Photographs by Frank

27 May 2019

Ode Onset

Filed under: Odontates,Wildlife — Tags: — Frank @ 9:30 PM

About a week ago small numbers of dragonflies began to appear in the neighborhood. The numbers gradually increased all week and in the past few days there have been dozens of immature chalk-fronted corporals and Hudsonian whitefaces around. Both species are typically the first of the season in the neighborhood.

Alas, the most common insects around are still the black flies along with the first mosquitoes of the season. The old double whammy!

This afternoon, I finally yielded to temptation and headed out to make some photographs. In addition to the above mentioned species, I also found and photographed a single immature frosted whiteface.

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Frosted Whiteface (immature)
Frosted Whiteface (immature)
Hudsonian Whiteface (immature) #1
Hudsonian Whiteface (immature) #1
Chalk-fronted Corporal (immature) #1
Chalk-fronted Corporal (immature) #1
Chalk-fronted Corporal (immature) #2
Chalk-fronted Corporal (immature) #2
Hudsonian Whiteface (immature) #2
Hudsonian Whiteface (immature) #2
Hudsonian Whiteface (immature) #3
Hudsonian Whiteface (immature) #3

20 May 2019

Star Island — Spring 2019 Birds

Filed under: Birds,Wildlife — Tags: — Frank @ 9:30 PM

This past weekend Joan and I made another trip to Star Island to experience the vernal migration of birds. This is my third spring trip; previous trips were in May 2014 and May 2017, We also visited in the fall of 2015.

Star Island is one of the Isles of Shoals off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine. As such, the island is a classic migrant trap that concentrates migrating birds in a small geographic area each day. That concentration, combined with the generally low vegetation (with sparse leaves in mid-May) makes for wonderful birding and bird photography.

The most charismatic of the migrating birds are the warblers in breeding plumage this time of year. However, there are other migrants present in addition to the warblers. There are also species that live and breed on the island. All are represented in the photos shown here.

The set of thirty photos* below begins with an image of a magnolia warbler in the chain-link fence with surrounds the island’s tennis court. I begin with this photo to show the size of the warblers… they are tiny birds! Their size, coupled with their near constant movement and their preference for thickets of vegetation make for challenging (and thus fun) photography.

I have sorted the set so that the warblers appear first followed by the other birds. I apologize for the large number of photos but there was an incredible variety of birds present on the island in the roughly forty-eight hours we were there. I tried not to show more than one photo of a species, but failed most egregiously in the case of both the yellow warbler (which breeds on the island and is thus one of the more common warblers) and the black and white warbler (which is one of the easier warblers to photograph as it tends to move a bit more slowly that most of the rest). Sometimes it is simply too difficult to choose a favorite “child”.

Lastly, there are still some photos titled “ID needed”. Hunting through bird books is not my idea of a fun time and in the interest of a timely post, they remain unidentified by me. If you care to help “fill in” those missing IDs, please leave a comment or send me an email. Corrections to the IDs I have made are also appreciated. I am hoping that Joan will do most of the “work” when she sees this post!

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Magnolia Warbler (in chain link fence)
Magnolia Warbler (in chain link fence)
Northern Parula #1
Northern Parula #1
Common Yellow-throat
Common Yellow-throat
Magnolia Warbler #1
Magnolia Warbler #1
Magnolia Warbler #2
Magnolia Warbler #2
ID Needed #1
ID Needed #1
ID Needed #2
ID Needed #2
ID Needed #3
ID Needed #3
Black and White Warbler #1
Black and White Warbler #1
American Redstart
American Redstart
Cape May Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Northern Parula #2
Northern Parula #2
Black and White Warbler #2
Black and White Warbler #2
ID Needed #4
ID Needed #4
Blackpoll Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Yellow Warbler #1
Yellow Warbler #1
Yellow Warbler Singing
Yellow Warbler Singing
ID Needed #5
ID Needed #5
Yellow Warbler #2
Yellow Warbler #2
Mallard
Mallard
Sparrow Singing #1
Sparrow Singing #1
Catbird
Catbird
Common Eider Pair
Common Eider Pair
Cedar Waxwing
Cedar Waxwing
American Robin with Worm
American Robin with Worm
Sparrow Singing #2
Sparrow Singing #2
Least Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
White-throated Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Common Grackle Calling
Common Grackle Calling
Red-winged Blackbird Calling
Red-winged Blackbird Calling

* For those that are interested in such things, I made roughly 800 exposures (most but not all, of birds) while we were on the island. I processed 125 (~15%) of those exposures and present 30 of them (~4%) here.

28 April 2019

Showing Off For The Girls

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Spring,Wildlife — Frank @ 7:17 PM

Shortly after lunch today, I noticed a tom turkey and five hens meandering around our “front forty”.

The females were quite drab and practical. They spent ninety percent of the time foraging and pretty much ignored the tom.

The male on the other hand was splendid in his spring finery and strutted his stuff ninety percent of the time.

Of course, I spent ninety percent of the time with the camera focused on the male!

All of these photos were made through the glass of our storm door. These birds are way too wary to do anything else.

After about a half hour, they wandered around the garden, down the hill and out of sight.

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Showing Off #1
Showing Off #1
Showing Off #2
Showing Off #2
Showing Off #3
Showing Off #3
Showing Off #4
Showing Off #4
Showing Off #5
Showing Off #5
Showing Off #6
Showing Off #6

3 April 2019

Common Mergansers

Filed under: Birds,Early Spring,Monadnock Region,Wildlife — Frank @ 10:30 PM


Despite the inch of snow we got last night, spring is coming slowly to our neck of the woods. The new snow was gone by 10 AM. One sign that spring is nigh. Additionally, the local lakes and ponds are starting to show some open water and the birds are beginning to return. In the past week or so, we have been hearing sparse bird songs in the woods and a few waterfowl have appeared.

Late this morning Joan called me from Memorial Park (where she was doing some spring cleaning of the flower beds) . The news was that there was a pair of common mergansers on the Mill Pond. Of course, I dropped what I was doing, broke out Big Bertha for the first time in some months and headed downtown.

In addition to the mergansers there was a pair of geese present. The midday light was high and harsh. Terrible, especially, for photographing a black and white bird. I knew that “keepers” were unlikely but I spent an hour or so watching and photographing just for practice before heading home.

A few hours later, I returned to town to run some errands and stopped by the pond again to see if the birds were still around; both the geese and the mergansers were still there. Although the sun was still pretty high, the light was a bit better as there were some scattered clouds. I spent another hour or so photographing the mergansers.

Catching a merganser with prey on the surface was a rare treat. Generally, as with most diving birds, mergansers swallow their the prey while under water. One sees them with prey only when they are having difficulty in getting the prey down their gullet, as with the fairly large fish here.

Eventually, the wind kicked up and blew my hat into the pond. I got both feet wet retrieving the hat (just before it sank out of sight). and spooked the birds in doing so. I took this as sign to head home.

All of these photos are from the second session. They are more heavily cropped (one third to one half of the full frame) than I would like but mergansers are very wary birds.

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Common Merganser Pair #1
Common Merganser Pair #1
Common Merganser Pair #2
Common Merganser Pair #2
Common Merganser Pair Resting
Common Merganser Pair Resting
Female Common Merganser Hunting
Female Common Merganser Hunting
Female Common Merganser with Prey #1
Female Common Merganser with Prey #1
Female Common Merganser with Prey #2
Female Common Merganser with Prey #2
Common Merganser Pair Cruising
Common Merganser Pair Cruising

22 August 2018

A Jaunt in the “Neighborhood”

This afternoon, I headed out on a walk down Hattie Brown Road, just to see what was up. I had not been out that way in probably almost a month. Weather-wise there were broken clouds and the temperature in the mid-70’s. There was also a nice breeze blowing… nice because it kept the mosquitoes down.

As I left the house, I noticed a small (a couple of dozen individuals) feeding swarm of darners over the yard. Feeding swarms are large congregations (dozens to hundreds of individuals) of big dragonflies (usually a mix of darner species) that gather over open spaces to feed on small flying insects. Feeding swarms form most often in late summer and in the late afternoon. I paused only briefly to watch the swarm before driving down to the bridge.

As I walked out Hattie Brown Road, the sun kept peaking out of the clouds and I saw both female autumn meadowhawks and spreadwings in some of the patches of sunlight along the road. I also saw an occasional darner cruising the road well above head height.

When I reached the beaver pond, the birds took noticed. A crow perched high in a nearby tree, being a social bird, began to call loudly announcing my presence to its compatriots. A great blue heron, being a solitary sort, silently took flight from its fishing spot near the road and headed to the other side of the pond.

As I arrived at the pond, I noticed a large dark cloud come over the ridge to the west and within a minute or two it began to rain lightly. Unsurprisingly, there were no odes to be seen.  Since there was only gray sky to the west and the patches of blue to the east were rapidly receding.  I decided to head back towards the truck without dallying. It rained lightly the entire walk back.

Of course, just as I arrived back at the truck the sun began to reappear and after a short interval the rain stopped.

Since the weather was looking better, I stopped at the road into the Harris Center property along Brimstone Corner Road rather than heading directly home. Parking near the gate, I walked down this road as far as the beaver dam and observed small numbers of the same odes as I saw on Hattie Brown Road. There were a couple of darners patrolling the road, a few spreadwings in sunny spots along the road and a couple of female meadowhawks at the log landing. I saw no odes out over the beaver pond itself.

Eventually, I lost the nice light as the sun disappeared over the ridge to the west. Thus, I headed back up the hill to the truck and arrived back home at 6:30, a bit more than two hours after I departed. The feeding swarm in the yard was gone.

As you might expect, I took a few photos while I was out!

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Spreadwing #1
Spreadwing #1
Wildflower
Wildflower
Autumn Meadowhawk (female)
Autumn Meadowhawk (female)
Grass Seedhead
Grass Seedhead
Toadstool
Toadstool
Spreadwing #2
Spreadwing #2


 

18 August 2018

Morning Visitor

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Summer,The Yard,Wildlife — Tags: — Frank @ 9:59 AM

One the the large oak trees down by the road has a large dead branch that overlooks Joan’s vegetable garden. Semi-regularly we see birds of prey, usually hawks sitting in this branch.

This morning, while eating breakfast, Joan noticed a hawk perched in “the branch”. I made a few exposures from the driveway before it decided to head off.

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Hawk #1
Hawk #1
Hawk #2
Hawk #2


 

22 July 2018

Bonnyvale Odes

Filed under: Odontates,Summer — Tags: , — Frank @ 1:00 PM

In a couple of weeks (4 August to be exact) I will be teaching a workshop titled “Photography of Dragonflies and Damselflies” and cosponsored by the Vermont Center for Photography and the Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center (BEEC).

Yesterday afternoon, I made a trip to the BEEC to scout out the odes there ahead of the workshop. The temperature was in the mid-70’s F, there were a few very scattered clouds and a slight breeze blowing, just enough to add challenge to photographing insects perched on tall grasses!

There were a couple of immature (i.e. orange-ish) meadowhawks flying over the fields. While walking in a field of tall grasses, one often flushes small birds. Yesterday, was no exception.  However, yesterday I also flushed a large deer. It jumped up from where it had been laying not more that twenty five feet from me and I nearly jumped out of my skin!

There is a very small (maybe twelve feet in diameter) pond in the lower field which contained dozens of bluets of two different species, including a number of ovipositing pairs. There was also a single male common whitetail that spent most of its time cruising the perimeter of the pond and only rarely perching and then for only a short interval. Very frustrating for photographers!

Across the road from the BEEC buildings and a short walk away, is another small pond. There were a number (maybe six or eight) of what I think were blue dashers out over the pond and perching on the cattails out in the middle. Having donned my rubber boots, I began to venture out into the shallow pond to photograph them. However, I quickly turned around. There was no solid bottom only that semi-solid, boot-grabbing muck that one often finds in small ponds. In the vegetation around the margin of this pond I found two male meadowhawks and a single teneral spreadwing.

I think that there will be enough ode activity for our workshop but I will be looking (with help from the BEEC staff) for another nearby site as backup.

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Bluet (male, probably a Northern)
Bluet (male, probably a Northern)
Slender Bluet (male)
Slender Bluet (male)
Bluet (male, probably a Northern)
Bluet (male, probably a Northern)
Common Whitetail (male)
Common Whitetail (male)
Slender Bluet (male)
Slender Bluet (male)
Slender Bluet (male)
Slender Bluet (male)
Meadowhawk (immature male)
Meadowhawk (immature male)


 

Down Back on Friday

Filed under: Monadnock Region,Odontates,Summer — Tags: , — Frank @ 12:00 PM

Friday afternoon, I spent a couple hours in the beaver-made wetland “down back” behind our house; we share this wetland with the NH Audubon Willard Pond sanctuary. The weather was warm (about 80 deg. F), very sunny and only a slight breeze.

There were a few darners flying out over the wet meadow; the first I’ve seen this season. The most common dragonfly was the frosted whiteface. There were dozens, mostly patrolling out of the open water of the pond. Additionally, I saw a single male calico pennant, a single male emerald. A Kennedy’s emerald I think, I have seen one other of these a few years back at the mill pond on the Willard Pond sanctuary, about three-quarters of a mile away. I also saw two or three female spangled skimmers.

There were small numbers of damselflies down low in the vegetation. These are always difficult to photograph. Damselflies tend to perch for only short intervals and finding clear “windows” in the vegetation though which to photograph is not easy. The most common damselflies were the sprites, both sphagnum and sedge sprites were present. Additionally, I saw one or two bluets of some sort and a similar number of spreadwings none of which I photographed.

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Sedge Sprite (tandem pair)
Sedge Sprite (tandem pair)
Sphagnum Sprite (male)
Sphagnum Sprite (male)
Frosted Whiteface (male)
Frosted Whiteface (male)
Calico Pennant (male)
Calico Pennant (male)
Spangled Skimmer (female)
Spangled Skimmer (female)
Emerald, male, probably a Kennedy's)
Emerald, male, probably a Kennedy's)
Spangled Skimmer (female)
Spangled Skimmer (female)


 

15 July 2018

Powdermill Pond Boat Launch (Greenfield) Odes

Filed under: Monadnock Region,Odontates,Summer — Tags: , — Frank @ 2:00 PM

Last Thursday (12 July) afternoon, I spent about ninety minutes (beginning at about 4:30) at the boat launch on the Greenfield side of the Contoocook River (near the covered bridge). The temperature was near 80 deg. F,  it was partly cloudy and calm.

There were numerous male slaty skimmers and slightly small numbers of male blue dashers patrolling and skirmishing out over the water in a backwater by the boat ramp. I was quite interesting to watch the smaller dashers challenge the skimmers for the rights to a prime perch at the waters edge. The dashers were only rarely successful in their challenge.

The emergent vegetation contained at least two species of damselflies: a spreadwing and Eastern Forktails. There were also a few variable dancers along the shore.

Out in the the field, the most numerous ode was the widow skimmer; there were dozens present. They were generally perched down low and hard to see unless you stirred them up as you walked. Both males and females were present in roughly equal numbers.

Additionally, there were small numbers of of male eastern forktails, present down low in the vegetation.

I also observed a single yellow (female or immature male) meadowhawk, a single female calico pennant and one female dot-tailed whiteface in the field.

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Variable Dancer (male)
Variable Dancer (male)
Slaty Skimmer (male)
Slaty Skimmer (male)
Spreadwing
Spreadwing
Meadowhawk
Meadowhawk
Eastern Forktail (male)
Eastern Forktail (male)
Widow Skimmer (immature male)
Widow Skimmer (immature male)
Widow Skimmer (male)
Widow Skimmer (male)
Calico Pennant
Calico Pennant
Dot-tailed Whiteface (female)
Dot-tailed Whiteface (female)


 

11 July 2018

Elmwood Junction Odes

Filed under: Monadnock Region,Odontates,Summer — Tags: , — Frank @ 11:30 PM

This afternoon I walked the roughly three-quarters of a mile (one way) from the end of the road at Elmwood Junction to the rail bridge over Powder Mill Pond (a dammed section of the Contoocook River) in Hancock. The temperature was right around 80 deg. F and it was partly cloudy. The breeze was slight and intermittent.

The number of odes was small, but the diversity of species was great. I observed eight different species in my roughly ninety minute outing.

When I first arrived, I saw two or three male bluets right at the waters edge near the end of the road where I parked the truck. I also found a single male variable dancer along the edge of the road. At the end of my walk, I saw a couple of male slaty skimmers and a single male blue dasher in the same general area.

Some stretches of the trail (an old rail bed) are quite shady. However, the edges of the trail in sunny areas, especially those close to the water yielded a number of sightings. Common pondhawks (both immature males and females) were the most common species. I saw a total of three or four of each sex. I also observed single individuals (all males) of the following species: frosted whiteface, dot-tailed whiteface and widow skimmer. The catch of the day (for both me and the ode, pun intended!) was a female slaty skimmer eating a male bluet.

I had two interesting avian encounters along the trail. At one point I was standing still scanning the vegetation for odes when a downy woodpecker landed on a tree trunk at the edge of the trail not more that five or six feet from me. It was close enough that a photo was possible with the “ode rig”. However, as soon as I moved, he took off into the woods. A few minutes later, while I was framing  a photograph, a bird (most probably an Eastern Kingbird, there were a number along the trail) flew, at waist height, between my monopod and the dragonfly I was focused on, which was not more than four feet away.

Clearly, it does not take much to amuse me, but I had an entertaining outing!

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Bluet (male)
Bluet (male)
Variable Dancer (male)
Variable Dancer (male)
Common Pondhawk (female)
Common Pondhawk (female)
Frosted Whiteface (male)
Frosted Whiteface (male)
Slaty Skimmer (female) with Prey (Male Bluet)
Slaty Skimmer (female) with Prey (Male Bluet)
Dot-tailed Whiteface (male)
Dot-tailed Whiteface (male)
Common Pondhawk (immature male)
Common Pondhawk (immature male)
Widow Skimmer (male)
Widow Skimmer (male)
Blue Dasher (male)
Blue Dasher (male)
Slaty Skimmer (male)
Slaty Skimmer (male)


 

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