Thursday, December 06, 2007

A new Woodpecker

I took my usual walk Monday and came upon a woodpecker. I fired up my new Kodak and tried to take a shot, but it kept flying from tree to tree. After lighting on about three trees, he lit down on a small shrub. I quickly fired off two shots at maximum zoom and then he was gone.

At first I thought he was just a Downy Woodpecker, but after more careful scruitney of the image we are about 95% sure that this little feller is a male Hairy Woodpecker. Tell me what you think?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Well, there has been this little red headed woodpecker hanging around where I walk. He is also a noisy litte feller, which I assume is his strategy to get at the insects. Well, I tried to get an image of him and tried and tried and tried. But between battery problems and slow camera boot up and this little feller just playing hard to get, I couldn't get it.

Well Best Buy had a sale on a new camera (and a lot of other stuff,) but I wasn't going to stand in line at 3 am just to get a chance for something. So the following day we went out there. Someone must have missed it, because they had one Kodak Easy Share Z712 camera left. I had some trouble convincing the clerk that this camera was the one on sale. Well, I very happily walked out of the store with a 7 megapixel, 12x zoom camera all for under $200.

Well early this week I got the following image. I only got one shot at him.

Yea, thats him sitting in the middle of the picture on a branch. He was quite a ways off and this is at maximum zoom. Not impressed, well look down below at just a small section of this image!

Its good enough that I can identify him now. We believe him to be a male Red Bellied Woodpecker. According to Wikopedia:

Red-bellied woodpeckers are noisy birds, and have many varies calls. Calls have been described as sounding like "churr-churr-churr" or "chuf-chuf-chuf" with an alternating "br-r-r-r-t" sound. Males tend to call and drum more frequently than females, but both sexes call.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Walk in the Virgin Snow

November 21st Des Moines was supposed to just get a dusting of snow. It turned out to be the first snow storm of the year giving us about 3 inches. I was working that day, so about 2:30pm having accumulated all of my break time from a 12 hour shift, I went out for a walk. My co-workers thought I was nuts, but I went anyway. All of my break time is 1 hour and 15 minutes, if you are curious.

The first two images are looking down from my Employer's Property on to the valley where I walk, as you can see it is still snowing. The little circle in the upper center of these images is the result of a smudge on the lens, sorry.

The following image is half way to the woods, this is prairie in transition to woods. These are very young trees and scrub plants.

The following two images is where I am approaching the woods. It is still snowing pretty good. This area flooded real bad several times last spring and summer and therefore not much shrubbery is growing here, but there are some trees in the background (The Woods.)

The entrance to the Woods. This image doesn't relay very well the gloomy foreboding appearance that existed in reality.

After the woods, you come to the creek. I like this area, it is my favorite place on the trail. There is a bench up along here, and it can be very pleasant to just sit and relax.

This is Cheryl's favorite image, with the entrance to the woods being second.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Iowa Star Party

First of all that's my telescope. It is a 20cm (8 Inch) LX-90 SCT. It is a f10 instrument with a focal length of 2032mm. I like SCT's because they are good all around performers. They don't excel at anything, but they perform well in all categories and they are very transportable.

The telescope you see here breaks down into three pieces:

  • The tripod
  • The wedge
  • The telescope and its fork mount.
And if necessary, I can carry this telescope in almost any car.

That is Kevin Fox on the left and Jim Holloway on the right. They are members of the Des Moines Astronomical Society (DMAS which is my club.) And they built this telescope themselves. It is a 16 inch F5 Newtonian, they did all of the woodworking and they ground the optics themselves. These are commonly called DOBs, since the basic design came from John Dobson one of the original side walk astronomers. They will sell it for $2600.00, Jim later told me that he is very proud of the optics on this telescope. I have two pictures of them with this scope, one didn't have the black cover fully around the scope. Jim jokingly told me not to use that picture, since they wanted no pornographic telescope pictures published.

Another member of our club, Tammy Mortenson with her 10 inch LX-200 GPS telescope. It is a bigger cousin of my telescope. The Mortenson's bought a party tent from Walmart and set it up without the roof and used it as a wind and light shield.

This is Bob Price from the Chicago area. This is also a 16 inch F5 Dob telescope. Bob ground the optics himself in a telescope making shop and the rest was a kit from Astro Systems. I quietly looked through both 16 inch F5 telescopes at the same object and thought Jim and Kevin's performed better, but my opinion may be less then fair since they are members of my club.

Unfortunately, when I went around to take this gentleman's picture, I didn't get his name. I do know he is also from the Chicago area and he will talk your arm off. His first telescope is a 8 inch F6 Newtonian on a El Novac mount. He said it was refigured around 1990, saying like most commercial mirrors it had only one half the correction it needed. The second telescope is a 6 inch F5.33 (most amateurs would just say F5.) He says he has an eye piece that will give him a full 3 degrees field of view (that is very good.) That night he showed me the North American Nebula through this scope and it was very impressive. I have trouble seeing it through my scope, since I can only get a field of view around 1.25 degrees.

This is Dave Venne from Burnsville, MN and teaches at Augsburg College (Meteorology and Astronomy.) His telescope is a Teleue 102 mm (4 inch) refractor on a goto mount. He admitted to finally giving into the goto.

This is Al Johnson, President of the Ames Area Amateur Astronomy Club. This is a 24 inch DOB with a 100 inch focal length (F4.) Al Johnson and Jim Bonzer (see image below) built this for Ames Area Amateur Astronomy Club. This is the largest telescope on the observing field. I have seen larger ones though, Jim Holloway used to own a 32 inch DOB.

This is Jim Bonzer with his telephoto setup that he uses for astro photography. The lens is a 80mm F8 telephoto lens (Its basically a refractor) and the camera is a Canon 30D digital SLR (Astronomers love this camera.)

This is Ben Sinclair, another member of DMAS and his 12 inch Orion DOB, its a F4.9, which is a fairly fast scope. Little side story here. Ben forgot to see if the telescope would fit in his car when he bought it (It Won't,) so he had to rent a SUV to bring it to the star party.

This is Charles Whitford from Arkansas and a member of the Sugar Creek Astronomy Club with his 12 inch Meade Lightbridge telescope. It is a f5 telescope with a focal length of 1524mm. Charles is a retired band instructor who plays a Native American Flute (He played some Dvorak for me.) The day he arrived was his 85th birthday and the story I heard was that the condominium where he lives was planning on throwing a birthday party for him. But he bolted and came to our little star party instead. I picture a lot of very disappointed little old ladies.

The Iowa Star Party is hosted by Ames Area Amateur Astronomy Club and Whiterock Conservancy. Whiterock Conservancy is an organization to protect the land that used to belong to Garst Farms. In the middle of Whiterock Conservancy is a little Bed & Breakfast (Whiterock Resort ) ran by Liz Garst. The Whiterock Resort provided us with this meal Saturday. The pork was pretty good and the green beans were fine. The Au Gratin potatoes and the cucumbers were excellent. Now before I tell you about the tomatoes, let me explain a little classification system I have for tomatoes:

1.Communist tomatoes, these are the tomatoes served in fast food restaurant. They are usually pink and sometimes even have green in them. These are terrible tomatoes and only the most common of appetites would enjoy these tomatoes.
2.A step up from Communist tomatoes, is Capitalist tomatoes. These are the ones grown in greenhouses and you will often find these tomatoes in sit down type restaurants. The color of these tomatoes is usually red and they taste ok, but are usually not wonderful.
3.Bourgeois tomatoes are usually home grown or at least hand cared for in a garden and not in a green house. These tomatoes are usually the best and taste at their peak around July.

4The tomatoes we were served were not only bourgeois, but the best of the class. Not only that, they had the aroma of tomatoes and any tomato connoisseur would have enjoyed.

And finally, on the day we were breaking camp and everyone else had left. I got a picture of this fawn on the edge of the observing field.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Venus and Saturn

Venus and Saturn from my Driveway Sunday, July 1st 09:30pm.
They were within one field of view with my lowest power eye piece. Unfortunatly I wasn't able to imige that. From our vantage point, the two planets were only 0.8 degrees apart.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Images This Week

Monday 5/7 I took this image of a Goldfinch, I swear the bird was only two inches in length. My books say they should be 5.
Also Monday, up in Terra Park, there is a flood control pond with a bunch of reeds growing. It is a favorite hangout for ducks and geese. I got this picture of a duck.

And then I got lucky and caught these ducks while taking off, you can decide if it is a good image or not.

Tuesday, I walked down to the creek to see if the flooding had subsided. It hadn't, but while down there I spied this Meadowlark. I am not quite sure if it is the Easttern or Western variety, maybe someone out there can tell me.

I then saw some geese on the greens surrounding Terra Park Pond. It sort of a dike built around the pond. I usually circle the pond once and then walk back to work.

Wendesday, I walked down toward the creek to see if it had improved. It hadn't.

And then to add insult to injury, I spied this duck swimming over what should be the trail.

So I then walked back to Terra Park and spotted this deer.

I apparently spooked him and he took off. I got lucky and got him in motion. Lucky because, the action on the camera is so slow any action images are pure luck.

And this in my opion is the best image of the week.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Late April

April 24th - 25th it rained in the Des Moines (and all of central Iowa) area. According to Iowa State University we got 2.7 inches over the two days. This of course had a negative effect on my excercise program since it flooded my walking trail. I work in a Johnston (A suburb of Des Moines, IA) and right behind my employer is a very nice bike and walking trail.

These images were taken on April 26th.

If you look at just below the trees, there is a thin strip of water. This is the creek that has overflowed. This is looking down from my employers property toward the North East, which is considerbly higher then the walking trail.

These two pictures are looking to the south east of my employers property, the flooding is much more prominent here.

Since I wasn't going to be able to walk on my favorite trails, I decided to walk over to Terra Park, which is about one half mile from where I work. I found the two signs in the following pictures kind of amusing. The following three images all were on the south edge of the park.

Thursday May 3rd, I was able to get down to the creek and take a few pictures.

This tree was aparently ripped out by the root and is now in the middle of the creek.

Sand has been deposited from the creek up onto the trail.

This had been dry woodlands, now it is a wet mess.

Theese two images show the prarie just to the west of the creek. Notice how the grass has been ripped up and deposited around the tree trunks.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


I haven't been posting lately due to the fact that Iowa can be boring during the winter. Now that spring is starting to peek through, I am starting to see animals again.

This little feller is a Downy Woodpecker and this image was taken sometime last month.

Late last month, I saw a city of Geese hanging out at The Des Moines River, just north of the City.

Here is a closeup of some of the Geese.

I took this image last Friday. This character is a Cedar Waxwing, viewing him at 100% shows a lot of detail.

And the same day I took this image, he is a Mink.

Today after church Cheryl and I decided to go for a walk. These Eagles were hanging out on the other side of the river and I took a few shots.

I saw this cardinal too. Well to be truthful, I heard him first and then had a little trouble seeing him. But I got an image.

And the best image is of .......................

The Cedar Waxwing.