Tuesday, April 29, 2008

ABC Wednesday "O"

"O" is for the "Ocean Edges"
Texas Gulf coast

"O" is also for Ornate O's used to spell "Ocean"

To participate in ABC Wednesday go to mrsnesbitts place. Click here.


Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Signs

Holes produced by Sphyrapicus varius
(Click on the photo for a better look)
This tree has tried to heal and cover the holes

Food habits: Unlike other woodpeckers, in some parts of the country, Yellow-bellied sapsuckers are not as interested in insects for food as they are in looking for tree sap. They collect sap using their long brush-tipped tongue as the sap flows out of the holes they've drilled.

In other places the sapsucker feeds primarily on insects. Most common are beetles, ants, moths and dragonflies.

This gives the birds two choices, when insects are not abundant, then sap is an important food source.

During autumn and winter, it feeds on berries and fruits. Frequently, the bird may adopt a tree, and feeds on it year after year,especially birches. The sapsucker forages for insects by gleaning, probing, prying, tapping and flycatching. It flicks off bark and chips or excavates for insects in dead wood. It may also drill a series of shallow holes in the bark, to lick up sap. It makes two kinds of holes: round, deep and narrow holes where it inserts its bill to probe to sap and rectangular shallower holes which they maintain continually for the sap to flow and attract insects. New holes are made in a line with old holes, or in a new line above the old.

The holes sapsuckers drill are about one-eighth of an inch in diameter, and are evenly spaced up and down and around the trunk, appearing as if done by a machine. Don't confuse sapsucker holes with holes created by insect borers. Borer holes are rarely as numerous as sapsucker holes and are randomly spaced.

Yellow-bellied sapsuckers most often drill holes in white birch, sugar maple, red maple, Austrian pine, Scots pine, Canada hemlock, apple, ornamental crabapple, mountain ash, linden trees and other trees producing large amounts of sap...

Sometimes this produces a really ugly tree. What do you think?

Photo using Martha's new Nikon S51 Point and Shoot.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sky Watch Friday IV

Clearing Ahead

It's a good sign when you see a little blue.
I like the sky reflections in the photograph.

Muncho Lake, B.C., Canada
(Click to see the reflections in the water a little better)
It was almost pitch black behind, and really dark overhead.

By the time you see this, we will be on the road down to the Gulf coast for 4 days.
We won't have internet, so I'll answer comments and catch up when I get back.
I'm looking forward to seeing all the great Sky Watches.

Troy and Martha

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Project Green I - Nature's finest

N is for Nature - ABC Wednesday

Five-fingered Ferns

Fern Canyon, California - On the Pacific Coast
(Click on the photo for a better look at the ferns)

A lovely Green Scene,
Walking in Ferns with Martha.
Oh, just admire it...

An even greener scene of Moss and Ferns tumbling click here.

Troy and Martha

To participate in Project Green visit Anna Carson Photography
To participate in ABC Wednesday visit mrsnesbitts's place

Monday, April 21, 2008

Killdeer Nesting


Can you see the Killdeer on the nest?
Of course you can.
Can you see the eggs when she walks away?
Probably not, unless you are looking at the nest when she walks away.

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)

Photographed in front of Casa Manana Theater in Ft. Worth

The Killdeer is a medium-sized plover.

Their breeding habitat is open fields or lawns, often quite far from water, across most of Canada, the United States, and Mexico, with isolated populations in Costa Rica and Peru. Killdeer nest on open ground, often on gravel or among rocks. They may use a slight depression in the gravel to hold the eggs, but they don't line it at all, or line it only with a few stones. Since there is no structure to stand out from its surroundings, a killdeer nest blends marvelously into the background. Furthermore, the speckled eggs themselves look like stones.

Killdeer eggs

Killdeer hatchlings are precocial birds like many other waders. Birds which hatch blind, naked, and helpless are called altricial. Most birds are born altricial and utterly rely on their parents to bring them food.

Precocial birds stay in the egg twice as long as altricial birds, so they have more time to develop. A one-day-old Killdeer chick is actually two weeks more developed than a one-day-old American Robin nestling. Although adult Robins and Killdeer are the same size, a Killdeer's egg is twice the size of a Robin's. There is more nourishment in the Killdeer egg, to sustain the embryo for its longer time in the shell.

They are migratory in northern areas and winter as far south as northern South America. They are rare vagrants to Western Europe, usually late in the year.

These birds forage for food in fields, mudflats, and shores, usually by sight. They mainly eat insects.

Their name comes from their frequently heard call. These birds will frequently use the "broken-wing act" to distract predators from their nests. This involves the bird walking away from its nesting area holding its wing in a position that simulates an injury and then flapping around on the ground emitting a distress call. The predators then think they have easy prey and are attracted to this seemingly injured bird and away from the nest. If the parent sees that a potential predator is not following them, they will move closer and get louder until they get the attention of the predator.

Their ability to exploit a wide range of agricultural and semi-urban habitat has helped keep them common and widespread in their range.


Troy and Martha


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Alaska Sunday IV

Construction of the Alaska Highway

Today's Alaska Sunday will be brief. It has been a busy weekend. We are off for the Ft. Worth Nature Center in just a bit for birding, wildflowers and butterflies. Or anything else that gets in front of the cameras.

Color photos are from our trip along the Alaska (Al-Can) Highway or near-by

And the Road Goes Ever On
(Look ! It has shoulders and stripes here)

Proposals for a highway to Alaska originated in the 1920s. Donald MacDonald dreamed of an international highway spanning the United States, Canada and Russia. In order to promote the highway, Slim Williams originally traveled the proposed route by dog sled. Since much of the route would pass through Canada, support from the Canadian government was crucial. However, the Canadian government perceived no value in putting up the required funds to build the road, since the only part of Canada that would benefit was not more than a few thousand people in the Yukon.

However, some route consideration was given. The preferred route would pass through the Rocky Mountain trench from Prince George, British Columbia to Dawson City before turning west to Fairbanks, Alaska.

Destruction Bay at Kluane Lake

The attack on Pearl Harbor and beginning of the Pacific Theatre in World War II, coupled with Japanese threats to the west coast of North America and the Aleutian Islands, changed the priorities for both nations. On February 6, 1942 the construction of the Alaska Highway was approved by the United States Army and the project received the authorization from the U.S. Congress and President Roosevelt to proceed five days later. Canada agreed to allow construction as long as the United States bore the full cost, and that the road and other facilities in Canada be turned over to Canadian authority after the war ended.

A caterpillar tractor with grader widens the roadway of the Alaska Highway, 1942.

The official start of construction took place on March 8, 1942 after hundreds of pieces of construction equipment were moved on priority trains by the Northern Alberta Railways to the northeastern part of British Columbia near Mile 0 at Dawson Creek. Construction accelerated through the spring as the winter weather faded away and crews were able to work from both the northern and southern ends; they were spurred on after reports of the Japanese invasion of Kiska Island and Attu Island in the Aleutians. On September 24, 1942 crews from both directions met at Mile 588 at Contact Creek and the highway was dedicated on November 20, 1942 at Soldiers Summit.

The needs of war dictated the final route, intended to link the airfields of the Northwest Staging Route that conveyed lend-lease aircraft from the United States to the Soviet Union. Thus, the rather impractical, long route over extremely difficult terrain was chosen.

Near Banff

The road was originally built mostly by the US Army as a supply route during World War II. There were four main thrusts in building the route: southeast from Delta Junction, Alaska toward a linkup at Beaver Creek, Yukon; north then west from Dawson Creek (an advance group started from Fort Nelson, British Columbia after traveling on winter roads on frozen marshland from railway stations on the Northern Alberta Railways); both east and west from Whitehorse after being ferried in via the White Pass and Yukon Route railway. The U.S. Army commandeered equipment of all kinds, including local riverboats, railway locomotives, and housing originally meant for use in southern California.

Near Jasper

Although it was completed on October 28, 1942 and its completion was celebrated at Soldier's Summit on November 21 (and broadcast by radio, the exact outdoor temperature censored due to wartime concerns), the "highway" was not usable by general vehicles until 1943. Even then, there were many steep grades, a poor surface, switchbacks to gain and descend hills, and few or no guardrails. Bridges, which progressed during 1942 from pontoon bridges to temporary log bridges, were replaced with steel bridges where necessary only. One old log bridge can still be seen at the Aishihik river crossing. The easing of the Japanese invasion threat resulted in no more contracts being given to private contractors for upgrading of specific sections.

In particular, some 100 miles of route between Burwash Landing and Koidern, Yukon, became virtually impassable in May and June of 1943, as the permafrost melted, no longer protected by a layer of delicate vegetation. A corduroy road was built to restore the route, and corduroy still underlays old sections of highway in the area. Modern construction methods do not allow the permafrost to melt, either by building a gravel berm on top or replacing the vegetation and soil immediately with gravel. However, the Burwash-Koidern section is still a problem, as the new highway built there in the late 1990s continues to experience frost heave.


Alaska Sunday is a collection of photographic remembrances of our driving trip from Texas to Alaska.
18,000 miles, 16 weeks, 16 western states including Alaska and four Canadian Provinces.
No chronological order, just anything of interest that got in front of our cameras.

Troy and Martha
Photos by Troy and Martha

Friday, April 18, 2008

Wood Bee and Pollen

It's What's for Supper
(Not Beef)

Act I - Scene I

(Mr. Bee enters front door)
Mr. Bee: Honey, I'm home, I got the pollen for supper.

(Mrs. Bee enters from Kitchen. Looks startled!)
Mrs. Bee: No, no Dear, I told you to get the yellow pollen.

(Click on the photo to see what Mr. Bee brought home)
(Eastern Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa virginica)

General Range:
Nebraska south to eastern Texas and
east to Maine and central Florida.

They generally feed on flower nectar.
(Sometimes chewing through the flower base to reach the nectar).
The solitary female drills a hole in sound dead wood, i.e. posts, beams, fences.
Then she lays one egg and stocks the hole with a pellet of pollen and nectar.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Sky Watch Friday III - April 18, 2008

Blue Sky
(It’s too cold to Swim)

On the Beach, Gulf of Mexico, Corpus Christi, Texas, USA

I’m a Scientist and I don’t know for sure why the sky looks so blue on a really cold damp morning before sunrise in the winter. Brrrr.

I suspect the reason is probably based on the fact that when light hits gas molecules, which are smaller than the wavelength range of light, it is scattered. This effect is called “Rayleigh Scattering”. Different wavelengths of light are scattered at different angles. Red, orange, and yellow light are more unaffected because they have longer wavelengths than the blue light, which is scattered more because of its shorter wavelength. Thus, the blue would have been predominately scattered back down through the clouds. Temperature, humidity and fog droplet size may also play some part in this effect.

The sky was overcast and there was a heavy fog bank back to the left where the sun was trying to rise and everything had taken on the color of that cold blue light from the sky. It was definitely too cold to swim! Even if the water had been bathtub warm, the psychological effect of that cold blue light would have shouted “It’s too cold to swim”. Just look at that sky.

I had to adjust the levels significantly on both ends, since the color was all spiked tightly in the blue channel. For those that don’t use Photoshop, let’s just say, everything was really dark and blue. And for you Photoshoppers, I used layers and a high pass filter to sharpen and cut through some of the fog to see out across the ocean.

To sign up for Sky Watch Friday go to Wiggers World here.

Troy and Martha


When is a brightly colored object camouflaged?
When it is on something bright of course.
(Click on the photo to get up close and personal)

Large Milkweed Bug
Oncopeltus fasciatus

On a Butterfly Milkweed
Asclepias tuberose ssp. Interior

The adults and larvae are found on milkweeds where they feed on the milkweed seeds, sometimes forming dense feeding aggregations on the seedpods. Their bright colors serve to warn potential predators of their bitter taste, which is a result of their diet.

Notice the orange y-shaped mark on the head which identifies and separates it from the Small Milkweed Bug.

Typically, you would find this bug on the other types of milkweeds.

The Butterfly Milkweed is the only milkweed that does not have the white milky sap.

I apologize to those with slow dial-ups, I had to use a large uncompressed jpg to keep the colors and definition.

Troy and Martha

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Suburban Wildflowers

Pink Evening Primrose on the Curb

About 20 years ago, before I mowed my yard for the first time in the spring, I had a single Pink Evening Primrose come up on the curb next to the street in the front yard. I assume a seed must have blown in on the wind. Martha would not let me cut it down, and we watered it through the spring and summer and fall and winter. Well, you get the picture, we took care of it. The next year there were a few more, and the next year more, and so on. You can see what has happened. I now mow about half of them down at the first mowing. Next year I may let them all bloom and see what the yard looks like.

Oenothera speciosa
(Click on the photo and scroll down to see the closer flowers)

I mow them in the fall when they quit blooming and reclaim my full lawn for a few months. They actually seem to like the mowing, as it spreads new seeds, and doesn’t harm the old plants. Much of the plants’ leaves grow close to the ground in the grass.

They are also known by the names Pink Ladies, Showy Primrose, and the all-inclusive Buttercup. Nodding buds open into pink or white flowers about two inches across. We have never had white ones, since it all started with a single seed. (Small Acorns into Mighty Oaks grow). I guess that’s true. It turns out that watering is not that necessary since it is a drought resistant plant. They are blooming all along the highways here in north Texas now.

Troy and Martha
Martha’s Flowers

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Monitor Brightness and Contrast

ABC Wednesday
M is for Monitor

Old-time bloggers and photographers can ignore this post. This post is for the photographer just getting into digital photography. If your printer prints exactly what is on the screen and it matches what you remember the scene looking like or what you want it to look like, read no further.

Adobe Gamma and Color

There are many excellent sites explaining Adobe gamma and color space. In the Control Panel (windows users) is a small program called Adobe Gamma. It will help you adjust your monitor. Do not worry if your gamma is different from the expected Windows or Mac values suggested. Adjust your brightness and contrast (and then tackle this if you are confidant).

Don’t make any adjustments to Gamma without reading up on the subject and fully understanding what it is about.

Brightness and Contrast should be adjusted first.

At the least, check the following chart which I copied from dvdesign.com to determine if your monitor brightness and contrast is properly adjusted. Secondly, look at the color purity and see if it is what you think it should be.

The main point is, the squares numbered 00, 05, …….95, 100 should all be distinct and a different density from its neighbor. You may have to reduce the light in the room to properly distinguish the differences. The difference between 95 and 100 is sometimes difficult to discern without a high end monitor.

The main reason for this post is so that we may all enjoy each other’s photographs and view them as the owner meant for us to see them. My e-mail is in my profile. Simple questions, I will be glad to answer. If you are happy with the way your machine is, “don’t touch that dial”.

Monitor Brightness and Contrast Chart (from dvdesign)
Maximize Browser Page (Click to see chart)

Blame this on Troy and not Martha

ABC Wednesday is found at Mrs. Nesbitt's Place here.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Twisted trunks in Moonlight


Back to posts that I love.


Today’s post is about Photography.

I read a good discussion in the comments section yesterday at "A Photo a Day" by Donald Kinney about California Poppies and saturation…click here. They got me to thinking about the use of saturation. (Be sure to check out his Douglas Iris photos while you are there – they are terrific).

I ran across the following photograph which I made a while back and thought it made a point about degree of saturation.

In this photograph, I wanted to emphasize the texture, smoothness and twisted nature of the trunks, so I isolated the trunks from the background and strongly de-saturated them and readjusted the levels to obtain the effect I wanted. I could have converted it to a black/white photo, but that would not have left the impression of almost no color as viewed in Moonlight. I hope the title sets the mood for viewing.

Twisted trunks in Moonlight

Click on the Photo for full effect.
Comments Pro & Con are welcome, just remember to play nicely.

Troy and Martha

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Alaska Sunday III * & Project Yellow IV


Sub-Title: Summer Solstice on the Arctic Circle

Ever since I was a kid, I had alway wanted to stand on the Arctic Circle. For you Far Northerners, you won't think this is a big deal or understand this. But for a boy from East Texas, growing up in the country, this is a big deal. Especially to stand on the Arctic Circle at the Summer Solstice.

Just think, 24 hours of Daylight. More hours to explore, find, and experience new things. Of course back then, I didn't consider trying to sleep when there is no night. Actually, you have to tape the curtains to the walls in order to get some sleep.

There is nothing exceptional about the photo, except that out of the thousands of sights and experiences of our 16-week- trip, it is one of my most memorable. The realization of a life-long dream. Another dream, "Standing on the Moon" may be out of reach, but I can still dream.

Martha was not overly impressed. She said she expected there to be a great differentiation of flora on either side, trees on one side and low bushes and grasses on the other. But there was only a sign marking the spot. The number of tourists trying to have their photos made by the sign was certainly impressive. A busload of people had made the trek from Fairbanks just for that purpose. Her goal was the Arctic Ocean and seeing the Arctic tundra along the way.

Standing on the Actic Circle
At Summer Solstice ( Looking NNW )

GPS Coordinates
I had to park just a bit down the road

Sub-Title II: Martha has on a yellow shirt for Project Yellow

Martha on the Arctic Circle
Doing the Tourist Thing
( we're right there she pointed ! )

The Arctic Circle is one of the five major circles of latitude that mark maps of the Earth. It is the parallel of latitude that (as of 2000) runs 66° 33′ 39″ (or 66.56083°) north of the Equator. The region north of this circle is known as the Arctic, and the zone just to the south is called the Northern Temperate Zone. The equivalent latitude in the southern hemisphere is called the Antarctic Circle.

The Arctic Circle marks the southern extremity of the polar day (24 hour sunlit day, often referred to as the "midnight sun") and polar night (24 hour sunless night). North of the Arctic Circle, the sun is above the horizon for 24 continuous hours at least once per year, and below the horizon for 24 continuous hours at least once per year. On the Arctic Circle these events occur, in principle, exactly once per year, at the June and December solstices respectively. It is called the Arctic because it corresponds to the southernmost point of the Constellation Ursa Major (the Great Bear or Megale Arktos in Greek).


*Alaska Sunday is a collection of photographic remembrances of our driving trip from Texas to Alaska.
18,000 miles, 16 weeks, 16 western states including Alaska
and four Canadian Provinces.
No chronological order, just anything of interest that got in front of our cameras.

Troy and Martha

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Project Yellow III

Salsify (Tragopogon sp.)
Lyndon B. Johnson National Grasslands

We went up to LBJ Nat'l Grasslands today looking for wildflowers and birds.
The above Salsify is about the most yellow thing that we saw today. Enjoy.
See Anna's for a list of participants.

Troy and martha

Friday, April 11, 2008

Project Yellow II

Yellow Buses Return to Yellowstone

We photographed this bus (No. 437) in West Yellowstone in the summer of 2006.

The White Model 706 tour buses, built in Ohio, were made exclusively for the National Park Service. Yellowstone had as many as 98 Model 706s by 1940. Then the Yellowstone yellow bus fleet was sold and disbanded in the 1960s.

Todd Scott was instrumental in every phase of bringing the buses back to Yellowstone. The eight buses cost a total of $1.9 million to buy back and refurbish, Scott said.

TDM refurbished the interior seats and oak trim throughout the vehicle. They replaced the old canvas tops with more modern materials and installed a public address system for guides to narrate the tour.

"We looked at old pictures of the buses and tried to match the yellow paint exactly," Scott said. "Basically, they got a complete makeover."

Other upgrades are heaters under the seats and boxes with warm lap blankets, so even on brisk Yellowstone days, passengers can see the beauty of the park through the open top.

The buses are 25 feet long and 8 feet wide with a soft top that rolls back for an expansive view.

A nice story about their return is found in the Deseret Morning News – here.

Troy and Martha

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sky Watch Friday II

Sub-title: Fish bones Clouds

Stratocumulus vertebrates

Stratocumulus vertebrates

Uncommon fish cloud
Swimming now in blue sky sea
Look up to see it.

Haiku © by my brother J.S. Mullens

The other day at lunch, I was filling up with gas and Martha told me to step out from under the covered area and look overhead. I only had my cell phone to take the photo with. It did a pretty good job.

These clouds were forming on the back side of a huge storm which we later learned was producing tornadoes. These clouds were almost directly overhead and it was clear to the West and really stormy to the East. I certainly am glad the storm was moving to the east.

If these were higher they could be called “Cirrus fibratus vertebrates”

Stratocumulus – low level
Vertebrates – having vertebrae
Cirrus – curl of hair
Fibratus – possessing filaments

I don’t know the altitude, so I can’t give them their exact technical weather name.

A nice atlas of cloud names can be found at:

Photo with Palm Treo 755p
Troy and Martha

Project Yellow I

Subtitle: Sky Watch Friday on Thursday

We were driving back from Alaska, when we spotted this beautiful tranquil scene. Little did I realize that it would be used in Project Yellow.... Is that sky blue, or what? Yellow and blue go nicely together, don't you think?

Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies

Yellow Boat at Peace with the World
(Click on the photo & Scroll down to see Yellow)
(Did you remember to scroll down after clicking too see all the green?)

No Photoshopping except for slight adjustment in levels.
Yes, the sky was really that blue.
It was a good day.
Troy and Martha

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Rocks, Moss and Ferns

Almost Wordless Wednesday

Waterfall of Rocks, Moss and Ferns
North Cascades National Park

Click to enjoy the beauty
(and scroll down to see it all)

Sorry about the size of the file
It was necessary to capture the fern detail
How many types of ferns and mosses do you see?

Troy and Martha

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

'Buffalo' Calf

American Bison Calf

What person doesn’t like a baby animal? Especially a baby “Buffalo”.

Martha shot this with my 200mm macro lens. Yep, a 200mm macro lens makes a good telephoto if you have it on a Monopod.

American bison (Bison bison) with baby calf
(Click on the photo for a close look)

Ft. Worth Nature Refuge, May 14,2005
Photo by Martha.

The nature Refuge has over 25 miles of nature trails and 5000 acres for the buffalo. Yes the Nature trails are separate from the buffalo range.

The American bison (Bison bison) is a bovine mammal, also commonly known as the American buffalo. 'Buffalo' is something of a misnomer for this animal as it is only distantly related to either of the two "true buffaloes", the water buffalo and the African buffalo.

The bison originally inhabited the Great Plains of the United States and Canada in massive herds, ranging from the Great Slave Lake in Canada's far north to Mexico in the south, and from eastern Oregon almost to the Atlantic Ocean, taking its subspecies into account. Its two subspecies are the plains bison (Bison bison bison), distinguished by its smaller size and more rounded hump, and the wood bison (Bison bison athabascae), distinguished by its larger size and taller square hump. Wood bison are one of the largest species of cattle in the world, surpassed in size only by the massive Asian gaur and wild Asian water buffalo, both of which are found mainly in India and Southeast Asia.

See Wikipedia for the full article

Wood bison (Bison bison athabascae)
Notice the tall square hump
Photographed by Martha as we drove by
In timber country, British Columbia, Canada

Troy and Martha

Painted Desert

Sub-title: 'Alaska Sunday' - a Travel Adventure

Sorry for the delay in posting Alaska Sunday. I just joined the Friday Sky Watch and with the excitement of that, it completely slipped my mind. Trying to visit all 100+ members and looking at their blog sites and photos was overwhelming. And then visiting all of my favorites…. Whew.

On our circuitous route from Texas to Alaska (our second day of the trip), we stopped by the Painted Desert looking for the once-in-a-lifetime photo op. We got more than we bargained for. We arrived there in the late afternoon just at closing time. It had just recently showered, and the ground was still barely damp. The colors were saturated, vibrant and almost alive. The low angle of the sun behind my back also contributed to the strong colors.

It was serendipity…. right time, right place, the sun was just breaking through the clouds, right angle of reflected light, increased saturation due to rain, and color was everywhere. Notice in the background that the colors appear normal for the desert. With the picture magnified, you can see the various shades of reds, pinks, yellows, ocher, oranges, and white.

The only Photoshopping was a slight adjustment in levels. No further saturation was needed.

We had been to Painted Desert before and had gotten the usual touristy photos. (Nothing even close to this).

So, there is no exciting adventure today, just a photograph (or two) for your enjoyment.

Painted Desert (Using a Nikon for a Brush)

Be sure to click on the Photograph for the full effect

Photo by Troy

Sunset that Day

Photo by Martha

Needless to say, we arrived at out trailer park late that day. It was a Good Day.

'Alaska Sunday' is a collection of photographic remembrances of our driving trip from Texas to Alaska.
18,000 miles, 16 weeks, 16 western states including Alaska and four Canadian Provinces.
No chronological order, just anything of interest that got in front of our cameras.

Troy and Martha

Monday, April 7, 2008

Shadows of Spring

It seems like it has been forever since the shadows of trees on the building have looked like anything except stick figure drawings. Finally with Spring beginning to make it’s presence felt, we have ‘shadows of spring’ real leaves.

We were working in the backyard yesterday when Martha said,

“Look, the trees have leaves”.

I said, “I know that”.

She pointed at the wall and said that would make a nice photo. I said “Oh!” and pulled my camera out of my pocket.

The rest is a history, as they say. Thus we have a photograph of redbud leaves on a wall.

Shadow of Leaves on Building in Late Afternoon Sun

Maybe not Earth-shattering, but it's a little different and we like it.

Troy and Martha

Saturday, April 5, 2008


Martha and I went out to the Ft. Worth Nature Center today and met an old wildflower friend. It is known by the common name “Celestial”. We knew that we had seen it a long time ago but not recently and could not remember the name. We found it in the oldest wildflower book that we bought when we first started getting seriously interested in wildflowers.

We had identified it in 1971 and have not seen it since. The reason is easily explained. To quote from “Roadside Wildflowers of Texas” by Irwin:

“But for the fact that the flowers are open only a few hours, Celestial might be better known. The wildflowers open out cup-shaped in the late morning. At first the orange anthers stand erect, but in an hour or two they turn downward. And then, usually before 3:00 PM, the perianth parts curl up. Because of their grass-like foliage, the plants are hard to find when they are out of flower.”

Celestials are found blooming in April in sandy fields, open woods, and on the Blackland Prairie in East Texas. Their distribution also includes Tennessee to Kansas and Louisiana.

Note that sepals and petals are three each nearly alike, light blue-violet, and whitened at the base.

Flowers are borne in pairs, hence the name gemini (twins). The style of the pistil is divided into 6 thread-like branches which project sideways in pairs around the 3 stamens. Nema signifies thread.

Nemastylis geminiflora

It was really nice to become acquainted again.
I photographed the Celestial with Martha’s new S51 Nikon.

Troy and Martha

American Oyster-catcher

The American Oyster-catcher, a really cool bird not often seen.

Haemateopus palliatus.

Click on photo to have a close encounter
According to Birds of America (Pearson & Burroughs), the Oyster-catcher is essentially a maritime bird.

They are found (except by accident) only on the ocean fronts, where they get the principle part of their diet: oysters, clams, mussels, and various shell fish. They open the shells with the handy oyster knife which they carry (the bright-red bill). They will also feed on marine worms and insects. Locally in many places, they are called “Sea-Crows” by fishermen, which may be an apt title, although the call is melodious and flute-like rather than like the raucous call of the true Crow.

The birds have stout legs and strong feet from which the hind toe is missing. The plumage is black on the head and upper part, white underneath with a brownish back.

We photographed this bird in October. We watched him/her walk with a slow dignified stride before we snapped the photo. They can run with considerable speed and usually only fly short distances if disturbed. This one is a juvenile, as determined by beak color (not fully red yet).

Females usually lay only 2 to 3 cream-colored eggs blotched with brown, in a slight depression in the sand. Sometimes the nest will be in a pile of shell castings on a small area of sand, or on shell bars with bunches of seaweed which is not covered at high tide. The eggs are very hard to find as they blend right in with their surroundings. They typically nest from April to June with the female doing most of the incubation at night or on cool cloudy days. The nest will typically be left uncovered during the day to allow the sun and warm sand to provide incubation.

The similar Black Oyster-catcher is usually only found from Alaska and the Aleutians to central and sometimes southern California, whereas the American Oyster-catcher resides on the southern and eastern coasts of the U.S. casual to New Brunswick.
To see the Black Oyster-catcher, click the above link and scroll down.

Story by Troy - Photo by Martha

Friday, April 4, 2008

Sky Watch Friday

I can't resist any longer. I guess I'll have to join Sky Watch Friday. Since I hold a Private Pilot's license, I think clouds are important and useful, as well as beautiful.

I'll post more about my thoughts on this later.

Contrail Shadow on Clouds
(Click on photo & scroll down)
The contrail looks like a snake, but the shadow is straight.

For the photographers that are interested, the camera data is:
Nikon L14 (which I always carry in my pocket)
Auto setting which produced: 1/1000 ", f4.6, ISO64, zoomed to 6.3mm focal length

For more on Sky Watch go to Wiggers World


The Life of the Skies Giveaway

The bloggers over at 10,000 Birds are giving away five copies of The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature by Jonathan Rosen. Check out the different contests for your chance to win.

read more | digg story

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Three Beautiful Bells

I would say that this is Wordless Wednesday because I don't have anything to say about the three flowers. Does anyone know what they are? They look like an Allium and there are over 1000 species of Alliums. I photographed them in February here in Ft. Worth several years ago and didn't label them. Duh! They must be hardy. Even if I don't know the name, here is a photograph to enjoy, or not.

-------------------- Update --------------------

The mystery plant has been identified by Lisa Wagner, Director of Education for the South Carolina Botanical Garden. You can visit her blog, Natural Gardening, (click here). According to Lisa "the mystery plant is a charming old-fashioned early spring lily relative native to Europe -- Summer Snowflake (Leucojum aestivum). "It's a tough plant -- I first saw it at an old homesite, where it had persisted for many years. I actually just planted some in various places this spring, since I've always liked it. It flowers in late winter and early spring here (so its common name is a misnomer!)""

Additional information on this species is available at Missouri Plants (click here).
The parent page for Missouri Plants is (click here).

Thanks Lisa for solving the Mystery

Three of a Kind
Click to enlarge