Thursday, August 20, 2020

Shorebirding at Keith McLean Conservation Area, Essex West Lagoons - Aug 2020

This past week - I've had some time to followup on a few excellent birding finds in southwestern Ontario. In particular - I had seen a Western Sandpiper at Essex West Lagoons (Found by Jeremy Hatt) and a Red Knot at Keith McLean (Found by Steve Charbeneau). 

I share some photos below: 

A Western Sandpiper was seen at Essex West Lagoons - Some photos below: 

Good Birding!


Monday, July 13, 2020

Comet - Neowise + Some Underwing Moths

I woke up this morning at 4:00 am, and headed out to Lakewood Park South, which is in Tecumseh ON. I met up with Steve Pelerin, who is a local astronomy expert. Using my 400mm lens on a cropped sensor resulted in many blurry, shaky photos. I had arrived having realized my wife removed my tripod from my car recently.

I will try to go back tomorrow with my tripod, and I might also try using different (non-telephoto) lenses.

I have been mothing alot lately - at least once per week. So far this year, I have seen at least 6 species of underwing moths, with three new lifer moths!

Below I have four that I was able to photograph:

Ultronia Underwing
Little Underwing (lifer)
Hawthorn Underwing (lifer)
White Underwing (lifer)
Ilia Underwing (not shown)
Girlfriend Underwing (not shown)

Good Astronomizing & Mothing,

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Bog Coppers + Skunks Misery Butterfly Tour

I have visited the Sifton Bog natural area several times over the last few years and its always been a nice, small natural area with distinct bog plants and geography. It really is a bog!

See interpretive brochure:

I had noted on the interpretive sign they have in their parking lot that they had bog coppers - but I had (wrongly) assumed that they were extirpated, as I had not seen them on any of my previous visits.

So this week - I had to purchase something in London - and made a trip to Sifton Bog, as well as Newbury ON (Skunks Misery).

These are tiny butterflies!  They have wingspans from 11mm-17mm! This is my fourth Copper species  --- the other three being: American, Bronze & Dorcas Coppers.  Bog Coppers are also called Crannberry Bog Coppers because they nectar and feed almost exclusively on Cranberry plants.

A lady on the bog viewing platform pointed out this frog with a snake attempting to consume it.

The white flower in the top right - looks like a cranes head looking down.
That is where Cran - Berry comes from (Crane-berry)

After my trip to London, I returned back towards Windsor with a plan to "scout" skunks misery for some butterfly species. They are having an annual butterfly count this weekend and its always good. I was hoping to see a Compton's Tortoiseshell but ... my luck had been exhausted in London. 

Some butterflies seen include:

Cabbage Whites - 10
Eastern Comma - 6
Gray Comma - 3
Question Mark - 5
Tawny Emperor  500 (an outbreak on Sassafras Rd!)
Great Spangled Fritillary  -6
Monarch - 3
Black Swallowtail - 3
Eastern Swallowtail - 2
Giant Swallowtail - 1 
Silver Spotted Skipper 5
Skipper Sp. 5
Banded Hairstreak  6

It seems that there is an outbreak of Tawny Emperors at Skunks Misery. On Sassafras Rd, towards Concession Line - there were hundreds of Tawny Emperors.  They were all over the road, and sadly, I noted many that had been killed by cars driving by. 

Good butterfly watching, 

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Shine Bright Like a Diamond - Astronomy Field Trip to Hallum Observatory

A friend of mine is a retired high school science teacher who now in his retirement - has become a lecturer/professor of astronomy at the local University.  He has been passionate about astronomy since he was a boy - so he has about 30 or 40 years of experience in the field!

He invited me out for a viewing recently - and - I must say I was pretty blown away. The spherical dome observatory hosted a powerful telescope that was computer controlled, and featured tracking so that as the earth rotates, the image in the viewfinder stays in place.

I made a note of some of the things I was able to view - but to be certain there were more. I had attempted to "digiscope" some of the things I was viewing with my cell phone, but quickly realized that its a fools errand, and that I would be much better off simply finding images of these subjects to supplement my notes. Please note that I've obtained internet photos of the various things I observed and that these photos are not my own. Photo credits will be provided below.

Messier 13 - M13
Ring Nebula - M57
Markarian's chain
Veil Nebula (east and west)
Jupiter (with sting of four moons in alignment)
Saturn (with three moons visible)
...others!?!? ...

Some things we observed were:
  • Messier 13 - M13

  • Ring Nebula - M57 
  • Veil Nebula (east and west)

  • Jupiter (with sting of four moons in alignment)

  • Saturn (with three moons visible)

I didn't realize this but in Comber ON (30 minutes from Windsor), there are surprisingly dark skies! Looking up, I could see countless stars. Steven pointed out constellations to me, both in the field and in software simulations. We had a discussion about the life cycle of stars, exoplanets, black holes. He explained to me how the moon had become tidally locked with earth's orbit, which is why we only see one side of the moon. We also noticed several (man made) satellites that zoomed through the night sky, at times reflecting the light from sun which was still above the horizon. It was cool to think that its travelling  (falling forward) at17,000 miles per hour which allows it to avoid the pull of earths gravity.

When I looked at Saturn and three of its visible moons last night - I realized that there are very few people in all of human history who had a chance to see the light of Saturn's ring, and its largest moon Titan (with its oceans of liquid methane) to hit the retinas of our eyes.

At one point, one woman who was enjoying the clear night sky with her telescope shared her sighting of Jupiter, with 4 of its moons in a line on one side of the planet. She described the string of moons as "sparkling diamonds in the sky".  A poetic reference for sure - which inspired the title of this posting and also, made me think of a Rhiana song with the same namesake.

To look up at the sky - and wonder - about life, time, space, the sheer vastness of the universe. Even with my basic and trivial knowledge of space and astronomy makes me realize that we are so infinitely small, and short lived in the scope of the universe... that all of our petty arguments, fashion trends, pride, materialism, ego, are all meaningless in the grand scheme of things. The things that really matter in life are physical, mental and spiritual health, friendships, love, family, knowledge, truth, charity, compassion, sustainable living and a quest for relentless and constant improvement.

I think I'm going to try and join the local astronomy club to increase my knowledge in this beautiful field of natural philosophy. As I drove home, I couldn't help but think about the lyrics from a song that crossed my mind regarding the beauty of looking up to the sky:

Repugnant is a Creature who would squander the ability
To lift an eye to heaven, conscious of his fleeting time here
Tool - "Right in Two" lyrics

Good Astronomizing,
Dwayne Murphy

Photo Credits:


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