Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ferry - Happy Valley/Goose Bay to Cartwright

I love ferries! We've ridden short ones and long ones. I love being outside on the open water seeing what there is to see!

The weather was nice and mild as we left the harbor, so except for dinner time, I spent the rest of the daylight hours on the deck enjoying the clouds, the rainbow, and the sunset.

As we left the doc, the sun was peaking out behind some clouds above the horizon.

The clouds in front of the boat were also beautiful. I was taking photos in almost every direction.

When this rainbow first began to form it was very faint and very small. Henry and I were even debating whether it was really a rainbo

While it stayed small for awhile, it began to grow until it became this beautiful wide arc!

I love the tranquility of being aboard a ship at sunset. No chores are staring you in the face demanding attention. You are free to enjoy the salt air, the beautiful clouds, the vibrant colors as the sun sinks below the horizon - an ever changing scene. My camera stayed glued to my eye as a I tried to capture the beauty I was seeing.

Even after the sun had left the sky, the clouds were still mesmerizing. Henry pointed out this "angel."

As a Texas gal, I was glad to see the road runner in the sky!

We were pleasantly surprised to find that the ferry had wireless internet. I had started playing Farmville on this trip, and it was nice to be able to havest my "crops" before they withered.

We had checked on the possibilities for accommodations. There were 2 and 4 people cabins. While there was a four person one available where we would have both had a lower bunk, I thought it was too expensive. So we chose the dormitory style bunks. Each of these "dormitory rooms" slept 16 people in plywood bunks with mattresses and curtains. There was even a light above your bunk for reading. While some people might find the small cozy bunks claustrophobic, I only spent time there sleeping, so it was fine for me. Henry stayed up much later enjoying being out on the deck looking at the stars. He visited with one gentleman who was taking the ferry to see his village one last time before the ferry service ends. When Henry got back to the dorm room, the lights were out, and he chose not to climb up into a bunk in the dark - sleeping instead on one of the sleeping chairs in one of the lounges surrounded by other passengers who had chosen to sleep there.

It was a calm passage and morning came quickly.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Happy Valley - Goose Bay - Cartwright

Coming down into the valley from Churchill Falls brought an abrupt change from short taiga, tundra trees to much taller trees lining the valley walls. We entered the city of Happy Valley around lunch time and enjoyed a meal at the local Burger King. I entered the grocery store to pick up some snacks and marveled that there were fresh strawberries from California here. Expensive! Happy Valley-Goose Bay is the largest population center with over 7,000 residents. Arriving at mid-day is not conducive to wonderful photographs, but we were scheduled to catch the ferry that afternoon, so I wanted memory shots.

This broad tidal plain, the mouth of the Churchill River was beautiful even under the noonday sun.

The town began in 1941 during the building of the Goose Bay Air Force Base, the largest military air base in northeastern North America. Interestingly enough, Goose Bay Airport is on the official NASA list of alternate Space Shuttle landing sites.

The Trans Labrador Highwy and the ferry system as well as the airport connect this community to the rest of the world. A new highway is under construction and due to be completed perhaps by the end of last year will replace the need for the Happy Valley/Goose Bay to Cartwright ferry. I'm glad we were visiting while the ferry was still running. There are some other fishing villages north of Happy Valley and Goose Bay that I suspect will still have a smaller ferry in operation. I would love to come back and visit those small villages as well as the Torngat Mountains National Park at the northern tip of Labrador.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

My Winter Backyard Birds

Because the weather was so cold and snowy the birds were flocking to my bird feeder. After driving around to get the scenic photos, I decided to sit on the porch (with the propane heater running) to see if I could get some snowy day bird photos. We were expecting two more bands of snow, so i was hoping maybe I would be lucky and get some snowy branches or birds with snow flakes on them. While we did more snow, it didn't accumulate, but I enjoyed my time on the porch. And I was pleased with the bird photos I got.

We get tons of white crowned sparrows in the winter. The adults are easy to identify with those solid white markings.

The juveniles lack those prominent white head markings and for years I've had trouble distinguishing them from chipping sparrows. I've been sure the ones near my house have all been juvenile white crowns because they are always hanging around the mature ones. Experienced birders always scoffed because chipping sparrows are a lot smaller than white crowns. On this snowy day, I had a lot of different juveniles whose markings differed from one another just slightly. After photographing them, I pulled out both my Sibleys Guide to Birds and my Sparrows of the United States and Canada. After careful comparisons between the juvenile white crowns and chipping sparrows, I'm very confident that the ones I saw were all juvenile white crowns. I noted that chipping sparrows have a darker beak, only one white wing bar, and darker legs. My birds had yellow orange legs, two distinctive white wing bars, and yellow orange beaks in addition to being similar in size to the adults.

I don't know how many juveniles I had, but as I'm going through the images, I have many more juvenile images than adults.

I was especially happy that this Lincoln sparrow visited while i was out with the camera. I'd seen him in the yard and was pretty certain that I had the correct ID, but a picture confirms the identification so much better because you have time to study the markings in detail with a bird that is not hopping around and flying off.

He came back several times giving me several opportunities to get a good shot of him.

One of my favorite winter yard birds is the Harris Sparrow. He's one of the larger sparrows, but I love how the bright browns and blacks contrast against that very white breast. He has such distinctive markings that I find him easy to identify. With the males and females looking alike, it keeps the identification simple.

When I first starting watching the orange crowned warblers in my yard, they were sneaky. They would come in quickly to eat and fly quickly away so fast you couldn't get the details in the field marks. Today, they were hungry and stayed around long enough for me to get some good photos.

The day wouldn't be complete without the cardinals.

Also seen coming to the feeder, red winged blackbird females, northern mockingbird, brown headed cowbirds, and Carolina chickadees.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Winter in Central Texas - A Rare Snow!

We've lived in Central Texas since 1971. Snow is rare. We can go for years without seeing it even fall from the sky. If we are going to have snow it usually falls in January. By February, there are hints of spring - daffodils beginning to bloom, trees beginning to bud, and even sometimes a few bluebonnets. However, this year, it has been colder and wetter than normal. I do have a plum tree that is trying to bloom. We've had a few days with sleet and a few falling flakes. But today, we had real snow. Big flakes, sticking to the ground, accumulation! WHEEE!

I had other things on my need to do list, but snow is so rare here, that I decided that I had better take the time to go and see what images I could find representing winter in Central Texas.

I headed first to the pond just south of Brushy Creek near HWY 685. This tree with its coating of snow on the north side grabbed my attention.

The ground around Brushy Creek was protected by the tree branches and did not have a lot of snow, so I headed north of Hutto to a couple of places that I thought might have some good photographic opportunities.

I wasn't expecting this one, but I loved the way this little creek meandered through the trees. As I worked this image, it needed a little extra something, so I used my Topaz filters to make the image flow more smoothly and hopefully bringing out the natural beauty.

I was glad I took more than one angle, because the first composition had some out of focus limbs that were annoying and caused me to use a panoramic crop. This angle was much cleaner with only a little cleanup needed as well as the Topaz filters.

I stopped on a one lane bridge for these next two shots. Another photographer passed by, knowing like I did that this would be a good spot for a snowy Central Texas landscape.

I like to shoot a scene many ways and from different angles. I also like to zoom in for a more intimate look, especially when streams and moving water offer such inviting vistas.

I'll try to get these up in larger versions at my SmugMug Gallery tomorrow. I've already got some snapshots of the snow around our yard at my website.