Saturday, May 08, 2010

Okefenokee Heron

Here's the only other bird I had the chance to shoot while visiting the Okefenokee in Georgia. This was the next day when I visited the Okefenokee Swamp Park with my mother. This immature night heron suddenly sprung up out of the bushes and flew away. I was quick enough on the trigger to get a couple of picture of him in mid-air that aren't too bad.

Okefenokee Hawk

I had a chance to spend a few minutes visiting the very outskirts of the Okefenokee Swamp when I was in Georgia. I've got plenty more pictures of that to share with you, but first I want to show you this red shouldered hawk I saw on the way into and out of the park. I spotted him on my way in, but I didn't get the chance to stop. Thankfully, he was still there when I left, although he'd moved. And as I watched him, he moved from one dead tree to another.

The second time I spotted him he let me get a little closer, but not much. And this time he decided he'd had enough and flew far enough away that I couldn't see him any more. Oh, well.


I guess I need more practice. I'd hoped that I had gotten a decent picture of this huge pileated woodpecker flying by at Mom & Dad's place the other day, but it looks pretty poor. Would have been a great picture, though, flying along, screaming like he was. Maybe next time...

A Pair Of Reds

Up at Mom and Dad's house again recently, and I spotted somebody down on the old tree in the next pasture behind their place. You've seen this tree plenty of times before, with kestrels, bluejays, woodpeckers and other flying critters on it, but this time proved to be somebody I'd rarely seen out there, a red tailed hawk. These guys aren't nearly so common as the red shouldered ones I see around all the time. They're also quite a bit larger, which may explain why they are rarer.

As I was walking out to get closer to the hawk I could see on the old dead tree, something big made a noise in a live pine tree on my right. Turns out it was a second red tail, probably the mate of the first one. This second one took off and flew around in front of me, so I was able to squeeze off a couple of good shots. Had I known I was that close to a second one, I would have gotten some much better shots, I assure you. Next time I'll know to look there!

The first hawk just watched all the commotion calmly, not seeming to care very much.

Eventually I got too close and he took off. But he was nice enough to circle around a few times and let me get some pictures. I wish he'd been a little closer, but these aren't too bad.

I had forgotten that I'd seen a red shoulder near this tree one time before, but I only caught a fleeting and blurry glimpse of him that one time. Perhaps they've taken up a more permanent residence in the area now.

Friday, May 07, 2010

The Crazy Dentist

After the balloon crashing into the control tower, the oddest thing I saw at the Sun-N-Fun Balloon Launch was this balloonist who went up without a basket. He was hanging from his balloon with a tank of propane strapped to his back. This just seemed a little foolhardy to me.

All I could think of here were those guys who strap a few hundred helium balloons to a lawn chair, then fly up into the paths of commercial airliners carrying BB guns to help themselves land.

I guess this is a little safer than those guys, and probably not much more dangerous than a regular hot air balloon with a basket. But it sure seems odd.

For whatever reason, his balloon seemed to drift in a different direction than the others. And if you look close, you can see that his balloon was decorated with giant teeth. Something about dentists...

The Big Balloon Strike

One of the more exciting things to happen at Sun-N-Fun this year was the crash at the balloon launch Saturday morning. It all started when one of the balloons took off. I don't think he'd built up enough heat in the air inside the balloon before they took off. They didn't rise very quickly, just sort of drifting along a few feet from the ground. Those of us on the ground were about to duck as he came towards us. The guy in the picture above isn't giving them the thumbs up because of approval, he's telling them to go up.

When the balloon went over my head, I was looking straight up into the balloon itself. It was so close this was as wide as I could get.

This is without a telephoto lens. They were right there. Those of us on the ground were yelling at them to go up, and they were yelling back that they were aiming for the control tower. We just assumed they were joking.

It turns out they weren't joking. The perspective isn't playing tricks on your eyes in this photo. They really were heading into the temporary control tower. You can't tell here but the eyes on some of the folks in that tower were big as saucers at this point.

At what seemed to us on the ground like the last possible minute, the pilot hit the burner for a good long lick and the balloon began to lift suddenly. Note the mast sticking up from the control tower behind the basket. See that little red light on the top of it?

Notice how the little red light is now gone? Sure enough, they got enough lift to clear the tower, but they smacked the antenna hard enough to dislodge the light.

The light fell to the ground, bouncing off the top of that port-a-potty.

And landing safely on the ground. I kept watching during the day, but they never did put it back up.

The guys in the balloon seemed to think it was pretty funny, but I don't think the folks in the control tower took it too well.

The Big Balloons

I've been lax in not showing you these pictures from the balloon launch at Sun-N-Fun last month. It was a great morning with nice weather, and they were able to get almost thirty balloons in the air. Pretty cool to be on the ground and see these giant inflatables float by silently, with only the occasional sound of the gas flame.

I think these are much cooler than the parade balloons I showed you from Washington , DC.

Flowers From Mom

Here are a couple of flowers that were blooming in Mom's garden the last time I was up there. I believe that's an amaryllis in the picture above, and below is a water lily growing in her fish pond.

Speaking Of Treasury

Since I just showed you some hockey players in front of the Department of the Treasury building, here's something else in front of the building. This is Albert Gallatin, the longest-serving Secretary of the Treasury for the US. Alexander Hamilton has a statue on the other side of the building, but I can't dig up a picture of that one right quick.

Pennsylvania Avenue

This is Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. I've shown you this street before, but this is the section in front of the White House. It's permanently closed off to most vehicle traffic for security reasons. However, I guess security doesn't preclude a little street hockey. This is actually more in front of Treasury than the White House proper, but it's close. Just full disclosure for you.

The Third Memorial

That same square in Waycross, GA, had not one, not two, but three different memorials to their soldiers. This third one seems to be a catch-all for those from WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam, each one getting it's own side. There's an eternal flame burning in that lantern atop the monument, or at least I think that's what it's supposed to be. It didn't appear to be burning when I was there, or it was burning very faintly and I couldn't see it in the bright daylight. Perhaps it only burns on special occasions.

Here's the plaque from the base of the statue. It seems to imply that the flame should be burning...

A War To End All Wars

From that same square in Waycross, GA, that I showed you a second ago, here's a statue to the fallen of a completely different war, this one described as The War To End All Wars. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out that way, but it was a nice thought. This monument commemorates the soldiers of the first World War.

I think it's called "Spirit of the American Doughboy". At least that's what it's labeled. I like the barbed wire, that's a nice tough. Why were American soldiers called Doughboys? There're some guesses out there, but I guess the true origin is lost to time.

The grenade in his hand is a nice touch, too. A little gory, but perhaps appropriate.

There's an old Kress store in the old downtown of every city in America, I think. It snuck into the background of my picture somehow...

Another Confederate Monument

Here's another in a continuing series of memorials and monuments to the soldiers who died during the War Between the States. This one is located in a small square in Waycross, GA.

"Erected by the Francis S. Bartow Chapter U.D.C. to the Confederate Veterans" Now you know.

There wasn't anything written on it, so I couldn't tell how long it had been there, but this wreath of magnolia leaves was near the base of the monument. It was in pretty nice condition, so it couldn't have been there too long. Somebody must still remember their veterans, even 150 years later.

All these monuments seem to have the same soldier at the top. OK, maybe not the same, but close.

Welcome To Blackshear

The small town I stayed in while visiting Georgia was called Blackshear. It's just a little ways up the road from Waycross, if you know where that's at.  We're talking extreme southeastern Georgia here. I don't think the tractor next to their sign is decorative, I think they had been working in the field to the right earlier and just left it there for a while.

The Wedding

I know some of you out there have been waiting patiently to see some pictures from the wedding in Georgia last weekend. Well, here are the happy bride and groom immediately after their first embrace as man and wife. The groom is my maternal grandfather, CV, and that's my new grandmother, Faye. I wish them all the best!

Mind The Thistles

I don't know what it is about these large thistle bushes, but I like 'em. Something about the thorny leaves topped with the big flower, I guess. I shot these on a roadside in Georgia last week, and they're nothing too exciting, just something I thought you might want to see. Nobody ever stops and looks at these things, even though they grow all over the side of the road.

Looks like I may have caught these part their prime. The purple bits are almost gone.