International man of mystery. Well not really, although I can mangle several languages and even read the occasional hieroglyphic. A computer scientist, an author and one of the very few people who has both an NIH grant and had a book contract. An ex- booktrope author and a photographer.
2021 has been a heck of a year. Lots of family changes, limited mobility due to Covid, and a difficult combination of on-line and (mandatory) in person teaching.
To the good:
I’m now Emeritus. I was more than a little worried about getting this status, despite a rather decent number of well-regarded publications (>200) and a respectable funding record (Something like $8Million total grant funding as PI, MPI, or Co-PI in the last 20 years).
We’re healthy and in a financially sound position.
We’re vaccinated against that blasted virus. Contrary to right-wing hype, there weren’t side effects and we’re not magnetic or carrying microchips or infecting people with mysterious shed particles.
I helped my ultimate (or possibly penultimate) PhD student to finish their dissertation and graduate.
Our oldest cat didn’t have to cross the rainbow bridge. We finally found what was making him sick, and … well … chemotherapy works wonders.
On the other hand, there are still things to do, ranging from long-term research projects to getting our documents in order.
Still, between using an RV (travel trailer – more in a later post) and vaccination we should be able to get around. I hope we can even visit our UK family and possibly get onto continental Europe.
Ruby throated hummingbirds are one of the more common ones in the eastern united states. We decided to put up a feeder and after a week or so this pretty little female decided to visit. She moves quickly enough that the “on the wing” photographs are just slightly blurred. But when she stopped to feed, it was another story.
I took these images with my Sony A7III using the 600mm lens at f6.3, 1/800s, and 2000 asa (equivalent speed). The trick is to sit in a chair and wait. If they’re spooked move further away, and then after a while move closer. These birds, once they realize that you’re not a threat, become bold. They’ll buzz you to remind you to fill up the feeder, which is an interesting experience. The feed is one part sugar to four parts water by volume without added food color.
Anoles are one of the more common lizards in the American south. We have them on our porch. This is the dominant male. He’s got one eye on me, but is really focused on another male who was interested in this high status site.
I couldn’t get a great picture of their fight so this will have to do.
Redbuds are one of the more common trees in southern wooded areas and scrub. Their one of the first trees to flower – a harbinger of spring. The heart-shaped leaves will soon follow. Later, near the end of summer, they’ll have seed pods.
I’ve been practicing with the local wildlife. Finally figured out how to implement “back button” focusing on the Sony A7III, which helps enormously with a telephoto. No more shifting focus to the wrong piece of grass.
The other big trick it to be non-threatening. I take a small chair and sit. The deer watch for a while and then go back to deer stuff (eating mostly).
The sony 600mm lens is pretty good as this detail shows.
A slightly rain worn turkey track is so much like a T-rex track. It shows that there are survivors. Baby T-rex’s were about the same size as today’s Turkeys. Glad that the Turkey’s don’t grow any bigger.
The wild turkeys have been visiting of late. They’re a bit hard to photograph because as a “tasty bird” they are also extremely shy. Getting these images, at dusk, took pushing my camera’s limits.
This group is all toms (male). You can see that by their beards and brightly coloured heads. Later in the year they will break up and recruit individual harems. But for now, being in a flock with many eyes to look out for danger outweighs any romantic rivalry.
Something of a reminder, about grief. About 1/1000 Americans have died from Covid-19. To put this in context, most people have a “nodding acquaintance” list of about 100 people. If individuals overlap by about 90% then almost certainly someone in your circle or in the next layer out is gone.