Political memes created by yours truly for Facebook posting.
Political memes created by yours truly for Facebook posting.
My wise old grandmother told me that it’s alright to talk to myself, but when I start to ask myself questions, and then answer those questions, I might have problems. So I learned to talk to the animals, although not quite Dr. Dolittle style.
I usually either tell them “I’ll put you on Facebook” or ask them “Do you want to be on Facebook?” Here are some of the responses:
Nope. Big Brother is watching.
Sure! I hear you get lots of LIKEs!
Facebook? Hmmmm. Not sure about that.
These four decided to take their toys and go home.
Sure! Hold on and let me show you my good side.
This guy decided to show off for the Facebook crowd.
Facebook? Please, please, please. Thank you!
Nope. We’re outta here.
Sure! Facebook likes good-looking birds!
There are always a couple who want what others don’t.
Are you one of those bird molesters?
You’re that Russel guy. I don’t trust you. I’m leaving.
In some languages “Facebook” means “water.”
Will I be the first roach on Facebook?
Will I get lots of likes?
I move that we let Russel put us on Facebook.
What is Facebook?
Sure. Let me get dressed first.
Remember that if you come to San Diego for any reason and need a personal docent for the day, I’m always up for it. I often have free tickets to the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. They can be YOURS, free, just like I got them!
Yesterday I played docent for two old friends that I had not seen since 1983, other than Facebook, of course. Here are some pictures from our trip to the Zoo:
Panda. Remember that these are not bears. Just pandas.
Baby monkey, although I don’t know what species.
A female gazelle, looking very pregnant
and being checked on by her previous child.
Polar Bear enjoying the San Diego sunshine.
Reindeer, but not Rudolph, obviously.
Arctic fox. There were two of them yesterday. In 23 years of going to the San Diego Zoo at least once a month, and usually once a week, these are only the second and third pictures I have gotten of the arctic fox.
Got a group photo of some well-known people.
California Condor. Extinct in the wild as recently as 1987 with only 22 birds still living, all in captivity. The San Diego Zoo’s breeding program has resulted in the re-introduction into the wild. It still is one of the world’s rarest birds, with 446 now living both in the wild and in captivity.
Hyrax. I got up close and personal with my 150-600 mm lens.
Meerkat. One of my favorite animals. They are so much fun to watch.
Hyrax momma and her two young ones. The look on her face! Is she thinking that some sort of pervert is taking pictures of her young ones sucking on her teats and is going to put them on the Internet?
Squirrel. This is a “local animal” according to the Zoo,
meaning that it is free to come and go at will. Of course, it knows
where the best food is, not to mention lots of friends!
Kookaburra. It’s difficult to get a good picture of these birds because of the tiny mesh surrounding their enclosure. They have to be at just the right distance from the mesh for my 150-600 mm lens to get through the mesh.
Silverback Gorilla, pondering.
Orangutan, also pondering.
I went to Julian, California, for their Apple Days the weekend of September 24 and discovered three cool stores. The Warm Hearth is in my blog post here. The second one I want to talk about is The Birdwatcher. How can anyone resist going into a store called The Birdwatcher?
The first home that I remember was where we lived when I was 5 in 1960. It had a row of windows under the eaves to let light into the living room. Sadly, birds would fly into the windows and knock themselves out, dying an agonizing death on the ground below. I was picking up dead birds every morning. I resolved to never have windows that would kill birds. Of course, now that I’m a little older, I realize that all windows have the potential to kill birds. You can help our feathered friends by using WindowAlert. Pretty neat.
Rick & Brenda Campbell own The Birdwatcher, and Brenda kindly gave me permission to take interior photos for my blog post here. Thank you, Brenda!
A beautiful selection of wind chimes just in case you don’t have any songbirds at your place.
Birds like taking baths. I mean, who doesn’t?
Bird cards to send your family and friends.
Real honest-to-goodness books about birds for your own personal library.
Cute hangings for your yard.
They have a special wall in the store where they display bird pictures taken by anyone and everyone. All you have to do is send them a picture!
Bird houses and bird feeders of all shapes and sizes to help us care for our feathered friends.
Proof outside that their bird feeders work:
Hot pads, coffee cups, and hand towels.
Birds, nests, and eggs for inside, without the resulting mess to clean up.
Shirts and socks. No pants? No underwear? Sad.
Beautiful and whimsy wall art.
Of course, I came home with something. I could have come home with a lot more but I was in the Corolla instead of the 18-wheeler.
And if there are birds around, well, you know there has to be a cat around, too. Here’s The Birdwatchers indoor kitty:
As soon as I told her that I was going to make her an Internet star, she gave me that look in the first photo and then curled up and pretended she was asleep. Yeah, right.
I was carrying my new video recorder around with me and got a short video of the many hummingbirds hanging out. I think The Birdwatcher even has more hummingbirds than the San Diego Zoo!
If you need anything at all relating to birds, stop by The Birdwatcher in Julian, California.
I guess as the ground squirrels and rabbits pass on the rumor that I’m a pretty nice guy, more wildlife seems to be visiting me. Yesterday a beautiful California Scrub Jay came to visit and drink.
Today, a Greater Roadrunner came to visit. Sadly, the roadrunner found a large Helix Snail that I had saved earlier in the day because it was trying to cross the asphalt street. I picked it up and brought it over to my side of the street. Just a couple of hours later, I watched the roadrunner find the snail, pick it up in its beak, bring it over to the concrete walkway, and bash that snail until the shell broke open, whence the snail became food for the roadrunner.
Reminds me of my wise old grandmother. When wildlife—spiders, lizards, flies—got into her house, she would catch them in a Mason jar and return them to the outside rather than summarily killing them for invading her house. Her reasoning was that they were a viable part of the food chain.
In February 2010 I bought a Canon Rebel T2i DSLR. My whole reason in buying it to replace my Canon Rebel XSi was because the T2i had video. Sadly, though, I was never satisfied with the videos because the autofocus pretty much didn’t work. A Google search indicates that I wasn’t the only one in the world who was dissatisfied.
In late 2015 I replaced the T2i with a T6s because the autofocus was supposed to be vastly improved. Nope. The delay in focusing just wasn’t acceptable.
The shakiness of the videos didn’t make me happy either. Some of the shakiness was the camera’s fault because it weighs 26 ounces. Add a lens that weighs 19 ounces, or one that weighs 69 ounces, and taking videos is not a one-hand event. Even two-hand support gets tiresome, and more shaky, if the video is longer than about ten seconds.
So this past June I considered buying a dedicated video camera. After a couple of months of research, I settled on the Canon Vixia HF R800. It retails for $299.99. I figured if it didn’t do what I wanted it to do, I could sell it on eBay. Well, it does what I want it to do (and what I wanted my DSLR to do).
The Vixia weighs a whopping 8 ounces. Could 8 ounces do what 95 ounces could not?
The autofocusing is awesome. It has a 32x optical zoom and an 1140x digital zoom. I wasn’t hopeful about the digital zoom because I was familiar with digital zooms on Point & Shoot cameras. Well, the zoom is extraordinarily easy to use and focusing is pretty much instantaneous.
After experimenting by taking videos of the birds, rabbits, and squirrels eating together in my back yard….
….it was time to test it out on the big boys—TRAINS! I wasn’t disappointed.
I took the Vixia to the famous Colton Crossing in Colton, an eastern suburb of Los Angeles. Ever since I discovered the Colton Crossing, I have wanted to get a picture of a Union Pacific train using the Colton Crossing upper tracks—the Flyover—to “fly over” a BNSF train on the lower tracks. Here’s my video of exactly that:
Bucket List has one fewer item on it.
Now I have to learn how to keep my fingers out of the field of view when in wide angle mode. I think I can handle that.
At the beginning of 2017 I decided to upgrade my camera equipment. I was getting frustrated going to the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park but not being able to get to some of the wildlife because their enclosures were too big and, in the case of the birds, enclosed with screen and wire. I knew that a longer lens would take care of both of those problems.
My daily walkaround lens since 2007 was a Tamron 28-300 mm, so I decided to look at the 150-600 mm lenses. They come in three versions: Tamron G2, Sigma Contemporary, and Sigma Sport. At that time they ranged in price from $1,399 to $1,999, so they weren’t cheap.
Online reviews led me to believe that I would be buying the Sigma Sport for $1,999. I decided that real world use would be better than online reviews for that price, and it just so happens that one of our local camera stores specializes in renting all things camera. So I rented the Sigma Contemporary first (the cheapest), then the Sigma Sport (the most expensive), and then the Tamron G2. Rental period was one week each, so I went out each day to places like the railroad tracks, Ramona Grasslands, San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, the beaches, and the mountains to see if I could lug those things around for 10 hours a day, get good pictures, and be ready to do it again the next day without being too tired.
To make a long story short, for handheld pictures, I did not notice any difference in sharpness between the three lenses. The Sigma Sport was very heavy because it is all metal construction. The weight coupled with it getting too hot to handhold after a couple of hours in the San Diego sun coupled with its price dropped the Sigma Sport out of the competition.
The Sigma Contemporary lost out to the Tamron G2 based on one factor: which direction the zoom ring rotated. I discovered that Nikon and Sigma zoom rings rotate clockwise and Tamron and Canon zoom rings rotate clockwise. Remember that I handhold my equipment, not being a fan of tripods and monopods because of their bulkiness and difficulty in using in crowded areas. Zooming from low to high in a counterclockwise manner using the left hand is not natural, thus difficult and, due to the size and weight of these lenses, sometimes painful for someone 62 years old. Additionally, I had been using the Tamron 28-300 for ten years, so I already was quite comfortable with a clockwise rotation.
Lastly, at the end of three weeks, I compared the pictures from the three cameras. I found that the Tamron G2 gave me better blurred backgrounds than the other two lenses when I really wanted to get up close and personal. Following are bird pictures from the Safari Park taken with the Tamron 150-600 mm G2 lens on April 26, 2017. I have not cataloged these pictures yet so the only birds I know the name of are the the same ones you know the name of, so we’ll start with those.
Safari Park opens at 9:00 a.m., and that’s when I go to avoid
the huge afternoon crowds. So I guess this bird was eating breakfast.
This great white pelican turned its pouch inside out, which makes
it look like something out of a Stephen King movie.
The mallard doesn’t look impressed.
And now for the unknown birds.
Mama and her little one.
As I was leaving Safari Park, I saw a hawk soaring
overhead so, of course, I took a picture. Duh.