Sunday, June 06, 2010

Mustard gone wild

A field splashed with the bright yellow of mustard is sure sign of spring, which I am posting about a month and a half late.

Although beautiful, this area is normally a kind of a no-mans land - the banks of the Codorus Creek where I-83 and U.S. 30 cross on tandem bridges. We were there looking for falcons, but came away with a broad-tailed hawk instead. The blooming mustard under dramatic skies was an unexpected bonus.

Holy Hail!

A few weeks ago, we had a storm with only a little thunder and lighting, but some mighty big hail. I don't think I've ever seen any larger. As you can see, the largest ones were around an inch in diameter. Luckily, we had no damage from it.

The back yard looked like someone went a little mad with a box of mothballs.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Windy with a chance of wind

We thought our first few days here were windy - until we experienced the last two days! The wind was constantly blowing between 15-20 mph and gusts were to 30 mph and above.

That being said, we did spend time in one place where the wind could not reach: Carlsbad Caverns. Cave pictures are hard to take without a lot of gear I don't have, but I managed a few that are ok. Its also hard to get a sense of scale in the caverns - below you can can see the handrail to the paved trail. The columns are pretty big!

But this little area is no more than 3 or 4 feet high, and packed full of delicate formations. If memory serves, it was called the Doll's Theater.

After the cave, we returned to our sojourn in the winds of west Texas. We spent two nights at Guadalupe Mountains National Park's campground at Pine Springs. Last night, I had a dream that we were part of a military experiment to see how tents withstand winds!

Thankfully, ours held up well and we were able to take a morning hike. In the distance you can see the signature landmark of the Guadalupe Mts, the large rock outcrop called El Capitan.

Lastly, our entire trip has been under the light of a more or less full moon. We have been able to operate outside at night without any other source of light, and the moonlit landscape is eerie and awesome, to boot.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

White World

When you're in White Sands on a cloudy day, there's not much color left but white. At least at the Big Dune Nature Trail, some vegetation provides relief.

Out in the Heart of the Dunes, the distant mountains provide more blue than the sky.

This last photo is not a black and white shot, but could pass for one pretty well.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Middle Creek morning

I met up with my Dad and my Uncle at Middle Creek on Thursday morning for a beautiful few hours with the waterfowl.

Ironically, though, my best photos were not of ducks, swans, or geese at all. Tree swallows, bluebirds and red-wing blackbirds all tend to hang out on the wire fencing prevalent in Middle Creek. This time we were able to roll up to a swallow and get a few shots before it spooked.

And during that tremendous sunrise, with honking all around, one song sparrow grabbed a high perch and kept its song up against all the bigger bird noises.

And finally ...

**** Caution: Men at Work ****

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Tern Time on Cumberland Island

While we were traipsing around Cumberland Island last month, we found two types of terns. This is a royal tern:

And this is a Forster's tern:

Here's cedar waxwings on palm trees. Kind of funny, for a bird I'm used to seeing in the dead of winter, usually eating holly berries or something similar. There were quite a few waxwings around.

Here's one of the trails in the "Sea Camp" area of the island. Just a little down the trail is an actual campground. As we walked through the campground, we noticed many birds: numerous cedar waxwings, a common yellowthroat, some type of wren, and a very close encounter with what was probably a ruby-crowned kinglet.

The trail marker wasn't upright, but it was still picturesque, earlier hikers had decorated it with shells.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Scoter suite and a bonus duck

On a recent trip to Barnegat, New Jersey, we were fortunate to see all three types of scoters, plus plenty of other sea ducks. The scoters, as a group, are a really unusual-looking set of birds. One of the people we were with said that since we'd seen all three types, it made the "suite."

The surf scoter is probably the oddest of all of them, with an oversized bill and dots of contrasting colors on its head. But even the plain plumage of the black scoter comes with a big orange, oddly shaped bill. These two scoters are in the above picture, and that's about as close as they came in to the jetty's rocks. A friendly white-winged scoter, though, sidled right up and posed for a group of photographers, most of them shooting with cameras and lenses right out of what my Dad would have. The ice blue eye was really striking when seen this closely.

And here's the bonus, a long-tailed duck drake. You can just make out the two extra-long tail feathers in the photo. One of my favorite birds of the day!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

More from Georgia

A picturesque cat in St. Mary's, where the ferry leaves to go to Cumberland Island. While waiting for the boat, I saw this cat and also a Eurasian collared dove, which are an introduced dove that is apparently common in the South. A few live in Pennsylvania, including a small colony in Franklin County, relatively close to where I grew up. Who knew??? Had to go all the way to Georgia to see one!

Fort Frederica is on St. Simons Island. Its a partially excavated colonial-era fort. The original settlers grew oranges, and some trees have been restored. With no one to eat them, they lay on the ground. I thought the picture looked almost like a selective color shot.

The old streets are marked, too, making a nice perch for this Eastern phoebe. At least that's what I think it is.

Lastly, I wanted to get a nice shot of the stereotypical "look" of the coastal South - a live oak awash with ferns and spanish moss.

This was at Ft. Frederica, too. This little park was a nice surprise - we visited it simply from seeing its name on the map. The open parkland is studded with oaks and oranges and overlooks the river. I thought that it must've been an idyllic place to live, even in past centuries, until I realized that we were there in February, which is well before all the itching, biting, annoying insects come out to play.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

New Jersey Birds

I'm trying to break out of winter blogging hibernation, and birds seem like a good way to do it. Last weekend, we went to Barnegat Lighthouse in New Jersey. There's a jetty almost a mile long that stabilizes the northern end of Long Beach Island. You can see it here. For all intents and purposes, this area appears to be a duck magnet:

Ok, ok, this isn't a duck, its a dunlin. Shorebirds seem to like Barnegat just fine, too. The ducks are coming right up - below is a group of six or so Harlequin ducks.

These guys have spectacular plumage. I saw a harlequin duck back in 2005 - I turned around, and there it was, and then it was gone. We got much better looks at them this time. In fact, none of the birds seemed at all concerned about human presence, making for some nice photographic opportunities. I'll post some more soon, maybe :)

Friday, February 05, 2010

Live on Location - Cumberland Island, GA

Northern states - I know where all of our robins went! This small clearing on Cumberland Island easily held 300 or more robins. Also in the area were about 100 yellow-rumped warblers and 100 or more cedar waxwings. I got a shot of bluebirds and cedar waxwings sitting side by side in a tree - a first for me!

Cumberland Island borders Kings Bay's Naval Submarine Base, whose specialty is ... submarines, of course! Here's one leaving the base and heading towards points unknown. At one point its hatch opened and people emerged and walked to and fro on its top as it continued its journey.

Armadillos are a common sight on the island, and aren't scared of humans. Nonetheless, they look like something straight out of prehistory or science fiction, but something still vaguely cute.

A walk on the beach side of the island revealed some great birds, including American oystercatchers ...

... and royal terns, among others that might show up in future posts.