Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Elk Watch 2011

Last September, I went with a friend, Chad Rexroad, to try and find elk before hunting season started.  We saw six moose, but no elk.This year we went to a different area.  It was quite hazy, so the mountains weren't quite as spectacular, but the view was still nice.

Chad, searching for elk on the far ridge.  He has his elk bugle on his hip.  He blew it several times, but got no responses.  It's really too early for the rut, so too early for bugling.

I spotted the first elk, but it turned out to be a cow.  These federal lands are pretty open for ranchers.  There are cows and a lot of sheep.  What we can't figure out is how they round up these wandering cows.  There are tens of thousands of acres without fences and the cows just meander off wherever they choose.

Finally!  An elk!  He was a bull elk and looked to be about six points on each antler.  The sad part is we think we stood watching us for about three minutes before we spotted him.  The picture kind of stinks, but he was about 200 yards away.

A different view of his rack, and his butt.  It turns out that he is living in part of Utah that would make it unlikely for him to get shot.  This section primarily allows hunters to shoot spike elk, which are the young bucks with only one point.  As long as this guy doesn't venture too far, or run across someone with a lottery permit, he's good to go.  The idea is to maintain a healthy herd by having lots of fertile, happy cows and a few mature, healthy bucks.

I missed Chad's adventure looking for elk last night.  He didn't find an elk, but he brought home a little starving Great Pyrenees puppy.  The herders use them as sheep dogs and this one must have wandered off.  She was thin, hungry and lonely.  She was also one lucky dog.  How would you like to be found by the husband of the woman who runs the area's largest dog adoption facility (Furburbia)?  She will certainly be well cared for and find a wonderful new home.

Hoping to make at least one more elk searching trip this fall.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Help with some bird identification

I posted some of my better photos from Antelope Island.  Now for a few that aren't very good, but they are either odd, or contain birds I can't identify.  You can double-click on any photo you want to see zoomed in.

This was fun to watch.  I'm not sure how they communicate the excitement, but a group of Ibis's (Ibi?) found some yummy food out in the lake.  They came from everywhere, piled in tight and joined the feeding frenzy.

I suck with hawks.  What is this one?  Here's a view from below.

And here's the same hawk from the top.  Notice the seriously white butt.

In the middle is a little wren.  He's far enough away that an id may be impossible.

One more view of him.

Grebe's of one form or another.  They were quite small.

A tall, long-nosed brown bird.

Oops.  I scared him off.

These were interesting.  Out of hundreds of photos, they only appeared in one.  Some serious eye brows.

Another Grebe?

When I am taking pictures, I simply don't take the time to use my binoculars or scope to figure out what everything is.

Any help?

Another trip to Antelope Island

I get around to this every two years or so. Antelope Island is a really cool Utah state park located out in the middle of the Great Salt Lake. It rises out of the lake like an eleven mile long mountain. There's a lot of interesting places to hike and things to see, but I came for the migratory birds, and mostly waterfowl.

The causeway that leads out to the island is several miles long and provides a wonderful place to watch birds and take their pictures.  The park really empties out this time of year and I got there as it opened at 7:00.  That meant I could drive down the causeway like a drunken sailor, using both sides of the road and both shoulders.

As you can tell from the sign, finding the birds wasn't that much of a challenge.

Photographing them was.  This was one of my worst photography outings in a long time.  Because birds are small and the distances tend to be long, I used my old, cheap Sigma 80-400 lens, and tried to use the 1.4 teleconverter.  It's been a while since I have used this lens, and now I know why.  While I thought I had some awesome shots, almost all of them came out soft, as if slightly out of focus. I got rid of the teleconverter and that helped, but I am bummed with my results.

On to the birds.  I made my best guesses at what they are.  Corrections are welcomed.

There were a gajillion black-necked stilts.  They were easy to see standing still, but I liked how they looked flying, especially with the reflection.

Here is one standing with three fairly ugly birds.  My guess is white faced Ibis. 

The Ibis also looked prettier flying.

And even better coming in for a landing.

Avocets were everywhere. It took me a while to recognize them in their white-headed form.

All the long-legged birds look so beautiful and awkward at the same time.

Chukar's are an easy find on Antelope Island. I couldn't get a good picture, but this one was in a flock (covey?) of more than 10.  This may be the only species of bird that I have seen that my mom hasn't.

Much easier to photograph: the peaceful Barn Swallow.  There were huge flocks of swallows all over the island.

There were several different gulls.  Franklins was easy to identify, but is this a Ring-billed or a California?  How do you tell?  I have tons of pictures of them.

I thought these were blackbirds, but now I'm not sure.  Yellow chest, but not a yellow head.

They were excellent stunt performers.  Thousands would take off at once and they would cruise around as though joined by a single brain.  They were moving so fast, so close, there should have been hundreds of dead birds from in-flight collisions.

OK, not a bird, but you can't go to Antelope Island without seeing a few Bison.  I saw a number of rogue males, but never did see the big herd.  Maybe I'll try to catch the round-up next month.

And some Pronghorn came meandering along. Very considerate of them.

Tomorrow I will post some other birds that I need help identifying.

Next trip to Antelope Island will be in September.  For that trip I will try my high-end Nikon 70-200 zoom with a 2x teleconverter.  Hopefully that will produce better pictures.  By the way, the nice long lenses start at about $5900 for a 300mm f2.8, up to about $12,000 for a 600mm f4.  That won't be happening without a lottery win.  That's even harder since Utah doesn't have a lottery.

A new web site and business

Tim Huntley was one of the four founders of our company, Ganymede Software.  When the company was purchased, Tim worked for NetIQ for a few years before becoming a semi-retired gentleman farmer. I've posted a number of blog entries about Tim's goats, cows, bees, barn building and such.

This week Tim started a new web site called My Athletic Life.  Lots of great information about physical fitness, training, and healthy eating.  Take a look. If the web site turns out to be like anything else Tim does, it will be excellent.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Party barge on the Jordanelle

The summer is nearing its end and the local kids just started back to school.  Rather than giving in, we joined a group of Wednesday Park City Mountain Hosts for a party barge rental on the local reservoir.  A big thanks to Alison for pulling this together.

Julie enjoying the beautiful day.

Loris Benson and Alison Pierce (our trip coordinator).  Now that we aren't near the coast, it is too easy to forget how peaceful it can be to just amble around in a boat.

Jim and JR just hanging out on the stern.

Steve Pierce was one of our captains.  He looks very official.

We all went for a swim.  It was chilly, but not cold. Cindy's little float noodles were popular.

We really got lucky with the weather.  There were little thunderstorms occurring all around us, but we only got about 2 minutes of rain and four hours of wonderful.

After we returned the boat to the marina, we gathered in the campground for a big bonfire and making smores. Some of the ladies were camping for the night, but Julie and I headed home for the comfort of our beds.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A little earthquake humor

Kathy Covaleski sent this our way. I'm not sure who originally created it.

Amazon stacks the deck for reviews

Sometimes I love, mostly for the convenience and the customer reviews. However, some of their procedures are pretty crappy. My recent example:

I placed an order for something at a very nice discount. Three days later, I get a note saying "Oops! Sorry. We tried to sell you something that was out of stock. We've cancelled your order." I would love to be able to go in and give that merchant a bad review for selling something they had none of. Too bad. As soon as Amazon cancels an order, it gets rid of any trace of that order. There is NO paper trail that shows the canceled order. So, no order, no review for a company.

What they have accomplished is to take an unhappy set of customers who have had a bad experience with a merchant, and made it absolutely impossible to warn others of this shoddy practice.

Boo Amazon!

Another humble CrossFit day

I've mentioned before how CrossFit workouts can be quite humbling. Here is one of the reasons why. I was feeling ok with my 245 pound deadlifts this morning, until Sharron, a tiny ex-gymnast, did 235.  Damn girl!

If I could match her compared to body weight, I would probably be at 500+ pounds.  Not in this lifetime. I will try to keep treating it as motivation.

Monday, August 22, 2011

My new hero

We're great friends with Jim and Kathy Covaleski.  Jim decided to get in serious shape this year.  He's dropped a bunch of weight and done a lot of running, biking and swimming. I didn't have a photo of "new Jim", but here is one of Jim and Kathy at Mirror Lake from a few years ago.

Jim competed in his first triathlon this weekend.  Sort of ironic that even though he lives in Alexandria VA, the triathlon was in Raleigh, about 5 miles from our old house.  How did Jim do?  He won his age group!  By almost 10 minutes!  That would be a lot for any triathlon, but this was a sprint tri, with a 250 yard swim, 10 mile bike and 3.1 mile run.  You can find the results here.

How awesome is that?  Go Jim!

Jim and I are supposed to go for a 10 mile run together when we got to DC in October.  I guess I better get out and do more training.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Park City Half Marathon

I ran a half marathon yesterday.  I did OK, but not as well as I had hoped.  My thought was to run 8:00 minute miles, but I only managed to do 8:15's.  I can attribute my lack of performance to doing almost everything wrong:
  • Ate a big, heavy dinner
  • Drank too much wine, to assure restless sleep and dehydration
  • No speed training, just long distance for the mountain run I did. Amazing how very long, slow runs don't make you faster.
  • Went out too fast and got passed as I slowed down.  I normally start slow and speed up, passing people.
  • Ran erratic paces from mile to mile.  No idea why.
I still managed 70th place out of 600 runners, so top 12% or so.  I was 6th in my age group.  I can't wait until next year when I am 50.  If I ran the same pace as I did this year, I would be 6th in my new age group.  Crap.  Don't these people slow down?

I have been amazed at how the women runners are getting more and more competitive.  In this race, they finished 4th, 5th, 10th and 11th overall.  It won't be long before they start winning.

For anyone who is considering running a half or full marathon, they should consider the Park City ones.  They are very well run. Timing, shirts, food, aid stations, road markings, traffic management and such were all excellent.  The marathon is a tough one with some hills (no mountains) and our traditional lack of oxygen. The winner did just over 3 hours and I think it is very rare for anyone to beat 2:45.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

CrossFit fun

A few weeks ago our CrossFit WOD was a race outdoors. Teams were carrying, pushing and dragging heavy things back and forth. This is me doing the Farmer's Carry.

You just never know what to expect for the day's workout.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The times, they are a changin

As Bob Dylan sang, the times are changing.  Last night we went over to the Goo Goo Dolls concert at Deer Valley.  They put on a good show and I recognized more songs than I thought I would. I think of them as rock, but with a slant towards pop.  Seeing the music wasn't that different.  It was the dining experience that got me thinking.  I have gone through quite a few different concert eating and drinking phases over the years:
  • The keg or cases of beer and Costco-sized chip bag phase:  Cheap. Simple to shop for.  Can be quite heavy for transport.  Too high in carbs for today's standards.
  • The weed and pizza phase:  Unfortunately illegal in most places.  More expensive.  Tastier food but difficult to get to a concert while still hot.  Dominos hesitates to deliver to a concert.
  • The tequila phase:  By far the ugliest and most destructive.  Can be expensive, depending on your taste in tequila.  You save money by forgetting to eat.
Now apparently I have wandered into the "older adult, Deer Valley" phase:.  Last night's spread, which was provided by Julie, the Benson's and Kathy Covaleski included:
  • White wine
  • Red wine
  • Cheese on fancy crackers.  Yes, one of the two cheeses was a tasty Brie.
  • Fruit salad
  • Lavosh sandwichs
  • Grapes
  • Granola-based brownies
The food was excellent, as were the wines, but I see a part of my adventurous youth twinkling off into the distant past.  I can just imagine another decade or two from now:
  • Nutritional meal replacement shake
  • Soft bread
  • Juice
I hope it doesn't come to that but I hate to chart out my general trend line over the last 30 years.  Time will tell.

The world's largest frequent diner's membership?

While in Oregon, we went to a nice restaurant in downtown Portland.  They also have several places out near Hillsboro, so Sue and Marty accepted their offer of a frequent diner's card.  I forget what the benfits were, but when we got the card I was simply astounded.  The membership number was:

6000012850003160536086xxx, where I have omitted the last three numbers (not sure why).

For those of you who want to see it a different way:  6,000,012,850,003,160,536,086,xxx

This means they can hand every one of the 6 billion people on earth, a billion unique cards each, and they still have room to grow their audience by a factor of 1,000,000. Is it just me or does that seem like a bit much?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A visit to Oregon

Julie and I went for a long weekend up to Hillsboro, Oregon, just west of Portland. We were visiting Julie's sister Sue and her clan.  It was quite the busy weekend, with no end of things to take pictures of.

On Friday, we decided to journey to Silver Falls State Park, just east of Salem. On the way there, we had to stop to buy some refreshments and we ran across this fine POS.  You always see crappy, beat up cars driving down the highway.  What makes this one special?

The "Mary Kay enriching women's lives" sticker in the rear window.  Somehow I think the economy has hit Mary Kay pretty hard if this is the type of car you get now.  I think the pink Cadillac were nicer.

The park was gorgeous.  We did a seven mile hike and got to see waterfall after waterfall. The most interesting thing was how lots of the falls were out away from the rock face, which allowed you to walk around behind the falls.

Here's a view looking from behind one, down the valley into the dense forest.

And the forests themselves are so different than what we have in Utah or in NC.  The trees were hundreds of feet tall and draped in a fragile green moss.

It felt like something out of Jurassic Park.  When there was no one around, it felt kind of creepy.

Here we have the girls.  From right to left, Julie, Kelly (oldest daughter, attending Gonzaga), Laura (senior in high school), Jacky (just entering high school) and Julie's sister Sue, who appears to be licking Laura's hand.

Julie, looking stunning with a waterfall in the background.

Yet another waterfall.  They were everywhere and very impressive.  I could easily kill a day there with a camera, tripod, and several lenses.  The background and lighting changed as you moved from fall to fall.

I was impressed with how well everyone did one the hike.  Of course, you just can't beat a nice ride home in a sunny warm car. Naps are a good thing.

The next day we had to find something equally interesting to do, and we did.  We went into Portland for the PDX Adult Soap Box Derby.  Since 1997, they have gathered on the steep hill at Mt Tabor and raced their cars down.  Not surprisingly, most of the event sponsors are bars or brew pubs, and thousands of people come to watch.

The variety of vehicles is stunning.  In this one heat, we have a sod covered race car, a head-first death mobile, and a whacky LeMans car with four riders.

God knows what this was supposed to be.

We didn't see this one go down the hill (we got there late), but it is a rolling basketball court.  There were several ball players who rode it down, apparently while playing.

You are allowed to have one team member give you a running push start, but after that it was just you, gravity, and a lot of winding curves.

This car was a transformer.  In race-mode, it looks more like a stock car.  When they weren't driving, it folds flat to become a full sized ping pong table.

By far, the most involved crew we saw was for the Mario Cart.  If you double-click to see the picture up close, you will notice that almost all of the Super Mario characters are represented in costume.

Another one in the "not sure what it is" category, but the rear driver was armed with a super-soaker.

Julie and Kelly, enjoying the day.

Another day, another adventure.  On Sunday, we ironically went to the Portland Saturday Market.  Seems like there might be some naming issues there.  Portland has a really eclectic mix of humans.  These guys were doing the frequently seen "dancing for donations" act, but they weren't really very good at dancing.  Rightfully so, they weren't collecting a lot in the way of donations.

Four guys with a fairly nice video camera were wandering around Pioneer Square interviewing people with a stupid hand puppet.  No idea why or what they planned to do with the results.  Looked like a Junior High film project, but they seemed a bit old for that.

There was a group of guys playing speed chess.  They seemed to be fairly good and quite serious about it.

And if interviews and chess weren't your thing, you could always wander over to the large tent offering "Messages from Heaven".  We didn't investigate how they were getting these messages, but there were definitely some interested recipients visiting the tent.

It's great to see how the girls have grown up.  When the adults planned to stay in Portland for dinner, the girls hopped the MAX (mass transit) for home.  They handle themselves quite well.

One last bit from the market.  We all split up to see different things.  When we gathered back together, Sue has this tattoo (temporary) on her leg.

and Julie had a little black cat.  Very cute.

Awesome trip.  It was nice being able to catch the entire Smale family on a weekend when the girls were all home and their normally packed schedules were very flexible.  We've been to Oregon a number of times, but got to see and do some interesting new things this trip.