Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Those kids grow up so quickly

I have taken a ton of photos of Sandhill Cranes.  You can look here and see what a tiny colt looks like, just after being born.

This is what they look like about two months later.  Junior (on the right) is just about as big as mom and dad.
I guess that's what you need when you are going to be migrating soon, although the tiny hummingbirds somehow manage.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Landscapers

Some people do their own landscaping. Others hire professionals. Here in Park City, we just use the local talent. When the bushes start getting a little shaggy, we call in the deer.  The wire between him and the camera was my poor attempt at separating that which is wild from that which is my yard.  This is one of the few times they have honored this request.
Sometimes you have some serious work, and you need some serious help. For this we bring in the A team.
He can get up to those hard to reach spots.
And look at that smile.  Where else are you going to find this kind of friendly service?
And the best part is they do it all for free.

Of course the moose can snap a $300 aspen tree in half and the deer seem to prefer the most tender new plantings in your yard.  Free is relative.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bark in the Park 5k

Julie and I have worked at several of Friends of Animal's annual Bark in the Park. This year we got to just be participants. It was more interesting now that Julie is running and we have a 7 year old track start next door.

Here are Renae, Julie and Sally just before the race. You can tell because everyone is all smiles.
This is one of the few races where you can, and are actually encouraged to bring your dogs.  In the past years, it seemed like about 50% of the people ran with a dog.  This year it seemed more like 80%, and some people ran with two or three.
I was running with Jasper and dog runners had to start the race after the non-dog runners. I eventually caught up with Julie and Sally, who have been great training partners.
 At several stops along the way, there were pools for the dogs to drink out of, or in this lab's case, just lay down in.  Jasper wasn't terribly disappointed that there wasn't enough room for him.
Although they ran together the whole race, Julie started kicking towards the finish just as Sally was losing steam.  Sally found a kick and they finished together.  In the few weeks since the July 4th race, they managed to knock off about 30 seconds per mile.  Go ladies!
Of course Hannah destroyed us all.  She also knocked off about 2 minutes from her July 4th race time.  I haven't seen her final time and they screwed up her timing chip, but I think she was right around 8:00 minute miles.
Jim Covaleski got into town last night and he joined us for the race.  He beat me by a long ways, finishing right up with Hannah. I would include a picture of him running, but as a non-dogger, he started ahead of me.  As a faster runner, I never saw him.

My knee has been hurting for weeks, so Jasper and I found a nice easy pace.  I think my final time was around 27:00, about 5 minutes slower than last year.  Funny though, apparently I won my age group and got a $10 gift certificate at Petco.  I have to guess that I won "men, 50-51, running with a dog, black, age 7-9, one white paw".  With 300 people in the race, there had to be someone else in my age category.


I found the race results.  I did actually beat the other 8 competitors in the Male, 41-50, With Dog category.  Interestingly enough, I would NOT have won:
  • 31-40 Mens
  • 51-60 Mens
  • 61-70 Mens (a 70 year old ran a 7:38 pace)
  • 41-50 Womens
  • 51-60 Womens (would have been 4th)
  • Almost all of those same categories, but Without Dog
It pays to be in the right group.

As for 7 year old Hannah, she won the Female, 1-11, No Dog category.  Her nearest competitor was 17 minutes behind her. She also would have won the Without Dog for:
  • Males 1-11
  • Females 12-20
She would have placed 2nd in the women 21-30 group and was in the top 10% of all finishers.  Just WOW!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Rufous Hummingbird

A few days ago, I blogged about a hummingbird in the yard that wouldn't sit still long enough for a photo.Well, good thins come to those who wait, and wait with a camera.
 He's a cute little guy, but he's still a hummingbird feeder bully.
Next step is to try and get some good pictures in flight.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Jasper the Kayaker

I bought an inflatable kayak a few weeks ago, but today was my first trip, and who better to help paddle than Jasper?  When we had a boat in Beaufort, I bought our dog Buster a life jacket so he could go with us. He was too old to start being a boater, so it has sat around unused.  It fits Jasper though, so he was styling a nice red floaty coat.
It took me about 20 minutes to inflate the boat and get everything tied down.  I can do it faster, but I was trying to develop some good processes and habits.  Any time I was working on the boat, Jasper would help by swimming out into the water and waiting for me to throw him something.
 I finally gave up and found him something to fetch. 
Jasper did remarkably well.  He wasn't completely comfortable but was very well behaved.  I could get him to sit still...
and I could get him to lay down, but I just couldn't get him to turn around and face forward.  He would for a few minutes, but he would decide he would like to keep an eye on me as well.  No spills, but I chose to take these photos with a little pocket camera that was replaced years ago.
Today's lessons:
  • The wind on open water is not your friend in an inflatable boat.
  • I need to think about taking Jasper out to the Great Salt Lake.  He smelled bad enough diving home from a near by, clean reservoir.  GSL is further away and nasty smelling.
  • I should add a floating fetch toy to my kayak bag
  • I need an entirely different system for carrying spare stuff and my dry bag.  Today the kayak looked like a street person's shopping cart.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hunting for elk and bear

I went out with my friend Chad Rexroad to try and photograph some elk and/or a bear that were seen out beyond the Strawberry Reservoir.
After a few hours of hiking and searching, our total was:
  • 8 cows, none of which wanted to get out of the truck's path
  • 4 deer, all too fast or far away for photos
  • Quite a few elk footprints, but no elk
  • No sign of bear
Since we weren't having luck with the mammals, we stopped at the reservoir.  There were quite a few Western Grebes swimming around.  Their call is quite loud for such a reasonably sized bird.
I shouldn't be surprised to find them, but I'm sorry, pelicans do not belong in Utah.  They belong at the beach.  I wish I could have seen them feeding.  I may have to go back and try to photograph that, but it is almost an hour away. I might use this as a test photo location for my kayak.
The water was pretty smooth, so the reflections were better than I would expect for almost 11:00.
The White Pelicans are prettiest when they are flying.  They look prehistoric and the white and black contrast is gorgeous.
Our next elk hunt probably won't occur until September or so when the rutting season starts and I think to find a bear, I am just going to have to get very lucky.

Thanks tour guide Chad!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Birds on crack

I know that hummingbirds can be fast little things, but this guy is ridiculous. I am fairly certain it is a Rufous Hummingbird, and even with three feeders in the yard, he feels obligated to be the bully. 
He sits in the trees and watches for other hummingbirds and then dives bombs them. That seems to be common around almost any feeders.

He is colorful enough that I wanted a picture of him sitting in a tree. My problem is that when he is sitting in a tree to watch, he moves about every 3 seconds. Branch to branch.  Tree to tree.  This is one hyped up hummingbird! 

I will get a good picture of him eventually.  After all, I know where he lives.

Friday, July 13, 2012

David Bird meets Goliath Bird

I went back to visit my Swainson's Hawk to see if the nestling was big enough to fly.  He wasn't yet. While I was watching the nest, this Western Kingbird was watching me.  I think he might have been questioning my choice of lenses.
Then another one came by.  I am not sure whether they were a couple, friends or competitors.
When they were out hunting for bugs, they hovered and bobbed, poking at whatever was flying by.  Their hunting flight is very interesting to watch.
I looked over my shoulder and saw one of the two hawks flying by, giving me a few loud squawks.  I was actually a long ways from their nest, but it might have remembered me from the other day.
Yep.  He remembered.  And I remembered to duck.
Suddenly, the Kingbirds decided I needed a little bit of protection. For little bug eaters, these guys were absolutely fearless.
Clearly all the birds are being very protective of their little ones right now.  I try to stay a long ways off and use a big lens, but clearly that isn't quite enough.

I will try another visit in a week or so to try and get a glimpse of the baby hawk venturing out.

Our new recycling program

I've mentioned on my blog how happy I am that we now have curbside recycling throughout the county.  The new strategy is a small trash can, picked up once a week and a big recycling can picked up every other week. This was our first week to get both.  Most people seemed to get the idea, although I am sure that it will take a while for thorough recycling to become a habit for some people.

In our neighborhood, everyone did a great job...
except the Morris's, who were the only ones with an overflowing trash can.  Funny enough, they were also the only ones with no recycling at all.  Go figure.
I have heard several people complain about not being able to get by with such a small (65 gallon) trash can, but I think that is almost the definition of our landfill problems. Over consumption. Over packaging. Limited or no recycling and reuse.

I'm hoping more and more people get on board.  The county has done a great job of making it easy for everyone.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Another Life Bird

Jasper and I hadn't been back to Antelope Island in a while, so we packed up the camera and went for a morning visit.  I was really caught off guard by the early morning clouds and thunderstorms, which I don't think had been in the forecast.

I spent most of the morning on the causeway, shooting my bird of choice for the day, the American Avocet.  These birds are very interesting looking, especially in flight. It wasn't that much of a choice.  The only other birds were a few varieties of gulls.

I got lucky as the morning wore on.  The sun poked through the clouds for a bit and the improved light made for better views.
While a lot of the nesting birds hang out way off shore, the Avocets seem quite happy feeding right off the causeway.
There is an insect on the Great Salt Lake called the Brine Fly.  While they may make for good eating, too many is just too many.
I liked this one's look just as he was landing.  Once they got used to me being there, they came and went as they pleased.

I got lucky when this one flew past the small section of clear blue sky.
Tired of shooting one species of bird, I decided to do a quick drive around the north end of the island.  This is where you always see the bison and pronghorn, but I also tend to find coyote here.

Every trip for the past several years, I have looked for the Burrowing Owls.  I know they live on the island, but they can be tough to find. Sometimes they hang out in their burrows. Other times they sit on the ground where you have almost no chance of seeing them. Yesterday I got lucky and found three sitting in a tree.

Yes, I know there are only two in the photo, but one flew off before I could quietly, very quietly, get the car stopped in the right place, roll down the window, get that big lens out and start shooting.  While I was photographing these two, another two came out of the burrow and flew off.  This meant mom, dad, and three young ones.
Here's a closer view of an adult. I may just be paranoid, but I am pretty sure I was being watched.
I went looking to find where the others had flown off to.  I eventually found three of them, but only one would sit still long enough to have it's picture taken.
I drove off to give them some peace, but did a quick drive by on the way back off the island. One was back in the little tree and I couldn't help stopping for some more photos.  I got several with him staring right at me, but my favorite was when he watched a jet fly by.
While photographing the birds, I also stumbled on a few mammals.  I never could get close enough to the female Pronghorn with her two babies to get a good shot.  However, the bunnies were cooperating.  This one seemed a bit bashful.
I got so close to this one that my long lens wouldn't even focus.  This is an uncropped photo. Once I got home and looked at the picture, I felt sorry for this little guy.  He has one tick on his ear and two right above his eye.  That can't be fun.
My favorite mammal was this long-tailed weasel.  He was extremely fast, dodging from rock to bush to rock.  I gave up trying to find him and went back to photographing the birds.  I had my long lens on the tripod when I glanced down and saw him dash right over my feet.  I think he was toying with me. Perhaps it was a dare from another weasel.
By the time I could get my camera aimed the right direction and focused, he was gone.  Then he popped back up as though to say "Psych!"
More fun photography and my third life bird in two months, all of which were owls (Burrowing, Flammulated and Short Eared).

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Swainsons Hawk

Today I got a lesson in photography, and an exciting one at that.

What happens when you combine a momma hawk, sitting on the nest with her fluffy white fledgling?  (Crappy photo, but they built the nest deep in a pine tree.)
Now, add dad at the top of the tree, just keeping a watch on everything going on.
Once you get close enough to get pictures, dad starts vocalizing to let you know you shouldn't be around.
Now he takes off and starts flying around.  Oops, must have scared him off.  At least I got a good picture.
Then he starts dive bombing me at high speed, coming within feet of my head.  This is a big hawk, flying in like a missile. He did this several times until I went back to the truck. 
There are my things to be mastered:
  • Moving the camera on the tripod fast enough to track the bird
  • Ways to keep the fast moving bird in focus.  I think a big part of this is the camera you use.  My Nikon 300s is certainly not the best at this.
  • Setting the camera's shutter, aperture, and ISO to have a prayer of capturing these kinds of shots clearly.
Cool day.  I'll try to go back and visit again, but this time without aggravating them so much.