Photographs by Frank

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!

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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)…

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*CWS… Chief Wildlife Spotter.

16 June 2013

Two Days of Ode-ing

Today was not a particular good day for ode-ing… it was overcast and cool.

Not that I minded… I spent four or five hours over the previous two days swamp stomping  in my new summer-weight (i.e. non-neoprene) waders. Previously, I had made do with “green wellies” which often got flooded if I ventured a little too deep or if I squatted down in the water. Chest-waders have neither problem and therefore make the life of a swamp stomper much nicer!

Here are the results (including a few “non-ode” species):

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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)…

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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)…

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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.

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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!

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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:

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

4 July 2012

Odes, Toads and Garden Flowers

I found some time on Sunday (1 July) and Tuesday (3 July) to get out and photograph.

On the day in between (that would be Monday, 2 July for those keeping careful track), I made a round trip to SE Massachusetts to install my “Life Cycle of Dragonflies and Damselflies” exhibit at the Pembroke Public Library. It will be there for the month of July.

Joe Kennedy, my friend (and stalwart commentator on this blog), helped me with the installation and we enjoyed lunch after the work was done. Thanks Joe!

Sunday’s crop:

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The insect in the second photo was hovering  for long periods (tens’s of seconds) right about eye level.   In between its hovers, it would make rapid forays in seemingly random directions. I assume that it was hunting for other insects. Thus I was able to “capture”  it during one of it hovers. I got lucky with the light in this frame. The other three or four photos I made had the critter in deep shade.

I discovered the small (thumb-sized) toad because I noticed the vegetation moving in an odd way. Kneeling down, I spied the toad. The photo was taken lying down on my stomach.

The last two images in this series illustrate the power of digital photography. They were both made at ISO 3200 in very dim light; did they even make ISO 3200 film?.  The photos were very noisy straight out of the camera but cleaned up well with the right software tool.

The vesper bluet photo also illustrates another big advantage of digital.  Let me set  the scene…

  • The sun is very low (look at the shadow)… this is the only time these critters are active. Thus the “vesper” in their common name.
  • The critter is on a “lily pad”  in water too deep to wade and there is a significant breeze blowing. This is making the critter bob up and down.
  • I am sitting in my kayak which is also bobbing and drifting… remember the water is too deep to wade and the wind is blowing!

In other words, I shot dozens of frames in order to get one that was acceptable! Who could  have afforded to do that with film?  Ain’t digital wonderful!!!

Tuesday’s crop:

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Tuesday afternoon I noticed two or three female common whitetails hanging around the edge of the yard in the clearing I use to process cord word. This caused me to head back to the house for the camera. After photographing the the whitetails, I meandered the yard and the road looking for other subjects.  At one point I almost stepped on another small toad who was keeping very still and relying on its camouflage.

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!

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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!

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24 August 2011

A Hike Up Skatutakee and Thumb Mountains

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

Yesterday was another prototypical New Hampshire summer day… low humidity and the temperature was just about 70 degrees.  We  spent the afternoon hiking up Skatutakee and Thumb Mountains on trails maintained by the Harris Center in Hancock. The summits of both peaks afford nice views of the north face of Mount Monadnock.

We encountered two different species of damselflies in the woods on the way up and the usual darners which frequent the peaks were found on both summits. We also watched two hawks soaring over the summit of Skatutakee while we ate our lunch.

Near the bottom of the Thumbs Down trail we encountered a porcupine on the ground in a lumbered area and a short time later we flushed a grouse-like bird from the underbrush along the edge of the same clearing. No photos of either animal though; both were quicker than yours truly!

We also encountered a rather large toad at the edge of an old skid road just before the Thumbs Down Trail becomes a real trail again. This “fellow” was well hidden under some ferns but I managed to find “windows” that afforded shots of both his left and right profiles. That done, I’m not sure that one could say that he has a “good side”!

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