Smith's Longspurs

Smith's Longspurs
Smith's Longspurs

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Tom in Borneo etc.

While Gary froze his toes off in Antarctica, Tom was sweating in Borneo. He spent most of his time exploring caves and climbing mountains. The biggest mountain in Borneo is Mt. Kinabalu, (above).
He went on a night safari along the Kinabatangan River where he saw lots of exotic critters like this Civet.
And this sleeping trogon, Red-headed I believe..
During the daytime he saw this Long-tailed Macaque along the Kinabatangan River.
Tom was accompanied by some friends and the local guide above.
They admired, (or recoiled in horror at this) strange millipede.
Tom challenged me to identify this bird which was mist netted by some bird researchers. To the best of my knowledge it is a taylorbird, Dark-necked, or Ashy. I do not have a comprehensive field guide for the birds of Borneo so I cannot be sure.
Tom called this a Wing-like Kinabalu Orchid.
In the meantime I have been playing with the new camera a bit more. The days have been overcast so I did not heve enough light to get really sharp photos.
The gulls have only been in town for about a week. These are Mew Gulls on Chester Creek.
There was a report of a Thayer's Gull at Cuddy Park. I went there last night to look for it. Thayer's Gulls are nearly identical to Herring Gulls, (above). Thayer's Gull is a little smaller with purplish red eyelids and a pink gape. I looked through the many Herring Gulls but could not turn one into the Thayer's Gull.
Canada Geese have only been in town for a few days. These two were standing on the rotting ice at Cuddy Park pond.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Testing the Big Boy Camera

A little over a year ago I bought a new camera. I did not need a new camera, the old cameras worked perfectly well. I only bought the new camera because I read a review about the, Fujifilm HS-50 with its powerful zoom and its many nifty new innovations. I just had to have it, and it cost less than $500.00.
It is a great camera, so easy to use and so versatile. It does have its weaknesses. mainly being its inability to obtain very sharp focus at full zoom and often inaccurate exposures.
For the past year I have been saving my nickels and looking for a DSLR and a really sharp telephoto lens that I could afford. I have also been wrestling with my conscience because I knew that this would be a frivolous purchase that will never satisfy me for long.
This past week I made my choice. The photo above shows the new camera, a Canon 6D, next to my HS-50 with the zoom lenses extended. The lens is a Sigma, 150-600mm,5-6.3 DG OS zoom lens. The total cost for them was about, $2,600.00. They came with a bunch of extras like a monopod etc.
I'll write about the new lens first. I chose it because it seemed to be the best lens for my budget. It got great reviews for its sharp focus which was my main consideration. It is very sturdy, and very heavy.
I chose the Canon 6D body because it is a full frame DSLR; 20 megapixels with a slough of features that I will never use.
Its main competition in my thinking was the Canon 7D Mark ll. The 7D is an aps-c type of camera. In my ignorance I assumed that the full frame CMOS sensor of the 6D means a better quality image. I already know that is probably not the case. I should have gone with the 7D because it would have turned my 600mm lens into an 800mm lens. By the way my old HS-50 has a 1000mm zoom lens.
On Wednesday I took my new camera out to test it. The day was drizzling as I set out and turned to a snow mix as the day progressed. Not the ideal conditions for obtaining sharp photographs. I went to Spenard Crossing and Westchester Lagoon, (which is still frozen over). The swans were still present.
A new duck had arrived the day before. A single male, Ring-necked Duck.
The week before that, I went to Spenard Crossing on an overcast day and photographed this Mallard hen with the HS-50.
This week I photographed this hen with the new camera in even dimmer light with a fine drizzle in the air. The image is slightly sharper although it is not a direct comparison. The Sigma requires a monopod or tripod to hold it steady.
Last week I photographed this Steller's Jay in overcast light with the HS-50.
I also photographed this magpie with a slightly overgrown beak.
This is probably the same magpie shot with the Canon a week later.
This week, Barrow's Goldeneyes outnumbered the Common Goldeneyes.
The precipitation never let up and finally I just gave up and went home.
My preliminary impressions are that the HS-50 is 40% more powerful than the Canon and so much easier to manage. However the Canon does a much better job of getting exposures right. It is too early to know if the lens sharpness is significantly better, The Canon has 20 megapixels compared to the HS-50's 16 megapixels.
The Canon will never replace the HS-50 entirely. I will have to use the Canon more before I decide whether to put it up on ebay or Craig's list. My hope is that some camera manufacturer will come out with a superzoom point and shoot with truly sharp focus. Then it's goodbye to heavy lenses.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Ushuala and Beyond

Before sailing south to Antarctica, Gary and Terry spent a few days in Buenos Aires and then Ushuala at the bottom of the South American continent. They saw some good birds, like this Chimango Caracara.
Beautiful, and tame Upland Geese.
A member of an exclusively South American bird family that looks like thrushes, this is a Dark-bellied Cinclodes. They are part of the large South American bird family called oven birds. They were given that name because of the way they construct their nests.
South America has some really cool ducks, like this, Chloe Widgeon.
Yellow-billed Pintails, (background) and Spectacled Ducks. Parts of Argentina have massive numbers of waterfowl.
A Pintado Petrel on the high seas.
A large, Southern Royal Albatross.
The related Northern Royal Albatross.
Gray-headed Albatross.
Light-Mantled Albatross.
A Gentoo Penguin plows through the water.
The cutest of the penguins, Adele Penguin.

Saturday, March 28, 2015


Since the last cold snap about a month ago temperatures  have been slowly creeping above the freezing point; at least during the day. At first a small patch of open water appeared at the mouth of Chester Creek.
Immediately the resident Mallards showed up to occupy the fresh habitat.
Slowly the open patch grew in size and crept down onto the lake below Spenard Crossing. Then on Tuesday of this week a pair of Trumpeter Swans materialized as if from nowhere.
Where did they come from? How did they know that there was open water at Spenard Crossing? By the way Spenard Crossing gets its name from the place that Spenard Road crosses Chester Creek. It is also called, Eastchester Lagoon. Westchester Lagoon lies immediately across Minnesota Drive on the far side of the small lake.
These swans are about the first migratory birds to arrive in Anchorage every spring. This year they are a month early. I made it by Spenard Crossing on Wednesday to get these photos. It was a bright, sunny day but the skies have been overcast since then.
These birds will be here for a short time only. Soon they will move on. Only they know where they go next.
While I was admiring the swans, a pair of Common Mergansers flew in. Who told them that there was now some open water to be found?
 The ice seemed to be melting away while I watched as the patches of open water grew in size.
The females are more impressive than the males in my opinion. That is not the case with other species of mergansers. They are generally easier to approach than males.
The male does not care what I think about the subject to be sure.
They will soon be moving on as well. They nest along flowing river banks.
Common Goldeneyes first showed up on Wednesday also. Another duck which nests, (in tree cavities) along flowing river banks.
I guess that this is a female bird although her markings and behavior are a little puzzling.
There were many more males present than females.
Since I finished the elk painting I have been completely lazy. This 2006 painting received some minor damage over time so I repaired it. While I was at it I made a few minor alterations that improved it. I like the crisp colors of this one. Other than an hour working on this I have done virtually nothing with my artwork.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Gary and Terry in Antarctica

Antarctica used to be about the most expensive place on earth to visit. Apparently the cost is slowly coming down as different companies compete for clients. It is still very expensive but now it is within reach of many more people.
Being from Alaska, Gary showed the passengers and crew of his cruise ship what being tough is all about
No thanks, I'll just stay on the boat.
Gary went to Antarctica with his wife Terry. Normally she does not like to go to the places where Gary goes, but this trip was an exception.
This is a colony of Gentoo Penguins. It is late summer down there at this time of year.
A baby Gentoo takes a nap on a rock. I guess that it misses its mommy.
A brilliant white, Snow Petrel.
Gary and Terry were able to see a number of albatross species, like this huge, Wandering Albatross.
There were lots of dramatic ice formations.
Such a graceful creature, Dusky Dolphin.
The bane of all penguins, the fearsome Leopard Seal. They are quite tame if you are not a penguin. There is more to come from Antarctica.