Weekly Photo Challenge: Twisted stuff

Sometimes you need to twist your head if you want to give yourself a good scratch.  Here is an egret at Black Hill Park in Montgomery County in Maryland.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis great blue heron is standing on ice while giving itself a scratch.  It must feel good!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe twist in this egret’s neck seems a little unusual to me from this angle.  It may have to do with the position of the wings.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is a bird among the twisted branches of one or more trees in winter.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe twisted branches of the trees can sure look like a mess from a distance in the woods in the early morning light.  The sun has not quite hit the level of the trail in the following picture.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe turn in the trail appears at a distance in the following picture.
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Sunrise and a Sunset in our Neighborhood

We have some spectacular sunrises and sunsets in our neighborhood when the conditions are right.  The sunrise events happen right outside our front door, and the timing is good for pictures this time of the year.  All I have to do is grab the camera and open the front door, or go to an upstairs window.  This was just a few days ago.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI can capture a decent sunset from the back of the house, but the view is partially blocked by the houses behind ours.  Capturing it in its full form requires me to go to another part of the neighborhood.   This is exactly what I did last Sunday.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Favorite Place

The subject of this week’s challenge  is an easy one for me to tackle, and obvious to folks who know me.  You will find me any free weekend exploring some section of the 184.5 mile long C&O Canal towpath.  Last weekend took us to a section near Point of Rocks for our Sunday walk.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe branches of the sycamore tree stand out in winter.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are the locks and lockhouses,

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Lockhouse for Landers Lock

the aqueducts,

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Catoctin Aqueduct

and the Potomac river (which looked especially blue that morning).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe mergansers come around only in winter.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe bridge at Point of Rocks looked stunning in the morning lightOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA and this almost looks like a piece of art when the endorphins are flowing on a lovely morning like the one we we had!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A Bluebird in the Backyard

This is a good time of year to look out of the windows of the house and observe the little birds that fly around our home. The absence of leaves on the trees gives you a clear view of birds like robins, sparrows, chickadee, cardinals, bluebirds, woodpeckers, bluejays, etc..  And many of birds seem to love the seeds on the crape myrtle right next to the deck.  You have to pay close attention.  The first thing that draws your attention is the chirping that you can hear outside even though all the doors and windows are closed.  Most of the birds tend to blend in with the rather grey background.  But those like the bright red cardinals and the bluejays do stand out.

I was having my tea one evening, looking out the back window, when I thought I saw a flash of blue.  I was not mistaken.  It was a bluebird.  In fact, there seemed to be a couple of them flying between the maple and the crape myrtle trees.  The birds are so small, you have to pay particular attention to track them.  Soon the bluebird flew out of sight.   But I had a certain feeling about it.  I went upstairs to retrieve my camera and put a zoom lens on it.

I could not see the birds when looking out of the different windows upstairs in the back of the house, but soon after I returned to the kitchen and the place I was having my tea, the bird returned to a branch on the crepe myrtle.  I was prepared this time.

The bird was facing the opposite direction.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn fact I got a good picture of its butt! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt seemed to sense my presence even though I was in the house and behind the window.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It slowly turned around and stared at me.  I grabbed the shot before it was too late.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt posed for me.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA few seconds later it was gone.

I think it was a eastern bluebird, but somebody can correct me if I am wrong.

The Simple Algorithm That Ants Use to Build Bridges | Quanta Magazine

(Picture from Quanta Magazine. Credit – Vaishakh Manohar.)

via The Simple Algorithm That Ants Use to Build Bridges | Quanta Magazine

I first learned about how ants work in a cooperative manner in a book that my daughter had bought me for Christmas. The book was all about trails.  (She had figured out the perfect book for my interests!)   There is a chapter in this book about how trails historically came into being, and how these have, over time, led to our modern day system of roads, railroad tracks, and other connections for human travel.

Trails have existed for ages. The concept is not the creation of humans.  Animals of different kinds, using different skills, and for different purposes, have created trails.   There was, and still is, no real planning involved (the way humans would define it) in the creation of animal trails. It is all tied to their inbuilt instinct to survive and exist.

Ants have been creating trails for a long time.  The notable thing about the behavior of ants is that in spite of the fact that they do not have any significant level of individual intelligence, they show a great deal of collective or cooperative intelligence that lets them be effective in complex tasks.  (They do not even depend on the presence of an occasional “smart” ant that can serve as a leader.)  The book describes how their processes work for creating very efficient trails.  (There is even a kind of ant that is blind that is still very effective at this.)  Humans are now trying to understand if any of these processes are useful for our own existence.

Anyway, the article I have linked to is fascinating.  Make sure to watch the videos!

Out Of This World

This week’s photo challenge proved to be somewhat thought provoking for me.  I was not sure exactly how to approach it.  In the simplest sense, one is almost always trying to take outdoor pictures that are noteworthy and perhaps “out of the world”.  In another sense, one also tries to capture outdoor images with the camera that are unusual, and that may seem out of this world.  But nothing is really out of this world in the real sense, is it? How often does one take pictures out of this world? Does this picture of the moon and Venus qualify?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Looking through my archives, I realize that I have already posted a bunch of pictures in my blogs that could fit this theme – pictures of the skies and the earth that seem like they are not of this planet.  Here is one that might not have appeared before.  This was taken in the area of the Smoky Mountains. The planet is on fire in the morning light.  The town of Gatlinburg lies below us.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

All in all, it was tough figuring out what tack to take for this week’s challenge.   In the end I decided to go with pictures that could be considered out of this world to some people, but may be more commonplace to others in their own circumstances.  Here goes.

This is the fruit of Queen Anne’s Lace.  This wild plant is quite widespread close to where we live, but I am pretty sure it would seem to be something out of this world for some of the natives.IMG_2023I wonder how many people have taken the time to notice something as simple as what is seen in the picture below.  Even the simple things can seem out of this world once you open your eyes, and perhaps your imagination.IMG_9624And then there are things that could seem exotic to some of us but are not so unusual in other places.  I have already forgotten which part of the world this flower is originally from.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWould something like this, a mud pool, be considered out of this world?  You can see them in New Zealand.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom this perspective it might be difficult to recognize that the picture below is that of the face of a snapping turtle.  Look at the eyes.  Isn’t this out of this world?  We actually came across this creature in the park not far from home.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA