We woke up this morning to a new backyard bird: a Blue Jay! Finally we saw one of these beautiful birds at our home. I called it a few days ago when I wrote that we were overdue on a Blue Jay. Pretty cool:
Whoo-hoo … yesterday we received our package from NASA in the mail with our tickets for the shuttle launch on June 13th. Being at a shuttle launch is one of those things I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. In ten days we’ll drive down to Florida, which will take us about 20 hours over two days. Launch time is targeted at 7:19 AM on the 13th and I knew that we’d get a specific time slot to be there. Well, we now know our time and it is shocking:
Yesterday we visited Fermilab, home to the world’s largest operaring particle accelerator. I hear you say: but wait, isn’t the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland larger? Yes, but it isn’t operating yet; they’re still fixing the mess since it broke down in September last year. When the LHC goes online it will be the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator, with a tunnel of 17 miles / 27 kilometers. The Tevatron at Fermilab is still 3.9 miles / 6.28 kilometer. You can see it on the following map.
Today we visited the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab). Besides being home to the world’s largest particle accelerator currently in use (LHC is out of commission until at least this fall), Fermilab maintains much of their 6800 acre site with a variety of natural habitats for wildlife. This includes restored grassland prairie – once a major habitat across much of Illinois and the midwest, and former home to tens of millions of American Bison. Today, Fermilab is home to a small herd of bison.
Today over 70% of extant American Bison have been raised for human consumption. Large herds of free roaming wild bison can only be found in a few protected areas in North America, including Yellowstone National Park and Alberta’s Elk Island.
Five bison were brought to Fermilab by the first director, Robert Wilson, in 1969. In 1971 the herd increased by 21; today’s herd at the lab are descendants of those first 26 animals.
Sunday morning we made a walk at our nearest forest preserve, Rollins Savanna, and saw a pair of Sandhill Cranes and their young foraging through shallow water. We’ve been seeing a lot of cranes around here, but we hadn’t seen a baby crane yet. The two adults were picking out food and carefully giving it to the chick. It was very cute. Here are some pictures and a video we took:
We moved here in early February 2009 and our first bird to visit our feeders was an American Goldfinch on February 22nd. Today, just over 3 months later, we saw our 18th species: a Northern Flicker! So far we’d only seen these beautiful large woodpeckers in woods and nature reserves; it was the last bird we’d expected to see in our suburban backyard! She was sitting on the ground under our feeders, probably eating the ants that we’ve been seeing there since we put up a bowl of grape jelly for our Baltimore Orioles. She was only there for a few minutes and this was the best picture I could get:
Two years ago today we drove to Portugal for a day while on holiday in the south of Spain. We crossed the border on the E-1 highway across the Guadiana International Bridge that crosses the Guadiana River connecting Spain and Portugal. The cable bridge was completed in 1991 and we had a great view of it walking around a wetlands nature reserve along the river, just north of Vila Real de Santo António.
We’ve had a TomTom One for several years and have been extremely happy with it. We used it intensively in Europe and here in the United States. A couple of months ago our TomTom car charger suddenly started making a high-pitched noise and a few days later it overheated and smoke (!) came out of it. We threw it away and bought a new (generic) car charger at Wal-Mart. A few days later that charger started making a high-pitched noise too. I read something about the possibility of a TomTom battery overheating from being plugged in all the time, so we concluded that our beloved TomTom had broken down. More »
This must be one of the weirdest websites I’ve ever seen. RunPee.com will tell you exactly when it’s safe to leave a movie for a bathroom break. For each movie it will tell you the time, what happens in the scene (without giving any spoilers) and how long it’s safe to be away. Now you can get that extra large Coke without worrying about missing anything important. LOL
The Big Picture has a great set of photos from NASA’s final Hubble Servicing Mission. As we speak Space Shuttle Atlantis is leaving the telescope and preparing for a return back to Earth. This picture shows astronaut John Grunsfeld holding onto a handrail of the Hubble Telescope a few days ago. Head on over to The Big Picture to see more awesome pictures.