Monday, April 21, 2014

BIRDS IN FLIGHT...

SIMPLICITY OF FLIGHT

I remain soundly fascinated by flight. Photographing birds in flight gives me a deeper appreciation of this natural process so long desired but so long denied to humans.

“The desire to fly is an idea handed down to us by our ancestors who... looked enviously on the birds soaring freely through space... on the infinite highway of the air.”
Wilbur Wright
WESTERN GULL IN FLIGHT
 
Part of my photography focus has been learning the techniques of capturing birds in flight. The results of this image are enjoyable in that the focal range, details, use of light and composition work. In other words, I lucked out…

This redtail hawk (below) is defending it's nesting territory, on this day from a pair of crows that may enjoy a feast on hawk eggs.
Redtail Hawk in full, gliding wing spread.
 This is the same redtail hawk, in this case coming out of a glide and back-flapping it's wings to slow and land on a perch. Note the talons beginning to extend as the hawk readies itself for tree-top landing.
Redtail Hawk preparing to land.
On final, this redtail hawk is using it's broad winds to near-stall while it continues to move forward, talons extended to capture the perch. It is a beautiful maneuver to observe.
Redtail Hawk landing.

Of course differing species of birds engage flight differently. For shear speed this mallard duck hen can beat the above hawk or gull wing flap for wing flap exceeding 40 mph for extended time. But it cannot soar, and glides only in a ground skimming mode as it comes in for a landing.
Mallard Duck hen in flight.
Ducks often have a distinct sound associated with their flight. It is the sound of their wings working through and displacing the air, which often causes a 'whistling' like sound during their passage. This sound also lets other ducks know of new arrivals in a given area. Here is another image (below) of the same mallard duck hen during the same flight.

Returning to gulls for just a moment - while it may not be common knowledge to the casual bird-watcher, gulls occasionally fly in formation.
Two gulls flying in formation backlit by late afternoon sun.
Although more often, as in the image below, a clutch of gulls fly together in search of or competing for food. Watch closely and even at times like this a pair or more of the birds may break off and fly in formation to a different location.
A clutch of gulls competing for food.
Try as I might, some of the most difficult birds to capture images in flight prove to be the minor species like this mountain chickadee. This image is as close as I've come but fortunately there are much more qualified photographers in the field that are able to get great images of these small birds in flight.
Mountain Chickadee about to launch from this Ponderosa pine branch.
XXX
 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Warm January Visit to Wenatchee WA...


Wenatchee Washington, named after the Wenatchi Indian tribe in the native language of Sahaptin means "river which comes from canyons". And appropriately so as Wenatchee is located along not only the banks of the mighty Columbia river for the entire city length, but a northwest portion of “The Apple Capital Of The World” is at the mouth of the Wenatchee River Canyon.
Downtown Wenatchee looking from the Columbia River across town to the
Mission Ridge Ski Area located above this Eastern Washington City.
Population for this Eastern Washington City was at 32,520 at the 2013 census. The 'Wenatchee Valley Area' refers to the land between two of the Columbia River dams – the Rocky Reach (upstream) and the Rock Island (downstream) including East Wenatchee, Rock Island, and Malaga. These local environs sprawl across portions of Chelan and Douglas counties (divided by the Columbia River).
Looking upstream across the Columbia River to a portion of
Wenatchee from the Kirby Billingsley Hydro Park

Not only does Wenatchee have the moniker of "Apple Capital of the World" (due to the valley's many orchards) but the city is also referred to as the "Power Belt of the Great Northwest". This is a metaphor for the series of hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River. Rock Island Dam is located nearest to the middle of this "belt", and so was labeled the "Buckle". This saying is printed at the top of every issue of Wenatchee's newspaper, the Wenatchee World.
Great blue heron off Walla Walla Point on Wenatchee waterfront
with Pipeline/Pedestrian Bridge in background.

The historic Pipeline/Pedestrian Bridge, opened in 1908 as the first road bridge over the Columbia River south of Canada.  It also accommodated pipelines for irrigation of orchards east of the River.  It is a steel truss bridge over one thousand feet in length connecting the cities of Wenatchee and East Wenatchee. And now serves as a pedestrian / bike path bridge while still carrying irrigation water across the Columbia River.
During our January, 2014 visit to Wenatchee we lucked out with hitting the weather window - four days reaching fifty degrees Fahrenheit with one of those tagging 55*. Believe me, coming from the Canadian border area a few days in the warm sunshine in the middle of winter was welcome.  
January full moon rise over East Wenatchee

The view from Wenatchee to East Wenatchee across the Columbia River with January's full moon rising.

 




The Confluence of  Rivers
Geographically the confluence of rivers is the meeting of two or more large streams of water. This designation refers either to the point where a tributary joins a larger river, called the main stem, or where two streams meet to become the source of a river of a new name.


The forty mile long, east flowing Wenatchee River, with it’s headwaters on the east slope of the Cascade Range, is a variable waterway tumbling thru cleft wall canyons, winding through basined wetlands, in a combination of rapids giving way to backwaters. While this image is primarily of the Columbia River the location is at the confluence with the Wenatchee.
Confluence of the Wenatchee and Columbia Rivers - mouth of the Wenatchee is on left of image.



Wenatchee's Waterfront Sculpture Park
Photography displays lead me to research the various images I create, thus continually expanding my knowledge of the region, environment, culture, and topography that I live in and visit. Often I enjoy the research as much as the photography itself, well almost…

This impressive sculpture entitled WELCOME can be found in Wenatchee in the Sculpture Garden along their waterfront park. It stands approximately 10 feet tall, created in bronze, stainless steel, and copper by artist Jim Johnson of Salem Oregon. The plaque with the sculpting states that it is part of “Arts on the Avenue – Visiting Sculpture” and is for sale for $10,000. I caught this image with the January full moon rising behind the sculpting and incorporated the moon into the artwork itself.
Another image from a recent trip to Wenatchee, back in the warmer weather of January (50* on the 5th). This is a sculpture entitled WINGS. Here is the dedication on the base: WINGS by Gary Lee Price – dedicated by Art on the Avenues in 2012 to honor the Wenatchee School District recipient of Art on the Avenues 2012 Adele Wolford Founder’s Award for over support of the arts.

 

To Be Continued...

XXX


 
 

 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Winter Birds...


If you have a home feeding station in a winter-like environment chances are your already familiar with Nuthatches, members of the bird family Sittidae. Apparently the moniker of ‘nuthatch’ is, in part derived from an older English name of “nuthack” due to their habit of wedging nuts and other food in tree crevices before hacking them open with its long, sturdy bill.
(Click on image to see a larger version)
Red Breasted Nuthatch
 
The first bird pictured here is a red-breasted nuthatch, one of the four members of the family that reside in North America, the others are the white-breasted, brown-headed and pygmy nuthatches. Worldwide a total of 22 types of nuthatches have been identified.


Red breasted nuthatch climbing downward
The nuthatch is a cavity nester that often filling it’s nest with twigs, moss, mammal hair and feathers. Both sexes help with the nest construction. Once eggs are laid incubation lasts 12 to 14 days and is mainly the female's chore.


These are a thickset, stub-tailed, active little birds often seen scurrying down tree trunks headfirst. When climbing down tree trunks, nuthatches depend entirely upon their claws. The stance shown in this image is a classic nuthatch stretch, one foot forward under the breast and the other back under the tail. This movement allows the birds to travel nimbly down the trees, digging in with their strong hind toes. The strategic advantage for these birds to climb downward is their ability to find food in bark crevices overlooked by birds that climb upward like tree creepers and small woodpeckers.
Red breasted nuthatch clinging to the bark of a Ponderosa pine tree
 

Mountain Chickadee
At -5* the morning this image was created, this small mountain chickadee is all fluffed up to keep what little body heat it has in place. For this diminutive creature to survive these frigid nights, it can put on fat equal to 10% of its body weight in one day, and burn it off using selective muscle shivering by the early morning hour. Go figure that formula out for your body size. The smaller the bird, the harder it is to stay warm, and the more food it requires for its size. These winter foragers frequent my feeders daily for oil-rich sunflower seeds and nuts. While I enjoy feeding and having the birds here during the winter months, the research of Dr. Thomas Grubb of Ohio State University, shows that these small birds get through the winter season in better nutritional condition if they have access to bird feeders. Works for me... 
Mountain Chickadee on Ponderosa Pine Branch





 

XXX

Sunday, December 22, 2013

2013 Winter Solstice...




"Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep."
Robert Frost
 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

September 2013 Road-Trip...

Without going into great detail, I’ll mention that the summer of 2013 has been an unusual one for me. The first time in 36 years that I have not worked the fireline, with the exception of a type 3 wildfire incident I commanded in early May. My lower back was torqued during the Pack Test (45# / 45minutes / 3 miles). I passed the test but the subsequent injury has limited me to very light duty and no return-to-work clearance from my medical providers as of yet. So how the above plays into this next story is a bit unique, but leave it to say, I am not an ideal patient. Catherine had a bit of vacation time coming from Stonerose and needed a break from the care-giving role she found herself in with her mom. We decided on a stress relief, light duty week in the camper would suit us both well. And thus it was in early September that we embarked on a short road-trip heading to visit the Pacific Ocean via the Olympic Peninsula.  Our departure was September 5th. The day after my birthday and the day before Catherine’s. Usually we are on a month long sail cruise at this time of year but my injury took the option of the boat off the table – too much potential for less-than-light-duty activity.
The Washington State Highway 20 bridge over Early Winter's Creek.
The Hwy separates the campground into north and south areas.
We camped to the north and had that area to ourselves.
 Our first stop was Early Winter’s Campground in the Methow River Valley. The campground is located in the Okanogan / Wenatchee National Forest and even though Washington State still had a burn ban in place campfires were allowed in improved campgrounds on national forest lands.
Catherine pointing out where she and her family had set up an
extended camp when she was a teenager.  
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Catherine enjoying a nice weather, quiet afternoon at
Early Winter's Campground and the nearby
creek. Unbeknownst to us at this time but this stream
was to undergo major changes during the night.
















Burn Ban? What Burn Ban???
We knew there was a red flag storm warning for the North Cascade mountains with heavy rain and abundant lightning, remember I’m a fire manager and incident commander and have spent many years paying close attention to summer storms, but what Mother Nature threw at us that night was unprecedented in my experience. The lightning was phenomenal and near continuous with explosive cracks of thunder immediately in the wake of the strikes.


A significant change in the creek in less than 12 hours.

The next day N.O.A.H reported nearly 2,000 lightning strikes across the state and over 2 inches of rain in some areas fell in less than 6 hours. Here’s a complied image showing Early Winter’s Creek to the left at approximately 1900:hours on 09/05/13 with me doing a polar bear plunge and then a photo from the same location at approximately 12 hours later on 09/06/13. Pretty darn substantial change.

Backing up a bit: after enjoying a glass of wine at the fire we were sleeping in the camper when all of a sudden Catherine, Pinja and I were all awakened by a brilliant light and an explosion of thunder. "Wow! That was close!" was the general sentiment. Between the flashes of lightning and the blasts of thunder the wind was howling, causing the camper to shudder, and huge rain drops were pelting the thin roof inches above us. The storm kept our crew awake for a bit but soon with Pinja hiding under the covers and Catherine snoring away I was the only sleepless one.
And I was sweating. Hmm... Kick off some covers and go back to sleep - no go. Booms of thunder, flashes of lightning, pounding rain and camper-rocking winds. Hmm... My pulse is up and I've got a little bit of jitters. Howling winds and I hear a tree cracking and branches falling as the rain pounds our protection shell and the lightning flashes and the thunder cracks in crisp electric percussions. Hmm... is that a pain in my chest? And so it was I passed several hours of the night weighing the options: Do I rouse the crew and break camp and drive through the storm to seek help? There is no cell service in the campground. Do I drive until we can call 911 and make arrangements to meet the ambulance, telling them I have a possible heart attack - leaving Catherine to fend for herself in this storm. Probably better than her waking next to a corpse, but heck, driving a camper down the road at night in these winds with this much rain in such a storm isn't going to be easy for anyone. But I'm a fire chief, I'm medically trained - this isn't a heart attack. Is it?
Several self-assessments, a lot of deep breathing and a few hours pass. The storm abates to "normal" levels - so do I. Sleep finds me. Morning comes...
* * *
Happy Birthday Catherine!
Morning for our crew means COFFEE. I brew a pot, serve Cathy and decline one myself. She notices immediately. I tell her about my night.
“So, you’re going to an emergency room this morning,” she says whilst enjoying the fresh-ground brew I served. Although I’m feeling much better, with the exception of the pain in my lower back, I agree. We decide to cross the North Cascade Highway and find a hospital in Western WA. About that time our campground host arrives and informs us that North Cascade Highway is closed (again). Major washouts, mudslides, trees down. Mental note to self – glad we weren’t traveling at night, during the storm, over the mountains…
Long story short…
"Happy Birthday to you... Happy Birthday to you...
Happy Birthday dear Catherine... Happy Birthday to you"...

Yes indeed I did sing to her as Wenatchee Valley nurses and aids wired me up, checked me out, and after three hours in the E.R. gave me a clean bill of health.






So what was up? Well as the good doctor said, "we really didn't check you for what was wrong, but we did check you for a cardiac emergency. You are not, nor did not recently have one". What we determined was the likely cause relates back to the opening paragraph of this blog. "I'm not an ideal patient". I'd been neglecting to eat when I took the pain-meds for my lower back. Those meds wreck havoc on the stomach and it appears that I had a substantial bout of upper intestinal gas reflex. Add the hostile environment of the major storm and a few other stressors and, well there you have it. Three things good I can say about this situation is:
  1. Wenatchee Valley Hospital E.R. ROCKS! You folks were great.
  2. Catherine has incredible patience and a very positive outlook on it all...
  3. We got out in time to make the run over Stevens Pass in the daylight and managed to hook up in our friends driveway in the fine little city of Mukilteo, Washington...

Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival

Mukilteo's waterfront park deck-out for the celebrations.
 Once a year the residents of Mukilteo host a weekend long gathering of family, friends and visitors to this friendly sea-side village of twenty thousand people. In the language of the indigenous people Mukilteo means "good camping ground".
Our dear friend Liza and Catherine share the sunshine and a
smile on this fine afternoon.
 Located on the south east shore of Possession Sound this is the site of a Washington State Ferries terminal to Clinton, on Whidbey Island.
Waterfront seats, local brew, a glass of red, a late afternoon
sun and good friends. It has the making of a fine day.
To say "the weather was good" would be a total understatement. The weather for Western Washington State was great!
According to a bit of research Mukilteo is one of the most affluent suburbs of Seattle. In 2007, the city had a median income of $83,569.
Fireworks during the Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival celebrations.
Based on per capita income, Mukilteo ranks 29th of 522 areas in the state of Washington. In 2011, Mukilteo was ranked as number 9 of Money Magazine's top 100 small towns of America to live in. Fireworks for the Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival were primarily sponsored by Boing...








Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival



During the annual Wooden Boat Festival the public wharf and waterfront of Port Townsend in Jefferson County, Washington State, gets rather busy.


 

As a crowd of appreciative spectators line the public wharf, this fleet of mixed watercraft is off the Port Townsend waterfront during the 2013 Wooden Boat Festival.



Boat designer and builder Larry Silva checking out some of this year's entries into the P.T. Wooden Boat Festival.  

 

 This bronze cast statue of three seals is found on the grounds behind the Wooden Boat Foundation in Port Townsend.

This contemporary plein air artist provides an insight into the activity of the waterfront on the morning of the 2013 Wooden Boat Festival.
 


 The Canadian Steveston Lifeboat was on display and open to visitors during this annual Wooden Boat Festival. The wooden vessel was built in 1944 by the U.S. Navy in Pearl Harbor and for a time used by Admiral Nimitz as his barge.
Nearly 40 years had passed since Bruce Tipton and I had crossed paths. Over the course of those years I had heard that Bruce was part of the Wooden Boat Foundation in Port Townsend but the winds had not brought us on the same tack until the afternoon pictured here. I had a weather eye out for Bruce but so many years is a long time to change a person. Still when I spotted this fellow earnestly discussing wooden spars his voice told me it was Bruce. Well met indeed.
Connie and Catherine, two nautically inclined, beautiful ladies to enjoy a hot, sunny afternoon with on the shoreside piers of Port Townsend. Connie and Larry took time off from their home construction project to meet us at the Wooden Boat Festival.
The Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival fills the towns waterfront with vessels of all types and well as filling the streets with visitors and tourists. It is an active weekend in this Salish Sea community.
* * *
Olympic National Park
Bid farewell to our friends and the fine seaside town of Port Townsend and followed that windy Washington State Highway 20 westward to it's '0' mile marker.
 
We weren't sure where the evening would take us but we finally settled deep in the Elwha River Valley, inside the Olympic National Park. Where there were very few visitors. 
 
A couple of those few visitors we met the next morning when Catherine and I invited Tucker and Edward into our camp for coffee. Catherine is a southern girl at heart and be it camper, boat or home the galley is an important social setting. So it was that our two new biking friends were treated not only to the offered coffee but biscuits, eggs, a delightful sweet pineapple/habanero sauce and more coffee. Turned out we had a few of the tools the guys needed to tune their bikes and we saw them off in fine style later that morning. Seems like we are now the old folks in the camper whilst others are under the lean-tos and tents.
Mother, Mother Ocean...
Wandering down the windy road from Forks to La Push we noted a fog bank over the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean and soon the bright autumn sunshine of mid September was left behind. Our first item of business when arriving at La Push, the tribal home to the Quileute people was to visit the tribal center. About 40 years ago I was a young man living in this area. The native peoples were good to me and shared many fish without asking anything in return. This trip Catherine and I brought some homegrown beef that we left at the tribal center for some elders. Next we found a spot at the RV Park right on First Beach. And soon afterward we took a walk onto the beach. Mother, Mother Ocean...
Catherine and our traveling companion, Pinja, with the southern most portion of James Island in the foggy background. On First Beach La Push.


Pinja thinks she's a lab, loves the water and delights in being allowed to chase the gulls off the beach. Granted she is cautiously weary about those breaking waves plunging up onto the beach and has yet to get rolled by one of them...

Cakesosta and associated sea stacks form part of the point separating First Beach from Second Beach in the La Push area of Washington coast located in Clallam County.
Back in early December 2011 I posted in Foster's Sailing Blog regarding a very large drift log that washed ashore near La Push. It hadn't crossed my mind that a couple of years later I might take a photograph of that very same log, still located on First Beach near La Push, Washington. 
My lower back injury has restricted cycling this year. Where I normally get a couple of hundred miles a year, I've probably less than twenty during 2013. Catherine and I did hop on the cycles and did a leisurely tour of the La Push village and water front. That presented up an opportunity to speak with a young native lad who has taken up surfing. Appears some of the Quileute youth have become competitively at the sport. Good for them!
 And speaking of surfing. A good wet-suit goes a long ways along the North Pacific beaches. These guys were making the most of out of the small waves coming ashore this afternoon. Would have loved to have been out there with them...




To be continued: check back soon...