Monday, February 27, 2012

Company, Snow and Another Bobcat Photo

Sorry for the slow post's and progress with the observatory.
I had some company up for a few days, the kind of company you have visit when your significant other is away on travel. This type of company also needs preparation time before and recovery time after, you know a guys weekend.

Even the cats needed recovery time.

Speaking of cat here is my latest photo of our local bobcat.

Just missed, I'm still figuring the camera aiming out.

Then came the snow.
 We were able to keep our road open  to February 27th, but that's all over now! We have 10" of new snow on top of  the 4" from last week and more on the way, so our road is officially closed and we're now back to running the tracks.

This is the view from our deck over looking the dock which 5 days ago was completely free of snow. 
I'm not  complaining  though,  we really do need the moisture.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Bobcat and Wolf Photos

Yesterday afternoon I had a bobcat encounter that lasted around 5 minutes.
I scared the cat off the road driving back home, it jump the ditch and slowly walked into the woods about 75 feet in from the edge of the road.
After looking back at me, it then turned and walked a line parallel with the road heading toward our cabin. I just kept pace with its slow walk for maybe 300 feet and during this time the cat would give me the occasional glance to be sure I wasn't a threat.
Talk about blending in, this animals coloring is perfect! With all the down Maple trees on the forest floor and the light snow cover, I would lose sight for a time, only to find it again by detecting movement,. This was my 2nd best animal sighting ever, surpassed only by the Lynx we saw last winter.
After this encounter I pulled two of the game cameras from around the cabin and placed them out on the road just east of the private land. This area of the road has a lot of wolf and cat tracks with pee spots everywhere.
This morning as I left for town around 6:15, both cameras flashed so I knew they were still working. I kept driving even though the road was covered in wolf shit and I knew there had to be new photos.  I  decided instead to pull them after the meetings.
I got to town about 6:45 and  had my usual breakfast at S.O.B.but found myself still too early for the meeting so I took a drive up the Gunflint Trail. I parked in the Pincushion parking lot overlooking Grand Marais and saw this  wolf walk by!

Clicking might make movie bigger

Pincushion is a cross country ski area that is also lit for night skiing,
A suggestion if you are skiing around there, don't fall behind your group and no matter how bad your leg cramps gets try not to look wounded!
Just kidding, we rarely find skier carcasses in the woods, 
although this might explain all the clothing, boots, ski's and poles we uncover.

Returning to the cabin around 2:00 I stopped and pulled the cards from the game cameras and headed to the Observatory's warm room to look over the photos

(Thanks Berry for ordering the card reader in our computer.)

Well say hello to our local Bobcat

You will want to click on this photo and see it large, 
This photo was time stamped 11:58 am, probably on his way to lunch.

Earlier that morning around 2:00 am the wolf pack moved by as well.

Not sure how many  wolves were in the pack,  but according to the time stamp they were around 5 minutes.  I have the camera set to shoot 3 photos per event with a delay of 1 minute between events so I had a total of 15 photos.
Some shots just show glowing eyes in the background and I'm sure the flash startled them, so tonight I reset one of the camera to shoot more across the road rather than down it.

I've  never really shared Jim's excitement over the game cameras.
The man has 3 of them, a sack of batteries and a solar battery pack along with two A.C. chargers.
He'd place them all over in the summer and I would check them when he was gone but  I  never saw the big attraction.
 Hell, he even had a camera on his dock to find out what was crapping all over it and I have to say I didn't care as long as it was crapping on his dock and not mine.
 Well that attitude changed last fall when we started getting some great deer, moose and wolf photos from a salt lick camera. However when it got cold I pulled them because battery life is so short in the winter.
Now I'm running a battery charging rotation, bought more memory cards so I can just change them out and am enjoying the heck out of this. As a matter of fact it might be tough for Jim to get them back

Friday, February 10, 2012

Deep Water, I'm Well Over My Head Now

I knew from the start I was wading into deep water,
turns out I was wrong.
I now realize I've been floating on the surface of a bottomless lake and 2 weeks ago my boat sank.
It started with a dyslexics person's worst enemy, a 400+ page software manual.
What I've learned  
during this project is when you're a novice at anything
 and you choose to start with advanced gear instead of beginner equipment, the learning curve goes from steep to vertical, or in my case it feels like it's overhanging.
We decided to go with Maxim DL Pro software to run our complete set-up including the telescope, dome rotation, auto focusers, camera, guider camera and image processing.
 Maxims manual is written with the assumption the reader is knowledgeable about astronomy and observatory/telescope set ups, so I spend  a lot of time referring to the glossary to figure out many of terms used in the manual.
My  friend Paul is  helping me  comprehend all this information. Paul and I  are completely opposite in our learning preferences, he likes to research and understand the outcome of clicking a tab, while I click the tab and try to figure out what just happened.
Between the two of us we have had some success! 
The warm room computer now communicates with the telescope, both cameras and the auto focusers, this was the result of a lot of reading, downloading 64 bit drivers, unloading then re-loading some software and what felt like some good luck.
Paul will also be invaluable for setting up our observatory/warm room start-up & shut-down routine and the image calibration check lists that will have to be compiled, posted then followed every evening .
So it might be a while before you see our 1st photo. If we get really stuck I'll be reaching out to an astronomy student in Duluth or making a run to the  Thunder Bay Observatory.

No bobcat photo though, we have over a 1000 photos from the 3 game cameras running 24 hours a day, deers, squirrels, birds, bunnies, vols and mice but no bobcat.  Pat had a sighting within  the last 2 weeks but I think we scared it out from under the cabin. Will keep setting cameras, who knows what we'll see!.