Sunday, December 25, 2011

Humming Birds from the Indian Canyons of Palm Springs for Christmas

This may be the best place to photograph Hummingbirds I have yet found in North America. Indian Canyons is an area within the lands of the Agua Caliente Cahuilla Indians of California.

Number one: Costa female

Number two: Costa female

Number three: Anna's female

Number four: Adult male and female Costa's

Number Five: male Anna's

Number six: a female Costa's and an Anna's defending their territories.

Number seven: both Anna's and Costa's

Number eight: both

Number nine: female Anna's

Number ten: female Anna's

Number eleven: Anna's male

Number twelve: male Costa's

Number thirteen: female Costa's

Number fourteen: female Costa's

Number fifteen: female Costa's

The Costa's Hummingbird is very small, a mature adult growing to only 3 to 3½ inches in length. The male Costa's has a mainly green back and flanks, a small black tail and wings, and patches of white below their gorgeted throat and tail. The male Costa's Hummingbird's most distinguishing feature is its vibrant purple cap and throat with the throat feathers flaring out and back behind its head. The female Costa's Hummingbird is not as distinct as the male, having grayish-green above with a white underbelly.

The Costa's Hummingbird is fairly common in the arid brushy deserts and any nearby gardens of the Southwestern United States and the Baja California Peninsula of Mexico.

Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) is a medium-sizedhummingbird native to the west coast of North America. This bird was named after Anna Masséna, Duchess of Rivoli. Anna's Hummingbird is 3.9 to 4.3 inches (10 to 11 centimeters)long. It has a bronze-green back, a pale grey chest and belly, and green flanks. Its bill is long, straight and slender. The adult male has an iridescent crimson-red crown and throat, and a dark, slightly forked tail. Anna's is the only North American hummingbird species with a red crown. Females and juveniles have a green crown, a grey throat with some red markings, a grey chest and belly, and a dark, rounded tail with white tips on the outer feathers.

Hummingbirds are birds that comprise the family Trochilidae. They are among the smallest of birds, most species measuring in the 7.5–13 cm (3–5 in) range. Indeed, the smallest extant bird species is a hummingbird, the 5-cm to about 20-mm Bee Hummingbird. They can hover in mid-air by rapidly flapping theirwings 12–80 times per second (depending on the species). They are also the only group of birds able to fly backwards. Their English name derives from the characteristic hum made by their rapid wing beats. They can fly at speeds exceeding 15 m/s (54 km/h, 34 mi/h)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Crocodiles of Costa Rica

Ever ridden in a boat and the water is only foot or so from your hand, and you reach down and the it glide through your fingers as the boat moves along? Well that was the first thing the river guide said not to do when we boarded the river boat to go see the crocodiles along the Tarcoles River in Costa Rica. This excursion was part of our trip to go through the Panama Canal

We had traveled from the Port of Calderas for an hour and a half scuntched up in local bus to an estuary that flowed into the Tarcoles River which inturn flowed into the Pacific Ocean. Arriving there after driving along the Ocean shore for the last 15 minutes, we boarded a comfortable tour boat.

Off we went down the estuary observing nature and rust colored floating cola bottles.

It reminded us a whole lot of the artificial jungle ride we had taken numerous times at Disneyland in California. This time when they said keep your hand in the boat I listened.

Oh, I should mention that in addition to my wife that the ubiquitous Junior the Bear was also on the trip and went on the tour with us.

The estuary it seems was actually the nursery area for the crocodile hatchlings that were hatch in nest by mama crocs further up stream in a protected area. The first one we saw was about 18 inches long.

As we spied more in the mangroves along the shore they got progressively larger the closer we got to the river itself.

Here is where I mention that I have decided that Germans are my International Texans. They were always getting up walking around and leaning in front of me to block my pictures. One little lady almost took a swim with the crocs, but......

Then we turned a bend and were moving out into the river.

The river was wide and shallow and very muddy and full of crocodiles.

Yes people actually live on this river, but I noticed they kept the bushes and grass cleared off a long way from their houses and always owned a dog.

These were the big guys. People in the boat sort of squooshed in towards the middle away from the edges.

I guess maybe crocs don't like the taste of feathers?


This one croc was laying there with its mouth open letting the little shore birds pick bits of meal debris out of between its teeth. I tried to get a picture of that but the birds did it very fast as if they weren't really all that confident that they weren't on the menu.

Somehow this 10 foot croc, although half the size of the others was the scariest because he was up running around on all fours. He dispelled the feeling that these brutes no matter how large were lethargic or slow.

I kind of felt like I had traveled in time rather than space.

As we retreated up the estuary to our boat dock and souvenir shop I was glad the see the crocs shrinking back down to a more manageable size.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Transit Of The Panama Canal: Pacific to Atlantic Side

This was on my bucket list. In November 2011, I got to ride the cruise ship, MS Statendam from the Holland American Lines through the Panama Canal.

The Captain had announced the previous evening that we would raise anchor at 5:30 AM begin our transit of the Panama Canal. We he actually started at 3:30 AM. So at five when I awoke he was already far up the channel and approaching the first lock in the system. It was still dark.

Things were blurry and out of focus and just not in my camera. There were things moving on the shore of the canal channel that might have been salt water crocodiles or logs being moved by long thin beavers. Pick one.

I finally got enough light to see how to set my low light settings on my camera.

And so we began a trip I never thought I would actually take. I was going through the Panama Canal. I was excited, hungry and in desperate need of coffee.

All that was made available by the crew out on the deck of the ship. Things began to clear up.

I am tempted to relate a detailed technical version of what was going on as we transited the channels, locks, and lakes of the Canal system. Anyone interested in the detail use of the electric mule locomotives, how their cog rail system and cable restraint systems keep ships from banging into the sides or gates of of their locks come spend a couple of days with me I got the picture and the dope on that. Here in this blog I will keep it simple.

The neon arrow tells the ship which of the two lock system to use.

And so we started.

With 1200 people hanging over every foot of railing on 7 decks in 80+ degree and 85% humidity weather at 5:45 AM.

The guys in the row boat pass line from the ship to the Mule locomotives.

The Mules don't pull the ship through but rather keep it in the middle of the lock. Neat trick when there's often less than two feet between the lock wall on either side and the ship's hull.

Let's see, tha's a container vessel on the left and another cruise ship on the right.

Tugs are everywhere even though the ship use their own power to go through the Canal there are tugs standing by at all times to keep the Canal clear of ships that may have problems and help them with difficult turns etc..

As I said....

A lock gate.

When closed you can use them as a bridge.

Now here we go. Panama is building a third set of locks. the new locks will handle much wider and longer ships. It should be done by 2014 and will cost $20 billion.

More construction. How can they make this pay? Well consider that our ship paid a total of $285,000 in reservation and transit fees, and look at all the ships here.

Day light comes...and the temperature is 92 degrees. People are retreating to the air conditioned areas of the ship to watch through windows.

Expanding the infamous Galbraith cut to handle the bigger ships.

At the very top of the ship it is twelve stories to the ground below.

A little tree trimming.

The secret to building the Canal is revealed. Legos.

Again the third lock construction.

Drill, dynamite, dredge.

The jungle comes right up to and often into the canal.

Panama Railway bridge.

The lakes are dotted with hundreds of islands.

Out onto lake Gatun.

A sea going box full of hotwheels.

Chemical transport.

The last locks, Caribbean ahead.
Now I wasn't done. Two weeks later I came back and went through the opposite way.