Photographs by Frank

20 May 2022

Two Eggs! (Gregg Lake Loons – 2022)

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Wildlife — Tags: , — Frank @ 1:29 PM

Mid-morning, Joan and I decided to head down to the lake to see if we could confirm that the loon nest contained eggs. While we were getting ready, a single loon flew overhead going towards the lake. The temperature was in the mid-60s F and the skies were changing quickly… mostly cloudy as we headed out and mostly sunny by the time we returned home roughly forty minutes later.

In order to increase Joan’s chances of spotting eggs in the nest, I parked the truck at the side of the narrow road so that she could set up the spotting scope in the bed of the truck… it’s all about angles. I figured (correctly) that there would be little traffic.

Just as we finished setting up (within five minutes of our arrival) we heard the loon on the nest call. We were afraid that maybe the presence of a vehicle parked in an odd spot might have alarmed the bird even though the nest is four or five hundred feet from the road.

Rarely does the wildlife makes the watcher’s life easy, but today was one of those days. Within a few minutes of the first call from the loon on the nest, its mate arrived and loon 1 slipped into the water to greet loon 2. The pair swam around near the nest for a few minutes giving Joan ample time to see that there are indeed two eggs in the nest.

Eventually, one of the birds (presumably the incoming loon) mounted the nest. I was able to make a sequence of exposures that illustrate how ungainly this process is (see the second gallery below). Unusually, the loon stayed on the nest for only a short time before entering the water again.

At this point we decided that we had the ‘data’ we needed the truck for and I moved the truck to the more usual parking area down by the junction of Craig Rd. By the time I walked back to the truck, a loon was back on the nest. The second loon hung around the general area of the nest fishing for several minutes before it headed out under the bridge to the main part of the lake.

Joan took a stroll at this point to see if she could see where the two herons that few by earlier had landed. She did not see the herons but she did observe two loons hanging out together on the main part of the lake… presumably one of the mated pair we were watching and the single bird we heard flying over the house about a half hour earlier?

About forty minutes after we first arrived, we headed back to the house, the garden and the things we are ‘supposed to do”!

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Loon 1 On Nest
Loon 1 On Nest
Loon 2 Approaching Nest
Loon 2 Approaching Nest
Both Loons Near Nest
Both Loons Near Nest
Loon 2 Stretching
Loon 2 Stretching
Loon 2 On Nest
Loon 2 On Nest
Loon 1 Hangin Around #1
Loon 1 Hangin Around #1
Loon 1 Hangin Around #2
Loon 1 Hangin Around #2

Loon Mounting Nest Sequence (about 30 seconds from start to finish)

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Loon Mounting Nest (1 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (1 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (2 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (2 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (3 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (3 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (4 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (4 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (5 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (5 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (6 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (6 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (7 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (7 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (8 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (8 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (9 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (9 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (10 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (10 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (11 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (11 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (12 of 12)
Loon Mounting Nest (12 of 12)

19 May 2022

Gregg Lake Loons – 2022

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Spring,Wildlife — Tags: — Frank @ 4:04 PM

“Our” loons arrived on Gregg Lake at the end of March (the 28th according to Joan), before ice out.

I suspect, but have no proof, that they arrive in the area earlier and spend time on some other ice-free body of water while make periodic reconnaissance flights to their “home water” looking for a large enough opening in the ice.

For the past several weeks we have seen the pair of birds ‘out and about’ mostly on the main part of the lake but occasionally on the north side of the road where they have nested in the past. We had not observed any nest building behavior. However, we were not looking frequently and systematically.

Yesterday morning, as I headed out to the grocery store, I was excited to see a loon sitting on a nest in the same area they have nested for the past two (successful) years. I am positive that they were not sitting on the nest the day before yesterday.

The skies were cloudless, bluebird blue for most of the morning and early afternoon. I was not even tempted to head down to make the first loon photos of the season. It is difficult to make a good photo of a black and white bird in bright, strong sun light. One can either expose properly for the black or the white but not for both at the same time in bright light.

However, by mid afternoon a few clouds began to appear. By five or so, there was a high, overcast which makes for perfect conditions to photograph black and white birds. As a bonus, it was breezy so the black flies were small in number. I headed out to photograph the loon(s).

As one expects when watching a loon nest, not much happened in the hour and a half I watched. I saw only one bird in that time. It shifted position twice while I was there but I could not confirm that there is an egg or eggs present yet.*

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Loon on Nest (Gregg Lake, 18 May 2022) #1
Loon on Nest (Gregg Lake, 18 May 2022) #1
Loon on Nest (Gregg Lake, 18 May 2022) #2
Loon on Nest (Gregg Lake, 18 May 2022) #2
Loon on Nest (Gregg Lake, 18 May 2022) #3
Loon on Nest (Gregg Lake, 18 May 2022) #3

* Joan made a brief stop to observe the nest early this afternoon on her way back from town. She thought that the bird on the nest may have turned an egg while she watched but was only looking with her binoculars. We’ll have to spend some more time loon watching with the spotting scope soon!

Ode Opener – 2022

Filed under: Monadnock Region,Odontates,Spring,Wildlife — Tags: , — Frank @ 3:00 PM

I noticed the first dragonflies around the yard four or five days ago. However, yesterday afternoon after lunch was the first opportunity I had to “go hunting” (with my camera). The numbers of odes had increased dramatically during that interval.

The weather was breezy and the temperature in the high 60s F. The skies were fair when I went out but it got progressively cloudier as the afternoon progressed.

The most common dragonflies were the whitefaces (there were dozens), mostly Hudsonian but possible a few Frosted in the mix. I even observed three whiteface mating wheels. Chalk-fronted corporals were also common.

Damselflies are a bit harder to see casually, so I don’t know when they first appeared on the yard. However, yesterday I observed at least two species of damselflies and possible a third (for which I don’t have a photo. There were small numbers of both bluets (exact species unknown) and Aurora damsels. I saw only females and maybe a dozen of each species.

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Whiteface (sp?) #1
Whiteface (sp?) #1
Chalk-fronted Corporal (imm. male)
Chalk-fronted Corporal (imm. male)
Whiteface (sp?) #2
Whiteface (sp?) #2
Aurora Damsel (female)
Aurora Damsel (female)
Hudsonian Whiteface (imm. male)
Hudsonian Whiteface (imm. male)
Chalk-fronted Corporal (imm. male or female)
Chalk-fronted Corporal (imm. male or female)
Bluet sp?
Bluet sp?
Hudsonian Whiteface (imm. male or female)
Hudsonian Whiteface (imm. male or female)
Hudsonian Whiteface (mating wheel)
Hudsonian Whiteface (mating wheel)

21 March 2022

Game Camera Fun

Filed under: Monadnock Region,Wildlife — Tags: , , , — Frank @ 8:00 PM

At the very end of 2020, I bought a game camera just for fun. For those who might not know, a game camera is a waterproof, automatic camera designed to make photos of wildlife. When the camera detects movement, it makes four or five photographs. It does this day or night, using an infrared flash at night.

I experimented with the camera around the yard and then in March of 2021 (i.e. about a year ago) I strapped the camera at chest height to a tree “down back”. The lot that our house is situated on slopes back away from the house and ends in a beaver-made wet meadow about a quarter mile from the house. The tree I strapped the camera is located on the edge of the meadow and the camera was pointed out on the meadow.

Our property, which ends about half way across the wet meadow, abuts the roughly 2000 acre NH Audubon sanctuary at Willard Pond. This sanctuary is contiguous with another roughly 5000 acres of forested land, most of which is conserved. There are no public roads (only logging roads) in this area. In other words, there is a lot prime wildlife habitat behind our house. I was interested to see what we could capture with the game camera.

After setting up the camera, I promptly forgot about it, until today! I retrieved the camera this afternoon and was interested in seeing how long the batteries had lasted. The batteries are still just fine, but the memory card ran out of space after seven months (i.e. in November 2021). There were six thousand photos on the camera! Most of the photos were “false positives”… that is pictures of just the vegetation.

However, over the seven months the camera was active, there were forty frames that contained an animal. These documented twenty different “encounters”. Of these encounters, eight were deer, five were moose, four were bear and there was one encounter each of coyote, racoon and turkey.

None of the photos could be considered “art”, but here are seven of the most visually interesting. The monochrome images were made “in the dark” under infrared illumination.

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Deer #1
Deer #1
Bear
Bear
Young Buck
Young Buck
Juvenile Moose ?
Juvenile Moose ?
Buck
Buck
Deer #2
Deer #2
Moose - Up Close!
Moose - Up Close!

21 October 2021

Our Magnificent Planet 2021

Filed under: Odontates,Other Insects,Wildlife — Frank @ 6:52 PM

Stalwart readers may remember that I had a photograph published in Our Magnificent Planet 2020, a book published by the folks who issue LensWork magazine (see this post).

A few months ago, I submitted three photographs to this year’s version, Our Magnificent Planet 2021.

A few weeks ago, I was notified that, again, one of my photographs has been selected for inclusion in this book. I am batting 1.000!*

Below, are the three photos I submitted.

I like a surprise so I have continued my ‘tradition’ from last year and I have not emailed the publisher to find out which photograph was selected.

We’ll just have to wait until December when the book is delivered!

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Ladybug Leap
Ladybug Leap
Swallowtail
Swallowtail
Blue Dasher
Blue Dasher

* My friend Joe Sack is also batting 1.000 in this game.

11 October 2021

Elk Rut and Prairie Dogs (2021 Road Trip)

Filed under: Mammals,Road Trips,Wildlife — Frank @ 8:02 PM

Our usual route east, towards home, from Western Montana is US Route 2 which runs across the country just south of the Canadian border. This time, we decided to try a different route… a series of state routes numbered 200. We picked up Montana 200 in Missoula (the route starts a bit farther west, at the Idaho border) and eventually continued on the contiguous North Dakota 200 and Minnesota 200 until we were in the Duluth area. This week-long, roughly 1,100 mile trek took us across the central parts of those states. We saw lots of prairie and not a lot of people.

The drive was interesting and quite different from the drive on US 2. The towns along route 200 are generally much smaller and farther apart than the towns along US 2. I think that this is because of the railroad… US 2 generally follows the railroad while the 200 route does not.

The drive was interesting, but I did not make many successful landscape photos along the way. I guess that I did not find a muse in the high prairie. However, I did photograph wildlife in two locations.

Back in 2017, we spent a few hours at the Slippery Ann elk viewing area of the C.M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in central Montana. This trip we stopped and spent the night. The elk rut was in high gear (as it was at more-or-less the same period in 2017) and we spent a late afternoon and early evening watching and photographing the action… it was fascinating. The bugling continued after it got dark and, in fact, went on all night. We were hoping to photograph again in the morning before moving on but the elk were in the woods and thickets nearer the river rather than out in the open by the road. We could hear them but not see them.

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Elk Rut #1
Elk Rut #1
Elk Rut #2
Elk Rut #2
Elk Rut #3
Elk Rut #3
Elk Rut #4
Elk Rut #4
Elk Rut #5
Elk Rut #5
Elk Rut #6
Elk Rut #6
Elk Rut #7
Elk Rut #7
Elk Rut #8
Elk Rut #8
Elk Rut #9
Elk Rut #9
Elk Rut #10
Elk Rut #10
Elk Rut #11
Elk Rut #11
Elk Rut #12
Elk Rut #12

The second wildlife opportunity along this section of the trip was unplanned. We pulled into a campground in the north unit of Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota one evening. As I wandered the environs looking for landscape photographs (an endeavor complicated by power lines), I heard odd noises coming from a fenced in pasture abutting the campground… the sound was almost, but not quite, avian. I wandered over the found that the noises were emanating from prairie dogs!

I made one photograph through the fence (the first one shown below) but by the time I found a better vantage from which to photograph (a matter of maybe five minutes) the light had faded and there were zero prairie dogs to be seen! Of course, they were all back out-and-about the next morning and I made many photographs of these amusing creatures.

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Prairie Dogs #1
Prairie Dogs #1
Prairie Dogs #2
Prairie Dogs #2
Prairie Dogs #3
Prairie Dogs #3
Prairie Dogs #4
Prairie Dogs #4
Prairie Dogs #5
Prairie Dogs #5

15 August 2021

New Salted-paper Prints

I have spent the past week making a new batch of salted-paper prints. In doing so, I mined my archives for photographs that I think will work well as salted-paper prints. The initial exposure for all of these photos were made between five and ten years ago.

Making salted-paper prints is an iterative process.

I process the image in Photoshop making educated guesses as to how the negative should look to give me a good print. Then, I make a negative and use that negative to make a small test salted-paper print on 5×7 inch paper.

I probably get things exactly right the first time about two-thirds of the time. If the print is not to my liking, I go back to the computer and make further adjustments in Photoshop. Most often these adjustments involve dodging and burning… adjusting the brightness of very localized areas of an image. It is very rare that I need to make more than a second negative.

The photograph of the dragonfly in this series is one of those rare images. After the second iteration, I was still not satisfied with the print. In this case I went back to the original file and began anew. Of course, I had the ‘education’ gleaned from the first two unsatisfactory versions and thus the third version “hit the nail on the head” as they say.

The first five images below are all 4×5 inch prints (on 5×7 inch paper). Many times, after making a successful print at that size, I will make a larger negative (6×7 1/2 inches) and print that on 8×10 inch paper. The last two prints in this series are of the larger size.

This process illustrates why I much prefer working with digital negatives for alternative processes compared to analog (film) negatives. Both ideas (making detailed adjustments to the negative and printing an image at different sizes) are possible but extremely difficult in the analog realm.

I often have thought of making even larger prints, maybe up to 11×14 inches. My light source is large enough for a 16×20 inch contact printing frame. However, when I begin to work out the logistics of the larger trays and the space they would require as well as the cost of the materials for such large prints, I run smack into the wall of reality!!!

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Autumn Harvest
Autumn Harvest
Common Whitetail (female)
Common Whitetail (female)
Bluejay
Bluejay
Mockingbird with Prey
Mockingbird with Prey
Western Chipmunk
Western Chipmunk
American Avocet
American Avocet
Willet Feeding
Willet Feeding

24 July 2021

One Hour, Two Species

Filed under: Monadnock Region,Odontates,Summer,Wildlife — Tags: — Frank @ 11:01 PM

This evening, I spent about an hour in the field at the Cilley Family Forest in Greenfield looking for odes. This piece of conserved land was once part of Joan’s cousin Stevie’s dairy farm. The temperature was in the mid-70s F and the skies were clear.

The land, which runs along the Contoocook River is mostly wooded but there is also a large field that gets nice late afternoon/evening light and often has good odeing. I arrived at about 6:30 and headed back to the truck about 7:30 as I had lost the light on the field.

I saw only two species of dragonflies and no damselflies. There were small numbers (maybe a half dozen or so) of female widow skimmers and similar numbers of Halloween skimmers (of both sexes).

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Widow Skimmer (female)
Widow Skimmer (female)
Halloween Pennant (male)
Halloween Pennant (male)
Halloween Pennant (imm. male or female)
Halloween Pennant (imm. male or female)

17 July 2021

Afternoon Odes

Filed under: Monadnock Region,Odontates,Summer,Wildlife — Tags: , — Frank @ 11:00 PM

I had a few ‘free’ hours on Thursday afternoon. I used them to take a walk down the road on the Harris Center’s property near our house. The temperature was in the low 80s F and the humidity high. The skies were mostly clear.

We had a long rainy spell; about 12 inches of rain over two weeks. Thus, I was not expecting an over abundance of odes. My expectations were met. There were odes out and about just not in large numbers.

In the two hours I was out, I saw three or four frosted whitefaces. These were the most common ode present. For all of the rest of the species I photographed, I saw only single individuals. I also saw (but did not photograph) a lone male calico pennant.

Most surprisingly, was the absence of ebony jewelwings . The stream draining the beaver swamp just downstream from the culverts is usually a reliable place to find this species in mid-summer. None were present on this trip.

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Frosted Whiteface (female)
Frosted Whiteface (female)
Familiar Bluet (male)
Familiar Bluet (male)
Chalk-fronted Corporal (male)
Chalk-fronted Corporal (male)
ID Needed
ID Needed
Emerald Spreadwing (female)
Emerald Spreadwing (female)
Variable Dancer (male)
Variable Dancer (male)
Variable Dancer (female)
Variable Dancer (female)

5 July 2021

Yard Odes

Late this afternoon, I spent two hours roaming the yard looking for odes. It was mostly sunny and the temperature was in the low 70s. I was interested to see what odes would be out and about after a number of cool, rainy days.

I headed back inside a few minutes before seven. I had lost the light at ground level and the mosquitoes were making their evening appearance.

The number of odes were small but their was a nice variety of species present. The most common dragonfly present was the spangled skimmer. I saw roughly half a dozen individuals; all female. The most common damselfly was had a metallic green abdomen. They were reminiscent of the sprites, but I don’t think that that is what they are. Again, I saw roughly a half dozen. For all of the other species, I saw only single individuals.

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Spangled Skimmer (female)
Spangled Skimmer (female)
Eastern Pondhawk (imm. male)
Eastern Pondhawk (imm. male)
Butterfly (ID Needed)
Butterfly (ID Needed)
Damselfly (ID Needed)
Damselfly (ID Needed)
Calico Pennant (female)
Calico Pennant (female)
Calico Pennant (female) with Mites
Calico Pennant (female) with Mites
Damselfly (ID Needed)
Damselfly (ID Needed)
Spreadwing
Spreadwing
Damselfly (ID Needed) with Prey
Damselfly (ID Needed) with Prey
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