Photographs by Frank

24 June 2015

You Can Observe A Lot By Watching

The title of this post is a quote attributed to Yogi Berra and how true it is!

When one is low to the ground with a camera set up to take photos of small things (such as odes) one finds oneself attuned to a world that is hidden in plain sight. There is a lot of “stuff” going on between the ground and six inches of elevation!

Much of the “stuff” one sees are insects, but I often observe other types of critters as well. The immature wood frog is one of those.

I had just stood up from photographing a damselfly and had taken a step or two when I heard a faint rustle in the old leaves underfoot. I quickly dropped to my knees to investigate and after searching for a few minutes, I finally found the source of said rustle… a wood frog the size of my thumbnail, unmoving and doing its best impression of a dried leaf!

I moved a bit trying to find a “window” in the detritus on the ground without scaring away the frog. I successfully found an angle with a clear view of the frog and was rewarded with a nice photo of this fairly common but seldom seen animal.

[scrollGallery id=367 autoscroll = false width = 800 height = 600 useCaptions = true]

Another good subject for a camera set up to photograph odes are small wildflowers. One can easily make nice photos of the flowers nicely isolated against out of focus backgrounds.

[scrollGallery id=368 autoscroll = false width = 800 height = 600 useCaptions = true]


18 June 2015

Up North

Filed under: Amphibians,Mammals,Odontates,Other Insects,Summer,Wildlife — Tags: , , , , — Frank @ 5:00 PM

Monday afternoon, we strapped the kayaks to the roof of the car, hitched up the camper, and headed north. We arrived at Lake Francis State Park (in Pittsburg, NH) at supper time.

Pittsburg is as far north as you can go in New Hampshire… it is so far north that Canada lies to the west as well to the north!

On Tuesday morning we put the kayaks in the water at the East Inlet (to the Second Connecticut Lake) and paddled as far up this watershed as we could go. We were finally stopped by the willow thicket overhanging the narrow and fast moving channel.

About a noon time the predicted rain showers began. We were soaked to the skin by the time we got back to the landing and the car. We had a good time anyway!

We saw a loon as we got out of the car and a second one while we were out in the boats. There were other birds about as well, along with lots of frogs and a lone moose.

The frogs were calling from the marshy areas but hard as I tried, I could not espy a single one. I was beginning to despair every getting a photo when I finally noticed the bright yellow throat sac of one sitting just at the edge of the open water. After finding the first specimen, I began to see yellow throat sacs from the proverbial mile a way… they were, in fact, rather numerous!

As for the moose… I was peacefully and slowing paddling along when, as I rounded a bend in the shore line, I heard a great splashing sound. I am not sure if the bull moose or I was more surprised. The moose quickly made for the shore and the first photograph I made of him contained mainly his posterior as he headed up into the marsh. Once out of the water, he did turn to look at me  and I was able to make an adequate (but not spectacular) portrait.

Joan missed the entire show as she was botanizing some distance behind.

The rain was just letting up as we got back to the East Inlet boat launch… figures! We changed into dry clothes and decided to drive up to Scott Bog; another kayaking/wildlife hot spot.

Along the way we scared another smallish moose off the road.  Scott Bog will be our target next time we are in the area with our boats!

After an early dinner, we took a drive up Indian Stream Road. We turned around at the parking area for the Indian Stream Gorge trail head. We’ve put this on our “to do” list as well.

[scrollGallery id=364 autoscroll = false width = 800 height = 600 useCaptions = true]

Wednesday morning we were on the road south by 7:30. Joan was meeting another NEWFS PCV* in Northumberland to do a rare plant survey. While they were botanizing, I headed to the nearby Eames Wayside.

This piece of public land along the Connecticut River looked promising on the map, but I could not find much information about it. It turns out to be essentially undeveloped, there is small parking area on Route 3, but that is it. I tried to bushwhack down to the river but was turned back by the willow thickets.

As I headed back to the car somewhat dejected, I noticed a dragonfly in a sunny spot along the rail bed. Thus all was not lost!

I spent the next couple of hours photographing damselflies and other insects, along about fifty feet of rail bed near a small stream flowing under the rails in a culvert. I did not see another dragonfly the entire time I was there but the damsels were plentiful!

[scrollGallery id=365 autoscroll = false width = 800 height = 600 useCaptions = true]

*NEWFS… New England Wildflower Society; PCV… Plant Conservation Volunteer


12 June 2015

Odes Down Back

Filed under: Monadnock Region,Odontates,Summer — Tags: , , — Frank @ 10:56 AM

Ten cords of firewood is finally stacked… I can get back to photography!

Yesterday afternoon was warm (about 80 degrees F) and windy. I donned my waders and headed “down back” to the beaver-made wetland at the back of our property.

I arrived at about 2 PM and stayed for three hours. I spent most of my time at the edge of the beaver pond and the small stream that feeds it.

Given the recent lack of  male Hudsonian whitefaces in the yard (the females are still present), I was expecting to find them down by the beaver pond. I was not disappointed.

However, the most common ode was the chalk-fronted corporal. There were many dozens of both sexes mostly flying out over the open water; although a few perched for short intervals. I also observed a small number of mating-wheels.

Common whitetails were almost as abundant as the chalk-fronted corporals and their activities were similar; less perching and larger numbers of mating-wheels.

The abundance of common whitetails at the water was surprising since, in contrast with the chalk-fronted corporals, we rarely seem then in the yard.

There were small numbers of male clubtails (I’m unsure of the exact species probably beaver pond clubtails*), male frosted whitefaces and a couple of four-spotted skimmers.

I saw only two damselflies during the three hours I was out. A small brownish individual, probably a female bluet, that I did not get a good look or a photograph.

The second individual, which I  did get a good photograph of, is an immature male Amber-winged spreadwing* probably a male Aurora damsel but I am not entirely convinced. It has the yellow lateral spots but the top of the thorax is blue rather than black. My impression is that this individual was significantly larger than the typical Aurora damsel.

Oh… about the frog… “he” appeared seemingly out of thin air (water?) three or four feet from where I was kneeling and was completely indifferent to my presence as I went about photographing odes for the next twenty or so minutes.. He did not even flinch when I stood up to move on.

[scrollGallery id=362 autoscroll = false width = 800 height = 600 useCaptions = true]

*Thanks to Steve and Hal from the Northeast Odes mailing list for the help in identification.


19 August 2013

Another Trip “Down Back”

About 4 this afternoon, I donned my waders and spent about an hour and three quarters near the beaver pond “down back”.

I was surprised by the lack of meadowhawks… I saw only two or three along the margin of the beaver swamp. There were small numbers of darners out of the meadow… I saw maybe a dozen total while I was out. I also saw a single sedge sprite.  The most numerous ode present were the spreadwings (I don’t know what species). I saw roughly three dozen.

When I arrived at the edge of the beaver pond I found a convenient spot of open water and knelt down keeping the sun off my shoulder. I was happily watching and photographing spreadwings when I noticed a small (first joint of the thumb-sized) frog not more than I foot from my knee. I don’t know if he was there when I knelt down or if he appeared after I settled in. He was too close to photograph with the ode rig, so I backed up slowly. He was completely unconcerned and I was able to photograph him (see Green Frog #1).

A short while later I noticed two more similar sized frogs near by. One was too close to photograph and partly covered by some grass. The other made for a nice photograph (see Green Frog #2). I decided to try a different angle on the second frog and, as I went to move my position, I almost put my knee on a much larger (fist-sized) green frog. I was able to back off without disturbing him and made Green Frog #3. The big guy was more wary than the smaller fellows and fairly quickly jumped out of sight. I went back to photographing the second frog head on (see Green Frog #4; note the blood-sucking flies, one on each eye!).

The sedge sprite made a brief  appearance while I was photographing the frogs and I was able to get two frames before it disappeared again.

Eventually, I stood up and moved off a short distance. While I was moving I found the orange butterfly and was able to get a clear view for just a single frame.

I was entertaining myself with the spreadwings at the second spot when I heard the clatter of dragonfly wings. The sound of dragonfly wings hitting vegetation or each other is quite unmistakable.

I quickly located the source, a female darner down low in the grasses ovipositing. I was able to get two frames before she moved off to another spot without a clear line of sight. After short interval she moved again, this time to a spot about a foot in front of me but she only stayed for a second or two before flying off out of sight. I went back to photographing spreadwings.

After a few more minutes, I decided that it was time to make supper so I headed back up the hill to the house.

That’s my story for today and I am sticking to it!

[scrollGallery id=219 autoscroll = false width = 600 height = 600 useCaptions = true]

18 August 2013

Garden Amphibians

Filed under: Amphibians,Summer,The "New" Yard & Environs — Tags: — Frank @ 6:07 PM

My CWS* was down in the garden this afternoon picking green beans… 10 pounds of them from the look of the pile… and other vegetables when she told me that she had seen two small frogs amongst the leaves in the garden.

Luckily, I was finished picking up the piles of shrub trimmings she had left in the driveway because, upon hearing this news, I headed straight for the camera!

These “fellows” are very small… roughly thumbnail-sized.

Here are the photos (two individuals, two poses)…

[scrollGallery id=218 autoscroll = false width = 600 height = 600 useCaptions = true]

*CWS… Chief Wildlife Spotter.

7 June 2013

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge — Part 1, Birds & Landscapes

Filed under: Amphibians,Birds,National Wildlife Refuges,Summer,Wildlife — Tags: , , — Frank @ 5:00 PM

My parents recently moved to one of those “soup-to-nuts” retirement places in suburban Washington, DC and we spent last weekend visiting them at their new abode.

On Monday we headed for the Blackwater National Wildlife refuge in Cambridge, MD (on the Eastern Shore). We had made a short visit there last summer and put it on our list of spots to return to for some serious exploring and photography.

We arrived in the area mid-afternoon on Monday and dropped off the camper in the campground before hitting the wildlife drive though the refuge in time for the good late afternoon and evening light. On Tuesday we spent nine hours in the kayaks exploring the Blackwater River. On Wednesday morning we did the drive through the refuge again before pointing the car north. We arrived home just after midnight.

On our first visit to Blackwater, we were amazed at the concentration of herons, egrets, osprey and bald eagles. This was not a random event. The same was true this trip. There were spots in the water where six or eight egrets and herons would be lined up in a space of a few dozen feet. At times it seemed that no mater which direction you turned you could spot a bald eagle nest or an osprey nest. The density of the large charismatic birds is quite astounding.

It seems that this trip, we caught fledgling time for the bald eagles. We often saw two adults sitting in the same tree nearby a nest. On a couple of occasions we watched a juvenile land in the same tree.

Of course, there are also many smaller birds around as well as numerous dragonflies and damselflies. I tried to photograph them all!

The odes will have to wait until I get at least some of them identified. They are mostly different from the familiar (to me) ones in New England. But, here is the first installment of photos…birds and landscapes.

Blackwater Birds (all made in the refuge proper)…

[scrollGallery id=191 autoscroll = false width = 600 height = 600 useCaptions = true]

Landscapes (the two black and white photos were made in the refuge; the sunset photos were made from the campground we stayed at in Turners Island)…

[scrollGallery id=193 autoscroll = false width = 600 height = 600 useCaptions = true]

9 September 2012

Missed Opportunities

Filed under: Amphibians,Landscapes,Odontates — Tags: , , , — Frank @ 12:00 PM

Thursday, Joan and I took the kayaks down to the lake for a quick paddle on a nice quiet evening. I headed under the bridge to the swampy northern section just to see what I could find.

Not more than a minute after I got the camera ready, I spied a pair of spreadwings flying in tandem. I watched as they landed on the stem of an isolated aquatic plant in good evening light. I quickly moved in and positioned myself to get a clear shot with a an uncluttered background; all the while thinking what a great shot this was going to be. I tripped the shutter a single time and off they flew never to be seen again. Total time from first seeing them until losing them… two minutes at the absolute most. And the photo? It was out of focus. Missed opportunities, a common theme in the life of a wildlife photographer!

I paddled along the edge of the lake staying to the ever changing patches of “good light” as the sun dipped lower with each passing minute. There were a number of green frogs taking advantage of the warm sun. There were small numbers of spreadwings and Eastern Forktails present as well.

At one point, I flushed a great blue heron from the edge of the marsh. I was barely fifty feet away when she/he took off and I was glad that she/he was not directly over me when they lightened their load shortly after takeoff! Since the camera was rigged with an extension tube for closeup work (and thus only focuses to about six feet) I could only watch the magnificent sight… another missed opportunity!

Eventually the sun dipped below the ridge and I headed back to the boat launch. Upon my arrival there I noticed the rapidly changing patterns in the clouds. Photographing the clouds kept me fully entertained while waiting for Joan to return.

[scrollGallery id=164 autoscroll = false width = 600 height = 600  useCaptions = true]


31 August 2012

Another Afternoon at the Beaver Swamp

Filed under: Amphibians,Odontates,Other Insects,wildflowers — Tags: , , , — Frank @ 6:00 PM

As summer draws rapidly to a close, I feel the urge to wander in wetlands more strongly than earlier in the season. Yesterday Joan and I both headed down to the beaver swamp. She to work on her skills at identifying and documenting wildflowers and I to do my usual thing!

Joan is on a hunt for New England Asters… don’t ask why! Thus far I have lead her to White Wood Asters (a few days ago) and New York Asters (yesterday)… so the hunt continues!

We headed out a bit earlier that I usually do (around 2:30 instead of more toward 4:00). I was hoping that maybe there would be a bit more activity earlier in the afternoon than there had been on my previous excursions. I was willing to sacrifice good light for photographic opportunity. I was not disappointed! Of course we’ll never know if it was the hour or the luck of the draw!

The green frog was sitting in the middle of the beaver pond maybe five or six feet from where I sat on the bank when I noticed it; I had been sitting in the same spot for five or ten minutes when I noticed it. I do not know if had been there all of the time or if had appeared just before I saw it…. so much for the observant nature photographer! Any way, wWe watched each other for fifteen or twenty minutes. It was very unconcerned about my presence.

Presumably, it was hoping to catch a passing insect. Of course, I was hoping to photograph it catching an insect. It was much more patient that I as it was still sitting there when I arose and moved on.

The toad on the other hand was rather jumpy! It is quite amazing that a 1.5 inch long creature can end up two or three feet away in a single bound. I stalked this “fellow” for a couple of leaps, at which point it must have decided to try relying on its camouflage. When I finally found it again, it kept still and I was able to shoot a number of frames.

The highlight of the afternoon was a very brief glimpse  of a large darner ovipositing. Dragonflies are very wary when laying eggs. After I spied this individual, I turned slowly and carefully to get the two frames I did. As soon as I made a larger movement in an attempt to get a better angle off she went! The same was true for the tandem pair of meadow hawks… I made just two exposures before they were off again.

Hunting meadowhawks are another story… both of these females kept making brief hunting forays returning to the same perch after each foray. As usual they were very unconcerned by my presence and I was able to slowly move closer and get the best angle possible. Whatever they were hunting must have been small as I never either of them with prey… or maybe they were not very successful hunters!

[scrollGallery id=163 autoscroll = false width = 600 height = 600  useCaptions = true]

28 August 2012

Around the Garden Over the Weekend

Filed under: Amphibians,Odontates,Other Insects,Wildlife — Tags: , , , — Frank @ 8:34 AM

Both kids were here for a visit over the weekend; a rare treat for us. Thus, I did not get  time for any photographic “expeditions”. There were, however,  a number of interesting visitors to Joan’s garden and its immediate surroundings which I did manage to photograph.

The black swallowtail caterpillars (there are three or four of them) have been hanging around the garden for a week or more. They have more-or-less wiped out the dill (apparently well known as a favorite of theirs) and have moved on to the parsley.

The painted ladies were abundant on Saturday; sometimes I could see five or six from a single vantage point. They were actively nectaring on the flowers that encircle the garden.

The gray tree frog, which was sitting on the Swiss chard,  is a rare visitor; neither Joan nor I had ever seen one before. Apparently they are not particularly rare; see:

[scrollGallery id=160 autoscroll = false width = 600 height = 600  useCaptions = true]

Note the new method of displaying photographs in this post. Any opinions on this “style” compared to the usual one?

25 August 2011

Eva’s Marsh

Filed under: Amphibians,Birds,wildflowers,Wildlife — Tags: , , — Frank @ 6:00 PM

Yesterday afternoon we loaded the kayaks on the truck and headed to Eva’s Marsh WMA in Hancock. We spend a few hours there and only explored the “front” (i.e. before the first beaver dam) of this ninety eight acre plot. I guess that we’ll have to go back again sometime.

There were not many odes about on this cool afternoon with a high overcast… good light for photography! However,  the water lilies and the eastern purple (or spotted) bladderwort were both in bloom and kept me entertained!

[nggallery id=88]

We also saw a numbers of animals… birds, frogs and painted turtles. (No turtle photos worth showing from this trip though.)

I also spent quality time with a solitary sandpiper twice… going and coming.  He/she was much more concerned about the hunting than about the nearby human in the bright orange kayak. I was able to approach quite closely… good thing since all I had was my 300 mm lens!

We also had fun watching a group of barn swallows… at one point there were five individuals in the tree in the photos below. We also saw a kingfisher and a raptor (probably a hawk) both at a distance so no photos this time… oh well!

[nggallery id=87]

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress