Sunday, February 28, 2021

Northern Shrike, Red Shouldered Hawk + Bonus Astronomizing in February


Its really a beautiful time of year. The angle of the sun, the length of the day is slowly giving us a little taste of spring!  Red-winged blackbirds, Cardinals and House Sparrows have been singing their hearts out. Killdeer have returned to local fields - enlivening our soundscape. Turkey Vulture. I saw a Robin perched in a front-yard tree this week. I feel I have even seen a moth while night driving a few days ago.

Yesterday morning, I had heard that there was a Northern Shrike nearby and I made an effort to go see it. My sedentary lifestyle of sitting for most of the day is not doing any favours to my middle-aged body - so I take the effort to go for a walk on a nice weekend morning. The birds motivate me to get out there!

I had originally dipped on seeing the shrike (But I did see it later - *thanks Rick*) - but I did get a brief view of a Red-shouldered Hawk. Later I photographed a bird that I assumed was a red tailed hawk --- but after looking at it a little more ... I realized it might be a Juv Red Shouldered Hawk! (See collage  below). 

Here are three somewhat noteworthy astronomy sightings from the last week or so... Again --- I'm just starting out with Astronomy. All I am using is ( ) stellariumweb app, my binoculars, my scope, and my Canon 7D 400mm Camera on a tripod.  In each of the three scenes below, I show the stellarium app view and the photograph I was able to take. 

Cancer (Crab Constellation)  - Beehive Star Cluster 

Triangulum Constellation - C28 - Starcluster 

Gemini Constellation - M35 Star Cluster in foot of Gemini

Good Birding, Good Astronomizing!


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Astronomy - Photographing Planet Uranus (Sat Feb 20th, 2021 & Tuesday Feb 23rd, 2021)


Blog readers might have picked up on a newer interest of mine--- Astronomy!  

Recently, I had read that Planet Mercury was highly visible just after sunset, and I had made an effort to go see that and amazingly - I was able to.

Then, another astronomical feat that I accomplished was to see the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn around the Winter Solstice on Dec 21st, 2020.

Mars is quite easy to see ... it seems that it is visible in the night sky generously over the last month or two. 

Venus has been out of site as of late - but should be visible after May 24th for a good part of the year. I have seen venus a few times in the past - but I was not really into astronomy at the time but I do recall being impressed with how bright it was.

Finally, the two farthest planets in our solar system - Neptune and Uranus... I have never seen these planets or even attempted to. But... I have finally made an effort to find these gaseous giants and amazingly --- my meager efforts worked! (Well- I looked for Planet Uranus and found it convincingly Saturday Feb 20 2021)

How to find it?

I typically go out on my back porch in Windsor.  Launch the FREE Stellarium APP software on your phone.

You can compare what you see with what the app shows.  In the photos below, I show how the app can show a planet (see bottom center) with respect to other surrounding stars. Mars is easy to see with the naked eye. Then, Stars: HAMAL and SHERATAN (Bottom Right) are visible with the naked eyed and through the viewfinder of my 400mm Prime Canon Lens with Canon 7D.  After photographing SHERATAN --- I panned horizontally to the left. Although the stars and planets are too faint to see with the naked eye, you can view the photo preview window to see the patterns as shown in the app.  Using this approach, I found Planet Uranus --- even with a slight green-blue hue as described online. 


Sitting out on my back porch, dressed up in winter gear in -8 C temps, looking through a scope, camera, app is quite challenging. Astrophotography demands patience and a good tripod. Another complicating factor is that when these items are high in the sky, the tripod is not designed to have a camera point straight up --- so creative setups need to be implemented - for ergonomics and ones sanity.

I will try to research and figure out when Neptune will be visible. I was going to look for it tonight (Sunday Feb 21st 2021) --- but of course --- its cloudy. 

Tuesday Feb 23 (Second Attempt)

---Starting to realize that a 4 second exposure will show 'streaking' as the earths' rotation at this telescopic view will blur a sphere.  I took many photos but the two below are closer to 2-3 seconds as opposed to 4 second exposures. (ISO and aperture were sacrificed for shutter speed).  The two photos below also have had noise reduction and darkening the background. 

Uranus is 4x bigger in diameter than the earth. Its is 3.02 BILLION kms away from Earth. I consider myself as a select few human beings that have ever seen this tiny aqua blue green dot with my own eyes. I have to give credit to the stellarium app, my celestron 80mm spotting scope, my camera (canon 7D with 400mm lens as well as some solid manfrotto tripods). 

I want to photograph Neptune eventually --- but it will be a few months before it is in view at nightime. Venus as well. 

Good Astronomizing!

Sunday, February 21, 2021

February Birding - Redpolls, Snow Buntings & Rough Legged Hawks


This February has been a pretty good month for birding in Windsor -Essex. Probably the best highlight has been a small influx of Common Redpolls that I have seen in a few different spots in the city and county!

Snow buntings and Lapland Longspurs are pretty common in the depths of winter - but are always fun to see. 

In this past month, I've had some great looks at Kestrels, Merlins and Rough legged Hawks. I have seen a Merlin near ADM / Black Oak Heritage Park (Windsor West End) almost daily for the last week. I have never been able to see one so consistently in the decade or so that I have been bird watching. 

Just this weekend, I was driving near Harrow, and a Dark Morph Rough Legged Hawk gave generous looks and it looped right over the road I was driving on.  I got tonnes of photos as the bird flew overhead. Sunshine and blue sky along gave for great photography of this bird. And amazingly, the snow-covered fields provided for some lighting from underneath giving the photos an almost HDR effect. As the Rough legged Hawk soared through the sky, I had noticed that the bird almost eclipsed the moon, which was out on Saturday afternoon--- and --- full disclosure --- I figured I might try to see if I could transpose the bird next to the moon ... how did it turn out?


The most amazing bird in this month is one I had seem a few weeks ago - a Virginia Rail that (perhaps?) attempted to overwinter in the county.  It has most definitely moved on to a warmer area south of here but ... it was pretty cool to see this bird in early February. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Manhattan Island --- What it might have looked like before European Settlement

This video below crossed my youtube feed, and I was mesmerized by it. If you have 15 minutes, consider watching this video below. Its a presentation about what Manhattan Island looked like before European settlement. It ties in history, GIS (Geographical information systems), ecology and more.

This clip below is a 2 minutes video scene from a  sci-fi movie entitled "Lucy" - in which this woman was drugged and accidentally started to use her brain beyond the theoretical sub 10% level. As she reaches 80-90-99% of her brain - she is able to cross the space-time continuum --- and she travels back in time on Manhattan Island. It perhaps compliments the earlier TED Talk....

To see the Mannahatta Project website mentioned in the first video --- Click here:


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