Saturday, May 15, 2010

Why You Don't Stay On 50

The view may be great, but it comes at a cost. This morning at 1:30, the fire alarm went off. There didn't seem to be anything wrong, but that didn't keep us from having to troop down fifty flights of stairs with 1000 or so of our new friends. It was actually a little over 50 since we had to go down into the basement, then back up several flights around the building. Then an hour and a half of waiting until the place was declared safe. Trust me when I say that I fell asleep pretty quickly after that. And I don't think I'm going to get anything done today...  But it's still a great view.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Tower

Last night I showed you the view from my room in Las Vegas, so here's the building I'm staying in. My room is in the upper left hand corner of the building. It's 56 stories tall and we're on the 50th floor, next to the last room before that little set-back. We were going to put something in the window so we can tell which room is ours, but it would have to be pretty big to be visible from almost 500 feet below.

Vegas, Baby!

Wow! I have free internet here in Vegas. Well, it's not really free, but I've got it. This is the view from my room on the 50th floor of the Vdara hotel. Pretty snazzy, eh? Going to bed now, more later, maybe. Tired...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Not Long Now

In a few hours from now, I'll be flying back to Sin City for the first time since 2006. That's when I took the picture above looking down on Las Vegas Boulevard from the surprisingly tall Stratosphere Tower. I'm sure I'll make it up there again this trip, so I'll bring you back some pictures that will hopefully rival this. Wish me luck and I'll see you all when I get back!

Monday, May 10, 2010


There are statues of hundreds of people around Washington, DC. Some of them, I don't even know why they are there or who they are. This is José Artigas, the father of Uruguayan independence, and I think I saw him in from of the Organization of American States. Who knew that the US capitol would celebrate heroes from Uruguay?


One more bird on the wing for you from last Saturday. This time it's a lonely pelican, heading who knows where. Sometimes these guys just seem to pick a direction and fly for no apparent reason. But I guess we can't know what they're thinking. They probably wonder why people are always headed off in their little cars to no apparent destination, or at least to no place that has any fish.

More Birds On The Wing

Next up in tonight's feather-fest are some terns. Royal terns, I think.  Actually, this may all be the same tern, or it may be two individuals. I shot a lot of pictures as they flew back and forth looking for some dinner, and I didn't get his or her name.

These guys fly back and forth very quickly, pausing occasionally when something in the water catches their eye. When the right things catches their eye, they literally fall from the sky, diving into the water, more often than not emerging with their prey. Then they eat it on the wing, unless a seagull happens to spot them. If that happens, there's always a fight.

But I didn't see any gulls during this photo shoot, I was just happy to be able to track the terns as they flew back and forth.

There must not have been too many fish in the water, because I didn't get any shots of them diving.

On The Wing II

I seem to be developing a theme of birds in flight this evening, so I'm going to run with it. All these shots were taken down at Quick Point Nature Preserve in Sarasota on Saturday night. I meant to go to the beach proper, but the shooting was so good that I never made it. I also wanted to prove to myself that the oil hasn't made it down here yet, but I'm sure they'll be screaming about it when that happens. We're all dreading it, believe me. Anyhow, I was pretty proud of the shot above, managing to squeeze two black skimmers into the same shot.

I was even more excited when one of them started skimming not too far from where I was! Only time I'd ever seen them do this before was well after sunset when there was almost no light to be had.  See how he drops the bottom half of that funny looking bill of his into the water as he glides mere inches from the surface?  It's a wonder he ever catches anything, but it must work.

Then when I caught both of them skimming at the same time I got about as excited as I could get. Unfortunately, they were pretty far away at this point, so the pictures aren't that great. But I was still pretty happy to catch it. They only passed by once, then they came in to land on a sandbar near where you see those seagulls. All sorts of flying critters were beginning to gather their, I guess for the night, or at least until the tide came back in.

On The Wing

Here's a more common site around these parts, something I see a lot more often than that alleged frigate bird I just showed you. This is your run-of-the-mill osprey, the top of the food chain in much of their water-front habitat. I keep hoping to get more shots of these guys diving in and pulling a fish out of the water, but I've only gotten so lucky that one time.

But they do take nice pictures, even when they don't have mullet in their talons.

I wish he'd been a little closer, and I wouldn't have had to crop these pictures quite so much, but beggars can't be choosers.

Who Is This?

Saturday night at the beach I saw this bird flying far overhead. The silhouette didn't look familiar so I shot a couple of frames. I'm still not exactly sure what it is. The hook at the end of the bill makes me think it's a cormorant, but that straight tail makes me think it's something else. And it's such a distinctive wing shape, yet I can't seem to place it. Time to hit the internet!

A frigate bird? Fregata magnificens? We have those in Florida? Hmmm, perhaps we do. I'm gonna have to hunt for one of these that I can get a better picture of.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Under The Bridge

This was the view beneath the New Pass Drawbridge over New Pass in Sarasota Saturday night. I kinda liked the way the sunset was illuminating the normally dark space, making it glow more than plain old concrete columns should.

You Otter Been There

I saw this cool little otter in Georgia at the Okefenokee Swamp Park. I guess otters are native to the swamp, but I didn't see any other than this one they had in a pen. We've got otters here in Florida, too, but it's been many years since I've seen one in the wild. I guess they stay as far from people as possible. I've seen them in captivity, though, and they're a delight to watch.

Unfortunately, this guy didn't seem too happy. He ha a fair sized enclosure, but he was all alone. Otters seem to enjoy playing together, so keeping one alone is a shame. The two times I wandered by his pen, he was laying there on his rock, all stretched out, sleeping his day away. He came around once to see if we had any food, but then he went back to sleeping.

Shhhhhh, otter trying to sleep!

The Flaming Sword

One of the things I got to shoot on this most recent trip to DC that I had missed previously was this flaming sword. This is the Second Division Memorial in DC, not too awful far from the First Division Memorial. This one also dates from WWI and also features the amazing gold gilding.

Is it just me or is there something vaguely Soviet about this memorial? It just seems like something you'd see in old news footage from the cold war, and not something that's from our side. Perhaps it's just me.

I had to wait a long time to get pictures of this thing without too many people climbing on it. It seemed to be a popular memorial to climb for some reason. I guess they'll eventually have to rope it off and limit access. I saw my grandmother today, and she was telling me that she has pictures of herself sitting in the lap of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial. I think they'd shoot you if you tried to do that today. I guess fame has it's cost.

This was the view I had on first walking up to the flaming sword from the rear. It almost looks like it's glowing.


This statue sits high on a pedestal between the Old Executive Office Building and The Ellipse in Washington, DC. I believe this is a WWI vintage monument to the 1st Division, Army, but I'm not certain. Each time I've been near it, the base has been off limits due to construction on the nearby buildings. Someday I'll get close enough to it to get a better idea of what it's for.

But it's still a pretty awesome statue. All that guilding on a spectacular sculpture way up in the air. And they've cleaned it since the last time I was there. Before, it was covered in bird droppings, but now it's nice and shiny. Probably won't stay that way for long, but it was nice for a while.

No Cute Title

There's a little park across the street from the White House. I've been there three times now, and every time I've seen this guy sitting on a bench there. I don't know who he is, I don't know what hes doing there, I just know he's there and I don't know what to make of him. Perhaps he's a Representative from the State of Alaska...

Big Baby

This is an immature night heron I spotted last night out at Quick Point Nature Preserve at the south end of Longboat Key. That's a great spot for finding some wading birds, and it didn't disappoint. I've got more than just this guy I want to share with you, so stay tuned.

I think I've shown you an osprey standing pretty close to this very same spot before. Seems to be a popular perch.

Happy Mother's Day!

Here's a picture of Mom I took in the Okefenokee Swamp. I guess it doesn't really matter where it was taken, but it's a nice picture of her. Happy Mother's Day, Mom!