Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Olentangy Shore

Olentangy Shore, originally uploaded by Tom Arbour.

The Olentangy River was absolutely beautiful Sunday evening and I was able to capture several images with my camera. I am sure most of this Ice has melted (it is 52 right now), but it may soon have scenes like this after our temperatures drop again.


And I thought 6 Billion Gallons was a Ton of Water...

Last weekend, I shared pictures from a quick stop by the O'shaughnessy dam and reservoir on the northwest edge of the Columbus metro area. Two days later, I visited another one of this great city's water sources, Hoover Reservoir, which stores over 20 billion gallons. That is the number two and ten zeros-20,000,000,000! Hoover is also a well birded site--in fact, it is part of the Big Walnut Important Bird Area, designated by Audubon Ohio as such.

So last Monday when I had the day off thanks to Martin Luther King, I decided to head over to the Hoover dam to see what was to be seen. To my surprise, plenty of interesting things were going on this cold, windy, and clear January day.

I started out by driving Megan's yellow Volvo wagon down the narrow asphalt access road to the bottom of the dam and parked the car in the empty lot. There were reports on the Ohio Birds e-mail list of mallards and a hooded merganser frequenting an open area just below the dam.

Sure enough, there they were. Plenty of mallards, and a pair of hooded mergansers. The male hooded has a bright white hood and can be seen in the upper left, in the water.

I also enjoyed watching the relatively common ring-billed gulls circle the artificial canyon created by the dam.

I was able to practice my panning technique on these gulls. I must say, I wasn't expecting much from these photos, but I was pleasantly surprised when I downloaded them onto my computer. I was really fortunate to have such pleasing light.

And since blogger is giving me fits right now, I'm going to save part two, the waterfowl of Hoover Dam, for tomorrow.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Views from Madison

Some quick shots from my trip:

The capitol building in Madison, quite a place. It looks great from each of the four angles that you can view it from, although I was only brave enough to capture it from this view. I was surprised my Canon A60 camera actually worked in the -1 Fahrenheit temperatures.

The University sits right on Lake Mendota. The large wooded area is a nature preserve that I wasn't able to get to during my short stay. The Lake was completely frozen, and was frequented by both ice anglers and cross country skiers.

The "Old Red Gym" sat right next to our conference center. Quite imposing, this building also served as an armory. It also sits right on the lake.

Finally, the place where I was dropped off by the lovely Vangalder bus company-which is obviously affiliated with Coach USA. I was was quite relieved when I arrived to campus on Wednesday night!

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

BRRRRRRR...Madison is really cold!

-1 Degree. -11 Windchill. Boy do they make it cold here in Wisconsin. Why haven't we figured out a way to bottle up that cold air and pump it back into our houses during summer?

Lessons from this trip:

#1. Don't fly through Chicago, no matter how much you like to see rows and rows of 777's and 747's (i'm a airliner buff). Everyone else I talked to who connected in Cleveland, Detroit, or Minneapolis to get to this conference actually landed at the Madison airport. I did not. United wasn't able to get me here Thursday night and instead of staying at Megan's Uncle's house until the next morning when I did have a confirmed flight, I actually hopped on a bus that brought me to Madison three hours later. Crazy I know, but it was only a one block drag (I have my rollerboard suitcase) across the snowy sidewalk to my hotel.

#2. It is darn cold in Madison Wisconsin. It is ice-immediately-forms-on-your-nose-hairs cold. To my friends in High School, yes, you know how cold it really is here in Madison. Colder than a _______. I'll let them fill in the blank. Usually you think of snow as being wet. Not here-- the snow has a texture similar to styrofoam since it is so cold and so dry.

#3. Lakes. I finally got to see Lake Mendota, made famous to me in my limnology class at Miami University. It seemed like every scientific paper I read on lakes was either completed on Lake Mendota or compared their results to a study of Lake Mendota. I can see why the University is so famous for lake studies, since the campus is smack dab right against the lake. I even saw a bored looking college student shuffling snow around on the ice this afternoon as I was listening to a presenation.

#4. Madison is great little town. A jammed packed little town. Since the town sits on an isthmus between two lakes, space is at premium. Many of the buidlings in the area, including my hotel,are 6-8 stories tall. There don't seem to be any skyscrapers here either. State street is lined with cutesy boutiques, ethnic restaurants, and your typical college student stores--outdoor gear, college sweatshirt joint, bike shop, camera store, and art supply place. Oh yeah, and a cool looking old time movie theater.

So that's all I have, the conference has been great so far, I've gained quite a bit of insight into what other states are doing as far as mapping invasive plants go. I feel like today was a crash course to catch me up with the past 10 years or so of things that have been going on, and my brain was a bit frazzled. A nice walk down State Street in the -1 degree temperatures took some of the edge off. Did I mention it was cold here?


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

What holds back 6.3 billion gallons of water?

The O'Shaughnessy dam northwest of the City of Columbus. Megan and I checked out the this dam and 840 acre reservoir for the first time this past weekend after our frigid late afternoon visit to the Columbus Zoo.

The most interesting thing about the dam, to me, was the fascinating water patterns created by artificial waterfalls.

Although the above picture is rather artificial, further on down the spillway there were several "water steps" that looked as if they were meant to recreate the look of a natural waterfall. The pattern reminded me of a terrarium background that I had when I used to keep fire bellied toads ( Bombina orientalis) many years ago. The photograph on my background was probably taken on some tropical island. This day was anything but tropical, although not yet cold enough for ice to form around the fast moving water.

As far as natural history goes, I have been told that the limestone outcroppings are a sure place to see snow trilliums Trillium nivale, a species originally described and named by John Leonard Riddell M.D. from material he collected right here in Central Ohio. Ah, but those plants will have to wait a few more months!

This day, of natural interest, was a group of a dozen mallard or so ducks and the ubiquitous ring-billed gull. Although I tend to think of ring-bills as pests, I must say, it was quite fun photographing their soaring flight. I was able to practice my "panning" technique which I will hopefully perfect before our trip to Sanibel Island come March. And speaking of trips, I'll be headed to Wisconsin tomorrow to learn more about a data management system that may help us better track invasive species in Ohio. I hear that the high in Madison is going to be 9 tomorrow! Wish me luck....


Live Backyard Bird Cam

I have the web cam running this afternoon (I set it up during lunch) and quite a few cardinals have been stopping by the feeding station in our backyard. In addition, I have put out sunflower seeds right in front of the camera on the window ledge. It was quite fun today at lunch to watch the cardinals through the window. I do not have one way glass, but they were so busy eating they apparently did not mind me watching. Looking at wild birds from six inches away is pretty darn cool.

Live Bird Cam

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Natural Ice Sculptures from Kenney Park

This morning I had a few minutes to hike back to Kenney Park and check on the Olentangy River. The river is moving too fast and temperatures have not dropped enough for the river to ice over. However, left high after the floods, were several pools of ice. The beautiful and intricate patterns were very fun to photograph. My friend Bryan recently sent me a web link to a page about different types of ice. formed. I will have to do my research later on and see if any of these formations match up with the photographs on the page he sent. Megan and I are headed to the Columbus Zoo this afternoon. I hope you enjoy these images.

Which one do you like best?


Little Pond- a first attempt at HDR imaging

Little Pond
Originally uploaded by Tom Arbour

One the most interesting things about digital photography is the ability to produce things called high dynamic range images (HDR). I have seen this technique used on FLICKR and have always been intrigued. The images I see are usually quite strange looking. Recently, I have seen landscape images produced using HDR techniques that were quite appealing. After doing some internet research, I think I have caught the "HDR bug"!

Last night I created my first HDR image. I used a software program called Photamix Basic to combine two images of Little Pond into one image. The original images, taken within seconds of each other and with a tripod were under and over exposed. By themselves, the images did not look very good. However, put take the lights from one image and the darks from another, smush them together in a computer, and whala!, this is what you get. I like this image, although if I cropped it so that the light spot in the lower right was eliminated, I think it would be more pleasing and balanced.

Chris asked to see the starting images, and here they are. I think that the final picture takes more from the second image. Be sure to click on the final picture to see the image at FLICKR, where you can also take a look at the image at larger sizes.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Nine Years Ago.......

Nine years ago to the day I was on a Boeing 747 jet zooming across the Pacific Ocean to Sydney, Australia. I spent three months in this fantastic country. Recently, I found David's Images of Nature Photography blog, and his pictures have brought me right back to that country. This shot of a very tame gray kangaroo is from South Durras Beach, New South Wales.

View Larger Map
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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Munroe Falls Sunset Watercolor

Munroe Falls Sunset, originally uploaded by Tom Arbour.

Thanks to Chris, the Chicago Nature Lady, for inspiring me to paint a little bit. She often displays her artwork on her blog. This painting was inspired by a photo that I took over Christmas vacation while Megan and I were visiting my parents. It was fun and relaxing to paint with watercolors again.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Eastern Gray Squirrels

Here in Columbus, most of our eastern gray squirrels are actually gray. That wasn't so where I grew up. About half of the squirrels were jet black. This mix of squirrels was always blamed on Kent State University, a rumored epicenter for the melanistic black squirrels in Northeastern Ohio.

In our yard in Columbus, we have an abundance of gray squirrels. It seems at any time of day, I only have to look out one windows to see these furry creatures. The individual pictured below was was perching on our "accent rock" in front of our house. It makes quite a nice squirrel perch.


Scratching an itch......


So since I most often see gray squirrels that are actually gray, I was fairly surprised to see this darker furred animal in the box-elder from which our feeders hang. It isn't the typical melanistic squirrel that I'm used to seeing. A look at its tail reveals some brownish-tan hairs, and even his back hair is not jet black. Still, a unique individual for the yard, and I'll be sure to keep my on the feeder to see if any more melanistic squirrels visit.


I'm curious, does anyone else have black eastern gray squirrels where you live?

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Blendon Woods Metropark- A Bird Photo Essay

Whenever I need a quick bird photography fix, Megan and I head to Blendon Woods Metropark on the northeast side of Columbus. We drove there today and spent the last 45 minutes of the day's sunlight watching the birds, ducks and geese.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Black-Horned Tree Cricket

I take a ton of photos of plants and animals. Sometimes, I have no idea what I'm photographing, but I'm always fascinated to see first hand something I haven't seen before. Back in October of 2006, Megan and I were camping at Alum Creek State Park. It was fall, and the goldenrods and asters were in full bloom. I noticed many different types of insects living amongst the goldenrod jungle, including this fascinating creature.


I never new what it was. Boy was it cool, and boy did I wish I had a better photograph, but it remained nameless. Until tonight. At the library, I picked up the copy of "The Songs of Insects" by Lang Elliot and Wil Hershberger, mainly for its CD of insect songs. Megan and I checked out our stuff and headed over to the gym, and I tried reading the new book as I walked on a treadmill. The reading-while-working-out thing made me sick to my stomach, but before I gave up, I turned to the page describing the black-horned tree cricket, Oecanthus nigricornis. Eureka! The photo I had taken almost a year and a half ago popped into my brain. Finally, I had an identification for this fascinating creature. The photographs in the book are superb. They even have shots of both the male and female. Looking at the image above, I think this is a female because it has a long , narrow ovipositor jutting backwards from its abdomen! Cool. According to Lang and Hesrberger's book, this species ranges throughout Ohio, living in brushy fields, roadsides and bramble thickets. That definitely matches up with the early successional habitats around Alum Creek Lake near the main campground where I took this picture. Hopefully I'll see this insect again this summer. What a cool find. Save those old digital pictures, and hit the library often!

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