April 29, 2008

Dutchman's Breeches! The Spring Ephemerals are definately coming in. (Ephemeral, the word stemming from "ephēmeros", meaning "for one day." In the case of Dutchman's Breeches, maybe even shorter.)

The laundry line.
Another Spring thing: Marsh Marigolds. (In previous years I called them "March Marigolds", but not THIS year.)
A lone beaver enjoys a swim in Old Cedar Bridge pond while munching a woody snack using the proper "corncob" technique.

April 28, 2008

The tree buds are a poppin'. I think we're taking another run at Spring after a week of 30 degrees, gray skies, sleet & snow. Or it could be winter again already, I forget.
The Doomsday bud from Star Trek I.
Poor tiny little baby groundhog, barely more than a bag of noodles. Ripped from your nice downy grass bed by the instinct of a Dachshund. Good luck little fellow, hope you get a warm spell.

April 27, 2008

Whaddayu lookin' at !?! Ya nevva seen a Sharp-tailed grouse befowa !?!
Here he is kicking snow in the face of a 9 oz. weakling to impress the chicks.

April 26, 2008

Here we are at Long Lake Conservation Center, where panacakes grow on trees to supply the "Lumberjack Breakfasts" everyday. Yum.
Rocky the Flying Squirrel takes a half-gainer approach to the "squirrel-proof" birdfeeder. Incoming!!!

April 24, 2008

Due to the torrential rains today, and being all busy working at the nature center AND trying to get packed up for the big Photo Retreat Weekend, Happy had to earn his keep and be the muse today. Luckily, it's what he does best. He was ready on a moments notice, only too happy to look up from his nice warm lap to give us a few of his poses from John Casablanca's Modeling School portfolio.
I tire of these parlour games. There had better be a pig's ear in it for me after all this.
That laser-beam stare which hath broken the will of many a grandmother with treats in her hand. Okay, just this one time...

April 23, 2008

First, there was the $11 ultra wide angle. Well, give enough monkeys enough typewriters... and they're bound to hook it up to a kaleidoscope!

That's right Monty, that would be W - I - D - E angle kaleidoscope - In Sensurround!!! (Copyright Irwin Allen, All Rights Reserved)
A female cowbird boldly defends her stick.
Two Box Elder bugs doing the uh, um Bump. On a railroad track. Is there no shame?

April 22, 2008

Bufo Americanus, or American Toad. Master of espionage.
Elderberry blossom revisited. Sort of. In a different place.
And how often during a lifetime do you get this rare opportunity? Seeing an actual knothole being formed! This is the roof of one of our bluebird houses. It must have gotten a tad warm in there after a good wetting down, as the knot - she is a poppin' out. I tugged on it to see how loose it was (hence the chipped edge, sorry), but it was tighter than a landlord's wallet. Vacancy available - now with skylight!

April 21, 2008

Is it true that snail shells in the Northern Hemisphere twist in a clockwise direction while snail shells in the Southern Hemisphere twist counterclockwise?
I saw my first dragonfly today (actually three) but failed to get a recognizable picture of one.
My friend Bob loaned his autofocus Nikon lens off of his F100 to me to try for awhile. It's pretty fun, it's a 28 -105 macro at 3.5 - 4.5D. I'd forgotten how heavy macro lenses are. Especially autofocus. Nice glass tho.

The Flicker sets sites on an overhead target. Dinner on the observation deck today, maybe? Your table is set, sir.

April 20, 2008

A walk around lake Nokomis begat some interesting bird watching today:
A pair of nesting bald eagles, along with many loons, mergansers, grebes, cormorants, ducks and gulls of many flavors.
"Four score and seven years ago our fore feathers brought forth, upon this continent..."
Meanwhile the little misses is back home awaiting take-out food.
Hell-o!? I wish he wasn't such a gosh-darn ham down there at the lake, he can't get his big fat head out of his tree when there's even the smallest crowd around, the putz.
Loonadactylsaurus

April 19, 2008

Take me down to Bass Ponds City where the watercress is green and the creeks are pretty... And not just green, green: vibrant, verdant eye-wrenching watercress green in a crystal-clear stream. I kept feeling that as I was concentrating to take a picture I would look up and a herd of deer would be staring at me, and I wouldn't have heard them because of the rushing water and being drawn in to the bottomless green.
There is a word about water that I've always admired, describing the "thalweg" of a stream. I was taught it means the "definitive flow channel" of the river, which may not be the dead center of a straight stretch or the outside bend on a corner, as you would expect. It's where the river is "determined to go." Others say it just means the deepest part of the river or valley.
The stream here at the Bass Ponds today (which has been restocked with Brown Trout as it was many years ago) shows a meandering thalweg of clear, fast water, bounded by stationary mats of watercress as far as the eye can see.
To have this vibrant green alive and glowing there where the woods are still mostly gray bark and the dingy leaf duff of last fall, borders on the surreal.

During an afternoon training session along the Mississippi River Gorge, (the ONLY true river gorge for the entire length of the river I just found out, and it's right near our neighborhood) Chrissy & Fred pointed out this amazing tree bud they found along the path. They said, "You've got to take a picture of this, it's like two hands holding a broccoli!"

Indeed it is. I'm told it is an Elderberry bush.

April 18, 2008

I did a double-take when I saw this blond duck back on the creek again this morning. She looks an awful lot like the one in the photo I took last year on the creek, the infamous "Mallard telling a joke" picture:

It's cool to think it could be the same couple come back to our little bend in the creek year after year, to celebrate their anniversary or stay a few days in the Cattail Motel, on their way "Up North."

The Savannah Sparrow staked out in a tangle of woody shrubbery.

And another little buddy we haven't seen for quite some time (I haven't anyway, tho he was probably still there) : the mink. I'm sure this musky fellow is anxiously awaiting some nests with nice tasty eggs in them.

April 17, 2008

A gaggle of Canadian geese putting a reverse check-mark on the box that says, "Minnesota Phenological Indictor #87: Geese flying north in "V" formation."

April 16, 2008

More signs of Spring! Sprouts are sprouting!


The Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) is unfurling. Hmmm. "foetidus?" Fetid Cabbage...? That's kind of an ominous dark void in the center... What's in there? Let's have a look...

Whoa! Is that thing licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission? And what's that, um, smell...?

Motherwort. Always the first one out.

Phoebe??? Phoebe!!! Phoebe??? Phoebe!!! Phoebe??? Phoebe!!!

About Peeps

In response to buthidae's comment, this peephole lens idea has been around for quite a while, at least since the 60's, maybe longer. I first saw it in the 80's when my old genius boss showed me a picture of someones mouth taken with the lens, and described how he made one. The "usual" method is to sacrifice a lens cap for the camera you want to try it on, drill a hole in it the exact size of the peep barrel and thread or hotmelt glue it in. Then you can just snap it on and off at will.

I started my construction by buying two of the peeps, a 180 degree with a 1/2" barrel and a 200 degree with a 5/16" barrel. Then I just held them up to the lenses of my digital cameras (carefully) to see approximately what I could get. I didn't have much luck with my lenses on the Nikon D80, but the Canon G2 (point & shoot) looked decent, so I got a 1 1/2" PVC cap at the hardware store (the P & S doesn't have a thread on end of the lens), found the center, drilled the hole and screwed the peep in:


I had to put a layer of transparent tape on the inside of the PVC for a snug fit, and screwed in the peep lens a bit to make up for the rounding of the cap inside.

I still want to get back and try some ideas on the D80, but for now this is what I had time for. It seems to work best with the P & S lens telephotoed out and set to "close-up", and with a - 2/3 stop compensation. You have to play with it a lot tho, and expect to do some clean up in Photoshop as this lens isn't quite up to Hubble specs. It's super fun experimentation tho, and made for the digital camera, where you can see it right away and make some adjustments. I want to play with cutting down the peep barrel as the back lens is in quite a ways. I also have some other lenses to combine with it. Sometime.

This is the most definitive source for info I have found so far, there you can download a 26 Meg pdf tome of some people's "research" of the idea. I have some other collected links if that's not enough. I will also post some of my experiments with it as they come out of the "lab."

Ahhhh! It's ALIVE!!!!!

Correcshuns, Retrakshuns, & Addishuns

Let's see, time to right some wrongs, tidy up a few facts, and make some identifications:
What some thought on April 12, 2008, to be a Barn Swallow has now been cross-analyzed, discussed and verified thru pattern-recognition to be an Eastern Bluebird. Welcome back to Minnesota!
The creature I called a moth on April 5, 2008, turned out to be a brush-footed butterfly (Order Lepidoptera) of the family Nympalidae. Or more to the point, a Nymphalis Antiopa or "Morning Cloak" butterfly. I just saw another one yesterday. I whole-heartedly apologize to your entire family, and to your order. I'm sorry.
Also, on March 29, 2008, I mistakenly referred to two ring-necked ducks as scaup. That proves it Honey, I NEED A LONGER LENS!
In the future, look for more consistency in my putting the captions UNDER the images. I realize sometimes I put them on top, sometimes under. It's a mixed up, jumbled up, shook up world. If I find myself with scads of extra time (ya!) I'll fix it all up.
Meanwhile, if you see something that needs correction, speak up, by all means. The things I have to fix are the things I have a greater chance of remembering next time.
Quick story: Yesterday I was driving home from errands after the nature center and I saw a cool thing. As I was driving up Minnehaha Avenue in my nappy little car (Minnehaha is a two lane street that used to be a street-car line, many of the houses are at a 45 degree angle to the road, pretty surreal) I was going about 30 and I saw something moving equal to my speed out of the corner of my eye. It was a Cooper's hawk just rocketing thru people's yards, over hedges, around trees, about 8 feet off the ground. Just about the time the last w of Wow! came out of my mouth, he sped up and I noticed there was another one of equal size, color and vigor chasing him. I had to slow down for the traffic lining up at a stoplight and they both buzzed past, around trees, over the parked cars, then down the middle of the street traffic, around somebody turning left, then straight down the empty avenue past the intersection. Gone in 10 seconds. It didn't seem like anyone else even noticed. Thanks, you guys.

April 15, 2008

Pearl the Cat captured by my experimental door-peephole lens. A 200 degree field of view for $11.
American Robin enjoying the sunset at the dogpark.
A scappy American crow catching a ride on our 40 mph gusts today.
Puff the magic eyebag
lives on my cheek
and blossums in an allergic mist
in a land called Lack of Sleep

April 14, 2008

Spring visitors to our creek
A shy Gadwall snuck in amongst the mallard crowd this morning, but our neighbor Diana "Eagle-eye" Doyle tipped me off and I ran out in my PJ's for some snapshots.
While on the Gadwall stake-out, a not-so-shy goldfinch landed on the branch right in front of me and began his morning song. He was so close I was not sure I could focus my telephoto!

Hittin' the high note.
Thank you. Thank y'vera much.

April 13, 2008

Ready for take-off. I think this is a female purple finch.
You've got to talk to them a lot to get them to relax this much.
Like the two-tone beak.
Song Sparrow recommends millet for those golden tones.
Don't make me come over there an open up a fresh can a whup' azz...