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Monthly Archives: January 2016

Every winter I try to drive around and photograph the ships that are spending winter layup in Duluth. This year there are seven ships that will be spending the winter in Duluth. They will remain in port until about the third week in March when the tugs will start freeing them from the winter ice. Most of them will undergo some maintenance work. This year the Herbert C. Jackson will spend six months in Fraser Shipyards where it will be repowered with state-of-the-art diesel engines.

Edwin H. Gott At Port Terminal

Edwin H. Gott At Port Terminal


Philip R. Clarke At Port Terminal

Philip R. Clarke At Port Terminal



Paul R. Tregurtha At Midwest Energy


Indiana-Harbor-At-Embridge Docks

Indiana Harbor At Embridge Docks



Herbert C Jackson At Fraser Shipyards



American Century At Port Terminal

Last week was my first visit to Amnicon Falls State Park this winter. There was a lot of ice considering how warm the winter has been. It has been really hard to get enthusiastic about winter this year. We really need some cold weather and a couple of good blizzards.

The unusual color in the water is caused by tannin.

Covered Horton Bridge

Lower falls and the Covered Horton Bridge

The tannin in the water also discolors the ice.

Upper Falls

Upper Falls

Fresh snow had fallen the night before resulting in an interesting pattern on the rock face above the lower falls.

Rock Face

Rock Face

Fresh snow made for an interesting B&W photo.



Every time we visit Amnicon Falls State Park we drive past Three Fingers Fireworks. I cracks us up that someone would name a fireworks store Three Fingers.



Around the end of December a pair of Ivory Gulls were spotted in Duluth, Minnesota creating a major stir among bird watchers. According to the Cornell Lab they only rarely come south of the Bering Sea or the Maritime Provinces. The Ivory Gull is native to the High Arctic and has only been reported in Minnesota about a dozen times in the last 70 years.


One of the Gulls died shortly after arriving in Duluth but the other bird has been spending time in Canal Park. When my wife and I arrived in Duluth we drove down to Canal Park to see if it was still around. I walked around and didn’t see it. When we arrived I noticed a photographer with a big lens walking back to his car. I went over and asked him if the Ivory Gull was around. Turns out I it was around I just didn’t know what I was looking for. It was sitting out on the North Breakwater all by itself. It looks to be the size of a pigeon but with a longer wing span. Birders said this one was probably about a year old. It still had black on its wings and around the face. The adult bird is totally white. Of course I didn’t have my camera along so I assumed I would never get a shot of it.


We came back the next day and there were quite a few bird watchers around. The Gull was still sitting on the North Breakwater. I managed to get a few shots of it. Apparently people have been feeding it salmon fillets and tuna. It was cold enough for ice to form on the lake so photographers were baiting the bird by tossing food onto the ice so they could get a good shot. Everyone was a little concerned that it would eat so much it wouldn’t be able to fly.



We returned on the next morning looking for the Gull. It was the weekend and there was a large crowd on hand with their big lenses and scopes. The bird was perched on the South Breakwater and was out of range of my large lens. We watched for a while then headed over to Amnicon Falls to take some photos.


On our return we were photographing ships at Rice’s Point when we encountered another bird photographer looking for Snowy Owls. He said the Gull had flown right up to him earlier in the morning. We decided to go back to Canal Park and try for some more photos.


When we arrived there was still a large crowd around. I was trying to find the Gull when if flew right up to us. It flew around for a while before landing right in the middle of a group of photographers. One photographer was about four feet from it. I don’t know what kind of shot he got because he has a 600mm lens on .


The bird sat on the North Breakwater among all of the photographers and bird watchers for quite a while. When it went to take off it seemed to be having some problems. I gather they are not very graceful on land with a big body and short legs. At any rate it flew around some more and landed briefly in the water before flying away.



Quite the experience. As one birdwatcher put it this is the rarest bird you will ever see.


The first blizzard of the year brought many of my birds back to the feeder. There is nothing I enjoy more in the winter than photography birds during a blizzard.

Northern Cardinals

Northern Cardinals

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

Hairy woodpecker

Hairy woodpecker

Common Redpoll

Common Redpoll

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

One of the things I like to photograph in the winter is ice. Unfortunately this winter has not provided much of an opportunity because it has been so warm. These shots were taken at Devil’s Punchbowl and Paradise Valley near Menomonie, Wisconsin.




This winter started out so warm that some of the winter birds that frequent my feeders were not around. These are the usual suspects that were around.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

Tufted Titmouse

Tufted Titmouse

When I first started to get serious about photography I was mainly interested in landscape photography. During the long winters there was not as much of an opportunity for landscape photography. As I watched the birds at my feeder I kept thinking I should get some photos of them. The problem was my lens just wasn’t powerful enough.


One day I noticed that while the birds went to the feeder to gather seeds they flew down near the house to eat them. I went down to the basement to see it I could see them in the basement window. Sure enough they were sitting at the base of a lilac bush eating their seeds.


The next day I cleaned the basement window and put a ladder under it so I could sit and watch the birds. This is how I started my bird photography. One of the first shots I took was published in Birds and Blooms. It was of a male Northern Cardinal feeding during a blizzard.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

A number of years later I severely trimmed the lilac bush and it was no longer a place the birds liked to feed. This year I happened to be working in the basement and noticed the birds were back and that with a little trimming I could get some great bird shots.


One of the things I like to do is photograph Bittersweet in the late fall or early winter. This year I got busy and forgot about it until I went on my first ski of the season. I noticed some Bittersweet along the Red Cedar Trail and vowed to come back and photograph it if the sun ever came back out.



A couple of days later it was a beautiful day so my wife and I gathered up the camera gear and skied out to where we had seen the Bittersweet. Unfortunately it grows in a tangled mass of brush and downed trees so it was difficult to photograph but I managed a few pictures.



While I was photographing my wife skied down the trail. I heard what I thought was her talking to someone. The noise became louder and I noticed a flight of Trumpeter Swans flying up the river. Fortunately I was using my 600mm lens to photograph the Bittersweet. Unfortunately I was standing in thick brush. I did manage a few shots of the Swans as they flew by. It’s rare to see swans on the Red Cedar River but I have seen a few but never this large of group.



There were always groups of school children taking trips on the train. We encountered this group when we returned to Kobe Station from one of our trips.


Lots of bikes on the street. These were parked along the main street near our Airbnb. The Kobe Train Station had a large parking lot for bikes.


The trains in Japan were great. We had no problem getting around. They were clean and always on time. If you missed a train there would be another one in a few minutes. Most of the station platforms had electronic signs that would periodically flash the information in English. The same was true of the signs in the trains. Announcements were also periodically made in English. The funny thing was that it seemed like they would go on forever in Japanese but when it was translated to English it was only a few words.


As I mentioned we had a Japan Rail Passes. This saved us money and made it much more convenient to ride the trains. We didn’t have to stop and pay every time we wanted to take a train we just had to flash our pass. It didn’t cover all of the trains so we purchased a train card that we could put money on. This was also very convenient as we traveled around. The same card worked in both Kobe and Tokyo.

The Major Train stations also contain shopping areas for food and groceries. This particular store was my downfall and the reason I gained weight in Japan. It was located directly across from where we exited the Kobe Station Platform. It sold delicious custard filled croissants. So every day we would stop and load up on baked goods before returning to our Airbnb.



Eating in Japan was not a big issue and the food was relatively inexpensive. We happened to find this small restaurant on a backstreet while walking back to our Airbnb. We couldn’t read the menu but most of the restaurants either had pictures or plastic mockups of the food. In this case we took the waiter out to the front display and pointed to what we wanted. As it turned out she spoke a little English and was quite the jokester. This meal cost about $6.50 which was about what we liked to pay. You could probably double that if you ate in the tourist areas.



One of the things that is quite different in Japan is the fact that Beverage Dispensers on the street dispense hard liquor including beer and sake.


Japan was very clean. The odd thing is they have very few garbage cans. There were no garbage cans on the streets. We saw some in the train station platforms and in convenience stores. People are expected to carry their garbage home to dispose of it. The U.S. is a pig sty compared to Japan.

As I mentioned in a number of my blogs we arrived in large cities in the middle of the night. There were always people walking in the streets. We never felt in any danger walking around the back alleys of the cities. This is not something we would do in a U.S. city.

The sidewalks in Kobe were quite different than in the U.S. They had one lane for bikes, another lane for blind people and one for pedestrians. The lane for the blind had bumps on it and I found it hard to walk on. The problem was the lanes didn’t seem to mean anything. No one paid any attention as to where they were riding their bike or waking. This really surprised me because Japanese people seem so organized. I was always a little concerned that we would be hit by a biker but it didn’t happen in spite of the large number of bikes.

Escalators were another interesting thing. They were everywhere particularly the train stations where people were rushing to catch trains. In Kobe the rule was you stood on the right side and people walking or running to catch a train would do so on the left. When we arrived in Tokyo we found that wasit was just the opposite.

More photos from our visit to Japan can be found on my website.

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