30 September 2008

Spot the Bee

Not that it really matters that it was at the zoo; it's not their bee, but I suppose it's their goldenrod.

29 September 2008

Waiting for the leaves to fall

I have never been able to figure out if red pandas are not generally active during daylight, the Zoo's red pandas are the panda equivalent of couch potatoes, or if it's just too darn hot.
It is certainly much easier to get pictures after the leaves fall, though the little wretches then generally move to the coniferous trees and go higher.

28 September 2008

Peanut obession continues

Definite theropod feet.

27 September 2008

Bright Lights

I don't know what the building is; everything of architectural note seems to be lit up at night in Edinburgh. The rooves are over bits of train platform if my all-too-fallible memory plays me not false.

Looks a bit like a model

But I swear, that's the real castle. Very brightly lit at night.

This is a street

A very old street, called Fleshmarket Close. Halfway (or thereabouts) down there's a pub called The Halfway House, which is quite splendid.

Night Trains

Crossing above the Edinburgh train station on what I assume is the North Bridge, one can look off the bridge and see a lot of glass roof and some odd lights shining up through the glass.
There were blue lights, also, and a sort of orangey-green, but photos of those came out not so well as this one with the purple.
And here is another view from another bridge and what looks like an utterly prosaic platform, at least until one starts playing "count the layers of architectural revision". No obvious sources of weird purple lights.

Edinburgh Skyline

Or some of it, a least.
Complete with louring clouds like a lid.

Been there awhile

Just sitting there at the edge of a park, or possible the edge of some ecclesiastical property along Princes Street. There were a lot of reminders that I live in a young city, but this is the one I think I like best.

25 September 2008

Habitually inverted

I find myself wondering if it's there for the peanuts, or the bugs that are there for the peanuts.
And in this one, you can see the eye.

The chickadees and the nuthatch appear to take turns; the woodpecker just sails in and assumes the others will flee.

24 September 2008

Hairy or Downy?

The relatively short bill and relatively prominent tuft above the nares have me voting 'Downy'.

There is something about peanuts that sends some species of birds mad; not only was I standing in an open door five feet from the feeder with a camera, Aoife was sitting on the balcony under the feeder looking like this:
Still, no wild leaping ensued, so I suppose the bird's judgement is sound.

23 September 2008

A selection of roses

There is a Rose Street—for all I know more than one—in Edinburgh, brick surfaced and small and seemingly a good choice for pubs. This is how one is to know for certain that it is, indeed, Rose Street.

And these are from the gardens in the park below Princes St.; I saw no sign of a white rose anywhere, but these are doing well for mid-September, and there were quite some lot of them.

22 September 2008

Turning about 100 degrees

Gets a stairway up to Princes Street.
Is the closest thing I've got to tramway construction, and this is some pre-tramway construction where they're setting out to find everything under the street and move it somewhere safe.

21 September 2008

In which Graydon commits postcard

Given more time, I could get the sky in there; lots of exposure brackets suitable for HDR. Even lots of software suitable for HDR, but lack of tripod means it would need a good deal of tweaking, drat it.

There's a park below Edinburgh castle, and that's where I wound up when I absented myself from the Intro to XSL session at a conference I was just at in that fair city. (I maintain about a megabyte and a half of production XSL code. Intro to subject not required.)

15 September 2008

Points of the Compass

The shyer, or perhaps quicker, female cardinal; best of a bad lot but one can certainly tell what manner of bird.
There might be something to be said about photographing bright red birds that are sitting on powder-green bird feeders, but that's the only place it comes close to sitting still.

14 September 2008

One of this year's

Or at least so I presume; I can't see how this is anything other than an immature house finch.

Much calmer than its older presumed relatives about being photographed; also a remarkably loud and persistently vocalizing bird. I would assume it's still trying to get fed by its parents.

13 September 2008

Welcome to the cloud

This was from before it started raining today, the CN Tower being taller than the fog.

12 September 2008

Confusions of Civilization

The point to having a civilization is to be able to have more comprehensive division of labour and gang up on bigger, longer-term, and tougher problems, with the eventual side effect of providing greater realizable access to choice to the people in the civilization.

Pretty basic stuff, but we're ground apes. Our default social unit is small; 200 people is a huge one. Inside those social units—which can more or less manage a certain amount of common defence and seasonal migration from the plains to the hills—status comes down to who you can hit and who you can fuck.

And this lurks in the backs of people's brains, as we're all embedded in something that is way too big and way too complicated for any one individual to actually understand. And there's this tendency to reach for status as a means of insecurity management, especially when the standard narrative—that mechanism for emulating comprehension—gets disrupted.

If everybody has been brought up to understand that civilization means that the benefits are in the side effects and that meaningful status is something other people grant you gladly, rather than something you compel, that's not so bad.

Otherwise, well, people feel scared, and want to increase the list of people they can hit. (Or fuck, or rape.) And you get this general push against choices of all kinds, social mobility, women's rights, or cultural change, because all of those things tend to make that list shorter, and—somewhere deep down where the ground ape is counting wrongs—there's this sense of unfairly lost status.

Which is most of the "culture war", something that would be more accurately described as "where's my status?"

This is a good question, and if it produces things like Mecahnic's Unions or universal suffrage or universal education, it has good results. If it produces answers like "they took it", and leads to a negative-sum fight for status tokens (that aim of most neo-conservative politics), it has terrible results. (If it produces things like noticing who is encouraging the tail-chasing argument while rigging the game to run the money their way, you often enough get revolutions, which are a different kind of terrible result.)

Which is why I don't think anyone of conscience could vote for Steven Harper's Conservative party; they're arguing for the ur-status, the "if you can't hit who you want you've lost something" position. Which is not the position of civilization, which is a lot closer to "you can love who you chose" than "you can hit who you want".

And, yes, more complicated, more work, just plain harder. Also better, which is easy to lose track of while you've still got the one you inherited.

A diligent bee

Though I suppose I am stereotyping, since bees are presumed diligent and at our different scale of being, it'd probably be difficult to tell a slacker bee, gathering barely enough pollen to not get kicked out of the hive, from a busy one.

11 September 2008

As evening comes more early

Chickadee! In a position in which photography is not utterly and abjectly hopeless!
Stretched about as far as it'll go, exposure wise, and the poor thing looks like it's got a rather glowy feather condition.
Pretty close to the actual lighting; probably a better picture in some nice-to-look-at sense.
And why I have a chickadee holding almost still enough to photograph, cat on the balcony or not.

The thoroughly crepuscular cardinals are the next project.

10 September 2008

Contemplation of mint sauce

Can't see tigers going for mustard, but catnip is in the mint family, so it's hardly implausible that in the tiger's ideal world, something would be delivered dipped in mint sauce.
Whether the (in a nearby enclosure) yak or the even closer ground apes I wouldn't care to opine.

09 September 2008

A purple season

Planted, growing outside at the zoo, and mildly desaturated in respect of the available monitor technology. (At least the locally available monitor technology.)

08 September 2008

Presumably voluntary ploofulation

The same bird, pictures taken seconds apart.
The tall, skinny, nervous bird
and the portly, relaxed, bird, just before it shook itself into a remarkably ploofulent state.
Feathers are amazing things.

07 September 2008

Spikey Flower

It's between the tree kangaroo and the masked lapwing, so definitely from the Australasian pavilion, and thus likely tropical. Beyond that, I wot me not entire.

Communing with the Tree

At least, I suppose communing with its tree is what the tree kangaroo is doing.
Trees being opaque, and the creature uncooperative, this is the best shot of the front (well, side) of its head I managed to obtain. One can at least clearly see the little pink nose.

06 September 2008

Pollen everywhere

Scaled full frame.
Unscaled crop.
Unadjusted raw file, hence the camera gloating. Wouldn't have expected that; the bee in question was in a state of some haste, and not staying on individual flowers for very long.
The post and the cable are part of the fence that keeps people back from the outside primate cages—golden lion tamarins and marmosets—along the west (I think west) edge of the south side of the Americas pavilion.

05 September 2008

That was scary

I was afraid when I took this—Thursday morning—that I was taking the last picture of Aoife I was going to get.
She's on the examining table in a vet clinic (not her usual vet clinic, but that's another post with a parakeet in it), having being brought in due to being off her feed, lethargic, and passing blood. Since my grandmother lost her dog to a mess of cancer very fast after just about exactly those symptoms, and Aoife has a certain obessiveness about string, I was—characteristically—expecting the worst.
Turns out that she shows no sign of any foreign tensile objects, or other dire symptoms, but does have a certain amount of inflamed innards. I've got a broad spectrum antibiotic, a "digestive motility enhancer", and an emulsion that's effectively the feline equivalent of pepto-bismol to give her; the pills are twice a day each, and the emulsion is thrice daily, with a little syringe. From the faces she makes, I'm pretty sure it tastes awful.
So far, he says, making the sign against evil and the sign against ill luck, she has not been making more than pro-forma protests about being pilled. Not even all that many feline swear words.
There is also special food, specifically easy to digest; so far as I can tell from reading the label, it's duck pudding, and for a wonder my seafood insistent cat is condescending to eat it.
Aoife is certainly seeming much better; I have been mugged for string five times this evening so far.

A certain awkwardness with gulls

Not any sort of physical fear of them; however many drowned corpses of mankind gulls have helped to devour over the years, it's not like any gull is going to try the initial drowning step unassisted.
However, figuring out what kind of gull something is, well. It's worse than warblers.
I think, based on the dark eye, the greyish pink of the bill, and the not particularly black primaries, this is an immature mew gull; if one was going to see one in Toronto, fall migration would be the time. But I wouldn't bet anything on this identification what so ever.

Shooting on the wing

A ring-billed gull, fortuitously passing in front of the good light down one of the Metro Zoo's internal waterways and just in the very first part of the process of turning to lose altitude.
300mm with the Pentax DA 55-300; the above is scaled but shows the full frame.
Cropped to the gull but not scaled; the JPEGness of it all makes me sad, but this is too big to post in a non-lossy format.

This is a getting lucky sort of shot—look! a bird!—but they're not so rare that I have to wonder at the people complaining about Pentax autofocus.

04 September 2008

Sugar Gliders

Taken with manual focus in very dim light at ISO 800 through exhibit glass, and then processed pretty heavily in an attempt to de-blotch it a bit, and to do something about the peculiar hell-green tonal cast left by the low-light lighting. The stuff at the bottom sides is the hole in the (presumed artificial) tree the sugar glider nest is in, and it is nothing like that pink (at least I don't think so; the available light was admittedly scant) but winds up that colour when I turn down the green.
All in all, though, I'm kinda happy with this one; manual focus more or less working when it's too dim to see any of the markings on the focus screen is a good feeling.

03 September 2008


Looting a food tray I presume is intended for the Victoria Crowned Pigeons. Quite energetically, too; it made off with what I guess to be a chunk of date the approximate size of its head.

02 September 2008

Accidental hornet

On the galvanized steel railing that discourages undue leaning forward in front of the Siberian Tiger enclosure.
Came out rather well for a "hey, movement!" sort of shot.

01 September 2008

Cryptic habits

Sometime this spring, the Great Horned Owl display at the Metro Zoo stopped having an owl in it. It then grew a lot more herbage than it customarily did, over the course of the summer. (I don't know what happened to the owl; it's been in there long enough that it might well have died of its age.)
I was wondering what they were going to do with the enclosure because it's more or less part of the exterior structure of the Americas pavilion; it'd be rather challenging to do much with, and even more challenging to avoid inadvertent draining of the otter pool, to which the owl enclosure is adjacent, while one did the something. And while the prospect of the Great Otter Chase of 2008 is amusing in imagination, I'm pretty sure the folks at the zoo want no such thing to arise.

The enclosure with the Saw Whet owl of the vexed focus challenges is adjacent to the beaver pool, which is the other side of the otter pool; this enclosure is the one to the left of the otter pool if you're looking at it from outside.

So today there was a new, hand-lettered, sign, over the "Great Horned Owl" sign that's been there this many a long year.
Which sign had nothing to do with this, most obvious, occupant; this I suppose to be a cob spider, and the web, and the spider, were both much easier to notice than the new incumbent.
Not bad for hand held through spiral mesh; one can tell that spiders tend to be a bit spiky in their fine details.

The sign said "Snow Owl", and after some peering about, I did indeed spot this (probably young) snowy owl.
Which certainly solves the "needs a creature that doesn't mind staying out in the winter" problem which comes with that enclosure. And snowies aren't much for tree perching—a difficult habit to acquire on the tundra!—so the ground location makes lots of sense.
It does violate a whole bunch of iconic images, though. Green leaves don't go with snowy owls, those devourers of lemmings.