Saturday, December 19, 2009

Look what the storm blew in ...

Despite the blustery weather, or perhaps because of it, our incredibly small urban backyard was graced by a palm warbler today.

I first noticed this bird fluttering through a half-snow covered chrysanthemum. It wasn't leery of human presence at all, and approached within six feet of me several times. It flipped and flitted through the snow while I watched and snapped pictures, for a total of about 20 minutes over two or three different sessions.

As an aside, this wild nor'easter weather also failed to discourage the presence of Pennsylvania's first recorded Allen's hummingbird, which is still feeding happily away at a feeder in a suburban Lancaster County townhouse development. Us Easterners are familiar with the ruby-throated hummers, who are not particularly cold hardy. However, each year, more and more reports of rufous, and now Allen's hummers are turning up in the east. These birds are well equipped to deal with temperatures into the teens and may stay in a northern area where feeders are available until late December and even January. Quite an interesting development!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Street light, moon light

Taken on the front steps to our house, as the moon provided a backlight for the American flag at the post office:

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Vegas, Baby

Nothing says you're in denial of cold weather coming like heading out to the desert in October. And while Vegas has any number of attractions and distractions, one of the things I really enjoy about it is the almost unlimited variety of color and texture.

A group of palm trees backlit by the marquee of the Flamingo casino.

An elaborate light fixture in the Golden Nugget casino.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dusted with Snow

A few fall items covered with an early coat of snow ...

ornamental cabbage and chrysanthemums

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fulton Fall (Winter???) Folk Festival

A blast of winter greeted the FFFF this year and made for some trying conditions.

These little gourds can be had for 3 or 4 for a dollar and are a fall staple of the festival's sales spots, along with mums, pumpkins, apples, whoopie pies, and ham & bean soup. Not to mention that everything under the sun can be found at the yard sales and impromptu flea markets that sprout up across the county for this four-day festival.

The FFFF parade on Saturday also faced miserable weather conditions: cold rain interspersed with spitting snow. Nonetheless, even the little guys came out to see the tractors ride through town.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Power on the move

Our little town had quite the carnival atmosphere this weekend, because visitors were here.

Several weeks ago, two enormous steam generators destined for the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant arrived in the United States. A French company called AREVA constructed the generators, which were shipped by boat across the Atlantic, north through the Chesapeake Bay, and as far along the Susquehanna River as the water depth would allow. Then, the generators were boarded onto specialized carriers to make their way across Lancaster County at 3-4 mph. They arrived in town Friday, and were parked along a side street for the weekend.

These behemoths are 74 feet long, 25 feet high, and weigh in at over 1,000,000 pounds each. The logistics of moving them safely are apparently tremendous, as the sheer weight is a threat to local roads and bridges that were not designed to handle such loads. To help alleviate the strain, each generator is loaded onto a carrier with 24 axles. Each axle supposedly carries weight equivalent to a fire truck. The generators appear to be accompanied by a large fleet of State Police Officers at all times, and local newspapers report that the convoy is over a mile in length when on the move.

On Sunday night, these generators are slated to leave town. They must cross Route 30 to reach TMI, but they are too heavy for the bridge that would take them across the U.S. Highway. So, the plan is to close Rt. 30 in the wee hours of the morning and have the equipment to cross 30 at grade by going up an off-ramp, removing the guardrails that make up the center median, and then exiting by the off-ramp for the westbound lanes.

One of the policemen on duty said they take a corner much better than you would think!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A banner day

I carpool with a coworker most days, and we've been seeing a bald eagle very occaisionally, in a particular area where a small stream joins with the larger Codorus Creek. There's a large concrete box on the creek bank where the two streams meet. Its an industrial area and very near to the city of York, not your typical wildlife viewing habitat. Twice we've seen it sitting on the box, one time using the box as a dinner table to eat a fish.

Yesterday, however, the birds upped it a notch. As we were crossing the Susquehanna River at the start of our commute, we saw a large bird fly over the bridge. I couldn't confirm it was a bald eagle, but when I looked to the right, I saw a second bird with the distinctive white head and tail flying low and fast over the water. This eagle eventually landed on a rock in the river, next to another large bird. But they were too far away at this point to ID the third bird.

As we arrived in York, we figured it would be too great a coincidence to see our "regular" eagle. But, we kept our eyes peeled, and sure enough, the eagle was perched on the concrete box. This time he had a friend, a second eagle sitting on a small stone in the stream. We turned the car around to get a better look, and took a picture with the only camera available to us, my coworker's iPhone. Today, with my camera in my lunch sack, we saw no eagles at all ... go figure!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Honeymoon Catch-up

I guess now is as good a time as any to dig into my massive pile of photos from our honeymoon this July.

This is Summit Lake in Lassen Volcanic Park, with Lassen Peak in the background. Our first night of camping was spent in the edge of the trees to the right. Lets just say that this was a bad time to discover that we'd forgotten to pick up any bug spray. As the sun went down, I walked out along the lake and found this hidden view - you had no idea the mountain was back there from the campsite.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


As the middle of September approaches, a Pennsylvanian knows that the first frost is uncomfortably close to hand. But even so, the garden is still producing plenty of tomatoes, and I wanted to get some photographic evidence before the cold ultimately destroys the vines. Late last winter, I decided to focus on tomatoes after happening upon a book called Heirloom, which followed a farmer who specialized in heirloom varieties of tomatoes.

I hopped on E-bay and had soon purchased seeds for "Aunt Ruby's German Green," "Cherokee Purple," "Yellow Pear," & "Mexican Midget." I also planted a hybrid "Early Girl" as insurance. After much worry and trepidation over the future of my little seedlings, we were fortunate to have the most perfect tomato-growing summer possible here in central PA. Temperatures were reasonable, rain was plentiful, and the tomatoes darn near took over the yard. Here's a pie plate full of them, including two oddball varieties that volunteered on their own, with no aid whatsoever from me. I guess they're a gift from the people that owned the house before we did!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Getting my feet wet again ...

After many moons without a new post - moons that encompassed a wedding and a honeymoon and various other smaller-scale adventures - I am dipping my toes back into the blogging water.

Towards the end of August, our weather switched abruptly from high summer to early fall, and this clear warm evening on the river was just the ticket. I actually wore out the batteries in my camera taking multiple pictures of golden sunset interplaying with river and bridge.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

April was ...

... a month of baseball in Ohio ....

... continued improvement projects ....

... blankets of spring wildflowers ...

... backyard blooms ...

... and canoeing in the Jersey Pinelands ...

... maybe now that its over, I can get back to blogging more often!

Monday, April 06, 2009

A Morning at Middle Creek

My parents came up for the weekend on Saturday, and Dad and I took the opportunity to run up to Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area for sunrise on Sunday morning.

While the large flocks of snow geese and tundra swans have moved on, a few individual geese were still to be found. A group of three were foraging within a few yards of the road for most of the morning. This is one of the three. Two of the three were noticeably holding a wing at an unnatural angle; they will not be making the migration this year.

Dad and I were exchanging lenses and equipment, and I am not 100% sure if he or I took this picture of a flying cormorant. I think it was Dad, but I enjoy the cormorant's unique silhouette, and since I took the liberty of cropping and otherwise adjusting the photo, I am posting it here :)

And lastly, the song of the red-winged blackbird could be heard throughout the morning. Many were perched at various intervals along the wire fencing used in the park. Here, a blackbird breaks into his call.

Friday, April 03, 2009

What I Did Last Weekend

I found some colts foot, just unfurling, in Mont Alto State Park. We were there for our friend's Pennsylvania wedding reception and I wasn't really expecting to find any spring flowers. But I did manage to catch a few colts foot (colts feet?), which are usually the first ones out.

Then, on Sunday, my Aunt & Uncle (Salty) came for a visit. Salty explains the situation and history of the bridge very well in his latest post, but I thought you might appreciate a "behind-the-scenes" picture of his totally incredible shot of the bridge.

And then, the storm hit and we got hail. Probably the largest hail I have seen since I was a small girl, but we were fortunate as just a few miles north of us golf ball sized hail stones were reported.

We were very lucky in that we only received high winds and heavy rain, many nearby areas suffered damage and it was later confirmed that a tornado touched down in the northern part of the county. And all this, in March!

Friday, March 27, 2009

More News from the Backyard

The snow drops are finishing up now, but this picture was taken in their prime just over a week ago.

These crocus are ones that I planted in the fall. I am pleased with their "up and at 'em" attitude this spring.

Monday, March 23, 2009

More Wedding Fun in Garden of the Gods

Part of the ceremony involved seven colorful ribbons. Prior to the start of the wedding, the happy couple had given members of their family one of the ribbons. At the beginning of the vows, the officiant had the couple place their palms face to face, and during the ceremony, each family member placed their ribbon in a loose loop around their hands. At the end, the couple took the loop and "tied the knot" together.

Here Sandy is letting the wind play with the ribbons from the ceremony. They are to remain with the couple as a memento and reminder of the vows taken.

This is the wedding party, including moi. Sandy was the most easy-going bride imaginable - just told me to go find whatever dress I wanted, in hunter green.

And this was the passing of the torch, so to speak. Sandy gave me her bouquet (no tossing involved) at the end of the day, as I am the next to be headed to the altar. While the flowers themselves will eventually pass on, the bouquet contains a hand painted orange butterfly crafted from dyed feathers that will proudly take a place in my bouquet come July.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sandy & Alan - March 21, 2009

On Saturday, we attended the wedding of a dear friend of mine. She is a very smart chica, and chose a great man to be married to and a beautiful location to be married in. The outdoor ceremony was in the garden of an inn at the base of Pikes Peak, and the reception was in the Garden of the Gods park in Colorado Springs.

Personalized, color-coordinated m&m's ... yum! While the natural scenery was beautiful, I also wanted to capture some of the details of the day, things that people might not think to aim a camera at, like candy :)

A close-up of the bride's bouquet and the beadwork and embroidery on her dress.

The informal photo shoot in the Garden of the Gods after the reception was so much fun. The park gets a steady stream of traffic, and lots of people were honking their horns and yelling congratulations while we were taking pictures. A great way to end a great day :)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Backyard Surprises

We bought this house in September of last year, at the very end of the growing season. The yard hadn't been maintained in probably a year, and was looking pretty rough. After cutting out a lot of the yucky stuff, I took the opportunity to plant some fall bulbs. But while I was digging, I kept hitting existing bulbs. So, I knew I was in for some surprises this spring.

These snowdrops were a surprise. There are quite a few popping up. True to their name, they were covered in snow shortly after the first one bloomed. I've also got hyacinths, lots of daffodils, and some things I don't recognize coming up - so more surprises are in store.

Now this one, I think I am responsible for. But, I don't remember what it is. I was thinking grape hyacinth (that's what I remember planting, anyways) but it just doesn't look right. Oh well, a flower is a flower, and these little spring bulbs are so sweet to see after the dreary winter months.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Gulls & Swans

Not too long ago, Salty posted a picture of a ring-billed gull he saw in Florida. Since then, I've been meaning to take a closer look at the group of gulls that hangs out in the parking lot of the local grocery store.

Lo and behold, they're ring-billed gulls. I believe we are just about as far inland as these guys go in winter.

This evening, as we were working in the yard, I noticed a long dispersed column of gulls flying overhead. They were moving from the northeast to the southwest. I kept an eye on the birds for more than 15 minutes, and there stream of gulls still had no end in sight. I imagine several thousand were in the group, ultimately.

Over the last week, I've noticed small and large groups of tundra swans taking the same flight path, sometimes in the morning and always in the hour or so before dusk. This last shot was taken from our backyard.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Looking out of Lucy

Here's the view that Lucy gets of the Atlantic from her perch just west of the beach. Literally, the "porthole" is her eye.

I am amazed by how attracted humans are to waves and sand- even on a cool windy day, plenty of bundled-up families were enjoying the beach while I was huddled up inside an elephant.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lucy and a New Look

As I bet you've noticed, Ash's Eye is getting something of a facelift. The solid gray background finally just bored me all the way over the edge into hunting for something pre-made and a little "froofier."

Cosmetics aside, meet Lucy the Elephant! She is the largest elephant in the world, so big you can tour her insides. Lucy lives in the oceanside town of Margate, New Jersey. Around the turn of the century, she was built as a gimmick, to attract homebuyers to the growing streets of Margate. Lucy really didn't convince people to buy homes, but she did eventually become the mascot for the town. Soon wooden elephants were all the rage in the beach towns of the mid-Atlantic, and Coney Island had one, as did Cape May, New Jersey.

These copycat elephants were soon lost to history and now only Lucy remains. She sadly fell into disrepair in the 1960s, and was threatened with demolition to make way for condominiums. Townspeople rallied together to raise funds to refurbish Lucy and move her to city-owned property. Lucy is now well-loved and taken care of primarily through the labor of volunteers and the admission fees gathered from those who wish to climb the spiral staircases located in her hind legs. Lucy is now a designated National Historic Landmark. Her story is recapped in a short but interesting movie you get to watch in the room located in her belly.

More photos from Lucy will be forthcoming shortly ...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Anudder mudder ...

A Northern Pintail looking for grub at Forsythe Wildlife Refuge.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Mud on your face ...

Hungry? Then dive on in! It's not the best look, but a goose's gotta do what a goose's gotta do to put food on the table :) This is a snow goose in Forsythe Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey. In the next three to four weeks, tens of thousands of snow geese and smaller numbers of tundra swans and Canada geese will group at Middle Creek here in Lancaster County, and at other bird-friendly habitats across the mid-Atlantic, to gain strength to begin their northward journey to their summer nesting grounds.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

A cat can dream ...

... of a pine siskin snack.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Smoky Sky

A picture I've been meaning to post for a while, I believe its from last winter.

I'm not sure if the swirls are the result of a jet contrail dispersing, or the mixing of two types of clouds, or some other odd conditions. I've never seen anything else quite like it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

All Eyes on Washington

Just over a year ago, we were in D.C. for some blustery sightseeing, and this photo is one of the results.

Today, many more people were freezing on the National Mall to be witness to a historic event, and many more were watching from their homes or offices. It seems like this will be one of those moments when, years from now, people will ask, "Where were you when ... ?"

Looking back, the first national news item that really left an impression on me was the explosion of the Challenger in 1986. There were plenty of other important news headlines from that era, but as a six year old, I couldn't really grasp politics. But I did understand what happened to that space shuttle and how sad it was. Of course many other headlines have affected our lives since then, good ones and bad. Which ones really stick with you?

Monday, January 19, 2009

River Ice

We had flurries most of the day, which amounted to a foggy atmosphere and about two inches of really fluffy snow. Down at river level, the ice was fractured and heaving, and the lovely little coating of snow was just icing. It's only been in the last week or so that the cold has sustained itself long enough to freeze the river completely.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Breath of Summer

In the midst of this cold cold cold, I had to dig into my summer photos for some mental relief.

This is a dandelion-style poof of seeds, but I'm not sure if is actually a dandelion or not. It might be goatsbeard or something similar. In any case, its a memory of a warmer time. Tomorrow I'm facing reality and heading down to the frozen river, to see what winter images might present themselves ...

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