Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Waterfall at Baines Dam on Newfound Creek

Whenever there's significant rainfall in Gardendale, Alabama, the lagoon that forms atop Baines Dam, coagulating the waters of Newfound Creek, begins to overflow. And when there's a whole lot of rainfall, that overflow spill over the face of the stairstep dam as a lovely waterfall. I early August we had several days of thunderstorms, and enough water to cause this waterfall.

Waterfall at Baines Dam on Newfound Creek, Gardendale, Alabama
In order to achieve the long exposure and milky tones that I was hoping for, I placed a piece of welding glass in front of the lens as a neutral density filter, allowing on 15 second exposure on what was a pretty bright, slightly overcast day. This technique is described elsewhere on the blog and has been used with varying levels of success.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Yellow Crowned Night Heron, Fishing for Crawdads

Yellow Crowned Night Heron fishing for Crawdad at Black Creek Park
This juvenile Yellow Crowned Night Heron spent much of his morning flitting from one part to another of Black Creek at Black Creek Park in Fultondale, Alabama.
   After a while I had begun to think this heron's meanderings were almost entirely purposeless, but I was wrong. He was in search of a good fishing hole. Upon spying one, he got very still, and suddenly struck, quick as lightning, and successfully surfaced with a plump crawdad.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Yellow Crowned Night Heron, Taking Flight

Juvenile Yellow Crowned Night Heron Taking Flight
Black Creek Park, Fultondale, Alabama
This juvenile Yellow Crowned Night Heron spent much of his morning stalking the shallow waters of Black Creek at Black Creek Park in Fultondale, Alabama. And I spent a good part of my morning stalking him and his kin.

He spent much time wondering from place to place on the creek, with seemingly no purpose at all, and apparently indifferent to my clambering around shrubs and low tree limbs in order to photograph him.

With my Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Di LD lens zoomed to its fullest (which can be a bear on only a monopod since the lens lacks Image Stabilization), I stayed as far away as possible so as not to disturb the young fellow. And as an aside, this focal range will probably be my next upgrade in lenses. The limitations of this model (while counterbalanced by its affordability) rear their ugly head too often for my taste.

More photographs of this and other herons, some of which will subsequently be found on the blog, can be seen at my Fauna Gallery.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Summer Morning Hike on Smythe Trail at Red Mountain Park, Birmingham

Mushrooms decorating the Smythe Trail at Red Mountain Park, Birmingham, Alabama
Along the Smythe Trail at Red Mountain Park, wildflowers dot the otherwise brown-and-green canvas like so many flecks of brightly-colored paint. The forest floor is decorated with mushrooms of every sort, reminiscent of Easter eggs and loaves of bread. Amidst this and the chirping birds are occasional cables and rusted metal that serve as reminders of the industrial past that adorns Red Mountain, and is a significant staple of the unique nature of this park.

Blue Spiderwort (Commelina coelestis) at Red Mountain Park, Birmingham, Alabama

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Field of Black-Eyed Susans, Red Mountain Park

Imagine that we still live in a world with league-upon-league of wide-open prairies still in their native state. While your initial mental image may include tall prairies grasses, don't discount the possibility that those seemingly endless plains could be inhabited by Black-Eyed Susans. Tranquil. Breezy. Grasshoppers. Jackrabbits. Antelope.It's easy to get lost in this daydream. And if you enjoyed that short trip in time to an existence 150-years past, you have Red Mountain Park to thank. It's there that you can find this small field of Black-Eyed Susans.

Black-Eyed Susans at Red Mountain Park, Birmingham, Alabama :: Canon Rebel T2i, EF 24-105 f/4 L

Monday, August 20, 2012

Purple Passion Flower at Red Mountain Park

The Purple Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata) is a vine that can grow to as long as twenty feet, and can become an invasive species. In addition to its bizarre-looking petals and sepals, the reproductive organs that arise from the flower give it a rather exotic appearance. The Purple Passion Flower blooms from June to September, and produces edible fruit from July through October.

In addition to its exotic beauty, the Passion Flower has had many uses. The roots can be used to make a tea or treat boils, earaches, and liver problems. The leaves can be cooked with other greens. The fruit can be eaten raw or made into a syrup. But perhaps most interestingly, the plant can be used as a sedative to treat hysteria and other nervous conditions.

UPDATE: Fred Spicer, the Executive Director of the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, recently stopped by the blog, and offered some encouragement and further information, for which I am grateful. Here's what he had to say: "Enjoyed your photos, very beautiful. However, most ecologists reserve the word 'invasive' to describe organisms that act to decrease overall biodiversity in ecosystems other than those they evolved in. So native organisms, like that Passiflora, cannot be invasive. No doubt, that plant can be obnoxious, aggressive and unwanted in certain situations, but it will never be kudzu or Chinese privet or cogon grass, or dozens of other, truly heinous plants that are ecological and economic distasters. 'Opportunistic' is the preferred term for native organisms that can proliferate alarmingly, and, yes, sometimes in ecologically-altering ways. Nevertheless, that is extremely rare, and typically comes following human-caused disturbance which upsets otherwise natural controls on populations. Sorry if this seems pedantic! You do nice work."

Purple Passion Flower at Red Mountain Park, Birmingham, Alabama :: Canon Rebel T2i, EF 24-105 f/4 L
Thanks goes to the United States Department of Agriculture for the information they have made available on their website, regarding the Purple Passion Flower.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Darby Sprinting Like an Olympian

Darby in Top Gear near Newfound Creek, Gardendale
If, over the last couple of weeks, you watched any of the Olympic track-and-field events, you likely noticed that when the sprinters are running at top-speed in the 100m and 200m, their faces jounce from one place to another and get all distorted and weird.

I offer this photo of Darby, near the banks of Newfound Creek below Baines Dam in Gardendale, as proof that this distortion phenomenon is not unique to humans. Notice the pinned-back ears, lolling tongue, and smushed cheeks - I have not doubt she could easily beat Tyson Gay and would give Usain Bolt a closer race than he'd care for.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Wrapping up Dinner Plans with the American House Spider

Although the American House Spider looks insidious with its bulbous body and spindly legs, it's really rather harmless and perhaps even a welcome guest, with its reputation for ridding its immediate vicinity of pesky insects. The American House Spider is known for keeping an untidy web, which will often intentionally be found to have leaves or other bits of debris that will provide protection from the elements.

That being said, this is the last photo I was able to take of this marble-bodied lady before sending her packing. She kept a web in a corner of our patio for a month or more, but within a couple of days of taking this photograph, I spied an egg sac or two in that web. I can deal with one spider outside my door, but certainly not a couple hundred of them.

The Common House Spider Feasting on a Dinner Guest

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Parasteatoda tepidariorum Having a Visitor for Dinner

Parasteatoda tepidariorum, the American Common House Spider
Parasteatoda tepidariorum is the scientific name for the Common House Spider, internationally known as the American House Spider. This spider is thought to live for about a year and grows no larger than a half-inch in size. 
  The Common House Spider is not aggressive toward people. It will abandon its nest if its space is disrupted, returning only after some time has passed and the threat is no longer apparent.
  The Common House Spider can hatch between 100-400 babies from its egg sacs, which is the reason this one no longer resides on our patio.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Green Lynx Spider, Protector of Vegetables

Green Lynx Spider protecting my Peppers
The green lynx spider, whose scientific name is Peucetia viridans, is the largest variety of lynx spider to be found in North America. This species is primarily found in the southern United States but can also be found in parts of California.

Its eyes are prominently placed on top of its head, and it has long spotted legs that vary in color from green to yellow, and contain long black spines. A friend to farmers, the green lynx spider is a predator of pestilent insects. It is not generally aggressive toward humans, and its bite is harmless but painful. The green lynx spider also preys on honey bees.

Green Lynx Spider standing sentinel on my Tomato Plant

Friday, August 10, 2012

Silhouette of a Knockout Rose

Silhouette of a Knockout Rose :: Fultondale, Alabama
This knockout rose is silhouetted against a sky filled with storm clouds, which may be significant in that we haven't had many clouds of any other sort of late.

The hot, sunny days have been much appreciated by my knockout roses, which soak up warmth and sunlight and don't require too much water. 

My vegetables haven't fared as well, with night time temperatures not dropping low enough for their reproductive organs to peak, and daytime temperatures scorching everything in sight.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Neighboring Morris Avenue Facades, Birmingham

While the eastern end of Morris Avenue is a rather historic part of the city (photos from which are the subjects of other blog posts, here), significant portions of the western half are rather derelict (and truth be told, more to my photographic liking). Years of long use appear to have taken their toll on these buildings. Yet the grates and boards that bar entry from their weakened wooden doors appear to have been sufficient to keep out too many of the elements, both natural and human, in the form of graffitos and indigent folks, of whom there is no short supply with this building's close proximity the both the bus terminal and the old railroad tracks that split Birmingham's northern and southern halves. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Erie Storm Front Moving In

We have had quite a few storm fronts come through the state over the last couple of weeks. And I have eager to take some time lapse video of them in order to get some good lightning photos, though that has ultimately proved unsuccessful thus far. 
But in my attempts the other day, I used my Welding Glass as a Neutral Density Filter technique, so as to get longer exposures and increase the probability of capturing lightning. But in the test shots I hadn't yet changed the White Balance settings, which resulted in this gem.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Summer Morning Hike at Turkey Creek

An alternate title for this post could be: "Darby, a Water Dog at Long Last." For some time now I have been somewhat ashamed of my Golden Retriever who appeared to be scared of swimming. She loves water and splashing about the local creeks. But she does not like the swimming pool, and refuses to go in it of her own accord. So we thought she was defectective.

But today, I had a chance to go down to Turkey Creek Nature Preserve in Pinson, Alabama, with a couple of friends and Darby. And since the water wasn't running overwhelmingly fast, I decided it was time to put Darby to the test, and she performed beautifully. The video below offers some snippets from our morning, including such items as a footrace between Darby and myself, which I led most of the way, and Darby's swim across gallant Turkey Creek.

All photos and video were shot on my GoPro Hero2 HD camera, which can be found at GoPro HD HERO2: Outdoor Edition.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Black Creek Park :: Early Morning Haze

Tree in Morning Haze at Black Creek Park, Fultondale
Although there will doubtless be any number of future posts from Black Creek Park to be found on this blog in the future, this is the final installment of Black Creek Park Week.

Among the many trees at the park, diverse in size, age, and variety, this tree is my favorite of a morning. It stands alone backlit by the morning sun, distinguished from its nearest neighbors by the morning's early haze.

Otherwise, throughout the rest of its day, it is perfectly ordinary and unremarkable. Having only these few moments to be outstanding and particularly appreciable.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Black Creek Park :: Yellow Crowned Night Heron under the Viaduct

At Black Creek Park in Fultondale, there is a family of Yellow Crowned Night Herons, one adult and three juveniles. The youngsters' coloration differs from the adults, as they will grow into the distinctive make-up of the fully gown yellow crowned night heron. This heron is fishing under the viaduct on Black Creek Stream that feeds into Black Creek.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Black Creek Park :: Asiatic Lilies in Bloom

Asiatic Lilies at Black Creek Park in Fultondale, Alabama
Hardy plants with few pests, lilies are easy to grow in our temporal climate. Differing varieties of lilies will bloom at various points of the summer season. Requiring a lot of sunlight (a min. of 6-8 hours daily), the long summer days of the South fit their bill nicely.

These asiatic lilies, found along the banks of Black Creek at Black Creek Park, were in bloom in June and July.