Summer vacation 2019 part four

My friend Larry from the previous episode mentioned to me that a group of several male and female belted kingfishers had been spotted at the river; I’d never seen kingfishers at our little river before and I wanted to get a good photo of these lovely birds.

Unlike our other local waterfowl that are willing to approach humans and dive from the water surface — cormorants, gulls, mallards, mergansers, loons and the like — kingfishers are skittish and dive at speed from the trees; they’re fast and hard to get in focus. My first several attempts ended up like this. (Click on photos for larger versions.)

and this

Not terrible for a first attempt, but I wanted to get a nice sharp closeup. I tried for two weeks and did not manage to get anything better, which was quite frustrating. So I decided that on my last day of vacation I would get up at 6 AM and take a kayak up the river just after sunrise. I figured if I was slow and careful I might be able to get closer.

Sure enough, I immediately saw a bird, but of course it saw me and took off upriver:

It stopped in a tree, again just far enough away that I could not get a good shot:

And then took off again when I got close:

This repeated several times, always going up river. I got a lot of burry photos of the back side of the damn bird.

Finally we got to a point where I could not go any further; there were several trees fallen entirely across the river, and the bird was perched on one of them with a branch in the way and in a deep shadow. (The overall brightness of this image is because I overexposed it to try to get the detail of a dark bird in a shadow.)

The sharp-eyed amongst you may have already noticed the larger problem here, but I did not. I very carefully and slowly paddled to where I could get an unobstructed view of the bird, and I finally got my close up…

OF A GREEN HERON.  WHAT THE HECK.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I am happy that there is also a family of green herons living at the river, but where did the switch happen? When I reviewed the several hundred shots I’d taken so far I discovered that in fact the bird I’d seen originally was this bird:

A green heron, and probably the same green heron.

I had actually been chasing at least two birds up the river. In fact I suspect I was actually chasing two green herons and a male kingfisher, but did not realize until much later that it was not all the same bird.

Since I could go no further I figured I would start over. I went back to the mouth of the river and there were a bunch of both males and females dive bombing each other; maybe for fun, maybe to settle some territorial dispute, I don’t know. I watched that for a while and managed to get a few slightly better images:

I think I can do better if I get the chance next year, but that will have to do for this year.

 

Advertisements

Summer vacation 2019 part three

I enjoy photographing dragonflies and damselflies; this year I got some pretty reasonable shots of common blue damselflies, white-faced meadowhawks, a twelve-spotted skimmer, and my favourite, ebony jewelwings. It can be hard to get these little guys in focus, but I am reasonably pleased with the results. (Click on the photos for larger versions.)



 

Summer vacation 2019 part two

Today, I have a Mystery Of The Unknown for you to solve. Unlike most of the puzzlers on this blog, I don’t know the answer.


UPDATE: Mystery solved! See below.


On August 4th at about 20 minutes past 10 PM Eastern Daylight Time I did this 30 second exposure. I am facing south. The bright object in the middle is Jupiter; the orange star below and to its right is Antares. What we have here is the International Space Station flying (from my perspective that night) through the “head” of the constellation of Scorpius from right to left. (Click on the images for a larger view.)

I’ve tweaked the levels in post slightly, for clarity, but basically this is the image I was hoping to get.

I then quickly shifted the camera over to point towards Sagittarius and did an identical 30 second exposure. Again, I’ve tweaked the levels:

And again the bright object is Jupiter. The triangle of stars in the middle of the very bottom of the image is the “stinger” of Scorpius. The M7 cluster to its left is slightly blocked by the tree, and you can see the “lid of the teapot” of Sagittarius following the line of the tree, with the Milky Way emerging as the steam from the teapot.

The ISS is still traveling right to left — west to east — and you can clearly see that the path is much shorter than the previous 30 second exposure because the left end of its travel is where it passed into the shadow of the earth; sunset comes later for the ISS because of its great altitude.

That is again exactly what I expected. The part that I am completely flummoxed by is: what are the two parallel tracks to the left of the ISS going north/south?!?

  • I took a third image after this one of the same part of the sky and there is no streak on it of any kind.
  • It could be a camera malfunction — but I have never seen such a malfunction. UPDATE: My friend Larry was taking a long exposure at the same time and also captured this exact same streak, so it is definitely not a camera malfunction.
  • It could be an atmospheric phenomenon, like a jet contrail being lit up by something. But it does not look like any contrail or cloud I’ve ever seen, and it does not show up in the third image.
  • It could be an airplane, but airplanes typically blink in long exposures, or can be seen to have both red and green lights. Also, if it were a single airplane then I would expect the parallel lines to start and end at the same place. And I would expect to see it in the third image.
  • It could be a pair of satellites in a polar orbit, but I checked a satellite tracking app and it identified nothing in that neighbourhood except the ISS at that time. (However, I only checked the one app; probably I should check another.) And those “satellites” seem to be in very similar orbits, which seems unlikely. UPDATE: My friend Gord, son of the aforementioned Larry, suggests that it may have been satellites in the Starlink constellation, which travel in pairs. This is now my best hypothesis. I’ll see if I can get some data on Starlink orbits.
  • It could be a meteor that has split into two parts that are traveling parallel, and just happened to be in my shot as the ISS entered the shadow of the Earth. Which seems like an extremely unlikely coincidence. Yes, there is a lot of meteor activity in early August, but I’m not buying it.

I have never seen anything like this before. We genuinely have an Unidentified Flying Object here, in that there is some object which is flying but not identified; I rather doubt it is aliens.

Does anyone with more experience than me in photographing satellites have any insight into what I’ve captured here?


Mystery solved by my friend Gord:

68892302_10157302601249827_1858854170602242048_n.jpg

The recent Starlink launch put a constellation of 60 satellites into a low orbit, and they’re still all bunched up so it would be common to have two in frame at the same time. That orbit passed right over the Great Lakes region at 10:20 the night I took that exposure, and the direction corresponds as well. Thanks Gord!

 

 

 

Summer vacation 2019 part 1

I’m back from my annual vacation where I fly south to Canada and take way too many photos. As with all my hobbies, I’m not a very good nature photographer but I do enjoy it, and this year was particularly productive in that regard.

I have some interesting news regarding my recently ended “Fixing Random” series, but before I get into that, I’ll spend a couple of episodes sharing some of my favourite shots from this year.

To start with, here’s a shot from last year; my eight-year-old friend Junior Naturalist Ada found a baby snapping turtle. (Click on images for larger versions.)

IMG_6112

We looked all over for the mama snapping turtle but did not find her; I am pleased to report that this year we certainly did, just a couple bends up the river.

IMG_5050.JPG

Isn’t she lovely? Let’s zoom in on that face.

IMG_5065.jpg

You just want to snuggle her right up to the point where she bites your arm off, am I right?


Coming soon on FAIC: weird bugs, lovely birds, and some astronomical phenomena that I do not understand.