Red Bird of Paradise

Red Bird of Paradise Flower

Today, the first few of the colorful Red Bird of Paradise flowers opened in our courtyard this morning. These flowers (a.k.a. Pride of Barbados) will be opening until fall. We have three of the Red Bird shrubs in the courtyard, so there should be plenty of color throughout the summer.

More about these shrubs from Texas Superstar:

Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) is an evergreen shrub or small tree in frost free climates. The plant is usually tall, growing large even after freezing to the ground the previous winter. The leaves are fern like. Pride–of–Barbados has incredibly showy blossoms of orange and red. The individual flowers are bowl shaped, 2–3 inches across, with five crinkled, unequal red and orange petals, and ten prominent bright red stamens. The striking orange red flowers are an attention grabber!

The flowers get a lot of visits from butterflies, bees, sphinx moths and hummingbirds. We have seen these and more browsing the flowers throughout the summer. The sphinx moths mentioned above usually show up around dusk since they are mostly nocturnal.

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Summer Seems To Be Here

Our First Saguaro Flowers

In spite of the actual summer start date next month, we have had triple digit weather for two days now and the forecast is for more of the same for the next few days. I just went out on the back patio (4:30PM) and saw the temperature gauge showing 105°F. That’s about a degree cooler than an hour ago. We can deal with it since the air conditioner is keeping the house cool enough.

The flowers in the image above were open this morning on our big saguaro cactus out front by the driveway. These are the first two buds to open on this cactus and there are many more to come. There have been saguaro flowers open in other places in town for a couple of weeks now, but these are our first. We look forward to having a lot more of these in the weeks to come.

In the courtyard, I am expecting our Red Bird of Paradise shrubs to have flowers open any day now, and our Cherry Red cactus flowers coming shortly after those.

Despite the warmer temperatures, we always look forward to our summer flowers. Click on the image to enlarge.

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Memorial Day 2020

Rockwell Military

When Norman Rockwell painted this, he could not foresee past WW2 military action, so those conflicts are not included. We all know the conflicts after that only too well and some are still going.

Today, we salute the fallen and pray for those still active, especially those in harm’s way. God Bless Them All.

Artwork purloined from today’s Ace of Spades Art Thread

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Armed Forces Day, 2020

Pair of AT6 Aircraft

In the past, we have posted about Armed Forces Day on this blog. Our old home in K’Stan was located in a community that actually had an Armed Forces Day parade annually and we blogged about those back then. Well, today, there probably aren’t any parades out there because of the dreaded COVID-19. That’s a loss for them for sure.

The lack of parades, however, did not deter the intrepid airmen piloting the two North American AT6 Airplanes shown flying in formation above our Wickenburg home today. The resonant sound of the radial engines overhead brought us out of the house this morning and what a sweet sound it was to hear.

I managed to capture the above image of the high-flying planes as they passed over our place with the new 400mm lens. They were quite high, perhaps eight or ten thousand feet AGL. The planes made several passes over the area which was a delight to see these two nostalgic beauties as they transited the area.

We see that there have been several organized fly-overs in various places around the country, including the Phoenix area, but unfortunately not visible here. It is not known by us if this was an organized fly-over or just a couple of vintage AAF Trainers out for fun. Regardless, they were awesome.

We wish our Military Men and Women Godspeed on this Armed Forces Day and pray for their safety in harm’s way. May God bless them and their families on this day.

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May 07, 2020 Super “Flower” Moon

Super “Flower” Moon

I put the new Canon EF 100-400mm lens on my Canon EOS REbel SL1 camera last evening to attempt to photograph the full moon at perigee. So called a “super” moon, it only appears slightly larger to the naked eye, but is around thirty thousand miles closer than when at apogee.

From EarthSky:

This year’s farthest apogee comes on March 24, 2020 (252,707 miles or 406,692 km), and the closest perigee occurs some 2 weeks later, on April 7 (221,772 miles or 356,907 km). That’s a difference of about 30,000 miles (50,000 km). Meanwhile, the moon’s mean distance (semi-major axis) from Earth is 238,855 miles (384,400 km).

There is good Lunar information at the above link with a nice photo comparison of the difference in apparent size from perigee to apogee. There is also a graphical illustration showing the lunar elliptical orbit compared to a circular orbit about the earth.

I took the above image at 8:28 PM AZ time last evening from the courtyard in front of our little house. The camera was set to Tv (shutter priority) with an exposure of i/4000 sec. The focal length was set to 400mm and the ISO was set to 6400. The lens aperture at this setting is F5.6. I also took this photo of the moon last Tuesday while it was in its waxing gibbous phase.

this photo

The moniker “Flower Moon” is based on the fact that there are flowers in bloom at this time of year. We certainly have a lot of them opening almost daily in April/May.

Update: I found out that it was also possible to resolve the planet Venus as a crescent using the new lens.

20200507-crescent-venus.jpg

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Arizona Spring Cactus Flowers

Beavertail Cactus Flower Prickly Pear Flower
Argentine Giant Cactus Flower Ball Cactus Flower

Since mid-March, the cacti in our xeriscape gardens have had open flowers. The individual flowers aren’t around more than a day or two at most, but, thankfully, the individual flower buds have matured at different times over the last five weeks providing us with almost continuous colorful flowers from day to day.

The two flowers at the top are from our opuntia cacti, a.k.a. paddle cacti. Top left is from one of our beavertail cacti and top right is a flower on a prickly pear. The bottom left is an Argentine Giant flower. one of three that were open simultaneously last week. On the bottom right is a flower from a little ball cactus that my sister in Stockton, CA, mailed to me last year. I don’t know the botanical name of this cactus, but it sure makes pretty pink flowers.

I love springtime in the desert!

All the photos were taken using my Canon EOS Rebel T6i camera or with Bob’s Canon EOS Rebel SL1, both equipped with EFS 18-135mm lenses. Click on any of the images to enlarge.

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Canon EF 100-400 mm High Performance Telephoto Lens

Telephoto LensIn the not too distant past, maybe last December or so, Damsel and I watched a documentary on our local PBS station about wildlife photography. It was very interesting to see the birds and other wildlife that we regularly see here near our retirement home, being showcased in a presentation about amateur photographers and the wildlife subjects of their interest. We both enjoyed watching the informative documentary and learned some things as a result. Foremost, I concluded that the stock 100-300 mm zoom lens I use with my Canon SL1 is inadequate for the type of work we saw on the show.

We both enjoy photography and have both made some extraordinary shots from time to time, but when something is out of the capability reach of our equipment, it shows. After watching the documentary mentioned above, the cerebral juices started flowing and had been simmering since until I read a View From The Porch article that mentioned the lens I now have. I was impressed by the results Tam posted and put the lens on my wishlist at Amazon. When I finally had enough money tucked away to cover the cost, I went ahead and ordered the lens.

Today, the Good Truck of Brown® delivered the package. Aside from some imperatives that had to come first, I could hardly wait to try the new toy out! At last, I had the time to unpack and attach the lens to my camera. I went straight outside and took about 35 shots of “stuff” I regularly see around here. The two below are just a couple of things I was able to capture on my maiden outing with the new lens. A Curve Billed Thrasher at the backyard bird feeder and a Mourning Dove in the Mesquite Tree by the RV Drive. Click on either image to enlarge.

Curve Billed Thrasher Mourning Dove in Mesquite Tree

UPDATE: I added photos of a house sparrow and a Gambel’s Quail below.

House Sparrow Male Gambel’s Quail

I shared these and some others on the FecesBook™ thing. I am very happy with the initial performance of this lens as compared to my old zoom lens. The built-in image stabilizer and the quick-to-respond ultrasonic focus drive mechanism were splendid in allowing these and other photos from a hand-held camera/lens combo.

The product page from Canon is here and the Amazon listing is here (the price went up since I ordered mine for a little over 1.8K).

By the way, our CARES Stimulu$ was in the bank yesterday and has now been distributed to charities in our neck of the woods. I did not use those funds for this purchase. Damsel and I believe investing the .gov money back into local charities will get it to work where it’s needed. Charity begins at home.

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