Backyard Birds

I installed a bird feeder on the deck a few weeks ago because I had seen a red cardinal around. I wanted to get a good picture of it. It had become my “white red whale.” Well, just about every bird in the neighborhood showed up, even a squirrel. At one point, several rabbits, doves and sparrows were all eating the seeds in the grass together, in perfect harmony. Finally, after several weeks, the cardinal showed up, along with a juvenile cardinal. I noticed that the cardinal has a bad (missing?) leg, but he was eating just fine.

Here are some pictures.

Hail to the Bees

When I was a child, I was always afraid of bees and other insects. You can thank the fire ants in Chihuahua for that. They always managed to sting me in the summers that I spent there running around with my cousins. Grandpa would compound the hurt by adding merthiolate (thimerosal and alcohol, basically) to all the stings. Those stings were horrible, and I came to believe that the stings from any insect were bad especially for me. That was only confirmed in college, when I got stung by a wasp and broke out in really bad hives all over. (I should really carry an epinephrine syringe.)

One summer, my uncle decided that he was going to raise bees. He had three hives, and he got a lot of honey from them. In order to encourage me to lose my fear of insects, dad told me to go see how my uncle got the honey. As I approached him as he smoked the beehive, a swarm of bees came at me. I freaked out and ran away.

Now that I’m older, I understand that honeybees will pretty much leave you alone if you leave them alone. They only attack to protect the hive. Africanized honeybees are said to be more aggressive towards people near the swarm, but I’ve seen them out and about and haven’t noticed them chasing me or anything like that. Then again, I haven’t run into a swarm.

I went to a sunflower field in Maryland today. The Washington Post recently announced that the sunflowers were in full bloom, so a ton of people had the same idea I had. Still, with some good depth-of-field management and the right angles, I managed to not take too many pictures of people and a lot of pictures of sunflowers. (The full album is on my Flickr page by clicking here.)


Hail to the bees!

It shouldn’t be a secret to you that bees are in trouble, and we need them for our food supply. As I walked among the flowers today, I had a lot of bees and bumblebees flying around me, and a couple of them landed. None stung me, and I didn’t hear anyone complain from being stung. I did wonder, however, if I was the only one there worried about the future of the bees. (I’m sure I wasn’t.)

So I’ve planted my own sunflowers in the backyard right around July 4th. They should be blooming by mid-August, just in time to meet The Child. Hopefully, lots of bees will take advantage of them and pollinate other plants nearby. I see that my neighbors have a lot of vegetable gardens going, but not a lot of flowers for bees. So maybe they will also benefit?

Anyway, here are some more pictures from today, and I hope you too will consider helping out the bees in any way you can.

A Visit to the Phoenix Zoo

While my wife was at a conference in Phoenix, I took the light rail (and walked a mile and a half) to go to the zoo. The lines to get in were very long, but I got in quickly by pulling out the phone and buying the ticket online. It was $25, and the ticket barcode came up right away. I bypassed the line and had the phone scanned in less than a minute. Here are some pictures I took.

The Grand Canyon

My wife and I escaped Phoenix for a couple of days and went up to the Grand Canyon. We had never been there. It was pretty awesome. (I’ve seen the Copper Canyon in Mexico, which is bigger, but different.) We took some pictures. Most were taken by her, though.

Dog on the Rocks

The German Shepherd Dog and I went up to Hammonds Rocks early in the morning last week to take in the sunrise. It was about 20 degrees Fahrenheit, but that didn’t stop us. It certainly didn’t stop the dog. She loves the cold weather. Me? Not so much. I should have brought gloves, especially for climbing the rocks. You definitely don’t want numb hands when doing that.

(As always, give the images some time to load. They’re big files.)

The old warbirds of World War II

Every year for a few years now, the Collings Foundation has been bringing some World War II planes to the Westminster, Maryland, airport. This weekend, they brought three planes: A B-17 and a B-24 bomber, and a P-51 Mustang. After breakfast with my wife, where we discussed everything from my doctoral thesis proposal to what we’ll be doing in 2016, I headed over to the airport to take some pictures. There was even a random blimp and lots of private planes taking off and landing. I hope you enjoy the pictures.