Photographs by Frank

10 December 2010

Massachusetts Wildlife

Back in September, I entered ten images in a photo contest sponsored by Massachusetts Wildlife magazine, a quarterly publication of Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

I had pretty much forgotten about the contest and my entry. However, I was pleasantly reminded about it when I recently received email informing me that four of my photos have been given awards!

According to the email from Peter Mirick,  the editor, there were “1,137 entries received from 183 individuals living in 149 cities and towns, some as far away as Florida and Arizona.”

No large cash prizes! Just a subscription to the magazine and a few extra copies of the  issue in which the images will be published.  However, it is nice to have ones work recognized this way.

Here are the four images that were selected:

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And here are the other entries:

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Thanks for “wandering by”.

17 September 2010

Hanging Out with the Ecologists

Filed under: Odontates,Other Insects,Southeastern MA — Tags: , , — Frank @ 12:07 PM

My friend Kevin teaches ecology lab on Thursday’s. I had some unscheduled time during the middle of the day yesterday, so I tagged along to see if I could get photographs of the critters they caught… better than sitting in my office working!

The field work for the lab takes place in Wyman’s Meadow, a parcel of conservation land near campus. I arrived at the meadow about 10:45, a half hour before Kevin and the students, and was treated to the sight of a red-tailed hawk lazily circling high above the fields… too high for photographs. I watched “him” make three circuits of the fields before heading off. There were also a large number of dragonflies (mostly darners) moving rapidly and feeding fifteen or twenty feet off the ground in the warmth of the bright mid-day sun; also too high, and too fast, for photographs.

I stalked dragonflies and butterflies while waiting for Kevin and his students to arrive and got a couple of shots of a female common whitetail and some other small insect sitting on a milkweed pod. I also got a few shots of some of the vegetation… although the harsh mid-day light was not ideal.

The day’s task for each group of students was to lay out two distinct 24 square meter plots of ground and to sample the insects in each area three times. Sampling insects involves rapidly sweeping a large net back and forth through the vegetation and collecting whatever is caught in a zip lock bag. If preying mantis are caught, their presence (and number) is noted but these insects are released; the other insects caught are taken back to the lab for further analysis.

The students did sweep up a number of preying mantis and I did get a few shots… the combination of the harsh light and the fact that these critters were fairly well “spooked”, having just been swept up into a budding scientists net did not make for ideal conditions… but then again, one rarely gets ideal conditions when photographing wildlife! Any way, I did get a few usable frames.

After a couple of hours, I headed back to my office for a 1 PM appointment and Kevin did the lab a second time with another group of students.

As I was packing up to head home around 5 PM, I had passing thought of heading back out the Wyman’s Meadow on the way home just to see what was there and expecting better light, at least for a short while. Feeling tired and noting the heavy overcast, I decided just to head home.

I was headed out the front door of the building, I ran in to Kevin who about to return the van he used to shuttle students around all afternoon. He informed me that he had tagged a milkweed plant covered in engorged aphids if I wanted to try to get some photographs.  I guess that my “second wind” must have kicked in since I pointed the truck in the direction of Wyman’s Meadow instead of home. I spent less than an hour there in the fading light, but I did indeed find the plant Kevin had tagged and got some interesting shots of the aphids.

As I packed things back into the truck a few minute after six, I noticed a few raindrops on the windshield. A few minutes after I arrived home (it is a very short ride, five minutes at most) the rain began in earnest.

Anyway, here are the day’s photos:

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22 June 2010

Skunked by the WHS Osprey

Filed under: Birds,Southeastern MA — Tags: — Frank @ 12:00 PM

At the edge of the parking lot at the Wareham High School (where Joan works) there is a nesting pole and osprey nest.

Joan and I spent a couple of Saturday evenings down there watching the birds early in the season (around the first of May) and I got some nice shots including this one from our first visit:

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 I also posted a few more shots, and an interesting story, from our second visit on the HDP blog.

We decided to go back again last Saturday (19 June 2010) evening as Joan had seen an osprey in the area earlier in the week.

We headed down relatively early (given that sunset was not until 8:25), had clam plates at Kool Kone on Route 6 and were in place at the WHS parking lot finishing up our ice cream by 6:15. There was a Wareham Gatemen (Cape Cod League) game beginning on the WHS diamond at 6:30 so we were entertained by the PA announcements as we waited for osprey.

And wait we did… we were there for about an hour and saw no sign of osprey… neither adults nor chicks in the nest. Either the chicks have already fledged (but I think it is too early for that) or the pair we saw nesting back in May did not produce chicks this year.

Since there was not a lot of bird action, we were able to get some “technical” shots.

Here is how one goes about getting a good angle on a nest at the top of a tall pole:

[singlepic id=106 w=300] (Photo by Joan.)

And here is the view that the camera was pointed at:

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As you can see I could have actually gotten the truck much closer to the pole (and nest) but setting up some distance back (and using the long lens) allows for a more desirable “looking across” view rather than a “looking up” view

After about an hour of watching and waiting we made the decision to go look for access to another nest we had seen from Route 25 and heard about from one of the locals,  instead of going to the baseball game. Thus we had a nice drive around many of the back roads of Wareham and Buzzards Bay and no success in locating the second site before we headed home as the sun set.

Skunked, on all fronts, by the osprey of Wareham… such is the life of a wildlife photographer!

Update: Adding insult to injury… when Joan arrived at work early Monday morning, there were two adult osprey sitting on the nest!

1 June 2010

More Odontates from Carver’s Pond

Filed under: Carver's Pond,Odontates,Southeastern MA — Tags: , — Frank @ 11:03 AM

Carver’s Pond is an old mill pond in Bridgewater, MA. It is about two miles from our house and just up the street from the College. I walk there from work at lunch time many days. It is a place we go when we have time only for a very short jaunt… sometimes with the kayaks or canoe or sometimes just for a walk.

The pond is home to much wildlife… turtles,  fish, birds, small mammals and, of course, odontates. I spent a few hours hunting dragonflies and damselflies there again last Thursday.

It is good to go back to the same place often… just to see what has changed.

In the case of odontates, the “signal” for emergence from the larval form to the adult is mainly water temperature. Each species has a specific temperature at which it emerges.  This time of year, when the water is warming rapidly, new species seem to “pop up” almost daily. Thus, multiple trips, even in quick succession are often rewarded with new species to see and photograph.

Here are some of the day’s photographs:

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30 May 2010

An Afternoon Visitor

Filed under: Southeastern MA,Wildlife — Tags: — Frank @ 12:00 PM

In the middle of the afternoon the other day, I wandered on to the back porch intending to sit at the table there and do some work. As I was getting set, I noticed that a regular visitor, in the form of a female snapping turtle… the first of the season,  had arrived in our back yard. Needless to say, I decided that the work could wait and went and got the camera!

As many of you know, we live on a piece of land that was once pasture and  that has as one of its boundries,  the Town River. Every year right around Memorial Day, a number of female snapping turtles visit our yard to lay eggs. I imagine that their anscestors have been making similar visits for thousands of year.

These turtles lay their eggs by digging out a depression in the soil, depositing the eggs in the hole and then covering over the eggs with dirt… they use their feet as digging tools the front feet for excavating and thier rear feet for filling in. They prefer to lay their eggs where the digging is easiest, most often in Joan’s flower beds… it drives Joan crazy. The mama turtle of this story went easy on Joan, she picked a bed that Joan had just dug over for use as a nursery bed for some hostas. I guess that the two ladies were thinking alike!

Here are a few portraits of the old girl… the turtle to be specific!

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29 May 2010

East Head Pond

Filed under: Birds,Southeastern MA,Wildlife — Tags: , , , , , — Frank @ 12:00 PM

On Sat (22 May 2010) afternoon, we put the kayaks in the water for the first time this season… our destination was East Head Pond in Myles Standish State Forest (Carver and Plymouth, MA). We chose this spot based on its description  in the AMC Quiet Water Guide for Massachusetts. This series of guide books (that cover much of the northeast) is highly recommended. Of course, I took the camera and the long lens and we were off to see what could be found!

We were amply rewarded. Seeing, over the course of a few hours,  painted turtles, frogs and many small birds… no surprise there!  We also caught an osprey fishing… watching it dive five times (at various distances) before it came up with a fish.

We spent some quality time with a mother mallard and her brood as they made their way along the shoreline eating like mad. At one point mom and all of the ducklings stopped and stood at attention. The reason… an owl passing by along the shore at low altitude. One has to imagine that the owl had a ducking dinner in mind!

The only reason I know about the owl, is that Joan told me about it. She watched the scene unfold from twenty or so feet away. Of course, I saw the ducks reaction through the lens. But, I was sitting (with camera to eye) within a dozen feet of both the ducks and the owl and I never heard a thing… the owl went by and never made a sound.

At the very end of the day, as the light was fading, we passed though a boggy area that had a number of pitcher plants growing in it…  some of which were in bloom… not something you see every day!

Here are the day’s photos:

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28 May 2010

Early Odonates

Filed under: Odontates,Southeastern MA,Wildlife — Tags: , — Frank @ 9:45 AM

One of my photographic passions (manias, according to Joan) are odontates (that is, dragonflies and damselflies)… you’ll see a lot of them if you follow this blog.

Mid-May is the beginning of odontate season in New England. So, I spent a bit of time over the past two days “hunting” dragonflies.  In addition to just getting outside and enjoying the spring, I wanted to test my new “odontate rig” which allows me to use my flash as I photograph these elusive creatures. Most of these photos were taken at Carver’s Pond (in Bridgewater, MA) but the first one was taken in the backyard.

This is an immature male common whitetail:

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A male bluet (probably an Atlantic Bluet)…

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and a female bluet (I’m unsure of the exact species)…

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As adult odontates are short lived, mating season begins quickly after the adults emerge from the larva as these fragile forktails show…

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As one wanders the woods hunting one group of animals, you often observe many other organisms doing their thing as this last photo shows…

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I think that these butterflies are mating, but I know even less about Lepidoptera than I do about Odonata! So remember, take all of my identifications with a grain of salt… after all,  I’m a chemist not a biologist!

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