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Preview: Ashe's Eye on the World

Ashe's Eye on the World

Updated: 2015-09-16T13:13:51.104-04:00


Mustard gone wild


A field splashed with the bright yellow of mustard is sure sign of spring, which I am posting about a month and a half late.

Although beautiful, this area is normally a kind of a no-mans land - the banks of the Codorus Creek where I-83 and U.S. 30 cross on tandem bridges. We were there looking for falcons, but came away with a broad-tailed hawk instead. The blooming mustard under dramatic skies was an unexpected bonus.

Holy Hail!


A few weeks ago, we had a storm with only a little thunder and lighting, but some mighty big hail. I don't think I've ever seen any larger. As you can see, the largest ones were around an inch in diameter. Luckily, we had no damage from it.


The back yard looked like someone went a little mad with a box of mothballs.


Windy with a chance of wind


We thought our first few days here were windy - until we experienced the last two days! The wind was constantly blowing between 15-20 mph and gusts were to 30 mph and above.

That being said, we did spend time in one place where the wind could not reach: Carlsbad Caverns. Cave pictures are hard to take without a lot of gear I don't have, but I managed a few that are ok. Its also hard to get a sense of scale in the caverns - below you can can see the handrail to the paved trail. The columns are pretty big!

(image) But this little area is no more than 3 or 4 feet high, and packed full of delicate formations. If memory serves, it was called the Doll's Theater.

(image) After the cave, we returned to our sojourn in the winds of west Texas. We spent two nights at Guadalupe Mountains National Park's campground at Pine Springs. Last night, I had a dream that we were part of a military experiment to see how tents withstand winds!

(image) Thankfully, ours held up well and we were able to take a morning hike. In the distance you can see the signature landmark of the Guadalupe Mts, the large rock outcrop called El Capitan.

(image) Lastly, our entire trip has been under the light of a more or less full moon. We have been able to operate outside at night without any other source of light, and the moonlit landscape is eerie and awesome, to boot.

White World


When you're in White Sands on a cloudy day, there's not much color left but white. At least at the Big Dune Nature Trail, some vegetation provides relief.

(image) Out in the Heart of the Dunes, the distant mountains provide more blue than the sky.

This last photo is not a black and white shot, but could pass for one pretty well.


Middle Creek morning


I met up with my Dad and my Uncle at Middle Creek on Thursday morning for a beautiful few hours with the waterfowl.

(image) Ironically, though, my best photos were not of ducks, swans, or geese at all. Tree swallows, bluebirds and red-wing blackbirds all tend to hang out on the wire fencing prevalent in Middle Creek. This time we were able to roll up to a swallow and get a few shots before it spooked.

And during that tremendous sunrise, with honking all around, one song sparrow grabbed a high perch and kept its song up against all the bigger bird noises.

(image) And finally ...

**** Caution: Men at Work ****


Tern Time on Cumberland Island


While we were traipsing around Cumberland Island last month, we found two types of terns. This is a royal tern:

And this is a Forster's tern:

Here's cedar waxwings on palm trees. Kind of funny, for a bird I'm used to seeing in the dead of winter, usually eating holly berries or something similar. There were quite a few waxwings around.

(image) Here's one of the trails in the "Sea Camp" area of the island. Just a little down the trail is an actual campground. As we walked through the campground, we noticed many birds: numerous cedar waxwings, a common yellowthroat, some type of wren, and a very close encounter with what was probably a ruby-crowned kinglet.

(image) The trail marker wasn't upright, but it was still picturesque, earlier hikers had decorated it with shells.


Scoter suite and a bonus duck


On a recent trip to Barnegat, New Jersey, we were fortunate to see all three types of scoters, plus plenty of other sea ducks. The scoters, as a group, are a really unusual-looking set of birds. One of the people we were with said that since we'd seen all three types, it made the "suite."

(image) The surf scoter is probably the oddest of all of them, with an oversized bill and dots of contrasting colors on its head. But even the plain plumage of the black scoter comes with a big orange, oddly shaped bill. These two scoters are in the above picture, and that's about as close as they came in to the jetty's rocks. A friendly white-winged scoter, though, sidled right up and posed for a group of photographers, most of them shooting with cameras and lenses right out of what my Dad would have. The ice blue eye was really striking when seen this closely.

(image) And here's the bonus, a long-tailed duck drake. You can just make out the two extra-long tail feathers in the photo. One of my favorite birds of the day!


More from Georgia


A picturesque cat in St. Mary's, where the ferry leaves to go to Cumberland Island. While waiting for the boat, I saw this cat and also a Eurasian collared dove, which are an introduced dove that is apparently common in the South. A few live in Pennsylvania, including a small colony in Franklin County, relatively close to where I grew up. Who knew??? Had to go all the way to Georgia to see one!

(image) Fort Frederica is on St. Simons Island. Its a partially excavated colonial-era fort. The original settlers grew oranges, and some trees have been restored. With no one to eat them, they lay on the ground. I thought the picture looked almost like a selective color shot.

(image) The old streets are marked, too, making a nice perch for this Eastern phoebe. At least that's what I think it is.

(image) Lastly, I wanted to get a nice shot of the stereotypical "look" of the coastal South - a live oak awash with ferns and spanish moss.

(image) This was at Ft. Frederica, too. This little park was a nice surprise - we visited it simply from seeing its name on the map. The open parkland is studded with oaks and oranges and overlooks the river. I thought that it must've been an idyllic place to live, even in past centuries, until I realized that we were there in February, which is well before all the itching, biting, annoying insects come out to play.

New Jersey Birds


I'm trying to break out of winter blogging hibernation, and birds seem like a good way to do it. Last weekend, we went to Barnegat Lighthouse in New Jersey. There's a jetty almost a mile long that stabilizes the northern end of Long Beach Island. You can see it here. For all intents and purposes, this area appears to be a duck magnet:

(image) Ok, ok, this isn't a duck, its a dunlin. Shorebirds seem to like Barnegat just fine, too. The ducks are coming right up - below is a group of six or so Harlequin ducks.

(image) These guys have spectacular plumage. I saw a harlequin duck back in 2005 - I turned around, and there it was, and then it was gone. We got much better looks at them this time. In fact, none of the birds seemed at all concerned about human presence, making for some nice photographic opportunities. I'll post some more soon, maybe :)

Live on Location - Cumberland Island, GA


Northern states - I know where all of our robins went! This small clearing on Cumberland Island easily held 300 or more robins. Also in the area were about 100 yellow-rumped warblers and 100 or more cedar waxwings. I got a shot of bluebirds and cedar waxwings sitting side by side in a tree - a first for me!

(image) Cumberland Island borders Kings Bay's Naval Submarine Base, whose specialty is ... submarines, of course! Here's one leaving the base and heading towards points unknown. At one point its hatch opened and people emerged and walked to and fro on its top as it continued its journey.

(image) Armadillos are a common sight on the island, and aren't scared of humans. Nonetheless, they look like something straight out of prehistory or science fiction, but something still vaguely cute.

(image) A walk on the beach side of the island revealed some great birds, including American oystercatchers ...

... and royal terns, among others that might show up in future posts.


Look what the storm blew in ...


Despite the blustery weather, or perhaps because of it, our incredibly small urban backyard was graced by a palm warbler today.

(image) I first noticed this bird fluttering through a half-snow covered chrysanthemum. It wasn't leery of human presence at all, and approached within six feet of me several times. It flipped and flitted through the snow while I watched and snapped pictures, for a total of about 20 minutes over two or three different sessions.

(image) As an aside, this wild nor'easter weather also failed to discourage the presence of Pennsylvania's first recorded Allen's hummingbird, which is still feeding happily away at a feeder in a suburban Lancaster County townhouse development. Us Easterners are familiar with the ruby-throated hummers, who are not particularly cold hardy. However, each year, more and more reports of rufous, and now Allen's hummers are turning up in the east. These birds are well equipped to deal with temperatures into the teens and may stay in a northern area where feeders are available until late December and even January. Quite an interesting development!

Street light, moon light


Taken on the front steps to our house, as the moon provided a backlight for the American flag at the post office:


Vegas, Baby


Nothing says you're in denial of cold weather coming like heading out to the desert in October. And while Vegas has any number of attractions and distractions, one of the things I really enjoy about it is the almost unlimited variety of color and texture.

(image) A group of palm trees backlit by the marquee of the Flamingo casino.

(image) An elaborate light fixture in the Golden Nugget casino.

Dusted with Snow


A few fall items covered with an early coat of snow ...

(image) ornamental cabbage and chrysanthemums


Fulton Fall (Winter???) Folk Festival


A blast of winter greeted the FFFF this year and made for some trying conditions.

(image) These little gourds can be had for 3 or 4 for a dollar and are a fall staple of the festival's sales spots, along with mums, pumpkins, apples, whoopie pies, and ham & bean soup. Not to mention that everything under the sun can be found at the yard sales and impromptu flea markets that sprout up across the county for this four-day festival.

The FFFF parade on Saturday also faced miserable weather conditions: cold rain interspersed with spitting snow. Nonetheless, even the little guys came out to see the tractors ride through town.

Power on the move


Our little town had quite the carnival atmosphere this weekend, because visitors were here.

(image) Several weeks ago, two enormous steam generators destined for the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant arrived in the United States. A French company called AREVA constructed the generators, which were shipped by boat across the Atlantic, north through the Chesapeake Bay, and as far along the Susquehanna River as the water depth would allow. Then, the generators were boarded onto specialized carriers to make their way across Lancaster County at 3-4 mph. They arrived in town Friday, and were parked along a side street for the weekend.

(image) These behemoths are 74 feet long, 25 feet high, and weigh in at over 1,000,000 pounds each. The logistics of moving them safely are apparently tremendous, as the sheer weight is a threat to local roads and bridges that were not designed to handle such loads. To help alleviate the strain, each generator is loaded onto a carrier with 24 axles. Each axle supposedly carries weight equivalent to a fire truck. The generators appear to be accompanied by a large fleet of State Police Officers at all times, and local newspapers report that the convoy is over a mile in length when on the move.

On Sunday night, these generators are slated to leave town. They must cross Route 30 to reach TMI, but they are too heavy for the bridge that would take them across the U.S. Highway. So, the plan is to close Rt. 30 in the wee hours of the morning and have the equipment to cross 30 at grade by going up an off-ramp, removing the guardrails that make up the center median, and then exiting by the off-ramp for the westbound lanes.

One of the policemen on duty said they take a corner much better than you would think!

A banner day


I carpool with a coworker most days, and we've been seeing a bald eagle very occaisionally, in a particular area where a small stream joins with the larger Codorus Creek. There's a large concrete box on the creek bank where the two streams meet. Its an industrial area and very near to the city of York, not your typical wildlife viewing habitat. Twice we've seen it sitting on the box, one time using the box as a dinner table to eat a fish.

(image) Yesterday, however, the birds upped it a notch. As we were crossing the Susquehanna River at the start of our commute, we saw a large bird fly over the bridge. I couldn't confirm it was a bald eagle, but when I looked to the right, I saw a second bird with the distinctive white head and tail flying low and fast over the water. This eagle eventually landed on a rock in the river, next to another large bird. But they were too far away at this point to ID the third bird.

As we arrived in York, we figured it would be too great a coincidence to see our "regular" eagle. But, we kept our eyes peeled, and sure enough, the eagle was perched on the concrete box. This time he had a friend, a second eagle sitting on a small stone in the stream. We turned the car around to get a better look, and took a picture with the only camera available to us, my coworker's iPhone. Today, with my camera in my lunch sack, we saw no eagles at all ... go figure!

Honeymoon Catch-up


I guess now is as good a time as any to dig into my massive pile of photos from our honeymoon this July.

(image) This is Summit Lake in Lassen Volcanic Park, with Lassen Peak in the background. Our first night of camping was spent in the edge of the trees to the right. Lets just say that this was a bad time to discover that we'd forgotten to pick up any bug spray. As the sun went down, I walked out along the lake and found this hidden view - you had no idea the mountain was back there from the campsite.



As the middle of September approaches, a Pennsylvanian knows that the first frost is uncomfortably close to hand. But even so, the garden is still producing plenty of tomatoes, and I wanted to get some photographic evidence before the cold ultimately destroys the vines. Late last winter, I decided to focus on tomatoes after happening upon a book called Heirloom, which followed a farmer who specialized in heirloom varieties of tomatoes.

I hopped on E-bay and had soon purchased seeds for "Aunt Ruby's German Green," "Cherokee Purple," "Yellow Pear," & "Mexican Midget." I also planted a hybrid "Early Girl" as insurance. After much worry and trepidation over the future of my little seedlings, we were fortunate to have the most perfect tomato-growing summer possible here in central PA. Temperatures were reasonable, rain was plentiful, and the tomatoes darn near took over the yard. Here's a pie plate full of them, including two oddball varieties that volunteered on their own, with no aid whatsoever from me. I guess they're a gift from the people that owned the house before we did!

Getting my feet wet again ...


After many moons without a new post - moons that encompassed a wedding and a honeymoon and various other smaller-scale adventures - I am dipping my toes back into the blogging water.

Towards the end of August, our weather switched abruptly from high summer to early fall, and this clear warm evening on the river was just the ticket. I actually wore out the batteries in my camera taking multiple pictures of golden sunset interplaying with river and bridge.

April was ...


... a month of baseball in Ohio ....

(image) ... continued improvement projects ....

... blankets of spring wildflowers ...

(image) ... backyard blooms ...

(image) ... and canoeing in the Jersey Pinelands ...

(image) ... maybe now that its over, I can get back to blogging more often!

A Morning at Middle Creek


My parents came up for the weekend on Saturday, and Dad and I took the opportunity to run up to Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area for sunrise on Sunday morning.

While the large flocks of snow geese and tundra swans have moved on, a few individual geese were still to be found. A group of three were foraging within a few yards of the road for most of the morning. This is one of the three. Two of the three were noticeably holding a wing at an unnatural angle; they will not be making the migration this year.

Dad and I were exchanging lenses and equipment, and I am not 100% sure if he or I took this picture of a flying cormorant. I think it was Dad, but I enjoy the cormorant's unique silhouette, and since I took the liberty of cropping and otherwise adjusting the photo, I am posting it here :)

And lastly, the song of the red-winged blackbird could be heard throughout the morning. Many were perched at various intervals along the wire fencing used in the park. Here, a blackbird breaks into his call.

What I Did Last Weekend


I found some colts foot, just unfurling, in Mont Alto State Park. We were there for our friend's Pennsylvania wedding reception and I wasn't really expecting to find any spring flowers. But I did manage to catch a few colts foot (colts feet?), which are usually the first ones out.

(image) Then, on Sunday, my Aunt & Uncle (Salty) came for a visit. Salty explains the situation and history of the bridge very well in his latest post, but I thought you might appreciate a "behind-the-scenes" picture of his totally incredible shot of the bridge.

And then, the storm hit and we got hail. Probably the largest hail I have seen since I was a small girl, but we were fortunate as just a few miles north of us golf ball sized hail stones were reported.

(image) We were very lucky in that we only received high winds and heavy rain, many nearby areas suffered damage and it was later confirmed that a tornado touched down in the northern part of the county. And all this, in March!

More News from the Backyard


The snow drops are finishing up now, but this picture was taken in their prime just over a week ago.

These crocus are ones that I planted in the fall. I am pleased with their "up and at 'em" attitude this spring.


More Wedding Fun in Garden of the Gods


Part of the ceremony involved seven colorful ribbons. Prior to the start of the wedding, the happy couple had given members of their family one of the ribbons. At the beginning of the vows, the officiant had the couple place their palms face to face, and during the ceremony, each family member placed their ribbon in a loose loop around their hands. At the end, the couple took the loop and "tied the knot" together.

(image) Here Sandy is letting the wind play with the ribbons from the ceremony. They are to remain with the couple as a memento and reminder of the vows taken.

(image) This is the wedding party, including moi. Sandy was the most easy-going bride imaginable - just told me to go find whatever dress I wanted, in hunter green.

(image) And this was the passing of the torch, so to speak. Sandy gave me her bouquet (no tossing involved) at the end of the day, as I am the next to be headed to the altar. While the flowers themselves will eventually pass on, the bouquet contains a hand painted orange butterfly crafted from dyed feathers that will proudly take a place in my bouquet come July.