Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Sunday birding in Cape May
Walking back to the cars, I saw this bumper sticker:
After that, we went back to the hawk platform at Cape May Point and saw some freshly banded sharpies, a kestrel, and a red-tailed hawk. It was awe-inspiring to see these great hunters up close! They were all so beautiful and powerful. Sadly, I didn’t get any good photos, but Susan and Laura did so check out their posts.
After that, we walked through the marshes on their very nice boardwalk, and I remembered the last time I’d been there: with Kat in February, when it was FREEZING.
Look at this beautiful mockingbird; he was as interested in us as we were in him:
His expression reminds me of this lolcat.
Northern shovellers, way in the distance:
Even from all the way across the pond (not that pond), I could see their huge bills—like Daffy Duck’s bill.
Also got a lifer in the butterfly category, a buckeye:
As I said in my previous post, I didn’t get many pictures on Sunday because I was having battery trouble the whole time, despite having bought new rechargeable batteries on my way to the Cape. I hope they just need a little seasoning and will soon hold a charge longer than ten minutes.
After this we went for lunch and then took Birdchick and Jay from birdjam to the 2nd Avenue jetties, where we saw terns, gulls, and black skimmers. (by now the batts were dead, so no photos) I helped a really nice Canadian woman by IDing the shorebirds for her, confessing that I only knew them all because Birdchick and Laura had already IDd them.
I stood there for a while, watching the ocean waves and wishing Kat had been there with me to see the beach. She and I both love the ocean and hope to move closer to it when she’s done with her PhD (only a year and half to go!). Then, after saying my goodbyes, I got in the car and drove home. What a melancholy experience that was!
I can’t wait to get out in the field again; I’ll probably go on a field trip this weekend to Bald Eagle State Park, where I’ve been only once before. I feel like I’m a better birder now, having seen so many shorebirds and marshbirds in New Jersey. I have a certain confidence that wasn't necessarily there before, along with even more fervor for getting out into the field. All this leaves me wondering: Am I still a beginner? I hope so.
I might just see a few more lifers out there, as the field trip leader (from the State College Birding Club) says we might see some more peeps, some red-shouldered hawks, and maybe some ducks that I haven’t yet seen.
I have a ton of calculus homework to do tonight, but tomorrow night I'm going to start reading Kingbird Highway. I'm really looking forward to reading about what makes a birder "extreme."
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Saturday/Sunday lifer-rama at Cape May
My lifers list:
Great Black-backed Gull
Yellow-rumped Warbler (finally!)
Black-throated Green Warbler
Common Yellowthroat (finally!)
Purple Finch (finally!)
It seems like it’s been a lot longer than that, but maybe that's because I’ve been looking at birds since I was a kid. I would never have guessed I'd come so far so fast (or it seems far and fast to me, anyway).
I ate some great food, made some good friends, got a copy of Kingbird Highway (which Taryn at Houghton Mifflin was kind enough to give me), and learned a ton about raptor ID, not to mention birding fieldcraft. I also met Pete Dunne, got some neat t-shirts for Kat and Em and me, and got a nice new comfy strap for my binocs.
I’ll be thinking back to this trip for a long time, always with a certain wistfulness right along with the joy. I miss Cape May, and I miss the birds.
Here are a few shots I got on Saturday:
a mated pair of American wigeons; I love their little call:
Sanderlings on the beach:
Pectoral sandpipers (thanks, Patrick!):
My best shot yet of a great blue heron:
Birdchick gives a presentation on blogging:
There were many people there who were geniunely curious and then excited about the prospect of getting on the Web. Directly to Birdchick's right is Mike of 10,000 Birds. What a great guy; he's the one who really started the whole bird-blogging scene. I handed out my card to several people during the festival; if you're one of them, visiting my blog for the first time, hello!
Sunday was another eventful day; I had a lot of trouble, however, with my batteries. Still, I'll try to post some Sunday photos later.
Friday Night in Cape May
Further complicating the situation, my thoughts and impressions about the weekend are almost too numerous, too jumbled to organize. That, along with the post-vacation blahs, has made it hard to put any coherent posts together.
I covered the Friday birding in my last post; now I’ll move on to the Friday evening Birds and Beers session at Jackson Mountain Café. They let us have the top floor, TVs on “Meerkat Manor” and then “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” playing in the background, and a waiter who probably cursed us bitterly every time he had to climb up and down those stairs yet again for another brewski or martini.
All these birders were lifers for me, this being our first in-person meeting. What a great bunch of birds!
BornAgainBirdWatcher, Laura Somewhere in NJ, and a gloomy sea
Birdchick, performing an energetic display ritual and consuming one of her species' favorites, a dirty martini. I don’t want to anthropomorphize, but I’d guess she’s thinking, “Another bride/ Another June/ Another sunny honeymoon/ Another season, another reason/ For makin' whoopee.”
In the “It’s a Small World After All” category, Elizabird and I discovered that we’d gone to high school together! We didn’t recognize each other until she learned that I was from Harlingen, and then she came over and we reminisced and hugged and laughed our heads off, thinking about our time in drama classes, Children’s Theatre, and other antics. Liz is now a big-time birder, married to big-time birder Jeff Gordon of Jeff Gyr fame, and (as if that’s not enough) she was instrumental in starting the Rio Grande Valley Bird Festival! How incredible is it that after 25 years, we would meet in a bar in Cape May, NJ, brought together by our mutual love of birds!? Life never ceases to amaze me.
Here we all are, the birding bloggers: (back row from left) Laura from NJ, (that's Harry Potter and Ron Weasley on the TV), Beth from Easy Ecoliving and Patrick from the Hawk Owl’s Nest, Jeff Gyr and Elizabird, Birdchick and martini, Sheri the hummingbird specialist and author; (front row from left) John the BornAgainBirdwatcher, me looking like some sort of thuglet doing a very scary gangsta pose, Susan Gets Native, Susan at Lake Life, Amy Wildbird on the Fly, and Mike from 10,000 Birds.
What a flock! Next time, we'll move on to Saturday, which started out rainy and miserable but ended up sunny and gorgeous.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Flashback: Getting to Cape May
There is a SO MUCH to tell you about the weekend; I'll go in chronological order and give you a little account of each day's activities.
I drove to Cape May Thursday after work; en route, I got lucky:
The Cape Harbor Motel: clean, comfy, and affordable:
Down at Cape May Point near the lighthouse, I saw my first warbler--a palm warbler amongst some bare shrubs:
At the convention center, I walked into the vendor show area and met my first celebrity!--Wildbird on the Fly, editor of WildBird Magazine (oh, she's the cute one on the right; pay no attention to the chubby-cheeked geek on the left):My first lifer of the trip was a Savannah sparrow, seen on a field trip to the Beanery:Not a great photo, but note how dark it was with the rain coming down; it was wet and miserable, and Susan of Lake Life and I were soaked to the skin by the time the Beanery field trip was over. However, we got some good looks at a few birds, both in the trees and overhead.
I can tell you that the migration flightline definitely runs through Cape May. All weekend, we saw flocks of everything from red-winged blackbirds and robins to double-crested cormorants and great blue herons, all heading for their winter homes down south. It was awe-inspiring to see groups of 200+ cormorants, all focused on getting to their destination.
I'll flash-forward now to my drive home because, after all I'd seen and learned during the weekend programs and birding walks, I really began to think about this whole fall migration business. Like everyone else, I learned about bird migrations when I was a kid in science classes. What I didn't learn in school or even in these last few years of learning bird ID, behaviors, and so forth, is that a lot of birds don't survive the fall migration. I don't know if I just missed that part of 4th grade science with Miss Gomez or maybe I just tuned it out (you know how bird death bothers me), but I never really thought about the fact that, despite their preparations of packing on the fat stores and staying together for safety, a lot of birds will die en route to their winter vacation homes.
Thinking about it last night in the car as I watched another flock of cormorants flying over me, I wondered: Am I naive or just dumb? Neither option is very comforting. Of course, some birds die; it happens every day. But somehow, this was different. I imagined what it would be like to be forced to pack up, leave my home, and walk hundreds of miles to a new home. Along the way, there would be dangers--predators, man-made obstacles, and others around me competing for what food and drink were available on the way. I wouldn't have a choice about leaving; I'd be compelled by instinct to do this, not just once but every autumn, so I could get away from the snows of the north. This would be no fun vacation, no retirement trip in the luxury RV to Texas or Florida for the winter visitors from up north. During this "vacation," I could die at any moment. I might collapse from exhaustion, unable to continue because I hadn't brought enough food or couldn't find enough on the road. Someone might just decide I'm an easy meal and kill me. I met encounter a storm that blows me so off course I can't recover; I'm separated from my traveling companions and I'm lost. Finally, I just lay down on the side of the road, confused and tired, and sleep until I don't wake up again.
I know that to most birders, all these things are so obvious on their face as to be silly. But as I said, I just didn't think about that before this weekend. As I drove on toward Philadelphia in the fading sunlight of the day, I was filled with a sadness I couldn't shake. I thought about that forced "vacation" all the way home.
Spring migration at Oil Creek had been a wonderful experience; the birds were all dressed in their finest outfits, excitedly singing and looking for mates; I could sense the thrill of possibility in the air. Most importantly, these birds were coming home. They'd survived the trip south and the trip back north, and now they were singing and fluttering, ready to create the next generation of birds. Fall migration is different, though. Everyone has to leave; all the nests they'd worked to build, all the great hunting spots they'd worked to find, all the warm sunshine and gentle breezes of spring and summer are over, and now they're were facing a hard flight away.
For me, it's just a lot to think about. I looked up at a passing flock of 20 or so great egrets, and I whispered, "Good luck."
Saturday, October 27, 2007
A quick hello from Cape May
I'll post again from home. In the meantime, I hope everyone else in the world is having as great a weekend as I am.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
It's here--Cape May Weekend
I'm so excited that it's hard to sit still. This is only my second birding festival, and this is THE birding festival in this part of the country. The Oil Region one was small and intimate, a great festival for a first-timer like me. Plus I met and birded with Julie Zickefoose--WOW. This time around, I'll be with the Flock and with tons of other birders.
I've packed everything I could think of, and I'll be leaving a little early from work (working through lunch) to get a little head start.
I'll blog from the festival, so be sure to check this little bloggy over the weekend!
Signing off from PA,
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Cape May Revised REVISED wish list!
Back to the birds: I got an email this morning from Laura H in NJ; seems a Jersey listserver was in Cape May and got the birding experience of a lifetime! Look at these birds:
Little blue heron
Pectoral, Dunlin and Stilt Sandpiper.
American Tree sparrow
Ruby and Golden Crowned Kinglets
Black Throated Blue Warbler
Black Throated Green Warbler
Almost all of these would be lifers for me! We can only hope we get half as lucky this weekend, and that my eyes are sharp enough to catch all these birds. Now I’m panicking—I need to study my field guides! I’m freakin' out!
I can’t believe I’m leaving tomorrow. It seemed like time was going so slowly, and now it’s flying by. I have to pack tonight because I’m leaving directly from work tomorrow. My tummy is starting to get all nervous and hurty now. I hope I don’t forget anything.
I’d better go check my packing lists again….
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
My REVISED Cape May wish list
4. Another sparrow
5. Yellow-rumped warbler
7. Still a sparrow
8. Black-throated green....nope, sparrow
10. Hey a sparrow!
You get the idea. Especially given this crappy weather. Laura H in NJ was kind enough to send a pre-weekend postcard saying howdy-do and that we should hope for NW winds and a cold snap. I'm not too optimistic.
The other ten on my revised wishlist:
11. Susan Gets Native
13. Laura H. in NJ
14. Patrick at Hawk Owl's Nest
15. Lynne at Hasty Brook
16. John the Born-again Birdwatcher
17. Amy, Wildbird on the Fly
18. The spirit of Mary at Mary's View
19. Any raptor, especially at the hawk-banding
Who knows? Maybe I'll even see a sparrow! Seriously, there are a few "gimme" birds I have not yet seen, so adding a nice Savannah sparrow or my nemesis, the common yellowthroat (which I've heard but never seen), to the lifelist would ROCK.
I think the most important thing, though, will be meeting all my birding blogger pals--we know so much about each other from reading each other's blogs, but finally meeting in person will be so sweet! It's like hearing that common yellowthroat but still not having seen him; it's just not the same. So it's going to be an action-packed and memorable weekend, hangin' with The Flock!
Monday, October 22, 2007
My Cape May wish list
I mentioned in my sidebar last time I updated my blog template that my lifebird goal for the Cape May Autumn Weekend is twenty lifers. Why twenty? Several reasons. First, at the last (and first) festival I attended, I got 23 lifers on one birdwalk with the great Julie Zickefoose, so I figure 20 is a realistic goal – when you’ve seen as few birds as I have, the lifers come pretty fast. (My lifelist is at 131.)
Second, I went through my NE list of possible birds and I picked twenty that I’d really like to see. Actually, if I only saw all the warblers on this list, I’d be thrilled! But you know me—always setting ridiculously high expectations. Here’s my list, and don’t laugh at some of the common “gimme” birds on here:
Gull (any besides ring-billed)
Sandpiper (any besides Solitary)
Warbler, Cape May
Just this morning, a local bigtime birder I know went to Scotia Barrens and saw 75+ butter-butts, along with four other species that would’ve been lifers for me. Gees! I’ve been meaning to get out to the Barrens since late August, but it seems like my weekend mornings are always being filled with sleeping or birding somewhere else or housekeeping or just chillin’ with the bun and the kitties while reading Harry Potter or something. Sigh.
Of course, I’m leaving off these other lifers I’m hoping to see:
Sharon the Birdchick
Lynne at Hasty Brook
Laura at Somewhere In NJ
Susan at Lake Life
Amy at Wild Bird on the Fly
Patrick at The Hawk Owl's Nest
John at The Born Again Bird Watcher
I’ll be sure to get photos to confirm my IDs.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Disapproving rabbits in book form
Congratulations to Birdchick Sharon Stiteler, and to her ever-disapproving cover-model-bun Cinnamon! Finally, rabbits everywhere have a voice.
And look--here's the thank-you page: There I am!
On the way to B&N, I passed a car with a little sticker on his back window that said, "one by one the rabbits are stealing my sanity." I was in a hurry, though, and couldn't get a photo of it.
Next weekend is Cape May, and this weekend is play-with-camera! I can't wait.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
'Cause baby, I'm a star! Whoa-ooh!
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
What kind of blogger are you?
That's me--an undiscovered expert. On what? I don't think I've discovered that yet. However, I'm a little worried about my eyes and the amount of facial hair I seem to have acquired...
The new camera is here!
I have yet to try my old camera's memory card in this new camera; I did, however, see an option in the menus for formatting cards. I'm guessing that will likely delete the photos (including the last fateful digiscoped crow photo) on it, though. But we'll see. Maybe not.
Here's Kat makin' it happen on her comps.
She'll be done on Friday. Whew!
Here's a cute photo of Clawsie, who seems to be saying, "Oh please, must you take my photo again? Blasted papparazzi."
And finally, a northern flicker! Or at least a photo of my calendar at work, with next month's Northern Flicker photo, copyright Maslowski Productions.
Well--better go. I will have better photos and stuff later, although tonight's another busy night with meetings etc., and then tomorrow night is calculus again.... ugh! This whole work and school thing really gets in the way of my birding and blogging. Sheesh.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
New yardbird, new camera
Second, the new camera is officially on its way: Kodak Z712 IS, with 12X optical zoom (sweeeet), 7.1 MP, and image stabilization! That part really gets me jazzy. I can't wait for it to get here! I want to learn its every little nuance before the Cape May weekend. Sadly, that means I'm going to have to spend sooooo much time outside, photographing birds and landscapes and leaves and butterflies. That's just too bad....
Monday, October 15, 2007
Blog Action Day for the Environment
1. More than half our water in the USA goes to feed livestock.
2. Livestock consume more than 70% of the grains and cereals we produce in the USA.
3. Livestock (especially cattle) degrade landscape very quickly, land that could be reforested or replanted with native plants.
There are many more reasons: health reasons, emotional appeals, etc. As I said, going vegetarian isn't something I push on people because it's hard in many ways. Still, buying a little less meat at the grocery store is something you can feel good about, and something that will encourage you to eat more vegetables--which is always healthy.
Green Monkey Music Project Part 2
“Walkin’ to New Orleans” – A Fats Domino classic. I’ve always liked the tick-tock rhythm, the rhythm of a walkin’ man who’s “gonna need two pair of shoes when I get through walkin’ these blues.” Now that’s some sadness. Plus it’s kinda cute the way he says “honey” in the lines “You used to be my honey/ ’til you spent all my money.”
“Going Down to Liverpool” – A great song from the Bangles’ All Over the Place, which I got in vinyl. The song was written by Kimberley Roo, the guitarist for one-hit wonder Katrina and the Waves. Wow, just typing that band name now gives me the chills.
“Lodi” – CCR. This has always been one of my favorite CCR tunes, about the tough life of a traveling musician who’s so broke he can’t even leave town. This guy’s as sad as Fats, though he doesn’t think to walk out of town—whether to New Orleans or just LA or someplace.
“Wichita Lineman” – A Glenn Campbell classic. The lyrics are rather silly, though I love the chorus. The mood of this song reminds me of my childhood, spent listening to Campbell (and others of his ilk) when he was a GOD of country music. My mother listened to just about every kind of music there was back in the late 60s and early 70s, which shaped my own rather eclectic musical tastes.
“Anchorage” – Michelle Shocked, whose stage name is a take on “Miss Shell-shocked.” I knew about Shocked from her days playing the Kerrville Folk Festival, and the album from which “Anchorage” comes, “Short Sharp Shocked,” was a solid effort. I like this song because it talks about getting back in touch with an old friend after a long time: “I took time out to write to my old friend, I walked across that burning bridge.” That’s something I never have the guts or energy to do, though I do think about old friends and girlfriends sometimes.
“Walking in L.A.” – This great song is off the Missing Persons Destination Unknown, which was a great album. It’s great 80s rock, with the famous octave-hiccupping Dale Bozzio on lead vocals, and Warren Cuccurullo, an underrated guitarist in my opinion, on lead guitar.
“I Left My Heart (in San Francisco)” – The greatness of Tony Bennett. Need I say more?
One more project, and I'll get the green monkey crown!
Saturday, October 13, 2007
The long way home, in pictures: A tribute to my Nikon CoolPix 4800
A couple of days ago I took the scenic route home, and I thought you might want to come along for the ride.
The late afternoon has always been my favorite time of day. These days, "late afternoon" is coming earlier and earlier. Is there anything more beautiful than a late afternoon sun shining its deep golden light against turning leaves?
I love photos of paths or roads that turn up ahead, leading you to a future about which you can only guess.
Here's a pond that provided some great birding in the spring, but today it was pretty quiet except for some white-crowned and white throated sparrows and a shockingly red cardinal and his more muted mate. They were all the way across, however, and I didn't get any good shots of them.
On the road to my house. Almost there!
Ah, there’s no place like home!
This little American goldfinch in winter plumage let me get within a few feet of him before he flew away.
The next morning, and it’s back to work again.
It's no good. My wonderful beautiful birthday camera is no more. And it's all my fault.
After several hours of messing and googling and being upset and everything else, I just couldn't sit here and look at the camera any longer. I went outside and picked raspberries, a whole bowlful. They looked absolutely beautiful in the autumn sun. I wanted to take a picture, but--well, you know.
There was only one thing to be done. I girded my loins, screwed up my courage, held my breath, and told Kat. After staring at me for about 15 seconds, she said, "Well, we'd better get you a new one. You can't go to Cape May without one." So I told her what I had been thinking about as I tried desperately to fix the camera: Should I still go to Cape May, or just take that money and buy a new camera? Do I really deserve another camera after so recklessly breaking this one? Should I just give up this whole photography thing?
After listening to my ranting, do you know what she said? "Honey, you put up with a partner who works 12- to 15-hour days and is never around. Taking pictures and watching birds is what keeps you happy when I'm working. For that you deserve another camera."
Insert the sound of my weeping here.
I really thought she'd lose it. See, you've only read a few of my tales of DIY woe (the homemade scope being probably the biggest one before this). She LIVES with me and my unfinished projects, my half-rebuilt broken stuff, my "yeah, I'm gonna fix that!" collection of junk. Now, I don't want to make it sound like I never get anything right. I mean, I built the Taj Majal of bookcases for Kat:
and several other pieces of furniture, and I've fixed lots of other things. However, I believe it's safe to say that some things are simply beyond my abilities. Working with electronic equipment is one of them.
Anyway, she took time--one of her most precious things right now, as she's working like a dog to finish her comps paper (imagine writing a master's thesis in three weeks--yeah)--to look online with me at some cameras. We determined a budget, and now I'm online to do some research. I have narrowed it down to the following:
1. Kodak EasyShare Z712 IS 7.1MP 12X optical zoom with Image Stabilization
2. Fuji Finepix 3700 7.1MP 10X optical zoom
3. Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ8K 7.2MP 12X Optical zoom with image stabilization
All are comparable in price, but 1. and 3. feature image stabilization. Wow.
Perhaps I should go the camera store and look at these babies live. I'll keep you posted.
DELIA (almost screaming): Holy crap! Oh my gosh! Okay. Calm down. Why's it all blurry? Oh--focus the scope. Duh. (adjusts focus knob until image on LCD is clear as crystal) Holy crap! Okay. Find a bird. There's a crow on the scraggly pine tree; perfect! (turns scope/camera assembly on tripod until crow comes into perfect focus) Oh my gosh. (snaps photo) Wow. Okay--I wonder if I zoom the scope lens... (crow image gets larger and vignetting is reduced in LCD) Holy crap! Okay, now I'll just zoom the camera lens a little bit... (crow image gets larger, vignetting is reduced yet more--
Ladies and gentlemen, we're sorry to interrupt your movie, but we've encountered some technical difficulties. It seems that when DELIA zoomed, the camera's lens was obstructed by the firmly attached adapter, and the camera then flashed "LENS ERROR" in the LCD. We are trying to correct these difficulties. Please have some popcorn and soda, courtesy of theatre management. In the interim, we'll show you the "Special Features" that were included on this special-edition DVD.
PLAY MOVIE /SCENE SELECTION /SPECIAL FEATURES /PREVIEWS
INTERVIEW WITH DELIA
"Well, everything was going incredibly well until I messed with the zoom on the camera. I heard the lens kinda struggle against the rubber that was gripping it, and I removed my finger from the zoom button faster than a baby pulls away from a hot stove, but then that 'LENS ERROR' thing came up. And it wouldn't go away. I looked on the Internets and found some people who said I was pretty much screwed: the camera is dead. But some people said they forced the lens out or whatever and then their camera was okay. I wasn't that lucky. I think the camera is dead, right along with that beautiful picture of the crow. I don't even think there was any hand-shake-blur on it." (falls weeping to floor)
END OF SPECIAL FEATURES
Friday, October 12, 2007
First, after realizing that PVC pipe doesn't come in the best dimensions for the task, I tried something else.
I believe this little container once held season salt. It still smells like that.
That wasn't right. Besides, a clear adapter probably wouldn't keep light out. So I went back to the PVC. I had a small piece, into which I drilled three holes per end to accept the clamping knobs.
Here's a close-up of my beautiful cordless drill:
Kat and Emerson gave it to me for my birthday last month. My old one's batteries had stopped charging, and getting new ones cost almost as much as a new drill--a fact I find quite ridiculous. Anyway, this drill rocks.
Here, I've just put the screws/knobs in to the camera end of the adapter:
It looks pretty convincing, doesn't it?
That's when it started to get hard. The scope's eyepiece was quite a bit smaller than the camera's lens, so I was going to have to use the rubber strips (read: vacuum cleaner belts) to step the inner diameter down. After quite a bit of scavenging around my shop, cutting up stuff, and generally playing McGyver, I put together enough rubber to get the job done.
The finished prototype could not be photographed, as it was on the scope with the camera connected!
Now--all that remains is to go out tomorrow morning and get some shots. I don't know how durable it is, how well it will hold up in the field. It's almost impossible to remove it quickly, but I suppose that's what I have binoculars for, right?
We shall see on the morrow what my toiling hath wrought. In the meantime, I'm hoping someone can tell me what kind of bird belongs to this feather I found in the backyard. Help?
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Feeling better, progress on adapter
It's strange; all my life I had wanted to be a teacher. Yet from the beginning of my career, the day-to-day life of a teacher was just so tough for me. The teaching part was easy; it was the meeting of new people every semester, the constant sense that I was "performing" as if onstage each day--that's what I couldn't stand. I had my moments of fun, especially when I designed a course with a teaching colleague, but the actual standing in front of people always kinda beat me down. And I won't even go into the ceaseless and exhausting grading. Students would complain about having to write a paper every week in my composition classes; I would tell them, "You have to write one paper a week. I have to grade 150 papers a week. I'd trade places with you any day!"
Anyway, that was many years (and many careers) ago. On to the birdy excitement of the moment! Here's the status on my camera-to-scope adapter.
Here's a picture of the little knobs and rubber strips I found at Lowe's:
So tonight, I have to take some measurements of the scope eyepiece and the camera lens etc. and cut a piece of PVC pipe to serve as the adapter itself. I drill a few holes for the clamping knobs and thumbscrews. As to why I got the thumbscrews: I figure I'll leave the thumb screws set, and I'll loosen and tighten the clamping knobs to attach/detach the adapter. We'll see if that works.
I'll have an update for you tomorrow! And thank you to all the commenters who wished me well after my weird feeling attack. Happily, nothing was wrong with anyone -- at least no one I know. And I got a little insight into my "inner birds" as FranSheIs called them, those inner thoughts and subconscious goings-on that we all must face from time to time.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Has this ever happened to you? Maybe I should call Kat. And my mother.
It's really strange, and I just wanted to see whether this happened to anyone else. Pardon the interruption in my otherwise birdly blog.
Monday, October 08, 2007
The DIY Monster strikes again
Well, folks, I’m at it again – the DIY Monster has bitten me once more. Here’s the deal:
I have been trying to maximize the effectiveness of my modest digiscoping rig of the Nikon CP-4800 and the Meade Condor scope, right? One of the most important things is an adapter that firmly holds the camera to the scope. This is essential to prevent blurriness from hand-shake. I recently digiscoped some photos of a green heron, using the Mountain/infinity setting which helped a lot, but there was still obvious hand-shake (I’d link to that pic, but I can’t find it for some reason—maybe I didn’t post it?).
Anyway, I was sitting here thinking about adapters. I had tried a piece of PVC with some felt inside it to tighten up the grip, but that never really worked, so I checked out some universal adapters online.
Now we all know what happened the last time I tried to do something like this myself; need I remind long-time readers of the homemade spotting scope saga? I would embed a link there, but the saga continued for months—for a few laughs, check out my archives from the beginning of beginningtobird back in July ’06 all the way through November! That’s when I finally broke down and purchased a real (although a bargain one compared to Swarovskys and Leicas and stuff) scope.
Anyway, as I was saying, my last effort was not that successful OR inexpensive, so I determined I would do A LOT of research before spending even a penny on my crazy little plans. So I went to this one site called Photosolve, which is a great place for accessories of all sorts, and found this universal adapter:
But at $104, it’s really out of my current price range. I mean, I’m about to drop a pretty good wad of cash on the Cape May weekend, so I’ve got to watch my pennies. So I continued to look at the other accessories near this one on the web site and saw these:
That’s when the DIY Monster bit me again and I realized that basically, this is a plastic tube of some sort with a rubber sleeve collar tucked inside. Then the screws turn and tighten that rubber sleeve’s grip on whatever is in the tube. Hmm…. THIS COULD WORK!
So I’m going to Lowe’s at some point this week to look for supplies. I figure I have a ton of PVC pipe left over from the homemade scope, so that’s covered. I will go to the plumbing section, then, and look for rubber tubing of some sort. I mean, I can make something like that sleeve in the picture, right? And I can probably find some little screws like the picture, right? Lowe’s has “everything for home improvement,” right? Oh wait—this isn’t home improvement. But still—they should have something. I realize this might seem like industrial espionage—making a generic version of someone else’s idea. Hmm. I kinda feel bad about that aspect of it. What do you think? Should I just go for it?
Whatever happens, I am not even going to breathe a word of this to Kat, though. At this point, in the middle of her three-week-long comps exams, even the mention of these crazy plans would send her right over the edge. She still bristles when I mention the homemade scope fiasco. So mum’s the word, okay?
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Spring Creek Canyon hike
Located here in the heart of Centre County is Rockview State Prison, and they own lots of land around the county including a big piece of the Spring Creek Canyon. Most people have never seen the canyon area, as the prison-land boundary starts before the canyon proper does, just past Fisherman's Paradise, a world-famous stretch of trout stream.
Today, however, our local group ClearWater Conservancy got special permission to sponsor a hike through the canyon. We were only allowed on prison land from noon to three pm, but in this heat that was plenty of time to get a good idea of how beautiful this area is, and how threatened: there's currently a bill in the PA State House to parcel off this stretch of land to various groups including Penn State University. The idea that this pristine riparian environment could be one day developed--into university housing, or worse--has a lot of local environmentalists up in arms. I went on the hike today to take photographs for our local community newspaper, Voices of Central Pennsylvania, so I thought I'd show you a little bit of the area.
Over a hundred people showed up for this hike, which was really encouraging:
A little rainbow trout (about a foot long) relaxes in the gentle flow of the stream:
In the upper middle of this photo you can see the limestone cliffs that make this area special, and home to 11 species of plants and animals considered rare in PA.
Here's another limestone cliff outcropping that is easier to see:
We walked through tunnels of turning leaves like this most of the way:
getting some great views of Spring Creek in its more natural state, without the different breaks and narrows that the PA Fish and Game Commission have put in place to make the fishing better down at Fisherman's Paradise:
I even found this little spotted sandpiper in winter plumage (I think) in one of the overflow areas:
The leaves are beginning to change around here, but there's always a tree who goes faster than his buddies and shows off his stuff:
PA lore says that this caterpillar's reddish-brown and black markings forecast whether we'll have a heavy snow winter or a light one, but I can never remember which color means what. Anyone else ever heard of this?
Despite the heat, which was stifling at times (boy I'm such a wimp now, can't even handle mid-80s), it was a beautiful walk, and I think the story and photos will turn out well. The woman who took over for me as Environment editor went along and will write the story.
Birding wasn't too great at that time of day, but I managed to see
On my way home, I saw this appropos metaphor for what's happening to the natural environment all around us:
When I got back, I saw a white-breasted nuthatch in the tamarack tree--the first one I've seen this fall! Sweet! Better go put more suet cakes out there. I'm hoping to get a red-breasted nuthatch at the suet feeders (which would be a lifer), as some other people in this area do, but I won't hold my breath. It's not that piney or foresty around here, what with the marsh and the vast cornfields in this valley.
Thanks for coming along on my hike!