Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dog On Quest for Prosthetic Limbs May Eventually Help Wounded Veterans Regain Normal Mobility

March 29, 2011

This weekend we had the opportunity to visit a friend, Karen MacDonald, who lives near Charlottesville, VA. She recently adopted a dog from a local SPCA shelter. She had waited a long time to get a dog. Life and work kept getting in the way and she decided that she had waited long enough. After walking through the shelter, MacDonald fell in love with a four year old mixed pit bull. However this was no ordinary pit bull. This was Jack.

Pit bulls are not the mean vicious breed that the press makes them out to be. People make them mean and vicious. Pit bulls can be wonderful companions. Jack is a mild mannered and extraordinary dog. He is very playful and loves being around people. You can’t help but fall in love with him. Jack, however, is constantly in pain. Sometime shortly after birth, he lost both rear paws just below the knee joint and is handicapped. Most of his pain comes from bone spurs that prevent him from using his rear legs for walking. Jack walks using his front legs and uses the rear ones only to occasionally balance himself. He manages quite well on his front legs but it’s obvious that he suffers a great deal from his handicap.

MacDonald decided that she wanted to seek a veterinarian to help reduce Jack’s pain and perhaps let him gain some additional mobility through the use of a doggie wheel chair. In the course of seeking options and guidance, MacDonald discovered a veterinarian in North Carolina, Dr. Denis Marcellin-Little at North Carolina State University Veterinary School, which develops permanent prosthetic limbs for animals. These are not simply the kind that strap on and are removable. These are partially permanent and fuse to the existing bones for strength and durability.

Dr. Marcellin-Little has performed this surgery on other animals and has had great success. So much so that he is collecting case studies in order to seek FDA approval to use this technology on humans. There has been interest by the government to explore the possibility of using this technology on wounded veterans here in the US. Jack will become one of Dr. Marcellin-Little’s case studies in the development and testing of this prosthetic technology. Jack’s surgery will be very expensive. However, MacDonald believes it’s worth going above and beyond just pain reduction if Jack’s surgery might give our wounded veterans a better chance of getting back to a normal life.

Jack’s surgery will be this spring or early summer. The prosthetic limbs must be custom manufactured for Jack’s unique condition. Dr. Ola Harrysson is the engineer that is designing the implants. The goal is to get rid of Jack’s pain and give him some normal mobility. The hope is that the implants will be a complete success and Jack will be able to do anything a normal dog can do. The recovery process will take about 18 weeks. If the doctors can show that this technique is successful they could get FDA approval for trials in humans. They are a long way from that point but everyone is hopeful that this technology can eventually be used to restore mobility and function in humans with missing limbs.

We will continue to follow Jack’s progress. Just search for keyword "Jack" to see all articles relating to this one. We wish him well and a speedy recovery.

For more information about Dr. Denis Marcellin-Little and Dr. Ola Harrysson you can visit the following links on the Internet.

We Had Snow Over the Weekend

Last weekend we had very strange weather. Saturday was beautiful but we got snow Saturday night and Sunday morning. The birds still thought it was spring.

A Yellow Bellied Sapsucker at his favorite tree

An Eastern Bluebird

This fine fellow was sunning himself. A Red Bellied Woodpecker

Another Red Bellied Woodpecker. This shot was hand held from a road with a 500mm lens. Note the row of holes. He has been quite busy.

A Nuthatch in it's classic position...upside down on a tree. Note the snowflakes coming down.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I Startled A Squirrel

Here are a couple of other shots I got last weekend a little closer to the surface. Often times I am shooting a shot of one thing and another opportunity presents itself. I was focused on a hawk and this squirrel ran up the tree next to me and started barking. Hand held at 500mm in full sun I took three quick pictures and was back to the hawks. The bottom picture is a Double Crested Cormorant, a diving bird similar to a duck but can dive in deep water and stay submerged looking for fish for quite some time. This one is showing some fashionable eyelashes!

A Gray Squirrel

A Double Crested Cormorant

A Baby Cormorant Fishing in Shallow Water

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Downy Woodpecker Making a Nest

Also taken this past weekend at Lake Mercer was this Downy Woodpecker making a nest in a dead pine tree. The nest is about 6 feet off the ground and about 20 feet off the paved trail. It didn't seem to mind me as long as I stayed to the trail but step a foot toward the tree and it would fly off. 20 feet was good enough for my 500mm lens! No need to push it getting closer. There are two woodpeckers that look almost identical, the Downy and the Hairy Woodpecker. The Downy has a shorter beak. Hard to tell apart if you don't see a picture of each side by side. I'll let you know when I find a Hairy Woodpecker!

Downy Woodpecker working on the front door

Same Downy Woodpecker working on the back door

Here is an HD video of the same Downy building it's nest

Monday, March 21, 2011

Woodpeckers Everywhere!

Yesterday was a wonderful day to be out in nature. I took quite a few photos and you should check out the hawks in yesterday's blog as well. Here are a series of Red Bellied Woodpeckers. They are colorful and easy to find if you listen to their shrill warble up in the trees.

A Red Bellied Woodpecker at it's nest giving a shout out

Well what do you know? A baby Red Bellied Woodpecker sticks his head out

This Red Bellied Woodpecker was just sitting in the warm sun

This one was looking for a snack in an old oak tree

This fine bird posed for me

Aha! This one found some insect larvea

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Red Shouldered Hawks at Lake Mercer

Today was a fantastic day and I spent the afternoon at Lake Mercer taking pictures. I have so many that I can't post them all at one time so today I will focus on the Red Shouldered Hawks. These hawks have set up residence right on the trail near the south west side of the lake. Today I used a tripod and it made all of the difference using the 500mm lens. Due to some technical stuff with the size of the imager in this camera it equates to an 800mm lens on a 35mm film camera. In the coming days I will post more shots of various criters.

Red Shouldered Hawks Mating

Red Shouldered Hawk with a Vole

Red Shouldered Hawk looking for lunch

A Red Shouldered Hawk keeping a lookout
Check back often for the latest images

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Spring Time and Oh The Yard Work

Left to Right: Bhudo Goromo, Sanke, Kohaku

It's warming up and time to start on the yard work. My neighbors were out fertilizing their lawn and I thought I also heard someone mowing the grass this morning!!! For me it means time to get ready for Koi season. The water is still cold about 47 degrees but getting warm enough for algea to grow and parasites to become more active. But still too cold to feed the fish. I wanted to get a head start on the UV clarifiers which will help keep the spring algea bloom in check. It will also help get the filter media prepped to process out ammonia once feeding is started.

Last weekend was an excellent time to get the pumps, lights, and filters going. Also I am in the process of salting the pond to .3% which will help knock off any parasites or protozoa that went dormant over the winter. 3 koi that were in my quarentine pond last fall were also moved to the main pond. All of them seem healthy and eager to eat but I must resist the urge to feed them until the water has reached 50 degrees for several days and no prospects for freezing weather to return.

I will be feeding them wheat germ designed for koi. I might also give them a treat from time to time, Cheerios (Plain).

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Another Lunch Break at Lake Accotink

Today, a co-worker and I made a quick stop at Lake Accotink to let him try out my telephoto lens. After not seeing too much to photograph except geese, we headed over to the creek near the dam. This little one was making quite a racket. We snuck over to where he was perched and I was able to get a couple of good photos. These are fairly common in this area but are seldom seen as they stay near water where there is a good supply of baby fish and water insects.

Belted Kingfisher - Female

Monday, March 7, 2011

Down to Madison for a Day

Today I made a trip to our house in hills to deliver some furniture and check on things. After which I took a stroll through the woods with my camera. There were quite a few hawks flying about but I was unable to get any good pictures of them as I was mainly set up deep in the trees looking for these guys.

Yellow Bellied Sapsucker

Yellow Bellied Sapsucker

Red Bellied Woodpecker

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bald Eagle Spotted at Lake Mercer in Fairfax Station, VA

Today my wife and I took a stroll by the lake to photograph woodpeckers. It was not the best day for long lens photography. Very overcast and constantly diminishing light made exposure a continual problem. However, there was a very high abundance of subjects to shoot including a Bald Eagle. See below. There are a good number of shots in the sequence but these are a few I can share. All shots were taken with my Canon 60D and a 500mm F/8 mirror lens.

This Red Shouldered Hawk has a nest up on a hill near a house. If I was that homeowner, I would be perched at the window all day as they have an excellent view down onto the nest from their upstairs bedrooms. However, I had to be satisfied with observing this hawk from the trail. An excellent subject, he was aware of everyone standing around watching him and was patient with everyone.

This little guy sat patiently spying on me while I tried to get a good position on a hawk. He was an excellent subject and held very still.

I could hear this Pileated Woodpecker hammering on a tree from a mile away. As we tried to get other shots on Downey and Red Bellied Woodpeckers I was subconsciously drawn to the sound of this large bird hammering away and got an excellent opportunity to photograph and observe him feeding.

This was the highlight of our journey today. When I first saw this Bald Eagle I did not have a very good line of sight and the image I got was bad at best. He flew along the south side of the lake and we were able to catch up with him opposite a creek along one of the trails. This is where I took this picture. We continued to follow him for yet a 3rd photo opportunity but it did not present itself very well and the creek shots ended up being the best. In past years we heard reports of Bald Eagles being spotted here but never any nesting. He is probably a transient that stopped by to feed on squirrels and fish. Hopefully he will stay around for a while.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Lunch at Lake Accotink

Today I had some time for lunch and decided to stop for a burger then go to Lake Accotink to take a few pictures. Here are three out of many that I shot. Maybe next week I'll try again.

Seagull Taking Off

Seagull In Flight

Canadian Goose

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

More Pictures from Lake Mercer

Red Bellied Woodpecker

Virginia State Bird
The Cardinal


Female Downey Woodpecker

Male Downey Woodpecker