Monday, September 21, 2009


Some "new" songs I've discovered recently that I like.

Grief & Sorrow,
By Toshio Masuda
Naruto (Japanese manga) Original Sound Track 3, Song Track #14

Road Regrets,
By Dan Mangan
I gave a video search link, but a regular google search might give you a better quality version of the song.

And this last song is one I heard on the TV show, The Cleaner.
Season Finale
"Trick Candles" Episode (Part 5 video if it's still online.)

Waiting For My Real Life To Begin,
By Colin Hay
American Sunshine (2009) Album
Google it.

The voice is familiar because Colin, with that wonderful Australian accent, was lead vocalist of Men at Work in the 80's. Remember the song, Down Under.

Currently at YouTube:
Acoustic version of Down Under by Colin Hay with a funny little story before the song.

Waiting For My Real Life To Begin
by Colin Hay

Any minute now, my ship is coming in
I'll keep checking the horizon
I'll stand on the bow, feel the waves come crashing
Come crashing down, down, down, on me

And you say, be still my love
Open up your heart
Let the light shine in
Don't you understand
I already have a plan
I'm waiting for my real life to begin...

Removing Blue Color Cast on Blizzard Photo

I was backing up my photographs and found some older photos that I want to play with and see if I could improve them.
Here's a blizzard photo that I liked except for the harsh blue color cast.



Color Balance: Red 40, Green 50, Blue minus 70, Midtones and Preserve Luminance checked.

Highlight Midtone Shadow: Shadow minus 100, Midtone 100, Highlight 50, Relative Adjustment Method checked.

(NOTE: I started with a preset called "Bright White" Shadow minus 30, Midtone 100, Highlight 100. Then tweaked to keep a slight blue tone so my snow would show up better. You could skip Color Balance and try HMS Bright White alone, and then try Color Balance to get the blue tone you want. Probably end up at the same place.)

Clarify at 5 three times to make the trees stand out more from the background.
(Clarify is under the Adjust, Brightness and Contrast Menu area in version 9 of Paint Shop Pro.)

Add some snow:
1. New layer filled with Black, Layer Blend Mode Lighten
2. Add some Noise (Gaussian, Monochrome, 100%)
3. Skip step 3 for very fine snow specks, for bigger chunks/specks of snow add Gaussian Blur 1 at this point.
4. Now play with high Brightness and Contrast numbers until you get the amount of snow specks you want.
Try Threshold which does something similar.

I used two layers of snow; one fine snow and one chunky snow.

Clarify Clouds

I discovered Paint Shop Pro 9 Clarify can add a nice depth and definition effect to my cloud photos that I can't get by sharpening or adding Contrast.


After Clarify at max twice:


After Clarify at max twice:


McKenzie Slough Wildlife Management Area

Another place marked as a wetland birding area in North Dakota is McKenzie Slough.
This is another excursion off Interstate 94 near the same exit as the Long Lake trip I blogged about earlier. (Compare maps.)

This area was significantly more difficult to access. Long Lake is way easier to access and had more birding opportunities. As we drove along the gravel road in McKenzie Slough area the rushes were so high we couldn't see much. And most birds were so far away my tele at max 300mm could barely capture them. We found one entry for walking only access, but we couldn't tell where it went and it looked so isolated that we didn't feel comfortable walking it.

These are pelicans, great egret, ducks, gulls, etc.:

Definitely great egrets and great blue herons available for possible camera capture (photos taken Sun 20 Sep 09). If we would have had more time, I might have walked the road and could have possibly gotten better captures of those flying up and out of the tall rushes.

Great Blue Heron:

Great Egret:

YellowLegs (I'm guessing):

Tern of some kind maybe:

And just for fun, I made a collage of great egrets out of my photos. All were very small captures of a single egret in flight. I added some cloud texture to the background.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I thought this pic needed a quote or poem.
Googled on the subject of dew and found one I liked by Rabindranath Tagore.

Another Fav From The Trip

And this is another fav, taken along the way to Long Lake.
Always, always, watch for hawks in the bale fields.
I have lots of these types of photos cuz it's so common, but I just love the hawk's in-flight pose.

I think it's a Ferruginous hawk.

Favorite Pic From Long Lake

And this is my favorite photo from our Long Lake trip.

That's the way it was straight out of the camera. Shocker. lol
I think the duck is a blue-winged teal cuz of that blue patch on the wing and female because of the face.

Drake head pic here.

Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Long Lake National Wildlife Refuge

This would be a nice easy short excursion if traveling thru North Dakota on boring Interstate 94.
(We took the more "scenic" back roads.)
Long Lake is only 12 miles South of Interstate at Sterling which is about 25 miles East of Bismarck. (There's no gas, food, etc., in the tiny town of Moffit close to the lake.)
Just do the short loop at the SW end of Long Lake, which is the place to go for bird watching and photography.

Headquarters is at this end of the lake, also.

I was thinking about the best visit time for photography lighting. We were there late morning early afternoon and I had to shoot into the sun (South, SouthEast) sometimes so backlit. Plus it was an ugly overcast day for a lot of the trip, which is not good for photography. I just don't know if any later or earlier than that would give any real advantage because you'd be shooting into the South sun anyway. (On the website it says refuge hours are 8am to 4pm.)

Bird List for Long Lake Refuge area.

Here are some of the birds I was able to capture with camera.

Western grebe:

Western grebe is very similar to the Clark's grebe. The main distinguishing mark is the black around the eyes.

American bittern:

Great blue heron:

Great egret:

Great egret has a yellow bill and black or dark legs.
The Snowy egret has a black or dark bill.
The Cattle egret had yellow legs.

Herons, Bitterns, Egrets - Same Family - Ardeidae.
The herons and egrets would suddenly fly up and out as you went by before you even knew they were there. We saw several. I was out walking the road with camera ready.

The two bitterns flew, very slowly and quietly, right over my head! I could have gotten some really good pics of them if the weather would have been nicer. My pics were backlit pretty bad, so the bitterns were almost black against a grey blah sky. I had to lighten dramatically, greyscale, add in the brown sepia, blah, blah.

This is not a duck.

It's an American coot.

Yeah, I thought this was some kind of black duck.
But the "pointy" bill (instead of flat) was the first clue it was something else.
The coot's toes are lobed, not webbed, although I did not have a photo of the feet.
So bill and feet are more like a chicken than a duck.
I also noticed slight reddish spots on bill and forehead, which are really there, not from camera or post processing. My photos were pretty poor, so I wasn't sure.

Watching them patter over the water is quite entertaining.

We did see ducks also, and avocets, and pelicans. There were lots of seagulls and other shorebirds, terns, maybe.

We saw a few bird swarms. One was of blackbirds. I think the attraction was the nearby sunflower field. Another swarm was overhead but too far away for me to identify.

By the time we were leaving Long Lake area the overcast sky was breaking up into nice puffy clouds. Too late.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Cedar Waxwing

I think this is a Cedar Waxwing.

Supposed to be a very social bird? This was the one lone bird I saw around our place Wednesday morning 9 Sep 09. He looked odd to me, like he was sick or something. He did not move. Perhaps gorged on berries and unable to fly? We do have lots of berries around here right now.

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)
One can expect to see the cedar waxwing year round and the Bohemian waxwing during the winter.

Cedar waxwings are fruit eaters and their social feeding habits are influenced by this fact. They are often seen feeding in small flocks on the berries of cedar trees, mountain ash, and flowering crabapple. Waxwings will often gorge themselves on berries until they are unable to fly and will often become "drunk" on overripe berries.

The term waxwing is derived from the red waxy deposits on the tips of their secondary wing feathers.

Waxwings spend most of the year in flocks.
Waxwings tend to nest late in the summer when there is a good supply of berries.

In fall these birds gather by the hundreds to eat berries.

In North Dakota year-round?
ndgf rated Uncommon - occurs in low numbers.

Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus):

at enature
Similar to Cedar Waxwing but larger, grayer, and with conspicuous white wing patches and rusty (not white) undertail coverts.
What's interesting about the Bohemian Waxwing is he doesn't breed in North Dakota and seldom is seen til winter. Yeah, a bird that actually comes here in the winter.

at cornell
The Bohemian Waxwing is an irregular winter visitor from the far North. It comes primarily to states and provinces along the United States/Canada border, a bit farther southward in the West.

Range Maps Comparison:

ND Birds - Specialty Species

From Birding North Dakota, by Dan Svingen and Ron Martin.
When to Visit (pg 7):
The best birding for most species in North Dakota is late May thru early July.
If you wish to witness the wonders of migration, visit North Dakota in April and October, as it is then the big flocks of waterfowl are present.
Spring migration for songbirds peaks in mid to late May.
Fall songbird migration generally peaks in September.
Birding in November and December is the best chance of finding rare waterfowl, raptor, and gull species.

(Page 16 mentions peak songbird fall migration is 1st and 2nd week of September.)

Specialty Species (pg 10):
These are species that are difficult to find elsewhere. (Has locations, which I have not listed as it was quite lengthy.)
Clark's Grebe
Ferruginous Hawk
Prairie Falcon
Greater Prairie-Chicken
Sharp-Tailed Grouse
Greater Sage Grouse
Gray Partridge
Yellow Rail
Piping Plover
Marbled Godwit
Franklin's Gull
Least Tern
Burrowing Owl
Sedge Wren
Sprague's Pipit
Bohemian Waxwing
Bairds' Sparrow
LeConte's Sparrow
Nelson's Sharp-Tailed Sparrow
Chestnut-Collared Longspur

NOTE: I'm not sure if this publication is still available or where it can be found.
I think it was developed/funded by Game and Fish North Dakota (gfnd). Publish date is before 2004.
gfnd has a list of publications available.
A birding guide is available by mail, but it doesn't give details.

Contact info

Google it

Birds - Who's Here In The Winter?

I came across this little tidbit of info on bird migration in North Dakota.

Start Here
North Dakota Bird Life: Tracking Changes Over a Quarter Century
Douglas H. Johnson, Lawrence D. Igl, and Christopher J. Johnson
Originally published in: North Dakota Outdoors (June, 1997)

Migration Section
Changes Varied by Migration Strategy

161 breeding bird species in ND
148 migratory
- 86 short-distance mostly in USA
- 62 long-distance to Central or South America
13 permanent residents

So...who are those 13 permanent residents?

I found a bird checklist(s) at the ND Game and Fish Dept and imported it (two of them) into an Excel spreadsheet and ran a filter on it.

I came up with 15 *breeding birds that are either Common or Fairly Common here in North Dakota during the winter.
1. *Gray partridge
2. *Ring-necked pheasant
3. *Sharp-tailed grouse
4. *Rock dove
5. *Golden eagle
6. *Ruffed grouse
7. *Sage grouse
8. *Wild turkey
9. *Great horned owl
10. *Downy woodpecker
11. *Hairy woodpecker
12. *Black-billed magpie
13. *Black-capped chickadee
14. *White-breasted nuthatch
15. *European Starling

3 birds do not breed here, but are either Common or Fairly Common here in the winter.
1. House sparrow
2. Bohemian waxwing
3. Snow bunting

I've never seen:
White-breasted nuthatch
Rock dove (Oh, that's the common city pigeon.)
Bohemian waxwing - more on that in another post.
Snow bunting - comes down from the cold-er North.

My Birds of the Dakotas Field Guide Book just says "Year-Round" and does not distinguish between Common, Fairly Common, etc. One I noticed from that book that I might put on my winter list is the Blue Jay (rated Uncommon at gfnd). I've seen that bird around here fairly late in season, like November/December maybe.

And I wonder about the bald eagle (Rare at gfnd) along the rivers. The rivers can remain open (food source) quite late in season.
And Canada geese seem to stick around rather late in season too.

White Pelicans

White Pelicans
(Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) Gmelin
Family Pelecanidae

Pic taken Sunday, 6 Sep 09.
This seemed a tad early for migration.
This wasn't all of them. It's all I could get in the picture.

Maybe large flocks are common:
Commonly seen in large flocks of 20 or more.

Maybe fattening up for migration:
Birds gather in larger groups on rich feeding grounds in preparation for the migration.

Previous pelican pic taken 20 Sep 08 Lake Sakakawea area.


Birding spots in North Dakota
Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge (Medina, ND) has the largest white pelican population in North America.
Pelicans also mentioned at:
Lake Metigoshe State Park – Turtle Mountains – Bottineau, ND
Souris Loop National Wildlife Refuges – Kenmare, Upham and Foxholm, ND.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Vintage Hawk

Same Vintage Effect.

A composite of two photos, the rocky hill/bluff top and the hawk.
Photos taken same day, same area.
I wanted to add some kind of quote, but couldn't think of anything appropriate that I liked.