Photographs by Frank

16 May 2021

First Odes of the Season (2021)

Yesterday, I saw my first dragonfly of the season; a Hudsonian Whiteface perched on the outside of our kitchen window. I actually made a photograph of it, but I’ll spare you having to see it!

This afternoon (with the temperature around 70 deg. F and partly cloudy skies), Hudsonian Whitefaces were common in the yard. Both females (yellow, thick abdomens) and immature males (yellow, relatively thin abdomens; the yellow will turn red as they mature) were present. The were more than a dozen individuals, all actively feeding and perching low to the ground for short periods while they devoured their prey. I also saw (and photographed a single immature male Chalk-fronted Corporal.

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Hudsonian Whiteface
Hudsonian Whiteface
Chalk-fronted Corporal (imm. male)
Chalk-fronted Corporal (imm. male)
Hudsonian Whiteface (imm. male)
Hudsonian Whiteface (imm. male)
Hudsonian Whiteface (female)
Hudsonian Whiteface (female)

14 May 2021

Loon Update #2 (2021)

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Spring,Wildlife — Tags: — Frank @ 10:44 PM

I spent about two hours (from 3-5 PM) watching the loons this afternoon. The temperature was about 70 deg. F and it was mostly cloudy. When I arrived at the lake there was a loon sitting on the nest. (S)he was alert and a bit pestered by the black flies.

Periodically the sun would peak out and the bird would open its mouth to “pant”. Avian “panting” is a thermoregulation mechanism. Birds don’t sweat. Thus, when they get hot the open their mouths to evaporate water from their mucus membranes in order to cool off.

After about an hour and a quarter, the loon stood up, examined the nest and settled back down facing in a slightly different direction. His/her movements looked a bit like egg turning, suggesting that at least one egg had been laid. Joan (who had arrived just a few minutes before this), using the spotting scope and a higher vantage point, confirmed that there is at least one egg (and possibly two) in the nest.

Thus the wait begins! The incubation period for loons is 25-30 days.

Roughly five minutes later and without warning, the loon on the nest slipped off the back of the nest into water. Shortly thereafter, the head of a bird appeared in a gap in the vegetation. It climbed up onto the nest, briefly examined the contents and sat down. I was puzzled by this turn of events until I finally noticed the head of a second loon just to the left of the nest. We had witnessed a ‘changing of the guard’! I had been completely unaware that the second loon had arrived at the nest. One of the hazards of peering into a telephoto lens is ‘tunnel vision’!

The loon in the water spent a few minutes moving nesting material towards the nest and then headed out to feed. After watching the sitting loon for a few more minutes, and knowing it could be an hour or more before the next changing of the guard, we packed up and headed home.

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Ever Watchful (Loon Sitting on Nest)
Ever Watchful (Loon Sitting on Nest)
Avian Panting (Loon On Nest)
Avian Panting (Loon On Nest)
Egg Turning? (Loon on Nest)
Egg Turning? (Loon on Nest)
Resettled
Resettled
The New Arrival
The New Arrival
Mounting the Nest
Mounting the Nest
Examining the Contents
Examining the Contents
Two Loons!
Two Loons!
Moving Nest Building Material
Moving Nest Building Material
Loon #2 Sitting on Nest
Loon #2 Sitting on Nest

13 May 2021

Luna Moth

Filed under: Monadnock Region,Other Insects,Spring,Wildlife — Frank @ 9:15 PM

Joan spotted this female luna moth perched near the ground along side the road between our house and the Price Farm. I am pretty sure it is a female given the small size of its antennae and the large size of its body..

Luna moths are not rare, but they are rarely seen since they are nocturnal.

An interesting fact about the imago (winged, sexually mature) form seen here: they have no digestive system. The only function of the “adult” luna moth is reproduction. It will live for about a week and use the fat stored as a caterpillar as its sole source of energy.

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Luna Moth (female, dorsal view)
Luna Moth (female, dorsal view)
Luna Moth (female, ventral view)
Luna Moth (female, ventral view)

P.S. Quick loon update… there was a loon sitting on the nest when I drove by (twice, about an hour apart) late this afternoon,

Loon Update #1 (2021)

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Spring,Wildlife — Tags: — Frank @ 12:30 PM

Yesterday afternoon Joan sent me a text message saying that there was a loon sitting on then nest. Her brother George had also seen a loon on the nest earlier in the day.

When Joan’s message arrived, I packed up my gear and headed down to the lake, arriving at the bridge at about 4:30. Joan reported that the bird had slipped off the nest as she put her phone away after sending the text!

Joan headed home. I set up the tripod etc. and settled in to see what would happen anyway.

I spent most of my time watching the main part of the lake hoping to pick up a bird as it came back under the bridge. However, after roughly a half hour wait, I first saw a single loon, on the upstream side of the bridge, over near the Craig Road bridge.

This bird just “hung out’ in the area between the two bridges for about twenty minutes. It was not actively fishing, it did a bit of stretching at one point, but it really just hung around. Eventually, it headed over towards the far ‘shore’ where the nest is, but again, it just meandered about for another ten or fifteen minutes. Finally it headed over to the nest a climbed up.

I watched the bird on the nest for a half hour or so. It was attentive, looking around a lot, and was still on sitting on the nest when I packed up and headed home about 5:45 PM.

Given that the nest was left unoccupied for long intervals yesterday, it is probable that the birds have not yet laid any eggs.

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Hanging Out #1
Hanging Out #1
Stretching
Stretching
Hanging Out #2
Hanging Out #2
Heading to the Nest
Heading to the Nest
On the Nest
On the Nest

8 May 2021

The Loons Return for 2021

Filed under: Birds,Monadnock Region,Spring,Wildlife — Tags: — Frank @ 11:15 AM

Stalwart readers will remember that 2020 was a year to be remembered in Gregg Lake loon-dom… we had the first loon chicks hatched and fledged in living memory.

The loons (presumably the same pair as last year) are back again this year!

On the first of April this year (2021), Joan observed a single loon on the lake during an early kayak excursion. A week later (8 April) she observed a pair of loons. About a week ago (on 2 May) we had the first report of nest building behavior and a day or two later we observed this ourselves.

Late yesterday afternoon, I packed up my camera gear into the truck and made the mile drive down to the bridge to see what was up. I spent a couple of hours observing the loons. Or, more precisely I spent about forty five minutes waiting for the loons to make an appearance and a bit more than an hour watching the loons. The weather was cool (upper forties) and there was a bit of a breeze. Thus the black flies were not an issue and I never donned the bug jacket I brought along.

I first spotted the pair swimming together on the main part of the lake. They dove in unison, swam under the bridge and headed for the far ‘shore’ where they nested last year. They spent a short time adding nest material to the site they used last year and one of the birds climbed up to try out the result. The pair then explored two other sites nearby. At one of these sites they began to make another nest and, again, one of the birds climbed up to test things out.

Eventually one of the birds headed back to the main part of the lake. The second individual spent a few more minutes working on the nest before it headed off for the main part of the lake as well.

Twice, while the loons were hanging out near the nascent nest site(s), I observed a behavior that I had not witnessed before. One of the birds appeared to jump out of the water and pounce on something. The water by the nest sites is much too shallow for a loon to dive. Thus, I wonder if it was pouncing in attempt to catch prey, much like a fox or similar animal does when hunting rodents in a grassy field. I captured this behavior in two photos made a fraction of a second apart.

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The Pair
The Pair
Nest Building #1
Nest Building #1
Nest Building #2
Nest Building #2
Testing It Out
Testing It Out
More Nest Building
More Nest Building
"Pouncing" Behavior #1
"Pouncing" Behavior #2
Stretching One's Wings
Stretching One's Wings

19 April 2021

Dodging and Burning

Warning… photographer talk ahead!!!

Dodging and burning are terms that describe making local adjustments to a photograph during the making of a print. Dodging is the process of selectively lightening an area. Burning is the opposite; selective darkening.

In the days of yore, when working in the darkroom, dodging and burning were done one print at a time. One manipulated the light falling on the photographic paper as one exposed the print. Master printers were able to make these adjustments with a fair amount of precision, but there was always some print-to-print variability even with the best printers.

For the UV sensitive contact printing processes (e.g. cyanotype, salted-paper printing, et al.), dodging and burning were not practical for a number of reasons. The main one being that there is necessarily little space between the light source and the print. Thus one’s ability to see where you were attempting to dodge or burn was limited and thus imprecise.

Using digital negatives to make contact prints has changed all of this. By making adjustments to the digital file we can make very localized adjustments that are “frozen” when one make the digital negative. Thus, one gets the same adjustments in each print when one makes a contact print. Furthermore, since those adjustments are made in the negative, one can apply them to the UV sensitive contact printing processes without the need to actually get one’s hands in the space between the light and the paper.

With experience, one’s first draft of a digital negative is usually pretty close to ideal, but after one makes that first print from a negative you often see that a small amount of fine tuning is necessary. Thus, one goes back to the computer to make a few tweaks to the image before printing a revised negative and making another print. I probably make second drafts of about half of my negatives. It is very rare that I need to make a third draft these days.

The four images show below are examples of the end result of this process. I had made initial prints of these images previously but each of them needed a bit or dodging and burning to be ‘perfect’. I made those adjustments and printed new negatives on Saturday. Yesterday, I made new salted-paper prints using those negatives.

The differences between the two drafts were small. A bit of burning in (darkening) on the shoulder of the marmot. Similar adjustments on the lily pad in the second photo and the dead tree to the right of the gate in the last photo.. The third image had a bit of dodging (lightening) of the pinecone and a bit burning in of the lightest leaves throughout.

The resulting prints are, to my eye, subtly but significantly improved over the initial prints.

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Marmot
Marmot
Lily Pad and Pine Needles
Lily Pad and Pine Needles
Untitled
Untitled
Old Gate
Old Gate

17 April 2021

Tonight’s Fortune / New Salted-Paper Prints

Simplicity of character is the natural result of profound thought.

— Found in a fortune cookie this evening.

The ‘fortunes’ usually found in Chinese restaurant fortune cookies usually leave much to be desired. However, this one seems worth sharing.

Early spring (and that is stretching it… we had eight inches of snow yesterday) is tough photographically. The light is often drab, as is the landscape. Thus making new photographs is hit-or-miss.

However, I have been staying busy experimenting with salt-paper printing. I’ve been trying different types of subjects and different papers.

The prints shown below were made on three different papers. Artistico Hot Press is a medium weight (200 gsm) very traditional water color paper; it is just a little bit warm. Crane’s Cover is a moderately heavy (240 gsm) paper that is often used for alternative process printing; it is a fairly warm paper. Platinum Rag is a heavy (300 gsm) paper made specifically for alternative process printing (especially platinum printing, as the name suggests); it is pure white. All of these papers have very smooth surfaces.

Each paper has its idiosyncrasies when it comes to coating and exposure. It is amazing to me how different the same negative can look when printed on two different papers. This is all part of the fun!

Here are a few salted-paper prints made in the past few days…

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Shorebird (on Aristico HP)
Shorebird (on Aristico HP)
Dragonfly (on Crane's Cover)
Dragonfly (on Crane's Cover)
Dragonfly (on Platinum Rag)
Dragonfly (on Platinum Rag)

5 January 2021

Mid-day Visitor

Filed under: Monadnock Region,Wildlife,Winter — Tags: — Frank @ 12:28 PM

Late this morning Joan was talking to her cousin on the phone when she began to wildly gesticulate in the direction of the French doors to our deck. I meander over to see what was up and observed this porcupine climbing a small beech tree.

It took me a few minutes to find the tripod, put Big Bertha (my 600 mm lens) on the camera and mount both to said tripod. I made my first exposure at 11:51 AM and made eighteen exposures total before heading back inside. There just is not a lot of action when a porcupine decides to “have a sit” up a tree!

Here it is 12:20 as I write this. I’ll be pushing the “publish” button shortly. Thirty minutes from start to finish… ain’t technology wonderful!!!

As I learned from an old newspaper photographer, always give them a horizontal and a vertical), so here are two photos.

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Porcupine (hor.)
Porcupine (hor.)
Porcupine (vert.)
Porcupine (vert.)

30 August 2020

Late Season Odes — Opportunities

This morning. as I headed out the door to go for a walk, I noticed a meadowhawk perched on a flower just outside the porch door. I successfully resisted the urge to get my camera and headed out for the walk.

Shortly after my return home, I was sitting in my chair rehydrating when I hear Joan call from out in the flower bed where she was working “Perched Darner! Perched Darner!”. As quick as I could I headed out the door, camera in hand but as is usual with darners (they do not stand still for long… ever) the perched individual was long gone.

It turns out that as Joan worked on cleaning up the flower bed she was disturbing lots of small insects and creating her own mini-feeding swarm in the process. There were at least there or four darners making regular passes over the beds and carefully veering around us as we stood there. In addition to the darners, there were also a number of autumn meadowhawks also taking advantage of the bounty.

Darners are very frustrating to photograph. They spend the large majority of their time in flight; even eating most prey while on the wing. Every once in a while, when one does perch, it is their habit to hang vertically from a branch or twig quite near the trunk of whatever plant they chose. (They are big and heavy as odes go and prefer good sturdy shrubs for perching.) This often makes for very cluttered photos.

In all today, I saw three perched darners. The first was in such deep shadow in a rhododendron that the photos are not worth showing. I never got close enough to the second to even make a photo. However, I was able to get a pretty typical photo of the third darner. I was able to make exactly three exposures before it took flight again.

Meadowhawks, on the other hand, are pretty easy to photograph. They perch frequently and often on nice isolated stalks of vegetation.

There were plenty (a few dozen) of meadowhawks around both the flower bed where Joan was working and at other places in the yard. Most were mature males but there were a few immature males and females in the mix.

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Autumn Meadowhawk (male)
Autumn Meadowhawk (male)
Autumn Meadowhawk (male)
Autumn Meadowhawk (male)
Autumn Meadowhawk (female)
Autumn Meadowhawk (female)
White-faced Meadowhawk (male)
White-faced Meadowhawk (male)
Meadowhawk with Prey (immature male)
Meadowhawk with Prey (immature male)
Meadowhawk (female)
Meadowhawk (female)
Darner (Canada or Green-strip)
Darner (Canada or Green-strip)

19 August 2020

Odes at the Harris Center Property on Brimstone Corner Rd.

Filed under: Monadnock Region,Odontates,Summer,Wildlife — Tags: , — Frank @ 3:45 PM

Yesterday afternoon, about 3:30, I headed for a walk down the road on the Harris Center property near us. The weather was in the low 70’s and it was partially cloudy. Although at one point, I had to sit out a brief sprinkle under some hemlock trees. I got back home just before 6:30.

The pattern for this year held true. There were small numbers of odes present but a decent number of species to be found. The most common species were the meadowhawks, slatey skimmers and spreadwings (probably Elegant spreadwings, but possible Slender spreadwings). I saw about six of each. The meadowhawks were all in the old log landings along the road and were all yellow (i.e. either immature males or females). The skimmers were mostly male and found at the waters edge near the beaver dam. Although, I did see one female in a clearing along the road. The spreadwings were mostly in the stream flowing out of the beaver pond. I also saw two male eastern forktails (one immature) in the grass along the road just downstream from the dam.

Additionally, I saw very briefly a nondescript brown dragonfly that paused just long enough for one exposure as well as an unidentified damselfly and what I think was a male common pondhawk neither of which stayed around long enough for even a single photo.

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Meadowhawk (female)
Meadowhawk (female)
Eastern Forktail (male)
Eastern Forktail (male)
Dragonfly (ID?)
Dragonfly (ID?)
Elegant (?) Spreadwing (male)
Elegant (?) Spreadwing (male)
Slaty Skimmer (male)
Slaty Skimmer (male)
Meadowhawk (immature male)
Meadowhawk (immature male)
Eastern Forktail (immature male)
Eastern Forktail (immature male)
Slaty Skimmer (female)
Slaty Skimmer (female)
Blue Dasher (female)
Blue Dasher (female)
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