Phoadtography: Visiting Our Neighbors to the North Pt 1

There is no rest for the weary these days.  I can see the edge of October and it is approaching fast.  The good news is I am down to one more post after this one and I think that is doable … at the moment.   I ended up losing yesterday because I forgot to process all the pictures for this post.  Soooo last night was spent getting that done and uploading them to our Smugmug account (Eddiesoft) so I could post tonight.

Today’s entry is from our trip up to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in early October.  Linda and the boys were competing in the Petit Prix, also known as the Teacup Dog Agility Association National’s.  Although I have really nothing to do with this since I neither train the dogs or run them in the ring, that doesn’t stop me from taking credit for how well they competed in the event.  Both Kerby and Rizzi came home with a pile of ribbons and Rizzi even made the Semi-Finals consisting of the top 84 dogs in the whole event.  Of course, there is a reason I get to take some credit…. I have to take off work and help Linda haul everything to and from the car and these toy dogs travel heavier than Paris Hilton.  The good news is Linda drove most of the way providing ample time to snap some shots along the way.  With that, let’s get to the pictures eh ? (in my best Wisconsin accent)

Keeping with the Halloween theme from the previous posts, I’ll start with these.  My eyes lit up when I saw this pumpkin.  Just imagine the cool pumpkin carving I could do with one of these babies.  It might take a chainsaw instead of a Dremel, but I’m definitely up for the challenge.

Hit the jump for the rest of the pictures from the trip

Continue reading Phoadtography: Visiting Our Neighbors to the North Pt 1

Phoadtography: Checking Out Our Neighbors to the East (Pt 2 of 2)

Welcome to the 6th post for this month which successfully puts another check in the monthly post commitment and thankfully this one comes earlier than usual.  As you probably know I am usually rushing to get these babies done before day 30ish comes to a close.  Not this month, but that is primarily due to focusing on getting these done in order to spent the rest of the month (and some into the next month as well) focusing on a big personal event that is scheduled for September 11th.  Not really talking about it at the moment to keep from jinxing myself so we’ll just let that go for now.  On a side note, thanks to the ass Don Henley finding the need to come out in favor of the PROTECT IP Act (and using invalidated studies and hyperbole fear as a basis – must be learning from Gore), today marks the first day of never giving a penny to anything that funds the Eagles or Don Henley in any form.  This of course includes additional albums/CDs/DVDs to those already sitting in our shelves and god forbid anymore $75 tickets to their concerts.  Just my little way of helping make Donny-boy’s fake claims as real as I can – say, won’t you join me?

Enough ranting, you are hear for one and only one reason.. to fill the empty void when you found out there were even more phoadtography pictures from our Indy trip!  So, picking up where part one left off (link) I give you this sign found on a building as we were driving through a city.

Talk about a bad signage planning.  Reading this to someone would put them in a quandary.  Those Damn Pentecostals! or those Pentecostals are one Damn Ass Company.  If their lucky they would have seen the name of the city (Damasco) as they drove through.

As we drove into Indianapolis we spotted this hotel rising up above the trees.  From a design perspective it was pretty stunning and blended nicely with the environment.  Turns out our hotel was right near this Marriott and could have used it to navigate directly where we needed to be.  The construction around Indy had us uncertain we were on the right road and quite frankly the neighborhoods we were passing through had us a little concerned.  It all turned out okay, but simply heading for this landmark would have probably worked better.

Hit the jump to see the rest of the Indy Phoadtography Collection

Continue reading Phoadtography: Checking Out Our Neighbors to the East (Pt 2 of 2)

Another Check in the Bird List – The Scarlet Tanager

Can you tell I’m !#%!@@#$@ cooped up in the house this weekend with a hell spawned cold?  If memory serves (and it is on the fritz at the moment) this is the third post in three days.  Blogging at least keeps my mind off of the missed training runs this has caused which couldn’t happen at a more inconvenient time… but more on that in less than a month.  To be honest, today’s post is really more about a half check than a full check on the Life Birding List.  Linda and I headed out to a photo shoot at Wildcat Den about 30-40 minutes outside of Davenport in Muscatine County, Iowa.  We were in Davenport for our 3 day concert extravaganza (yes, that will be a future post topic) and figured it would be a good opportunity to take some shots at the State Park.  So we strapped on the backpacks, cleared out the memory cards and grabbed the cameras.  Needless to say with opportunities for wildlife, The Beast was in tow.

For the first hour there was not much action in the feathered category.  I decided to focus on some large butterflies while Linda busied herself with some water landscape shots.  From there we moved deeper into the State Park when Linda (so she says) pointed out a reddish bird sitting in the dense trees.  Having learned from previous mistakes, I dropped the tripod down and did my best to get a preliminary shot so I wouldn’t be leaving empty handed.  Once I had sufficient attempts  from afar, I slowly moved in to try and better the shot.  Out of all of them, this is probably the best one.

Hit the jump to see more pictures of this distinctive bird  … prepare yourself, some are a little scary

Continue reading Another Check in the Bird List – The Scarlet Tanager

A New Checkmark for the Birding List

As a note, I highly recommend checking out this particular set of pictures on our SmugMug page at http://eddiesoft.smugmg.com.  The reason for this is the required size reduction for this blog really takes away from the detail and coloring found on the full sized shots up on smug – you can pick any size you want to view by putting your cursor inside the border for the picture and picking from the menu that comes up on the right.

Today is the true unveiling of the capability of The Beast.  We took it out one morning to see what we could find.  For the most part, our attempts to capture some interesting sunrises fell short.  A few of our favorite locations were either weak with color or there was nothing real interesting going on in the cloud front (trust me, sunrise pictures without anything to add to the composition are pretty boring.  Striking out there, we headed over to Jubilee Park to see what kind of wildlife was out and about.  That ended up being a great shoot, but more about that in another post.  I was elated that we didn’t come away empty handed and was feeling pretty good about the outing as we drove the short distance back to home.  That’s when the day turned from great to awesome.  It is a fact I am always looking around for any interesting wildlife.  To my surprise, this little guy was busy running alongside the road!

What luck.  Not only have I not been able to capture this particular bird on camera yet, but The Beast was already attached to the camera.  I quickly yelled out our code word for “Stop the car I see something worth taking a picture” (yes, we have a secret code for that since the time it would take to say all that could spoil the whole shot).  In immediate recognition of the command, Linda pulled to the side of the road and I brought The Beast into firing position through the open car window.  The added stability of the car frame to rest the camera on turned out to be a big plus.  This was the first outing with the big glass so there was some quick learning going on to figure out how to get the focus points where I wanted on a moving animal.  The size of the glass barrel may have alarmed it a bit since it tried to keep an eye on me as it ran around in the tall grass.

Again, it is hard to really see the detail in the small pictures here, but a quick crop should give you an idea of how pleased I was with the results.  Nice to know this huge investment pays off when it comes to the quality of the glass and the ability to get close enough to wildlife to see this level of eye detail. For the record, this is a Ring-Necked Pheasant for those keeping track and more importantly, a new check mark in the bird shot list.

Hit the jump to see even more pictures of this bird and more examples of the clarity the big glass brings to the table.

Continue reading A New Checkmark for the Birding List

When Man and Nature Collide

looking back, I have probably shot at least a thousand birds over my life.  Luckily for my winged friends (with the exception of two) these shots have all been with a shutter release and not with projectiles.  However, I must confess that indirectly I have shortened the life of a few.  Call me a softie, but this always saddens me a little when I think about how much pleasure I get from watching them gather around my feeders.  The irony of it all is that the feeders are often the catalyst for their accidental demise.  To fully experience living in the country, we architected our house to provide nice views into the surrounding woods.  This translated into a large amount of glass, the evil nemesis of all Aves.  Every once in awhile we hear a loud bang in the living room.  Being familiar with the common cause of this startling noise, I reluctantly head towards the windows.  Inevitably, this is the typical scene:

A perfectly good bird cut down by the magic of sand and a small cavity for brain matter.  Actually, I’ve seen humans walk into glass doors as well, so not sure how much the brain size plays into this particular situation.  By a general rule of thumb, the survival rate is directly proportional to the volume of the impact.  Through extensive trial and error, I’ve been able to improve this rate at least a little bit.  The success is dependent on how quick you can come to the aid of the injured bird.   Upon impact, the bird often loses consciousness and drops backwards onto the porch – the reasoning behind this still needs further research.  If the bird doesn’t snap it’s neck, it will show signs of convulsions both with fluttering wings and spastic feet.  This is exactly the state I found the bird pictured above (note I had the camera in my hand already taking pictures of some other subjects).  If you can get to the bird in this state, you must immediately flip it back over on its feet/belly.  If you leave it upside down, it will die every time (my apologies to all the failed experiments before this was figured out).  Kind of reminds me of my mode of operation with my drunk friends in college, but let’s stay on topic.

Hit the jump for some good news!

Continue reading When Man and Nature Collide

A Surprise Thrashing

Since the moment we started building our house in the woods, I’ve been busy taking photos of all the birds that drop by from time to time.  After awhile the diversity of species begins to fade as the same bird types tend to inhabit the same area year after year.  Some become so familiar that their tiny imperfections allow you to actually give them names.  Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy taking their pictures – if nothing else, the light settings and perch choices are always unique so there is always a challenge.  The main point of mentioning this is it makes new arrivals a big deal around here.  As soon as I spot a new bird type, I scramble for the camera in the hopes of getting a least some sort of picture to capture the moment (and to have proof for adding another check to my watch list).   As you can probably guess, I spotted a new bird to the homestead a few days ago.  Luckily, I was able to get a few shots.  As with all my pictures, the full versions can be seen on our Photography site at eddiesoft.smugmug.com. If you go there, you can view them at any size you want up to the original size (note, I always use medium for images in this blog).

So, after dinner I looked out and noticed a strange bird a ways out from the house.  Immediately thinking this might be a new find, I grabbed the closest camera (D7000) and headed out to the porch in hopes of snapping a few shots.  Our Beast was not currently on this particular camera having stored it away after our last photo shoot.  Luckily, the 80-200 glass was attached giving me some reach into the yard.

I was fighting the light going down as well trying to steady myself while hand holding the camera – must have been all the excitement of the chance to capture a new bird.  On full manual, I had to bump the ISO up to 800 for most of the shots in order to get the shutter speed I needed to help compensate for my shaky hands.  The shot above is a full shot giving you some perspective of the distance I was dealing with (this was at full 200mm I believe).  As you learn pretty quick taking bird pictures, any distance at all causes that bird to appear pretty small.  However, with the power of crop, we can take you a little closer in.

Hit the jump to see a lot more (and better) pictures of my feathered friend.

Continue reading A Surprise Thrashing

Phoadtography Gallery: Maine Trip 2010 Pt 1

This year is quickly coming to a close, but the blog queue is still deep with 2010 photo collections.  I try to keep it fresh and maintain a balance of photos, interesting viewpoints, service complaints/rants and things that make me go huh?  Linda and I were lucky enough to go on some pretty nice trips this year which means our hard drives have been riddled with photos this year.  It is far easier to make comments on things if they are still in short term memory so rather than push this off to next year, let’s go ahead and dump the Phoadtography collection from the Maine trip we took in June.  There are a lot of them so be warned, your browser cache is going to get a workout.  For sanity purposes (yours and mine) this post will actually be a two parter.  For those who don’t know what Phoadtography is please check out my previous post… especially if you are preparing to unleash your fury on how bad some of these shots ended up being.

Starting off this set is every kid’s favorite toys and more importantly, the machines that pay both our salaries.  Guessing due to the stimulus money (that actually got spent on job creating projects), we encountered a lot of construction on our way out and back to Maine.  Most travelers probably cuss the slow downs and stoppages, but in the case of my wife and I the sound of Caterpillar machines in motion is music to our ears.  As mentioned in the introduction Cat machines are always a good target for Phoadtography shots.  This vehicle is one of our articulated trucks that, if I remember correctly, are produced in Waco TX.

Pretty cool machine if I say so myself.  Hit the jump to see the rest of the pictures in this post.

Continue reading Phoadtography Gallery: Maine Trip 2010 Pt 1

Well, It’s a Bird, but Your Guess is as Good as Mine

My typing fingers are worked to the bone, my eyes struggle to remain open and my body has become one with the office chair.  Yet, I am pleased since this post brings me to the end of the wildlife shots from the Yellowstone vacation last year.  It is slightly embarrassing to have taken this long to get this done, but we literally have thousands (yes plural) of shots from that trip.  Needless to say I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the great shots Linda took – especially the water fall silks.

This last set is an interesting one in the sense your guess is as good as mine as to what these birds are.  I probably went through the field guides about 30 times trying to pin these birds down with very little success.  As with the unknown ducks, these may be shots of females that are not sufficiently described in the guides or possibly migrated out of their standard regions and thus are not usually seen there.  If I am lucky, one of my millions of readers (you believing that?) will recognize one and drop me a comment.

Fasten your seatbelts, the mystery tour is starting.  Basically all I have to go on is the silhouette of this particular bird which is very little help when trying to identify a bird.  Based on comparing the head outline and the wider fantail, my guess is an Olive-sided Flycatcher.  Admittedly, the tail is a little wider than the guide specimen, but other than that it appears pretty close.  It also says they sit on the highest twigs.. well, that appears to match.

I spotted this particular bird out in the middle of a large field (and pretty far out).  I was unable to get a good clean shot of the bird mainly due to the impressive air acrobats that were being executed at the time.  Twisting, turning, diving, loops, it was was quite impressive.  It may have been attacking prey but it never came up with anything.  It was probably just showing off to a potential mate.  It really didn’t match exactly like any of the hawks in the various books beyond the tail striping.  There is a lot of white on the underwings which doesn’t fit with my decision to identify it as a Red-tailed Hawk.

You know, I am still not sure about this one.  The red-tailed doesn’t really have the striping this one has and in this shot, the profile looks a lot leaner.  None of the other specimens really have the whiteness shown under the wings.  There is a chance it is an Osprey, but it would be much darker on top.  Just a second, this is bugging me, let me check another reference…..  sigh, I just can’t tell.  I am less confident it is a red-tailed hawk now and now considering a juvenile Broad-winged Hawk or possibly an American Kestrel.    Note I asked Linda for her opinion and she decided it was a never before seen bird and to name it after me.  This is the kind of help I’m dealing with people 8^(

The next one is probably a Tree Swallow.  It’s a crappy shot, but decided to include it because it was clearly an inspiration for something.  Any guesses?  If you said our stealth wing planes you’re tracking with me.  It would be interesting to know if this is where they got the idea from … or maybe not interesting to know if they’d have to kill me after telling me.

If the hawk above was hard to decide, this one is downright impossible.  As with the hawk, I’ve scoured my resources looking for some clue that would lead me to the proper identification.  There were a number of these birds flying around the rising steam pools around Yellowstone.  This particular one would fly around for awhile and then land in the rocks for a brief rest.  I almost with with a White-throated Swift, but the guides says it never perches.  Never is such a definite word but my pictures never show one clinging to the rocks.

The Violet-green Swallow does nest in colonies on cliffs which checks with my visuals.  Clearly there is room for debate on this one.  Well, not such much debate as I’d probably cave in to any viable alternative (that matches that region).

Strangely enough, this bird exactly matched none of the blue colored birds in the books.  It clearly has blue wings, but the head and body are sporting a pretty solid grey.  It is this grey that makes me throw out the Mountain Bluebird (which is all blue) .  It also lacks any orange which rules out the Western Bluebird, the Eastern Bluebird, the Blue Grossbeak and the Lazuli Bunting.

I also know the Blue Jay and the Steller’s Jay so that left me with the Western Scrub-Jay.  In contrast, it is suppose to have a bluer head the picture being compared to shows fatter in the body.  It did say it likes to hang around campsites and picnic areas which coincides with where these pictures were taken.

Here are two pretty poor shots of a interesting bird.  It is actually the first bird other than the finch I’ve seen sporting the bright yellow markings.  It refused to sit still for a microsecond in order to get the lens focused, but for the most part you can see the yellow on the rump and the second one shows some yellow on the head.  Based on those weak observations, I have officially called this a Yellow-rump Warbler.

Apparently the female is a little duller in the head (coloring fools 8^)  so the above one is likely a female.  The fuzzy shot below is likely of a male because it is smarter.. I mean sharper colored.

Okay, it’s audience participation time.  Hit the jump to see more!

Continue reading Well, It’s a Bird, but Your Guess is as Good as Mine

Just About a Wrap on Vacation Birds

As promised previously, I’m cranking through the remaining photo shots from last year’s vacation.  This year’s vacation is closing fast and since we are headed to a state I’ve never been, the assumption is the shutters will be snapping non-stop.  I have already picked up that region’s field guide and perusing it from time to time in order to set my wildlife checklist.  Last year almost all the animals on the list were checked off, with the exception of the Wolf and Mountain Goat.  Time is short today so I better get to this set of birds.  The first image is of a Chickadee that is fairly common both around my house and apparently out there.

I mainly added this picture because I liked how the little one was tucked inside the evergreen branches.  The field guide actually claims this is a Mountain Chickadee, but to be honest it looks exactly like the ones outside my window as I type this blog.  It does say the habitat is coniferous forests.  Based on this photo, they nailed it.  Wow, as I looked out the window to verify with a chickadee on my feeder, I spotted a raccoon holding onto a branch above my feeder and paw over paw pulling up my bird feeder over the squirrel baffle.  Please hold while I deal with this evil spawn.  …….  the problem is solved.  Geesh, it’s 5:44pm in the afternoon, they are definitely getting bolder.

The next set of photos is from a small pond we stopped at because it had a ton of creatures flying out and diving under a bridge next to the road.  They were flying so fast I couldn’t really tell what they were, so I decided to get out and try to figure it out.  The first consideration of bats were thrown out pretty quick due to the coloring, which led to some type of swallow.  Although I clipped this one, it did show the coloring pattern that led to the identification.  Nothing like trying to look through the viewer and try to get one of these bullets in your field of shot.

I was in the process of putting the lens cap back on the camera and closing up shop when all of a sudden one of the swallows fell completely out of the sky and landed on the water.  Finding this odd, I ended up taking the cap back off in order to use the zoom to get a better view of the scene.  There the bird remained motionless just floating on the water for what must have been at least 3 minutes.

The assumption was it was dead for what reason remained a mystery.  Eventually the little guy stirred a bit and began to come to life.  Slowly it started to beat the wings to build up momentum to escape the water.

Likely due to the extra weight from the wet wings, it was quite a struggle before it was able to gain flight again.  This shot is actually one of my favorites as it was taken just a split second after reaching freedom.

I am hoping it is just a shadow, but the shot actually looks like it might have left some blood where it landed.  Based on the amount of birds flying around at break neck speeds, the odds are it collided with another swallow and lost consciousness for a little bit.  It looked fine as it gained altitude, but eventually I lost it in the swirling mass so best wishes.

Please hit the jump to see the rest of the set.

Continue reading Just About a Wrap on Vacation Birds

What the Duck Is It?

I’m about one day away from going completely nuts due to not having Internet access from my main computer.  This is suppose to be resolved on Tuesday when the new satellite dish is installed.  Until then, I am forced to use my wife’s computer which has to be the crappiest Dell (Studio XPS) I’ve ever used.  Not only is this ridiculously hot thanks to the bad engineering design to have the lid close off the back vent when the lid is open, but the scratch pad mouse will float the cursor randomly if you just wave your thumbs over it.

I do need to persevere though and get through the vacation pictures.  This particular set is essentially a set of ducks of which I have been unable to locate in any of my three bird field guides.  This is likely due to being females and for some reason a majority of the guides will show a male specimen and then simply describe the female version.  It may just be me, but I find this a very frustrating approach for identifying birds.  Usually I can luck out and snap a male with the female which allows me to simply verify the image with the text for the male, but without a starting point, you are basically trying to wade through every description.  After going through this process a couple of times, I have given up and will simply provide the images in hopes someone out there can help me out.

But first, here is one I could actually identify due to how common it is where I live.  We walked up to Nymph Lake in Rocky Mountain National Forest.  Unfortunately, the trail is actually uphill the entire way which did not win me any points with my wife.  I think she was just about ready to beat me over the head with the tripod when we finally reached the destination.  One of the first things we saw coming up to the lake was:

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a mallard with its head in the water, but the interesting thing was how long he maintained this position.  He would literally do a beak stand in the water for over a minute before bringing his head back up.  5 seconds of rest and he would go right back to that position.  It seemed like some kind of inside duck joke on visitors (or an inside joke between Linda and I if she won the lottery which will remain a secret).  This went on for the entire time we were at the lake.  Still intrigued as to the reason, I happened to pan to the right a little and it all came crystal clear.

The dude was just showing off for the ladies.  This is probably the duck equivalent to Val Kilmer doing stupid muscle poses during a sand volleyball game (except Val was with all males by the way).  A quick funny story.  On the way back down, I saw a small little snake dart into some rocks from the side of the path.  Knowing Linda is deathly afraid of them, I calmly mentioned she should go ahead of me (while I blocked vision from the snake).  She somehow put two and two together and started freaking out which included grabbing my shirt and literally ripping it to pieces.  Next thing I know, one of my favorite shirts now has its sleeve seam completely ruined.  Let that be a lesson to myself – next time, she’s going to have wished she hadn’t stepped on one and I’m keeping her hands off my clothes.

Since there a few unknown duck shots, I’ll put them after the jump.  Again, if you recognize any of them, please drop a comment.

Continue reading What the Duck Is It?