Feeding Frenzy

Nine videos taken the same morning, February 5, 2022

A multi-day hatch of small fry around the time of a new moon triggered this Black Skimmers (scientific name: Rynchops niger) feeding behavior surf off Cocoa Beach, Brevard County on Florida’s Atlantic Coast.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Here and There

Around Cocoa Beach

Sights and Sounds

Black Skimmers

Scan of Lori Wilson Park beach

Hunter

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Whale Sighting

Right Whales in February

No, the Manatee mailbox on Atlantic Avenue is NOT the whale sighted….more of that later. February 3rd 2022 dawned with scattered clouds to fracture sunbeams.

Walking south I made the 2+ mile point where, up from the beach on South Atlantic Avenue, is a memorable facade.

Also exotic schefflera, paths to the beach through Sea Grapes.

February is the time for Right Whale sightings on the Florida Atlantic Coast. On the beach, near the blue dot on the following map, were lines of people facing the ocean, some with binoculars and cameras with long lenses.

About 500 feet out, beyond where the wave roll begins, a person sat on a paddle board looking to my right. In the following IPhone videos an occasional black hump, roiling water, a flipper and the signature spout are visible. It is too far for identification, I call it a Right Whale from their reputation for visiting these shores in late January/February.

An hour later, I left the beach at South 4th Street to capture the following local color.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Oceans’ Eons

Tranquil Morning Surf with Peaceful Music for Tranquility, Relaxation, Meditation.

For full peace and tranquility view on a large screen “smart” television.

Eight minutes of ocean waves and gentle music in 4K UHD.

Anatomy of Dawn

Subcategories of Twilight and more

Use your pinky finger to apprehend the sky dome. Imagine yourself at sea, out of sight of land, on a calm day. Keeping your arm extended, place your pinky-tip on the horizon due east, raise your arm directly overhead. The average sized pinky-tip will have spanned 90 of its lengths. The distance measured from the horizon to directly overhead, the zenith, is 90 degrees of sky dome, about one pinky-width per degree, one-fourth of the entire 360 degrees of sky around your spot on the globe.

The apparent width of the sun disk from earth covers 1/2 degree of sky dome. The disk center point moves 15 degrees per hour (360/24 = 15). Using these facts to estimate time to sunset is relatively straightforward. Estimating time to dawn from the sky is more difficult. This graphic, “Twilight-dawn subcategories,” is a way to grasping what happens. Your position on the earth globe affects the experience. For example, at northern latitudes above 60°34′ summer nights never become darker than civil twilight because the sun’s midpoint never drops lower than 6 degrees below the horizon. Civil twilight lasts all night long summer times in parts of Sweden and Finland.

The date-time stamp on the first photograph of this series is 6:46:23 am, Cocoa Beach sunrise for February 1st was 7:09:40, 00:23:17, 23.283 minutes in decimal notation, later. This duration divided by 60 minutes in an hour and multiplied by the sun’s apparent velocity across the sky (15 degrees per hour) and minus the .25 degree between sun’s center and disk edge, gives the sun’s center as 5.57 degrees below the horizon: this is a photograph of the sky a minute or so after the sun passed civil dawn into civil twilight. I am not more exact because this calculation does not account the deviation of the sun path from due east at this latitude, lengthening civil twilight duration by almost a minute.

The following photograph is time-stamped 7:05:06, 4.567 minutes until sunrise, sun center is just below the horizon, setting the dark clouds of the previous photograph fleetingly on fire.

Sunrise has passed in the following photographs, obscured by clouds and making for a great light show. Enjoy!!

References

“Dawn” Wikipedia page, the graphic “Twilight-dawn subcategories,” and the descriptions of subcategories came from this page.

Venus at dawn

Planet Thoughts

Since 1500 B.C. until today…..

The planet we call Venus has ancient associations with fertility goddesses. The link has persisted at least from the 1600 century B.C. inscribed on Sumerian cuneiform tablets. Three thousand years later the Italian artist Botticelli created in tempura paint on canvas the image of Venus rising from the sea, as the planet Venus does today.

Venus Rising

Here is Venus rising from the sea at dawn January 2022, at its brightest and most beautiful. Some mistake this new light in the east for airplane lights; the bright disk of Venus is 25 times brighter than Sirius, enough to cast shadows at night. As Venus proceeds in its orbit, the planet alternately sets after the sun and rises before it, seemingly appearing new each time.

This February I caught a newly risen Venus in this IPhone 7 video, reflected in the waves. It seemed to be a flashing headlight on the beach, the Venus reflection came and went with the passing waves. Venus is the upper, the reflection is beneath. Use the lower right control for the full view.

Looking from his window June 1889, Vincent VanGogh included Venus in his “Starry Night” painting, seen to the right of the Cypress tree.

Here is a closer view of Venus last January, the planet disk is apparent, unlike even the closest stars, Venus is seen as a whole object. Click on image for a full view.

Venus and Mars

Venus and Mars shared 2022’s pre-dawn winter sky. Click on the first image for a full-size view. Mars is seen above the palm tree stump, on the right. In this photograph, from early February, Venus and Mar apparently moved closer. The closeness is an illusion, the planets are millions of miles apart, on either side of Earth’s orbit. Click on the photograph for a full-size view, Mars can just be made out to the right and above Venus.

This crop clearly shows the brightness of Venus compared to Mars.

Maritime Pilots, Scout Island, Scout Canal

About maritime pilots and the Chilean Fjords

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On our way to Fjord Tempanos and the Iceberg Glacier…..

Background: on a ship, facing the bow (front), starboard is right and port is left).

In the 8 miles from Tarn Bay and Sombrero Island lands press closer, higher, islands increase in number.  This is a listing of some of the islands we passed. These names reflect the history of Chile, the waves of immigrants touch the land with memories. After some of the names, below, I provide in parentheses the derivation.

On starboard was the northern Wellington Archipelago (English General): Pinochet (the Chilean dictator), Penguin, Juan Stuven (Spanish and German), Chang (the far east), Millar (German).

On port, the names have a military flavor: Zealous, Scout, Scylla (Sea Monster of Greek mythology), Alert, Orlebar (British Officer Augustus Orlebar).

These port side island names reflect what is on the minds of mariners as navigational options narrow with the channel.  Innumerable channels, points, mid-channel islets, all looking very much the same, a potentially confusing jumble.  Chilean maritime law demands ships have on board, working from the bridge, a certified Chilean maritime pilot to transverse the country’s dangerous channels and fjords.  The combination of stopping distance (multiple nautical miles) and the loss of steering when a ship moves slowly make it essential to know, exactly, the route ahead.  It was a Chilean maritime pilot who help keep us safe.

A great personal hazard for pilots is boarding the ship from the pilot boat.  From our stateroom terrace we observed fast pilot boats in all seas approach the Regatta miles from port, the pilot on the bow, pull up alongside.  Without a harness, the pilot transfers from boat to ship.  We observed this several times from our stateroom veranda.

Here are shots of the pilot boat approaching the Regatta off the Peruvian port of Matarani. The boat was mirrored by the colorfully painted houses of Peru.

Don Roberto Approaches the Regatta
A fast pilot boat from Matarani approaches the Oceania Regatta. On the bow, the pilot will transfer from boat to ship. On board he will work with the Regatta crew to safely navigate the approach to the Matarani harbor and dock. The whiteness on the land is diatomaceous earth.
Don Roberto, Maritime pilot, approaches the Regatta
The whiteness on the land is diatomaceous earth.

A cautious approach. In the third shot the boat turns to slowly approach the Regatta.

Alongside, boat crewmembers joint Don Roberto on the bow to assist in the transfer. I am not sure which of the two blue uniformed persons was “our” pilot.

I did not capture the boarding of the pilot who served the Regatta through the Chilean Fjords.  Was is at Puerto Montt?  Puerto Chacobuco?  I am not sure.  I do know a maritime pilot was on board as the channel narrowed to 2 miles, named Scout Channel were we passed Scout Island.  I was facing generally east from our port side stateroom veranda while capturing these photographs as the Regatta headed south.

Scout Island and Canal
Scout Island. The water is Scout Channel

The peak on Scout Island is about 2,100 feet. The smaller peaks in front are about 1,200 and 1,500 feet. All rise straight up from Scout channel.

Scout Island
Scout Island lies on the Scout Canal
Scylla Island
Lying just south of Scout Island, Scylla Island is between our ship, in the Scout Canal, and the Kruger Canal. The Kruger is short, between Islands Scout, Orebar, Zealous, Porcia and Tito.
Islet Alert and Orebar Island
Islet Alert is between Canal Scout and Canal Kruger. On the far left there are waves breaking on Pilot Point of Orebar Island, marking the northern end of a small bay, named Hale. You can see the bay behind Islet Alert. On the far left there are waves breaking on Pilot Point

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Fall Creek Winter

The magic of ice, water, light

This January 2005 morning dawned cold, the risen sun low to the south of a forested esker ridge, as I suited up for this long planned for photograph.  A Sony DSC-F828, a UV filter and tripod were all I needed to capture this.  That camera model has a integrated flex lens.  I needed to stabilize the lens to achieve this image clarity, depth and sharpness.

The shimmering gloss was achieved by waiting until the sun was above the ridge, shining light shafts through the trees, lighting the water obliquely.

As late as January the stream carries enough heat to create a fog or mist as the air chills after sunset.  This causes twigs to frost up to create those white stick figures on the far bank.  Snowfall from the previous day clings to trees.

Fall Creek freezes from the bottom up.  First the water smoothed boulders accumulate a glaucous ice coat.  Slowly moving water freezes from the edges, in stages, the middle stage an ornate filagree.  The stream narrows downstream where the surface ice first joins.  As the year progresses through February the creek gradually recedes under the ice, replaced by an ice road.

What is an esker ridge?  As the last glaciers melted 10,000+ years ago, the channels carrying meltwater and sediment, under the glaciers, deposited these winding ridged hills.  One of the outcomes was the channel of Fall Creek was altered to flow through the field of eskers among which, in the 19th century, a dam and water mill were created.  It made barrels and furniture.  My former home, in this photograph, was converted from the workshop of that mill.

First Water Trailhead

A desert garden with plans

First Water Trail Head

Notable Sonoran Desert Plants, all in the same frame. From the left, back row: staghorn cholla, ocotillo, saguaro. Front row: teddy bear cholla, yucca. I am not certain the greenery to the left of the yucca is brittle bush.

First Water trail head is the most used access point to the Superstition Wilderness, being the closest to Phoenix and its satellite cities and suburbs. For day hikers there are ample and interesting route choices as all foot trails of the west side terminate at First Water making for a variety of loops and incredible views. For horse people there are facilities to park huge trailers.

The ready access from Mesa, where my sister and husband had their home, was the primary reason I planned to finish my cross wilderness hike on the Dutchman Trail. Named for Jacob Waltz of the fabulous legend of the Lost Dutchman mine, the inspiration for The Searcher’s Superstition Wilderness expeditions and, ultimately, why he and I met and my change of plans.

On our ride over from Roosevelt he told of his difficulties building a home in Apache Junction, sleepless nights spent guarding building supplies from thieves. He looked forward to moving day.

This photographic record of five days in the wilderness would be much different without that meeting yet, there I was that afternoon with plenty of time for photography during the golden hours of late afternoon as I wandered the desert gardens until my sister arrived.

Wild Barley

The long distant ridge beyond the rugged near hills is the backbone of the famed “Superstition Mountain.” On the far right are hoodoos, appearing as so many teeth on a jaw. Gorgeous saguaros in the foreground.

Weavers Needle is the distant peak, 5.5 dry miles away in this view to the west / southwest.

I’ve always been partial to how the dense spines of cactus catch the evening light. These staghorn chollas are in front of the same ridge of the Superstition Mountain. A famous formation, “The Flatiron” is visible on the far right.

The road to the trail head, Service Road 78, winds through 2.6 miles of hills. Here is another overview of Sonoran desert life.

You might remember hedgehog cactus blossoms from my posting “A Dry Piece of Paradise”. The following are from the large hedgehog cactus in the foreground of the preceding photograph.

Future Plans

During the drive back with my sister, Diane, we talked of plans for returning to the Reavis Ranch together, as a backpack expedition. In coming days I met with The Searcher to explore possibilities for a horse expedition and, three years later, these plans came together for a trip kicked off from this same First Water trail head.

Hedgehog Cactus Blooms

Here is a gallery of the same photos. It is fun to flip back and forth with me disappearing from the scene.

Click me for the first post of this series.