Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Quiet Morning

Boy it's been a long while since I've posted.  Doesn't it always seem that life gets in the way of what you enjoy doing?  Some of my free time has taken me to other refuges and sanctuaries to explore the wonder that they hold.

It's not that I haven't been to Great Meadows, but often the trips have been more birding & less photography.  Often, I've barely had time to upload my photos before I'm off to the next task.

That's why last night after disassembling, cleaning & reassembling my tripod (I have not yet figured how to take my tripod to a sandy beach without getting sand in the leg locks) I decided that it would need a test run to ensure that I did it correctly.  So the rising sun found me at Great Meadows.

It was a quiet morning at the refuge.  The baby geese are now getting large and starting to resemble their parents.  In fact the parents were almost laid back about my traversing the path near them.  Much more enjoyable than skirting the hissing geese several weeks ago.

A song sparrow just posed for me.  I have tons of sparrow photos so I often pass up the opportunity to add to that collection.  But this sparrow stayed in place as I approached to a distance where most would have flown.  Since the morning light was so nice, I couldn't pass up the opportunity.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140710 &emdash;

The red-winged blackbirds are less prominent since they've found their mates and have had their chicks which are now mainly on their own. This male caught one of the other prominent species for July - dragonflies.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140710 &emdash;

Further along a Great Blue Heron was fishing. He wasn't catching many big fish, but he was catching a lot of fish.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140710 &emdash;

I hung out near the pool at the end of the Cross Dike trail. I stood there long enough that this family of Wood Ducks swam across the "bay" to feed closer to the trail. As they were leaving I saw the most unusual sight. This young wood duck thought something on the lotus blossom was meant to eat, so it made a couple leaps out of the water to try to grab it.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140710 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140710 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140710 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140710 &emdash;

Fish & Wildlife has started to draw down the upper impoundment. As the water level starts to drop muddy flats start to become exposed. You definitely need to scan these for shorebirds. Today there was a Spotted Sandpiper patrolling the flats.
Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140710 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140710 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140710 &emdash;

The highlight of the day was discovering that the Least Bittern was in the reeds near the path. It was only a matter of feet away. But photographically it could have been miles away. I thought you might appreciate these photos to see how well it's camouflage works.br />
Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140710 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140710 &emdash;

I promise to not make the wait for my next blog post so long.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Why Do You Visit Great Meadows?

Why do you come to Great Meadows?  I come for many different reasons.

On occasion  I just come for a bit of solitude; for the opportunity to meditate, to pray and to think.  Today was one of those visits.  You see late yesterday, I learned that one of my camera club friends, Richard Ferland, had died unexpectedly, as a result of injuries a body surfing accident while on vacation.

Richard was an extremely talented nature photographer.  I was secretly jealous of his eye and skill, hoping one day to take images as beautiful as his.  At a young 67 years old, it appeared that he would have many more years ahead to pursue his passion.

Most importantly he was a genuinely nice human being.  Even in death he gave to others.  As an organ donor he donated his eyes.  I hope the recipient likes photography.

So this morning I awoke; before the alarm, before the sun rose, I got up and headed to the refuge to walk, think, and pray.  I brought my camera because that's what I do. But it wasn't the purpose of my visit.

Arriving early, once I left the parking lot, I practically had the refuge to myself.  The mood of the day was one of relative solitude and quiet.  The planes were not yet flying.  Even the birds seemed to be singing is quieter hushed tones.

Part way across the Dike Trail, I encountered a very cooperative Red-Winged Blackbird.  One that just posed, sung and displayed repeatedly.  The light was beautiful.  The subject cooperative.  I debated, but decided that a photographer couldn't pass up such an opportunity.  So I grabbed some video.

Then something strange happened.  Almost everywhere I went there were cooperative subjects in "good light".  Even the Marsh Wrens were sitting up and singing, just asking to be photographed.

The thought crossed my mind that Richard would have enjoyed being at Great Meadows on a day like today.  My first reaction was sadness, but then a small smile crossed my face as I pondered whether he somehow had arranged with the Almighty for such a wonderful day to soften our loss.  If he did, it would be a shame to not share the day with you.  

Returning home, I am still processing his loss, its reminder of the fragility of life, and reevaluating how that should affect my behavior. I put together this video to share the day with you, but more so as a remembrance and memorial to a great nature photographer. Please click on the photo below to watch the video. I know Richard would have wanted to share the day with you if he could.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Pieces of April

I've visited Great Meadows several times in April, but never found the time to post-process my photos, write a blog entry and load everything onto the web. Today the guilt finally overcame me & it popped to the top of my To Do list. 

One of the challenges of writing this blog is finding new clever titles for each post. I was pondering what I should title a post of a collection of photos that I took in April, but didn't post until today. Then a bolt of inspiration hit me in the form of lyrics from a hit song from 1972 sung by Three Dog Night, written by Kenny Loggins' brother Dave.

     I've got pieces of April,
              but it's a morning in May.


So turn up your speakers, click on the link above and hum along along as together we explore Great Meadows last month.

I think spring has to be my favorite time of year at Great Meadows.  Maybe that's because three of my favorite subjects to photograph return then.

Among photographers Great Meadows is known as a fantastic place to come to photograph Red-winged Blackbirds.  They come for two reasons 1. there are so many of them and 2. they get habituated to humans so you are able to get closer than you can elsewhere.  Here as some of my favorites.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;

While the maile Red-winged Blackbirds get most of the attention, we should not forget about the females. While easily mistake for the biggest sparrow you've ever seen, the are interesting in their own way.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;
While striking a pose similar to the males, I though my birder friends would enjoy the great look at the coloration around the face.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;


My second favorite species to photograph are the Wood Ducks. The males are some of the most handsome birds around. We all know that the female can't afford to wear such fancy duds because she has to do all the work of raising a family.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;
If you walk quietly, you may see one among the reeds

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;
While still skittish, several times this year, I've gotten nice views of them

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;
I never saw this male fly by as I was taking a burst of 5 images. It was only in 1 frame, but perfect centered above the pair I was photographing.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;
In years past this is how I saw the majority of my woods ducks; from the back end flying away as they saw me before I saw them

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;
One of my favorites from the month

My personal favorite bird is the Marsh Wren. There weren't too many last year. In the last week or two several males have returned and have started to set up shop & building nests. They actually build several and when they attract a mate she will select her favorite.

I guess I like them because they are small, quick and unpredictable. They tease you with their chattering call and then suddenly pop up for brief moments.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;

In addition to my favorites species many of our friends are at the refuge. The first warblers of the year have started passing through. Some of the ones that arrive later will summer over at the refuge.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;
Palm Warbler

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;
Palm Warbler singing in the sun

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;
Obvious how the Yellow-rumped Warbler got its name

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;
Though they have yellow elsewhere too



Great Blue Herons have returned to the area. Each day several can be found across the refuge. Normally they are skittish but a few have become used to people and let you get closer than normal.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;
Still taken with my 500mm lens, but close enough that I could only take a portrait shot. I just love the light on the breeding plumage.


There are lots of sparrows at the refuge now. The most predominant are the Song Sparrows, but you have to check because you may be fooled.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;

While Canada Geese are year-round residents at the refuge, in the spring they get very territorial as they stake out their nesting areas. Most often you will hear then honking letting other geese know they are getting too close. If they don't back off, the geese will fly / swim over and chase the encroacher away.

There is one pair that is nesting near the water control structure on the Cross Dike. One morning they treated me to a territorial display on dry land. It was great to get shots without reeds in the way.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;

It's not just fauna, but also flora that is starting to become active.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;

My understanding is that the lady bugs were chased up the tree due to the flooding, but the waters receded a while ago, so I suspect they are congregating for some other purpose.
Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;

During one of the bird censuses we saw this large Blandings Turtle sunning itself near a vernal pool off of the Timber Trail. Unfortunately it was too wet to circumnavigate to get pictures of the shell for the biologists.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20140421 &emdash;

I hope reading to the end was not as painful to you as writing the post was for me. It is certainly motivation to do more frequent, smaller posts in the future.