Still Breathin’

I’m not ignoring y’all or wasting my days gazing at the idjit box or surfin’ the web.

Honest!

We’re moving so I’ve been busy running around with my hair on fire trying to get all of the paperwork done for the lease and getting our utilities set up and/or transferred,

Lease signing is today, walk through with the realtor is tomorrow and the liftin’ and totin’ commences bright and early Sunday.

Watch this space.

I will return!

In fact, after several days of packing, moving and unpacking I’ll be more than ready to grab my camera and sneak out of the house!

In the meantime, to quote one of my dad’s favorite sayings:

DON’T MAKE ME STOP THIS CAR!

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Positive Thoughts

You often read in the news about the negative impact mankind has had on the environment. While I am as upset as the next naturalist about those negative reports I am proud to say that here in Virginia Beach man’s impact has had some positive environmental effect.

Case in point is the remarkable rebound in the local Osprey population. Efforts by local, state and federal environmental and wildlife agencies has brought about a remarkable rebound in numbers. I grew up here and have been an outdoors man for most of my 60+ years but can’t seem to recall ever seeing more than one or two osprey up until about 5 or 6 years ago. Now they’re everywhere and nests can be found almost anywhere there is a tall tree. They’re especially fond of man-made “trees” such as this cell tower,IMG_0003By the way, I’m often asked how I get all of those great bird shots. Well, first of all, I shoot A LOT of frames every time I go out. When I get them downloaded to my laptop I usually end up culling 90% of the shots I got because they’re out of focus, the lighting was wrong, someone’s head or a car or plane is in the frame or either half of the animal is out of the frame or I just flat-out missed it all together.

I also have two feet of lens attached to the camera body and, along with the 1.6 form factor sensor in the camera all of my full zoom shots are equivalent to using an 800MM lens on a film camera. People seeing all of that glass on the front of my camera often ask if I take pictures of the moon with that monster and my standard answer is “No, it’s too close.”

There I go rambling on and most of you non-shutter bugs are asking “What is this fool jabbering about?” Well, I’m jabbering about this next frame. My camera lens is what’s known as a super telephoto zoom lens. That first frame was shot at minimum zoom or 100MM. This frame is the same bird at a little over half zoom or about 350MM. Both shots were from a distance of about 100 yards.  By the way, this is a female Osprey. You can tell by the “necklace” of dark feathers across her upper chest. males are slightly smaller and the chest is pure white.IMG_0005But back to my original point. Man’s positive impact on the environment. Virginia Beach is the largest resort city on the East Coast and has 29 miles of scenic waterway,  28 miles of public beach and 38 miles of shoreline. With hundreds, if not thousands of boats in the city channel markers and navigation aids are everywhere.IMG_0011This one at The Narrows not only keeps water traffic moving in an orderly fashion and out of the shoals, it’s also an example of the efforts of local wildlife groups such as Chesapeake Bay Program and Lynnhaven River Now.IMG_0012There’s that big glass on the camera in action again at half zoom from about 75 yards picking out the nest platform built into the marker pylon. We have these platforms all over the city and the Osprey take full advantage of them. Must be real handy to be able to raise and fledge your young so close to the “buffet line”. Osprey, also known as fish hawks, are master fishermen. The female Osprey stay on the nest from the time the eggs are laid until the young birds learn to hunt on their own. In the meantime the male does the hunting. He’ll invariably catch a fish, take it to a nearby tree, eat the front half and take the back half home to momma. This goes on, all day every day from early spring right through the summer and it never fails to fascinate me.IMG_0009The preceding three frames were shot at the Narrows in First Landing State Park. This gem , where Linkhorn Bay and Broad Bay connect, is one of the well kept secret beaches the locals flock to in the summer while tourists crowds flood the Oceanfront which is our term for the resort area.IMG_0022Of course, we do have old school Osprey who prefer to nest in regular trees instead of the man-made variety. This bird was shot at full zoom as it was about 200 yards distant and there was no way to get closer without driving my new car through the Federally protected marsh where I was shooting at First Landing State Park.

The birds aren’t the only ones benefiting from local conservation efforts. After decades of erosion from winter storms the Federal, State and Local governments finally found a way to fund a beach replenishment for Chic’s Beach, the stretch of sand I grew up on along the Chesapeake Bay.IMG_0033This is the Texas, a dredge belonging to Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company. In the past week she was towed into position by the tug Gulf Dawn and anchored about 500 yards offshore. IMG_0037Soon Texas will begin dredging sand from the bottom and pumping it ashore where a herd of earth movers will spread it out to triple the width of the beach. This will not only create a lot more space for surf fishermen, happy kids and stuffed bikinis, it will also help protect the houses built along the dune line from rising seal levels and future storms.[UNSET](5)This is Chic’s Beach and the southern end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel which stretches 23 miles across the mouth of the bay linking Virginia Beach to Virginia’s Eastern Shore. We have a saying here in CXB (or Chic’s Beach), “No bad days!” and you can see the logo and motto proudly displayed on cars all over the area. Well, those days are about to get 3 times better!

IMG_0436That makes me smile!

 

 

 

Green Heron

Yesterday the weather was beautiful and the wind finally died down enough to get outdoors with my camera. Shortly after arriving at Pleasure House Point Natural Area in Virginia Beach I encountered 2 other shutter bugs and we set off in search of wildlife to shoot. We didn’t have to search very hard.IMG_0061It only took a few minutes before we spotted this gorgeous Green Heron perched in a nearby tree. He seemed to be posing for us.IMG_0040After a few minutes he left his perch and flew to a nearby pond in search of a meal. IMG_0052He continued to put on a show for us, posing no more than 10 feet away and showing no signs of fear or irritation as the three old geezers nearby jockeyed for a better angle.IMG_0059Finally he gave us a look that seemed to say “Okay, I’m hungry. Go away and let me eat in peace!” So we did.

 

Farewell to the Dark Side

It’s done……

Years ago I got interested in blogging as a way to share my newfound passion for digital photography. My search for a blogging platform led me to Windows Live Spaces where I soon found myself immersed in a globe spanning family of interesting, caring and sometimes zany people from all walks of life. I was happy!

Then the powers that be at Windows Live decided that blogging was a dead art and people were more interested in the quick fix they got from social media so they announced the end of Spaces. We were told that the Spaces team would help us switch over to WordPress and many of us did but the learning curve at the time was a little steep and many of us were already involved in Facebook (the Dark Side in our world). It just seemed an easier way to stay in touch and most of us let our WordPress blogs go fallow. Bloggers didn’t kill blogging and bloggers didn’t kill Live Spaces. Windows Live did and many of us were sad.

Now the worm has turned. Recent news reports of Facebook catering to Russian bots during the last presidential election cycles had my anger on a low simmer. Then last week the story broke that Facebook has been logging our mobile phone calls and texts and the private information of as many as 50 million users has been compromised! What legitimate use Facebook has for my personal communications is beyond me but I WILL NOT TOLERATE IT!

Faced with worldwide condemnation and looming congressional investigations Facebook first tried to say that users gave permission for this sort of behavior when they created their accounts. Now they claim to be rolling out new privacy settings to correct the problem but to me it’s just a case of closing the barn door after the horses have escaped, There is no undoing what has been done and my trust in Facebook has been forever lost. Fool me once, shame on me…………

So, a week ago I posted notice on my Facebook wall that I would be permanently removing my account and presence from that platform. Today is the day. As much as I hate the thought of losing contacts with the many friends I have made online over the years I simply will not willingly leave myself open to what amounts to theft of my personal data. If we don’t take measures to protect ourselves we’re just as much to blame as those who steal it from us.

If you’re still following me from Facebook thank you. If not, I guess you won’t see this but thank you just the same for the friendship you’ve given me over the years.

Now, onward and upward. Time to dust off the cameras and get some pictures to post and dust off what little is left of my mind and get back to writing again.

This ought to be a trip!

At least I didn’t get arrested

Today I closed the deal and sold my beloved Ford Expedition. Farewell, Godzilla, and thank you for over 10 years of faithful service and adventures. May your bones rise from the ashes…..or the smelter…..in the form of many little Godzillas.

Since I needed to return the license plates to the Department of Motor Vehicles today in order to get a refund for 11 months rather than a 10 month refund if I wait until Monday I put on my shoes, climbed in the car and headed for Norfolk. I hate going to the DMV due to long lines and surly employees but the lines in the Norfolk DMV offices are generally shorter than those in the Virginia Beach offices so off to the “Mermaid City” I went.

The first indication, besides the intermittent rain showers, that this was going to be one of those days was the 3 idiots parked in 5 slots in the handicapped parking area. I ended up parking behind the building and hiking over to the handicapped accessible entrance. Stepping through the doors I was not happy to see that the joint was packed! However, a friendly police officer saw the tags in my hand, asked if i was there to surrender them and directed me to the “Express Lane”.

After standing in line in the “Express Lane” for over an hour it was finally my turn. I stepped up to the counter where the clerk scowled at me and said “I did not call you forward. It’s time for my break. I’ll be back in 30 minutes.” This is when the aforementioned police officer stepped forward with a worried look on his face and his hand on his baton. I was livid!

Another clerk saw what was going on and called me over to her window, not the “Express Lane” but one for the common rabble, and asked if she could help. I explained what I needed to do, she took my tags, scribbled something on them and told me I would get a refund check in the mail within the next 30 days. This took about a minute total.

I was still mad when I got home but decided not to vent at my darling bride of 30 years, aka THE BOSS because her trusty cast iron skillet was in plain sight on the stove top and i can’t take too much additional cranial damage.

Did I mention how much  I HATE GOING TO THE DMV?

Oh, Man It Just Keeps Getting Better!

DOH!

Yesterday the friendly letter carrier brought me a water-logged US Postal Service Priority Mail envelope. He apologized for the condition it was in and said he didn’t know how it got the way. No real harm was done because the address label and contents were still intact but the contents were a genuine mystery.

The envelope contained a check! Not just any check but a cashiers check for $1980.00. I was gob struck! Then I remembered that I had posted my truck for sale on Craigslist………for $750.00. Hmmmmmm……….

Being the suspicious sort I called the bank the check was drawn on. The nice part about this call was that the bank is located in a small Appalachian Mountain town and I was soon speaking with the branch manager. I explained that I was trying to verify the legitimacy of the check and, after describing it to her and reading off all of the numbers on it she said that it was in fact one of their checks but there were two major problems with it. First, while the routing number was correct, the check number did not match their numbering system. Secondly, the signature on the check was HERS and she had not issued or signed any cashiers checks since being promoted to branch manager over a year ago.

She said I should immediately take the check to the police. As I pulled out of the driveway to go to the local precinct a patrol cruiser pulled into a restaurant parking lot just down the block so I pulled in beside it and asked the officer if he had a minute.

After explaining the situation he got very interested. We realized that the name of the person listed on the bottom of the check did not match the name of the person on the return address label. I had never heard of wither of those people. Not only that, the return label listed a business in New York City.

Then came the icing on the cake.

While the officer was writing out his report my phone buzzed and I discovered a text from a different person advising me of the tracking number for the mailer. It also instructed me to deposit the check in my account, keep an extra $50 for my trouble and pay the tow truck driver the remaining $1180.00 for transport fees when he arrived to pick up my truck.

Hmmmmm………….nothing fishy there.

The officer had me email a screen shot of the text to him to be included in the crime report. He said the detectives and possible the FBI should be in touch with me as soon as the report is processed.

In the meantime, another buyer is supposed to be here this afternoon with cash.

The moral of my story:

STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM CRAIGSLIST!!

 

The Vultures Are Gathering

Godzilla is moving on

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After 10+ years of faithful service Godzilla, my big green road monster, has bit the big one and is up for sale. The engine started acting up so I put it in the shop and on the way home the next day the transmission started going out. Considering the age of the truck and our limited income it was cheaper for us to buy a new car (well a 2013 but new for us) and put Godzilla up for sale.

Trade in value on a 20 year old gas hog SUV, especially one that has to be towed into the dealership, being what it is it made more sense to put up a cash down payment on the new car and post Godzilla for sale online. This is where the fun begins.

The first day the truck was posted on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist I got over 150 views and 18 inquiries. Four of the latter were from junk dealers offering less that half what I was asking. I ignored those. A couple more were from teenagers looking for their first car. I can’t, in good conscience, stick some young kid with a truck that will eat up all of their savings and that they really can’t afford to fix. I also don’t want to bless their parents with a huge lawn ornament.

Then there were the two offers from the same area code in New York City. Both offered to immediately mail me a cashiers check for the full asking price plus $50 to hold the truck until it can be picked up and another additional sum to pay the tow truck operator when he arrives. Oddly enough, they ask no questions about the condition of the vehicle or try to negotiate on the price.

Just out of curiosity I called the number included in the emailed offers, each of which were oddly worded almost exactly alike. Both numbers went to answering services and i didn’t bother leaving a message.

When I replied to the emails that I would take the cashiers check to my bank and have the validity of the check verified before cashing I got the same response: “Please deposit the check in your checking account rather than cashing it. If you would prefer a direct transfer please send your banking details and the money will be deposited in your account instantly.”

Yeah, I’m gonna do that! Nothing fishy there.

Anyone want to buy a project truck……….or a huge lawn ornament?