Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Bird in a Herd

Did you know herons nest in bunches?

This is called a "rookery" or perhaps more descriptively, a "heronry". When you see them airborne, they are either sleek and jet-like or when their landing gear is down, prehistoric and awkward. The iconic heron stands by the water in a Zen-like state until suddenly it strikes. This stillness is echoed as they stand guarding their nests.

Did you know that a group of herons is called a "Siege of Herons"? I bet you didn't!

They inspire me to write in rhyme. Like Dr. Seuss...

Are these some herons in a tree?
Yes they are as you can see.
Babies two and mom makes three,
The scene is very clear to me.
Daddy's coming, we really wish,
We hope that he will bring a fish.
Bring us lunch, please do, please do:
Daddy heron where are you?

Now look! Now look! Look now, you three.
Daddy's coming home, I see.
Has he got a big fat fish?
On a plate or in a dish?
Oh no, Oh no that cannot be.
Daddy's got no food for me.
Is it hiding in his foot?
Where's he carrying the loot?
In his neck or in his mouth?
No I think it's further south
I know, I know wait patiently!
It's in his tummy, don't you see?

But I can be serious too. In the style of a Japanese Haiku...

Aloft on giant wings 
Feathers cloak ungainly bones

From another world


In the clinical note on my latest visit with the oncologist, he said, " a pleasant, 69-year old gentleman...". Guess he doesn't really know me — one out of three ain't bad! Looks like you're stuck with me for a while longer, surgery was successful as anticipated, I still have my cancer but it's being managed.

I've developed these really weird sleep habits, I think since my surgery. I used to go to bed late, sleep from, say, 1 am to 6 am, like a log to which the undisturbed sheets and bedding attest. 5 or 6 hours, that was all I needed.

Now: I have dinner, then afterward, no matter what I'm doing, watching TV or at the computer... no matter if it's interesting or not, I fall asleep without warning. I'll close my eyes during a commercial and BANG, it's 1:30 am and I've been asleep for 3 hours. Now I force myself to go to bed (after putting away the milk I took out or sticking the dirty dishes in the sink to soak) and of course it's hard to get to sleep.

Next thing I know, it's 4:00am and I'M UP. I go to the bathroom and read for a while and try to go back to sleep. If I succeed, it's 8:30 or 9am when I wake up. Usually I can't.

My friends tell me, "welcome to the club". No sympathy. I get no sympathy. I'm reminded of a line Bob Newhart said on the Big Bang Theory one time: "I get up, go to the bathroom, then wander around the house for a couple of hours".

So I decided not to feel concerned about it. If I'm up at 4, so be it. I'll catch up tomorrow. Carden Plain is 45 minutes away. Algonquin Park is an hour. Why not greet the sun as it rises and take advantage of that golden hour? Or the birds as they greet the new day? Or if it's ugly out, catch up with all the goings-on on the computer and try to do some of the stuff I never seem to get to anyway.

We'll see how that goes. But right now, I need to take a nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn...

Carden Plain birds

So I changed into my camo's, left the house around 5:30, drove to Carden Plain, and started up Wylie Road around 6:15. Quiet. I wonder why? Still, I heard birds and stopped to look and listen. The woo-woo-woo of a Wilson's Snipe. There he was, standing guard on a fencepost. He was on the east side so the sun backlit him, a challenging shot. Suddenly he puffed himself up, just like we do when we get out of bed and stretch! A Wilson's Snipe Puffball!

This shot is not cropped at all. Here it is in its 36 Megapixel glory! I was surprised he let me get this close but I was wearing full camouflage, so maybe that helped.  

Across the road and down a ways was a Savannah Sparrow. He just stood there, not singing, but hey...

This one IS cropped. I couldn't get that close. 

It's 7am and a black SUV pulls up. Dan Busby, of all people! We chatted for a bit, I mentioned that someone said they had seen an upland Sandpiper a couple of days ago. But he said he was on a mission, to get a Sedge Wren. I asked if he minded if I tagged along, which he didn't.

I learned a lot. We stood there, listening. Dan said, "there's a sedge wren in those cattails and another across the road. I hear [list of birds I can't remember]". I swear, I heard nothing. It was quiet. Eventually I heard them and I was amazed how Dan could identify what was around us. He knew the habits of the birds, where they might be found, what they would do. And sure enough...

I think I like the second image best. More dynamic.

Borden Airshow June 11th

To preface this, the Snowbirds used my photo of a Harvard trainer taken a couple of years ago, in their 2016 brochure. I was honoured that they chose it, they put my signature on the tail of the plane (in the brochure!) and I had some correspondence with Capt. "Match" Hatta who designed the brochure. Match flies Snowbird 3 and has outstanding credentials with over 2000 hours in the CF-18 Hornet. He arranged for me to get a special pass to access the VIP section at the Base Borden airshow.

Here's the picture they used 

Actually the access pass I got let me into the "Special Guest" area which was less than ideal because there were some vehicles parked in front of it, obstructing the view. Ron and the rest of the RHCC group had a better view from the bleachers! However I talked my way into the actual VIP area which was dead "centre stage" so I think I had the best vantage point possible. I also got to hobnob with some interesting people, including the RSM of the MP's at Base Borden and his wife! He thought my camera/lens was quite heavy: not as much as a loaded C7, sir!

The flying didn't start until 1:00 so we looked around at the static displays. There was a lot of military hardware around, and every second person was in CADPAT BDU's. I decided that now was the time to resurrect my HDR techniques, to emphasize the textures of military hardware.

In the doorway of a Griffon helicopter. These were actually members of the Air Force 443 squadron (Hornets). I offered to swap my leather hat for one of their caps. No dice!

T-33 trainer in HDR.

CF-116 or what the Americans called an F-5 Freedom Fighter.

Here's another shot of the Freedom Fighter. It was impossible to get spectators to stay away long enough to shoot a picture...
aren't you impressed with my Photoshop skills? 

This is the Tudor trainer that the Snowbirds fly. They allowed spectators to sit in the aircraft but the lineup was really long. 

The airshow started on time and the skies cleared up but a few of the 'acts' were cancelled because of the high winds. That included the paratrooper drop and some of the lighter aerobatic civilian aircraft. I won't bore you with tons of in-flight pictures but here are a couple:

An aerobatic squad of Harvards. These aircraft are meticulously maintained but they're about 60 years old!

This is a DeHavilland DH-100 "Vampire" fighter. This plane was test flown in September, 1943 and was adopted by the Canadian Forces in 1948, the first jet fighter post-war. Google it: the history is fascinating!

Today, Canada flies the CF-18 Hornet. Amazingly, they've been in service since 1980 — that's 35 years! There's discussion about replacing the fleet with the F35. 

Heading virtually straight up! What causes the contrails? The air passing the wingtips (and next to the fuselage) has expanded so much that its temperature has dropped below the dew point (the point at which the air can no longer hold the water as a vapour) and it condenses out. But you knew that... (the Ideal Gas Law. Look it up!)

The Snowbirds closed the show. The precision and skill of this team is awesome. They are considered by many to be the best aerobatics team in the world.

Here are a few of my photos from their routine:

Here's where being dead centre had its advantages! One bird is slightly out of position... unless he's preparing for the next manoeuvre  when the remaining four planes split.

I think this was technically one of the most difficult manoeuvres. It's called the "Echelon in Review" and I wondered how they could do it since none of them could see the other planes. Turns out they could, Match told me, by looking up through their canopies

I took this a couple of seconds later. Virtually perfect symmetry.

Speaking of symmetry, here's the Snowbirds' iconic diamond formation. The sky was perfect for photography!

Video Links
This is a 360° video link that Match sent me. If you're using Chrome, Firefox or the YouTube mobile app, you can pan around and see it from all angles! Ain't technology wonderful?

Here's a normal video that was taken at the St. Louis airshow a few weeks ago. Pretty well the same routine that the Snowbirds flew at Base Borden...


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