Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Great American Eclipse 2017

On Sunday, August 20th, Rich and I headed out to go chase the eclipse.

If somehow you have been hiding under a rock somewhere, there was a fabulous eclipse crossing our continent, which was named appropriately "The Great American Eclipse".  However, to see it, to experience it at its most exquisite, you would have to place yourself in the path of totality, a zone spanning about 70 miles wide, stretched across the continent from the West in Oregon to the East in South Carolina.  Minnesota was not in the path, so I have been planning since last November to journey to experience it.

Our eventual experience of the eclipse was not exactly what I would have hoped for, but because so many cameras were focused skyward, many others with very good equipment caught the action.

I would like to thank Colin Ross of CC Megaproductions for giving me permission to use his exceptional recording.  He produced it with appropriate music, and without too much crowd noise.  It is a good representation of what happened . . . if you didn't have too many thick clouds in the way.

We left on Sunday and journeyed to Lincoln, Nebraska, which would be our "home" base for our time in Nebraska.  Arriving late and getting settled into our hotel, we then walked across the street and picked up some greasy Sonic dinner.  Not the best thing to eat when you need to get to sleep for an early start, but it was quick, and it was right there.

All this time, I had been watching the weather and trying to decide in what direction we would drive in the morning.  I wanted to be out the door and on the road by 6 am.  Originally, I had planned to go directly South, very near to Beatrice but not directly in that town.  There was a very large party planned at the Homestead National Park.  I am somewhat adverse to being in large crowds, thus I would not be going to that party.  Also, the weather in that direction didn't look good.  For that matter, the weather in all directions didn't look good.

(Click Map for more detailed image)

One of the local television stations had a pretty good weather report.  There was a narrow band of potential clear-ish skies just South and East of Grand Island.  The weather program I was following at NOAA seemed to agree.  Guaranteed clear skies could not be found unless you were willing to drive an additional 5 hours or more into Western Nebraska or Wyoming.  I was not willing to do that.  We would take our chances.  Google Maps found a quaint little town named McCool Junction (a very cool sounding name) that had a nice park.  When we arrived at about 7:30, there was only two other cars.  We staked out a claim, and I set up my telescope.  As you can see, it was fairly sunny in the morning.  Oh, and added bonus . . . bathrooms!

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.  I don't know why I didn't think to acquire an adapter to take pictures with my iPhone.  I guess I figured since I was able to just hold up my cell phone and take a picture, why did I need an adapter.  I probably would have had better pictures.  Without the urgency of the limited time during totality, at my leisure I could take many pictures and discard those I did not like.  Here is the full face of the sun, pre-eclipse.  You can even see sun spots.  As more people came to join us at the park, several ventured over and asked to take a peek.  I also gave out some of the extra eye protection glasses I had.

Richard was the GoPro guy.  We set up our older GoPro on a white surface to capture any shadow bands (we were unsuccessful as it is hard to capture them when you have no sun just before and after totality). He wore the newer one, but then opted to set it up on a fence pointed skyward.  The clouds seemed to have gotten their thickest leading up to totality, and after.  The morning was clear enough, and within an hour after the event it was clear.  Just damn bad luck!!

What I did clearly document was the temperature drop.  Just before C1 (first contact of the moon over the sun) our temperature was 95 degrees.

As the moon traversed across the sun, it began to get cooler.  It is amazing that even with 3/4ths of the sun obscured it visually looks just as bright.  The odd light effects only come into play at the last sliver of light.

You can see below my less-than-expert pictures as the eclipse progressed.  I do find it somewhat artistic to see my own reflection in the lens.

A fellow eclipse watcher, Barry of Wichita, Kansas, a retired science teacher, had brought his spotting scopes, and was using them to project the image of the sun onto a white surface.  He was one of the many people we met and chatted with leading up to the eclipse.  I think this was one of the best features of the location we chose.  It did not get overly crowded, and people were happy to chat with each other.  We met several travelers from Minnesota.  Some of the grounds crew tasked with keeping the ball field mowed were out working that morning.  They came over and said hello and indicated no problem with all of us setting up our equipment and lawn chairs.  They knew very quickly after the event, we would all be gone.

As you can see, getting closer to the point of totality, the images are all getting fuzzy.  It's the clouds!

Richard took this picture with his camera just prior to totality.

I got this image through the telescope.  We did see a pair of hawks lazily soaring together just prior to C2 (totality).  I imagine they were about to be very surprised when the sky would get very dark.  I didn't watch them to see what they would do, as I was distracted with my telescope and all going on around us.  I did see with my own eyes the effect of Bailey's Beads, the last rays of light shining through the craters and valleys on the edge of the moon, like so many shiny pearls on a string.  This I simply enjoyed with my own eyes, knowing I would not capture the effect with my camera.

The temperature during totality.  Notice how dark it is.

I asked a fellow watcher to take our picture during totality.  I think it flashed, as it doesn't look that dark.  That was the most spectacular feature of the eclipse.  Right up until the moment the moon fully occludes the sun, and the deepest shadow crosses over, it just looks like dusk.  Then suddenly, even with obscuring clouds, it is like full night.  Someone at our location shot off fireworks.  You also get the effect of a setting sun at all horizons, and 360 degree sunset.  I did attempt to take a video of that, but must have fumbled the record button, for upon review later, I only see the video after I told it to stop.  I'll not post that as it is very un-exciting to see.

It truly is coldest just after "dawn".  77 was the lowest temperature I recorded.  That was an 18 degree drop within one hour.

During the distraction of totality, and the cloud cover, I managed to lose the sun in my viewing window.  At this point so high in the sky it moves very quickly out of the field of view.  It took awhile for me to find it again, as I did not have strong shadows to guide me (for sun viewing, you can use the shadow of your telescope to orient, as I did not have any solar filters for my spotting scope.)

As the sun returned, the temperature jumped up quickly.

My last view of the event.  By this time, most of the people in the park had packed up and headed out.  Rich and I were in no hurry, and knew the roads would be packed with cars, so we just sat back and enjoyed the sunny park.  Oh, yeah, SUNNY!  The sun came out afterwards.  Of course!

When we did finally decide to leave we opted to skip I80 back to Lincoln, and instead took backroads following our map.  It was a nice drive back to our hotel.  After a shower to get all the sun screen and sweat off, I searched out and found a nice restaurant for us to enjoy an eclipse evening dinner.

We found a place called FireWorks, where you could have tasty wood-fired food.  It was a great ending to a fabulous day.

The next morning we planned to begin to head home, stopping off to visit my sister and brother-in-law at their new home in Marion, Iowa.  Not wanting to come empty-handed, I stopped by a cute bakery I discovered the previous evening when I was researching places to eat dinner.  It is very appropriately named, as it is below ground (see the cars in the reflection) and you have to go down some stairs to get to the front door.  It really was a "rabbit hole".  What was offered inside was an assortment of tasty treats, of which I brought a box full for my family.

It was a great little vacation.  I do so wish we hadn't found all the clouds, but I'm still happy we got the chance to experience life under the moon's shadow.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse 2017

Where will you be on August 21st?

Rich and I plan to be in Nebraska, chasing the 2017 total solar eclipse.  Nothing like a sky event like this to make me drag out and dust off my old telescope, and then go ahead and buy a solar filter for it. I asked for vacation time off last year.  I'm approved, and we plan to have a party "in the shade" . . . hopefully it won't be cloudy.

This will be the view of the sun through my telescope with a special Baader AstroSolar safety film solar screen attached to my 8" reflector telescope.  I will have Rich bring the GoPro, and plan to record the entire 2 minutes and 36 seconds the total eclipse will last.

If you want to find out where the path of the eclipse will follow, and information about length of time, check out this really cool 2017 Eclipse Link.

Now we need to hope and wish for CLEAR SKIES!!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Kid . . . Kid, Kid, Kid . . . Kid, Kid, Kid

With these "lazy days of Summer" there is not much hawk related going on.  Birds are molting like mad in their chambers.  I would like to weather them if I could, but they would get eaten alive by the biting flies, which take a fair chomp out of me when I go out with the dogs.  I'll spare them the discomfort until the bugs die back a bit.

What has been going on around here . . . is a lot of goat births.

For now, I have three breeding females, and they gave me one kid, triplets and triplets, for a total of seven new kids.  With the exception of one, they are all doelings (females), so my herd is going to get quite a bit larger.  This coming fall I have three of my doelings from two summers ago ready to join the breeding herd, so little by little, I'm becoming a "goat Baron".  They are not being able to keep up with the pasture for now, as it is the height of grown.  They will catch up as summer wears on and the plants don't grow as fast.

This year's kids are going to be named after nuts, or have the word "nut" in their names somewhere.  Here is the start of the rundown.  I'll finish this posting as I bring them all out from the maternity barn to join the rest in the pasture.

Oreo was the first one to deliver, on May 30th.  She had a single female kid.

She is already out in the pasture with her mamma.  She's also already figured out she can slip through the fence.  This is a typical problem for us during the early days of the kids, until they get big enough that they can't squeeze through.  Recently, handling her, I can feel she has horn buds.  I don't have a disbudding iron, and frankly don't care if some of my goats have horns, so she will be allowed to grow hers.

Her name will be Pistachio!

The next goat to deliver was Biscotti.  On June 1 she had our first set of triplets.  I will be moving her and her kids out to the pasture tomorrow, so will get some close-up pictures of them at that time.

And here are their pictures and names.

The first one is the only brown colored kid we got this year.  Also, you'll notice that all three of Biscotti's babies have the long, floppy ears, which are a trait of the Nubian goat, of which I think Biscotti's dad was.  I've decided to name this doeling CashewI forgot to check if she has any horn buds, and now she is out loose in the pasture, so unlikely I could easily catch her and check.

Then there are two mostly black babies.  I decided to keep a kind of theme, with their mom being named Biscotti, and include a few of the ingredients you may find in that tasty, crispy snack you dunk into coffee.  The one above, that Rich is holding, is just about all black.  No horn buds on this one.  I shall call her Cocoa.  The one below has a big white patch on her belly, and I can feel horn buds.  She shall be called Almond.

Always, when we separate a goat, then put them back with the herd, there is some politics and head butting to establish the pecking order again.  Biscotti had to show this young wether born last year that she meant business, and to leave her and her kids alone.  

After awhile, they all moved off, and got busy with the important work of weed eating.

Our final goat mamma, Macaroon, had her triplets on June 9.  I'll post their profile when I let them out from the barn, most likely in a week or two.  They were born over a week later than the others, but look so much smaller.  Fortunately, they do seem to grow quickly.  I also checked them over today, and found two of them needed a little back side cleaning.  The first milk poops can be a bit sticky, and two were plugged up.  

Fun work . . . all part of goat keeping.

And now we are more than a week later, and I've let my last mamma goat out into the pasture with her triplets.

This baby below has very curly fur, which you really can't see well in this picture.  I am calling her Coconut.

Richard is holding the only buckling from this year.  I'm taking a suggestion from my friend Darla, and have decided to call him Wingnut.  He even has a white patch on his back that looks like a folded up wing.  He's not too happy in this picture, as I just "banded" him . . . that is, placed a tight band around his balls to make them loose circulation, dry up and fall off.  Don't need no stinkin bucks around.

The last, and smallest of this year's kids I'm calling Hazel.  She really is quite cute.

Again, there was some head butting and pushing when I brought Macaroon and her family back into the pasture, but they settled down quickly, and now the whole herd is back together.

Now if they would get busy on that pasture.  Even with all the goats, it is overgrown right now.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Professionalism Makes All the Difference

Recently I had the privilege of participating in a professional photo shoot.  The woman behind the camera is Barbara O'Brien, and she makes her living photographing primarily animals.  She has kindly allowed me permission to post some of her work here.  Go visit her page and enjoy some of her quality work:  Barbara O'Brien Photography

The images in this post are copyright protected by Barbara, and use is strictly prohibited without permission of the artist.  If you like what you see, contact her at her web site. 

For clarification purposes, I was not paid in any way to bring my birds, with the possible exception of being allowed to post some of the images.  Also, it is clearly understood that no image will be used for any commercial purposes, other than demonstrating the skill of the photographer and her work.

There was a very beautiful model involved.

I got some really nice pictures of Kali before I released her.

Wyvern was looking a little rough in the feather department, even though she has yet to start her molt.

It is simply amazing what a very expensive camera can capture, especially in the hands of a skilled photographer.

Saturday, April 8, 2017


Recently I gave an educational talk to one of the local 4-H groups.  My mailman has been wanting me to come out for some time to do this . . . finally we got a day coordinated.  The kids were very interested, and asked some good questions.  Thanks to all of you for being a great audience!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Free Bird

Today was release day for Kali.  I was invited by some friends up North to join them for a hawk walk (Wyvern was along, pictures to come for that) and to then release Kali.  Before I cast her hood, I removed all her gear.

The final step is to remove her Federal band.  Once that was done, I removed her hood.  I have been increasing her weight in preparation for release, so immediately she flew away and up into the trees.  It was a nice Spring day, high 30s, sunny and mild breezes.

I wanted to send her on her way cropped up with good, rich food.  I prepared one of the pigeons that was accidentally killed during last October's trapping.  It took awhile for her to be convinced to come down for her last free meal with me.

She did eventually come down.  One last good meal accomplished, and a hop up to my fist for the final bites, she was then sent on her way.

Fly Free Kali!  Live a Good Life . . . Thanks for the fun this last winter.