Friday, July 27

Friday Bird Blogging: Purple Martin

On the west coast, Purple Martins will nest in natural cavities, but for whatever reason (the type of habitat which was taken over, perhaps?) on the East, they tend to nest almost exclusively in birdhouses.

This, of course, makes for nice photographic opportunity. You can get good pictures of these birds at their houses without causing real trouble. This one was taken at Parker River Wildlife Refuge.

Another cool fact about the Purple Martin (both these cool facts were taken from Cornell's absolutely awesome bird guide site) is that Purple Martins will nest in communities and not only defend their own nests, but defend each others' as well.

Monday, July 23

Well that was an interesting weekend

We'd planned a mellow weekend-- heading to Parker River for the evening, doing some birding and staying over to get there first thing in the morning. The evening was -- got our first sightings of least terns, as well as a least bittern, which is not at all an easy bird to spot.

On the way back from the hotel, there were a bunch of people pulled over on the side of the road. When I realized what they were looking at, I immediately said to pull over. I was so startled that I didn't even know how to explain it, though it was really quite simple: a roosting site with more egrets together than I'd ever seen in my life. This picture is just a small portion of it:

We stuck around until it was too dark to see anything else and then headed to the hotel.

Usually, I leave most of my camera equipment in the car overnight. I did that this time, but I needed to clean my camera, so I put the smallest lens on it, so it would be easier to carry. Then, really as an afterthought, I decided to carry up my big lens as well-- just in case it needed cleaning. I left my camera bag in the car, which had a lot of equipment in it-- two other lenses, plus a pair of specialized wide-angle lens adapters, which are basically lenses of their own, an external flash, a battery grip, four specialized batteries, the charger which uses these batteries, and a bunch of other small (but not cheap) items.

When we got up to the room, I realized I'd left my iPod in the front seat, and thought I should go back down and grab it, mainly because I needed to charge it overnight for the ride home after the morning's birding. When I went down to grab it, I thought about bringing my camera bag up, mainly because it had some of the cleaning supplies in it, but thought it would slow us down in the morning so I decided against it. Up in the room, I realized I'd left the glucometer in that bag as well, and almost ran back to get it, but I figured I'd be fine overnight without it.

The next morning, we were up bright and early, ready to get out to the refuge while things were still interesting. We got ready, showered, had breakfast, etc. I ran down to the car to get a few items down to make the next trip easier.

I dropped my laptop and bag in the trunk and was about to run back downstairs when I went to drop something in the front.

That's when I spotted the shattered glass: the front passenger window had been smashed open. If I'd had left my primary lens in the car, it probably would have been stolen. As luck would have it, it was safe in the hotel with us. Only one item was stolen: the camera bag, which contained about $1500 worth of equipment. Everything in the bag can be replaced, and some of it is stuff I'd seriously been thinking about getting rid of and selling off on eBay but this obviously pretty much killed the rest of the weekend. My camera takes specialized batteries and I had one in the camera which I'd been using all the previous day and four in the bag, along with the charger. I had taken over 1400 pictures on a single battery charge and I knew there wasn't much left. I had deliberately not recharged the battery because I wanted to find out just how many pictures I could take on a single battery charge. So not only wouldn't it do much good to go back to the island for more bird photography, we had a car with a broken window and had to put a lot of work into cleaning it up so it was safe to drive.

So, in short, our weekend was cut short and, until the new battery charger arrives (no one locally sells them so I had to do mail order), I won't be taking many pictures. I'm getting my car fixed tomorrow morning so I can actually drive around again.

In the meantime, I'm thinking about what lenses were stolen and how I'd like to go about replacing them. It's not as though the lenses that got stolen were top-notch. So I have to think through what sort of photograph I've been doing, what interests me in terms of future photography and what equipment I need. I've still got the two best lenses I've ever owned-- my Sigma 50-500mm and the Pentax pancake lens-- both excellent lenses and for their own purposes, but the Sigma is cumbersome and the pancake lens is useful for some very specialized situations. When I'm on nature walks where I won't be doing any distance photography, I've used a simple 100-400mm lens which works easily and quickly and is very lightweight. It saves me the trouble of having to use the tripod and keeps my back a lot happier than when I use the larger lens. So I could replace that lens with an identical one, and I may do so.

I used to have the simple Pentax 18-55mm zoom lens, which I liked, but didn't love. So do I want to go back to that lens or get something with a wider angle option, or something which might weigh a little more but have better glass density and be better for more professional work, such as the Sigma 17-70mm, which is also a very close-range macro lens as well?

Although this particular incident was not fun, and certainly leaves me a bit frustrated, there's something nice about having these options -- the choice to update my equipment without the complications of trying to organize everything I've had. I know I'm not replacing my 2x teleconverter-- I've never been happy with it and should have returned it when I first purchased it, but missed the window.

I'm trying to find a replacement for the 1.4x teleconverter which I liked quite a bit, but I'm having real trouble with that one-- stores that normally stock them are all out of stock; the one I used to own was a Tamron and it worked particularly well with my camera so I'm loath to change brands, even if I've heard great things about Sigma-- the Tamron was outstanding and I'd much rather find one just like it, even if it takes extra time to track it down.

This wasn't a -bad- weekend per se. I got some nice pictures, including two of birds I'd never seen before, and several of a really amazing sight:

And now I get to take some time to really think about what photographic equipment I have and why I use it and sort it out from there.

So how was YOUR weekend?

Friday, July 20

Friday Bird Blogging: American Goldfinch

The American Goldfinch is mostly monogamous, but a number of females switch mates after producing a first brood. The first male takes care of the fledglings while the female goes off to start another brood with a different male.

--Cornell Lab of Ornithology

I don't have any comment about that. I just thought I'd throw it out there.

Goldfinches are plentiful birds and fun to take pictures of because their plumage varies from season to season so you can often get them in various forms of molt.

The picture shown is of one male screeching at the other. Below is a male and female, with the female in flight

Friday, July 13

Friday Bird Blogging: The Black and White Warbler

This common warbler is not easy to spot at first; to an untrained eye it can easily be mistaken for a nuthatch or a downy woodpecker when moving about in trees. Seeing them is a real treat, however-- they move quickly up and down tree trunks, pulling insects from the bark and, having almost no displayed color, tend to present a nice contrast with the environment around them. Pictures of these birds remind me of art projects I used to do where I would take parts of the picture and desaturate them, removing the color from part of the picture, but leaving the rest intact.

Monday, July 9


Mass. bar flunker wants $9.75 million:

A man said he failed the Massachusetts bar exam because he refused to answer a question about same-sex marriage, and claims in a federal lawsuit the test violated his rights and targeted his religious beliefs.

The suit also challenges the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, which was legalized in Massachusetts in 2003.

Stephen Dunne, who is representing himself in the case and seeks $9.75 million, said the bar exam was not the place for a "morally repugnant and patently offensive" question addressing the rights of two married lesbians, their children and their property. He said he refused to answer the question because he believed it legitimized same-sex marriage and same-sex parenting, which is contrary to his moral beliefs.

Dunne, 30, was denied a license to practice law in May after scoring 268.866 on the exam, just shy of the 270 passing grade.
This is a very good piece of clarity as to what this guy's about: he thinks it violates his religious beliefs to be required to make factual statements about what the law is.

Friday, July 6

Friday Bird Blogging: The Belted Kingfisher

Watching this bird with this fish was a real treat. The Kingfisher didn't seem to know exactly what to do with it at first, and kept finding ways to turn it around in its beak while trying to sort out how to move it from beak to stomach without dropping it. It did eventually succeed, but it took some time.

I've been tracking a group of kingfishers hanging out in the same place for a couple weeks now. Clicking on the first links to thumbnails of a series of pictures of them. Clicking on the lower one gets you a larger version of that picture.

Thursday, July 5

Julie Waters e-notes: Thu, July 5, 2007

A couple quick things: I'll be playing for a breast cancer benefit in Chester on the 14th. Details at:

I also have some new MP3s up since I last wrote from the Kindred Folk gig a few weeks ago. These are at:

In particular, there's a nice new version of "Star of the County Down" there as well as an improvised blues piece that came out well, both with Michael Hertz playing some really nice stuff on them as well. The recording isn't the best quality but it does come across fairly well. More mp3s from that gig, as well as from anything else I record, will be added weekly for the next month or two. I'll be getting a new pickup for my banjo soon, so expect more banjo pieces in future mp3s as well.

Hope everyone's well; I'll leave you all with some of the pictures I've taken as of late. The link below will send you to thumbnails of all the pictures I've flagged as "favorites" on my photo site, including some really nice recent pictures of herons, dragonflies, baby ducks, kingfishers, some night photography, and a lot more:

More info:

Julie's photography:
Upcoming events for Julie Waters
Sunday, July 8th 2nd Sundays Song Circle (tentative) at RAMP Gallery; Bellows Falls, VT

Saturday, July 14th Music in the Meadow at Motel in the Meadow; Chester, VT

Sunday, August 12th 2nd Sundays Song Circle (tentative) at RAMP Gallery; Bellows Falls, VT

Sunday, September 9th 2nd Sundays Song Circle (tentative) at RAMP Gallery; Bellows Falls, VT

Wednesday, July 4


If I'm trying to find out about a product at, I often get these little things at the bottom of the page which say "BETTER TOGETHER" and offer me a discount if I buy this item with another similar or related item.

So we've got this problem with rats that have suddenly shown up in our yards and I'm looking to get some form of live rat trap to capture them and release them elsewhere and trying to figure out what kind I need, etc. I look one up on amazon and after the listing, I get the following "better together" option:

Rat traps... tax software... rat traps... accountants...

Even so, I think it's a stretch.