Sunday, May 26, 2013

Venus, Jupiter, Mercury in Conjunction

This evening, the planets Venus, Jupiter, and Mercury were in conjunction following the setting sun.  The three planets formed an almost perfect equilateral triangle spanning a region the size of my thumb.  I was afraid we would not catch this event since the weather had been stormy for the previous several days.  We got a break in the clouds in the evening so Danielle and I drove out to a spot near the Lake Georgetown dam where we could see the western horizon.

In the image below, Venus is the brightest planet at the bottom, Mercury is the dimmest up and to the right. Jupiter is to the left.  Zooming in on the original image, I was able make out the moon Europa below and slightly to the right of Jupiter and the moon Callisto up and to the left.

Venus, Jupiter, Mercury in Conjunction - Georgetown Texas, 2013-05-26 21:45
Canon 60Da, Canon EF 70-200/f4L.  Exposure 0.5" at 200mm, f/4, ISO-200

Update 2013.05.31 - Five nights later, we had another break in the clouds though the low haze was still problematic.  The planets had now rearranged themselves to form a straight line.  In the picture below, Jupiter is in roughly the same part of the sky but is now at the bottom of the grouping.  Venus and Mercury have both climbed rapidly into the sky. Venus, always the brightest is in the center and Mercury at the top. In the upper left corner of the image you can also make out the magnitude 3.5 star Propus in Gemini.

Venus, Jupiter, Mercury in Conjunction - Georgetown Texas, 2013-05-31 20:58
Canon 60Da, Canon EF 70-200/f4L.  Exposure 1/10sec at 100mm, f/8, ISO-1000

Danielle also got a shot but from a different vantage

Venus, Jupiter, Mercury in Conjunction - Georgetown Texas, 2013-05-31 21:00
Canon 450D Mod/OWB, Canon EF 100mm/f2.8 Macro.  Exposure 1/25sec at f/3.5, ISO-400

Monday, May 20, 2013

White Tail Fawn Season

It "fawning" season again.  Our neighborhood has a large suburban population of whitetail deer.  For the third year in a row, fawns have been dropped inside our fenced-in backyard.  This is frustrating because the mother deer then feels obligated to harass our Labrador when we are playing ball.  This weekend, we had animal control help us move one of the fawns safely out of our yard and into the adjacent greenbelt after the dog was beat up twice.  We are still trying to get the second one out.

This is a nice shot of a fawn we found in the front yard the next day.

Whitetail fawn - Canon 60Da and Canon EF 70-200/f4L at 200mm, f6.3, ISO-2000

Update 2013.05.29 - Here is yet another fawn Danielle found "hiding" in front of our garage door behind the trash bin. It most only be a day or two old based on its size.

And here it is again the next morning.

The image below is one I took in May 2010.  It was the first fawn we had evicted from our yard.

Update 2013.07.12 - Looks like another round of fawns in the yard.  Just found this one next to the house this afternoon. Hopefully, it is not from the same cranky mother as the two we had in the Spring.  The fawn was peacefully munching on the grass along the fence.  Here it strikes a ready-to-run pose as it heard me open the door. Looking closely at its head, you can see some scarring or loss of hair.  I wonder what got a hold of it.  

Whitetail Fawn - Canon 60Da, Canon EF 70-200mm/f4L at 135mm, f/7.1,  1/500sec,  ISO-800

Monday, May 13, 2013

Black Vulture

Along the San Gabriel River, near my home we have quite a number of both black and turkey vultures that roost in the evening in a few specific trees.  During the day, we usually only see them gliding high up in the sky.  I ran into this fellow by itself late yesterday afternoon in a lower branch near the water preening and flapping its wings. I am wondering whether it is one of this years batch of juveniles.  I was able to take some pictures without the usual harsh back-light resulting from aiming the camera to the tree top.

Cropped and scaled images taken with Canon 60Da and 70-200mm/f4 L  lens at ISO-2000, 1/2000sec, f/6.3.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar on Dill

We regularly plant parsley in the backyard to feed the caterpillars of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly,  Papilio Polyxenes. This year we planted some dill as well.  Today, we found a couple of caterpillars have established themselves.

When disturbed, the caterpillar extends a smelly appendage called an osmeterium from a slot in the top of its head.  The strong smell is supposed to discourage predators.  I was able to smell something different than the overpowering odor of dill, but it was not that obnoxious.  Here, the osmeterium is partially extended.

Here is another closeup of the osmeterium extended out further.  As it extends, it behaves like two fingers of an inside-out latex glove that invert as you inflate the glove.

Assuming the birds don't sneak in and eat them, perhaps we will see the metamorphosis later this year.