Tag: travelphotography

Waterfall Wednesday: Celebrating International Waterfall Day

Waterfall at Gooseberry Falls

So today is International Waterfall Day, and the most interesting fact about the ‘day’–is that it was actually ‘created’ last year (2020) in the midst of the pandemic by a couple from Rochester New York, who love to check out waterfalls on trips and they don’t care if a hike is required or not.

So there are no natural waterfalls within Stillwater (I don’t count the water that rushes over the back end of Boomer Lake after heavy rains as a waterfall), but there are several within the state–I just haven’t been to any of them.

All the waterfalls I’ve seen have been on vacation–either to Hawaii:

Rainbow Falls

This waterfall is on the Wailuku River in the Wailuku River State Park on the island of Hawaii, located within Hilo.

I both walked here on my own from my hotel, plus joined a group nature tour of the area as well.

In addition to the ‘normal’ waterfalls–there were plenty of ‘smaller ones as well around Hilo:

Mini waterfall seen within the park
Another waterfall within the park

I’m sure that there are more waterfalls on the island of Hawaii, but since I was staying ‘local’ to Hilo–these were the only ones I saw.

One thing I love about waterfalls is the ‘mystery’ they can invoke–I always wonder is there a door to another ‘world’ lurking behind the falls, or the door to a ‘treasure’ room? Maybe it’s protecting a hibernating dragon………

In terms of the waterfalls I’ve seen in Northern Minnesota–they always depend on the time of year visiting and the amount of rain/snow that has come down and/or melted to feed the rivers.

Another view of Gooseberry Falls

One favorite park in northern Minnesota is Gooseberry Falls along the north shore of Lake Superior.

While there are waterfalls, they also feed into little pools that everyone shows up to swim or sit in–but watch out for the leeches.

Waterfall on Temperance River

Other rivers also have waterfalls along them–you just usually have to hike to find them.

Another view of the river

Another river, another waterfall, another view

So as you can tell–I like taking outdoor, nature photographs. I could spend a day at each park taking probably a hundred pictures and while people would say that most are duplicates–I can probably point out the minute differences between them.

There are numerous waterfalls both within the US (most national parks have a river going through them–and therefore possibly a waterfall, but Yosmite National Park is one that has some waterfalls I would like to see), and abroad.

The other waterfalls include: Niagara Falls (between New York & Canada)–I know it’s a ‘standard’ vacation spot–but I’d be going strictly for the pictures; Victoria Falls (Zambia), Angel Falls (Venezuela), Kursunlu Falls (Turkey), Ban Gioc Waterfall (Vietnam), and if I’m up to the hike–Sutherlands Fall in New Zealand.

Have you been to any of those falls? Also–where is your favorite waterfall located?

No Comments natureoutdoorsPhotographyRandom Celebration DaysState ParkstravelWaterfalls

Adventures in the Outdoors: National Get Outdoors Day

So within the ‘Great Outdoors Month’, there is also ‘National Get Outside Day’.

This day was ‘established’ in 2008 as a means to get people outside for a ‘healthy, fun day of outdoor adventures’. This is a nationwide event that is coordinated by the US Forest Service and the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (which is America’s leading coalition of outdoor recreation trade associations and organizations).

It falls on the second Saturday of June–which means for this year it is today (June 12th). This means that in theory, today one should have free parking and entrance to parks across the country (though one should always have money on hand just in case the particular park is still charging either entrance and/or parking fees)–though other fees (such as camping or fishing) may still be charged.

While I may not be able to head to a state or national park for the day–I will hopefully be sitting outside ‘enjoying’ the outdoors later this afternoon (we’re in our hot and humid phase, with heat indexes in the upper 90s or low 100s–so even just sitting outdoors is unpleasant unless there is a nice breeze). Though I did get ‘outdoors’ this morning when I went to get the newspaper (and it was already starting to get a little muggy).

Even though I’m not heading to the ‘great outdoors’ today, I thought I’d still share some nature photos from various trips and hikes I’ve taken over the years:

While its been the only cave system I’ve visited–I would have to rank Carlsbad Caverns (more on the caves in an up-coming #throwbackthursdaytravel post) pretty high on the list for both caves and national parks:

Various formations seen within the ‘great room’ in Carlsbad Caverns

For easy hikes, I would say it’s a toss-up between hiking in the Ozarks (at Devil’s Den) and wandering through the forests along the north shore of Lake Superior:

Water-bugs skimming the top of the water @ Temperance River State Park

I managed to get a decent picture of numerous water-bugs walking/skimming the top of the water. This was a ‘calm’ portion of the river, and not very deep. I think it took me about ten minutes or so from the parking lot to reach the spot. One nice thing about the North Shore of Lake Superior–most of the state parks allow free entry for hiking, the only ‘fees’ are if you’re wanting to camp for the night. So, we just found a nice hotel, and drove up and down the coast going to different parks for hiking each day.

Spotting Lee Creek through the trees

I didn’t really try to get down to the creek at Devil’s Den to see if I could spot any insects, fish, or amphibians–maybe next time.

So I’ve been to parks (both state and national) within the Midwest and Southwest, so if I had a ‘magic wand’ that could teleport me to any national park/monument in the country for the day, I would figure out how to split my time and go between Crater Lake Natioal Park in Oregon, Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in Idaho, and Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.

How are you spending National Get Outdoors Day?

No Comments Day TripsNational ParksnatureNature PreservesoutdoorsPhotographyRandom Celebration DaysState Parkstravel

Cormorant, relatives, and news: more bird pages are live

So this is a spin on doing a #FishyFriday post–instead of posting about a #fish, I’m posting about a couple of #fishers instead–namely the magnificent frigatebird and the double-crested cormorant.

Possible magnificent frigatebird resting in the lagoon

These two pages, along with their family pages (Family Fregatidae for the frigatebird, and Family Phalacrocoracidae for the cormorant), and the order page (Suliformes) are all live under the birding tab.

Young double-crested cormorants resting on logs in Boomer Lake

Getting these five pages up, have brought the birding section to a total of 68 pages, and I still have roughly another 83 pages to add for all the other birds I’ve seen. Therefore I’m going to possibly be adding in three or four new organizational pages to the birding section over the next week or so:

Raptors–and then have all the different birds of prey orders linked to this page

Songbirds–this will be the ‘organizational’ page for the order, with all its numerous families and species (this section actually accounts for over half the pages I still need to add)

‘Water Birds’–orders that are associated with the water

‘All other birds’–the game birds, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, and those that don’t fit into the other three categories

This way as I continue to bird watch and work on improving my birding photography, the tab/section will be better organized, and the drop down menu will be easier to navigate.

As the summer temperatures have settled in over Oklahoma, I realize that I probably won’t be seeing any cormorants until early to mid-fall (the last of the youngsters should have moved out of the area), and to try to get a better picture of a frigatebird means travel–and I’m not feeling comfortable yet to travel.

Have you been able to see the magnificent frigatebird in flight? If so–off of which coast?

No Comments bird watchingnatureoutdoorstravel

Reflecting on World’s Ocean Day: Creatures seen in the wild

Oceans cover approximately 70% of the earth’s surface (with the five ocean basins being the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic, and Antarctic (newest one to be recognized)).

Aside from covering majority of the surface of the earth, they also produce ~50% of our oxygen (cyanobacteria and plankton), absorb ~30% of the carbon dioxide produced, and serve as both the main source of protein for over a seventh of the world’s population (over 1 billion people), and also as a source of income–~40 million people are to be employed by ocean-based industries by 2030.

But we’ve also depleted 90% of the big fish population, and (through global warming) have destroyed/killed about half the coral reefs (coral reef bleaching occurs when the coral expel the symbiotic cyanobacteria/plankton living within it due to ‘overheating’).

June 8 has been set aside as ‘World’ Ocean Day’ for several years now. Each year there is a theme for the day, and this year the theme is ‘The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods’. In addition to the launch of ‘A decade of challenges to [reach] the Sustainable Development Goal [#] 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources’ by 2030.

I’ve always been fascinated by the oceans–especially the number of creatures living under the waves. I even contemplated sutdying marine biology in college (either undergrad or grad)–but didn’t have the grades for a full scholarship at any school that offered teh degrees, so I’ve decided that I could always become an ‘amateur marine biologist’.

I’ve been to the ocean(s) only an handful of times throughout my life. I don’t remember the trips to the beach when I was a toddler; therefore the first time I was in the ‘ocean’ was in college on a class trip to Honduras and swimming in the Caribbean Sea.

Since that trip, I’ve been (back) to the Atlantic Ocean (when I was in Boston for my first postdoc), the Pacific Ocean (when I went to Hawaii after passing my qualifying exams in grad school), and the Gulf of Mexico on a family trip years ago.

I’ve managed see some wildlife and get pictures, and they include:

Green Sea Turtle swimming in Hilo Bay, Hilo Hawaii

Currently the only time I’ve seen a sea turtle in the wild was when I went to Hawaii back in 2009. I stayed on the island of Hawaii, and on Hilo Bay, so I would walk out and see what type of wildlife I could spot. The green sea turtle was present quite a few days, and according to some locals, if I’d gotten up a little earlier I would have also spotted the sting ray as well swimming through the bay.

I also managed to get some picture of some of the smaller marine fish as well on the trip:

Possibly the Moorish Idol swimming in Hilo Bay, Hilo Hawaii

My little handheld digital camera is waterproof to a certain depth, so once I spotted some fish I tried to stick the camera in and get some pictures (sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t). I would like to go back to Hawaii (and the Caribbean) to snorkel and get some more pictures of life under the waves.

When I was out in Boston, I managed to get a small handful of pictures of various marine life:

Whale watching

I went on several whale watching cruises, and the best pictures actually came from the second trip. I think this was a humpback slightly breaching the surface. I would like to go on another cruise (especially since I have a slightly better camera), as I’ve noticed when the aquarium posts pictures, other wildlife has also been spotted (large fish and even a shark or two).

Moon Jellyfish in the Boston Harbor

Since I also enjoyed walking along the harbor–one afternoon I spotted some jellyfish swimming in the harbor. Luckily I was able to get a couple of decent pictures of them.

Finally, when we were down at South Padre Island, Texas years ago I managed to get a couple pictures of various invertebrates in the bay:

Nautilus in the bay

One was a semi-close up of a young nautilus (a very ancient mollusk family–basically considered ‘living fossils’).

Nautilus and other hermit crabs in the bay

Here is a zoomed out picture showing the nautilus and other hermit crabs in the bay that evening.

I would love to get back to the ocean and snorkel (having either gotten contact lens and a good snorkel mask or just a good snorkel mask that could fit over my glasses–since I’m ‘blind’ as a bat without them), but also see other wildlife (from a good safe distance–so a cruise or boat ride) such as orcas, dolphins, or even a shark or two.

What marine animal(s) have you spotted in the wild?

Reference for world ocean day: https://www.un.org/en/observances/ocean-day

No Comments FishnatureoutdoorsPhotographyRandom Celebration DaysreptilestravelTurtles

The ‘duck-like’ rails: American Coot & Common Gallinule pages are live

So another series of bird pages are live under the bird tab.

This week, I managed to add pages for the order Gruiformes, family Rallidae, and then for the following species: the American coot, and the common gallinule (also know previously as the common moorhen in most bird books).

The pages for the order and family are ‘short’ (less than 300 words), and I decided that I could add more information and update the pages throughout the year. I figured that it was more important in actually getting the pages ‘up’ than having a ‘perfect’ page–I’m slowly getting better at the whole progress over perfection.

American coots swimming at Boomer Lake

Of the 138 species that make up the family Rallidae, nine can be found within the United States. Though spotting roughly a little over half of them (five of the nine species are rails) will take quite a bit of patience on my part (it is easier to spot a coot, gallinule, or crake than it is to spot a rail). Of the remaining forty-five percent (four of the nine species)–I’ve managed to spot two: teh American coot (which is present at Boomer Lake, basically every winter), and the common gallinule (which I saw on a trip down to South Padre Island, Texas years ago).

Common Gallinule and chick grazing

It always amazes me when I see the coots out on Boomer Lake and I remember that they aren’t ducks, but members of the rail family (since they swim and occasionally ‘dabble’ like ducks), but once you see their yellow-green legs and lobbed toes, you realize you’re not looking at a duck.

If I want to try to spot the purple gallinule, that will require another trip to the gulf coast or Caribbean. Spotting the sora might be as difficult as spotting a rail (they’re not quite as secretive but pretty close), though they are a migratory species through Oklahoma–so I might be able to spot them close to the banks of either Boomer Lake or possibly Sanborn Lake this fall (if I’m willing to be closer to the ‘weeds’).

As I mentioned on the various pages in terms of the photography goals: overall I would like to get a picture of a member of each family (and for the Rallidae family–a picture of the other North American species, plus a picture of one on each of the other continents), and possibly a picture of one grazing with the young or possibly trying to take off in flight.

Next up in terms of bird pages will be either the order/family/species for the cormorant and freightbird, or the mourning dove and rock dove (feral pigeon).

Have you managed to see a rail in the wild? If so–where were you, and how long did you have to wait for it to come out of the thicket?

No Comments bird watchingnatureoutdoorsPhotographytravel

National Photography Month: Celebrating all things dealing with photography

Did you know that May is also National Photography Month?

It was established in 1987 by Congress, and over the years has evolved as the art of photography has also evolved from physical photographs to digital photographs and videos. I’ve always enjoyed photography–most vacations I’d have a camera on me and go for walks to see what type of nature photographs I could capture.

Bald Eagle sitting in a pine tree over looking Lake Vermilion, St. Louis County, Minnesota
Looking out at Lake Superior from the northern shore of Minnesota
Buffalo National River, Ponca Arkansas

As you can tell–I enjoy capturing pictures of the natural world. I remember back in college, I took a forestry class that had an international component to it (spending spring break in Honduras), and I was eager to take the class, as it would have been the first time I raveled outside of the US. I think I took almost 1000 physical photographs on that 10-day trip. Basically all the photographs were nature based, a small number had people in them, and I was present in even a smaller number of pictures. While I have done some ‘selfies’ on trips–those were more for remembrance purposes than sharing on social media. I have all those photographs, plus others from other trips in photo albums sitting in my storage unit, and they’re also digital–but on an older laptop. So once I move–I need to find and charge the older laptop and try to get the pictures off of it, or buy a scanner/printer and start scanning pictures again.

Photography has been one of the things helping me keep my sanity somewhat intact through this damn pandemic. While I didn’t go up to Boomer Lake that often last year (in part due to the shelter at home directive and in part due to not that many people wearing masks outdoors), I did manage to hone my talent with backyard birding.
I would almost consider nature and pet photography to be my ‘bread-and-butter’–those are two topics that I enjoy capturing on digital film. I’m going to be trying to ‘spread’ my photography ‘wings’ and start doing some food and architecture photography as well in the coming months (though I do have a decent number of architecture photographs from my time out on the east coast).

Chaos sticking his head out the door
Rolex sitting in front of the back door.

So how am I going to celebrate the month of photography? I’m going to try to post at least two or three pictures a week for both the ‘yearly’ challenge and to celebrate National Photography Month. I’m also going to look into the history of photography as well and read up on that subject–and possibly post book reviews or other such things here as well. But to totally celebrate–I’m going to try to be active with my camera (whether it is the digital canon or olympus cameras or the camera on the iPhone) and take a daily picture.

No Comments bird watchingCraftsnaturePetsPhotographyRandom Celebration DaysReflections

Throwback Thursday Photography Edition: Two more ‘day-trip’ pages are up

So today’s post is pulling double duty again–entry into the photography challenge (#throwbackthursday) and announcing that there are two additional travel pages up.

‘Gloss Mountain’, western Oklahoma

So I’ve been slowly working on expanding the number of pages that I have under the current ‘tabs’ on the website. While I’ve been getting better at posting the bird pages, I’ve been lagging on updating the travel section.

My main reason for being slow–I haven’t done any ‘new’ traveling in a couple of years (since May 2018), and that means that everything currently can be consider ‘throw-back’, ‘flash-back’, or ‘way-back’ in terms of hashtags.

I will be adding in more pages, but most will have the disclaimer that it has been ‘X’ years since I’ve been to ‘Y’ so things might have changed over the years.

Over the past month, I have slowly added in two new travel pages from a couple of ‘day trips’ we had taken over the years. I would have to say that there are probably plenty of things to do in every state, depending on what you like to do. I like to be outdoors, but with others (safety in numbers), but if I’m exploring a new city–I’m happier on my own.

The ‘day trips’ were basically drives out to the western part of the state, and stopping at a couple of state parks.

One trip was a drive to Gloss Mountain State Park, where my dad and I did a little hiking. This is a small state park right off the highway, that has hiking paths and tables for picnics–no camping though. We went in the fall when the weather was a little cooler, and that meant there were less chances of crossing paths with any snakes.

If you drive north about an hour, you will end up at the Great Salt Plains State Park. We actually tried to combine these two day trips into a single trip, but found out that we had just missed the digging season for the salt crystals by a week.

Looking out onto the salt plains

We actually went back out west to dig for crystals the following fall (but before the digging area was closed), and had a unique time digging for selenite crystals.

Selenite crystals

The only thing I would have done differently on that trip–was to have more water, a pail/box (or something to carry the crystals), and possibly a small stool to sit on. While I don’t mind digging in the sand/salt–I don’t enjoy having it work its way into my shorts.

While it has been about four years since we’ve been to either Gloss Mountain State Park or Great Salt Plains State Park, I’m hoping to make the trips back west again–but possibly at times when the wildflowers are blooming (for Gloss Mountain), and early fall for a hike at Great Salt Plains State Park. Just need to figure out who to rope into the trip(s).

Have you even digging for crystals or rocks? Where is your favorite place to hike?

No Comments Day TripsnatureoutdoorsPhotographyState Parkstravel

New World Vulture Pages are Live: Turkey & Black Vultures

So I realized that I probably didn’t get anything posted last week here on the blog.

I could blame it on the weather–we had the polar vortex and about a foot of snow to deal with from I think the 4th/5th (cold temps) up through this last week (the almost foot of snow came down from the 14-16).

The weather was partially to blame–because when it is super cold, I usually fall to my ‘default’ which is to curl up under a blanket and binge read series (more on that later). But truthfully, I was just having a little trouble focusing on things–something that I’m working on.

Today I managed to get caught up on the ‘raptor’ pages under the bird, birds, & birds tab.

Turkey vulture stretching it wings

There was one more group of ‘raptors’ that I had pictures of and that group was the New World vultures in the order Cathartiformes.

As mentioned on the pages–there is a single family (Cathartidae) that makes up the order, and then only seven species within that family.

Of the seven species, I’ve managed to get pictures of only two: the turkey vulture and the black vulture.

I find the turkey vultures to be unique–depending on the area of Oklahoma they can either be year round residents, or migratory visitors. Where I live–they’re migratory visitors who really enjoy soaring over Boomer Lake.

Turkey Vulture soaring over the house

I’ve only spotted the black vulture while on vacation in Arkansas a couple of times–it’s range in Oklahoma is just the far southeast corner of the state.

Black vulture spotted in Devil’s Den State Park

I’ve also come to respect the difference in camera types–the pictures of the black vulture were taken with my small hand-held Olympus digital camera that only has a moderate zoom function. The turkey vulture (and majority of the other birds) pictures were taken with my canon camera that I have several different lens for, which gives me greater range for picture taking.

Since this particular group of birds are only found in the New World–I’ve managed to see two out of seven or 28.5% of the species. If I can manage to get a picture of the California condor in the wild–that would take me to three out of seven or 42.9% of the species.

The one big birding goal–get a picture of each species in this particular order, with the huge goal of each picture being taken in the wild (which could be a little problematic for the California and Andean condors since they’re both endangered and the number in the wild is quite low).

Have you seen a California condor in the wild? If so where?

No Comments bird watchingnaturePhotographyState Parkstravel

Ibis pages are now up on the bird section

So I’m slowly adding pages under the birds, birds, and more birds section of the website.

I decided that I would try to finish up the order/family/additional individual species for the birds that I already had posted.

So with that being my starting point–the two ibis pages are now live.

White ibis at the birding and nature center. South Padre Island, Texas

Ibises (along with the spoonbills) belong to the family Threskiornithidae within the order Pelecaniformes.

So with publishing the pages on the white ibis and the white-faced ibis, I have showcased pictures of the two species I have managed to see in the wild.

White-faced Ibis foraging in New Mexico

One photography goal will be to spot both a glossy ibis and the roseate spoonbill in the wild (which will probably require at least one more trip to somewhere along the Gulf coast).

If I can manage to get pictures of those two, I will have managed to spot all four family members that can be seen within the United States.

No Comments bird watchingnaturePhotographytravel

Photography Challenge Day 174: Another Fishy Friday Flashback (short post)

The winner of today’s photography challenge is the moray eel and the French grunts that were swimming past it when I took the picture.

Grunts and a moray eel

So the grunts are native to the western Atlantic ocean, and are found in close proximity to coral reefs. They are nocturnal hunters of small crustaceans and mollusks. It probably seems odd to name a fish a grunt—but someone, somewhere listened to them—and I guess they grind their teeth together (I’m assuming after capturing some type of prey), and that is where their name came from, the grunting sounds of them grinding their teeth.

The moray eel is one of my favorites at the aquarium—there is something about them that I find fascinating. Part of it is their body structure—they’re fish—but they lack certain fins (pelvic and pectoral). Though with this one, you can’t see the dorsal fin on the back of its’ head. I also love how in reality—they aren’t yellow or green—they’re actually a drab brown in color. It’s because of the aquarium having a drab background color in the area, the tint of yellow in its body mucus, reflects back as yellow or green (as it is referred to as a green moray eel).

One thing I’d like to do is to visit other aquariums and see if I can spot moray eels within the different areas (since I know that the New England Aquarium has them within the larger central aquarium).

No Comments FishnaturePhotographyZoos/Aquariums