Category Archives: Rambling

Unwanted Guests at Meyer Observatory

or Papa’s a Wuss

I arrived at the observatory this evening and went to open the door in the dark, just like I usually do. I reached to put the key in the lock and realized something looked different.  I quickly (I am sure it was even quicker than it seemed) backed up, turned the car lights on and repositioned the car so I could see this ….

Well I wasn’t sure what to do.  There has been a nest above the observatory door for awhile now, but I had never seen any babies in it.  I had seen a bird fly away from the nest as I would come and go through the door.

I grabbed my camera out of the car and took a few pictures.  Notice that there is another snake already at the nest.  I couldn’t tell until I saw the pictures, but it is eating a baby bird.  The larger snake was undeterred by my lights and just kept trying to make its way up to the nest.  I am sure the smaller one was gloating at the bigger snake and thinking, ‘not so big now are you?’

I looked around for a big long stick or something that I could run them off with.  These are Texas Rat Snakes, they are harmless to humans, but quite aggressive when challenged, so I wanted the longest thing I could find.  After some searching, I found a 2″ diameter, maybe 5′ long piece of schedule 40 PVC.  Not exactly the right choice, but all I had.

First I managed to run the bigger snake off the door.

Then I decided that the only way I could get the smaller snake away from the birds was to knock the nest, birds, snake and all off the siren.  When I did that, the snake turned loose the bird it was eating, it no longer had a bulge in its throat.  But after a moment it went after one of the babies and seemed unconcerned about me.  I kept poking at it with my unwieldy PVC until it finally also slithered off ….

But ….

it went straight under my car and didn’t come out the other side.  I couldn’t see it in the dark, had no flashlight, the keys to the observatory were in the car ….

This is where the Papa’s a wuss part comes in.  I wasn’t about to get too near the car without knowing exactly where that snake was.

So I took my long PVC and poked around under the car hoping to run the snake off, but never saw it come out.  I laid the PVC flat on the ground and slid it from the front tires all the way to the back tires and didn’t feel anything.  I went around the other side of the car and repeated this process and it was obvious this time that I was hitting the snake.

I managed to get an angle that allowed me to see a bit of the snake in light from the porch and determined I could get in the car.  I backed up and the snake looked so much smaller than during the face-off on the porch.  🙂  But, it was coiled and ready for business.

After backing up a ways, I took the PVC and harassed it enough that it scurried off.

Well, I knew I couldnt just leave the baby birds out there on their own, but I didnt know what to do with them.  I didnt want to touch them (I had heard/read that doing so would mean the mother wouldnt have anything to do with them) so I unlocked the door, went inside and gathered a box and a large dust pan.

When I opened the door to go back outside, there was the larger snake back up on the porch trying to get one of the birds.  After gathering my composure, I managed to run it off again.  I gathered the birds and nest into the box and took it quite a ways away, set it up on an electricity junction box and hoped that the mother bird would figure out what to do next.

As I walked back to the observatory, there was the bigger snake back on the porch.  I ran it off again and noticed that it just went behind a junction box on the side of the observatory.  After quite a bit of effort on my part, poking at it, it finally headed off into the woods.

Normally, I go outside every thirty minutes to check the sky conditions, temperature, and wind.  But I think I wont be doing that tonight.

Papa

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AutoStitch

I really like AutoStitch on my iPhone. It allows me to take pictures with my iPhone and stitch them together into a wider field of view. AutoStitch evens the lighting across the images and does an excellent job of stitching them together. It is well worth the small price I paid for it. Here are a couple of panoramas I have done with my iPhone 3GS.

The first was taken at DFW while waiting for the commuter jet to push back.  It was very low light just before sunset.

This is the result of 3 images taken through the window of the B767 while we were enroute from San Diego to DFW.  I was quite impressed by the result.

I didnt crop or otherwise adjust these results.  This is exactly the way AutoStitch created them.  You can click on the image for a larger version.  However, the size was reduced during the upload process.

For more examples, check out the AutoStitch for iPhone gallery.  There are some very amazing photos on Flickr as well.