Thursday, September 14, 2017

Calm before the storm

The approach of Irma, the most powerful Atlantic hurricane in history, struck fear as she moved directly towards our south Florida home. During the previous week the weather had been normal for late summer.

The view of our local wetlands before sunrise while the storm was still far away:

North shore HDR 20170901

Fair skies in mid-morning:

Lake fair sky SEP 4 2017

At first we planned to shutter our home and ride out the storm, windowless in the dark, as we are 8 feet above sea level and 18 miles inland. Our anxiety increased as we saw neighbors preparing to drive north or book flights out of state. 

Earlier, the storm had been projected to hit on Friday, but we saw long lines at gas stations and grocery store shelves going bare. On Tuesday Mary Lou and I visited nearby Chapel Trail Nature Preserve and as we walked along the fenced boardwalk we spent more time discussing our options than looking for birds. The morning was clear and calm:

Chapel Trail 01-20170905

We suddenly decided to evacuate to someplace high and dry, so on Wednesday morning we flew to New Mexico. The only connecting flight available took us through Kansas City, and we arrived on Wednesday afternoon and occupied visitors' quarters at mile-high Kirtland Air Force Base. 

The sun rose over the Manzanita Mountains east of Albuquerque:

Albuquerque sunrise 01-20170909

The next morning we observed the famous "Bird Log" at the Capulin Spring picnic area in Cibola National Forest in the Sandia Mountains. For me this was a homecoming of sorts, as in the early 1990s I had worked with a crew of US Forest Service volunteers to rehabilitate and restore water to an old hollow log which had served as a wildlife drinker.

The pipe from the spring had frozen and cracked and the stone wall which enclosed it had to be reassembled and cemented. The log had a large hole which we covered with a rubber sheet. (Les Hawkins was the volunteer who energized the rehabilitation of the log. Here is a  2002 article about him. Les celebrated his 100th birthday in 2014 but I have since lost contact with him.)

Until we moved from New Mexico to Florida in 2004, Mary Lou and I led weekly US Forest Service bird walks in the Sandia Mountains, often visiting this site. It became popular with birders from many countries. 

This is the original log as it appeared in 2008:


The old log finally fell apart and last year a new generation of volunteers used chain saws to carve out a new log to replace the original. They did a great job and restored the flow of water. 

Since this is the only constant water source in a large expanse of mountainous forest, one should expect to see just about every species of bird and mammal which inhabits this area. 

The new Bird Log (click on photo and scroll right and left to see many more enlarged views of the log and its visitors):

Capulin Bird Log 20170912Bird Log 02-20170911

I left my DSLR behind and traveled with my new light weight mirrorless camera (Olympus E-M10 Mark II). The photos are mostly of poor quality, but they document the very engaging hours of just sitting and clicking as the show went on before our eyes. Among the avian visitors, nearly none of which I could expect to find in Florida were...

Western Tanager...

Western Tanager 02-20190911 by a Townsend's Warbler:

Townsend's Warbler and tanager 20170911

A (not much) better view of the Townsend's Warbler:

Townsend's Warbler 20170909

Mountain Chickadee:

Mountain Chickadee 01-20170911

Hermit Thrush:

Hermit Thrush 03-20170911

Green-tailed Towhee:

Green-tailed Towhee 03-20170911

Cassin's Finch (male):

Cassin's Finch male 4-20170911

Cassin's Finch (female):

Cassin's Finch female 20170911

Plumbeous Vireo:

Plumbeous Vireo 01-20170909

Western race of Orange-crowned Warbler, more colorful than the drab Tiaga subspecies which visits south Florida in winter:

Orange-crowned Warbler 03-20170911

Enjoying a bath in "The Bird Log:"

Orange-crowned Warbler 02-20170911

Audubon subspecies of Yellow-rumped Warbler. It has a yellow throat in contrast to the white throat of the eastern Myrtle subspecies which migrates into Florida:

Yellow-rumped Audubon's Warbler 01-20170911

Wilson's Warbler:

Wilson's Warbler 01-20170909Wilson's Warbler 02-20170909

Spotted Towhee:

Spotted Towhee 02-20170911

A Chipmunk:

Chipmunk on bird log 2-20170909

A Mule Deer doe crashed the party but fled when she sensed my presence:

Deer at log 20170911

The hurricane arrived on Saturday, a bit late, and had major impact on the west (Gulf) coast of Florida rather than delivering the predicted direct hit on our neighborhood. It was so large that major damaging effects were felt over the entire Florida peninsula as it moved northward. 

We flew back on Tuesday to a home which had gone without electricity for 48 hours, but power was restored during our flight.  The house suffered no structural damage, although tree limbs and palm lfronds cluttered our yard. Thanks, not only to Irma's decision to veer off to the west coast, but also to so many of you who expressed concern and good wishes. As it turned out, the storm forced us into an unexpected and very pleasant vacation!

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,


Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy


Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue

Linking to ALL SEASONS by Jesh


Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Crops & Clips: Flashback to September, 2014

Once again I am looking back three years and remembering how it was then, and maybe what I might expect this time around. My archives contain 410 photos processed that month. As usual I will look for my favorite memes-- birds and other critters, beautiful skies and reflections, fences, signs of the season, and maybe a few shots which speak for themselves. 

Back in 2014, we started the month at our permanent home in Florida but in mid-month returned to our second home, a condo in Illinois. A little after sunrise on September 1, the winds were calm and the skies fair over the lake in our local wetlands.

Early morning clouds on Harbour Lake 20140901

Later in the morning we stopped by the neighborhood Bald Eagle nest and found that both adults were at the nest and bringing in sticks to renovate  it. Usually this activity begins later in the month or in early October. The female, whom the eagle watchers had named "Joy," perched atop a Melaleuca snag and spread her wings (click on photo for more and larger views):

Bald Eagle female 6-20140901

This is the male, Pride (no, he is not really that close to the tree!):

Bald Eagle female 9-20140901

Joy, whom we had been following  for six years, was known to have produced at least 13 eaglets (11 of which survived to fly freely). Sadly, she would disappear at the end of October. We were never sure of her fate.

Pride was left without a partner. In early December a new and younger female appeared at the nest. Courtship and mating followed, but if "Jewel" deposited any eggs she never sat on the nest. For the first time since 2007 the entire breeding season would pass without any new eaglets.

Two days later I caught a much smaller bird in the act of spreading his wings, a Prairie Warbler:

Prairie Warbler taking flight 20140903

On September 5 a small flock of White Ibises roosted on a neighbor's fence:

White Ibises on fence 20140905

A Black Vulture posed for a portrait. Maybe he heard me say that he is not so ugly after all!

Black Vulture portrait  20140907

On September 15, just before we were to depart for Illinois, migrating Ovenbirds passed through:

Ovenbird 08-20140915

On the same day, parting shots at a pair of Florida butterflies, a male Julia longwing...

Julia longwing male 20140915

...and a White Peacock:

White Peacock 2-20140915

The Chicago skyline on the approach to Midway Airport on September 17:

Chicago skyline from Midway approach 20140917

In Illinois, the air was crisp and the light a bit different. Though not a "field guide" illustration of the species, I liked the way this Nashville Warbler fit the frame:

Nashville Warbler 20140918

In a classic pose, a White-breasted Nuthatch took a different view of the world:

White-breasted Nuthatch 3-20140919

In a small marsh not far from our condo, I enjoyed the natural sepia tones of a Swamp Sparrow...

Swamp Sparrow 09-20140929

..and a Marsh Wren, ...

Marsh Wren 03-20140929

...but a Nelson's Sparrow was more elusive:

Nelson's Sparrow 08-20140929

On the last day of September, the temperature had dropped 20 degrees. Hundreds of American Robins seemed to appear out of nowhere. Some bathed in a small stream:

American Robins bathing 2-20140930

On the way home we stopped by a Bald Eagle nest only a mile away from our Illinois condo. As was the case with the one near our Florida home, it was the first in the county, having been established on the grounds of a residential boys' school only about 4 years previously. 

The nest was built in a dying pine tree the middle of a sport stadium parking lot. I fear that the tree will need to be removed, as now, three years later, it is entirely dead and may present a hazard to public safety:

Bald Eagles at Mooseheart nest 20140930

This cameo portrait was captured from a distance:

Bald Eagle portrait COREL2 20140930

Agramonte, our daughter's Tibetan Mastiff, kept an eye on me as I barbecued steaks on their back deck:

Agramonte2 20140929

An old barnyard:

Water tower2 HDR 20140925

 I prepared this post in advance as the ferocious Hurricane Irma appeared to be on a collision course with south Florida. We shuttered our home and evacuated on short notice. Right now (September 6) Mary Lou and I are seeking refuge three time zones away in mile-high Albuquerque, New Mexico.

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,


Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy


Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue

Linking to ALL SEASONS by Jesh


Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display


Thursday, August 31, 2017

Corpus Christi beach before Hurricane Harvey

We spent 5 days on North Padre Island, just outside Corpus Christi, Texas, with our daughter, her husband and their two daughters. We departed on August 20, less than a week before Hurricane Harvey made a direct strike. Our condominium was located on the beachfront, third floor. Our bed was situated right next to a glass wall which overlooked the beach and the expanse of the Gulf of Mexico:

Gulfstream Condominiums 20170817

These are views which greeted us at sunrise:

Sunrise 01-20170817

Sunrise 05-20170817

Sunrise 01-20170818

Mary Lou and I walked the beach early each morning. Our companions along the way were friendly humans...

Sunrise 04-20170817

...and a few feathered critters. Sanderlings scurried back and forth as the surf rolled in and receded:

Sandpiper 02-20170817

Sandpiper 01-20170817

Sanderling 02-20170818

Laughing Gulls were numerous. They exchange their black heads for "earmuffs" at the end of breeding season:

Laughing Gull 01-20170817

This adult Herring Gull has a yellow bill and develops a few dark head streaks as winter approaches.

Gull 01-20170817

A Royal Tern flew overhead:

Royal Tern 20170818

The Willet is a large sandpiper with a substantial straight bill. It flashes white wing patches in flight and loudly calls out its name: 

Willet 01-20170818

Willet 03-20170818

Ruddy Turnstones were quite numerous:

Ruddy Turnstone 05-20170818

A special treat was this tiny Piping Plover, a threatened species (and endangered in the Great Lakes area) with a yellow-orange flag and a blue-green band respectively on its left and right upper legs. The colors indicate it came from the northern Great Plains states. The light was poor and I could not read the number on the flag, and it flew off before I could draw nearer:

Piping Plover 04-20170817

Piping Plover 02-20170817

The younger family members went fishing from a pier at night, and I joined them. I tried out the low-light performance of my new mirrorless camera. These images were hand-held and brightened in post-processing but no filters were applied:

Fishing Pier 06-20170817

Fishing Pier 02-20170817

I assume that the green lights under the pier are intended to attract fish:

Causeway 02-20170816

At Port Aransas, we took a successful dolphin-watching boat tour, but I got no decent photos because of my poor reflexes and the annoying shutter lag with my new camera. 

This is a view of the harbor over the "fence" on the stern of the boat. I did not realize how drastically this scene would change only a few days later:

Port Aransas 05-20170818

The boat captain pointed out a flock of Roseate Spoonbills, which he called "Texas Flamingos:"

Roseate Spoonbills 20170818

The Lydia Ann Lighthouse, placed into service in 1857, guards the passage between the Gulf and the bay. Hurricanes destroyed the outbuildings several times, the worst in 1916 and 1919. It was deactivated in 1952 and is now under private ownership. The light was restored and returned to service in 1988 as a private aid to navigation:

Lighthouse 01-20170818

On my 82nd birthday, just a week after I took these photos, the eye of Hurricane Harvey had already passed directly over Port Aransas and was then producing massive devastation in Houston, Texas.  My birthday occurs at the height of hurricane season. In recent years, four Atlantic and Gulf hurricanes made landfall on August 29: Katrina (2005) Gustav (2008) and Isaac (2012). 

At this point I have not heard how the lighthouse fared. I was reminded of how I spent my birthday when we lived New Orleans in 1969. I was in a school which served as a hurricane shelter, providing medical care to hundreds of evacuees after Camille struck on August 17. At that time it was the worst hurricane to ever strike the US mainland. See: Remembering Hurricane Camille

An excerpt: Remarkably, these words were written in 1999: “For many, Camille is a distant memory, an historical footnote from a time long gone. But Camille is also a harbinger of disasters to come. Another storm of Camille’s intensity will strike the United States, the only question is when. When this future storm strikes, it will make landfall over conditions drastically different from those in 1969. The hurricane-prone regions of the United States have developed dramatically as people have moved to the coast and the nation’s wealth has grown. Estimates of potential losses from a single hurricane approach $100 billion.”
[Thirty Years After Hurricane Camille: Lessons Learned, Lessons Lost, by Roger A. Pielke, Jr., Chantal Simonpietri, and Jennifer Oxelson ,12 July 1999]

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,


Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy


Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue

Linking to ALL SEASONS by Jesh


Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display