Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Auld Lang Syne

Between now and New Year's Eve other commitments will prevent me from visiting the refuge. That made today my final visit to Great Meadows as part of my year-long photography project. (Before you get despondent, read to the end).

Sometimes, it seemed like today would never come; other times it seems like I started this project just yesterday. With the weather cold and grey I wasn't expecting too much from the day, but the refuge had a couple wrap up presents ready.

Starting out everything was either under ice, or covered with frost.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111227 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111227 &emdash;


As I approached the Poison Ivy bench, I noticed something unusual on top of a muskrat lodge. At first I thought it might be a Red Tailed Hawk, but it quickly flew revealing the tell tale white stripe of a Northern Harrier. It did a couple of air show flight passes for the photographer before landing again on the lodge.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111227 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111227 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111227 &emdash;


Wandering further along side the Upper Impoundment, I spied a group of male Wood Ducks swimming in the river. In a rare reversal of roles, I actually saw them, before they saw me and was able to click off a couple quick shots. Further down the river near the lower impoundment a group of Goldeneyes were swimming downstream.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111227 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111227 &emdash;


Of course there were still the inevitable Canada Geese. Some of the geese from the refuge take off, just to land a short distance away in the adjoining river. In spots ice is forming along the edge of the river.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111227 &emdash;
Taking his morning constitutional

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111227 &emdash;
A conga line


Of course there were a couple feeding flocks of our favorite bird feeder birds. The second photo in my first blog post was a Chickadee, so it's only appropriate that one is the next to last photo for the year.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111227 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111227 &emdash;


People have been asking me if I will still be coming to Great Meadows and blogging about my visits, now that my project deadline has arrived. This was my 116th visit. That's slightly over a visit every 3 days. At times, it seemed more like a job, than a hobby; but every worth while endeavor requires its price.

The goal of this project was to help me become a better photographer. As I review the posts from the year, that growth is evident. However, I want to continue to grow which means I need to use these newly honed skills on a variety of different subjects and environments, which will take some time.

What surprised me about this project was how many other things I got out of it that weren't goals. I've learned so much about nature, birding, seeing, and listening. But most of all was the camaraderie and friendships that have grown out of a common love of nature and the special place that is Great Meadows.

So, yes, I plan to continue to photograph at Great Meadows and blog about it...just not with the same intensity or frequency; more like weekly than every couple of days. I hope you will continue to stop by and enjoy the posts.

That leads us to the last photo of the year. It's dedicated to all those of you came along side me this year and supported me; both in person and through the blog. Thank you. We'll continue our journey and our conversation in 2012; after all the Christmas bird count is Jan 2!

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111227 &emdash;

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Feeder Day

With the year drawing to a close, I ventured to Great Meadows again, to see what was there.  With a weather forecast of a high of 50, I envisioned a banner day of photography.  Perhaps, I would see the Virginia Rail reported by David Swain.  Maybe something new or interesting would appear at the refuge.

Initially there was a little excitement.  A harrier in the distance was cruising up the side Upper Impoundment but continued on his path towards, Concord center and Sudbury.   There was something large and different near the trees by the waste water treatment plant...but it turned out to be a bit of tree broken off in last nights thunderstorm, oddly light by the rising sun.

But that was it for excitement.  The warm weather had melted all the ice.  The coots and geese were well dispersed across the impoundments.  I didn't see the Bluebirds and House Finches that had been recently visiting.  Even most of the ducks were either elsewhere, or in hiding.

So in the end, it was a nice walk on a windy, but unseasonably warm day.  Most of the birds that I did photograph, I could have photographed at the bird feeder at home, or at a local park.  Even those that I did photograph often were posed in less than ideal perches and poses.

That's what's interesting about Great Meadows.  Some days are unusual and interesting, others just pedestrian.  You never know which it will be, until you are ready to leave.  Enjoy the photos.


Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111222 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111222 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111222 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111222 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111222 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111222 &emdash;

Monday, December 19, 2011

Ice Capades

Monday morning was sunny and cold. The winds were not scheduled to arrive until late in the morning. Hoping that the cold temperatures, had frozen part of the impoundments and brought birds closer to shore; I bundled up and headed to Great Meadows with my long lens.

Arriving at the refuge, I discovered that the overnight temperatures had been too effective and the impoundments had totally iced over. The ducks had departed to the river, leaving the impoundments to the Canada Geese and the American Coots.

While geese were content to sit upon the ice, until their scheduled departure time; the coots were much more interesting. There were several large groups and a steady stream of coots walking between the groups headed from the far end of the upper impoundment towards the lower impoundment.

Like a person in street shoes trying to cross a hockey rink; walking on ice is a task that coots are singularly ill suited to accomplish. Either they would have difficulties getting going, or once going they could hardly stop. Enjoy this brief video of them in action.



I was sort of hoping that the eagle would stop by, because that would have been a dramatic photographic opportunity. However, I did feel sad for the coots huddling together, trying to stay warm; while suddenly locked out of their food pantry. In the end I was glad the eagle didn't appear.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

If you don't like coots, you can stop now. However, since today was so different. I tried to enjoy capturing them as they dealt with the icy conditions.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;
Notice the ice crystals on some of their backs. Is this frozen from some of their last dives?


After a while the purpose of their walking became obvious. They were in search of open water and food. The migration continued to the edge of the Cross Dike Trail. Unfortunately, the passing joggers scared them back into the upper impoundment. Finally they prevailed.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;


As Will pointed out the Coots are more like Rails than Ducks because they preferred to walk rather than fly. Late in the morning the wind started to pick up and they were forced to fly more. This provided some rare photos of them in flight.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;


Maintaining their footing was especially challenging between the slippery ice and the forceful gusty winds.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;


The temperature warmed ever so slightly opening some water in the lower impoundment. A group of coots discovered that the water was still flowing under the Cross Dike Trail bridge. I almost didn't want to bother them, but after getting some close up photos, I had to pass over the bridge on last time to head home.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111219 &emdash;

Sunday, December 18, 2011

One Cold Day

The weather report for the beginning of the week looks less than ideal for photography. Today was supposed to be sunny, but cold. The overnight low of 19F was sure to bring ice to the impoundments. So I made my plans to wake up before dawn, dash to the refuge for a little photography, and then dash back home to change and head to church.

I should know better than trust a weather forecast. When I arrived at Great Meadows at sunrise, they had gotten the cold part right, very right; but rather than clear skies there was a lot of broken cloud cover.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111218 &emdash;
Parts of the lower impoundment were frozen, with wind blown patterns

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111218 &emdash;
Elsewhere it was a mix of ice and open water



It was so cold, you wanted to get out of the shade into the sunny portion of the refuge. Of course that means shooting back into the sun. So here are a few silhouettes.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111218 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111218 &emdash;


Suddenly the light started to get better as the sun started to peak out from the clouds which were starting to break up. With an interesting sky, I found a place to catch that reflecting back in the impoundment. Do you like the portrait (first) or landscape (second) better?

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111218 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111218 &emdash;


Near the outflow of the lower impoundment, there was a group of Canada Geese and American Coots hugging the lee side of the reeds. Intermixed among them, were some Ring-necked Ducks.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111218 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111218 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111218 &emdash;


Though I have lots of Canada Geese photos, you have to shoot something to make the finger numbing, bone chilling walk in the cold worth while. Several groups departed quite close to where I was standing, so I got some nice tight shots of geese in flight.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111218 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111218 &emdash;
The Canadian Snowbirds don't fly patterns this tight


Watching geese preen can be entertaining. But with such cold temperatures, I wasn't going to stick around for a lot of these type photos.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111218 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20111218 &emdash;


In spite of blasting the heater on the way home and a hot shower, I only started to feel warm towards the end of the sermon. I remember some cold days last winter, but none quite this painful.