Sunday, January 30, 2011

Romance Heron Style

I've been showing you a lot of scenes of predation and I thought it time to show the gentler side of bird life.
 I had observed courting behavior recently among some mallards so I thought perhaps it was time to check out the tree where several herons had nested last year.  I saw four nests, each with one or two birds.  These three were quietly co-existing in two of the nests.
 When this guy flew in, it was clear he didn't belong in this group.  I'd never before seen herons raise their crest as these did.
 I trained my camera on another nest, one with a single bird.  Suddenly it became alert.
 This arriving bird received a very different greeting.
 Notice the crests raised again, this is part of courtship behavior.
 These two seem to be on friendly terms.
 Very friendly terms.
 The stretched and fluffed neck is another courtship display and here they are grabbing each other's beak.  Perhaps the heron equivalent of a kiss?

After all of this display of affection they get to work tidying the nest.  I think they are going to need it!  Courtship displays are not as common in pair bonded couples so perhaps the two in the top photo are an old married couple, just standing around, comfortable with each other.

See other views of the world at My World, Tuesday, hosted for us by Klaus, Sandy, Wren and Sylvia.
See more birds at Bird Photography Weekly.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sky Watching in the Klamath Basin

We went up north to the The Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex.  I had read that if you are in the right place at the break of dawn hundreds of Bald Eagles fly from their night roosting site to their hunting grounds.  We got up well before dawn and headed out in search of eagles. 
Well, we did see eagles.  A dozen or so flying high above in the early light.  No good photo op of eagles here.
We did get good views of the moon, just past full, setting in the west behind some rosy clouds.
Looking east, we captured the sun as it rose.  As a bonus, I finally achieved the star burst effect I've been trying for.  The trick?  Wide angle (15mm) and small aperture (f22).
To the south Mt. Shasta with its cap of lenticular cloud caught the rosy glow of first light.
Not the pictures I was looking for but well worth the early wake-up.
I did get a closer look at some eagles but that is a story for another post.

For more views of the sky visit SkyWatch Friday, hosted for us by Klaus, Sandy, Wren and Sylvia.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Egret and the Vole

I wish these shots were sharper but no time to check camera settings much less set up a tripod.  Enlarge these for a better look, unless you're squeamish.  If you are you might like to avoid this post entirely,
In our area, voles are an important part of an egrets diet.  We spotted this guy out in the meadow while on our usual walk.  His whole body was quivering, much like a cat when it is after some prey.
 Suddenly he lunged.
 He didn't come up empty beaked!
 "Let's see if I can get this thing lined up for a straight shot"
 "Gulp, my mother told me never to chew my food"
"Look at me, aren't I the greatest?"

Linked to That's My World, Tuesday, hosted by Klaus, Sandy, Wren and Sylvia
World Bird Wednesday, hosted by Springman at Pine River Review

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Soaring Red-Shouldered Hawk

Blue sky and soaring hawks, I must be quick to capture either one this time of year.

See more skies, blue, cloudy or shrowded in fog at SkyWatch Friday, hosted for us each week by Klaus, Sandy, Wren and Sylvia

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Evolution of Technology

Several years ago we visited the Natural History Museum in Chicago.  The one exhibit that sticks in my mind was a series of scale models of steam engines demonstrating the improvements made over time.  Our first computer had 48k of ram and a tape drive.  Most of us can remember 5.25 floppies but few in their 20's have ever seen them.  Our modern technology did not arrive as it is but has evolved, each advance building on what has gone before.
 Recently Hubby and I visited the Folsom Powerhouse.  It was decommissioned about the time that the power plant Hubby worked at was being built.  A sturdy structure was common to both plants.  This one was built of brick in the 1890's while the Gorge plant was made of concrete in the 1950's.
 The more modern plant has a vertical shaft.  The turbines are in the basement and the generator is in a housing outside the plant.  A much quieter arrangement than we see here.  Here the turbines are inside the building and so are the generators.  This horizontal shaft transmits the energy from the turbines to the generator on the other side of the wall.  The operators worked in the same area and the noise would have been deafening.
 This crane was used for lifting and moving the generator for repair.  While the basic form has not changed, this was moved by manpower while today's cranes have motors to move them along the tracks.
 Most of the pieces of equipment I could recognize, though their form has been refined over years some elements remain the same.  This is a governor and the housing for the important part (it is the part at top that looks a bit like the smoke stack on an old locomotive) hasn't changed much.  The governor controls the speed of the generator buy spinning some balls in that housing.
 Knife switches, such as these, are still in use but more care is used today to shield them from human contact.  When engaged as these are they would be "hot" and anyone brushing against them would be fried!
Modern fire suppression in the plants uses an inert gas to smother a fire, a system that wasn't available 100 years ago.
Seeing this I realize that the basic technology has not changed much; water turns a turbine which turns a shaft which rotates the generator and produces electrical energy.  The biggest change has been in safety, equipment is shielded from human contact, generators and transmission lines are more efficient but otherwise, not much has changed since this, one of the earliest power plants, was built over 100 years ago.
The important technical inovation was learning how to convert the energy in moving water to electricity.  Once we could do this it was no longer necessary to locate mills near a source of moving water.

More information can be found at the State Park website.

See more views of our wonderful and interesting world at My World Tuesday, hosted for us by Klaus, Sandy, Wren and Sylvia.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Northern Harrier

About 80% of the times we go walking I bring my camera.  Fortunately this day was not an exception.
 As we walked along the path we spooked a hawk but it flew only a short distance away, showing us its white bloomers as it took off.
 White rump and this interesting, owl-like face meant it had to be a Northern Harrier, either a juvenile or female.  I decided it was most likely a mature female.
 We saw that she had left her prey on the ground and we quickly backed away.  She looked us over and decided we had moved far enough not to be a threat and came back.
 She checked out her catch.
 She looked around to see what other intruder might be close.
Then she went to work removing the feathers from her meal.
We turned around and picked another route to walk.  We didn't want to disturb her further though it is a popular trail and I don't know how long she was left in peace.  When we came by later the only sign of the drama was a pile of feathers.
The male Harrier is gray and I was fortunate to get a picture of one last year.

Linked to Bird Photography Weekly


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Looking Skyward

A rare blue sky day

See more skies from arount the World at SkyWatch Friday, hosted for us by Klaus, Sandy, Wren and Sylvia.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Two's Company for Wood Ducks

I love the wood ducks, they are so colorful but they are hard to photograph because I can't get close.  I snapped these shots without really knowing what I was getting until I downloaded them.
 I could see that there were wood ducks in the pond but that was about all I could see.
 I didn't notice the third one swimming towards the pair.
Or the reaction of the female to the intruder.  I would have thought it would be the male that would act with hostility but no, he seems total oblivious.  I guess she thinks "Three's a crowd"Enlarge to better appreciate these beautiful ducks.
More duck than water but it is my post for Watery Wednesday,  hosted for us by 2sweetnsaxy.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Birding in the Neighborhood

After several days of rain, the sky cleared and we took our cameras to do some birding in the nearby woodlands.
 As soon as we stepped onto the path, this red-shouldered hawk took off, no time for me to ready a shot.  Was this the way the afternoon would go?
 We stopped to listen.  There were plenty of birds but they were hiding.  Many acorn woodpeckers were in the canopy but showed themselves too briefly or far away for a good shot.  We stood for a while and listened to the frogs and the birds and then went on.
 There!  Something moved in a nearby shrub.  It was a juvenile White-Crowned Sparrow.  He posed nicely for a portrait.
 This little guy was perched to high for me to see the markings on his wings and crown.  After much study I decided he is a Say's Phoebe.
 Then I found this Flicker perched on a fence post.  It turned out not to be such a bad day after all, but the best was waiting at home.
 On the neighbors roof, there was a hawk.
 He posed so patiently that I got a shot of his back and tail as well.  It helped me to identify him as a juvenile Coopers Hawk.  They don't get their gray back and head until they mature.  If you are bothered by how a hawk earns his living you can skip the last photo.
The following afternoon a neighbor knocked on my door saying "grab your camera!"
I took a few quick shots from a distance and left him in peace with his meal.  I went back an hour later and took this shot.  He seemed to say, "now what do I do".  The following day there was no trace of hawk or pigeon.  I think he carried it off to eat, it may have been too public just a few feet from the sidewalk.

See more views of our world at That's My World, Tuesday, hosted for us by Klaus, Sandy, Wren, and Sylvia.

Find more Birds at World Bird Wednesday, hosted by Springman at the Pine River Review

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Heading Home

At day's end the egret heads for the rookery.  Tomorrow he will be out bright and early searching for tasty rodents, amphibians and fish.

You can find more skies from around the world at SkyWatch Friday, hosted for us by Klaus, Sandy, Wren and Sylvia.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Aquarium of the Pacific

What better spot of a watery meme than an aquarium?
 The day after Christmas we all went to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.
 There were fish, of course.
 Many varieties of beautiful anemones
 Jelly fish
 I love watching them float through the water
 They had touching pools to feel the fish
Grandson Michael seemed to enjoy the aquarium and so did the rest of us.  We found the exhibits to be both attractive and informative.  

A perfect end to a wonderful Christmas weekend and the only rain was
Christmas night!  

Find more watery sites at Watery Wednesday, hosted for us by 2sweetnsaxy