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Where We Live by John Silveira and Richard Blunt. Photos and commentary from Oregon and New England.

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.



Archive for May, 2012

 

Pelicans of Oregon, Part 1

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Ever since I was a little boy, pelicans have reminded me of what pterodactyls were supposed to look like. I know, I’m not the first to say that. They look like something that accidentally crossed the K-T boundary that marks the extinction of the dinosaurs. Like many others, I’ve always found them to be funny looking – until last year, that is, when I began to photograph them. It was then that I began to think of them as beautiful, and even regal. There’s an imperious look to them even though they have an anachronic appearance. To me, they also look like they should be hopelessly awkward, however, they are anything but. When skimming over the waves, mere inches above the water, they are as graceful as any creature that ever roamed this earth, and when they’re diving out of the air from 50, 100 feet, or more, they do so with miraculous precision.

At the moment, I can’t decide which is my favorite bird: the osprey or the pelican. Both are hunters. The bald eagle, our national symbol, is more a combination of hunter, scavenger, and thief.  Ospreys are hunters and will also steal from each other. But pelicans are, as near as I can tell, pure hunters. They don’t scavenge and, though I’ve seen other birds try to steal from them, I have yet to see one try to steal from another.

Like ospreys, pelicans make dramatic dives to catch their prey. But, unlike ospreys, they can alight on the water and swim. Often, after they make their catch, they float on the waves and let the water drain from their bills.

There are eight species of pelicans and, though the brown pelicans, here along the coast of Oregon, are the smallest, they’re still pretty big birds. I’d love to, and will in the future, see other species.

I have frequently gone to the mouths of the Rogue and Chetco Rivers, here in southwestern Oregon, and watched the pelicans hunting in groups of 15 or 20 individuals. They’ll fly above those estuaries looking for fish and, when one sees a target,  it will suddenly roll over in the sky and plunge toward the water from 50, 100 feet, or more. They remind me of the World War II dive bombers I read about when I was a kid.

The following sequence was shot just the other day with my Canon 5D Mark III, using a Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Shutter speed 1/640     f-stop 8     ISO 250     focal length 400mm, for all photos in the sequence.

 

 

 

Heublein Tower

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

This popular tourist attraction was built in 1n 1914 to serve as the summer home for the food magnate Gilbert Heublein, whose manufacturing and distribution company, Heublein Inc, supplied the country with A1 Steak Sauce and Smirnoff Vodka. The tower is 165 feet tall and sits on Talcott Mountain in Symsbury Connecticut. It stands 1000 feet above the Farmington valley,and was designed to withstand winds over 100 MPH. The Republican Party asked General Dwight Eisenhower to run for President while he was attending an event at the Tower. Also, Ronald Regan visited the Tower while he was President of the Screen Actors Guild. Over the years the Tower has suffered several disasters and has been rebuilt several times. Since 1985 preservation and restoration efforts have been funded by The Friends Of The Heublein Tower, a non-profit organization.

Gilbert Heublein was born in and lived for part of his life in Germany. This fact sparked rumors during World War One that the Tower was being used to inform the German navy of the location of Allied ships. In an effort to stop the rumors Heublein offered use of the tower to state and federal governments, both declined the offer.

Heublein Tower

Winter View From The Mountain

View of the Farmington Valley From the Tower base

Looking up from the Valley

 

Harbor seals of Oregon, Part 1

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

The seals that hang around the Port of Gold Beach are called harbor seals. If there are other species of seals here, I haven’t seen them, yet. There are sea lions here, too, but I only recently learned to tell the difference between seals and sea lions. The quickest way is that the seals are “earless” whereas the sea lions have external ears. Both are thought to have evolved from an otter/bear-like animal, over 20 million years ago.

The harbor seals I’ve seen seem to come in various colors ranging from a blackish-brown to almost tan, while others are almost a bluish-grey. As near as I can tell they’re all  spotted, with the darker colored seals having light spots and the lighter-colored seals having dark spots.

The harbor seals that live here are here pretty much year-round.

These three photos below were all taken with a Canon 60D camera. For the first one I used an EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens. I sat at a picnic table on one side of the port, so I could steady my camera, while I shot them on the other side of the port. For the other two I used an EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens. All three photos were blown up and cropped.

The harbor seals like to loll around in the port, often wiggling their way up onto the sand and gravel bars where dozens of them lie sunning themselves for hours on end. If they sprawl out there at low tide, they don't seem bothered by the rising water as the tide comes back in. From what I've read, they're well-insulated against the cold with a coat of thick fur and a thick subcutaneous layer of blubber. They also seem to find no discomfort in sleeping on rocky beaches.

Shutter speed 1/640     f-stop 8     ISO 100     focal length 400mm

 

The harbor seals will not only crawl up onto beaches and gravel bars, they'll also get up on the docks where they can lie for hours. As you can see, many of them stared at me, curious about my presence the morning I was photographing them

Shutter speed 1/800    f-stop 5     ISO 100     focal length 200mm

 

Though wary of humans, harbor seals are curious by nature and this one swam back and forth off the north jetty, at the mouth of the Rogue River, watching me. It seemed to be as curious about me as I was about it.

Shutter speed 1/250    f-stop 11     ISO 2000     focal length 200mm

 

 
 


 
 

 
 
 
 
 
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