House Wren | Welcome Back

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Our View From Iowa

I cleaned out the House Wren birdhouse last week to prepare for their arrival this week. This morning a single male could be heard in the bushes out back singing away. He soon got busy adding new twigs to the house in preparation for arrival of the females. He must do a good job in order to attract a female.

Wren1

Most of the twigs were small and fit easily into the small hole. But, now and then he brought one up that was awkward like this one. He tried several different approaches, first one end then the other.

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This stick got the best of him. He seemed quite frustrated with it. Persistence paid off in the end.

Wren3

These tiny birds are really busy non-stop. They forage for food. They sing loudly. They are very aggressive toward other birds much larger if they need to be. They scold us at times…

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Autumn Leaves | Scanned Images

Fellow bloggers Steve and Steve often include beautiful close-up photos of leaves in their posts. They inspired me to try imaging leaves in a different way. I decided to use a flatbed scanner. During a recent walk, I picked up three examples that were colorful and still in good shape. I got a pin oak, maple, and ornamental pear and headed home.

First up on the scanner was the oak leaf. I placed it face down on the glass and set the resolution to a high value of 800 dpi. I wanted to get lots of detail in the scanned image.

oak800_ref

Pin oak | 800 dpi | Reflection setting

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Perseid Meteors | 2015

Sky conditions could be excellent this year for the Perseid meteors. The moon will not be bright. If your sky is clear the night of August 12 into the morning of August 13, you have the opportunity to see several meteors per hour. The peak will occur at 3 am on the 13th CDT.

That is quite early. You can see them the night before in smaller numbers. Watch for their radiant near Cassiopeia in the eastern sky well after dark.

I invite you to listen to this audio tour of the August sky events brought to you by Sky & Telescope.

Venus and Jupiter | Photo Project

During June 16-30, people around the world watched the planets Venus and Jupiter near each other in the evening sky. Their performance culminated on the 30th when they were a mere 1/3˚ apart. Details here.

Multiple day events like this are challenging to watch. Weather in some parts of the world is unreliable. Here in the middle of the U.S. we have a wide variety of sky viewing conditions. Even so, I attempted to document this two week event with a picture each evening at about 9:30 pm. I put the images in sequence to show the movements of each planet.

I found a good location half a block down the street from our house. The camera was on a tripod and set to manual. It has a 6x optical zoom. Each photo was at a 3x zoom setting. ISO was 200. Aperture was f/5.6. Focus distance was infinity. Shutter speed was between 0.5 and 2 sec depending on brightness of the sky. Self-timer was always used to avoid shaking the camera.

I want to see your results.

Death of a Dove

It had been quite a while since I last used the window cleaning tools to reach those on the second floor. Maybe I would get around to it soon. But, no hurry.

There was a loud thud on the window. Birds will often do that as they come and go at our feeders. Sure enough, there was a faint outline of a bird in flight on the glass. A Dove was dead on the patio below. A few small feathers stuck to the glass where it made impact. I could barely make out some other features on the glass.

dove1

That night, with the room lights off, I put the camera on a tripod pointing at the impact spot from the inside to the darkness outside. I set the camera for a 6 second time exposure. There is another window to the right of this one. I reached out and painted the crash site from the right side with a small flashlight during the 6 seconds.

What a surprise. A leg extended down. Curved wings showed up clearly. The neck was twisted badly and probably broke upon impact. Some minor editing cleaned up the dirty window surrounding the outline. But, there it was, almost like a photograph of the crash.

I’m glad I wasn’t in a hurry to wash that window.

Castor Bean | Hard Freeze | Update 6

Our View From Iowa

Links to the Original post, Update 1, and Updates 2 and 3, 4, and 5


It was bound to happen. Cold air from the north arrived recently and killed the once tall and strong castor bean plant. It looked so sad. It will not regrow in the spring. I will see if the seeds are viable.

20141107_085035 November 8, 2014

The seeds never quite fully ripened. The prickly pods contain 3 in each. A few were starting to split. I cut off the long stalk of them for a closer look. Plus, they will be destroyed and not put out to the environment for animals or children to access. They are toxic.

2014_1107_03 Click to embiggen

Here are some close views of a seed pod followed by photos of the 3 seeds compartments and one of a seed exposed. I read where the seeds resemble a tick full of blood

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