Moon, Mars and a meteor over Minette Bay (plus other celestial wonders)

The moon and Mars rise over Minette Bay, Kitimat, BC, as a meteor streaks over head. You can see Saturn on the far right (Robin Rowland)

This week is a stargazer’s delight. Mars is at its closest approach to Earth, and that means the Red Planet is the brightest it will be from July 27 to July 31 (the latter date is when Mars is actually the closest). Although North America missed the solar eclipse earlier this week, the moon is actually at its smallest, sometimes called a Buck Moon. The giant planets Saturn and Jupiter are high in the southern sky this week. Earlier in the month, Venus was visible as the Evening Star and for those with the proper gear it was possible to get a glance of Mercury.

Kitimat is in the midst of the summer heat wave that is gripping most of North America. Nights are mostly clear although there is some high haze from smoke in the atmosphere stemming from the forest fires in both Siberia and North America.

With all that I drove out to the Kitimat Viewpoint late Saturday July 28,  to capture it all.

Gear
Apps (for Android)
The Photographer’s Emphemeris
– told me when the moon will rise and the angle of location. Note: TPE gives moonrise at sea level. That means moonrise in Kitimat is usually between 50 and 70 minutes later depending on where it comes up over the mountains.
A compass app. To check the compass direction of the moonrise as predicted by TPE.
Sky Map. Android app originally developed by Google. Hold up you phone and see location of stars, planets, nebulae, satellite etc.

Camera
Heavy duty Manfrotto tripod
with
Sony Alpha 77, Minolta 17 to 35mm wide angle lens
Mounted with Cokin P121L Neutral density filter (to reduce the glare from the moon)

Handheld
Sony RX10iii

Jupiter and Saturn over Douglas Channel

Jupiter over the Rio Tinto aluminum plant (right) and Saturn (left)  over the mountains above Kitamaat Village, about an hour after sunset (Robin Rowland)

The late summer dusk lingers for more than hour after sunset, so even the distant mountains of Douglas Channel can be seen.  Jupiter is bright over the Rio Tinto plant at 10:50:33

Sony Alpha 77 ISO 4000 F2.8  1/2.5 of a second

Moonrise

Moonrise over Minette Bay. (Robin Rowland)

 

The moon is about to rise above the mountain (Robin Rowland)

 

The first arc of the moon peeked over the mountaintop at about 10:57:40.

The first image in the photoblog was taken at 11:00:23 and the second at 11::02:27

Sony RX10iii, handheld, ISO 4000 f4 1/1000 of a second

The RX1oiii is a high-end carry everywhere point and shoot. Moon was shot at 600mm on manual focus.

 

The moon reaches for the zenith. (Robin Rowland)

Same settings on the RX10iii at 11:06:50.

 

Mars rises

 

Mars rose to the west of the moon at 11:17:08 This image showing the moon, Mars and Minette Bay Lodge was taken 11:18:35.

Sony Alpha 77, manual focus,  ISO 2500, f5 at 2.5 seconds

At 11:23:31 same settings

 

 

I was bracketing shots, working with different shutter speeds and other settings, still on manual focus.  The meteor streak is in just two frames. This was taken at 11:37:05. (The other at 11:36:58 by 11:37:00 the next frame it was gone. I did not notice the meteor streak until I got home.

Alpha 77 ISO 1600, f3.2 at 2.5 seconds

A last look at Jupiter

Jupiter over the Kitimat mountains and the Rio Tinto plant. (Robin Rowland)

At 11:34:02 Jupiter is setting over the mountains behind the Rio Tinto aluminum plant.

Sony Alpha 77  ISO 1600  f2.8 2.5 seconds

 

A juvenile raven comes calling

A family of ravens lives in a tree down the street from me.  I have often seen what I believe to be the same pair overhead for the past several years, often just enjoying flying around.   There are other ravens around, of course, and I often see them overhead or in the trees in the bush park near my house.

On July 11, while on a walk in the bush park with my camera, three ravens flew overhead. Then this young raven, flew down to a branch near me,  frequently calling for its parents while they remained high above in the tree tops.

 

The young raven samples some witch’s hair.

A juvenile steller’s jay learns to crack a nut

 

Updated

I am lucky enough to be surrounded by the magnificent steller’s jay.   A group of them live in a tall conifer across a small park from my house.  (Unfortunately BC Hydro contractors opened up one part of the tree while rewiring the neighbourhood so the steller’s jays in that tree may be vulnerable.)  Others frequently visit (and may be living–I am not sure) in the cedar trees that mark the boundary with my neighbour’s house.  So the steller’s jays are frequent visitors to the feeder on my back deck.

I’ve been photographing steller’s jays on my deck,  in my backyard and in the bush around Kitimat for the past eight years. So I must have thousands of steller’s jays photos spring, summer, fall and winter for those eight years.

Friday night was a beautiful summer evening. I spotted three steller’s jays in the grass of my backyard.  I grabbed a camera, stepped out and saw–and heard–something I hadn’t seen in eight years.

For my feeder I used a wildbird mixture that it is mostly sunflower seeds, maize and shelled peanuts.  Although steller’s jays love peanuts I have never left out peanuts in the shell. But one of my neighbors does and I have seen from time to time a steller’s jay with a peanut in its mouth, usually on the ground before flying off into the trees.

What I saw Friday night (again Monday night) was entirely different.  One steller’s jay had found a way to crack the nut case in my old rotten fence.   Tonight there were two at it.

First about the fence, it’s old, probably original to the house when it was built in 1960, with parts rotting away and falling apart.  I had planned to replace it this summer but then I had to pay for major car repairs. Before that it was a new roof and a new furnace.

Steller’s jays, like all corvids, are highly intelligent birds.  It seems that scientists studying corvid intelligence, when they are not studying ravens and crows, concentrate on the scrub jay, which means British Columbia’s beautiful official bird doesn’t get much scientific respect with only a few university researchers looking at the bird (at least that is what I could find out in an online search.)

On Friday evening, that one steller’s jay found the perfect place to anchor a peanut in the shell.  My rotten old fence.

I asked Professor Jeffrey M. Black who does study steller’s jays at Humboldt University in Arcata, California what the jays were doing:

All three jays in these photos are of juveniles; note the fluffy grey chests and behind legs, and the yellow skin at the corner of the mouth. You may have noticed them giving odd raspy juvenile type calls too. Sometimes the young jays at this age, which come to feeders with peanuts, ignore peanuts and sample the seeds instead. It seems they get ‘turned on’ to peanuts through ‘social learning’ – meaning they observer others and learn there’s food inside. Seems like the young jay in the photos was new to the task. Experienced jays seem to extract the nuts from peanut shells quite quickly with deft strikes and prying movements (unlike the young bird in the photos). I agree, the youngster seems quite clever to have pushed the nut against a crack to hold it in place before aiming blows. As for the hammering sound. I suspect that was the beak coming into contact with the wooden fence. Incidentally, hammering on wood (knock, knock, knock) seems to be a behavior used in frustration or perhaps to signal a threat during aggressive encounter.

So here is the complete sequence from 18:47:53 Friday, July 13, 2018 to 18:49:39. All images copyright Robin Rowland 2018.

The steller’s jay is wrestling with the shelled peanut.

It seems to have done quite well demolishing the shell, in a gap against the old fence post. But apparently half the peanut shell was a hard nut to crack.

The steller’s jay takes a look….

 

I turned away for just a few seconds, and took a shot of the jays on the grass, with corn in their beaks. While shooting the jays on the grass I heard a “knock, knock, knock” sound, looked up and saw the steller’s jay working with its beak to crack that shell which was now anchored against the fence post.  Smart!

With the peanut shell firmly anchored against the wood and held tight in its feet, the steller’s jay repeatedly taps with its beak against the shell.

It keeps trying.  You can see part of the shell (or perhaps the peanut) on the beak.

 

A bee flies by…

… as the steller’s jay pauses for a second or two.

Finally success! It has the peanut out of the shell.

It enjoys its meal.

Looks like it’s finished because…


The steller’s jay discards the peanut shell.

 

 

And flies away.

 

A long shot of my fence taken the next morning.

 

A closer view of the area that the steller’s jay used to crack the nut.

 

And an even closer shot showing all the possibilities for an intelligent bird to anchor a peanut.

 

I just happened to look tonight (Monday July 16) and the steller’s jays were back at the rotten part of the fence.

This steller’s jay was back close to the spot where the peanut was cracked on Friday night.

 

No sign of peanuts tonight, so it was probably looking for bugs.

This is the tree where I’ve seen the steller’s jay living for the past eight years. You can see how BC Hydro contractors cleared a whole section of the tree to install new power lines that you can also see in the imagine.

The varied thrush – one of my favourite local birds in Kitimat

One of my favourite birds in here in Kitimat is the Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius).  There were a lot more than usual this spring for one reason or another. So here is an album of  images.

A varied thrush on my back deck.  (Robin Rowland)

 

There was still snow in a hollow in a small woods near my house in mid-April. (Robin Rowland)

The snow in the hollow which lasted for about a week after all the snow had gone elsewhere attracted varied thrushes almost every day. (Robin Rowland)

 

The spring melt advances on the last patch of snow.  A pair of varied thrushes.  (Robin Rowland)

As the spring buds come out in the nearby woods. (Robin Rowland)

 

And in my backyard.

And on an old log in the same hollow a couple of days later. (Robin Rowland)

 

In early May on the waterfront at the Minette Bay Lodge. (Robin Rowland)

A closer shot of the varied thrush at Minette Bay. (Robin Rowland)

On an driftwood stump at the mudflats of Minette Bay at low tide. (Robin Rowland)

A closer view (Robin Rowland)

The pole raising feast

After the friendship pole was raised in Kitimat, the Haisla Nation hosted a feast for both communities at Kitimat’s Riverlodge Recreation Centre.

The headtable, from left to right members of the District of Kitimat Council and the Haisla Nation Council, Kitimat officials and the Haisla hereditary chiefs. (Robin Rowland)

Carver Gary Wilson was the host and master of ceremonies for the feast (Robin Rowland)

Hereditary chief Sammy Robinson  (He’mas C’esi) addresses the feast. (Robin Rowland)

Cyril Grant Jr.(He’mas Sanaxaid) addresses the feast. (Robin Rowland)

A chief addresses the feast. (Robin Rowland)

A  man addresses the feast on behalf of his clan. (Robin Rowland)

Spirit of Kitlope dancers (Robin Rowland)

Spirit of Kitlope Dancers (Robin Rowland)

Spirit of Kitlope Dancers (Robin Rowland)

Spirit of Kitlope Dancers (Robin Rowland)

Raising the Haisla Kitimat friendship pole

On  May 4, the Haisla Nation and the District of Kitimat raised a totem pole to mark the growing friendship between “township” and Kitamaat Village.   Planning for the pole began a couple of years ago when the Haisla Nation and the people of the Kitimat township held a reconciliation forum at Riverlodge.   The pole was carved over the past year under the supervision of  carver Gary Wilson  (‘Nagamo’o).   Funding for the project came from the Canada 150 fund, the District of Kitimat and the Haisla Nation.

Before the ceremony

Haisla Nation hereditary chiefs and elders gather for the pole raising ceremony. (Robin Rowland)

Skeena Bulkley NDP MP Nathan Cullen speaks to Haisla Nation hereditary chiefs and elders before the pole raising ceremony. (Robin Rowland)

Eagle chief Cyril Grant Jr.(He’mas Sanaxaid) speaks to carver and master of ceremonies Gary Wilson  (‘Nagamo’o) and Kitimat mayor Phil Germuth before the ceremony. (Robin Rowland)

Aiden Robinson speaking to her Ma’ma’o  (grandmother) Rose Robinson, Sammy Robinson  (He’mas C’esi) amd Basil Grant (He’mas Legaix)  (Robin Rowland)

 

Unveiling and blessing the friendship pole


Carver Gary Wilson unveils the friendship pole. (Robin Rowland)

Sammy Robinson begins to bless the new pole, along with  Gary Wilson (‘Nagamo’o), Allan Williams (He’mas Wakas), Verlie Nelson (C’esi’s spokesperson) Cyril Grant Jr.(He’mas Sanaxaid)  as  Harvey Grant,  MP Nathan Cullen and Kitimat Mayor Phil Germuth watch. (Robin Rowland)

Cedar boughs are used to cleanse the totem pole.  (Robin Rowland)

Sammy Robinson  He’mas C’esi and Verlie Nelson  prepare the eagle down to cleanse and bless the pole.  (Robin Rowland)

Cleansing and blessing the pole.  (Robin Rowland)

At the pole blessing,  Harvey Grant (He’mas Wiiseks), Sammy Robinson (He’mas C’esi), Nathan Cullen, Cyril Grant Jr. (He’mas Sanaxaid), Phil Germuth and Eugene Stewart (Dlaxwdlaxwaligisc Hai’mas).  (Robin Rowland)

 

Raising the pole

Hereditary  chiefs and construction workers prepare to raise the friendship pole. (Robin Rowland)

 

The construction workers prepare to secure the pole.  (Robin Rowland)

Simon Hall (Hai’mac Gax) helps put the totem pole in place. (Robin Rowland)

Carver Gary Wilson explains the meaning of the pole. At the bottom is the snowflake, the District of Kitimat’s official symbol.  The face in the middle  represents the people of Kitimat with four multi-ethnic  faces above it.  At the  top of the pole are representations of the clans of the Haisla Nation, with the eagle, the beaver in the middle, (Robin Rowland)

Dancing

 

 

Eugene Stewart (Dlaxwdlaxwaligisc Hai’mas)  speaks to Gary Wilson speaks as the dancing begins.  (Robin Rowland)

 

Cyril Grant Jr. (He’mas Sanaxaid) leads the Eagle Clan dance after the pole was secured.  (Robin Rowland)

 

People join in the dancing. (Robin Rowland)

Children from the Haisla Community School participate with drumming and dancing. (Robin Rowland)