Monday, September 22, 2008

Mighty Jungle Cat

I am a jungle cat, a mighty hunter. Able to leap 6 foot fences in a single bound. I don't have any front claws, but that doesn't stop or slow me down at all.

Just because I got hit by a car as a youth, my housekeeper thinks I shouldn't be allowed outside. Ha! She just doesn't understand my cunning nature. Anytime I want, I can streak out the door when they go out and they don't even see me . I've trained my housemate Pippin to tell them to open the door when I'm ready to come back in. He's too fat and lazy to want to come outside. They open the door for me, and I'll walk up and then walk away again, just to remind them who is in control around here.

When I'm on the porch, the chipmunks taunt me. My housekeeper says if I can catch them or scare the @#$% out of them so they move somewhere else, I can go out more often. If you were a chipmunk, you'd be petrified to see me outside your hole.

From the top of the fence, I keep an eye on the neighorhood. I growl and yowl when the neighbor's ginger cat comes by, to keep him in his place. I'm a lot bigger than I look, and not afraid of anything.

After patrolling the yard, I come in for my nap. Then I turn into my mild-mannered alter-ego, The Invisible Cat. I curl up on the couch or the top of the Cable box, close my eyes, and no one can see me, even if they are standing right next to me.

My name is Binx. Life is good.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Testing, Testing, 1,2,3

Ominous Skies

Ducks on a Rock

Small flowers growing in crack in rock

This weekend is the Fossil Festival at the Falls of the Ohio State Park, and highlight of the season for the volunteers. It rained at home when I got up, but only sprinkled on the fossil beds. We had wonderful crowds come to hike on the Outer Fossils beds across the river, as well as the Lower Beds on our side. While roving on the fossils beds, with a few trainee volunteers, I took photos whenever the opportunity presented itself.

The lower beds are usually covered by rushing water. When the river level goes down, the flat broad rocks are exposed. Everything is covered with a layer of silt, so our favorite activity is getting the children to scrub off the mud to see more of the fossils. Natural springs seep from the cliffs on the shore, feeding small puddles across the rocks. Children love to jump over the puddles, but when they miss and go splat into the dirty water, they think they've broken a leg! The ducks don't ever have this problem, of course. I like to watch the seedlings and small flowers that put root into this unforgiving environment. I know they won't last longer than a few weeks, until the river rises again, but these small plants persist.

Will it rain on the Ryder Cup, being played in Louisville this weekend? I certainly wouldn't bet against it, from the looks of this giant puffy cloud.

Double Crested Cormorants drying off.

More river birds taking their ease.

Goldenrod Leatherwing beetle.

I love this macro on the new camera!

Friday, September 19, 2008

New Camera - Happy Happy, Joy Joy

Wide, wide panoramic view from Conference Room on 32nd Floor of the Aegon Building, Louisville. Medium zoom to barges on the canal. Zoom, zoom, zoom.

Although I like my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30, it didn't seem to do what I wanted on the close-up pictures of butterflies and bugs this summer. And it's been a bit of a nuisance to cart it around with the teleconverter, which is heavy and limits my ability to change from telephoto to close-up shots. Therefore, I've been on the lookout for a new camera.

I found the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28, a 10 megapixel camera with 18X zoom and 27mm wide angle in a Leica lens. Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy! It is much lighter weight than the old one and takes unbelievable macro shots. It's a smarter photographer than I am, and I can set everything on automatic to correct my errors, or put it on manual if I get brave. My hope/plan is that the zoom will be enough for my birds, but if not, I can use the teleconverter I already have with a simple adapter to fit the front of this one. AND, I can use the extra batteries, cables, etc from the old camera since they are the same brand.

Louisville's West End from Aegon Building.

Power Plant stacks - about 3.8 miles away.

With the lens set at wide, I can move it as close as 1 cm to the subject and still get a good focus. With this we should be able to count the hairs on a butterfly's legs! The real test will be how well the zoom does getting birds across the river at the Falls tomorrow. I have high hopes!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bad Hair Day

So you think you've had bad hair days? Take a look at this guy!

This could be either a Fall Webworm or perhaps a White Caterpillar - Spilosoma virginica. Checking with, and I'm still not sure. The Fall Webworm descriptions show it in tents and not so hairy looking. But the Peterson Caterpillar book says there are black spots on each body segment, which seems to be the case here. This guy, believe it or not, was crawling all by himself on black pavement - at high risk of becoming some bird's dinner.

It crawled willingly on to this twig and held on for dear life while I carried it to house and camera. Can a caterpillar have acrophobia? When the pictures were finished, it gleefully scurried off into the grass.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Stormy Weather

Whew! What a weekend!

Hurricane Ike blew through Texas then up through the middle of the country. We tried to call our sister in Houston, but no answer yet. Lots of rain fell north of here, in Indiana and Ohio. Louisville only got wind, and lots of it. Our kids, in two different neighborhoods, are both without power. Even houses at the other end of our street are without power, so we are very lucky. No cable, but there is power. (This picture is not of our car, thank goodness!)

In the cool evening, we started the cleanup of the yard and saw more neighbors outside than we've seen in ages. One house down the street lost a big tree or limb off the tree. We were lucky that nothing landed on the roof, since the wedding is in just two weeks now. What a variety of leaves traveled to our yard! At least half a dozen different kinds of oak, plus maple, ash, and even some sycamores, which don't live in our neighborhood at all. It's not so bad raking up the leaves, but those sticks really get caught in the tines!

The Courier-Journal says wind gusts exceeded 70 mph at times. Dick was out in the yard, trying to pick up debris, when I saw some big limbs fall across the street and made him come inside until it died down. One boy was outside mowing, got hit by a flying tree limb and died. Roughly 279,000 people are without power. This is about 75% of all LG&E customers, more than during the 1974 tornado.

Walking to the bus, we heard the hum of generators in people's yards. Omigosh! I had a terrible thought - what if there is no power downtown? I work on the 27th floor in the IT Department. Darned if I'm going to walk up 27 flights of stairs to sit in the dark with no air conditioning! They closed all the schools. Boy, will those kids be bored at home with no power.

We, at least, can be thankful that the damage was no worse than it is, and pray for others who suffered more losses.
Addendum: We heard on the news that many people are being hospitalized with carbon monoxide poisoning. At least one person died. Generators are put inside the house and not ventilated. Also, at least one house caught fire when something was sitting on the stove burner when the power came back on. As if being in the dark for a week isn't bad enough....

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Golden Autumn Field

Go ahead, enjoy! It's dark by 7:45 now.

Gold is definitely the theme color for autumn. I never realized there were so many kinds of Goldenrod till I started trying to ID some of these.

Every time we spend time outdoors, I think I'm making a mistake with my indoor life. I have decided on a tentative retirement date, in a few months, and may go earlier if I can't stand the law firm that long. Not that I'm unhappy, just that there are better things for me to do with my time. When we were kids, it was an insult to be called a Know It All, but that's what I've always wanted to do, and I've waited too long to get started. When I'm with bird people, I want to know more about birds. When we see wasps and butterflies, I want to know them. Then we walk in the field with all the golden flowers. I can't wait to get started!!!

Now, when I do retire, I need a place that I can get to regularly, and watch the changes of the season. I keep thinking I need more land, then wonder how blind I am being to the land we have in the yard. I need to learn how to see, not just look. Can that be taught?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Unofficial Birding Day at the Falls

The official events calendar at the Falls of Ohio said Saturday would be Archeology day, and sure enough, the Falls of the Ohio Archeology Society was in full swing with atlatl demonstrations, a sandbox "dig" for children, pottery shard examination. Good stuff.

However, the real action was on the Birding Deck. When I arrived, several Beckham Bird Club people were set up with scopes, watching the shore birds on the far fossil beds. Some photographers with Mount Palomar on a tripod set up shop down on the fossil beds. You see, it finally rained on Friday, not too hard, but the first we've had for more than a month, and the skies were still low and gloomy. Perfect weather to see who was sheltered along the river. Before the morning was over, a group from Audubon Society of Kentucky in Lexington arrived for an outing.

Remember, mother nature designs shore birds to be invisible as much as possible. At that distance, any small bird I can see looks like a Killdeer to me. My birding friends have sharper eyes and better scopes though, and the list they compiled was truly outstanding-- Ruddy Turnstone, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Semipalmate Plover, Black Bellied Plover and Sanderlings. By carefully squinting through my government issue scope from the Falls, I could see movement, but darned if I could tell what those mud colored birds on the mud colored rocks were!

I did OK with the bigger birds though. A pair of noisy Kingfishers chased each other up and down the river. We don't normally see Snowy Egrets at the Falls, just the larger Great Egret, but this summer, one came to visit, and I saw it too yesterday. The Caspian Terns were soaring, and a few Ring Billed Gulls checked out the accommodations for their winter lodgings. As I drove down the road to the Falls early in the morning, a Peregrine swooped after a Dove, but despite the poof of feathers, breakfast got away from him. The Vultures found something dead, and their buffet was crowded. An Osprey flew over several times, and I found a Kestral through the scope. Shovelers, Mallards, Cormorants and Canadian Geese completed the list. When a group of canoes pulled ashore, all the birds took off.

Constant chirping in the bushes led me to look for the noise maker, and I found this bald headed Cardinal fledgling. Kind of late to be fledging, isn't it fella? Mama was nearby, and he has enough feathers to fly apparently, but this one will want to stay hidden for a while till he looks beautiful. Hope he grows fast before cold weather arrives.

In the woods, some warblers flashed by. Fall warblers, shudder. The Black and White Warbler was a sure ID. Yeah! Another really small bird looked like a Kinglet. A third warbler had a lemon yellow belly and spot on his rear. The book says this would be an immature Magnolia Warbler. Everyone else was warbler olive-yellow, and I had no chance to ID them. I disrupted some Chickadees and Tufted Titmice were searching for bugs, so they chastised me.

My final bird was big - yellow bill and dots on the bottom of his tail- a Yellow Billed Cuckoo! Not the most flattering picture, but I wasn't sure anything would come out at all! You don't have time to accomodate photographers who come pishing at you by posing in the sun when you are busy eating bugs.