Saturday, December 14, 2019

Thoughtful Thursday on Saturday: Moon Shots

 [Peregrine Falcon, moon, and Cape May Lighthouse, August 28, 2010. Cape May, New Jersey. Click to enlarge all photos.]

Shooting for the moon is a tricky business, whether with a camera or metaphorically. The term originates in space exploration and migrated to sports, specifically baseball, for a ball hit far, high, deep, and often out of the park for a home run. Often, but not always. So it is with moonshots, in baseball and in life.

The last full moon of the 20-teens was Thursday, December 12, 2019 [I use a free iOS app called "moon phase calendar plus" - there are about a bazillion other app options.]
Above and below are four of my favorite 20-teen moons.

Moonshot -

"A moonshot, in a metaphorical sense, is an ambitious, exploratory and ground-breaking project undertaken without any expectation of near term profitability or benefit and also, perhaps, without full investigation of potential risks and benefits. The term derives from the Apollo 11 space flight project, which landed the first human on the moon in 1969."

- Margaret Rouse, , April 28, 2014

[Waning crescent moon, Cape May, NJ, October 13, 2012. Taken from the hawk watch platform during the annual Big Sit.]

 [Rising full moon over the Kittatinny Ridge, High Point State Park, Sussex, NJ, July, 2014. God's country. This ridge, about 1800' ASL here, continues southwest past the Delaware Water Gap as Pennsylvania's Blue Ridge.]

[Red-winged Blackbird in front of rising full moon, February, Nummy Island, NJ. Since Kevin Karlson, one of the greatest of the great bird photographers and who ought to know better, told me this was the best Red-winged Blackbird photo he'd ever seen, I reckon you deserve some explaining. Not about camera lens, aperture, shutter, ISO, etc., although there was plenty of technical mumbo jumbo going on long before the shutter was pressed. I set out that evening hoping to take one good picture, which I sometimes try to do but seldom achieve. I'm just a birdwatcher who also likes to take pictures sometimes. I saw the shot coming an hour before it did, and spent 30 minutes watching where this one stud male perched to sing. 30 minutes before the shot I figured out exactly which branch I wanted him on, selected the spot I would shoot from, and got him used to me being there so he soon ignored me. 10 minutes out I finalized the mumbo jumbo and waited for the bird and the moon to speak to each other. It is cold on Nummy Island in February. At 5:49 p.m. they were talking and I took one 10 shot burst and ran to the truck]

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Thoughtful Thursday: Swirls

"We are travelers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity."

- Paulo Coelho

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Of Flycatchers, Bluebirds and Pigs

[Pacific-slope Flycatcher, across from the Beanery parking area, Cape May, NJ, November 30 2019. click to enlarge all photos]

All I really wanted to do was take pictures of ducks. The low-angle late November light cast the kind of gold glow that can't be photo-shopped in, the usual pre-winter accumulation of ducks was accumulated, and ducks are cool.

But, I figured why not walk through St. Mary's cemetery (a bit south of the Cape May canal and west of Seashore Road) to see if the cranes were hanging out in one of the adjacent fields, and then, since I was going right by, why not stop for the 'Western" flycatcher.  So I did, running into Glenn Davis who had some flycatcher excrement in a bag for later DNA analysis. He asked if I knew if empids could produce excrement that large . . . you can't make this stuff up. Then a Cooper's Hawk flew in giving its 'sapsucker call," and I heard the flycatcher. High, up-slurred whistle. Pacific-slope, thinks I, and ready the phone to record it. And wait. And wait. No more vocalizations, until I was ready to leave and ran into Claudia Burns and Warren Cairo, got some good photos. . .and it called again, same sound. Claudia heard it too.

Here's the thing: Pacific-slope and Cordilleran Flycatchers used to be lumped under "Western Flycatcher," and as my friend Mark Garland pointed out, "Western's" Latin name was Empidonax difficilis. I'll say difficilis, if you hang out with these things on their breeding grounds you'll hear enough variation in calls and enough seeming overlap, why, it's enough to tear your hair out. Let's rephrase that: the vocalizations make for an interesting and exciting challenge. This by the way is true if you truly hang out with any bird, e.g. try it with Carolina Wren sometime. All that aside, to my ear Pacific-slope's "position note" is higher pitched than Cordilleran's, it's like a piccolo versus a flute. Pacific-slope's note is up-slurred, not two-parted, but Cordilleran can slur its call too. Oi. But I'm going with Pacific-slope, and if Glenn's DNA comes back with something different, we will have all learned an important lesson.

Warren and Claudia mentioned this rare bluebird at Beach Plum Farm, but I figured I'd walk over through the Beanery, in case there was an Ash-throated Flycatcher there. And there was. On to the bluebird:

[Above, the Mountain Bluebird at Beach Plum Farm, which is open only on weekends. The Mountain Bluebird joined a flock of Eastern Bluebirds, occasionally interacting with them, and occasionally investigating cavities - perhaps looking for a nighttime roost, which is what bluebirds do, roost in cavities. November 30, 2019 (and still there December 1); second Cape May County record.]

[There are not many places on Cape Island where you can say, "It's near the pigs." Only one, actually. Having grown up on a farm, I was reminded how my burly uncle used to say it was time to butcher a pig when he couldn't pick it up by the hocks and spin it around. Mmmm, farm-fresh bacon.]

[Pine Warbler at Beach Plum Farm, fresh from a puddle bath and perhaps wondering what the birder parade was about. Also present were Clay-colored Sparrow, Pine Warbler, and at least 22 Eastern Meadowlarks.]

I never did reach those ducks.