12 April 2014

There were birds

Eastern Phoebe
Downy Woodpecker
I do not possess a camera with the awesome reach of the Swarovski ATX 95 spotting scope, so instead of grebes (so many grebes) and White-winged Scoter and terns you're getting realistic views of small birds in trees.  Or at least vegetation.

11 April 2014

Truss Issues

There's a new pedestrian and cycle overpass for the GO transit rail corridor.  (The freights mostly go through rather north of the waterfront these days, what with the de-industrialization of the harbour and the extension of the land into the lake.)
Never seen this kind of bridge truss before.  Looks economical of material.

Three-quarters of the way across, looking straight back.
Does a really good job of making the point that the barrier to waterfront access isn't the Gardiner, particularly, but the rail corridor. (The Gardiner Expressway, an elevated roadway built in the 50s, for those not familiar with Toronto, is merely south of the rail corridor, falling down, and threatening to suck up the entire public works budget for the next decade to maintain an inadequate status quo.)

It's quite handy for purposes of getting across the train tracks, too.  I can think of places to put five or six more.

06 April 2014

To see again the northland spring

Northland spring, all right.
You can tell it's spring by the texture of the snow
Male Evening Grossbeak and a lifer
Just because there are lots doesn't mean they're not pretty
Grey Jay; for photography purposes a large and even more active chickadee
 I am fortunate in my friends and got up to Algonquin for some birding today.  Not an especially impressive list but Evening Grossbeak is a lifer and I hadn't seen a Grey Jay in thirty years.

Also, it was a really nice day for a walk in the woods, sudden path collapse to knee or hip deep snow notwithstanding.

04 April 2014

Ambiguous Swans

Heavily processed swan photo to bring out feather detail
I was originally pleased to see these swans while tramping about the Toronto Islands last Sunday; Trumpeters, I thought.  Nice to see some when the place is overrun with mute swans.

Then I got a better look; what you see through the viewfinder, even with the roughly binocular-equivalent magnification of a 250mm lens, isn't as much as one sees with the picture tossed over the width of the monitor.  (Not unless you've got a really teeny monitor.)

The swan on the right has a yellow loral patch; that would, if I were feeling very, very rash, mean "Tundra Swan!" but I know that in Ontario, there are some Trumpeters with yellow lores.  It's big and it's really yellow, though, which is not how Trumpeters tend to go; trumpeters with yellow loral spots tend to have faint, vaguely round spots, not the largish bright patch seen here. Neither swan has yellow feet, so I know they're not leucistic.  (The feet being about the only reliable way to tell with swans, since their plumage is already white.)

The swan on the left has, in another photo,
Over-exposed, but see that bit of red in the gape?
Has a little bit of red in the gape, but that goes with Tundra; it's only the red line of the closed bill that says "Trumpeter".

Some field guides will suggest Tundras have lighter, more delicate feet than Trumpeters; neither set of feet looks especially delicate, and neither looks banded, which argues against Ontario Trumpeters, most of which get banded.  Size is generally a useless character without another swan for reference, and both of them are way fluffed up, which will make them look big, and convolved for preening in the bargain, so neck posture characters are no help.  I have no ability to tell if they look proportionately long-legged, which goes with Tundra.  The Goldeneye duck surfaced in the open water between the swans in one photo (not shown!) isn't much help, either, since it's in view from its own port quarter and preparing to dive, not ideal conditions for being used as a ruler.

So I'm down to "Not all tundras have yellow loral spots", "the upper margin of the beak is a smooth curve, rather than showing the widow's-peak style point typical of Trumpeters", and "eyes notably distinct from the beak, as per Tundra, rather than subsumed in the rear margin, as per Trumpeter".

So if I had to say something, I'd say Tundra.  But I'd much rather get a swan expert to do it.

[I originally wanted to do single-exposure-HDR to bring up the feather detail in that first photo, but would need to know what I was doing rather than pushing "next" buttons to handle the "white bird on ice on a sunny sunny day" case, so the photo provided has had the exposure dialled way down as though it were not a sunny day at all.]

02 April 2014

Semi-decent longtail

It's a help that they're blasé about the ferry.
It's not a help that they're stocky little bundles of contrast.

31 March 2014

Attempts at spring

Scale-invariant melting
Something of a fixer-upper
A little early
 So there were reports of a possible tufted duck at Hanlan's Point, which is at one end of the giant and mostly treed or lawn'd sandbar referred to as the Toronto Islands.  It is important to know that in the winter, only the Ward Island ferry runs; this is at the other end of the Islands than Hanlan's.  (It's also, per the Ferry, winter until 12 April.)  So it's a 5km walk each way.

I'd been meaning to go for a camera walk yesterday anyway, it was supposed to be a pleasant day, and why not?

I even managed not to fall into any of the diverse excavations being undertaken on the Islands.  Something to do with both sewer and power, so far as I can tell, and it makes it really obvious how much of a sandspit the place is.

So I've got pictures of a lot of scaup; "blinding white flanks" is a terrible field mark for picking a possible tufted duck out when the common merganser have started arriving in fresh breeding plumage and are zipping about like green-headed U-boats racing for a better intercept position.  "Black back" is a terrible field mark when you're looking at scaup from astern, because their otherwise grey back goes black from that angle.  And friendships have ended over the shape of scaup heads, so that's not much help, either.  So I have, obviously, no tufted duck photos, because if there's one there, I couldn't find it.

Lots of mergansers and redheads and scaup, black duck, trumpeter and mute swans, mallards, bufflehead, and long-tailed ducks, plus ring-billed gulls, cardinals, singing away like video games of a certain age, red-winged black-birds practising their territorial calls, and what might well have been a tree sparrow.  (There are tree parts in the way in all the pictures.)  Oh, and a downy woodpecker.

So, very much like early spring; lots of ice still in the interior waterways, nothing's even thinking about leafing out, no passerine migrants yet, and it's still remarkably quiet over there.

Book at Kobo is still attempting to upload; have some idea what the problem is but it's not one I can fix.  (I have dark suspicions their tool chain is not set up to handle being given valid EPUB3.0 files.  It seems to go into shock.)

16 March 2014

If the weather's going to stay cold....

I'm going to keep cooking like it's winter.
One decided advantage of going to the same butcher for the last long while is they'll make a point of telling me they've got, by whatever odd concatenation of fate, some unusually nice sirloin in.  One decided disadvantage is that they do this because they know I'm very likely to buy it once they tell me about it.
  1. Set oven to 175 C/350 F
  2. Fill bottom of roaster with a coarsely chopped onion and some fancy beets, peeled, halved, and sliced.  Cover with water; make sure the roaster cover does not touch vegetables.
  3. Rinse ~5 lb slab of sirloin.  (Your butcher doubtless doesn't carry that size, but will probably cut one if you ask nicely.) Place on roaster; sprinkle with thyme and taragon, drape with bacon to cover evenly.
  4. Bake for 20 mins/lb for a rare roast; 30 mins/lb for well done.

The excess beets and onions and the surrounding broth go into the big pot of Ongoing Soup, the left over sirloin goes into the fridge and gets sliced and put over green peas and doused with reheated soup for dinner for the rest of the week.  There is no excess bacon.