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Wow, lots of things been happening in my little corner of the world in the last few weeks and months, and it has really left little time for blogging. (And I have to admit, that I've spent a lot more time on Facebook than with the blog)
Some of the things that have drawn my attention away from the blog include the ever-present work (still doing two jobs - some day I'll cut it down to one) becoming an uncle for the first time, and an awesome birthday present. Work - well, really, there is little enough to say about that. It's nothing nature related so bears little mention here beyond that it takes away from spending time doing the things I love to do and spending time with the people I want to spend time with, but it helps to pay the bills so I can do those things.
In April, my sister gave birth to their first baby, Noah. He was born with a congenital heart problem that they knew about well in advance, so were able to plan for immediate procedures and then surgery to correct the problem. He was born at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, which is connected to the Children's Hospital in Boston - the best place in the world to have a baby, and especially if there are any health concerns. And although things were rocky for the first few weeks, he had the absolute best care and was able to go home in mid-May, and everything has been great since. I've been joking ever since the day I learned that she was pregnant that his uncle is going to throw him in the mud the first chance he gets - this child is certainly not going to suffer from any nature deficit disorder with me as an uncle!
Honestly though, the one thing that has distracted me more from the blog more than anything else is a new items that I have in my possession (and something that might just actually add to the blog down the road). For my birthday, my lovely wife Pamela made it possible for me to make a giant upgrade in my image capturing capabilities. I am now the proud owner of a Canon 50D DSLR camera AND a 100-400 IS zoom lens, and all my spare time has been spent reading up on it, trying to learn how it works, researching how others have utilized this equipment for bird and nature photography, researching costs to find accessories at the best prices, etc. You see, I have always been interested in photography, going back when I was a kid and had a camera or two that took 110 film cartridges. Then early in high school, I got my first SLR - a Minolta X-370, and liked to play with the few lenses I had, filters, long exposures, etc. (My mother would be happy to tell you a story about how one night she woke up late, found that I wasn't home by my curfew, then a few hours later started to panic when I still didn't come home. In fact, I was had been home for hours and was just in the front yard doing long exposures to get trailing lights from the cars going by) This led to interest in the photography club, photo position on the school yearbook, then a job at the local one-hour photo lab. By 19, I was the second shift supervisor in the Hudson Valley's biggest pro-lab - running film, shooting copy work, mixing and maintaining chemistry, etc. I considered majoring in photography in school, but they wouldn't let me skip the entry level classes - even though I took the 101 class tests standing at the teacher's desk and printing my portfolio at work. When I moved to Buffalo, I got a job at the photo lab there, then started working freelance as a custom printer for many pro photographers throughout NY, and like to think I developed a pretty good reputation as one of the better printers around - everything from weddings, concert, and architectural photography, to some amazing nature photographers (several who were published in NatGeo). That was about the time that I first started to see things going in the direction of digital, but it really hadn't caught on strong yet. When I moved to Cambridge, working for labs in Boston, I watched as more and more work went from traditional lab to digitial, and I frankly hadn't developed the skills to make that transition - the digital techs were those kids that had gone to school for art and digital design, and at an early age, my life's work was starting to become a little obsolete. There was still a need for wet-lab tech, but I'd long reached the ceiling of what I would make financially, and there were people who could also mix chemistry and maintain machines at a lower pay scale, so I moved to project management, since I understood what customers needs and expectations were. All this goes to say that for the last 10-15 years, I have felt like there has been a huge gap or hole in my life where I have not had the technology to take the level of photos that I would like. I think I have done pretty well over the last couple of years with my Sony mega-zoom point-and-shoot camera (pretty much all the photos that have been on this blog up until now.) Now I finally feel comfortable shooting again, and I hope that the quality of the photos that I share with you here in the future improves (or at least doesn't fall off - there is a lot more to SLR photography that just pointing the lens and clicking and hopefully my swiss-cheese brain won't go mucking it all up.)
There is no doubt that there is a steep learning curve in front of me, but the main way to climb that hill is to just get out and play. I can read plenty and pick up hints, but nothing beats just doing it. So here is a sample of where I am with the camera after the first full weekend with it. (Yes, I know this is several days late for a weekend post)
It's been a little while since I've written much on the blog - mostly I've just been posting pics from spring migration. Now, I've got a few really cool things going on that I want to share, but before I get too deep into it, I should talk a bit about this past weekend. My birthday was this past Saturday and Pamela, with our friends Paul and Diana, indulged me in my desire for a birding road trip. The goal of the trip was to see Kirtland's Warbler, which is usually most easily seen in the transitional Jack Pine forests in Michigan. I found out about the Kirtland's Warbler Wildlife Festival in Roscommon, MI and figured a 12hour drive for a life warbler didn't seem too unrealistic, right? Discussing it with Paul and Diana, we decided to break the trip up with a stop in Ohio both and the way there and back and check in at Magee Marsh boardwalk on Lake Erie - it was during the Biggest Week In American Birding after all, and there was bound to be some great birding there. We set out from Boston on Wednesday evening after work, and made it as far as Syracuse, NY where we found a place to lay our heads for the night. Next morning we were up and on the road bright and early, and before you knew it (OK, like 7 hours later) we pulled into the parking lot at Magee Marsh, and the birding was simply amazing! It had rained that morning and I think it had only stopped about an our before we arrived, so the activity was amazing - in under two hours, we racked up 19 species of warblers as well as quite a few other birds. And not only were there a lot of birds, but the looks that you get there are fantastic - warblers that in Massachusetts are usually in the treetops were almost eye-level and I was able to see detail that I've only ever seen in photos before...