Monday, July 29, 2013

August...When FM and TV DX Transitions from E-Skip to Trop

We're approaching that time of year again...when FM and TV DX transitions from E-skip to tropo. Some of my best tropo openings have come in the month of August. Although I've also had excellent openings in most months of the year, August is probably my best month for tropo.

Mornings are usually the best time to hear tropo...especially before 10:00 a.m. local time. One example of this came three years ago, on August 2-3, 2010. The evening of August 2 featured mostly Indiana FM and NOAA Weather Radio stations. On the FM side, WQTY 93.3 Linton was logged and recorded, along with WXK72 162.400 Putnamville, which was a regular on 162.400 during the summer months at my suburban St. Louis location in 2011 and 2012. The other NOAA Weather Radio stations from Indiana heard were WWG72 162.425 Georgia and WWG83 162.500 Edwardsport. On the morning of August 3, I was able to hear KEGI 100.5 Trumann, AR, which is about 20 miles from Jonesboro, the original city of license. That same morning, I made this recording of KOEA 97.5 Doniphan, MO, which serves the Poplar Bluff market. August 19, 2010 was also another decent opening, getting this recording from KCKC 102.1 Kansas City, MO before changing its name to Alice. Sister station KMXV 93.3 also came in with a near-local strength signal. Swinging the antenna to the north, I also pulled in this one from KROC-FM 106.9 Rochester, MN (I've also caught the AM on 1340 on several occasions). I also recorded this from a station I use as a barometer for conditions into the Ottumwa area, KTWA 92.7 Ottumwa, IA. I've also caught the other three stations owned by Radio Ottumwa, KKSI 101.5, KRKN 104.3 and KBIZ 1240. I also nulled out the semi-local on 100.7 to hear KMZU Carrollton, MO. That year, August 4 was a good day for TV DX; I was able to get these captures from WCLJ 42 and WIPX 27 (63) out of Bloomington, IN.

Perhaps one of my most memorable August tropo openings took place the following year (2011). The opening actually began on July 31 into Nebraska, Iowa and northwest Missouri. The first tip for me was hearing KUTT 99.5 Fairbury, NE, which I heard earlier in 2011. I also noted KEC77 162.400 St. Joseph, MO dominating the frequency on my Radio Shack PRO-2052 scanner. Nulling out semi-local WSMI-FM, I was also able to pull in KEXS-FM 106.1 Ravenwood, MO, which is part of the Catholic Radio Network, a Kansas City-based Catholic radio apostolate. As the night wore on, I also recorded two stations on 92.7, KSJQ Savannah, MO and KUSO Albion, NE, both broadcasting Country formats. As July slowly faded and August entered, KIWR 89.7 Council Bluffs, IA made it through, even with a 120-watt semi-local on the channel. After midnight, the action also extended into South Dakota, with KKYA 93.1 in Yankton. This was first noted by reception on K268BF 101.5 Fort Bellefontaine, MO (which normally relays WARW 89.5 Dorsey, IL via W226BC Brighton, IL). Here's a short recording of KKYA...and, for posterity's sake, made a long recording that included local commercials. Later that day, I would catch W226BC relaying WKPB 89.5 Henderson, KY instead of WARW. At one point during that day, W226BC was relaying my 100-watt local, KCFV Ferguson, MO. Even my former colleague from my KCFV days, Buzz Carlson (Ullrich), was floored! More Nebraska stations made it through before sunrise, including KTGL 92.9 BeatriceKOOO 101.9 Lincoln and KTWI 93.3 Bennington, an Omaha suburb. One of the highlights of this opening was the legal ID at 3:00 p.m. from KTFG 102.9 Sioux Rapids, IA, which is a Christian radio station. I couldn't null down KLOU 103.3 enough to hear sister station KTFC in Sioux City. They also have another station in that network, KTFJ 1250 in Dakota City, NE. Only one Wisconsin station made it in: WWIB 103.7 in Hallie (near Eau Claire), airing local commercials and a promo for The Dave Ramsey Show on WOGO 680. One of the closer-in stations I recorded on this opening was WLLR 103.7 Davenport, IA; that call was originally in East Moline, IL when it traded frequencies and calls with KUUL. The action would shift east as the daylight hours waned, first into Kentucky. One of the FM stations I recorded was WULF 94.3 Hardinsburg, KY, which I have logged on several strong western Kentucky openings in the past. Later in the evening, the action switched to Michigan...the first sign of a Michigan FM was just before 10:00 p.m. CDT, with the log of WBBL 107.3 Greenville, which I heard several times on their former AM frequency (1340 kHz). I also logged my first two NOAA Weather Radio stations from Michigan...the first one was KZZ33 162.525 Mount Pleasant. I would also hear the co-tenant of the tower, WCMU 89.5, that evening. A few Detroit stations made it in, like WVMV 98.7 (before they changed calls and formats), WYCD 99.5, WDET 101.9 and WOMC 104.3. The 99.5 and 104.3 stations were new logs from Motown. Another welcome new log on that opening was WJXQ 106.1 Charlotte. The Michiganders pronounce this one "Shar-Lot", not "Shar-Lutt" like the North Carolina version. Perhaps the biggest surprise was WLDR 101.9 Traverse City, which is my first FM from that area, after logging one AM (WTCM 580) and two analog TV stations (WPBN 7 and WGTU 29). The only new digital TV stations I logged were ones that I could not get video captures on: WJTS-LD 18 Jasper, IN, as well as WAVE 47 (3) Louisville, KY and WZPX 44 (43) Battle Creek, MI before the opening faded in the wee hours of August 2, 2011. Three days later, another tropo opening went into western TN and northeast AR, which allowed me to log my first Arkansas DTV: PSIP information from KVTJ 48 Jonesboro.

Other memorable August openings include one in 2009, when I logged several Missouri and Iowa DTVs on August 24-25. Here's just a few of these video captures:

August 2 and 3 of 2008 is noted for my first log of DTV stations from the Chicagoland area. I was able to get video captures of WMAQ 29 (5) Chicago and WJYS 36 (62) Hammond, IN.

Nebraska and Iowa also played a role in the openings that ended August in 2000, both on TV and FM. Numerous Minnesota FM stations were also noted, along with one in Michigan. August 15 and 16, 1999 was noted for numerous FM stations received from Wisconsin, including a pair from Milwaukee. That same opening also allowed me to log a number of TV stations from the same area. The evening of August 16 brought two big surprises: WUTV 29 Buffalo, NY and WQLN 54 Erie, PA. I caught WUTV during "Ally McBeal", and WQLN during a pledge break. Little did I know I would visit Erie nine years later. August 1998 would be a memorable month, as I logged 51 new FM stations and 26 new TV stations during that month.

August has also been the latest I've logged E-skip on FM and TV at my location during the summer months. The most notable August E-skip opening was on August 4, 2004, when I logged seven new Canadian FM stations (mainly from Quebec) and WMOO 92.1 Derby Center, VT. On the TV side, I would add WCAX 3 Burlington, VT and CBFT2 3 Mont-Laurier, QC. E-skip, in my area, usually winds down in early August, and transitions to tropo. I've had a few off-season openings for E-skip, most notably on December 31, 1994 to Utah and Idaho, and on January 27, 2004 to the Rio Grande Valley, but in my area, the peak months for E-skip are June and July. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

1,200 FM Stations...and Setting Goals Before Every DX Season

Every milestone in a DXer's career is a significant one. Earlier this year, I reached the 1,400 AM station mark. Before the end of June, I reached another milestone: 1,200 FM radio stations.

I began my current logbook when I set up my present DX shack in July 1992. It took me 17 years to reach 1,000 FM stations. In the spring of 2012, I set a goal of reaching 1,200 FM stations in my logbook by the end of the FM DX season. I wound up falling 22 stations shy of the mark. It was well worth the wait for June 28, 2013 at 9:16 a.m., when I finally logged my 1,200th FM radio station. That station was also my 169th Missouri FM: KSYN 92.5 Joplin, MO. I pulled this through the digital sidebands from WIL 92.3 (whose transmitter is 25 miles south of my shack). I also recorded this station for posterity, and posted it to my Box account. 19 minutes later, I logged my 30th Kansas FM: KJML 107.1 in Columbus (a Joplin/Pittsburg suburb). The previous month, I logged my 30th AM from Kansas, KCCV 760 in Overland Park (a Kansas City suburb).

This season, I also set a goal of hearing 200 FM stations from Illinois. As I write this, I have four more to go (the count is 196). I began the season with 188 FM stations from the Land of Lincoln. Much of what I have received has been on adjacent channels to my locals (especially those broadcasting in a digital/analog hybrid known as "HD Radio") or, in the cases of metro Peoria stations WWCT 99.9 and WXCL 104.9, through the lower-powered locals. So far this year, I've already hit 60 FM stations from Iowa (the count is now 61), 40 FM stations from Tennessee (I'm now at 41) and 35 FM stations from Kentucky (the count is now 36).

Another goal that has been reached is 150 digital TV stations. That mark was reached on May 19 with my log of WNIN 9 Evansville, IN (I previously logged them on 12 in August 2008). Here's a comparison of the August 3, 2008 log with that of May 19, 2013.

The next goal within reach on DTV is 40 Indiana stations; I've logged 38 DTVs from the Hoosier State, making it my most productive state on digital TV.

In the upcoming AM broadcast band DX season, the next goal I have is to hear 100 AM stations from my home state of Missouri. As I write this, I have 98 Missouri AM stations in the logbook. I have heard more than 100 AM stations from only one state: Illinois. Since I live eight miles west of the state line, it seems that the Land of Lincoln has the advantage. Since I started my present log in July 1992, I have logged 113 AM stations from the Land of Lincoln. Two other states are close to the 100 mark: Tennessee (only need five for 100 Volunteer State AMs) and Texas (I only need eight to hit the 100 mark from the Lone Star State). One goal that could be reached in 2013 or 2014 is 1,500 AM stations (as I write this, 1,422 AM stations are in my logbook). This is the only band I count call letter changes on. I don't count call changes on FM and TV (analog and digital) in accordance with the standards set by the Worldwide TV-FM DX Association.

I don't usually keep a count of shortwave radio stations in my logbook...they're so hard to keep track of. The only thing I keep track of is QSL cards. One QSL card I received was from Radio Australia for a 2012 reception on 19 MHz. The card I got for this reception was the same one I got for a reception on 11660 kHz in 2011.

Do you set goals for your DX before every season? How many stations have you logged from your location? It's amazing how many stations I've heard from my location, given the modest equipment I have used over the years. Take some time, look at your logbooks, and ask yourself: "What goals are realistic for me this year?" You'll be surprised to see what milestones you can reach, no matter what band you DX.