We are still in the grip of summer-like weather, with heat, humidity and rain almost every day. We normally would be entering the mild dry season when we can leave the windows open all day and night. Near freezing low temperatures in northern Illinois will be a shock for us when we return there in a few days.
Atmospheric conditions have created photographic challenges but also opportunities. Although rain shortened several of our treks into the wetlands near our home, we have also enjoyed some fabulous pink sunrises.
This photo was taken about 10 minutes before sunrise, four days ago, looking south down the unpaved road that leads into our birding patch.
Almost every summer, tropical winds carry dust particles 5,800 miles across the ocean from northern Africa. The dust is able to cross that distance because it travels in the Saharan Air Layers, on top of a lower cooler layer of atmosphere, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Hurricanes follow the same path from the African coast, but the dust can produce some beautiful pink sunrises in south Florida. This, along with high humidity, may well have been the cause of the pink color of the sun’s rays.
Here is a screenshot that shows the density of dust in the Saharan Air Layer on October 20. Fairly high dust levels are present near the tip of the Florida peninsula, just visible in the upper left hand corner of the image.
See the latest satellite images of the Saharan Air Layer at this link.
A Great Egret balanced on the very top of an Australian Pine, and the high pink clouds provided a pleasing background.
The egret took flight.
The skies quickly turned from pink to black as thunder rolled. Wisely, Mary Lou had departed well before me. Here is the road ahead as I hurried back home, just beating the rain.
The next morning I photographed what I erroneously called a “false sunrise” on the western horizon over the Everglades, at 7:22 AM, EDT. This view is directly opposite the spot where the sun was scheduled to appear above the horizon in about 2 minutes. The sky overhead was clear and already quite blue, but the scattered high clouds were pinkish. There were thunderstorms over the Atlantic coast, so it was quite dark to the east. The rays of the sun had filtered over the tops of the thunderheads and painted long parallel pink streaks. Perspective gives them the appearance of diverging from the west, but they actually are converging from the east towards the vanishing point. Perhaps the best term for this would be a “mirrored sunrise.” (* See end note)
Interestingly, another Great Egret posed in a different tree, about three minutes before sunrise. The pink in the sky was not as intense as on the previous morning. The photo is soft because I had to crank the ISO up to 6400 to get a 1/2400 second exposure without using my flash.
A Northern Waterthrush suddenly appeared in the semi-darkness, and the flash was necessary for a decent exposure.
The radar has shown quite heavy migration this week. I think they were mostly catbirds, as the trees were full of them. Lighting had improved a bit when I took this photo of a Gray Catbird a few minutes later, without flash (ISO 6400, exposure 1/320).
Brown Thrashers are passing through on their way south. A few breed in south Florida.
Here are some other images from the past week, under somewhat better lighting conditions. First, a male Painted Bunting, locally common during the winter, …
…and a female bunting dressed in green.
I often see Indigo Buntings in the company of Painted Buntings. This is a female– note her streaked breast.
The male Indigo Bunting shows some blue on its flight feathers and wing coverts, and is not heavily streaked.
Northern Cardinals are in fine feather, having just completed the post-breeding molt.
Noisy and inquisitive Blue Jays also show fresh plumage. Resident jays are now joined by migrants.
Northern Mockingbirds are singing and defending their territories.
A migrating Ruby-throated Hummingbird comes in for a landing…
…and settles down.
This is a migratory first year male Rose-breasted Grosbeak.
* I searched the Internet for any other descriptions of this phenomenon, which looks like a mirrored sunrise on the opposite horizon, but did not find much information. I learned that my terminology is not correct. Technically, a “false sunrise” or dawn sundog is… an atmospheric optical phenomenon associated with the reflection or refraction of sunlight by small ice crystals making up cirrus or cirrostratus clouds in the very particular case when the sun is still below the horizon. Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_sunrise
Here is a similar photo of a mirrored sunrise over Katy, Texas in FLICKR: http://www.flickr.com/photos/brettmorrison/8095394320/in/pool-texan/
I did find a You Tube featuring another mirrored sunrise here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rr7gASBeQBE