Friday, April 6, 2012

Loon quest takes a Tern

   Early one overcast April morning two years ago, I stepped out my back door when I let my dog out for what dogs do every morning.  I instinctively scanned the skies as birders are prone to do.  When from the east came an unusually shaped bird having a sort of symmetry with black feet sticking out the back roughly the same distance its black head was protruding from the front.  Its white belly showing on every upstroke of its wings.  After a few minutes of flipping through some field guides I identified it as a Common Loon.  Not a bad yard bird for a densely populated suburban neighborhood.  Over the next 3 weeks I saw four more loons flyover.
  A year later right on schedule I had another Common Loon flyover on April 1.  That month between the 1st and 15th I saw 33 loons, with a high of 11 on the 7th.  Of course I had to try to photograph them. Wouldn't you know it on the days with decent lighting they were flying way up.

Exhibit 1.  

While on dreary, gray days they were flying  nearly straight overhead and low.

Exhibit 2.

   The quest for the perfect backyard loon photo resumed today.  We had perfectly clear deep blue skies but true to past experience the two loons I saw today flew so high I had to use binoculars to identify them and they were below the treeline before I could get the camera pointed at them.  The morning wasn't a total write-off though, because while I was taking test shots of gulls flying over making sure the camera settings were correct, I photographed this bird.

   A Caspian Tern.  A new bird for the yard list, number 116. 

  Update: April 9, 2012. I was able to get a better Loon flyby photo in good lighting.

  Totally unrelated bonus blog .
   Question : What is this?
A) a photo of the blue sky with a burned out pixel near the center.
B) a weather balloon at the edge of the atmosphere.
C) the planet Venus in broad daylight.

  Answer : C)   The planet Venus is the 3rd brightest object in the sky after the sun and moon.  It is bright enough to be seen with the unaided eye in daylight.  You just have to look in the exact right spot (at 4:30 pm today it was 71 degrees high just west of due south) in a transparent blue sky(binoculars help to find it initially).  In the heavily cropped inset photo taken this afternoon the shape of the 45% lit phase can be detected.

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