I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Monday, May 20, 2019

Do you want that here or to go?

I hadn't realized that Savannah was such a party town, kind of an eastern version of New Orleans. I saw several of these trolleys, which are basically bars on wheels; the riders pump bicycle pedals to move the trolley along while drinking.

There was a mixup with my hotel checkin, so they gave me a voucher for a free drink in the bar. When I went to collect my glass of wine, the bartender asked, “Do you want that here or to go?”

Hot as hell

This dramatic sunrise closeup feels appropriate after surviving a few days in hot, humid Savannah. The weather probably hasn't been much worse than we'd get in New York in July, but it's May and my body definitely isn't ready for this.

Also, my hair has apparently morphed into some kind of out of control shrubbery. Fortunately it's frequently plastered flat to my skull by sweat.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Bonus bird blogging

I like how the early morning sun turns this crow's feathers red.

I left Hilton Head yesterday. After a stop at the Pinckney Island refuge, which was well worth a visit but so hot and humid that I can only marvel at the fortitude of those who visit it in July, I turned in the car at the Savannah airport and took a taxi into the city.

Three days was just about the right amount of time for Hilton Head; it's just a giant resort, and if you don't golf or play tennis or bask on the beach all day, there's a limited number of things to do. If I were still working, lounging by the pool and reading would have been a nice break, but I can -- and do -- lounge around and read in New York, so that's not exactly a change for me.

But oh I will miss those sunrises on the beach.

Sunday bird blogging

This is a  crop from a bigger picture I'll post later, but I have to highlight these adorable baby egrets from Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge today.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Bonus reflections

It's not as dramatic, but I did manage to capture moonlight reflected in the sand as well, in the soft pastel light of early evening.

Saturday reflections

Yesterday morning on the beach.

Friday, May 17, 2019

The moon also rises

A full moon rising over the dunes earlier this evening.

Audubon Newhall Preserve

There are things to see in Hilton Head away from the beach. This pretty little park has hiking trails and is blessedly uncrowded -- there was only one other car in the parking lot when I arrived.

Despite the Audubon name, there weren't a lot of birds. I could hear them, but saw only a few flashes of bright feathers in the undergrowth. It was still lovely to walk on the trails with the trees towering overhead and sit on a bench by the pond and absorb the quiet.

Friday morning

I'm not sure if it's possible to have too many pictures of sunrises -- I may be testing that -- but I just love this bicyclist this morning.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

More sunrise

I do tend to be an early riser, so it's not unusual for me to be awake at sunrise. And if it was visible from my Manhattan bedroom, I might occasionally see some of them. So a sunrise always feels like an occasion, and I have seen some memorable ones: over the Zambezi River in Zambia, through a fogged up bus window in Denali National Park, behind a courtyard of gum trees in the Australian Outback.

But sunrises, like sunsets, are best viewed over an ocean, and it's fun to have one right outside my hotel. Especially since I can have a breakfast that someone else cooked for me immediately afterwards.

Sunrise at Hilton Head

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Spooky footprints

The evening light created the illusion that these footprints were actually pressing up through the sand rather than being imprints, as though some group of magical beings had been strolling on the ceiling of an underworld below me.

The beach is next to my hotel in Hilton Head, South Carolina. What am I doing in Hilton Head? I wanted to piggyback off my successful week in Washington by trying a solo journey. I wanted to be somewhere by the water -- I don't really like beach resorts but I love the ocean -- and it's reasonably easy to get here. So I found a nice hotel on the beach I could pay for with points, booked a flight and a rental car and here I am.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Astronomy Tuesday

I've posted images from the Large Magellanic Cloud before -- and I've seen it, with its smaller companion galaxy, in the skies over Alice Springs, Australia -- but it didn't resemble this.

This image is a mosaic of 3900 frames with a total of 1,060 hours of exposure time in both broadband and narrowband filters, so you can see the clouds of ionized gas that surround the stars in a way that our eyes cannot. Cameras are often much less satisfactory than the human eye, because they don't have a human brain processing the light and deciding what we see. That's why it's impossible to get a good picture of a shadowed foreground without having the background sky fade to white unless you use a computer to stack multiple exposures; our brains can do the necessary adjustments automatically. But cameras do a much better job at seeing stars. They can see wavelengths our eyes cannot, and they can stare for hours if necessary to capture every photon of light.

Image Credit and Copyright: Team Ciel Austral - J. C. Canonne, N. Outters, P. Bernhard, D. Chaplain, L. Bourgon

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Bonus bird blogging

Some uncooperative birds are so spectacular that it's still worth sharing the crappy pictures I managed to get.

The feeder where the blue grosbeak in the top pictures was hanging out was on the far side of a fenced area, so even though I had an unobstructed view, it was too far away for even a 500mm lens to see clearly.

The other blue bird is an indigo bunting, and it was so far up in the trees that without binoculars or an enormous lens it was only a dark blue dot.

I'd never seen either of these species before. And those are some beautiful birds.

Sunday bird blogging

It was fun to be able to go to the park three days in a row to see the spring visitors, including several I'd never seen before.

Of course, it's the warblers that everyone gets excited about, and of course, I've never had a whole lot of luck finding and photographing warblers. They're tiny, and they move fast, and by the time they show up in late spring there are too many leaves for them to hide behind.

But occasionally -- very occasionally -- patience pays off. On my way out of the park Wednesday, I went back to a small clearing away from the crowds. I'd seen a thrush running away there earlier and hoped to get a picture, so I sat on a log and just waited.

After maybe ten minutes, I saw a thrush in the shadows and stood up, and this little warbler landed on the bush next to me. On top of the bush! In plain view! I only got one picture before it flew off, to this branch. Which had No Leaves On It!

For me, that's winning the bird lottery. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present the Northern Parula!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Saturday reflections

Windshields reflect winter trees in Hell's Kitchen in a photo from December.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Who's buried in Grant's Tomb, botanical version

I saw these bushes of gorgeous, purply-pink flowers in the Ramble in Central Park this week, and almost asked one of my fellow birders what they were.

Since my question would have gone something like Do you know what those beautiful flowers by the Azalea Pond are? I am happy to report that I managed to figure it out on my own.


Finishing up with Washington/Northern Virginia with this old house just outside of Middleburg.

Urban poetry

I was amused by this array of traffic lights in Middleburg, Virginia.

It's not really urban, though apparently the town planners disagree, foreseeing a future when there might be multiple lanes of traffic on the main street. Which is not currently the case, and from what I could see, even on a pretty Easter afternoon when the shops and sidewalks were crowded, one light in each direction would have sufficed.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Wednesday mammal blogging

The sun finally came out this week, so I've gone to the park every day to see birds.

I'm grateful to one of the rangers for pointing out this little brown bat sleeping in a tree. It looked like a dead leaf until you got close enough to see the claws.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Astronomy Tuesday

The Cassini probe may be gone, but its legacy of wonderful images from Saturn goes on.

Here the rings are almost edge on, in front of a backlit Titan. And the little moon just below Titan is Enceladus.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, JPL, SSI, Cassini Imaging Team

Monday, May 6, 2019

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Sunday bird blogging

As I've often written, unlike most birders I have a real fondness for house sparrows. They're invasive, and common, but I love their pluck, their fearlessness as they navigate city streets.

And just because they're brown and don't have any extravagant markings doesn't mean they aren't beautiful. 

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Saturday reflections

Let me tell you about the ones that got away....

I took this picture from the Uber as we rode down New York Avenue on our way to the Passover/Easter dinner. We had passed -- at a distance -- some wonderful reflections, and I said, I have to take a walk down here later this week and take pictures.

Which of course I never did. The skies were either overcast or cloudless blue the rest of the week, and I never saw anything like these magnificent skies -- mounds of clouds just before sunset -- again. You can only get the barest idea from these reflections, sadly; the real splendor was to the west and these windows were facing the wrong direction, but I do like the contrast between the glass towers and the old brick.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Cliches of photography

Obviously I'm not immune. These stairs were at the Women in the Arts museum.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

The Emancipation Proclamation

At the Museum of African American History and Culture.

I much preferred the history part of this museum. You take an elevator down three stories below ground and work your way back up along a ramp while going from the roots of slavery in Africa through its establishment in the colonies, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow to the present day. I was completely immersed in the experience -- it was shattering -- and honestly I probably should have just left afterwards.

Instead I took the escalator up to the culture floor. And that's the problem right there -- trying to fit it all on one floor. The music alone needs its own museum, and they try to cover theater, fashion, art, movies and television as well. I'm not sure how you could present all of that material without it feeling like the most glancing overview -- it was simultaneously too much and not enough.

And honestly, the only way to appreciate music is to listen to it, not look at costumes and awards in a glass case.

Random museum sightings

I did take pictures of exhibits at the many museums I visited in Washington last week, but most of them don't really capture the experience of seeing it in person.

Some are still worth sharing -- this statue at the National Museum of Women in the Arts was interesting mostly because it's by Sarah Bernhardt, who in addition to being a legendary actor was also an accomplished sculptor, with at least 50 documented works.

Rodin dismissed her work as old-fashioned tripe, but I've always thought of being able to carve life-size sculptures as a skill akin to magic so I'm pretty impressed by this “tripe.” I can't imagine the kind of brain that can excel in two such disparate creative fields.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

More urban poetry

Evening sky in Georgetown.

Urban poetry

A closeup of the fountain in Dupont Circle, taken with a fast shutter speed to catch those water droplets frozen in place.

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