there – I’ve already checked. The sparse amount of wildlife activity put it slightly above Oak Island, but not enough to warrant return visits.

I did mention that we didn’t get up for sunrise, nor did we make the attempt to do any starfield exposures – we were up in Manteo by that time and not about to trek down 30 kilometers or more for the truly dark skies. I have to admit that I was completely surprised by the new bridge into Rodanthe, since I hadn’t seen even a hint of it the last time I was through that area, but I understand it completely; the area north of Rodanthe is notorious for washouts during storms and maintaining the roads, at times, required significant effort and cost – it’s the only direct route to the mainland. The entire region sits only a little above sea level and Rt 12 is often only a few hundred meters from the water’s edge, so storms can overcome the dunes and submerge, bury, or even disintegrate the asphalt – we were there three weeks after former-Hurricane Ian, which was far from a direct hit on the Outer Banks, and there remained a spot where seawater was still on the road. When the NOAA or weather service says, “evacuate,” don’t argue.

On the way out, we did two little stops, one of which we never expected to be photogenic and thus we left the cameras in the car, but were a little more prepared for the second, which I usually stop at – that would be Creef’s Cut in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. That produced the Amanita (maybe) mushroom from the previous post, and another not-so-little find:

golden silk orbweaver Trichonephila clavipes in Creef's Cut, Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge
This is a golden silk orbweaver (Trichonephila clavipes, formerly Nephila clavipes,) and this is one of the few images I’ve obtained of them that shows the color of the silk. While I can get inordinately close to spiders for detail shots, this wasn’t as required for this species, because it’s huge – the colloquial term is ‘banana spider,’ both for the coloration and the size; the body length can get as long as your little finger, which makes the leg spread as large as your palm and the web itself over two meters at times. This one wasn’t quite that big, but it was also at eye level and not far off the path; I’ve rarely encountered them so easy to reach, usually finding them either well overhead or out in marshy areas with lousy footing. In fact, I think the last time I was able to get so close, it was one that my brother had found when he visited me in Florida nearly twenty years ago, suspended right at chest level where he almost walked straight into it; the exuberant cursing (he’s even more accomplished at this than I am) brought me over from a nearby trail. That one was nowhere near as big as this one, who was kind enough to be well off the trail.

By the way, if you went to that link under the species name (and why not?) you might have noticed the sizes: females up to 50mm, males up to 8mm. That’s like your little fingernail. Make all the comments you want…

[Vague, confused noises]

It was a few years back that I decided I wanted a gallery of latest images on the website, primarily stuff that wasn’t featured on the blog, but also just a demonstration, to those only visiting the image galleries, that I was routinely producing new content even while the galleries themselves weren’t being updated. Updates to the galleries tend to be spaced pretty far apart, because I do them as a large collection and the structure of the site (which I still like) doesn’t make additions simple or quick. So, with some digging around, I found a slick little script and created the Latest Images page.

Some time last year, I found the script wasn’t working due to updates of some kind or another (HTML and browser standards, not my own updates,) and attempted to replace it. This was far easier said than done, and after much playing around with formatting and script details that I didn’t understand, causing navigation icons to appear in wildly random locations, I gave up and found an online source to host it, permitting an embedded window on my site. Fine for now, but I didn’t like outsourcing.

Only a day ago, I tried again, and made no further progress than I had earlier in finding a simple script. During this, I thought to myself, Shit like this is always a simple plugin through WordPress. But I only run WordPress for the blog, and the site itself is simply html. Then it occurred to me that there was no reason why I couldn’t host the Latest Images on a blog page rather than a site page. I mean, who cares?

Yes, there was a simple plugin for WordPress to do what I wanted [Slideshow Gallery Lite by Tribulant], and while it was a bit fussy to format, it was many times easier than my previous attempts to customize a script. So it’s up now, with new updates (that I’ve been stalling on because I wanted to just get rid of the outside host) right here. Not only linked on the previous pages from the main site, but also in the menu at the top of this page.

I admit that I’m often confused with how incredibly complicated doing some simple tasks, or finding some relatively basic scripts, can be. Tons of slideshows out there, sliders and bootstraps (whatever the fuck those are) and all that – but one with a thumbnail gallery? What, are you nuts? Surely, you want some kind of elaborate fading and perhaps a 3D effect instead? This is why I’m glad I decided against doing webdesign for income.

Completely unrelated, we have an image from the Outer Banks trip, because where else am I going to put this? Near as I can tell, these are a variety of Amanita muscaria mushrooms, and toxic/psychoactive, but I could be wrong. Still, they matched the descriptions and photos that I’d seen years ago of “what to avoid,” and this was the first I’d seen that even came close, so I had to snag a few frames. I don’t like mushrooms and wouldn’t engage in collecting wild species if I did, so why I even paid attention to this info is beyond me, but here we are.

possible Amanita muscaria, or maybe not

Dogfight!

On the recent trip to the Outer Banks, we didn’t have a lot of time and the weather was still a bit chilly from the cold snap only a day before, thus I didn’t get a lot of photos. However, there was one sequence on the beach (somewhere near Salvo) that deserves some attention, especially since the lens stayed locked on in focus throughout most of it despite the hectic nature. We were near a collection of seagulls and sanderlings, just hanging out, when a sudden commotion erupted and a flock of seagulls broke into song started wheeling around madly. We could see that the lead gull had something in its beak, we couldn’t possibly make out what with the frenetic action, but one particular follower was hell-bent on not letting the lead keep it. I just fired off frames as I tracked them.

laughing gulls Leucophaeus atricilla dueling over pizza
These are laughing gulls (Leucophaeus atricilla) transitioning into winter plumage, and quite noisy when it comes to disputes. With close examination of the frames, I determined that the treasured possession was a partial slice of pizza, so give them credit for that at least. These are all cropped tighter since I had the 18-135 mounted and they weren’t that close, though one pass did bring them almost onto a collision course with us. They’ve also been brightened in post since I hadn’t set exposure compensation for the beach.

[Briefly: the auto-exposure function of the camera defaults to a middle range of brightness for an ‘average’ scene, but both the sky and the beach are brighter than average, so the camera typically darkens them down. Thus, we need to change it back to what it should be, and I always provide the simple adage, “If it’s bright, make it brighter,” e.g., overexpose from the default to correct for the camera’s assumptions. Except that I didn’t here. I’m failing my own lessons – how bad does that suck?]

laughing gulls Leucophaeus atricilla dueling over pizza
This is only a guess, but I suspect the one in possession of the pizza was lower on the pecking order than its pursuer, and this was simply not allowed. The pursuit went on a surprisingly long time.

laughing gulls Leucophaeus atricilla dueling over pizza
This should have been video, but I barely had any warning, and it all would have been farther away in the frame anyway.

laughing gulls Leucophaeus atricilla dueling over pizza
They look very close here, but I can’t say that this is accurate; they may simply appear that way from lining up, or they might actually be that close. The action was too fast to tell.

laughing gulls Leucophaeus atricilla dueling over pizza

laughing gulls Leucophaeus atricilla dueling over pizza
This is only about half of the sharp frames that I got, as well. I just wanted to give an adequate impression.

laughing gulls Leucophaeus atricilla dueling over pizza

laughing gulls Leucophaeus atricilla dueling over pizza in identical positions in flight
They’ve all been in sequence except for the one above, which technically belongs in the fourth slot, but it’s my favorite so I saved it for almost last. You just have to appreciate that identical poses here, an aerial ballet. I take no credit for this: they were moving way too fast to plan or spot such a thing.

laughing gull Leucophaeus atricilla making off with pizza
I close with a detail shot, which is not the gull leaving in triumph – we never saw the resolution, to be honest, but got distracted by another commotion from the rest of the gulls. Did this one get to eat in peace? Did it have to relinquish the pizza to the pursuer? Did they work out an equitable arrangement? We’re never going to know. What do you want, responsible journalism or something?

Just takes the right motivation

I knew this holiday was coming up and was wondering if I’d be able to celebrate it effectively, but I should never have doubted myself; I’m up for such challenges. So since today is Spot a South American Rodent Outside of a Zoo Day, there weren’t a lot of choices on how to tackle this, but one in particular stuck out, and I managed to finish the video clip in time to recognize the holiday. The story lies within:

For the record, this is a nutria, sometimes called a coypu (Myocastor coypus.) They’re not native anyplace but South America, though they’d been introduced to North America for both meat and fur farming. My understanding is, they’re still farmed for meat in a few places in Louisiana because, you know, Louisiana, but for the most part the ones that can be found are the distant ancestors of escaped and released individuals, decades ago.

Back in 2000 I believe, I’d done a ‘fishing’ trip to Portsmouth Island and noticed the trails through the high marsh grasses, wondering what had made them; they were too big for muskrats or opossums, too low through the grasses (almost like tunnels) for deer, and the island not wooded enough for beavers, not to mention surrounded by salt water. It was only when I was on my way back on the ferry that a local resident informed me these were produced by, “nutra” [sic], frustrating me since I would have staked out some likely areas the previous nights. A few years later, I’d heard they could be seen in the evening twilight from the deck of a restaurant on the Nag’s Head causeway, and mentioned such to my brother on the way over this past trip. Perhaps an hour or so afterward, after finding the same trails through the grasses around Bodie Island, we encountered Junior here. The video title is tongue-in-cheek of course, since the photographing and videoing of this individual was effortless.

This specimen was the same size as an average beaver, which many passers-by thought it to be, but at least this one gave us a great view of the same kind of teeth while the resident beavers never did. Both my brother and I maintained a safe distance, able to vault onto the boardwalk before the nutria could charge us, should it be so inclined, and even my venturing down from the boardwalk was done after I’d passed within three meters and had evoked no response whatsoever – it’s clear this one was used to tourists, damn near oblivious to us. Right as I closed the video, the nutria marched directly to the boardwalk and passed underneath the feet of several people standing thereon.

I was certainly pleased with this capture for the brief weekend trip, and could happily celebrate today’s holiday because of it. Worked out pretty well, I’d say.

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