Monroe's Blog

Friday, October 26, 2007


Cape May Trip

We went to Cape May, NJ last weekend for some fall birdwatching. We arrived on Friday, but couldn't do much outside due to some rain. We've been in a bad drought all summer, so I can't complain too much about the rain. We spent a few minutes at the hawk watch platform and Sunset Beach, but did not see many birds due to the limited visibility.

Saturday was much better. We started at the hawk watch again. After a few minutes there, we walked the trails through the park. We saw plenty of birds in the trees and brush. I also left my notebook on a bench, so afterwards I had to go back and look for it. A nice man picked it up and gave it back to me when he noticed that it looked like I was searching for something. We went from there to the Cape May city beach, where we got to see terns and skimmers close-up. After this we went to Sunset Beach again for a few minutes, and then to the beach to look for sea birds. We did see some Northern Gannets punge-diving out in the water, and lots of terns. We also picked up a bunch of smooth, polished rocks off the beach. These rocks are worn smooth during their trip down the Delaware Bay. The clear quartz crystal rocks can be shined up and polished to look very much like diamonds. That is why they are called Cape May Diamonds, and they sell them in the gift shops. We also went around Lily Lake and saw a lot of neat ducks and a kingfisher there. I dropped Joyce off at the hotel and then I took a walk around the Meadows at the end of the afternoon. There wasn't much there, although I did see a Pelican.

On Sunday we started by walking around Hidden Valley and Higbee Beach. There were plenty of birds there. We made a final stop at the hawk watch, where we lucked out and saw the season's first Swainson's Hawk. The hawk watch people were very excited. After a lunch break we drove north to Wildwood, where we didn't see much, and then to the Wetlands Institute a little west of Stone Harbor. There was a nice trail out into the marsh, and we some some neat birds there.

Overall we had a great time on the trip. Friday was a little disappointing, but we really did need that rain. I plan to post my photos from this trip, plus some from a Ravens football game the week before, over the weekend.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


A disgusting TV commercial

There is a new commericial on TV for All Bran cereal. It is set on a construction site, and a hard-hat wearing worker has a box of this cereal and he describes how he has had problems being "regular." Sounds pretty tame, right? But shortly after it starts, a large I-bean is sticking out of a hole in the building in the background. Workers pull and yank on it and it finally comes crashing out, on to the ground. And while the worker talks about how great this cereal is, a truck moves behind him and dumps off 3 large keg- looking things that bounce along the ground behind it. And at the very end, a dump truck comes right behind the man and dumps an entire load of dirt and debris.

Am I a 5th grader, or does this commercial emphasize how the cereal helps you poop by showing trucks and buildings symbolically pooping? I find it very funny and kind of disturbing. So maybe I am a 5th grader.

Friday, September 28, 2007


New TV Shows

The fall 2007 TV season is underway. So far, two of the new shows look good to me. On Monday we watched "Journeyman" after "Heroes." It started a little slow, but the episode picked up about halfway through. The involuntary time travel theme is interesting, but the usual time travel paradoxes kick in. And if he spends the whole series chasing after his maybe-dead first wife, that could get kind of old.

"Bionic Woman" was good too. The cast looked like a Battlestar Galactica reunion, though. I guess that makes sense with the producers and writers all coming from Battlestar. I thought the whole transition from being a normal person into a bionic one was too hasty on the show. She was up and moving almost right away, and the impants started working all by themselves, and the nanotech blood stuff (anthracites? Coal?) made the bionic parts look exactly like her originals. Maybe they spent all of their special effects budget on making her run fast. I hope the show doesn't become a weekly fight between Jamie and Starbuck- I mean Corvus.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Total Lunar Eclipse, August 28th, 2007

I woke up early on the morning of August 28th to observe the total lunar eclipse. My home in Havre de Grace does not have good visibility to the west due to some large trees and my neighbors' houses, so I had to go find a better spot. Fortunately I found one right off of Bulle Rock Rd just up the hill from home.

I set up my scope on a side road near one of the model houses up there. The skies were clear and the moon was bright before the eclipse began. I was fortunate to have no problems with clouds or fog. At about 4:51 AM I noticed the first hints of the Earth's shadow on the full moon. A few minutes later I snapped my first photos. I had some trouble connecting my Digital Rebel camera to the scope, so I had to use my backup plan of hand-holding my Nikon Coolpix 4500 to the 40mm eyepiece.

The photos can be seen at the bottom of the page here.

Note that with the unaided eye, the shadow "bite" started at the top of the moon. It is shown on the lower right here due to the orientation of the camera as I took the photo. It is not visible in this photo, but through the scope visually I could see a hint of red in the shadowed portion almost right from the start.

As the shadow moved across the face of the moon, the moon moved lower, toward the horizon. Since sunrise was also approaching, the sky was brightening too. I took more photos every few minutes to document the partial phase of the eclipse.

After this, the moon became so dim that I couldn't adequately hand-hold the camera to the eyepiece.

When totality started at 5:52 AM, the moon looked like a very dim red disk. The sky was quite bright by then. I only got to see totality for a few moments before the brightening sky completely washed it out, making the moon invisible to me.

I was happy to actually see an astronomical event without being clouded or rained out. Hopefully the conditions will be as nice for the next lunar eclipse, which takes place on February 21st, 2008.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Labor Day Owl Prowl

Joyce and I went looking for owls one night during Labor Day weekend 2007. I have been on a few guided owl trips with the local bird clubs, but I have never successfully found any owls on my own. Joyce had never seen an owl in the wild.

I brought my iPod with the bird calls/songs loaded and a flashlight. Maybe this is cheating, but we went to the same places the Harford Bird Club trip went to on an owl trip last year. At our first stop, the sky was not quite dark. I played the Barred Owl song a few times (it sounds like "who cooks for you?") and had no replies. We then decided to drive a few miles down the road, to a place the club saw Screech Owls last year.

I played the Screech Owl song a few times. This bird sounds like a Halloween ghost, with a creepy whinnying sound. After just a couple of tries I heard a screech owl calling back. When a live one is there, it sounds like it is much farther away than it really is. I got the flashlight out and scanned around the nearby trees and got lucky- the owl was right there on a branch alongside the road. Joyce had gone back to the car for a moment and she just got a glimpse of the bird as it flew away.

We went back to the first place looking for the Barred Owls again. I played the tape just once and was rewarded with a very loud, very close reply. The bird was right there, by the parking lot. It flew back and forth over the lot several times, and it perched on branches in clear view. My photos did not come out very well, but Joyce and I both got very good looks at this owl. We heard a second one in the distance too.

So we were successful in our first un-guided owl walk. We hope to find more owls during our upcoming trip to Cape May, NJ.

Friday, April 28, 2006


A Night at the Emergency Room

Last night I had an allergic reaction to some shrimp we ate for dinner. I quickly lost the ability to speak clearly, which told me it was affecting my throat, so we went to the emergency room in case it got even worse and made it hard to breathe.

At the emergency room, the girl at the check-in desk saw that I was having real problems, but she still insisted on asking me a bunch of administrative questions. I also had to sign at least 3 forms. All the while my voice getting weaker and weaker and I was beginning to have breathing problems. I wonder how they get answers and signatures from heart attack patients.

Fortunately they realized that this was serious and they took me right back to the treatment area, in front of the many other people in the waiting room. After a few shots I was fine. But I missed "Survivor." Hopefully the TIVO caught it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Hawk Watch Fall 2005

Joyce and I went to Turkey Point in Cecil County, MD, last Saturday. We ran into several other birders who were there for the same reason we were- looking for hawks and warblers. They were kind enough to let us tag along, and we had a great time. We saw many woodpeckers, warblers, and other birds durng the walk to the hawk watch site near the lighthouse.

There were many migrating birds passing through. We saw over a hundred Broad Winged hawks, plus many Coopers and Sharp-shinned hawks. There were eagles, a few falcons, a few vultures, and some blue jays too. I took plenty of photos, so in a week or so we'll see if any came out.


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