Things I Am Unable to Explain

Deadlines Deadlines Deadlines.  Cutting it close this time, but this post brings me to my self imposed minimum of 6 posts a month.  Before jumping back into the trip pictures, something strange occurred today while working in the yard.  It was time to deal with the trimming so I brought the trimmer out, gassed it up and reved it up.  As soon as the engine fired a barn swallow flew up behind me and started hovering in the air.  Actually, it was more like a bird backstroke because the birds body was actually vertical while the wings did a backward flap.  Not phased in the least by me turning to look at him, I decided to play out the situation.  As I was whacking down the weeds a moth flew up into the air.  At that point it all became very apparent.  The bird launched into action, chased that moth down and caught it.  I was impressed, not only was he pretty agile, he (assuming a male at this point) was smart enough to associate my trimmer with dinner.  This went on for about 15 minutes until he was either full or needed a rest.  For the curious, I could care less about the insect.  I draw the line there in favor of actual animals unlike PETA which apparently doesn’t know what the ‘A’ actually stands for based on their recent declaration against Obama killing a fly.

With that out of the way, I’ll lead with this picture.  Take a minute and just absorb the image….

Rock Hard Man

Linda thinks I’m crazy, but it sure looks like a rock man with ummmm… well… let’s just say that is some hard rock.   She vetoed my idea of merging it with one of the pictures of Old Faithful.

While in South Dakota, this truck passed us on the highway.

Truck Skull

All I could think of was the movie The Jerk when Steve Martin picks up the red chair and claims that is all he needs.   I would think the paint would be getting scratched up pretty good, but I must admit, the skull was a nice touch.

Catch a couple m0re shots after the jump

Continue reading Things I Am Unable to Explain

These Mallards Play in Water

I figured I would go ahead and close out the Davenport Iowa bird shoot.  We’ve done the eagles, the gulls and now presenting..

Mallard

That’s right, the Mallard Duck.  This guy was enjoying the 50 degree weather in march.  The shot turned out pretty good with the green shimmering nicely in the sun and you can even make out the water droplets on the duck’s feathers.  This was pretty fitting since the Quad Cities’ minor league hockey team is actually named The Mallards.  Here is another one with a different direction to the sun giving a slightly different shimmer pattern.

Mallard Duck

There were actually a number of them (can’t remember the proper term for a grouping of ducks at the moment).

Mallards

Believe me, it was extremely tough to get them to all go in the same direction.  You also have a nice mixture of the females included in this shot – clearly they were stiffed when the coloring was handed out.

Follow the jump to see some more shots of the Mallard

Continue reading These Mallards Play in Water

Dr. Livingston I Presume

 Gull

This post is a first for our little off-ramp on the Information Highway.  Today we have, in a sense, a guest blogger.  The pictures contained in this post were actually taken by my wife.  As with the previous posts, these were taken up in Davenport IA.  We had parked at the rollers on the Mississippi River looking for eagles and she decided to snap a few shots of a flying gull.  It actually took a while to identify this particular bird.  Previously, we had always referred to them as seagulls.  That name was mysteriously missing from the field guides I use.  After looking and relooking and re-relooking we have decided to go with a Herring Gull.  The beak does not appear to have a strip (ring-billed gull) on it and the range appears to fit.

Gull

Although they are often considered the vermin of the airways, these birds do have a certain aura about them that gives the appeal of a heavenly glow.  A very pure white with a touch of highlighting like a quill dipped in the inkwell.

Gull

While I was trying to identify the species, it occurred to me I couldn’t see his feet (one of the gull types has yellow feet).  Guessing the belly is pretty fluffy allowing him to tuck them under for greater aerodynamics – or possibly warmth.  I saved the best image for last.  I really like this shot and left it a little larger to hopefully show a little more detail.  The sunlight radiates through the wings almost to the point of transparency.  Personally, I think their quite beautiful, but then again, I do not have to live with the pain of their constant scavenging.

Gull from the Heavens

Thanks again to the wife for taking some pretty shots

Eagles Through the D90

 Juv Eagle Taking Flight

I can’t remember if I mentioned if previously, but we purchased a new camera a month or so ago.  The previous pictures (particularly the wildlife photos) were taken with a Nikon D70.  I actually really like that camera and does a great job with the exception of low light.  The 70 can only go to 1600, but the Nikon D90 can go to 3200 which makes it better for the indoor dog show pictures my wife spends her time on.  The remainder of this year will be spend trying to figure out how to use all those new features.  We took it on a test run up in Davenport IA again and the shots were fantastic.  The reduction for this website cuts the quality some, however, they still stand out in my opinion.  The image above of the juvenile taking flight is one of my favorites.

For some reason there were no eagles at our standard spot (at the locks in Davenport).  It was a little late in the season and the temps were starting to head upwards generally signaling their departure.  Disappointed, we headed back to Davenport to see if they were down on Rockingham.  As we drove along the river I noticed a pair of them sitting up trees.  They were actually perched on the opposite side of the road from the river and basically in the front yard of a mansion.

Eagle Pair

This had the added benefit of a clean shot since it was the only tree (granted huge) in the yard.  I learned my lesson a long time ago, so the image above was a quick shot from afar.  Never waste the moment by trying to get too close before the first shot.  Eventually, I worked my way a little closer which didn’t seem to bother them at all.  It never occurred to me before how much more sinister the juveniles look than the matures.  Guessing the juvi is a little cocky sitting next to the 2nd in charge of the skies (Owls being the top of the chain since they will actually attack and kill an eagle).   I finally moved into position and capture this stunning shot.  The full sized image is a lot better and really brings the talons out on the mature.  I’ll probably make this my background.

Eagle Watch

Follow the jump to see some more pictures we captured while we were up there.

Continue reading Eagles Through the D90

The Yang and the Um Day

EyeFirst off, I have to admit I am currently on a major sugar high.  My wife and I tried out the new ice cream establishment in Peoria Heights – the previous home of delicious Spotted Cow.  Unfortunately, I cannot remember the name of the establishment (two uncommon names), but apparently it is a small ice cream boutique chain out of Boston.  We both decided to splurge and get the dipped waffle cones.  Linda chose the nestle crunch with cake batter ice cream and I went with the dark chocolate cone with seriously chocolate ice cream flavor.  Wow, that was tasty.  Needless to say, my sugar level is through the roof, but it was totally worth it.  A tad expensive, but we both agreed it was far better than our previous favorite Cold Stone.

On to the topic of the day.  Yesterday morning I had my one year check up on my LASIK surgery.  Nothing like an 8:25am appointment on a cold, snowy and windy Saturday morning to get the day started.  Being that early, I figured there would only be few people there and I’d be in and out quickly.  I was totally shocked when I entered the building and there was a line of people waiting to get checked in.  Faster than expected, I made it up to the counter and noticed once again a large number of flowers behind the desk.  Every single time I have had an appointment, there have been a large number of wrapped up flowers with various names on it.  First thought was there must be a large number of birthdays or possibly births or the doctors were extremely appreciative of their helpers.  After validating all my insurance information, I proceeded to the waiting area where about 30 people were sitting.  Somewhat stunned, I took a seat in the socially acceptable location – translated, maximized distance from existing customers, much like the bathroom principle with the exception you are still allowed to talk to people and make eye contact.  Pondering the situation, it clicked that Fridays were a primary LASIK surgery day and they always had a followup the day after.  This gave and explanation to the large number of people.  My name was eventually called and the nurse began verifying my vision.  She started asking me if I was taking my steroid and anti-inflammatory drops and how everything was going.  This was not processing correctly so mentioned that I stopped taking the drops over a year ago which resulted in a strange look.  Remembering the deduction in the waiting room, I mentioned that I was in for my 1 year checkup.  With that cleared up, she took down all my powers (dual eye 20/15) and moved me to another room to get checked out by my doctor.  Good News!  Everything is fine and the eye healed up perfectly.  Definitely one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time.

Another quandary was resolved at the checkout desk.  An older lady was completing her exit papers ahead of me and trying to plan her next followup a few days later.  Guessing with the fact she was not wearing any glasses and needed such a quick followup, the assumption was she just had cataract surgery (too old for LASIK) and was in for her post-surgery followup.  As she was getting ready to go, the receptionist handed her one of the flowers (with her name on it) and said it was a gift from her doctor.  That made a lot more sense than my original thought.  What a nice thing to do, it is relatively cheap compared to the cost of the surgery and it sure made the lady very happy.  Kudos to the doctor for a very nice touch.

But life is based on the Yang and the Um (for the non-Koreans, the Ying and the Yang).  The dualism of life; the good and the bad, sweet and the sour, life and death.  It is this constant opposition that keeps us grounded (morality) and leads to our character definition.  I came home from the appointment elated that my surgery was a complete success.  Later that day, there was a large crack against our great room window.  Typically this indicates a bird had just realized the concept of glass.  I didn’t think much of it since this tends to happen 2 or 3 times a week usually leaving the bird somewhat stunned, but able to fly off once the webs clear.  About an hour later I happened to look out the window and saw a beautiful cardinal sitting under our porch furniture below our large picture windows.  He looked alert, but was just sitting there opening and closing his beak.  It was still pretty cold out and the wind was gusting causing him to continually adjust his balance.  I pondered the situation for a few minutes while observing the bird.  Typically, if the birds don’t initially break their necks, they are able to recover and fly off.  Rarely do their wings get seriously injured since the impact is typically on the beak/head.  But this bird was alert, but wasn’t really moving that much other than adjusting to keep from being blown over.  It didn’t appear any sound was coming out of his beak movements but it was a steady opening and closing motion.  I could try to shield him from the wind or possibly get a box and move him to the basement until he recovered, but eventually decided to let it be hoping he would pull through.  If he was seriously injured, there was nothing I could anyway.  I also didn’t know what the laws were pertaining to a state bird (other than I think they are protected in some manner).  Going on with my daily tasks, eventually the situation left my thoughts.  I checked to see if the bird was still there later in the night and I am sorry to report, the little guy didn’t make it.  He had succumbed to the cold so he must have badly injured himself.  Yes, it was just a bird, but it did trigger memories from the teachings in the dojo.  The happiness of clarified sight in the morning paired with the reality of death in the evening.  The good news is one of the local farm cats will find a special treat when the show up to get out of the cold.

Life is a circle (see the pupil)

Viewed From Afar (and a request for identification help)

First off, I’ve decided to go ahead and merge in my wildlife observations. I was investigating the option to have a secondary blog out there just for the wildlife stuff, but then decided I really didn’t want to manage another website. I think it still fits the overall theme of observations I see from day to day. I will tag these as Wildlife and likely a subtag with the specific category like birds, snakes (yeah, you’re getting some of those soon), frogs, bears, deer etc.

So… keeping with the South Dakota trip theme, I thought I would start out with some birds we snapped while traveling out there. I’ll start with a flesh eating variety call the Black Billed Magpie. We were touring the Bear Country USA Drive Through Wildlife Park and I saw this fairly pretty blue and white bird on the side of the road.

Black Billed Magpie

I actually didn’t know what it was until I returned home and found it my brand new Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America. I finally broke down and bought an updated guide, but more on that in a future post (I actually selected this book because it finally had a picture of the woodpecker I could not identify in a previous post). As we traveled a little further, I became slightly horrified by the fact that the previously considered “cute” bird was actually a flesh eating demon.

Black Billed Magpie

I had visions of it attacking me, sticking his beak in one of my eyeballs and ripping it out of my head as it flew off into the air leaving a dangling mass of entrails oozing out of my shrieking face – hmmmm in retrospect, I might need to lay off of the late night horror movies. Based on the description in the book, it appears to simply feed off of carrion so likely little to fear here. Although, this shot looks like he is scraping an eyeball of his beak.

Black Billed Magpie

There is another bird (Spotted Towhee) after the jump along with a blue bird I am currently unable to properly identify.

Continue reading Viewed From Afar (and a request for identification help)