Archive for May, 2009




Female Cardinal


Female Bluebird


Female Red-winged Blackbird


Female Brown-headed Cowbird


Female Pileated Woodpecker


On This Day, May 31: Joseph Johnston Wounded

May 31, 1862

Battle of Seven Pines (Fair Oaks), Virginia

Confederate forces strike Union troops in the Pen insular campaign. During May 1862, the Army of the Potomac, under the command of George B. McClellan, slowly advanced up the James Peninsula after sailing down the Chesapeake Bay by boat. Confederate commander Joseph Johnston had been cautiously backing his troops up the peninsula in the face of the larger Union force, giving ground until he was in the Richmond perimeter. When the Rebels had backed up to the capital, Johnston sought an opportunity to attack McClellan and halt his advance.

That chance came when McClellan’s forces were straddling the Chickahominy River. The swampy ground around the river was difficult to maneuver, and the river was now a raging torrent from the spring rains. A major storm on May 31 threatened to cut the only bridge links between the two wings of the Union army.

Johnston attacked one of McClellan’s corps south of the river on May 31 in a promising assault. The plan called for three divisions to hammer the Federal corps from three sides, but the inexperienced Confederates were delayed and confused. By the time the attack came, McClellan had time to muster reinforcements and drive the Rebels back. A Confederate attack the next day also produced no tangible results. The Yankees lost 5,000 casualties to the Rebels’ 6,000.

But the battle had two important consequences. McClellan was horrified by the sight of his dead and wounded soldiers, and became much more cautious and timid in battle—actions that would eventually doom the campaign. And since Johnston was wounded during the battle’s first day, Robert E. Lee replaced him. Lee had been serving as Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ military advisor since his undistinguished service in western Virginia during the war’s first year. The history of the war in the eastern theater drastically changed as Lee ascended the ranks. His leadership and exploits soon became legend.

“Battle of Seven Pines (Fair Oaks), Virginia,” The History Channel website, 2009, [accessed May 31, 2009]


On This Day

1854 – The Kansas-Nebraska Act passed by the U.S. Congress.

1889 – In Johnstown, PA, more than 2,200 people died after the South Fork Dam collapsed.

1902 – The Boer War ended between the Boers of South Africa and Great Britain with the Treaty of Vereeniging.

1909 – The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) held its first conference.

1913 – The 17th Amendment went into effect. It provided for popular election of U.S. senators.

1947 – Communists seized control of Hungary.

1955 – The U.S. Supreme Court ordered that all states must end racial segregation “with all deliberate speed.”

1962 – Adolf Eichmann was hanged in Israel. Eichmann was a Gestapo official and was executed for his actions in the Nazi Holocaust.

2003 – In North Carolina, Eric Robert Rudolph was captured. He had been on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list for five years for several bombings including the 1996 Olympic bombing.

May 31, 1775

Mecklenburg Resolutions reject the power of the British in North Carolina

On this day in 1775, the committeemen of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, meet and respond to news of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the American Revolution, with a series of 20 patriotic resolutions.

This meeting gave rise to a lasting historical myth better known than the event itself. In 1819, the Raleigh Register published a document that it claimed was the “Mecklenberg Declaration of Independence” from May 20, 1775. Controversy continues regarding the declaration’s authenticity, but it is likely that the so-called declaration was a misdated and edited version of the resolves that were actually recorded on May 31.

The so-called Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence printed in 1819 contained five resolutions. The first charges, “That whosoever directly or indirectly abetted, or in any way, form, or manner, countenanced the unchartered and dangerous invasion of our rights, as claimed by Great Britain, is an enemy to this County, to America, and to the inherent and inalienable rights of man.” The second resolution “dissolved” Mecklenburg County’s ties “to the Mother Country” and removed “all allegiance to the British Crown,” which had “shed the innocent blood of American Patriots at Lexington. The third resolution declared the Mecklenbergers, “a free and independent people.” The fourth and fifth resolutions dissolved the power of all British appointments and called every officer in the county to resume “his former command and authority… until a more general and organized government be established in this province.”

The myth of the May 20, 1775, declaration is deeply entrenched: North Carolina’s state seal and flag bear the dates May 20, 1775, and April 12, 1776. April 12, 1776, was the date of the Halifax Resolves, with which the North Carolina Provincial Congress empowered its delegates to the Continental Congress to vote in favor of independence from Britain. Despite the continued popularity of the “Mecklenburg Declaration” in popular lore, the less emphatic set of 20 resolves issued on May 31, which suspended crown authority in North Carolina without overtly declaring independence, are the only ones confirmed to have existed by contemporary documents.

“Mecklenburg Resolutions reject the power of the British in North Carolina,” The History Channel website, 2009, [accessed May 31, 2009]


Yearling Buck: A Year in Pictures

Learning and understanding how to use a camera continues as a challenge.  I’ve missed more shots than I’ve gotten.  Yesterday, I practically stepped on one of the foxes before I realized it was there, and, of course, missed the shot.  I also saw the dominant doe with the female yearling but forgot to adjust the light settings on the camera, completely forgetting that I had it set for low light because of cloud cover just as the sun broke through the clouds.

I’ve been photographing these deer for about a year now.  My first shots of Big Boy last year while in velvet are known to my friends because I couldn’t stop talking about how he walked through a field with me and let me photograph him.  In my own words, it was a very cool day.  When I took the picture below, I didn’t realize at the time I was taking pictures of Big Boy’s son and daughter.  The shot isn’t very good, but I had absolutely no clue how to use this camera then.  And while on most days I still feel clueless about photography, I still manage to get some decent shots.


He’s curious about people but his parents have taught him well.  He knows to run and hide from humans, though his curiosity gets the best of him and sometimes he will walk right up to within thirty feet of me.  He’s about thirty feet from me in this shot but I didn’t have the auto-focus set right, so instead of focusing on him, the camera focused on the bush to the right.  I’ve since learned how to resolve that issue.


Throughout Fall and early Winter I kept seeing these deer, but continued to miss the shots.  In this shot I saw them running through the beach picnic area and the crunching snow beneath my feet scared them even more and they seemed to go into hyper-gear.  The four of them jumped and leaped and bounded in every possible direction and this is the only shot of them that remotely looks like a deer.

I spent the rest of Winter practicing on Eagles, Ducks, Geese and anything else I could find to take pictures of, while still trying to find the deer and get their picture.  The snow and ice melted and moving around in the park got easier and quieter.  In March I found where Big Boy and his family reside and started getting some nice shots.  I’m still kind of surprised that he tolerates me around him and his family.


After taking this shot and getting home to look at it on my monitor, I realized I had taken pictures of the two fawns from last Fall and decided to return to the same part of the park to get more shots.


With patience and practice I slowly began getting better shots of him and his sister as they grew.


And, finally, after reading some of your blogs, pestering my professional photographer friends, reading the camera manuals and thumbing through The KISS Guide to Photography; I got this shot.  I had vowed at this point not to name them because they’re not pets.  They may be used to humans but they’re still wild animals and I don’t want to think of them as pets, so I won’t get too close and scare them and cause them to run out in front of a car.  I just kept referring to him and his sister as the yearlings.


Later in the Spring, he began staying close to his mother.  She’s very attentive and affectionate with the yearlings but more so with him at this point.  I knew why.


Could it be she was saying good-bye?  A few weeks ago, I noticed the females had grouped together and while I couldn’t get shots of them, the males had also grouped together.  As spring progresses, the females go off on their own because the younger does have to learn about birthing.  The males group together to defend their territory and distract potential predators from the females.  Behavior I noticed a couple weeks ago when I took the shot below.


I had gone back into one of the areas where these deer live and found the yearlings by themselves.  They jumped to their feet and separated.  The female yearling moved further back into the brush, while the yearling male moved closer toward me and kept himself between her and I.  I’ve been calling him Braveheart ever since.  I saw him again yesterday and he’s not hanging out with his mom and sister anymore.  He’s running with Big Boy, and he’s in velvet.


(click any picture for a larger view)


On This Day, May 30: Decoration Day

May 30, 1868

Civil War dead honored on Decoration Day

By proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, the first major Memorial Day observance is held to honor those who died “in defense of their country during the late rebellion.” Known to some as “Decoration Day,” mourners honored the Civil War dead by decorating their graves with flowers. On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.

The 1868 celebration was inspired by local observances that had taken place in various locations in the three years since the end of the Civil War. In fact, several cities claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, including Columbus, Mississippi; Macon, Georgia; Richmond, Virginia; Boalsburg, Pennsylvania; and Carbondale, Illinois. In 1966, the federal government, under the direction of President Lyndon B. Johnson, declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day. They chose Waterloo–which had first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866–because the town had made Memorial Day an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.

By the late 19th century, many communities across the country had begun to celebrate Memorial Day, and after World War I, observers began to honor the dead of all of America’s wars. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May. Today, Memorial Day is celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave. It is customary for the president or vice president to give a speech honoring the contributions of the dead and to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. More than 5,000 people attend the ceremony annually. Several Southern states continue to set aside a special day for honoring the Confederate dead, which is usually called Confederate Memorial Day.

“Civil War dead honored on Decoration Day,” The History Channel website, 2009, [accessed May 30, 2009]

On This Day

1416 – Jerome of Prague was burned as a heretic by the Church.

1431 – Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen, France, at the age of 19.

1539 – Hernando de Soto, the Spanish explorer, landed in Florida with 600 soldiers to search for gold.

1854 – The U.S. territories of Nebraska and Kansas were established.

1883 – Twelve people were trampled to death in New York City in a stampede when a rumor that the Brooklyn Bridge was in danger of collapsing occurred.

1911 – Ray Harroun won the first Indianapolis Sweepstakes. The 500-mile auto race later became known as the Indianapolis 500. Harroun’s average speed was 74.59 miles per hour.

1913 – The First Balkan War ended.

1922 – The Lincoln Memorial was dedicated in Washington, DC.

1958 – Unidentified soldiers killed in World War II and the Korean conflicts were buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

1967 – The state of Biafra seceded from Nigeria and Civil war erupted.

1989 – The “Goddess of Democracy” statue (33 feet height) was erected in Tiananmen Square by student demonstrators.


May 30, 1971

Mariner 9 departs for Mars

The U.S. unmanned space probe Mariner 9 is launched on a mission to gather scientific information on Mars, the fourth planet from the sun. The 1,116-pound spacecraft entered the planet’s orbit on November 13, 1971, and circled Mars twice each day for almost a year, photographing the surface and analyzing the atmosphere with infrared and ultraviolet instruments. It gathered data on the atmospheric composition, density, pressure, and temperature of Mars, and also information about the surface composition, temperature, and topography of the planet.

When Mariner 9 first arrived, Mars was almost totally obscured by dust storms, which persisted for a month. However, after the dust cleared, Mariner 9 proceeded to reveal a very different planet–one that boasted enormous volcanoes and a gigantic canyon stretching 3,000 miles across its surface. The spacecraft’s cameras also recorded what appeared to be dried riverbeds, suggesting the ancient presence of water and perhaps life on the planet. The first spacecraft to orbit a planet other than earth, Mariner 9 sent back more than 7,000 pictures of the “Red Planet” and succeeded in photographing the entire planet. Mariner 9 also sent back the first close-up images of the Martian moon. Its transmission ended on October 27, 1972.

Mariner 9 departs for Mars,” The History Channel website, 2009, [accessed May 30, 2009]


American Bald Eagle



World War II Fighters: North American P-51D


Considered the best fighter plane of World War II, the P-51 Mustang, born of a British desire for a fighter to fend off the Luftwaffe and North American incorporating lessons learned from the P-40 Warhawk and the latest developments in aerodynamics, didn’t really excel as a fighter until the British Rolls-Merlin engine was added.


Innovative wing design, featuring laminar flow technology, helped the P-51 decrease drag which added speed, agility, and with less drag comes better fuel mileage.


The importance of the P-51 Mustang can be noted from an infamous quote by Herman Goering commander of the German Luftwaffe which concerned the appearance of P-51s escorting B-17s over Berlin.  Goering said, “When I saw Mustangs over Berlin, I knew the jig was up.”


The United States built nearly fifteen thousand P-51 Mustangs and this design served in world air forces into the 1980s.


This P-51 Mustang can be found at the EAA Airventure Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

For more information please see: P-51D Mustang

May 2009

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