Woke up this morning to 4 deg. F and a stiff wind blowing. The temperature finally made it to double digest by noon.
I’ll have to head outside eventually… we need a resupply of wood
Yesterday was not so extreme weather wise. We had flurries most of the day but it was in the high 20s F.
By mid afternoon cabin fever kicked in and the dusting of new snow looked tempting.
I headed out, camera in hand, for a short walk around the neighborhood.
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Yesterday (18 July) afternoon I headed down back to the beaver-made wetland complex at the back of our property.
As I headed out, I got distracted by the butterflies on the flowers in the beds around the yard. I in the middle of photographing butterflies, I spent some time stalking a small orangeish dragonfly but I was not able to make a photo. After this dragonfly vanished for good, and as I was about to stand up to move on, I noticed that a small robberfly had landed on the perch last used by ode. Of course, I had to photograph it!
Eventually, I did wander down the hill to the natural habitat of the beaver pond and wet meadow.
New, since my last trip down back, was the presence of darners. I am not sure of the exact species. They were patrolling over both the pond and the wet meadow. The numbers were not large; I saw maybe half a dozen.
By far, the most common ode present were frosted whitefaces. They were mostly patrolling over the pond. However, every once in a while one would perch near me and I was able to make a photograph. The numbers were way down compared to my last visit (on 2 July, see this post).
I also observed two sprites (either sphagnum or sedge) deep down among the vegetation along the pond. Neither were able to be photographed.
Out over the meadow there were a small number of calico pennants. As with the frosted whitefaces, the number of pennants are way down from a couple of weeks ago. However the individuals present were all actively feeding. I watched (and photographed) one individual for about fifteen minutes. During that time, I watched it make dozens of hunting forays always returning to the same perch. It was successful on about half of its hunts.
In the afternoon, on Monday (30 May, Memorial Day), I spent about three hours (about 1:45 to 4:45) hunting odes. I never got beyond maybe three hundred feet from the yard and was able to photograph nine different species of dragonflies and damselflies… and one grasshopper!
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Last evening I took a drive and picked up Big Bertha* from the repairman. Don’t ask how she ended up in the shop… I’m trying to forget!
This afternoon, just to make sure that all is working properly, I set up by the feeders and gave Bertha a thorough workout. All is looking good, as you can see in the photos below.
The male red-winged blackbird made an appearance again… just to observe. Very strange… the feeders are set up at the edge of the woods (i.e. it is not typical red-winged blackbird habitat) and we are at least a quarter mile from the nearest marsh where these birds usually hangout.
The other interesting visitor was a great crested flycatcher. I do not think that I have ever seen one before.
At least the feeders are in the right habitat for this species… mature deciduous forest, according to Sibley. This individual just perched for a minute or two near the feeders before it flew off.
* My 600 mm f/4 lens.
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About a week ago, I headed “down back”. I was expecting fairly harsh light as the skies were mostly clear and light from a low angle in the mid-afternoon, just before the sun dipped below the ridge to the west.
My expectations were met and I was able to make a series of photos of the vegetation sticking up out of the snow casting shadows on the nicely textured snow. Every once in a while nature cooperates with the photographer and his visions!
A couple of days later we got another 10-12 inches of snow and although I have not been down back since, I am sure that there is not much emergent vegetation now!
My next vision involves shadows and wind-blown snow out on the lake. But not today (I think) as the mid-afternoon temperature is hovering right around 10 degrees (and some where around -5 with the wind chill).
Like so many things in life, photographing small birds takes practice.
Thus, yesterday afternoon I set up the chair blind, tripod, etc. near the feeders in our yard intent on getting some practice.
In addition to the usual birds we see all winter (chickadees, titmice, nuthatches and downy woodpeckers*) we have been seeing small flocks (8-12 individuals) of goldfinches at the feeder in the past week or so. I photographed them all yesterday.
I have decided that the titmice are the hardest of these birds to photograph.
Many individuals fly directly to the feeder from fairly far afield. Those that do stop at one of my “photo perches” near the feeder rarely stay for more than two or three second; a much shorter interval than any of the other species**.
Photographing titmice requires rapid reflexes… and much practice!
* We also seem to have a pair of red-bellied woodpeckers that visit the suet feeder regularly, most often fairly early in the morning. I did not see them yesterday afternoon.
** The red-bellies are hard to photograph as well for similar reasons. They spend a much shorter time at the feeder than the other woodpeckers. They stay only long enough to dislodge a large chunk of suet which they then carry off into the woods. I suspect that they cache much of this food for later use.
Snow is not simple.
Once it falls to the ground, it begins to change. It is sculpted by the wind, pitted by rain, trod upon by animals, etc.
The late afternoon sunlight playing upon a snowy landscape makes life interesting for photographers.
Joan’s old friend Sally sent me a copy of a wonderful book about stone walls for the holidays.
I finished the book, Sermons in Stone by Susan Allport, last week and was inspired to photograph the snowy walls along Brimstone Corner Road.
All of these photos were made within a quarter mile of the house.
Monday afternoon I spent a couple of hours (4:15 – 6:30 PM) “down back” at our beaver-made wetland. I was interested to see how the population of odes was doing here. My impression is that the total numbers of odes was low here, as it was at other sites that we visited late last week.
Usually, there are large numbers (dozens) of darners flying out over the wet meadow. On this visit there were a few… maybe five or six… on patrol mainly over the beaver pond. I also saw a single male calico pennant and a single male frosted whiteface. That was it for dragonflies.
As for damselflies, I observed a handful (maybe six total) of spreadwings. The most common damsel was the sphagnum sprite. There were both males and females present and I saw two pairs flying in tandem. That was it. I saw no bluets at all.
The rose pogonias and swamp candles that were blooming a couple of weeks ago on my last visit “down back” were completely finished blooming. However, I did note the presence of sundew which I had never seen in this location before… probably because I was’t paying attention!
Since there were so few odes around on Friday, I took to making photographs of the flowers that Joan has growing around the vegetable garden.
At one point, I was aggressively investigated by a female ruby-throated hummingbird. I guess that she decided that I was not going to eat too much nectar because, after the initial close encounter, she proceeded to visit a few flowers while I fumbled to take the extension tube off my camera. I was too slow and she headed off before I could make a photo of her.
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