Summer Storm

So, my life got incredibly busy during Spring.  My apologies for not being on here more!  The weather has been just too darn good.  Up until now anyway!

We just had a major storm roll through these parts (South central Indiana).  70 MPH winds and a couple of touchdowns.  I was working on a project downstairs when the sirens went off.  Quick scramble with the kids and dogs, quick check to the internet radar, television tuned to the news channel and a careful eye on things out the window completed the severe weather circuit.  Buckets of rain which did occasionally blow in a circle came down and the wind was intense.

When the worse had passed we had some wind damage to trees.   My oldest and I wandered around and watched the creek down the hill become a raging monster.  While on the edge of the bridge we were able to see the flash flood start as the creek overpowered its banks.  We were safe where we were.  I’m glad he got to see it so he could keep it  cataloged in his head just how fast it happened.

When it was all over we were greeted not only with a double rainbow but some amazing atmospheric effects.

As the sun slowly set the western sky turned a warm color of yellow mist.   the black speck is a bat that decided to zip in just as I took the shot.  That’s what I call a happy accident…

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Howl Out

Just want to send a quick howl out to a real nice blog I stumbled across this morning.  It’s called Coyote Yipps and is focused on urban coyotes in and around the San Francisco area.

It’s work like this that helps educate people to how wonderfully intelligent a coyote can be as well as illustrating behavioral concepts that most folks don’t realize going in.  They aren’t wolves and they aren’t stray dogs!  Here in southern Indiana, the “Coyote Boys” as I call them know better then to wander into town much.  They know what will happen and so they still prefer to work at night and slink on the very edges of town.  The boys out west appear to be getting pretty bold.

I really do, in the Native American sense, consider coyotes as my brothers and I greatly appreciate the work put into this site.  Give it a look and a read when you get a chance!

The Maple Bonsai

For well over ten years now I’ve been fascinated with having a bonsai tree.  I think I have to initially blame the movie “The Karate Kid” and Mr. Myagi.  I’ve tried several different species, had them given as gifts, have tried harvesting saplings from the wild and all of them have suffered the same fate.  In one way or another, they’ve all died.

Recently, in talking to a bonsai aficionado, I asked him if it was normal to lose so many trees.  His response?  “I can’t remember how many trees I’ve killed just to get the nice ones I have now.”  This made me feel a bit better.

For several years I decided to give it up for a while but last year several small maple saplings volunteered up from a large pile of leaves and sticks pulled out of our house gutters by the landlord.  The pile remained next to the dumpster all year and three weeks before our lease was up I made the decision to gently harvest them and get them into pots.  They made the transition very well, survived the move to the new place, and as we went into winter the trees dropped their leaves and began their hibernation.  I really didn’t expect them to make it since I ran out of time to build an adequate cold frame for them.  I opted, instead, to place them in a dark porch closet for the entirety of the winter, maybe to bring them out on sunny days.

It seemed like a good idea except for that whole “remembering to bring them back out” part.  They stayed in all winter and I think I only watered them once on a day with above freezing temperatures.

Much to my delight, I pulled them out several weeks ago to find tiny red buds adorning the tops of the trees!  They had survived the winter!  I was delighted.  Being mindful of overnight frost, I brought them back out onto the porch to get the warming sun and fresh rain.  Since then, the larger tree has now sprouted a new fresh set of smaller leaves than last year and is looking very healthy.  The second one is slightly behind but still producing leaves.

Needless to say, I’m quite excited.  How is that I was able to overwinter two first year maples by complete and utter neglect?  Must be Coyote Magic!  (Coyote Magic = Doing the absolute wrong thing, having it work out very well and learning something from it.)

Also, you can see Pooka (The Most Amazing Dog Ever) giving the trees a bit of attention as well.  There will be more about Pooka in upcoming posts.

Now, the real challenge will be to get them through the hot and humid summer.  I won’t be repotting them this year and instead am letting them strengthen and sit in the pots they have.  A year from now, if they make it, I will transport them over to a bonsai pot and we’ll see how it goes.  I have a feeling, now that they’re awake, they won’t do so well if I just put them in the porch closet again for three months.

Wordless Wednesday

signature token 2009

This is what you would call a limited edition.  2009 was a bit of a rough year for me and my geocaching and token making time suffered for it.  I did make a 2009 token which you’ll see below but I believe I only got around 8 of them finished before the mold snapped in two.

I tried to repair the mold but to no avail.  Then, before I knew it, it was going to be 2010 and it seemed silly to put a lot of time and energy into a token for the year before.    So, if you’ve found one of these you’ve found a rare collectible!  If you’ve got some negotiation skill you might be able to use it to buy some used chewing gum.  If you’re REAL good you might get a whole cup of water!

The images on the token are pretty self-explanatory.  Again, like in 2008, the stars represent the latin words rideo, venatio, and fortuna which means  “Laughter, To hunt, and Luck.”

Here’s the token for ID.  If you’ve found a token and it’s led you here then please leave a small comment.  It’s a great deal of fun to see comments from people!

Last year I did promise to make a photo tutorial on these and I aim to make good on that promise this Spring as I finish up on the 2010 token.

Bird Watching Surprise

We’ve had a bout of unseasonably warm weather this past week with highs into the 80’s and clear blue skies.  Top it all off with a light breeze and you’ve got all the makings of perfection.  I was chomping at the bit to hit up my local lunchtime spot but complications kept getting in the way.  Finally, I was able to get out for very hurried 45 minute walk along the nature trail with my trusty Canon Rebel XT.

The first thing I noticed was that the cardinals were out in full force on that particular day.  Within ten minutes I’d seen close to 6 or 10 zipping through the branches and calling to one another.  Matter of fact, after I got to my usual observation spot, I was sure they had pretty much taken over the area.

That’s when a slight gray blur traced through the corner of my vision.  It took me a moment to find where it had gone and several more minutes to get on it with the camera.  At first I thought it was a late slate junco so I attempted to get a few shots as practice for spring warbler migration.   If you’ve ever tried to photograph a small fast bird in brush with an automatic focus 300 mm zoom lens I think you’ll understand by the word “practice. ”

I was on the bird and struggling with the auto focus wanting to lock on branches between me and it when the bird turned and I got a shocking look of a bright yellow golden stripe down the center of its head.  It would seem I was practicing for shooting warblers by actually photographing the next best thing, a kinglet.

I flipped off the automatic focus and spent the next twenty minutes trying to get some decent captures.  I got three.  I’ll check it off as a success.

The bird above is a golden crowned kinglet and another one for my life list.  At the time I didn’t know what I was looking at but I made sure to make as many notes as possible.  After posting a small pic with a shoutout on Twitter later that evening, I got the ID confirmation I needed.  Once again, the power of Twitter reveals itself!

Shortly after it’s visit I heard  a loud rapid fire melody of different songs.  At first I thought it was a northern mockingbird but the song was much louder then I was used to.  I was about to change position to get a better view of what it might be when it suddenly flew into the high branches of a nearby tree.

I’d not seen a brown thrasher up so high before, normally encountering them on the ground foraging.  It’s singing made me grin because it was so loud and so different, almost playful.  He showed no concern to my presence and continued to sing for several minutes.  I stayed for a while, watching and listening until I realized I was out of time and needed to head back to the office.

As I turned and headed back to the car, the kinglet made a final appearance by landing on a branch no more than ten feet from me.  I had no time to get the camera ready as he was gone the minute I tried to slowly reach down for it.  They are such fast little birds!

Wordless Wednesday

(Guest photos by my wonderful wife.)

For more Wordless Wednesday click the link — Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday 3/19

King of The Branch

** Post-edit – Thanks to a comment I was quickly instructed that the birds in these photos are actually Red-Bellied Woodpeckers.   Not sure what I was thinking except that maybe I wasn’t! **

This is definitely one of those times where my camera is simply used to record experiences in the field and not for printable, hang on the wall, artwork.  I decided to put up a few more pics of the zany downy woodpecker gathering I saw and mentioned last week.

The woodpeckers, around five in all, were completely fixated on this one stump of  a branch.  One would lay claim to it, another would challenge, they both would fly off in different directions and then the whole thing would cycle over again with another bird.  It was like they were playing King of The Branch.  They were doing this for hours.  I first saw them at lunch.  During an afternoon break they were still at it and when I got into my car to leave for the day I could still hear them in the treeline.

And, as you can see, these images are pushed like mad in post processing.  The day was gray and overcast.  I was shooting into a shadowy treeline and trying to get enough shutter speed to capture what was going on.  I knew at the time I wouldn’t be able to hang these on any wall.  Instead of shrugging and giving up I went ahead and shot away.  I’m now glad I did because it gives me a good record of the experience and possibly some reference material for sketches down the way.   Added bonus?  I get to share it on my blog.

And finally, speaking of added bonuses, a little game.

It’s not the best game ever but it might distract you for a few seconds.  Below you’ll see a picture of a tree.  Within that tree is a mockingbird.  Can you spot it?

Ok, maybe that was too easy?

More Spring to come!