May 2014

Posted by Ellen

Smoke break at the marketplace in Bagan, Myanmar.

"The people are too poor to buy real cigarettes or cigars," noted the photographer. "There are many vendors in the market selling cigarettes or cigars made from local plants, mixed in with a little tobacco, rolled in local leaves. My guess is that smoking is not their biggest health hazard."

Posted by Ellen

It's springtime, and the cactus flowers are seriously blooming in San Antonio, but don't even think about trying to sneak into the Alamo by climbing through the little window visible here. 

Posted by Ellen

Photographer Leon S-D describes this array of images as follows:

One of the many shops which have been left closed and abandoned as part of the East Riding County Council's Regeneration Scheme, Hilderthorpe Road, East Yorkshire, England, 2008 to 2014.

Posted by Ellen

All it took was a few days of bad weather like this, every year for maybe half a million years, and most of the sediment that used to blanket this part of South Dakota has washed on down the White River and then into the Missouri and the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico.

This was an ancient seabed, back in the day, deeply mucky, collecting sand and silt and mud from the Black Hills nearby and the Rockies beyond. The sediments piled up in layers hundreds of feet thick, but when the ancient sea drained and the lithified muck was exposed to the elements, wind and rain and frost proved to be powerful chisels. 

It's believed that in another half million years, the remaining spires and parapets will have crumbled down into the gullies, and it'll be curtains for the scenery hereabouts.

Posted by Ellen

When last we glimpsed young Kaspar in this space, he was a mere babe, a bit timid and in need of a nap. Now, less than a year later, he regards us with a bold, steady gaze, wide awake and prepared to tackle any challenge. Yes, he's still in diapers, and yes, he's in his jammies, but hey. The man's got tools.

Posted by Ellen

Looking west across the Bitterroot Valley from the foothills of the Sapphire Mountains near Stevensville, Montana

Posted by Ellen

On Saturday, May 17, Hank got his diploma from the University of Montana College of Forestry. Shown here celebrating with him are his brothers Allen and John and his sister-in-law Bonnie.

That very same day, Hank's cousin Andy Koehler also completed his college studies. Andy's degree, from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, is in music.

Posted by Ellen

On November 15, 1805, Lewis and Clark first saw the Pacific Ocean here, at the mouth of the Columbia River. It was raining. The expedition hunkered down across from a headland that English sailors had already named Cape Disappointment; it rained on them that day and the next day and the day after that, and all but twelve of the succeeding days for five months straight.

In May, however, as this photo proves, disappointment is no part of the scene.

We head westward this morning for another of Lewis and Clark's campsites: Missoula, Montana, which they called Traveller's Rest.

These here Good Mornings are unlikely until late in the month.

Posted by Ellen

About forty years ago, the limestone in the old quarry down by the waterfront in Oamaru was finally all worked out. The quarrymen left, taking their big machines with them.

The penguins moved in.

Penguins are common in seaside places all over New Zealand, and the Little Blue penguins like the ones in the Oamaru quarry are the commonest of all. New Zealanders generally seem to be fond of penguins and often place nestboxes in their yards to attract them. But city officials in Oamaru felt the town quarry was a terrible spot for a large penguin colony; for one thing, the birds were going to cause all kinds of traffic problems when they went waddling across the roads. For another thing, the quarrying operation had utilized some nasty chemicals, the residue of which might potentially sicken penguins. And then also, of course, somebody might want the real estate to feather his or her own nest, so to speak....
 
 
So the birds were moved out, to a site down the coast considered more appropriate. But they came back. Their nests were destroyed, and nice new nestboxes were offered them at the alternative site. They still went back to the quarry. Little Blues do that. They are the smallest of all penguins, not even knee-high, and they are homebodies.
 
Unlike many species of birds, including several penguin species, Little Blues do not migrate. They settle in communities of hundreds or even thousands of birds, often building their nests within a few feet of the spots where they themselves hatched and were raised. 
 
Every morning, they gather in groups--called rafts--of a dozen or so birds that head down to the beach together and then out into the surf; they swim together for miles to their fishing grounds, where they spread out to spend the day alone, diving a few feet down to catch their favorite fish, a small, shallow-schooling variety called slender sprat.
 
Penguins have hooks on their beaks and barbs on their tongues, ideal for grabbing onto slippery fishy things.
 
Every evening, the  penguin rafts reassemble and swim back to their home beach, where the birds emerge from the sea and climb back up the bluffs to their nests.
 
 
In 1992, the city of Oamaru finally gave up on its penguin-relocation project, perhaps because people had figured out how to monetize the colony. They fenced off the old quarry, opened a gift shop, sold tickets, even built a grandstand so visitors could sit comfortably while they watched the evening parade of feathered finery.
 
The organization that manages the Oamaru penguin colony also sponsors scientific research into penguin-human interactions. They report that the colony has continued to grow and thrive despite the thousands of tourists tromping through. Breeding pairs currently number about 160, laying between 250 and 500 eggs each spring, of which about 80% will hatch; about 80% of the hatchlings survive to fledge, when they can go out fishing on their own.
 
The quarry has been cleaned of old industrial waste and outfitted with nestboxes, some of which are designed so that researchers can watch the goings-on inside. And every evening, beginning around sunset, while tour guides keeps the tourists apprised of what the birds are up to, staff members carefully count the number of Little Blues coming back from the sea.