Bird Atlas, Part 2016-01

I haven’t posted recently because it’s busy, busy time for birding.  I’m participating in a new project, the Rhode Island Bird Atlas 2.0.  A little more than 30 years ago Rhode Island conducted a breeding bird atlas.  This consisted in surveying the state over several years to determine which species of birds were actually breeding in the state.  It’s now time to update that data, only now wintering birds will be included as well.  This current effort is a five year project.  It works like this.  The state is divided into 165 blocks, each 10 square miles.  For each block there is a volunteer coordinator and, in many cases, volunteer contributors.  I have assumed responsibility as the coordinator for seven blocks, a task made possible only because I am now retired and have a couple of very able contributors to assist me.

I will be posting photos from our ventures from time to time.  First, a disclaimer.  These photos are catch-as-catch-can.  They are here because of their informational content, not necessarily their photographic quality.  I’m using a Nikon D7100 camera body, which has a sensor that’s 24x16mm, approximately 2/3 the size of 35mm film.  This is commonly called a crop sensor, but it has the advantage of yielding 1.5x the focal length of the lens used on it.  I am using a Nikon 300mm f/4 PE lens.  With the crop effect, this is equivalent to having a 450mm lens.  Photos are taken hand-held, and of whatever view the bird may present.  Sometimes they will have branches or other interference impacting the image.  Occasionally they’ll be slightly out of focus.  I’m posting them for their informational content, and will provide some detail about the species or specifics of the situation involved.

Here are a few photos from April.  We were birding in Lonsdale Marsh, in Lincoln, RI this day.  This Mourning Dove was in a low shrub.  We suspected there was a nest nearby.

Mourning Dove, possibly near nest

Mourning Dove, possibly near nest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Mourning Dove was on a branch.  I happened to capture the image just as the bird blinked.

Mourning Dove Blink

Mourning Dove Blink

 

Here’s a pair of Mourning Doves.

Mourning Dove Pair

Mourning Dove Pair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These final two images are of a Swamp Sparrow.  We puzzled over the identification because all the field guides we consulted showed a different pattern on the side of the head.  But, a Swamp Sparrow it is.  Often there is some variability from bird to bird.  Some birders prefer guides with photographs.  The advantage of photos is that the guide presents actual birds, as observed in the field.  The limitation, however, is that the photos only show a point in time for a specific bird.  Other birders prefer guides with illustrations.  The advantage of this approach is that the artist can generalize from study of several specimens.  The limitation is that no actual bird may look exactly like the representation.  It’s a matter of taste, although most birders have at least one guide of each sort.

Swamp Sparrow, front view

Swamp Sparrow, front view

Swamp Sparrow, side view

Swamp Sparrow, side view

Rainy City Night

Hello, again!  It’s been a long time since my last post.  My computer died, I ordered a new one, it had a bad hard drive, and I just this week got the replacement installed.  So, I’m back in the blogging business!

People walking on Meeting Street in the rain.

People walking on Meeting Street in the rain.

The idea for these images came on a cold, rainy night in Providence as I was waiting to meet some friends for dinner.  Having walked around for a while, I got back in my car, which was parked on a side street.  Behind me (to the left of the camera) was a street light.  People were walking by, some running, some seemingly not minding the rain.  I was struck by the effect of the changing colors of the light, as well as the raindrops on the window.  So I took my pocket-sized camera out of the glove compartment and set to work.  The wall of the building was yellow brick, with an orange inset, but the red, yellow, and green of the streetlight gave different overtones.  I hope you enjoy the results as much as I enjoyed making them!

Waterplace Park From Above

Memorial Boulevard

Memorial Boulevard

Providence is a beautiful city, much more beautiful than when I moved here in 1984.  Back then the Providence River flowed through the city (as it still does), but nearly all of its course was covered with roadways.  Now it is opened up.  Furthermore, it is the site of an artistic installation known as Waterfire.  The creation of sculptor Barnaby Evans, Waterfire became an annual attraction in 1997, following two initial events in 1994 and 1996.  The installation consists of several braziers placed in Waterplace Park and along the Providence River.  These are stoked with maple wood and lit at sunset.  City streets are blocked off and several restaurants provide outside seating, giving downtown Providence the feel of a European city.

Waterplace Park

Waterplace Park

Yesterday I had a chance to view the site of Waterfire from a new perspective, the 14th floor terrace of the Waterplace Residence, a condominium complex at Waterplace Park.  This locale afforded a view looking down on Waterplace Park and the Providence River, as well as a panorama of the skyline of the city.  You can see the braziers used for Waterfire.  You can also take in the best side of Providence Place Mall, the Westin Hotel, the Biltmore Hotel, and Providence’s own “Superman Building.”  Not really used in filming anything related to Superman–TV series or movies–the building is said to look like the Daily Planet building in the 1950s comic books.  Unfortunately the building now stands empty, although it is home to nesting peregrine falcons.  You can monitor their progress via this Peregrine webcam run by the Audubon Society of Rhode Island.

Enjoy this view of Waterfire from above, at noon and without the fire!

A Touch of Spring

Gleaner Gardens

Gleaner Gardens

Here in Rhode Island we got two feet of snow last week, another foot this week, and are expecting yet another foot next week.  While I like snow, I thought you might enjoy a little touch of spring.

Last year a friend took me to a private garden named Gleaner Gardens.  The owners have an extensive collection of rhododendron plants, most of which are quite well established.  You are invited at every turn to wander through the paths and admire the remarkably diverse forms this plant can take.  You will find purple, pink, red, and white, as well as orange and one variety that seems nearly translucent.

Nearly Translucent Rhody

Nearly Translucent Rhody

Should you wish to stay awhile, an inviting reading bench is tucked away in one corner.  You may even be escorted by Rio, the resident German shepherd.  This quiet floral escape even boasts a meditation garden, where you will find both Buddha and St. Francis of Assisi.

Reading Bench

Reading Bench

Enjoy this little touch of spring rhodies from Rhody!

Found On Road, Dead

Ford Truck Logo

Ford Truck Logo

My brother liked cars.  He was 12 years older than me, so I got to watch him make some very interesting modifications when I was a little kid.  The first one I remember is a Ford Model T (I don’t know the year).  Ford made the Model T from 1908-1927, but didn’t introduce hydraulic brakes until 1939.  Pressing the brake pedal on a Model T tightened a metal band around a braking drum in the transmission.  Therefore, it only affected the rear wheels.  In dicey weather, it was best to use the emergency brake lever.  Not wishing to crash his precious Model T, Jim replaced the brake system with hydraulic brakes.  I don’t remember exactly when this happened, but it was somewhere between 1948 and 1956.  I remember this because Jimmy then got a 1954 Chevy and replaced the V6 engine with a V8 from a 1956 Chevy.  Chevy didn’t introduce the small-block V8 engine until 1955, so the V8 engine really souped up that ’54 Chevy!  From then on, he was a Chevy man all the way.  When he worked on the Chevy upgrade, he had to rebuild the carburetor, an extremely delicate task.  Carburetors have millions of tiny parts.  You have to take it apart carefully, laying out the parts in precise order, then put them back in the exact reverse order.  I was threatened with an early demise, should I touch any of those parts.  I used to tease him by looking at them very closely–never touching, though!  Carburetors have since been replaced by fuel injection systems.

Jim used to joke that FORD was really an acronym for either “Found On Road, Dead” or “Fix Or Repair Daily.”  The images in this post were taken at a junkyard, so I decided on the former for a title.  I went with my friend Jan, who loves the place for the sorts of images one can find there.  She is drawn to the Brockway described below, but her true love is an old International truck, used by a radio and television repair company.  Yes, they really did repair radios and TVs, back in the days of vacuum tubes.  Here I’m only posting straight forward images; later I’ll have a post with some abstract images of vehicle parts.

Jan's Inspiration

Jan’s Inspiration

One vehicle met us near the entrance, an old Brockway truck, owned by a truck sign painter.  Brockway began as a carriage maker, but officially incorporated in 1912 as the Brockway Motor Truck Company of Cortland, NY.  Never mass-produced, their trucks were renowned for strength and durability.  They stopped manufacturing them in 1977, but the one we saw was definitely an earlier version.  One thing’s for certain–they don’t make trucks like this one any more!  It has wooden side panels and beautiful etched windows.  It must have turned heads in its prime, for it still is a looker, given its current environment.  We saw Fords, Chevys, VW beetles and vans, old delivery trucks, and even an Edsel.  Edsels are so long forgotten that even my spell checker doesn’t recognize the word!

Blue VW

Blue VW

Many memories came back when I ran into a blue VW beetle.  I had a car like that when I was in college.  I took three riders to school every day, at $10 a head per week.  That covered gas and repairs.  It was a fine car, nothing like the contemporary version now on the road.  The original had a 4-cylinder, rear, air-cooled engine.  No radiator to worry about.  If you had level ground, it could go 45 mph.  Best of all, if you got up a good head of steam and were going downhill, you could make 60!  I don’t know what happened to my car, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the one in the image, as I sold it in Ohio many, many years ago.  One of my riders was named Terry.  These were the days of the military draft, given we were in the Vietnam War, and Terry got a notice from the Draft Board.  She called, protesting that she was not subject to the draft, being a female.  Her word wasn’t enough, though; she had to physically appear at the Draft Board before they were convinced.

Enjoy this trip to the junk yard!