Critter Cam in Winter

Our trail camera was out for the past week behind our house. Because of rain and snow, I covered it with a clear plastic bag to keep it dry. The images are a bit out of focus. Lots of squirrel activity. A few possums and raccoons. Several deer passed by. One of them got in very close. A fox trotted by the camera. In 20 years, it is only the 2nd time I’ve ever seen one back there. I’ve never seen that black dog before. Dogs are supposed to be on leash. Lastly, one of the local black squirrels posed for a shot. Still no bobcats or cougars. Click for bigger images.


An Abject Reptile

A friend loaned this book to me. The title Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile got my attention so I started reading it right away. Only 180 pages, it was a quick read. Author Verlyn Klinkenborg used notes from Gilbert White in the 18th century. White constantly observed nature and recorded details in notebooks. He searched for keys to behavior and connections to the spiritual world of his profession as a pastor. The term physico-theology was used to describe him. Gilbert White’s notes described the people, their lives, nature, and their connections in the small town of Selborne England.

Timothy was a tortoise owned by White. He lived in the garden for a long time. Originally from the middle east, Timothy was not accustomed to the climate of England. But, Timothy was an astute observer of White and the other humans. Verlyn Klinenborg wrote this book from the viewpoint of Timothy using White’s notes about the town and its citizens.

I found it perceptive and captivating. If you are an observer of the natural world, I think you would enjoy this book.

Critter Cam 2.0

Previous pictures by critter cam were all stills. For the recent 3 days, I set the camera to record video. Movement of any kind triggers it to record 10 sec, then wait 30 sec in case something is still there moving around. In all, 53 videos were recorded. Many were of falling leaves or wiggling branches due to the very windy weather conditions lately. Those that remained with animals in the scene were combined with software. Dead time was removed. The video is about 2 minutes long. Cats and possums are again the stars of the show. At the end, I had to chase off some guy who was going to mess with the critter cam. I’m ready for him if he comes back.

Critter Cam

There is a wooded acreage directly behind our house. Deer have made a path over time that conveniently connects our house to a city trail system about 50 yards away. There is daily traffic of various animals along it.

A month ago our next door neighbor said he was certain he saw a bobcat in his back yard not far from the deer path. It is a real possibility. I know some locals who have seen them in other parts of the county. I bought an inexpensive trail camera in hopes of seeing it. After hundreds of images in both day and night time, I have yet to see a bobcat. Lots of house cats, though.

There are plenty of grey squirrels.

There is a very chubby ground hog who waddles by once in a while. That short tree stump is 1 foot tall.

Deer will become more numerous during the winter months as they forage around bird feeders in the neighborhood.

There are many possum, raccoons, birds, and a few chipmunks and mice.

The hunt continues.

Magnetic Raisins

The common phenomenon of magnetism is familiar to most of us as the result of playing with magnets to pick up paper clips and nails. That strong effect goes by the name of ferromagnetism. There are two other types of magnetism unknown to most people. They are paramagnetism and diamagnetism. These two types are much weaker than ferromagnetism and go unseen. But, they exist and are observable under the right circumstances.

To demonstrate diamagnetism, I suspended dried raisins on the ends of a wooden skewer which was hanging by a fine thread. The assembly is very sensitive to twisting forces. I brought a very strong neodymium magnet close to the raisin at one end. Watch what happened.

The same effect occurred if the magnet was reversed. The raisin always repelled weakly. You might wonder if other things exhibit diamagnetism. What about a grape? This link takes you to a video by the Exploratorium in San Francisco. He tests a grape and even aluminum foil. The results might surprise you.

Water is a substance that exhibits diamagnetism. Objects consisting of nearly all water can be seen to repel from strong magnets. Scientists have even tested the effect on a living tiny frog. They were able to levitate the frog in a strong magnetic field. It suffered no ill effects.

If you are more curious and would like to see some explanation of these magnetic effects, watch this video from Khan Academy.

Star Trails | Ursa Major and Minor

This was a fun project.

How I See It

I was inspired by a recent post in the blog Cosmic Focus by fellow amateur astronomy Ggreybeard in Australia. He put his DSLR camera on a tripod facing north and attached an intervalometer. The result was a series of 100 images each 45 sec long stitched together showing the star trails across the northern sky. I encourage you to go visit his blog to see the beautiful image.

I noticed Ursa Major and Minor, the Big and Little Dippers to most people, in the northwest sky in recent summer evenings when I was out with my telescope or binoculars. That post by Ggreybeard made me want to try the same thing. I decided to try to get the star trails using two different camera setups.

NightCap Camera

My iPad has the app NightCap Camera on it. It can capture many varied low-light scenes including one called Light Trails. I…

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Hummingbirds vs Shutter Speeds

Our feeder hangs not far from the front window. The tiny Ruby-throated Hummingbirds come and go quickly. Sometimes there are aerial duels. Wasps and hornets are carefully avoided by the little birds. I hear the birds swoop by me as I put fresh sweet water into the feeder. They have a wingbeat rate of around 50/sec (50 hertz). It is a little lower frequency than the 60 Hz hum of electric current signals I sometimes hear on audio equipment. Here is a link to an audio recording by David Eberly of two Hummingbirds near a feeder. Turn up the volume.

I was curious how different camera shutter speeds would capture the wingbeats. The camera was set on a tripod, focused through the window, and zoomed in all the way. A remote shutter let me get shots without camera shake. This first image used ISO 100 and shutter speed of 1/125 sec. Lots of blur. Even the tail feathers are blurred.

ISO 100 | 1/125 sec
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Sunset at Vanishing Point

Near us are railroad tracks aligned southeast to northwest. In early August and May, the Sun sets inline with the tracks. Often, it is cloudy or my timing is bad. This year things worked out so some photographs were possible.

It was about 8:03 pm for this first image. The Sun was slightly to the upper left of the vanishing point of the tracks.

8:03 pm

I waited until 8:06 for the next shot. I noticed a few small clouds near the horizon. The alignment seemed a little better.

8:06 pm

One minute later the Sun went behind the clouds. For a change, I held the camera very low to change the perspective a little.

8:07 pm

A Sand County Almanac

Over the years, this book by Aldo Leopold has been recommended by many as a good read. I was born and raised only 30 miles from his hometown. My farm life and closeness to nature were strong influences on how I saw the world. A month ago while browsing a used bookstore, I found this copy of his book and decided it was time to read it. I am so glad I did. Leopold’s reflections on the natural world and our place in it fit squarely with mine. If you have not yet read the book, I encourage you to do so.