As I teased in the last post with the 2022 wrap-up…the humans spent a couple days up in central FL last week getting themselves some nice photos of wildlife, landscapes, and flowers. Then then went on over to Circle Bar B Preserve the next day and the third day was an aborted trip ( there was a half marathon foot race we didn’t know about the closed the park until 0900 and by that time the nice golden hour light is gone to be replaced by much harsher and less pleasing mid day sun and most of the birds have vacated the feeding areas to roost by then anyway) to Fort DeSoto State Park. Neil had about 1,500 frames to sort through and he spent an hour the other day culling out the out of focus, clipped wings, what the heck was this frame of and other plain old bad shots and that got it down to just under 1,000 split between the two destinations. He spent another hour or so this morning working on the Black Point images and decided he had enough for a post and wasn’t interested in post processing the remaining 450ish from Circle Bar B so that will be another post.
Before getting into that though…a couple of stupidity examples from the news.
Down in the state of Alabama where Neil hails from…after the recent decision by the SCOTUS on abortion which reversed the erroneous constitutional right granted back in Roe v. Wade in the 70s and tossed the issue back to the legislative side of government…which is really where it should be anyway. Congress has had plenty of opportunity over the past 50 years to codify abortion legally with anywhere from none to a lot of restrictions…and there have been numerous instances when it could have passed …but b both parties were far more interested in keeping it as an election issue to raise money on than in actually coming to some sort of compromise that everybody could support even if neither side got all they wanted. With that congressional inaction…and the constitution saying that all other powers are reserved to the states…then naturally the various states are going to make their own laws on the issue and it doesn’t take a genius to realize that a conservative leaning state is going to have harsher requirements than a liberal leaning state. That’s all fine and dandy…and in Alabama the legislature passed and the governor signed a law making it illegal except for the health of the mother. The state has the right to pass that law and if the populace doesn’t like it then the people can elect different people that will repeal the law…and all of that is fine and dandy and the way things should work.
However…earlier in the week the state Attorney General put out a since walked back policy. For background…states with less restrictive abortion laws instituted interstate delivery of the two drugs that are used for about 54% of all abortions with delivery by mail after obtaining the proper drug prescription via either their doctor or a doctor that worked in the less restrictive state. Under federal law…this cross border prescribing of drugs is legal and the Postal Service issued (after being asked to do so by mail carriers) a ruling that delivery of those drugs was legal under both constitutional and legal precedence. In response to this…the state AG announced that he would prosecute any person who obtained abortion drugs via mail from another state…obviously he had not carefully thought that through since it was walked back to “only abortion providers” the next day. I guess his legal staff explained to him that he was gonna lose that court case or something.
Then there’s the recent discovery of classified documents in not one, not two, but three different locations used by the current President. The first of those was found 6 days before the midterms last November but I guess they carefully kept secret until after the election for political purposes…but then I’m somewhat of a cynic about politicians. The 2nd and 3rd were discovered this past week in both the President’s garage in a box in a storage area and in his library in the house in a locked cabinet. All of the documents were…according to the White House…returned to their proper custodians and that no further action was necessary.
Naturally…the supporters of the former President howled about how this was an egregious double standard and demanded a (now appointed after the 2nd and 3rd discoveries) special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute.
Let’s put the politics aside and talk about the realities of the situation…anybody with half a brain probably realizes that every President, Vice President, SecDef, and a whole bunch of other senior people work all the time with classified documents…and that they stick them in their briefcase and take them home over the weekend to read. Technically…this is against the regulations unless they have an appropriate storage space at their home…and the requirements for that space, any included safe, any required alarms or guards and several other requirements depend on the level of classification of the documents to be taken home. Now in both the President’s and former President’s cases…some of the information was classified at the Sensitive Compartmented Information (or SCI) level (according to the news at least…) and I’m pretty darned sure that neither Mar a Lago or the President’s home in Delaware is certified as a SCIF (sensitive compartmented information facility) which is where you have to store those sorts of documents. So…technically it seems that both of them probably violated the law…but one must consider the circumstances in both cases. For instance…both have (again according to the media) denied they knew the documents were there…and for at least some of the documents in all cases they were packed in boxes in storage areas ever since they were packed when they left office and had their offices cleaned out. Thus…the claim of no knowledge seems at least somewhat reasonable. However…also in both cases some of the documents were locked in file cabinets or desk drawers in offices…and the claim of no knowledge there seems a lot more dubious. In addition…the former President claims that he declassified the documents anyway. Technically and legally…any President has this right as long as they are in office…and while there are administrative requirements that are supposed to be followed to remove the classification markings and log the declassification details…those are administrative and not legal requirements. The former President has said that all a President needs to do is think about it and they become declassified…which seems like a stretch but if he told an aide or sent an email or somehow notified the staff then technically he’s correct and the documents are declassified. So any sort of prosecution of either of them seems a bit dubious to me…especially as the prosecution has to prove *intent* beyond a reasonable doubt and they also have to prove beyond that same doubt that the President never said they were declassified…and even with no paper trail stating they were does a President’s statement that he said they were provide reasonable doubt? Dunno…but I personally think that the former President won’t be prosecuted over the classified document kerfuffle anyway because (a) it’s really hard to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, (b) finding an unbiased jury of his peers is nigh on impossible since pretty much every person in the US has already made up their mind one way or there other about the man, and (c) and this is the biggest reason…any prosecution would have to be approved by both the US Attorney General and the President (despite the frequent statements from both that the special prosecutor has total authority in this matter…anybody with even a fraction of a brain knows that the special prosecutor isn’t going to make that decision without the approval of his boss and his boss’s boss). In addition…the difficulty of proving the case beyond that sticky reasonable doubt threshold and the political damage of both filing the charges in the first place (it will be blasted by the other side as a political witch-hunt) and the even larger political consequences should they lose the case make the whole idea of prosecution over these classified documents unlikely. Either the former President or the current one could be charged over other things…financial crimes, influence peddling, seeking quid pro quo deals for themselves or their families, etc.
I really find it ironic in all of these cases which have a lot of similarities…the classified documents thing, the nepotism thing, the investigation of the President’s son Hunter and the former President’s family members…that each side claims that their people are victims being unfairly singled out while the other side’s are evil incarnate.
I find it disgusting that in all of these cases the media approach is that the former President and his party are obviously guilty of everything they’re accused of while the current President and his party are completely above board and their cases are “different”. Nah…if nepotism, classified document mishandling, and influence peddling (and we know that every politician does that) are bad for one side…they’re bad for the other side. And if the brouhaha on Jan 6 at the capital was an insurrection and not a protest that turned violent…then the occupation of entire city blocks and federally owned buildings in Portland and Minneapolis were also an insurrection and not a protest that turned violent. The rules should not change depending on what political party you’re a member of or what race, ethnic group, or whatever you’re part of.
Anyway…Black Point Wildlife Drive is up at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge adjacent to the Cape Kennedy launch installation…and one must always check the rocket launch schedule before scheduling your visit because the drive gets closed for launches just in case one of them falls out of the sky before it gets out over the ocean. You can see the Vehicle Assembly Building and several of the launch complexes from the drive…they’re between 5 and 9 miles away depending on where in the NWR you are. They did the drive and once they were done they had some extra time before they needed to leave for Lakeland (didn’t want to get there too much before check in time at their hotel) so they ended up going on another couple of roads along the beach and an area named Mosquito Lagoon for obvious reasons…they mostly kept the windows up on that part in the car to keep the bugs out.
Male Anhinga gathering some nesting material…Neil got the first shot of it in the air due to the 20 frames per second his Nikon Z9 shoots and Connie got the admittedly much better pose second shot with her 1/4 the price Nikon Z50. Despite the price differential and the megapixel in the sensor differential (45MP vs 20MP in the Z50)…for screen display purposes 20MP is really plenty…the larger sensor lets you crop more in post production to artificially zoom in past what the lens can do on it’s own without reducing the number of pixels on target that reduces the sharpness and detail but for a mostly full frame output 20MP is just fine. And Connie refuses to carry more than about 2 pounds of camera gear anyway so she’s quite happy with her consumer level Z50 and it’s pair of kit zoom lenses.
Breeding Little Blue Heron…you can tell by the red hued head…again this is one of Connie’s shots and it with the water droplets and ripples from the failed breakfast grab made it a better shot than any he got of the same bird.
The first of the three…yes, three…different Belted Kingfishers they spotted during the drives…normally these are really skittish birds that rarely sit still for long so that getting (a) close enough for a good shot and (b) the bird not taking off before you achieved the closeness doesn’t happen much. However…they’re skittish about people, and not so much about cars. On the drives you basically use the car as a blind so the critters don’t think you’re a person and don’t take off. This one was shot about 20 feet away maybe and through the open window of Neil’s Mazda 3. The bird looked at him first and then turned its head for a nice profile.
Connie’s shot of the same individual…it was on her side of the car and the two above he shot past her head. Again…for the same distance shot and about the same focal length of lens…despite the huge reduction in weight and dollars it’s just as good of a shot. The Z50 is an excellent walking around camera because of those things despite it being overall less fully featured.
Tricolor Heron…this was actually the first critter they spotted right after sunrise.
Grebe…Connie really likes these. We’re pretty sure this is a juvenile Pie Billed Grebe but the color doesn’t quite match what Peterson’s Birds of North America has so I dunno…but the Pie Billed is the closest match.
At the midway point of the drive there’s an outhouse that we always stop by because ya only rent coffee ya know…and we always walk around a bit because Green Herons are common in that area but the first thing we found was this Snowy Egret fishing by one of the pond over flow areas. It never moved from that spot…the first one you can see the water drops from a failed strike and the second one it has a minnow from a follow up strike 30 seconds later or so.
We got a couple of nice photos of a Great Blue Heron that took of from the water and landed in a nearby tree…Neil got the landing and Connie the approach.
Connie got this flower while Neil was getting the Snowy above.
And just before we left (or maybe a bit down the road, can’t remember exactly) we spotted the third Belted Kingfisher of the day…this one wasn’t as cooperative in staying around. Connie’s shot first then Neil’s
Also near the mid point stop Neil spotted a different Snowy…this one in all it’s breeding plumage glory…one can see why their population got very small back in the days when they were killed by the 10s of thousands for the breeding plumage feathers for women’s hats.
The rest of the Black Point Drive was pretty sparse of wildlife…but then the second part always is but since they had the aforementioned extra time they wandered down another couple of dirt roads.
A couple of different Glossy Ibis.
Reddish Egret with breeding plumage…well, actually the pink bill is about all that changes for it.
Unknown moth or butterfly.
Osprey…again Connie got luck and got the only decent shot…Neil was looking at the Reddish Egret when she spotted this one and while he took a couple frames all it was doing was sitting there with wings folded for him.
Buzzards (actually Turkey Vultures) in a dead tree. Neil actually likes the high contrast black and white dead tree with dead animal eaters perched on it better.
This is the road down the beach at the Mosquito Lagoon.
Red Shouldered Hawk…again the car makes an excellent blind for wildlife as this one was maybe 15 feet away maximum. It was just sitting there but apparently wasn’t very confident in its perch as it kept flapping its wings to restore balance. It eventually flew off into the thicker wooded area.
And a nice shot of Florida’s most common critter I think.
By this time it was getting on to mid/late morning and they had about 3 hours to Lakeland so they headed off via a stop for lunch at a pub Connie found…named the Crave and Copper in Auburndale FL. Neil had a Maple Pecan Porter which was the best beer he’s had in many, many months…Connie had an American ale named Blood Hound Ale and they split an order of cheese fries for lunch before continuing on to Lakeland for the evening. They were still full at dinner so after checking into the Holiday Inn Express they walked over to a place named Cheddars in the same parking lot and had a light dinner before chilling out for the evening in preparation for Circle Bar B the next day.
Interesting things found on the net.