Saturday, April 26, 2008

Mixed Bag

Finally rid of the snow more or less with a promising day on the horizon I decided to go for a drive. I would not get to far as I was scheduled to attend the Calgary Amateur Radio Associations (CARA) spring meet. I was asked by the CARA executive if I would put in a appearance to talk about my radio setup that also has the capability to work amateur radio satellites orbiting the earth. When a satellite - say maybe AO51 owned by Amsat-NA comes over the North Pole and breaks my horizon 2500 kilometers away from me, I can work anyone else on the ground within the 6000 kilometer footprint of this bird. These Low Orbiting Satellites (LEO's) are orbiting at a altitude of 800 kilometers and a overhead pass takes approximately 20 minutes max. I use software running on my Palm Tungsten E2 to predict the orbits. I have worked all states on the various satellites in orbit including Hawaii which was extremely difficult considering AO51 was only 2 degrees off my western horizon giving me a window of a minute and a half. The contact was arranged by email and the amateur I worked in Hawaii had to drive 2 hours from his home to the north end of the island for the contact. Why all the trouble for this 60 second contact you ask? That is for the certificate that hangs in my ham shack that confirms my working all states via satellite from my mobile. You can count the guys on one hand who have done this to date. The certificate awarded by the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) is awarded when it has been confirmed that all states have been worked with the signed QSL cards presented to ARRL to be checked and confirmed. Any way I have rattled on way to long about this and if your interested follow the VE6AB link.

The day dawned bright and clear with the promise of what would prove to be the nicest day we have had in some time. I picked up a coffee in Chestermere then continued east to the Indus road where I made a leisurely drive south with stops along the way to snap a pic or two of various things of interest. I noticed a Remax balloon off in the distance that probably launched out of Calgary near sunrise. After a time I realized that it would drift across the Indus road and as it neared I watched with interest as I enjoy Hot Air Ballooning having been up in them a number of times. I remember a time when the skies above Calgary and the surrounding countryside would be dotted with Balloons. Lately them seem to have lost popularity as I rarely see any other balloons other than the Remax balloons.

The recent snow seemed to have helped fill some of the sloughs that were dry only a couple of weeks ago. I had some fun observing the various water birds on a pond that were quite entertaining as they squabbled amongst themselves for space on this rather small pond.

As I shot photos of the goings on with the water birds on this pond just outside of my truck, I could hear a Western Meadowlark nearby that got my attention and after a time I spotted him sitting on a fence line nearby. When I moved in closer for a photo I realized that he had been joined by a American Kestrel that had been perched on a power line nearby. I enjoyed watching the kestrel as he hunted insects and a one point tried for a gopher but missed as the gopher hit his hole running at full tilt. Safe for another day.

A short time later the Meadowlark moved nearer to my location where I was able to get a couple of decent photos, although the meadowlark was backlit by the sun making for a somewhat difficult capture as I did not have time to reach for my flash. I love the song of a Meadowlark and never tire of hearing them. I close my eyes and I am taken back to my youth with vistas playing in my head of the prairie grass in Grasslands National Park being tossed about by the wind, as dust devils dance amongst the mounds of the prairie dog town in the flats of the Frenchmen River Valley, with views of Seventy Mile Butte shimmering like a mirage through the heat of another hot summer day. These thoughts remind me that I will make the trek to GNP this summer to shoot captures of the Buffalo released into the park in 2005. The photos that I hope to shoot will be of scenes that will appear not unlike those last witnessed by Sitting Bull off the back of his horse 150 years ago, after he and his warrior's escaped the might of the American Army after his successful campaign against Custer at the Little Bighorn to the south in Montana.

Remember all photos expand for a closer look - Later - Jerry

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