Thursday, May 23, 2013

Things are "looking up"

In our March 12 newsletter, we passed along an email from Minnesota Congressman Tim Walz, in which he promised to honor the 25th anniversary of the death of Steve’s father Walter.  True to his word, Walz gave a one-minute, fact-packed speech on the floor of the United States House of Representatives.  All of us in the family are deeply honored and grateful for this.  One of Walz’s aides sent us an internet link, and we are pleased to share it with you.  We invite you to honor Walter by viewing it, too, at
One of our main reasons for living on Corregidor is to honor the thousands of Filipinos and Americans who served here during WW II.  We hope that people continue to look up to those men and women who sacrificed so much, tens of thousands giving their very lives. It just so happens that many of the photos we’ve recently taken are upward focused, so the theme for this newsletter is “looking up.”
Marcia continues to have fun trying to get photos of new-to-her bird species on the island, many of whom visit the trees around the house.  The three included this time are frequently heard, often seen in flight, and difficult to capture by camera when perched because they tend to hide in the foliage. 
Sulphur-crested cockatoos are not native to the Philippines – there is a Philippine cockatoo, but not resident on Corregidor.  Our best guess is that the sulphur-crested ones living here are descended from the days of the aviary’s demise.  The photo was taken late in the afternoon, just as the cockatoo took off to fly over the house, so the edge of the roof cuts into the upper right corner of the picture. 
We have seen hundreds of Black-naped orioles during our time on the island, usually swooping across the roads or trails, but this is the first time either of us has gotten a half-way decent photo of one.  This one landed atop a tall tree in the yard, staying just long enough for Marcia to snap two quick pictures before it took off again.  She was already in position trying to capture another bird species in the neighboring tree, so she was ready when it flew to its momentary perch.
The Olive-backed sunbirds were the intended targets when the oriole photo was obtained, but they proved uncooperative that day.  The next afternoon Marcia got a photo showing a female sunbird to the right and a male to the left.  They are feeding on nectar from tamarind blossoms, staying mostly in the highest and outermost branches of the tree.  The camera was focused on the female, and we didn’t realize until the picture was on the laptop that her mate was included.
During one of her attemps to capture a shot of a sunbird, Marcia noted an area of high activity in that same tamarind tree.  Thinking it was a bird feeding, she snapped a series of high-speed pictures.  Much to our surprise, when we loaded them onto the laptop, it turned out to be a very large bee – about the size of a Michigan hummingbird – happily buzzing around in the blossoms.  She just happened to catch it in flight, our favorite shot of the day.  We include the original as well as the cropped close-up to give you some kind of idea of just how large these bees are.  Maybe someone can identify them for us.
We had a recent surprise visit from hiking friends Jill and Julia.  While at the house before setting out on a trek with Marcia, Jill noticed what she thought was a red damselfly perched on the clothesline.  Having done a little research, it appears that it is in fact a dragonfly based on the wing position when at rest.  The camera with the telephoto lens happened to be close at hand, so Marcia was able to get several good shots of it basking in the sunshine.  Isn’t the facial detail amazing?  It looks like it is wearing white stage-makeup, or a bizarre mask. 
With rainy season beginning to show its face, we are hearing more and more thunder in the area, especially over the nearby provinces of Bataan and Cavite.  Early one morning Steve noticed a beautiful cumulus cloud forming toward Manila, backlit by the rising sun.  Because cameras tend to compensate for lighting, none of the pictures he took did justice to the actual coloring.  Steve played around some with Photoshop and was able to make the photo more like the reality.
Steve and our friend “Diver Dan” were out on Manila Bay several days ago when Steve noticed what looked like an inverse rainbow; in other words, the ends of the rainbow arched upwards.  Once again, the photo cannot do justice to the brilliance of the real thing, but at least you can get an idea.  There was apparently something unusual happening in the upper atmosphere, because the following day an even more striking phenomenon was evident.  Steve is very proud of his “circle around the sun” photo.  This rainbow halo lasted for a couple hours, varying in intensity and percentage of full-circle visibility depending on the clouds.  Does it remind anyone else of an eyeball?
On Monday we celebrated Steve’s 61st birthday with a few island friends and Diver Dan.  Thursday, May 23, marks the 71st anniversary of the day when most of the American and Filipino prisoners of war from the May 6th surrender were transferred from their temporary POW camp on Corregidor to Manila by their Japanese captors.  These were the men who had defended the fortified islands of Manila Bay: Corregidor (Fort Mills), Caballo (Fort Hughes), El Fraile (Fort Drum, “the concrete battleship”), and Carabao (Fort Frank).
Sunday morning we plan to be at the American Cemetery in Manila for the Memorial Day ceremonies.  We hope to see some of you there.
Steve and Marcia on the Rock

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