And Even More Fun Stuff©

Before I get to that however…I should probably offer a few comments on the whole Roe v. Wade/SCOTUS leak/media brouhaha. This is the second draft of this portion of the post…I didn’t like the first one so tried again…and I like this one a lot better.

Whether abortion should be allowed is really a combination of two choices…a moral one and a legal one. The moral one is obviously up to each individual depending on your personal ethics, religion, thoughts, and decisions…and that’s the way it should be. The legal one is a different matter. Personally…from a legal standpoint I (as a strict constructionist of the constitution) believe that the right to abortion is not enshrined in the constitution and therefore the matter defers…as it states in the constitution itself…to the states. This means that different states might have different rules…but I’m really just fine with that. From a moral standpoint…and everybody’s opinion will be different here…I believe that abortion should mostly be illegal unless it is for the health (not convenience) of the mother, rape or incest pregnancies (although those could be morning after pill treated earlier), if the fetus will not survive or if the infant will have some deformity or health issue making a normal life possible (I’m actually less OK with that last exception than the others). In addition…abortion as a means of birth control should be illegal…there are plenty of other ways to prevent pregnancy and the male involved in the pregnancy should also have to approve since the pregnancy took two people to produce.

All in all…the more I look and and think about this…I’m becoming convinced that nobody really looks good in this whole argument.

  • The worst offender is the person who leaked the draft opinion. I’ve seen claims by both sides that it was clearly the other side that did the leaking…but I’ve seen not one shred of evidence either way and there are reasonable theories for both conservative or liberal leakers. The big problem here is that the court has long had a policy of confidentiality…frequently votes change as a result of draft opinions being routed around and the opinions change as they go through the negotiation process. If…and it’s a big if unless the culprit confesses…the leaker is identified he/she probably committed no crime but their legal career will be over. Probably not disbarred although there’s a provision for that in most states for egregious conduct against judicial system…but the only law firm that will hire them after this will be one of the ambulance chasing variety.
  • Second worst is Politico. First…they know the long held confidentiality history of the court and while they can’t be forced to reveal their source…they freely chose to publish this anyway either because they wanted the scoop or they disagree with the decision. Either case makes them guilty of making the news instead of reporting the news which is what journalists are supposed to do…and no comparison to the Pentagon Papers or the Wikileaks scandal makes this an OK thing to do. Then they double down and claimed this week that the leaked opinion (dated Feb 10 and leaked in late April) is the only opinion being circulated, there has been no revision in its text, and no dissenting opinions are being circulated in draft. They offer no proof for this additional scoop…but hey, it gets clicks on the internet so they think it’s fine to publish things that appear blatantly false to anybody who has the slightest inkling of how a bureaucracy works…and there are almost surely dissenting opinions from the liberals on the court being routed as well.
  • Next up…media and politicians in general for a host of reasons. They keep harping on how this right is enshrined in the constitution (it isn’t) and how this will result in many other rights…interracial marriage, gay marriage, and contraception will be next. This despite the statement in the draft opinion (which has almost surely changed since Feb 10) specifically stating that none of those rights are being considered here. Yes…some of the far right religious folk are saying they’ll go after those next…but in reality the horse has let the barn long ago on those issues and the likelihood that they will be overturned is about as probable as the left tossing out the 2nd amendment or the institution of the blatantly unconstitutional wealth tax/unrealized gain taxes that Warren/Sanders want to impose. Just like Obamacare…things have progressed too far for those to be changed.
  • The administration…we have 3 separate branches of government for a reason…and for the executive branch to come out repeatedly and state that the is an incorrect decision is wrong. Despite this…it’s politically advantageous to do so so…again…it keeps happening.
  • The congress…they want to pack the court and pass legislation requiring the court to have an ethics policy. Again…separation of powers…they don’t have the constitutional right to do the latter and their talk of “rebalancing the court” is merely a disguised policy of “let’s appoint justices we like to overrule the ones we don’t like”. All the talk about illegitimately appointed justices is a bunch of crap…they were appointed and confirmed in accordance with the rules…and let’s not forget that it was the Democrats that first employed the nuclear option of eliminating the filibuster for judicial appointments. Similarly with term limits for the justices…again obviously clearly unconstitutional…but they don’t bother reading the constitution or are just trying to make political points.
  • Left wingers in the Congress who try to pass laws that they claim are “codifying Roe” which in actuality go far beyond what it currently allows.
  • Right wingers in the Congress who say that if the Republicans take the majority in the midterms they will introduce a federal abortion ban bill and also go after same sex marriage, interracial marriage, and contraception. None of those are happening…first off because there’s a Democratic president even after the midterms and second of all there’s still the filibuster to deal with and there likelihood of either side getting a 60 seat Senate majority is pretty remote. I’m pretty sure that you could not get even all the Republicans to vote for any of those.
  • Idiots in the media…both sides…that keep making up stories out of whole cloth and claiming all sorts of things about this issue with not a shred of proof or evidence or even common sense in a lot of cases.
  • Finally…the court itself doesn’t really look too good here. First up is the lack of respect for the court’s confidentiality policy by the leaker but equally important is the broad opinion in this case. Under the chief justiceship of Justice Roberts…the court has almost always voted and opined in relatively narrow decisions about only the case in question and not made broad changes. No matter whether it was gay marriage or same sex marriage or providing flowers/cake for a gay marriage or gun control or many other issues on both sides of the spectrum…the norm for this court has been narrow decisions. And…the far left late Justice Ginsburg agreed with this and stated on many occasions that Roe was (a) decided on the wrong basis, (b) wasn’t really the court’s problem to solve but rather the legislature’s, and (c) was much too broad of a decision and should have been a narrower one that only incrementally changed things rather than revolutionary change.

So…what’s the final opinion going to say? I have no idea…it could be pretty similar to the first draft that was leaked or it could be something much different. As it stands…the first draft is a 5-3 decision with Justice Roberts wanting a narrower decision only on the Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks. I’ve seen several different reports that believe that he is trying to get one of the 5 to come over to his opinion…that would make it. 4-2-3 decision but most importantly it would give him as the Chief Justice the right to either write the opinion himself or choose who will write it…and in the case he could write it as a narrower decision with incremental change as he desires and the other 4 would then clearly still vote for that opinion although they could issue a concurring opinion demanding more radical change…but those concurring opinions would not change the ruling opinion. Conversely…he could choose to vote with the other 5 which again would let him write the opinion and go the narrower route. Personally…I’m thinking that more likely than not he will take one of those paths to ensure a more incremental change.

Finally…let’s not forget that even if Roe is overturned…despite the claims of the left this will not make abortion illegal…it will merely toss it back into the democratically elected legislature arena…which as I said is where it belongs in the first place. And the crap about all those other rights disappearing is in my opinion just that…crap. That train left the station too long ago and there are too many same sex and interracial marriages and widely available contraception methods to make a change…just like trying to repeal Obamacare at this point is too late. 

Ok…on to more interesting stuff.

We took a week long trip up to Midlothian VA for Mother’s Day…Alex invited all the mothers…mother, 3 grandmothers, and one great grandmother…out to dinner on Mother’s day at Magianno’s Italian Restaurant in Midlothian. We spent 4 days there visiting Alex and his parents Bryan and Jen and a good time was had by all. Following that…we had realized that despite being stationed in Charleston SC on Neil’s first submarine we had never been out to Fort Sumter where the Civil War started. So instead of coming straight home down I-95 in 2 days…we did one day to Charleston, spent two nights there and went to the fort on the middle day, and then another day from Charleston home…getting back home about dinner time last evening.

Neil was still recovering from bronchitis all week…but kept drugging himself up with antibiotics and symptom relief medications…and didn’t have much appetite as the antihistamine he was taking is the same ingredient that is in most diet pills so he mostly wasn’t very hungry. He wasn’t contagious any more as he had been on the antibiotics 5 days before we saw anybody up there.

We ate the first night at a restaurant in the hotel…Mess which was a Mexican and Sushi place…a combo we had never seen. Connie had some marinated tuna over rice and Neil had 3 tacos…one beef, one fish, and one shrimp/chorizo sausage. All were decent but he shoulda stuck with the beef one as it was the best of the bunch. A nice glass of wine and we were happy.

The second night we ate at High Cotton…we’ve been going there off and on for 40something years since were first in Charleston in the late 70s. It was as good as always…wine, she-crab soup, and then we got both Oysters Rockefeller and Beef Carpaccio and shared for our own surf and turf. Afterwards…we went up to the rooftop bar on the Hyatt where we were staying…it’s the highest rooftop bar in Charleston and while the pay system was somewhat convoluted it works for them and we had a nice time sitting, imbibing some after dinner drinks, and talking.

A bit about the history of Fort Sumter. The entrance channel to Charleston harbor basically runs pretty much east/west and once a couple of miles inside the entrance it branches into the Ashley River to the left and the Cooper River to the right that heads upstream, then a little bit upstream the Wando River branches off the Cooper to the right. Most of the port facilities are either right near the entrance to the Ashley as it’s relatively shallow but most of them are up the Cooper River. To protect the harbor entrance the federal government built a bunch of forts…which was what you did back in those days. Fort Moultrie on the north side of the entrance on Sullivan’s Island and Fort Sumter on an artificial island in the middle protected the main entrance channel which is about 2,000 feet across An additional fort Johnson west of Fort Sumter on James Island protected the narrower, shallower southern side of the channel south of Fort Sumter and an additional smaller fort Castle Pickney on an island near the main Charleston downtown peninsula further protected the port. At the outset of the whole secession drama prior to the start of the Civil War…all of these forts were pretty minimally manned with only Fort Moultrie having a permanent garrison of about 85 personnel. As the possibility of hostilities increased their commander Major Robert Anderson secretly moved his personnel from Fort Moultrie which he deemed indefensible with the number of men he had to Fort Sumter and SC militia occupied Fort Moultrie as well as Fort Johnson and Castle Pickney and emplaced artillery there. Brigadier General G. T. Bouregard of the SC militia (who had coincidentally been an artillery student of Major Anderson at West Point earlier) demanded the surrender of Fort Sumter on April 11, 1861 after SC seceded from the union. Major Anderson declined and at 0430 the following morning Confederate forces commended bombarding Fort Sumter with the initial signal round being a mortar fired from Fort Johnson (which no longer exists). Despite being on the island and armed with artillery…Fort Sumter was functionally almost obsolete due to advances in artillery including rifled barrels and explosive shells since it was designed. After a 34 hour bombardment…during which amazingly enough only 3 federal soldiers were injured and none killed…Major Anderson surrendered as they were low on ammunition and food and he and his men marched out of the fort and boarded a ship to New York. The fort returned fire during the bombardment but Major Anderson only used his smaller cannon as the largest ones were on the open top of the fort so he preserved his manpower rather than subject them to intense mortar fire. The fort was heavily damaged during the bombardment due to the advanced artillery of the time. After taking control…the Confederacy rebuilt and rearmed the fort with modern artillery and it successfully assisted in protecting the port for the remainder of the war. It was periodically bombarded during the remainder of the war by Union forces with a total of about 7 million pounds of shot fired at it with a total casualty to the Confederate forces therein of 52 killed and 267 wounded. It was evacuated in February of 1865 as General Sherman marched north from Savannah. Union forces reoccupied the fort on April 14, 1865 and raised the same flag that was lowered when the fort surrendered in 1861.

Let’s have some photos.

Connie looking out to the northwest at the new Cooper River Bridge…they finally replaced the old, rickety, 2 lane span with a modern one. The old one had grates instead of pavement across the span and in the ice storms that periodically hit Charleston everybody stopped at the top and one car at a time slipped and slide down to the bottom. She’s all bundled up despite the relatively warm (60s) day in Charleston because the 15 knots or so of breeze coming from the northwest made it mighty cold along the river and on the ferry.

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The visitor center for the National Historic Site.

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One of the many church steeples in Charleston. Neil doesn’t remember precisely which one this is but they’re all used as navigational aids as one navigates a ship into or out of harbor. They’re all on the chart and you take a series of bearings for each navigational fix. Plot those bearing lines on the chart in pencil and where thy cross is where the ship is.

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Our ferry to the island…with Connie doing her normal Vanna White impersonation.

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Castle Pickney as we headed towards the fort…it now belongs to the Sons of the Confederacy historical society.

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USS Frank E. Peterson DDG 121…an Arleigh Burke class destroyer named after the first black 3 star in the Air Force. We noticed the bunting around the rails…that’s part of what the Navy calls Dress Ship along with pennants the you’ll see in a later photo. One of the folks on the boat said the they were told by the rangers that it was a new ship and was being commissioned over the weekend. Neil thought it didn’t look quite the new so he googled it and it was commissioned in 2017…so this dress ship is either for a Change of Command ceremony or its also done sometimes when a ship is in port for a festival or celebration…nothing like that is happening this week so likely a Change of Command.

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Fort Sumter as we approached the dock…notice that the flag is not raised…that’s because as the first boat of the day our crew and passengers get the honor of holding colors at the fort.

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The flag pole with the crowd gathered ‘round.

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The large flag that will be raised.

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Looking down at some of the few remaining casements over the lower gun deck…the largest cannon which Major Anderson chose not to use were up on the top.

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Passengers readying the flag for colors.

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And…Attention to Colors.

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Fully raised. This is the 31 star flag identical to that flown over the fort back in 1861.

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Panoramic view looking to the east-southeast out the harbor entrance channel. Fort Moultrie is to the far left and the channel goes straight out over the day marker out in the water at right of center. 

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Dedication on the flagpole base.

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Panorama of the fort interior looking northwest from the seaward parapet. You can see some of the remaining casemates to the left and the ones to the right that were demolished by the bombardment in 1861 as well as the Union bombardments later in the war.

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Connie for scale next to one of the large cannon that used to be up on the top parapet of the fort. These are 100 pound Parrot (i.e., rifled barrel) artillery.

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The original flag that flew over the fort during the bombardment in 1861. Lousy photo but it was dark to preserve the fabric and no flashes were allowed so Neil did the best he could do with available light, reflections, and no tripod.

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Some of the demolished casemates facing Fort Moultrie from which the majority of the damaging shots were fired. The brick pillars away from the wall used to have arches between them and a deck for the large artillery above. Smaller cannot were in the rooms with below with the bricked up openings…those were closed up when the fort was opened for tours since if you fall out there is only rock and/or water below.

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Closer up view of what the demolished casemates used to look like…but no cannon on top due to structural concerns as the fort is over 200 years old.

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Close up of the closed off gun ports in the lower casement.

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As we left the fort and headed for the ferry…Neil took an Us-ie of Connie and himself in front of the entrance sign.

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Caspian Tern that Connie got a shot of on the way back…Neil wasn’t feeling very well so he didn’t carry any long lenses since he didn’t want the weight.

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She also got some brown pelicans.

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And a very nice house along James Island across the Ashley River as we headed back to the city. More millions than we could afford…but still very nice.

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A final view of the fort as we departed with the flag raised…you can see the next ferry that docked immediately after we departed the single berth dock.

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Another navigational aid.

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This Coast Guard boat was anchored out for some reason we couldn’t figure out…and it has an anchor line instead of a chain…which is strange considering the size of the boat.

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The other side of Castle Pickney.

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And a slightly better shot of the Frank E. Peterson…they’ve finished Dressing Ship in this one as the pennants fore and aft are now up. Few of her weapons systems are visible…the lighter gray patches on the superstructure are her phased array steerable beam Aegis radar and fire control system…the beams are electronically steered vice the older style of radar with a rotating antenna. Her missile batteries are in below decks vertical launch cells fore and aft. Other than those cells which launch both anti-aircraft, anti-ship, and land attack missiles she has a couple of radar controlled automatic 3,000 round per minute Gatling guns for point defense against incoming cruise missiles if the longer range ones in the vertical cells don’t kill incoming fire.

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And finally…another Us-ie of them at High Cotton for dinner. Chardonnay for her and an Old Fashioned for Neil.

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Cyas.

Posted in Photography, Travel | Leave a comment

Finally…A Little Fun Stuff©

Over all it has been a tough couple of weeks for us. As I reported last time…Connie had a UTI which resulted in canceling both our scheduled trip to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and her opera performance. And she was barely over that when she got a sinus infection and needed even more antibiotics…and then both she and Neil came down with a cold or some other crud which has had them feeling lousy, coughing, and dealing with stuffed up heads. She’s finally on the mend…we think…and Neil is a couple days behind her so we think she had it first and gave it to him.

In the meantime…we did go on the Fort Myers Murder Mystery train last Sunday…had a nice prime rib dinner, a bottle of wine, and watched the play which was an investigation into the murder of Kilroy…the famous jokester from WWII fame…and they were successful in determining who the killer was…it was the extremely well built Henrietta Winchester. The entire trip took about 3-1/2 hours and we went north on the train about 10 miles before turning around and heading back to the station. A good time was had by all though. Don’t worry that this is a spoiler should one choose to go on the trip…in the first place they change the play every 3 months and in the second place there were 3 or 4 potential bad guys (or girls) and with just a few different lines of dialog the clues would lead you to choose somebody else and Ima pretty sure that the murderer changes from night to night (they do the show 4 times a week).

And we did end up going off to Corkscrew this past Wednesday…although in view of our lack of stamina with the cold/crud/whatever it is we decided to take the shortcut over to North and South Lettuce Lake which was where the birds hang out normally. The water is getting pretty low…which just serves to concentrate the fish and crabs and makes for a nice feeding frenzy by the birds and gators. We spent about 2 hours on our walkabout this time and got out of there a bit after 1000 before it got overly hot…because ya know it is Florida down here and it tends to get a bit hot and humid in the summer time.

We were supposed to go down to Pasta Night…Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage…at the Elks on Wednesday but by the time we got the hour drive home from Corkscrew, had lunch and a shower and Connie did a little Ladies of Elks work…we were just too tired to go back out so we had some chicken and roasted garlic ravioli and a glass of wine.

The display for his new Mac Studio came in and is all set up…the photos in this post are the first ones he’s processed on the new machine. Same software…just a whole bunch faster getting things done.

He had ordered his new camera and lens from B&H Photo up in NYC but got a hint that ordering direct from Nikon might be a little faster so now he has 2 of each on order…they don’t charge until shipping so he’ll just cancel one of each when they ship.

Ok…photos from our trip to Corkscrew.

You leave the visitor center and with covid the boardwalk is now one way clockwise  rather than the free form path it used to be…it’s a long narrow loop boardwalk about 2.5 miles all the way around but there’s a shortcut about halfway out over to the return side by the lakes where the birds hang out. We’ve never seen much out on the far end so skipping it wasn’t a real problem for us. After getting the boardwalk there’s a short passage through a pine area then an open grassy area…where we spotted our first find of the day…

Red Breasted Woodpecker

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There were actually a pair of them…probably a mated pair but one flew off before we got a decent shot…well we got one of the one flying off but it was a pretty lousy pose so we skipped it.

Then Connie spotted this Swallow Tailed Kite coming in and got a nice shot of it landing.

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Kites are raptors…birds of prey…a bit smaller than an eagle and a really pretty species. We watched this one for 10 minutes or so hoping it would fly…no such luck. So we headed on up the boardwalk and took the shortcut over to the lake side.

On arrival at the lakes…our first spot was this 11-12 foot gator.

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He’s actually in the water there…but it’s just really shallow water.

Connie grabbed this bromeliad.

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While Neil went for the bird feeding frenzy.

Juvenile White Ibis and Roseate Spoonbill…they were pretty close to the big gator but basically ignored him.

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Closeup of the gator.

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And the juvenile White Ibis again.

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Neil spotted this Black Crowned Night Heron across the way…we’ve seen probably hundreds of these and every one was just sitting there like a still life painting…at least up until today as you’ll see in a bit.

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Wood Stork.

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More feeding frenzy…Stork, Spoonbill, and Ibis.

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And for the first time ever…the Black Crowned was actually fishing instead of just sitting on the branch.

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Juvenile Little Blue Heron in its changeling phase.

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White Ibis and Great Egret.

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Black Crowned Night Heron

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I have no idea what it was doing here with a single wing extended…maybe shading the water to look for prey like the Reddish Egret does.

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And even the gator got into the act lunging for a fish…he missed but Connie got the action water splash shot.

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As well as the Black Crowned Night Heron yakking at something or other.

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Moving along…a fellow bird photographer pointed out this Barred Owl to Neil.

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They stood there watching for a few minutes hoping it would do something…the other fellow gave up and headed out and not 30 seconds later the action unfolded as it swooped down to snatch up some tasty morsel.

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Meanwhile…Connie spotted the vulture chick…or whatever you call them…it didn’t fly at our approach so obviously there’s a nest in that tree and it hasn’t fledged yet. Not sure if it’s a Turkey Vulture or Black Vulture though, couldn’t get a good enough look to tell and no adults around to identify by the red or black head,

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Another Great Egret

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Tricolor Heron.

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Another bromeliad by Connie

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White Ibis again

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Male Anhinga

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And some strange flower bud/seed pod like things as we got back out into the open area again on the way back.

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And a bunch more of the Swallow Tailed Kites orbiting over the grassy area…you can see the tail which gives it the name and this particular one is carrying some take out breakfast…not sure why it didn’t go perch someplace and eat but it buzzed by us 3 or 4 times before heading out.

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Connie snagged these lizards…although technically they’re skinks and not lizards…and I have no idea what makes them a skink and not a lizard.

Connie has told me that the first two are anoles or lizards of some sort and the last one is the only one that’s a skink…and Ima not gonna argue with her about it…’specially since I have very little detailed understanding of the differences between lizards, skinks, anoles, legless snakes, and anything else that looks like a lizard. To me…they’re all lizards…but then Ima bear so in my view they’re all a snack anyway.

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And some bees on a flower.

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Right before we got back to the visitor center she spotted these flowers and then the squirrel running by…it was literally running down the hand rail on the boardwalk right by her…this was one of those slam bam thank you ma’am sort of shots and she was amazed it turned out.

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And with that we got back to the visitor center and thence the car…and we were glad because we were hot and tired.

Interesting things found on the net,

CutDown TooManyTrees

CoyoteWarningSign

Speaking of owls…this shows you how much of what you see is owl…and how much is just feathers.

70PercentFeathersOwl

MrPotatoHeadGender

GermansAndScrabble

Cyas.

Posted in Critters, Hiking, Homebody, Photography, WIldlife | Leave a comment

Long Delayed Posting

My apologies to you esteemed readers for the long layoff…17 days without a post…but with Easter and Connie’s self proclaimed ‘choir week from hell’…combined with her operatic rehearsals…combined with first a UTI infection which made her miserable for a week…and combined with a now sinus infection which while it sucks won’t keep her miserable as long…things just got away from us.

We originally had a trip down to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary scheduled for this past Wednesday…but with her Easter over she was deep into Tosca rehearsals and costume fittings and we decided it was just 5 pounds in a 2 pound bag and moved that trip to next Wednesday.

So…let me introduce you to the new woman in Neil’s life…Sister Mary Constance…all nuns are named Sister Mary Something-or-other you know.

Nun

Yeah…I know she looks funny…but once she donned the black opaque tights and black ballet flat shoes she woulda totally fit the part. 

However…as previously noted…the sinus infection has intervened. She started feeling poorly on Monday along with Neil and we thought it was just allergies after checking the various pollen levels. Unfortunately…she got significantly worse on Wednesday (good thing we cancelled the Corkscrew trip) and then really…did I mention really…worse on Thursday AM so in the early afternoon he took her down to the walk in clinic. She had already done 2 at home covid tests (negative) but they did another 2 of them there as well as flu and a chest X-ray (all negative) so the PA decided it was sinus infection…gave her steroids and antibiotics and more for the symptoms. Luckily she’s feeling a lot better today (Friday)…not good but way better than yesterday. However…she can’t sing and the dress rehearsal was scheduled for tonight and then the first performance on Saturday night…so her operatic debut and her operatic swan song have both happened. At least she got as far as the costume fitting…and Neil thinks she would have made a good nun after looking at her picture above. He thought she would upset about it…but on further review as the replay official always says…she’s turned out to be really not as enamored of opera as she thought she would be. She’s fine with the music…a little less fine with the having to memorize the songs in Italian as they can’t carry scores on stage…and really not fine at all with the acting required as she’s just not all that interested in it. 

Neil had a ticket for the opening night but we’ll just punt that as he was mostly going to support her…trying to follow a plot in Italian is just way, way too hard even with subtitles.

The good news is that she (and he) now have 3 more evenings and 2 afternoons free than we thought we would.

Neil’s new Mac Studio came in yesterday and he got it all set up…except for the new Studio Display monitor which is…according to Apple and his credit card…preparing to ship…which is much better than the processing it was previously in. The monitor was originally supposed to be here this week and the Mac late May…dunno why the computer shipped first but it is what it is.

He also ordered a new Nikon Z9 body and 800mm lens to go along with it…you don’t want to know how much that cost…but they decided they can’t take it with them and they can afford it so why not. No word when they will ship though.

Yeah…we really ain’t done much the past 17 days…but I promise to make Neil process photos ASAP after next Wednesday and I’ll put some up.

Let’s see…what else interesting is happening.

Strange facts to consider.

As you all know…an atom is composed of a nucleus and then an outer area where the electrons orbit…but the size is a lot different than you think. For a nucleus the size of a softball a hydrogen atom would be the size of the Louisiana SuperDome. So following up on this…somebody figured out how much space a human body would take if you were able to squeeze out all the empty space and only need to have space for the protons, neutrons, electrons, and various other subatomic particles…and the answer turns out to be the size of a sugar cube. Only that sugar cube would be able to contain not only the components of an individual body but for a few more…actually the components for the entire human species would fit in a single sugar cube. Not sure whether that’s currently alive humans or all time…but something like 75% of all the humans ever are alive today so there’s not all that much difference. Apparently 99.9999999999% of your body is this empty space inside the various atoms composing you.

So…DNA. As you probably all know…or should know…every cell in your body has a complete copy of the DNA that makes you…you. Your DNA contains 23 chromosomes…which is really a pretty small number all things considered. The Adders Tongue plant has 1260, the Atlas Blue Butterfly (or maybe moth) has 450, and the Northern Lamprey 174…and nobody at our house has enough genetic knowledge to know why some much less complex organisms have more chromosomes than humans do or even how do scientists tell where one chromosome stops and the next one starts…but I digress. Back to DNA. 

So…if you denatured an entire human and unrolled the DNA in every one of his/her cells…and stretched it out…just how long would it be. Turns out the answer is 34 billion miles…or 6 round trips to Pluto and back.

And apparently…if you took two pieces of the same metal out into space and touched them together…they would instantly weld themselves together into a single piece.

One year on the planet Venus (the time it takes to revolve around the sun) is 224 earth days. One day on the planet Venus (the time it takes to revolve around its axis through the poles) is 243 earth days. So a year on Venus is actually shorter than a day on Venus. And…Venus is the only planet in our solar system that rotates on its axis backwards (assuming you believe all the others rotate forwards).

You could fit 1.3 million earths inside the sun…and if you ignored the gravitational effects you could fit every planet in the solar system between the earth and the moon.

Scientists think there might be about 3 sextillion starts in the entire universe…that’s 3 followed by 23 zeroes. This is more than the entire number of grains of sand on the earth.

Over in Copenhagen Denmark…they have this power plant that takes garbage and burns it to produce power…apparently this is a common thing over in Europe. Whatever. However…once they build this huge power plant in the middle of town they thought it might be a bit of an eyesore…so they did something about it. Essentially they build a thing called Copen Hill…which incorporates a ski run (including one with gates for practicing your slalom) that is usable in both winter with it’s snow covered and in summer when it’s covered with silicon and you put some silicon goo on the bottom of your skis to use it…as well as a hiking trail up to the top which is about 400 or 500 feet high.

Copenhill big yankodesign01

And oh yeah…let’s not forget the world’s tallest climbing wall located on the right side far end as you look at this…Ima guessing they don’t let you climb it without a safety rope attached.

This snake is named the Green Tree Python…don’t ask me why it’s yellow ‘cuz I don’t know.

GreenTreePython

You know what this is?

SquareRoot

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

It’s a square root of course.

Over in Japan…on the road between Tateyama and  Kurobe prefectures (sort of like counties in the US) there is a road called the Alpine Route. Being up in the mountains…it gets some snow during the winters of course…and the Japanese being really interested in tourist things…well they plow it early in the spring and let folks take tour buses up there to see it.

TateyamaKurobeAlpineRoute

That’s some serious snow piles.

CanadianBaconCurling

EverythingWillKillYou

Neil needs this T shirt.

BodyIsATemple2

And this one too…he’s got very, very, very little patience.

Virtues2

HappyMondayPerson

And finally…how blondes think cows work.

HowBlondesThinkCowsWork

Cyas.

Posted in Homebody | Leave a comment

Random Musings

Not really much going on today but Ima bored so figured I would blather on about something or other.

We’re having some A/C problems here at the homestead. It quit working in early March and the troubleshooting showed we needed a new coil…we were pretty impressed with the ability of that technician to figure out what the problem was but the part needed to be ordered. We got a call 3 or 4 days later that the part was in and on the 15th of March a different guy came to do the install. If you’ve ever seen the old Bob Newhart as a dentist show where there was Larry with his brother Daryl and his other brother Daryl…and between the 3 of them they probably had 4 or 5 functioning brain cells…well, that description almost perfectly suited installer dude.

First it turned out the new coil he brought was actually a bad/used one…they put them back into the box, tape it shut, and send them back to Carrier for figuring out what went wrong. After 30 or so minutes of fumbling around trying to figure out what to do…his boss came out and called for a different tech to go pickup another coil and bring it out…so another hour or so delay. Then boss and new coil delivery guy left…as best as Neil could figure out installer dude picked up the wrong part.

Next…he had the wrong type of flux for welding the freon supply/return pipes to the new coil…he blamed it on the parts department giving him the wrong stuff and really had no answer as to why he didn’t figure it out when they gave it to him. Anyways…he soldered in the new coil, did the pressure and vacuum test to see if it was good (both failed), then repeated steps 1 and 2 3 more times before it “passed” the tests. Filled with freon, reassembled, and left…getting out of here just about quitting time so in retrospect it probably wasn’t an actual pass but it was time for him to go drink a Bud with his buddies or something. We left the next morning with the unit on for our trip up to central FL to Titusville and Lakeland and when we returned it was cool in the house. With nice weather predicted we turned the A/C off and opened up until the next hot day…which was just about a week later. Turned it on…no cool. Called and complained and the company sent out a tech the same day…but unfortunately it was installer dude again. We showed him the puddle of oil under the inside unit which clearly indicated it was a freon leak since there’s oil mixed with the freon to lubricate the compressor. After another 3 or 4 soldering attempts he again pronounced it fixed, filled with freon, and left. We left the A/C on for a stress test and all seemed fine for a few days…until Neil opened the door to look at the unit again today and found…you guessed it…another puddle of oil under the unit. We called again and asked for a different tech who showed up in about an hour or so and found another leak which he’s working on fixing as I type. Turns out that installer guy’s name is Chuck and the different tech thinks that he’s sick or something as his performance seems to be slipping…he’s been doing HVAC work for 25 years and hasn’t been fired so obviously something is up. In any event…hopefully Isidoro will figure it out.

We’ve had a parade of issues today…Neil went out biking early and found out on US-41 a turned over dump truck of gravel and a lot of backup. When he got back he told Connie to leave 15 minutes earlier than he had planned for her dental appointment. She did that but ended up turning around as the backup was now over an hour long and the road was noted as closed on the traffic report. Neil was supposed to go pick up some vittles from Walmart but obviously with the A/C issue and the traffic that didn’t happen…we missed our scheduled pickup time but he will try again a little later to see if things have improved because Walmart certainly doesn’t restock your order that quickly if you miss your scheduled pickup time. We tried both the Walmart app and calling to see if we can reschedule…nothing available in the app despite the help page saying there was but the button that help claims is there ain’t…and nobody answers the phone at the local store when you call.

Over in Ukraine…Russia keeps claiming that they haven’t killed any civilians and it’s all a conspiracy led by the US to make them look bad…despite numerous videos and verification by news sources outside Russia that they’re killing civilians indiscriminately, leaving land mines behind when they retreat, and basically getting their ass handed to them by the Ukrainian military.

Then there’s our politicians…and really we’ve become more and more convinced ‘round here that there is almost no party for those of us in the middle right to center to middle left as the idiots on both sides have seized control of both of our political parties. You’ve got AOC, Ilhan and the squad on the left and Taylor Greene and Cawthorn on the right in the House and all of those plus others are about as far out to the extremes as you can get. It’s not just the House either…there are far right and left Senators also doing and saying stupid things for political gain.

And then…there’s the current brouhaha over the President’s SCOTUS nominee and a side brouhaha over Justice Thomas and whether he should recuse himself from cases because of his wife’s political maneuvering.

Now to be fair…we’re not fans of the President…but we don’t believe all the “stop the steal” crap, stolen election, and related BS topics about the 2020 election either. And to be fair…we weren’t really fans of the previous Oval Office occupant either…he was the least bad choice we had in 2016 but still not a good selection. And we understand that the Democrats were pissed about Garland not getting a vote and we understand that the Republicans were pissed about the treatment that Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Coney Barrett received at the hands of the Democrats…and we understand as well that the Democrats are pissed about the way that Brown Jackson was treated during her committee hearings.

However…while we agree that SCOTUS confirmation hearings have gotten way more contentious over the past 30 or so years…it seems like almost every one starting with Bork has gotten way too political…we did watch some of the hearings for Judge Brown Jackson…and while the Republicans did ask some hard, pointed, political/policy/philosophy questions…they mostly were respectful. In our view…Justice Kavanaugh was treated far worse by the committee but the Democrats and Justice Coney Barrett was also treated badly but not as bad as Justice Kavanaugh was. And the media outcry in support of Democratic nominations and against Republican nominations is just appalling and shows once again that honest journalistic integrity is pretty much a rarity any longer. Today’s top headline is a story about Taylor Greene attacking the 3 Republican Senators who have announced they will vote for Judge Brown Jackson…but you never see the crazy things that AOC or Ilhan or the other far left House members say. AOC actually threatens to impeach Justice Thomas over his wife’s texts last week despite the fact that there is pretty much no chance of that happening…and the article was far down from the top of the web page.

Then there’s the ongoing argument tangentially related to the SCOTUS hearings about the definition of a woman. Judge Brown didn’t answer because she said she was not a biologist…which is correct but most folks in basic science courses over the past 100 years or so have learned that whether you are a male or female is determined by whether you have X or Y chromosomes in the two pieces of DNA that were contributed by your mother and father. Further…males have male reproductive parts and females have female reproductive parts. Thus…whether you are male or female is predetermined at conception and since you can’t change your chromosomes you pretty much are the gender you are from conception to birth.

That’s not an attack on any person either…it’s just a fact of gender. Now whether you want to have sex with men or women or both or not at all…and whether you wish to dress in clothes that society generally considers as masculine, feminine, or generic…that’s a whole different issue and frankly we don’t really care about that…have sex with and dress however you prefer. However…just because…for instance…you have male productive parts but prefer to be dress as a woman and tell everybody you’re female…doesn’t actually make it so. Changing your biologically determined gender is about as crazy as changing your biologically determined species and claiming that you’re no longer a Homo Sapiens but are instead a cephalopod…saying it doesn’t make it true.

The traffic finally cleared about noon and Neil ran down and picked up our groceries from Walmart. While he was gone Isidoro finished soldering the A/C properly…he says…and put in 6 pounds of refrigerant. It only holds 7 so he was amazed that it was working at all. He even cleaned up all the oil that leaked out…much better than installer dude chuck.

Then there’s the so called “Don’t Say Gay” bill that Florida passed…which doesn’t mention the word gay at all but only bans teaching about so called gender dysphoria issues with children below the third grade. I think that both sides in this particular debate are inventing worst case scenarios in order to beat their political drum of persuasion. Yes…I don’t think that teachers should be teaching early elementary students that you need to decide whether you’re a boy or girl and you can easily become the other one if you decide you are…kids that young aren’t sexually mature and really have no idea of what it really means. However…the teachers unions and one son of a gay couple who was interviewed in the news today claim that this means that (a) teachers and students can’t talk about parents who are gay at all, and (b) since there can be no reference to gender (which isn’t what the bill actually says by the way) that bathrooms can no longer be labeled boys and girls…both sides are splitting hairs and interpreting things to suit their political agenda. And as I said…this isn’t anything against being gay or effeminate/masculine/metrosexual at all…we’re fine with all of that but some of the more activist gay folk want to stick it in the face of heterosexual people and then the other side gets mad and it’s all tit for tat/he said she said after that. Both sides are wrong.

Whatever happened to the principle of compromise in government or policy…back when I was growing up the two parties in Congress could each give a little and get a little and be friendly afterwards…instead today it’s a my way or the highway adversarial approach and the most important thing for any politician to do is make the other side look evil and belittle their position. Heck…former Justice Scalia and Justice Ginsburg on the SCOTUS were polar opposites in judicial philosophy but outside the courtroom were best friends and usually vacationed together. No more though.

In other news…today there is a report of an aggressive red fox…nope, not in the country where you might think one would find a red fox but on the US Capitol grounds in Washington DC. Yep…we been there…right in the middle of downtown with no trees other than ornamentals for probably going on 2 miles…I just looked on the map and there are literally nothing even remotely resembling woods for miles. WTH?

Connie had her Fort Myers Mastersingers concert on Sunday…after years of voice lessons when we lived in Fairfax VA and participation in the New Dominion Chorale up there she was really missing classical music since we moved into the RV. She made do with choir and cantor duties but her choir here is…well, let’s be politically correct and call them average at best…anyways they rarely sing the standard soprano, alto, tenor, base (or SATB) music she likes and after 2 years of living here she auditioned for and joined the Mastersingers. The concert was pretty good…excellent in fact. The first piece was a world premier of a song commissioned by the Mastersingers for orchestra, choir, and youth choir. Connie and Neil have probably heard close to a dozen world premiers of various music (well, most of them weren’t actually very musical) over the years and this was far and away the only really good one we’ve ever heard…and in fact would listen to it again. They sang some Mozart as well along with a John Rutter Mass for Children…all was good. Today she was back into rehearsing for her next performance…the Gulf Coast Opera is doing the Puccini opera Tosca and the Mastersingers are providing the onstage chorus for the production…and a dozen or two of the chorus will be onstage for the three performances. Now me…I don’t know much about opera since it’s never in English and it’s really hard to follow whatever the plot is when you can’t understand any of the words…but I do now that it ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings. He did notice two things about the concert on Sunday though…first was the dress the soprano soloist had on. It was a very nice cocktail sort of dress but again…we’ve seen a lot of female vocal soloists over the years and her dress was about the most un-soloist-like dress we ever saw. Usually they’re floor length gowns and have lots of sparkly doodads on them…this was just a regular old cocktail dress…very nice but sort looked outa place. The second thing was the male bass soloist. Neil realized…and again we’ve seen a lot of male vocalists over the years…that they all have perfected that blank face thousand yard stare…dunno, maybe it’s a male vocalist thing as female vocalists don’t really do it.

Neil ordered himself a new computer and monitor…a Mac Studio and the accompanying Studio Display. Basically…his laptop is so much faster than our iMac for doing his photo processing that he feels antiquated when he’s back in the office…which is actually in the front of the house so why we call it back in the office escapes me but that’s what it’s known as…but the iMac has the large monitor which makes the job a lot easier. So he is updating to a desktop Mac Studio which uses the same Apple silicon M1 chip as his laptop except it uses the Max version instead of the Pro version in the laptop. Essentially all the M1 chips are similar but the Pro gets scaled up in number of cores compared to the M1 nothing and the Max scaled up over what the Pro has. There’s also an Ultra which is two of the Max chips welded together but that’s (a) overkill for his needs and (b) another $2,000 add on to the price which is already expensive enough. The Studio Display has the same display panel as our current iMac but some other goodies added and he’s looking forward to the combination. The iMac is getting traded in to Apple to cover part of the cost…once the new computer is shipped Apple sends a postage paid shipping box for the old one…that makes recouping some of the value a lot easier than having to find your own buyer. You don’t get quite as much money but a 5% to 10% reduction in price in exchange for losing the sales effort is worth it.

We received our Sarasota Orchestra subscription renewal paperwork this week…but are waiting to see how many of the normal Sunday matinee Masterworks concerts we attend conflict with her Mastersingers performances which are usually on Sunday afternoon as well. Depending on how many…we may have to shift back to Saturday evenings for the orchestra…but really prefer the Sunday afternoon ones for a couple reasons…they let out right about our dinnertime and we stop on the way out to the freeway for dinner before our hour+ drive home and also because while can always eat on the way to the Saturday evening performances their start time of 2000 means it’s going on midnight when we get back home and we would rather not stay out that late unless we have to. If the number that conflict with Mastersingers is low enough we’ll just swap those particular tickets for Saturday but if it’s most of them we’ll have to figure out what to do. An additional problem is that the Elks Lodge has dinners on Saturday a lot and we usually attend those so we’ll miss out on at least some if we totally switch to Saturday evenings. 

Over in Ukraine…apparently late last week some Ukrainian helicopters flew across the border into Russia and blew up a fuel depot which left the Russian military awash in outrage and hurt feelings. The Russian propaganda press decried this attack as “an act of aggression and escalation of hostilities”…which seems somewhat laughable. In a war…things get blown up and people get killed, there isn’t a lot of square dancing or speed dating. Even better…the Russians claimed that it was a “civilian” fuel depot with no connection to the war. I dunno ‘bout you…but Ima thinking that a fuel depot with a bunch of military tanks means it ain’t a civilian depot at all. The Ukrainian press and administration response to the Russian claims was brilliant…one of their presidential advisors said “Maybe somebody smoked in the wrong place.” Maybe the Russians can post a video similar to the old Sergeant Shultz from Hogan’s Heroes saying “I know nothing!!”

Ima going to recommend you to a site you may want to visit. There’s a place on the internet called reddit and they have a subsection named “
Am I The A**hole
” where people write in and describe a situation where they may or may not be one and asking for the judgement of the internet mavens. A lot of the scenarios seem clearly made up but both the original scenarios and the comments are frequently pretty hilarious. Check it out if ya like.

In the “
Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it
” category…up in the panhandle of Florida there’s this bar named Flora-Bama Lounge, Package, and Oyster Bar. It’s so named because the property it is on straddles the state line with Alabama just east of Gulf Shores. In late April…if you’re in the area…you should stop by and participate in the “Legendary Interstate Mullet Toss”…wherein starting in 1986 as a marketing gimmick one can pay $15 to participate and see who can toss a dead mullet…the fish, not the haircut…the farthest across the state line. They’re already dead and are purchased from a local market ready to cook…or toss. It’s apparently the busiest weekend of the year at the Flora-Bama…this year’s tournament runs fro April 22 to 24 from 0900-1600 CDT. In addition to the Mullet Toss they have Worship Service every Sunday at 0900 and 1100. These are official Christian services conducted by the Central Flora-Bama Church…whatever that is…they say they are a refuge for those who are surviving, struggling with addictions, battling depression, and seeking help for a number of other issues.” I have to admit…any church with a motto of “It’s OK not to be OK” is…well…OK. BTW, the owner of the Flora-Bama bought the place in 1978 on his birthday and at the time had $100 in his checking account

Speaking of SCOTUS…you might think from reading the media that everything there is controversial when in fact most of their decisions are 9-0 or 8-1 and really reflect how they read and interpret the Constitution and are not the politically based statements the news wants you to believe. To wit…today a case was decided 8-1 regarding who can order the vacation of an arbitration decision. Justice Kagan writing for the majority said “that the Federal Arbitration Act authorizes parties to an arbitration agreement to ask a federal court to compel arbitration, but applications to confirm, vacate or modify awards don’t necessarily fall under federal jurisdiction.” In other words…the court read what the law actually said and then decided…yup, that’s what it says. Most of the non controversial issue decisions the SCOTUS makes are pretty similar…and one thing I’ve found pretty interesting over the last few years is that Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, or Coney Barrett vote with the liberals on significantly more cases than those that see Justice Kagan, Sotomayor, or Ginsberg before her death vote with the conservatives…which tells me something, I’m just not sure what.

Justice Coney Barrett was giving a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library yesterday…she made both an interesting suggestion and then dealt with a heckler. She said that rather than just blast the court for political bias based on the decision…no matter which way a particular vote went…that people should read the opinions and see why the individual justices voted the way they did. Usually…this comes down to either what the law says or in the case of a Constitutional question whether a particular justice believes in strict or loose interpretation. Strict constructionists…similar to originalism which believes the words should be interpreted based on the understanding of the words when it was adopted…believe that the Constitution says what it says, no more and no less…and that decisions pretty much come down to the words in it and while they agree that a document written in the 1700s might not take into account today’s cultural views or the advance of technology but since there’s a method for amending the constitution that’s just fine. Loose constructionists are harder to define…but essentially believe that the words mean what they think they should mean today and that unless something is specifically prohibited it is allowed…this is the theory that was used to generate an awful lot of constitutional rights today that don’t exist in the a actual document. Her suggestion was to read the reasons and not just the numbers. Her thought was that rather than seeing it as a political decision…is the decision based on dreading the law and constitution even if it is a decision you personally disagree with. During her remarks…she was interrupted by a heckler…her response was “As a mother of seven, I am used to distractions — and sometimes even outbursts.”

Ok…guess that’s enough. Let’s see what Interesting stuff Neil found on the net.

WhatDidYouBuy

These are Green Bush Vipers or Atheris Squamigera which is a poisonous snake endemic in west and central Africa. There are no subspecies. 

GreenBushVipers

And yes…I realize they’re not green…which is why I question the competency of whoever chose that name.

Math nerdery…you may have noticed that

YouMayHaveNoticed3

Notice the symmetry in the numbers on the left and right side of the equations.

Some Star Trek humor. The lady on the right is Nurse Chapel who was played by a lady named Majel Barrett…she is the wife of Gene Rodenberry the creator of the series Her voice was also used for the computer voice in all of the movies and most of the series in the Trek universe. Bugs shoulda taken a right at Albuquerque.

StarTrekHumor

NeverGiveUp

Cyas.

Posted in Homebody, Reality Based Blogging, Technology, Ya Can't Fix Stupid | Leave a comment

Woulda Believe it…More Fun Stuff©

Yep…the title is exactly as old Agent 86 Maxwell Smart woulda said it. It’s been 3 weeks since I last posted but there’s reasons I’ll get into in just a bit.

But first…a public service announcement and word of caution. I know you’ve probably all seen those so called “fact checks” on various websites of both liberal and conservative bent…they’re always picking something that the other side said or did and “fact checking” it to give you what they refer to as the “real story”…this actually means that they just want to disagree with whatever the other side said, call them bald faced liars, and expound the opposite view of whatever the original story, statement, or situation was.

But I’ve always wondered just how much of them were true and typically read through the actual facts to see what the truth actually is. For instance…in the ongoing (as of this writing) SCOTUS confirmations for Judge Jackson to become the first black female justice on the court…a whole lot has been made of both comparing the treatment she is getting vs that given to previous nominees Kavanaugh and Comey Barret as well as how Judge Jackson is supposedly “soft on child porn offenders” in her sentencing. For the former…I really think that the right is slightly more correct than the left since while they are asking her questions she’s doing a pretty good job at dodging any answers that either side considers as a litmus test or something to make political hay out of. The fact of the matter is that she’s a liberal judge replacing another liberal judge and won’t change the balance of the court…and also that she’s not nearly as progressive as either the former RBG was or either of the current female women justices. She’s left leaning but…at least from her record and answers which admittedly are pretty vague…but not way out there. It does sort of offend me that both sides are talking way, way much about her race…one side insisting that she’s a proponent of critical race theory and the other side insisting that almost any question the right asks her is racist. For the record…I think she’s obviously qualified for the job and replacing a liberal with another liberal isn’t really so bad…and she’s the President’s choice…and I think she’ll be confirmed with a couple of Republican votes. On the other hand…I think that the President did her a disservice and essentially disrespected her by the way she was selected. As a fairly young, liberal judge sitting on the DC Court of Appeals…she would obviously have been on the short list for a vacancy being filled by the President. However…by his insistence on appointing only a black woman to fill this seat he eliminated way north of 90% of the also obviously qualified people from the job…and made this about race rather than about qualifications. In my view…he bowed to the progressive left by announcing that he would only consider black women for this vacancy…and I think the politically as well as respect for the nominee view he would have been far, far better to have a broader short list including multiple men, women, and races…and then choose her from that list as the most qualified. That way he still gets the prestige I guess you would call it from appointing the first black woman justice…but then she got the job on her merits and qualifications rather than by being the best qualified black woman. The whole process just seems fubar to me (fubar is fouled up beyond all repair but in the Navy we replaced fouled with another less savory word beginning with F).

The second big deal about the supposed fact checks…and although this is the first fact check that I’ve ever seen that was itself fact checked…I guess the summary is that you just can’t believe any fact check you see in the media on either side without doing your own research to see what the actual truth is.

To wit…this week USA Today
published a story that “fact checked”
the following statement…”Tipping became popular in the United States because restaurant owners didn’t want to pay Black workers after the ratification of the 15th Amendment”. The article relies on two accounts to conclude that this statement is true…one from a book by Kerry Seagrave published in 1998 and a Washington Post article from 1916. While I have no idea about the political leanings of either of these authors…it is pretty clear from reading what they wrote that they are progressive politically…and while that doesn’t make them wrong it does make them biased and it’s pretty easy to only cite evidence that supports your point of view as we’ve seen in every contentious issue debate for the past 250 years. In any event…two singular quotes do not truth make.

Almost immediately after the article was posted…somebody named Phil Magness
tweeted that the story is not accurate
. Mr. Magness is a Senior Research Fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research who has written extensively on economic dimensions of slavery and racial discrimination, the history of taxation, and measurements of economic inequality over time according to his bio at the AIER home page…so apparently he does know what he’s talking about. 

His tweet pointed out that tipping existed in Europe well before the abolition of slavery in the US or the 15th amendment…citing a “Travel Guide to Europe” that indicates that tipping and gratuities are normal there. This guide was published in 1730. He then points out that the play Twelfth Night…written in 1602 by some guy named Shakespeare…has a scene about tipping. He then…in the twitter thread…cites that there are numerous references to tipping in the US colonies in newspapers published before the Civil War. He acknowledges that the original “fact check” article does say that tipping came to the colonies at their founding since they were founded by people from England…and that the acknowledgement of that fact invalidates the conclusion that tipping in the US was rooted in the desire by white business owners to under compensate freed slaves in the 1930s. He agrees that the lower minimum wage for service staff was codified by US law in the 1930s but that since tipping existed for centuries before the Civil War you really can’t shoehorn tipping into the aftermath of slavery argument. The twitter thread also talks about USA Today undermining their own premise by citing uberfacts as a valid source. In addition to uberfacts, the article also cites such known bastions of journalistic integrity as Motherjones.com, Quartz.com, and NPR; all of which are most definitely liberal in viewpoint.

So…I guess you just can’t believe all of the so called fact checks you see in the news without doing your own research first.

Ok…moving on to reasons. After our last post on Feb 28…we actually had another trip scheduled for Mar 16-18 so that was going to be the subject of my next post…but then computer problems intervened. As I’ve mentioned before, Neil does his photo processing on his Intel iMac with the Lightroom catalog and images on an external SSD drive and low and behold on Mar 3 the iMac shut down. After some investigation…he discovered that the external SSD was dead…tried 3 cables and 3 different computers in all possible combinations and none of them resulted in the drive being visible. So off it went to OWC for repair/replacement. He figured they would just replace the entire drive and he would have to restore it from backup when it arrived…so he decided not to try and restore the backups to a different location so that he could use Lightroom because it would take him a half day to restore the files and modify the Lightroom configuration to make things work…and because he would have to do all that work again when the new drive arrived.

The last time he sent in a drive to OWC for repair it was back in 6 days from when he shipped it…but apparently the covid has affected their productivity as well as he shipped the drive on Mar 4 and its didn’t get back until Mar 22 so a bit over 2.5 weeks door to door. The good news is that it wasn’t actually the SSD in the case that died, their troubleshooting revealed that it was only the interface board in the drive which they replaced and all the data was still there…so no restore needed…he had plenty of backups but not needing to restore a terabyte of data and reconfiguring things is always better than not.

In the end…he would have had the photos done and I would have had this post done last Friday or Saturday if not for the failure instead of today…so it got delayed by almost another week…so sue me I guess.

Our original plan was to leave the house at zero dark thirty and drive up to Fort Desoto Park near St. Petersburg to get more shots of the birds at dawn including the rarely seen Reddish Egrets. Then we were going to give Connie a couple hours to sit on the beach before heading up in the afternoon to Titusville for dinner on Wednesday night followed by Black Point Wildlife Drive Thursday morning and then a drive to Lakeland for dinner followed by Circle Bar B Reserve on Friday morning before coming home. However…on Tuesday we checked the weather for the St. Pete area and it was 60% chance of rain almost the whole day with a high of about 70…so essentially we would be taking photos in the rain with no Golden Hour due to the cloud cover and rain and no beach for Connie. So we cancelled the first stop and left at a more reasonable 1130 and went straight to Titusville…then followed the Thursday and Friday schedule as it was. 

It was a great trip…nice cool weather, no rain and we got some nice photos albeit it appeared at both Black Point and Circle Bar B that the peak of the breeding season has passed…we saw a lot fewer birds and wildlife than the previous trip…but we did get a couple of rare finds and action shots instead…so all in all the trip was definitely worthwhile. On the way home we ran down to Fort Myers to pick up 3 pairs of heels that Connie was getting the heels fixed on…the guy does good work but speaks zero English so he uses his iPhone and an app to converse with customers. She’s happy to get the three pairs fixed for $45…way cheaper than 80 to 110 bucks a pair since she buys Naturalizer brand and doesn’t go to Shoes-R-Us and get the cheapie ones.

Ok Black Point Wildlife Drive was our first stop.

Reddish Egret to the left and more Roseate Spoonbills than we’ve typically seen in one spot. The pink bill on the Reddish which is his breeding advertisement to the lady egrets is pretty pronounced in this individual. Sorry for no closeup…these first shots were taken just about 10 minutes after dawn and it was still pretty dark so Neil couldn’t put the teleconverter on the lens to get closer…he tried cropping in closer but just lost all the detail in the birds so settled for a wider shot. There were actually another dozen or more spoonbills out to the left from this shot 40 yards or so.

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A couple of the other gaggle of spoonbills along with a breeding Great Egret.

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Nice launch sequence of this Red Bellied Woodpecker that was across the road from the spoonbills…unfortunately the shot where he’s actually totally in the air with his wings out after the jump went down behind the branches to the left and he was mostly obscured.

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Great Egrets back over near the spoonbills.

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This one decided to blow the joint and left.

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Which caused this spoonbill and pair of White Ibis to depart as well. 

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The Reddish Egret and the last of his spoonbill friends.

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Nice landing sequence of another White Ibis…the airborne Great Egret in the upper left is the same one that took off in the shot 3 shots back but another second or so after the first shot.

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And the Reddish stands alone…it’s too early for him to use the wings up creating shadow to attract fish and see them through the surface reflections so I guess he’s just waiting there for something to happen by. He never moved the whole time we were there.

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After leaving that spot on the drive…everything so far was taken within about 5 or 6 minutes without moving the car we headed on down the drive and spotted this Kingfisher through the window. Connie was only able to get a single shot before this jerk wheeled in at about 30 miles an hour with his radio blaring and windows down which naturally scared the normally skittish anyway kingfisher away. Connie and he had a brief disagreement…she called him a dufus and he said “who me?” and wanted to make a big deal out of it but Neil just drove away. And all because he wanted to walk his little rat dogs off leash…which isn’t allowed on the drive anyway but jerks typically don’t follow the rules anyway.

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Red Wing Blackbird male trying to attract the ladies.

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Caspian Tern out on the mud flats.

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Cattle Egret with mating plumage…it’s the brownish tint and the yellow vice normal greenish legs so that makes this a male. Cattle Egrets are relatively small (18 inches or so tall max) and are the ones you normally see around agricultural fields or cow pastures…hence the name.

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A different Red Wing Blackbird male in flight. No real detail in the face and feathers but this particular image out of the burst really shows the red and yellow epaulets that give the species its name.

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Moorhens scouring the bottom for breakfast.

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This is the one that was inverted in the shot above after coming up with some grass to eat.

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Neil and Connie’s shots of the same Great Blue Heron shortly before leaving the drive.

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With that our trip to Black Point was done. We stopped at a different brewery than last time and had a couple brews around lunch time but weren’t really hungry and had dinner reservations at a Steak House in Lakeland so we just skipped lunch.

Dinner was great…steaks for both of us and cocktails and wine were 2 for 1 so that was a good score. All was good…we were going to have dessert originally but were too full after the steak and taters…actually had leftovers that we made sandwiches out of on Saturday…so we skipped it and headed to the hotel.

Up again early the next morning for Circle Bar B Reserve and again we headed out on the trail just a few minutes after dawn. Luckily with the onset of Daylight Saving Time sunrise was an hour later so we didn’t have to get up quite as early this trip.

We picked a different trail…decided to do Heron Way and Eagle Roost loop trail of about 2+ miles instead of the 4+ Alligator Canal trail.

Male Anhinga on a bad hair day.

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Warbler of some sort…we think it’s a Yellow Throated Warbler, not a perfect match for either Peterson’s birds of North America or googled images but it’s the closest to matching so that’s what we went with. 

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And a second or three later after it found something to snack on.

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Connie noticed this nice spiderweb about 4 feet from the warbler.

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Great Blue Heron in breeding plumage…his isn’t very ornate and is mostly the blue ponytail on the back of his head.

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Limpkin…a find almost as rare as the Reddish Egret…this is a super skittish species and Connie and Neil have probably seen 20 or less between them over a lot of years out in the swamps. They don’t make any calls and move very slowly and generally stay hidden in brush.

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Tricolor Heron again in breeding plumage…although instead of just the gold ponytail on the back this one also has the blue beak…Neil doesn’t recall having seen the bright blue beak on any of them before this one.

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Male Cardinal with breakfast.

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Male Moorhen…again calling for the ladies…or perhaps issuing challenges to other potential suitors.

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Really eerie view down the path next to the canal…Spanish Moss hanging low.

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You usually don’t see an Eagle in the same tree as an Anhinga and a bunch of egrets…but then this is a tree out in the middle of a lake so it wasn’t like there were a lot of other choices. This is one of the local mated pair.

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Nice reflection in the canal.

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Female Red Wing Blackbird…and yes, they’re brown and neither red or black. We got a dozen or shots between Neil and Connie and picked this prelaunch shot by Connie and the airborne one by Neil…he’s got an easier time tracking the birds in flight than she does since she has little to no depth perception. She’s getting better with her new camera though…she keeps practicing tracking them and gets better every time out.

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Neil spotted a lady in front of them about 50 yards who started running up the trail so he hoofed it up there to get these shots of a Great Blue Heron with breakfast…it’s a skate which is sort of a cross between an eel and a fish. Connie caught up and at least one of these she got but I can’t remember which.

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Almost gone.

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And down the hatch. Good to the last drop.

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Black Crowned Night Heron.

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Mated pair of Sandhill Cranes expressing their love for each other…or something like that. Like many other large species…they mate for life and are rarely apart from each other except when one is sitting on the nest brooding eggs while the other forages.

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Male Anhinga drying his wings.

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Double Crested Cormorant with breakfast…again a combo of Neil and Connie shots.

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After passing between the two lakes and turning back south and then east toward the parking lot we were on Eagle Roost Trail. Here’s the nest with one of the eaglets sitting out on the left side and…I think…the second eaglet in the center but partially hidden by the vertical limb.

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And here’s the mate to the one that was out on the water. Based on size we think this is the female but it’s essentially impossible to tell without seeing them side by side. The fact that it is sitting off the nest and watching indicates that the eaglets have matured enough to not be susceptible to predators and since they haven’t fledged yet the parents just drop off prey and let them fight over and tear it apart rather than feeding them as they did post hatching.

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As we headed back east to the parking lot we spotted this Glossy Ibis and got a couple of shots…but otherwise the last half mile back was pretty bleak as far as bird life goes.

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With that our trip was done…we hated to miss DeSoto but it wasn’t worth getting up early enough for a 100 mile drive to get there at dawn. We headed home, grabbed some fast food on the way, picked up her shoes, and that was it for the trip.

Interesting things found on the net.

More math nerdery.

2592.

Yes, 2592 which is the only number less than 10 to the 100th power that when you take 2 to the 5th power times 9 to the second power (using the digits in the order they’re the number) you get the number. Not sure why we care about this at all…but apparently we do.

And because 42 is the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything (as noted in book 1 of the trilogy consisting of 5 books The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

MeaningOfLife

Best airport sign ever.

RecombobulationArea

And in further proof that 42 is the ultimate answer…if you use 42 digits of pi to calculate the circumference of the observable universe you get the correct answer to an accuracy of the size of a proton.

Green Power…although this will probably cause PTSD for progressives.

GreenPower

Star Trek humor

Star trek diarrhea

ScoobyDooInMyBeer

SwimWithWatch

TeacherAndStudent

And finally.

BarInTheShower

Cyas.

Posted in Critters, Hiking, Nature, Photography, Technology, Travel, WIldlife, Ya Can't Fix Stupid | Leave a comment

Why Yes…Even More Fun Stuff©

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the current war situation over in Ukraine…and I don’t think that many will see this as anything other than a blatant territory grab by a national leader who has gone ‘round the bend as we used to say in LA (lower Alabama for those that might think it’s that other LA out in the PRC).

After the completely botched retreat from Afghanistan and the associated abandonment of both sensitive military equipment as well as the Afghan citizens who helped us…any halfwit could have easily understood that the government there was going to fall to the Taliban and while that decision was made during the previous administration (another obvious failure of foreign policy…and whether we should have been there or not and left or not and a bunch of other things might be a nice debate…that’s not the point here) it seemed pretty obvious that despite his bragging about his extensive foreign policy experience during the campaign that he basically screwed that up pretty badly. Then when Russia invaded Ukrainian territory…again…he told them as the troops were massing that military action by the US was off the table and thus the rest of NATO would obviously not take any either since they look to the US for leadership…that statement essentially gave a green light to the Russians to invade.

So clearly…this administration is grossly incompetent at foreign policy…but the both the previous and previous previous admins were just as incompetent at least as standing up to Putin and for democracy goes. In fact…one can go back a long way to the initial placement of troops in the country, the attempt to set up a US style democracy which wasn’t ever going to happen since the country isn’t really a country but a bunch of tribes and most of their citizens identify as tribe/clan first and Afghan second…but that’s really coolant through the ion exchanger (as Neil used to say back in his Navy days)…and looking at the current situation over in Ukraine it’s hard to see any other alternative but that President Biden screwed the pooch on this one. In fact…there is serious evidence to believe that President Obama back when he was in office said to some of his advisors “Never underestimate Joe’s ability to f**k things up”. I googled to see and while there’s no video/audio report numerous senior Obama advisors have confirmed the validity of the quote.

He’s not the only one though…as I said both previous and previous previous did so as well…previous for not providing weapons to the country and previous previous for his infamous “red line in the sand” statement. It sure would be nice if we could actually get a completely competent President but I can’t really recall the last one who was.

Anyways…’nuff o’ that.

Last Friday we took a ride up to Fort De Soto Park in Saint Petersburg. We actually took the toll bridge (only a buck fifth each way) since the way not on the bridge made the trip 50something miles longer and since we needed to be there at 0650 when the sun was coming up and Connie was already irritated about having to leave at 0500…Neil decided that paying the toll was just a better idea all the way ‘round. We ended up paying another $0.75 toll as well as a $1.50 one but both of those had no alternative route anyway since the park is out on a couple of islands.

On entering the park…you come down from the north to the main road and then choose east or west and we knew we were going to go to both ends anyway…we noticed that most of the cars turned to the west. Since the east side was closer (about 3 miles or so from the turn) we went that way first but saw nothing. Turned around and drove all the way to the west/north end and still saw nothing. At that point we figured the trip was a bust but got to thinking about it and saw that in the parking lot for the far north beach there were a dozen or more cars at the far northern end of the lot. Since it was only 20 minutes or so after sunrise at this point we decided they couldn’t possibly all be beach people and the fishing piers were nowhere near so we grabbed the camera gear and headed across the sands just in case…and as it turned out all those cars belonged to birders and we hit the jackpot. Unfortunately we missed about 1/2 of Golden Hour light so when we go back in a few weeks at the peak of breeding season we’ll head straight to the north beach to start with. The reason we know we’re going back is that some of the pretty rare Reddish Egrets nest there and the one we saw wasn’t quite to full breeding plumage yet.

We did get a couple nice shots of the sun coming up from the east end beach…looking back across the water and the toll bridge back to the other side of Tampa Bay.

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As we drove across to the north/west beach area we did spot what turned out to b a Green Parakeet…it was pretty far away but at the time we thought it was an unusual find.

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Out at North Beach.

Willet.

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Seagull…this a Laughing Gull…they look like their heads were dipped into paint.

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This is a wider shot of the tidal pool left behind that the birds were feeding in…Reddish Egret, Snowy Egret, and Roseate Spoonbill plus other species.

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Roseate Spoonbill…again not quite up to full mating plumage yet…should be all pink later on.

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Great Egret in flight.

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The Reddish Egret that was looking for breakfast. The pinkish area on the bill is the primary breeding characteristic but the brownish feathers on the breast should also get more red as the season progresses. The beak will end up being hot pink on the half towards the head. There was only one Reddish Egret for all the shots in this post.

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Snowy Egret and Willet.

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Reddish Egret feeding behavior. Very similar to what a Wood Stork does…this species spreads wings and uses them to shade part of the water. This either attracts the fish or helps them see them better depending on which scientist one wants to believe. Most wading birds have a species specific feeding behavior…for instance a Great Egret stands very still and waits for food to swim by and then stabs down at it while a Snowy Egret shuffles his golden feet along the bottom to scare up the fish before grabbing it.

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The Reddish Egret also sort of half flies while running to move from place to place quickly.

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Juvenile Black Bellied Plover.

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Reddish Egret stabbing for and then with a breakfast snack in mid air between the beak halves. Neil got the first and Connie the second…both had shutter set on burst but it’s the luck of the draw even at 8 or 10 frames per second.

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Snowy Egret plumping himself to scare off an intruder.

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And a successful eviction.

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Neil had wandered off down the beach a little and a fella near Connie yelled “Hey, the White Ibis has a crab.” Connie turned and got a nice burst of it.

Initial grab.

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Moving it around to get it properly positioned to swallow whole.

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Annnnnd…down the hatch.

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Roseate Spoonbill again…they sort of nibble along the bottom until they find something…again a species unique fishing style.

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Heron track on the sand…could be Egret as well…in any event one of the waders.

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Osprey pair we spotted as we left the parking lot. There were Ospreys aplenty there…we must have seen 30 of them.

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Another pair of Green Parakeets.

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And yes…there were a bunch of them as well…probably saw 30 of them near the fishing piers.

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Took us awhile to figure this one out…we’re pretty sure it’s a juvenile Coopers Hawk as it was pretty small and that’s about the only hawk that’s small enough. The talons gave it away as a hawk pretty quickly but the rest of it was a lot of checking features and comparing to Peterson’s Birds of North America app.

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Willet with Whimbrel in front.

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Willet.

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Snowy on the roof of the fish cleaning station at the fishing pier…guess he knows where to hang out for an easy meal.

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Red Breasted Merganser.

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Semi-palmated Plover…we had to look up what semi-palmated means…palmated means webbed feet and semi is because it’s only partially webbed between the toes.

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Great Blue Heron on the fishing pier…they stand on one leg a lot.

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Seagull flying by…we looked and looked and couldn’t really tell what this is…based on size first and then features it had one feature of a half dozen species but not all of the species and of the half dozen at least one feature that didn’t exist on the same species that matched the first feature. So we’re just going with seagull here.

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And that was our day…by this time it was a bit after 0900 so we did the 2 hour drive home and had lunch and a nap. We went down to the Elks after dinner to visit with Tammy the bartender an because we were skipping the Mardi Gras dinner on Saturday evening at the Elks as we had plans for a long day on Sunday and they were serving Gumbo and Jambalaya for dinner…but most folk down here make those dishes with okra for the thickening instead of File power (that’s pronounced fee-lay for ya northerners) for both thickening and the classic gumbo flavor which okra doesn’t provide. For those who like Cajun flavor…ya need to gets yerself some File…in the south it’s pretty much available in your standard grocery stores but up nawth ya might need to buy it from Amazon. File is actually ground up dried sassafras leaves and no true southern cook would be without it. It’s not spicy…that comes from the cayenne pepper or smoked paprika or hot sauce you put in the dish…File just gives it that N’awlins flavor. Neil puts it in his jambalaya as well as gumbo although it’s not a traditional spice for the former. Besides not liking the taste of okra…it’s got that horrible slime crap inside of it…which is pretty gross in our opinion (Connie only eats the stuff fried so the slime gets solidified) and neither of them likes the slime.

Sunday…we were up early so we could have breakfast before heading out to the choir mass at 0900. Home for a quick lunch and then left about noon for the drive up to Sarasota for the Sarasota Symphony concert…they played some music we weren’t too familiar with but it was all nice. Following that…we headed to Rossini Trattoria Gastronomic up in Charlotte for their 1800 Wine Dinner. This is the place we went a week or two back that had real as in Italy Italian food…we liked it and Connie got on the mailing list…which got us invited to the $90 a person plus tax and tip wine dinner. We had 5 different wines from sparking through white through a pair of reds and then a wine based amaretto for Neil and a chocolate wine for Connie since she doesn’t like the almond taste of amaretto. Along with the sparkling Prosecco we had an Aperitivo (Italian for Happy Hour…it’s designed to whet your appetite) of a slice of a Stromboli (think rolled up pizza) with peppers, prosciutto, and truffled pecorino cheese. Moving on…we had prawns with chickpeas and olive bruschetta for appetizer, a pasta course of potato/basil ravioli with a sausage tomato rag with salted ricotta, a main course of veal with cauliflower gratin, and finally a desert of Zepolla covered with chocolate creme and candied oranges…this is sort of a cross between a beignet, a puff pastry, and a croissant with an open top filled with medium chocolate dairy egg goodness and topped with candied oranges and some extra dark chocolate sauce.

All in all…we liked the food and the wine and left the restaurant a bit after 2000. On further review…despite the excellent food and wine we don’t think we’ll do another of the their wine dinners…with 5 different wines and all that rich varied food we ended up eating way more than we usually do (despite the plates being small and the wines being fairly short pours since we were all getting 5 glasses) and Connie in particular can’t do that…makes her feel bad most of the night hours and until after lunch today. We’ll definitely go there for dinner as the food is fabulous but for just a dinner we can eat less and stick to a single bottle of wine to share or a couple glasses if we are eating different dishes that need red or white wine…although to be honest we don’t put much stock in that whole “red wine with beef, white with fish or port or chicken” thing…we drink whatever we like that day but generally try to have lighter reds if we’re having one with pork or fish and stick with white for seafood so the wine doesn’t overwhelm the food.

Connie’s feeling better this afternoon so we’re having some sautéed fish for dinner with mashed taters and corn and she’ll head off to her Mastersingers practice. 

Interesting things found on the net.

TitanicMichiganEdition

DrunkToothFairy

JehovaWitnessTrainingCamp

BabyJesusBathTime

Cyas.

Posted in Critters, Photography, WIldlife | Leave a comment

How To Take Good Photos

Neil’s mentioned tangentially about some of his pre shot and post processing techniques and that’s what today’s post turned into. It started as a test post because he got a new toy this week…and he took and processed some shots out back at the pond and was looking at the results with various processing options…and I decided to write about that.

Now Ima not gonna claim that he’s Ansel Adams…he ain’t and he knows that…but he’s been doing this quite awhile and isn’t too bad at it…and I figured that some of you readers might also be photographers and if I tellya ‘bout his way of doing things both pre shot and in post processing it might give you some tidbits to ponder for your own photos. If you take photos only on your phone and put them on Instagram or Twitter…a lot of this won’t really apply but even iPhone orAndroid device photos…particularly if it’s a relatively newish model as phone cameras are getting pretty darned good these days…can be significantly improved by some post processing.

Ok…pre shooting stuff first.

The biggest recommendation I can make here is to take your camera out of Auto Everything mode…in this mode it decides everything about focus and the various elements of the exposure triangle…and since it doesn’t have the slightest idea about what you’re actually intending to do with this photo it can’t possibly make the best decision. It can make an adequate decision but you might not get the shot you want. If you get out of Auto mode or Program mode depending on your brand and instead choose Aperture preferred or Shutter preferred or Neil’s fave Manual with Auto ISO…you still get the camera calculating the right exposure for you but you get to pick one or two or even 2 and a half of the things that make up the Exposure Triangle and you can set them to get the shot you want.

This is known as the Exposure Triangle which sounds complicated but it’s really not…it’s just a way of determining how much light of what type hits your sensor. There are three things that make up the triangle…shutter speed which is how long the sensor is exposed, aperture which is a function of the lens opening, and ISO which is a function of how sensitive the sensor is for this shot. 

Shutter speed is measured in fractions or multiples of a second…like 1/1600 seconds or 1/15 second or 2 seconds…and determines how much motion or freeze frame action you get in your image. The longer it is…the more likely you’ll start to get motion blur in your subject or due to the camera moving in your hands during the exposure but slower shutter speeds give you that beautiful flowing water effect you see in Neil’s waterfall shots and as long as they’re not too slow they allow you to use a wider aperture (I will talk about that in a sec) and lower ISO (ditto). Faster shutter speeds freeze action…like a bird in flight or a running deer…too slow of a shutter speed in those and the animal moves during the exposure and you end up with blurry photos. Sometimes that’s OK if it’s what you’re looking for…but sometimes it’s not OK. Aperture is a lens function and is represented as something like f4 her f5.6…it runs as low as 1.2 and as high as 32 depending on your lens. What aperture does for you is determine the depth of field in your image…called DoF. In reality…only a single distance from the lens is perfectly in focus as determined by your autofocus system, but the area in front of and behind the focus plane is still almost in focus and good enough…and the farther you get in front of or behind it the further out of complete focus it becomes. Aperture determines the limits of the in front of and behind area that is in focus…but it’s an inverse relationship for reasons of physics and lens design that I won’t explain here because you don’t really care why…so f4 has a narrower distance range that’s in focus than say f8 does. The exact dimensions of the DoF range depend on lens focal length, aperture selected, and distance to the subject (DoF is less at closer ranges all other things being equal). So…one cares about DoF because you need to determine how much of your scene you want in perfect focus. For something like a bird…you want it in focus but would like the background and foreground blurred out to concentrate attention on the bird. For a landscape…you want both the nearby trees and cliff edge as well as the distant mountains to all be in focus…so in the former you would typically prefer something like f4 or f5.6 and in the latter you would typically want f11 or f13. The third factor in the triangle…ISO…is essentially the sensitivity of your sensor. Higher ISO is like low light vision on TV shows and lets you get shots in darker conditions. In a perfect world…that’s good…but unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world and while higher ISO seems like a great idea higher ISOs come along with more noise in the image as you’ll see in some of the images I posted below. What ISOs are acceptable to you depend on what you take pictures of, what camera you bought, and where the images are displayed. For instance…Neil’s Nikon Z7II makes great images from it’s base ISO of 64 up to ISO 6,400…and acceptable images up to 25,000 or so depending on the situation and how much noise his noise reduction program can get rid of.

He used to shoot in Aperture preferred unless it was action and then shifted to Shutter preferred mode…and set either the aperture for his desired DoF or the shutter speed based on the action. He then let the camera choose the other two settings but looked in the viewfinder readout to see what they were and if either shutter/aperture or ISO got out of what he was comfortable with for a shot he would adjust his aperture speed if he could to balance the 3 legs of the triangle as much as possible.

Then he got turned onto what he uses now by one of his photo buddies…Steve Perry at https://backcountrygallery.com…Steve is a great wildlife photographer and also is excellent at teaching you how to get great results like he does by knowing how to expose and process an image…and what’s important in each phase of the process. That is Manual plus Auto ISO

In this method of exposure…he chooses the speed and aperture and lets the camera choose the ISO…that way he has control of the two most important factors in the triangle…and by observing the ISO in the viewfinder he can cheat the two factors he’s setting if necessary to get a lower ISO than the camera would select…it’s still an auto exposure mode despite the name. Typically he shoots his lenses wide open for action or wildlife…this is the smallest number for the f stop…which gives the narrowest possible DoF range for subject isolation from the background…and he chooses a shutter speed that’s fast enough to freeze the action. For landscapes…a wider DoF is good so the lens gets stopped down and with no action (and probably the camera on a tripod) he can slow the shutter speed down…those lower the ISO and reduce noise. For waterfalls…definitely on a tripod…the shutter gets even slower down to probably a second or even 2 to 3 seconds…and he brackets the exposure shooting underexposed, properly exposed, and overexposed but otherwise identical shots then merges them in processing to both have good shadow area detail and not to blow out the highlights in the scene.

With all that said and done…he’s got the RAW images on his memory card. He used to shoot in JPEG mode which does some post processing in the camera but the important thing is that some of the data from the sensor is irretrievably thrown away by the JPEG process…and it can never be recovered. For the best final image…he shoots in what is called RAW mode where the data from the sensor is recorded with no processing whatsoever.

JPEGs are good for instagram shots and vacation shots…but for maximum final shot quality…people usually shoot RAW and process later. Out of the camera…RAW images don’t look very good but that’s because it’s just unaltered sensor data…the post processing program you use applies specific adjustments to the data based on the camera body and lens you used and the computer you’re processing the image with to get the best output…based on what the software writers decided was the definition of best output. However…you can tweak any adjustment the RAW processor made to achieve the image you wanted to get.

Ok…on to post processing…or WDND for What Does Neil Do.

He uses a program called Adobe Lightroom for his primary processing and image management and passes the image from Lightroom to other applications for more detailed work and the result gets passed back to Lightroom.

The first step is to import the images into Lightroom. This copies the image from the camera memory card to the computer hard drive…and each user decides how to organize images. Neil does them by year then by location inside the year, then by date inside the location…but it’s completely arbitrary and everybody uses what makes sense for them. Some do it solely by naming each individual shoot with no regard for date, some by job if they’re professionals getting paid for the photos, and a myriad of other options. As part of the import process…keywords get assigned…like Great Blue Heron or Brown Bear or Waterfall or Florida…this allows you later to find a photo you want by sorting by all waterfalls, then Utah, then time frame…and look at all the photos that meet those criteria on a grid so you can say “that’s the one” and select it for further processing or use.

Once everything is in Lightroom and keyword…he goes through each shot of a shoot one by one…this might be as many as 700 or 800 frames for even something like a day trip after he gets all of Connie’s and his photos in from 2 or even 3 camera bodies. Each photo gets marked as Rejected (out of focus or missed the shot or clipped the bird’s right wingtip off for instance), left as unmarked or assigned 1 star (shots can get from 1 to 5 stars and everybody does this part differently…the idea is to mark the shots you think you want to use for the blog or whatever). Sometimes…well, actually all the time…they’ve got 40 or 50 shots between them of the bird in question from different angles, lighting if it’s moving around, foliage interfering or not and what have you so lots of times a shot early in the sequence of a subject gets a 1 but later gets no stars because there were better ones down the road. Eventually…he has all the 1 star shots for potential blog fodder selected. At that point…the rejected shots get permanently deleted from the Lightroom catalog and from the drive since they’re bad. He then filters only the 1 star shots and now instead of 700 or 800 he’s only got 40 or 50 and he knows that 25-30 will make the blog but they need processing to figure out which 3 elk shots of the possible 7 he actually wants to use.

Next up is noise reduction…you never want to process noise so get rid of it first. For that…the 1 star shots get passed along to DxO PureRAW which is a specific noise reduction app…so he hits select all and drops them on DxO. He then clicks Process Images…and goes away for awhile as noise reduction on 40 or 50 images takes 20 or 30 minutes. DxO produces new files with the same name as before but DxO added at the end. When processing is complete…the noise reduced images get sent back to Lightroom for more work.

Next up is processing…each image starts with the Auto button and Lightroom adjusts exposure, colors, shadows, highlights, whites, blacks and another dozen or two sliders to what it thinks is right for this image. Usually it’s pretty good although to his mind it always increases the exposure too much so normally he pulls that slider back to the left a little. He also tweaks any other sliders as needed. One thing I didn’t mention before…Lightroom is a non destructive editor. Nothing you do affects the basic file from the camera…it just keeps list of changes you made and when you export the image for the blog it applies the changes only to the exported file as well as to the visual appearance of the image on the screen in Lightroom…so you can always go back and change things if you need to. After this he crops the image as needed…usually to a ration of 16 wide by 10 tall for the blog and sometimes zooms in to the subject by cropping although this reduces the number of pixels in the output image. At that point…he starts to use some of the magic artificial intelligence tools to further refine the shot. The latest version of Lightroom allows you to pick Select Subject…and it will select only the subject of the shot. How it figures out the bird is the subject and what comprises the bird is the whole AI part…all I can say is that it works pretty darned good. He then modifies the subject selection with a brush tool to add or remove parts it got wrong (not to often an outcome though). Then you can make further adjustments…but the difference is that instead of adjusting say the exposure of the whole image you only adjust the area that is selected. You can also select Sky or by color or by several other methods and can combine or invert selections. This allows you to choose the subject and bring it a little brighter then select the background and darken it or blur it a bit more to make the subject pop more…he really likes the new AI selection features.

Along the way…perhaps a few more adjustments of sliders as it seems needed also happen.

Finally…sharpening is considered. Some shots need a little and some are just fine. In addition…whether or not to increase the resolution gets considered since these go hand in hand. Depending on whether the shot was with Connie’s 20 megapixel Z50 or his much higher 45 megapixel Z7II and how much the image was cropped the cropped version might or might not be a little blurry…so this is where sharpening and resolution increases come into play. You’ve all seen on CSI and NCIS how the computer nerds enhance images to turn blocky pixelated faces into something detailed enough so that the license plate can be read or the face run through facial recognition. I have to tell you though…real software that one can actually use is never, never, never as good as it seems like it is on TV. It’s pretty good at enhancing details and making it look sharper but doesn’t really do it as well as TV supposedly does.

With all processing complete…he upgrades the shots he’s gonna use to 2 stars and also assigns the color blue since in his organization scheme blue means “output for blog”. Then the 2 star blue shots get selected and exported to web…he sets them for 1024 pixels wide which it fits the browser window and his standard export to web template has a few other options set.

With that…he’s done processing and it’s off to me to write the blog.

OK…now that I’ve blathered on ‘bout that long enough…let’s see a few shots of his new lens (a Nikon Z 100-400 zoom lens). He hasn’t done his detailed comparison to the 500PF lens that we know as “the bird lens” yet but on initial testing he sees no reduction in final image quality, the lens weighs the same as the bird lens, it works fine with both the 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters so is effectively a longer focal length lens (i.e. it’s more telephoto than before) and the zoom means it has varying focal lengths so it is much more flexible. He’s had plenty of instances with the 500PF bird lens was actually too much magnification and he had to back up to get the whole bird into the frame…which sometimes means that now a tree limb is in the way. Simply zooming out a little solves the framing problem without him having to move and change the angle of the shot.

First up…the juvenile Little Blue Heron Changeling out back of the lanai. Taken at 800mm focal length and cropped for the first shot after DxO noise reduction…then all other versions came from the cropped DxO file with various combinations. You can tell the difference between the shots if you look closely…but it takes multiple loos at things like the bird’s eye which should be tack sharp and how much the background is blurred and how much feather details comes out and on and on.

This is the shot straight out of the camera with only the DxO noise reduction, Lightroom adjustments and cropping applied.

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Same as above but with Topaz Sharpen AI applied.

DXO TopSharp Edit

This one has the resolution doubled in Lightroom then Topaz Sharpen AI.

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Original shot but with Topaz Gigapixel resolution doubling and sharpening…Gigapixel is a single purpose tool and does a better job at resolution increase than Lightroom…and it also allows you to increase resolution up to 6x while Lightroom does 2x and only 2x. GP is slower (a lot) and more post processing workflow steps (a medium amount) so it’s generally used only for shots that really need more resolution and Lightroom’s is used when a lesser amount is needed…but by the time you do that and then the round trip via Sharpen AI it’s almost as long. He hasn’t decided really whether Lightroom doubling or Gigapixel doubling is better…it really depends on the image. He takes his best guess and if he doesn’t like the way it turns out he tries the other one and either picks the better of the two, uses without resolution increase, or ditches it entirely from the blog depending.

DXO GP

Tricolor Heron.

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One of our alligators swimming across the pond.

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These two are otherwise terrible images…but I wanted to show you what a dramatic difference the DxO PureRAW noise reduction does…in particular look at the green paint on the wall and you can see the noise reduction.

Out of the camera

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Same image after DxO PureRAW noise reduction.

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And finally…another shot of…I think…the same alligator as the two sunset shots above…only this time it is over on Ragnar Bench at the left end of the pond.

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Hopefully the above description and suggestions can help you improve your photography…Neil learned a lot by watching YouTube videos and reading how to pages on the interwebs so passing knowledge along is a good thing.

Cyas.

Posted in Critters, Photography, Technology, WIldlife | Leave a comment

Another Fun Stuff© Day Trip

Sho’nuf…they done gone on another trip last week down to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. They got an early 0800 reservation and after finishing up the last of their raspberry danish for breakfast they headed out with Bubba Cups© of coffee in hand and cameras and such in the back seat.

Before getting into that though…I see that AOC and Tucker Carson are having *another* Twitter spat…or perhaps it’s just the latest round in their ongoing childishness, dunno. She tweeted that she was alone…he asked if that was a booty call and she said something idiotic and he said that she was just a rich little white girl and not a POC. Technically…he’s correct, Latino or Hispanic is an ethnicity and the race of those folks is actually caucasian so calling her a white girl is linguistically correct. However…they’re both acting like childish idiots and I really wish they would just shut up.

The other thing in the news is the whole hullabaloo about the supposedly classified documents that the former President took with him down to his fortress in Miami…and the progressives are demanding investigation into his mishandling of classified documents and violation of the Presidential Records Retention Act. While I really could care less about either…the President is by definition the ultimate original classification authority from what Neil recalls from many years in the classified defense and intel biz…and thus he can (and Presidents routinely do) just declare something to be declassified and thus no longer needing to be stored according to it’s now former classification level. It’s kinda of a crappy thing to do…but it is one of the things that the commander in chief has the authority to do. And while they were probably “Presidential Records”…unless they were the only existent copy of a particular record…which they are obviously not since there is at least a Powerpoint or Word or whatever file on the computer that produced them…then him taking them along with him doesn’t necessarily equate to violation of the act. In addition…there are so many loopholes and exceptions that various Presidents have instituted since the act was passed that it’s pretty common thing to do. In fact…according to an article I read on the issue yesterday President Obama actually redefined the rules during his term in office so that instead of the National Archives being the custodian of Presidential records as every previous Presidential Library has done that the records will remain under his control and not the government’s control…hence keeping any FOIA requests for his records and they’ve announced that only “legitimate historians that need to see them for a legitimate interest” will be allowed access…you can translate that to mean only people that he likes will be allowed access I guess.

Anyway…where was I?

Oh yeah…Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. It’s normally 17 bucks a person to enter but we paid the annual fee back on 1/1 and that gives us unlimited entries plus a special web site for getting tickets at times that would be full for non members. They got stuck in a bunch of traffic on I-75 on the way south and again by a wreck once we headed east towards the sanctuary but eventually got there just a couple minutes after 0800. Quickly changing into hiking boots and strapping on all their camera gear they headed out. Due to COVID the boardwalk is still one way…you go clockwise around it…and typically the first half from your entering the boardwalk at 6 o’clock around to 12 o’clock is pretty sparse for wildlife while the second half runs along Lettuce Lake and back to the Visitor Center has water and more wildlife. 

This time we actually saw a pair…well, we actually only saw the male as the female was sitting on the nest with her 6 or 8 day old eggs…but we heard both of them…Red Shouldered Hawks. 

Heading into the pictures.

We ran into one of the Sanctuary docents about 1/4 mile into the boardwalk…we had been hearing the pair of hawks for a minute or two before getting to where he was and we spotted the nest off to the right side of the boardwalk.

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Doesn’t look like it but mom’s in there…we could hear her. The ranger told us that the male had been sitting on a tree back a hundred yards or so towards the Visitor Center the past couple of days so Neil hot footed it back there and spotted him backlit.

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There were a couple other photographers there as well so after they all took some shots Neil decided to walk back past him to get more pleasing lighting on the bird…he kept his head down and didn’t make eye contact so as not to spook him as he passed literally about 8 or 10 feet directly underneath before getting to the other side.

Connie meanwhile…spotted this Great Egret with mating plumage off to the left side and got some shots of it.

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One Neil was on the other side he actually had to remove the long bird lens and go to his shorter 70-200mm zoom lens or else he would only have gotten the head of the male.

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Connie eventually wandered back to where Neil was and asked what he was looking at…he just pointed over her head since she wad directly underneath it.

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Then she continued a bit farther down the boardwalk and got another nice shot in the golden hour backlight.

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Continuing on…

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We eventually got out of the sunny prairie like section and into the woods and swamp areas…which was nice because the temperature was climbing pretty rapidly.

Great Egret with breakfast…along with another couple of Great Egrets.

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Connie was the only one in position to get this flight shot.

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And a closer view of the hungry one.

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Little Blue Heron…the more visible red neck is their version of mating plumage. It’s always red on the males but when not in breeding season it’s pretty hard to make out. This fellow was in deep tree interference and of the 15 or so frames they got between the two of them it’s the only one in focus…it flew off but shutter speeds were too slow and the branches too much for a decent shot of that.

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Black Crowned Night Heron.

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His mating plumage on the back of his head stood out in this shot.

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This Great Egret flew up and landed on the railing…then left again. Nice flight sequence on this individual since it left in the better direction and a mix of Neil and Connie’s shots to get the whole thing.

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This one asked for a head shot for his resume.

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At our last rest stop Connie spotted this Green Anole.

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Along with another mating plumage Great Egret.

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Then just as we exited the swamp and got back out into the pine prairie area we spotted this juvenile White Ibis.

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And with that our day was done so we headed home. We had a reservation at Rossini Trattoria Gastronomica up in Port Charlotte for dinner that night…and while expensive it was still cheaper than Rabia’s in Boston or the Renaissance Cafe up in Vienna where we used to live…and it was actually pretty darned excellent. Italian food that tasted like Italian Italian food back in the old country. Neil had Veal Scallopini and Connie had Mushroom Risotto with about a pound of butter in it after they split an appetizer of Beef Carpaccio. The bread was homemade and excellent and the wine was an excellent Italian vintage.

Yesterday we headed up to Englewood to the Elks Lodge there after the 1100 choir Mass for the Army of Hope picnic…that’s one of the Elks charities that benefits military families. We had lunch…talked to some friends from our lodge…and then headed home after a couple of hours…it’s an all day affair but we were tired so left earlier than the end.

Interesting things found on the net.

PlasticBagsAreBad

WaitingOnWife

FourCallingBirds

FatCellsAreSaved

TupperwareContainers

AutocorrectInventorDied

And finally…

LostKhakis

Cyas.

Posted in Critters, Hiking, Photography, WIldlife | Leave a comment

The Rest Of The Fun Stuff©

When last we left our heroes…they had successfully arrived at the Hampton Inn in Apopka FL Northwest of downtown Orlando for the afternoon and evening. They were tired and it was still only 1400 with no king bed rooms fully ready for the night so they sat in the lobby for 20 or 30 minutes after checking in until the hotel folks brought them a key. The got to the room and had a quick nap followed by a discussion about dinner. Connie had brought Date Nite clothes for the 2 dinners we figured on having out but both of them were still pretty full from lunch so they decided to skip the second Date Nite and just run a mile up the road to this Irish Pub she found. They had a beer each and. Split a potato skins appetizer. The pub wasn’t too Irish at all…they had Guinness on tap but no other Irish brews and whiled they did have corned beef and sourkraut potato skins that was about the only Irish thing on the menu…the rest of it was just bar food. They went with normal bacon and cheddar skins instead…they were OK but not outstanding…the only reason they ate at all was because despite still being pretty fun from lunch it was a long time until breakfast.

After that it was black to the room, charge camera batteries, and TV until bedtime. They were up early and had breakfast in the lobby at 0600 then left for the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive about 0630, arriving there a few minutes before its scheduled opening at 0700.

Right on schedule the gates rolled open…there’s apparently a control booth for them up at the dam on the other end of the lake…and they rolled onto the drive along with a dozen or so cars of their early morning friends.

Let’s see…what’s in the news this morning. Sarah Palin’s libel case against the NYT will get tossed by the judge because she failed to show that the NYT had acted out of malice which is required for libel cases involving public figures under NY law. The jury is going to continue to deliberate anyway so that…according to the judge…there will still be a verdict just in case his tossing it out gets overturned on appeal. Sounds like a pretty smart judge to me making sure there doesn’t need to be a new trial.

The former President’s accounting firm has announced it is cutting ties with his business organization…dunno whether it is due to the ongoing political crap he is generating or  because they want to distance themselves…but it’s happening.

The President and his spokesman claim that the current inflation…the highest in a decade or more according to the news…has nothing to do with all the unfunded spending the Democrats have passed and everything to do with the covid. Now I’m not an economist…but deficit spending has historically caused inflation as far as I know so this seems like a specious claim at best.

Senator Manchin…said yesterday that he would be opposed to confirming another SCOTUS justice…not Breyer’s replacement but another one perhaps…if the opening comes immediately before the 2024 election because he thinks we should wait until we see who wins the Presidential election first. This is the reason that Senator McConnell didn’t confirm Merrick Garland in 2016…and the Democrats have been howling about it ever since…but now one of their own agrees with that philosophy. Personally…I think Senator Manchin would be much more at home in the other party since his state is firmly in the other party’s camp. He’s left of center but mostly believes in doing what he thinks is right and what benefits his constituents rather than what the progressives and other party bosses want him to do. The progressives are running some out there liberal against him in the primary…which is another stupid decision because nobody to the left of him can possibly bring home a Democratic Senate seat in WV…it just ain’t happening.

On the other side of the political spectrum…they’re now censuring Republicans who are participating in the Jan 6 investigation because the former President told them to. Me…I think they ought to leave the former President behind and move the party back a little closer to center right than the getting too far right for me they’ve taken the past few years…especially if they’re planning on winning the election in 2024.

Apparently in Alabama…in Tuscaloosa some sort of food delivery person left a delivery Taco Bell order on the front steps of the courthouse but before the person that ordered it got outside somebody called the bomb squad and their burritos were tossed.

Out in AZ…a catholic priest has resigned as the pastor at St. Gregory parish in Phoenix has resigned as pastor. Now before you jump to any conclusions about some sort of sexual scandal…that’s got nothing to do with it. Apparently he has been saying “We baptize you…” instead of the officially prescribed “I baptize you…” when administering the sacrament of baptism for over 20 years and at least according to the local bishop that means that none of those baptisms were valid and every single one of them needs to be done over. While the bishop is technically correct when he says that…apparently it was honest mistake…and the rules do specify I instead of we…but this seems like a solution in search of a problem. Way back when Neil was growing up…we were taught that unbaptized infants that died went to purgatory and would never ascend to heaven. That might not seem right to your mind but it was the rules. So…we were taught that even a lay person could baptize an infant who was in danger of death to prevent that outcome even through the rules specifically said that baptism must be administered by a priest. Seems like the church hierarchy had a little more common sense back then…or at least the ability to determine that this was a no fault accidental violation of the rules and rule the baptisms valid. Many of those folks who were baptized are now 20 years old and may not have any idea who baptized them…so do we need to re-baptize every single baby in Phoenix for the past 20something years to fix it? Just like the prohibition on female priests and vow of celibacy…maybe those traditions can be modernized a bit. In fact…the celibacy thing didn’t happen until around the year 300 or 400…before that priests could be and were apparently routinely married. This poor priest has also served in parishes in San Diego and in Brazil…so that makes the issue even more difficult to fix other than by retroactively un-cancelling those baptisms. And…this isn’t the first time it’s happened. Back in 2020…a priest in Detroit was watching an old family movie of his baptism and realized that the deacon who baptized him had also used the wrong word. This in turn caused him to decide to be re-baptized…which then required re-confirmation…and re-ordination to the priesthood. So apparently he wasn’t a priest so every marriage, baptism, consecration, Mass, confession and every other sacrament he performed over his career are likewise invalid since all of those sacraments are required to be administered by a priest…and he wasn’t one.

Ok, let’s get on to the pictures from Lake Apopka since really none of the news this morning amounted to much…although I do sorta like the conundrum caused by the invalid baptism thing.

Black Crowned Night Heron.

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Connie’s shot of the same individual.

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Blue Winged Teal.

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Connie got another shot of the Night Heron after it went into and out of the reeds.

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A couple of nice reflection and sunrise shots.

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This one was actually taken after the two above at about 180 degrees around. Connie took 3 or 4 frames since she had a shorter lens on her body and liked this one with the branches partially over the sun the best…and Neil agreed with her.

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Red Winged Blackbird.

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Moorhens.

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Peregrine Falcon. This is the fastest bird in the world and eats almost exclusively other birds…and always takes them in flight. The Falcon climbs pretty high and then stoops (dives) at speeds of 20 mph before hitting the prey from behind with its talons then taking the now dead prey to the ground then over to a tree/pole/whatever to eat. It’s a pretty rare catch down here in SW FL…so we stopped and watched it awhile hoping it would fly for us.

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The aforementioned huge and sharp talons.

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He/she eventually took off but just went to another more distant perch than this pole right next to the road. Too bad…would have been nice to get a hunt sequence shot.

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Heading down the road we spotted this GBH in a tree.

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And some flowers.

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As well as a Kingfisher. It was a way out so Neil had to crop in quite a bit but amazingly enough…and pretty unusual for this species…it sat there for quite awhile so we could actually get some shots.

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Connie also got a few shots…and this is one of the few instances (major cropping) where the extra megapixels in Neil’s body proved to make a difference in final image detail…but hers is smaller and lighter.

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Neil doubled back from the car a couple hundred yards for this shot. When he spotted it it was completely backlit…and it’s a one way road…so he hoofed back to get a side light shot of the bird formerly known as a Marsh Hawk but now known as a Northern Harrier. Don’t know why Northern is in the name since they’re pretty much everywhere in the USA.

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Another warbler.

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We spotted this GBH and stopped for a shot…then noticed the gator slowly moving by a few feet in front of the bird…don’t know whether it was silently trying to stalk the bird for breakfast and was eventually going to snap to the left and lunge or whether the gator realizes it has essentially no chance of snaring the bird and is ignoring it.

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Spotted this Osprey and breakfast in a tree but couldn’t get a good shot as it was branch obscured. It took off and flew around then landed in the tree again…some herons were bothering it so after repeating this circle twice it eventually left and Neil got a shot out the window as it was flying away.

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This gator was right on the side of the road…probably 12 feet long.

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Another GBH…in the same drying the wings pose (at least that’s what it appears to be doing) that we spotted a couple weeks back of the lanai…we’ve been observing GBHs for going on 50 years now and have seen precisely 2 of them in this pose.

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Little Blue Heron.

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Another Snowy Egret…this one was literally 10 feet away and Neil shot out the car window…beautiful plumage.

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Yellow rumped warbler…there are at least a dozen different species of warblers we see in the marshes ‘round here and can only reliably identify 2 of them.

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Mr. and Mrs. Red Shouldered Hawk. She’s on the left.

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Which we know because she flew over to the nest to check on the young’ins.

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Meanwhile, Dad fluffed up his feathers.

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And flew off to hunt but we didn’t get a decent shot of him departing.

Finally…as we left the drive…we spotted a couple of immature White Ibis individuals…the whither one is older than the brownish one.

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The last couple of miles of the drive you’re no longer really near the lake or actually anywhere in the wildlife portion of the drive…it sort of ends out in the middle of a bunch of agricultural fields and you make your way 3 or 4 miles through them to get back to the paved road.

We headed south but had to figure out our own route. The GPS wanted to route us down I-4…which we refuse to drive on since the traffic is always, always, always terrible…and right past the Disney/Universal section of town…which we declined to do because 1000 on Saturday morning is a terrible time to go anywhere near the parks. Instead we took our own slightly longer in miles but shorter in time route around the south side of Lake Apopka and over to Lakeland to get on US-17 back home. We passed the turnoff where Neil left 17 to go to Circle Bar B Reserve on this route so next time we do it we’ll add a third stop.

We have a trip to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary down in Immokalee planned for this week and one to Fort Desoto State Park next week up near St. Petersburg. The latter will likely be overnight since Connie doesn’t want to have to drive 100+ miles before dawn. Neil thinks she’s just taking advantage of the situation to get another Date Night…but hey, he gets her to dress up and wear heels so that’s not a bad thing.

No interesting stuff found on the net this week today…as in the last post it’s already picture intensive.

‘Cept this one…it seems appropriate since Connie is a grandma. Don’t know if she had go go boots…but she did drive a Mustang.

GrandmaWasCool

Cyas.

Posted in Critters, Nature, Photography, WIldlife | Leave a comment

More Fun Stuff©

Yep…we actually did some more of that last week…and we have more scheduled for both this week and next…it’s mating season for birds in Florida ya know and that means they are all decked out in the mate attracting finery and colors which makes for much better images.

This one is pretty photo heavy…and is actually only part 1 of 2 since Neil hasn’t finished the photos from the second part of the trip but I’ll get that out tomorrow or the next day as soon as he’s done with them. 

We hung around an extra day over our original plan to head out Wednesday ‘cuz Trivia Nite at the Elks ya know…and we won so that was a great decision on our part. Even better was our teaming up with Margie and husband since she was up on all of the TV and movie related stuff that we ain’t so good on and was able to give us the correct answer to a couple of questions and seein’ as we only one 26-25 that is a very good thing. We ended up with about 6 free drink tickets at the lodge (Vicki and Mike gave us their’s as well since they don’t drink the house well (AKA cheap) booze and that’s what the tickets are good for. Connie drinks the house Merlot and they’re good for that…Neil’s with Vicki and Mike and doesn’t drink that cheap crap either. We also won a $20 gift certificate to Farmer’s Market restaurant…the young lady who owns the place is a member and donated the grand prize this month.

With that in hand…we headed out about lunchtime Thursday for the Titusville area for a planned Friday dawn return trip out to Black Point Wildlife Drive at Merritt Island NWR on the northern end of the Kennedy Space Center. We stayed in a different hotel than on our last trip and after a very brief evaluation of the weather concluded that eating outside was out of the question so instead of the beach place on the water the DLETC sought out other sources of sustenance…there’s a whole involved process for that involving menu review, what we want to eat, weather, how far away it is, how hoity-toity it is, and how far she will have to walk in heels if we go there. Anyways…after this complicated process she offered up the choice of a place about 15 miles away on the water that only served seafood and had an outside that we couldn’t sit in due to the weather (cool and windy) and wouldn’t be able to see anything anyway as it would be too close to sunset…and the other alternative was a place called Durango Steakhouse. Neil pointed out that the latter was conveniently just across the parking lot from the Extended Stay America hotel we were currently sitting in so the choice was really simple…Durango it was.

Connie had her normal glass of wine and Neil had something called the Grand Junction Old Fashioned…the Old Fashioned is essentially bourbon on the rocks with some muddled cherries in the bottom for a little sweetness and some Angostura Bitters to counteract the sweetness. Durango decided to have their own twist on the classic recipe…they use Screwball Peanut Butter Whiskey (which sounds like a terrible thing to do with bourbon but is actually quite tasty), chocolate bitters, and Andorra cherries instead of the normal bright red and overly sweet maraschino cherries one typically finds as garnish in cocktails. Andorras are the much darker and less sweet ones that typically get made into pies or chocolate covered cherry candy. Anyway…the combination was outstanding…so much so that Neil actually had a second one.

They split an appetizer of Oysters Rockefeller (sadly the crab stuffed mushrooms they ordered were unavailable due to either staff shortages or covid related shipping issues) and then Connie had clam chowdah while Neil went with Firecracker Shrimp (again…sadly the bacon wrapped grilled shrimp he actually ordered were unavailable). In both cases, the substituted dishes were excellent even though they were substitutes and Connie was happy with the clam chowdah.

They split a creme brulee for dessert which was somewhat lacking in Neil’s opinion. Rather than the classic recipe which is essentially baked egg custard which is very light they did their own take and it was much closer to vanilla pudding than a light custard. Nonetheless…the melted and caramelized sugar on top was excellent and despite it being less than outstanding they ate it anyway before wandering back to the hotel.

Next morning they were up early for coffee from the lobby and breakfast from Macky D’s before arriving over at the drive just a few minutes before sunrise. Following the drive they stopped by the visitor center to stamp their Park Service passport before heading west for our second hotel. They stopped for lunch in Sanford north of Orlando and visited the Sanford Brewery for brews and eats. They had a pint each of Legend Scottish Export Ale…excellent and very similar to what’s known as a Wee Heavy. Connie had spinach and artichoke dip with pita chips which was excellent while Neil went with the Sanford Avenue burger…local beef actually cooked medium rare and pink as he asked for and topped with beer cheese, bacon, and caramelized onions along with lettuce…he skipped the ‘mater slices. This turned out to be the second best burger he’s ever had…running behind only the one he had (and which is no longer available as we looked the second time we passed through there) out in Astoria Oregon…

*beep beep* We interrupt our regular blogging for an urgent update.

Actually this is the third best burger he’s ever had…but the first two were both at the place in Astoria named Baked Alaska that hangs out over the river just east of the really tall and skinny bridge over the Columbia Ricer there. The original best one had Kobe beef, bacon/jalepeño jelly, fried pork belly (like bacon only better), and white cheddar but on our second visit to get another one of those years later was no longer on the menu but they did have a combo lamb/beef burger with sautéed wild mushrooms, balsamic reduction sauce, and blue cheese crumbles that he swapped out for Swiss cheese since they don’t eat stinky French cheese and that one took second place…although mebbe since the first one isn’t available any more it’s the new first place. 

Whatevers.

We now to your regularly scheduled blogging already in progress.

Anyway…so it’s only the third best but who knows…but Ima not arguing with him about it…his mind is made up.

After lunch we stopped by the local NFCU branch to pick up some more cash before heading to the hotel…the same one we stopped at the last time we were in the Orlando area for our second scheduled dawn trip…this time to Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive. But I’ll tellya all ‘bout that when part 2 goes live.

So…on to the pictures…as per usual there’s a mix of Connie’s and Neil’s shots. I’ll try to point out who took them if it’s important…and if ya really care then hover your Mose over the pictures. Ones that have names starting with Z72 are his and Z50 are hers. I have to tell you she really likes this mirrorless body instead of her older one…mostly because the kit lens combo has much more telephoto reach than she had before so birds and such get into her shots now. Neil tells her she coulda had a longer lens before but she never wanted to carry the extra weight…she says her mind is made up and don’t confuse her with the facts so he moved on.

Great Egret with mating plumage…this one is…we think…a male as normally they get much more elaborate plumage than the females get. The real reason for this is that the female wants the best prospect for healthy prosperous babies and picks the one with the best most outlandish mating plumage…while everybody already knows that males are much less choosy and typically (at least with non bird species) have a harem anyway.

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Not super sure but we think think this is a juvenile Night Heron…not sure whether it’s Black Crowned or Yellow Crowned. The problem is that it has some of the characteristics of each…but then it has some of the coloration of a mature Tricolor Heron as well but it doesn’t fully match any of them. It seems not slender or tall enough to be the Tricolor and there are numerous Night Herons of both types in the area so we’re going with that over the Tricolor.

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Connie’s shot of the same individual…this shows the almost Tricolor coloration better than Neil’s shot but the legs are the

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Little Blue Heron

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Blue Winged Teals…both males and females.

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Great Blue Heron or GBH as we call ‘em.

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Moorhen.

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Red Winged Blackbird male.

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This is a Redfish…they were eating bugs off the surface right near the shoreline…you can’t really tell size from the shot but they were probably 35 or 40 inches in length.

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When we first saw this we thought it looked like a 3 inch tall heron standing in the water instead of the plant it turned out to be.

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One of a pair of Turkey Vulture.

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They flew over to the roof of a bird blind and were doing that whole courtship waving their wings and necks thing…about to go and make some vulture chicks.

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Warbler of some sort…we typically call them Tauntey Birds because they hide in the bushes and taunt you with their calls.

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GBH…he was on the railing to the original bird blind that the flying vulture above just left…completely ignored people walking within 20 feet.

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Glossy Ibis.

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Another male Red Winged Blackbird.

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Tricolor Heron…you can see the faint resemblance in coloration (legs mostly) to the juvenile Night Heron at the beginning of the day above as well as the slender and long necked body as compared to the Night Herons.

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Snowy Egret. Neil’s sorta bummed that the autofocus missed the eye and got the plumage instead but it happened too quick for him to switch from a wider area AD mode to single point but the water droplets from a failed stab at breakfast make the shot anyway…and again starting to get into the serious mating plumage. These were the birds that were hunted to endangered status back in the day for feathers for ladies hats in the late Victorian period.

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Roseate Spoonbill…neither Neil or Connie can recall seeing one of these up in a tree before instead of being on the ground/water.

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Female Anhinga.

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Green Heron.

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And Connie’s shot of the same li’l guy. Neither shot shows how long the neck actually is, when extended to grab food the body length just about doubles. This species is pretty skittish and usually hides back in the mangroves more but it was a cool morning so it probably wanted to warm up…never moved the 10 minutes we watched it so that’s a pretty good guess we think.

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Male Anhinga…one of the few species that female plumage is more colorful and striking

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Caspian Tern.

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Connie’s male Anhinga…I think it’s the same individual as above.

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Cowbird.

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Kildeer.

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Bald Eagle…first one we’ve seen there but it’s great eagle habitat…so we missed them last time I guess. Same as with our lack of Reddish Egret shots although this is the primary nesting area for the species…you pays your money and takes your chances and ya get what ya get.

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Connie’s shot. Her lens isn’t quite as long as the one Neil uses and his body has more megapixels than hers does (it’s her fault…she doesn’t want the weight of the heavier but higher end gear). If you zoom in and pixel peep to the original shots you can see a very subtle difference between the two body/lens combinations but at blog size there really isn’t a difference that you can see in the cropped and exported shots so mebbe she’s got a point about the lighter gear.

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Tricolor Heron caught at the moment of takeoff…actually Neil grabbed this one through the open car window.

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These last two were taken at the Visitor Center pond.

Osprey.

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And finally a second mystery bird…possibly a juvenile Reddish Egret White Morph but more likely a juvenile Little Blue Heron. Doesn’t fully match either but based on size and greatest number of coloration matches most likely the latter.

One looks at beaks, legs, plumage, size, coloration of various parts of the body, eye color and other things to determine species of individuals that don’t present an easy identification…obviously like humans birds are individual and just as we have blondes, brunettes, redheads, and blue haired old ladies they have their individual characteristics as well. Size and body shape (slender or plump and short or long necked) usually help to determine things…fortunately any species generally looks pretty much lie that species but ID’ing the outliers presents a challenge.

This one was taken on a little side trip on a road just before we exited the refuged…the lady at the Visitor Center recommended it but this was the only photo worthy thing we found. Saw a bunch of coot/duck but the groups were way out and not really closer enough to make out much…not to mention it was 1000 by this time and Golden Hour was far past so we were into the harsh middle of the day lighting conditions.

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And that ended our shots for the day so we headed off to lunch as I talked about above. I’ll send Neil back to do the second day’s shots just as soon as I post this.

Cyas.

Posted in Critters, Photography, WIldlife | Leave a comment