Friday, January 28, 2011

A Crystalline Morning

At long last, there was no new snow to shovel.  No bitter cold that would freeze skin in minutes.  So this morning it was time to bundle up, strap on the snow shoes and see what was new at Great Meadows.  


I'm glad I got there fairly early.  The sun was still low in the sky, reflecting off the snow and hoarfrost clinging to the trees and plants making them sparkle.  A few hours later that frost was all scattered at the base of the plants.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110128 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110128 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110128 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110128 &emdash;

Several people had been cross country skiing or snowshoeing since the storm ended yesterday, so I didn't have to totally break new trail.  However, the further you got from the parking lot; the less traveled the path.  On the back side of the lower impoundment, someone decided to grace the trail with a snow angel.




Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110128 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110128 &emdash;

I didn't see a lot of animal activity.  Black-capped chickadees were pretty prevalent.  The quiet of the morning was broken by quite a few blue jays constantly scolding me for visiting.  Later in the morning their calls were replaced by the constant calling of crows.


By the tracks in the snow you could see where the coyote made the rounds of the impoundments and the river looking for food after the storm.  It looks like he personally visited each of the muskrat and beaver lodges hoping to gain a meal.


Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110128 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110128 &emdash;

Completing a loop of the lower impoundment, I ventured back to the bridge on the dike to see if any creatures were hanging around the open water.  Unfortunately, before I could get within camera range, the Great Blue Heron saw me an flew away.  I'm still shut out in my quest to get a good shot of it in the snow.  
Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110128 &emdash;

However, the Marsh Wrens were feeding and drinking from the water.  It was great to finally get a good photo of one.  I guess in the winter they are a lot less camera shy.  Last summer, they tortured me, constantly calling from the reeds, but rarely making themselves visible for more than a brief moment.


Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110128 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110128 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110128 &emdash;

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Quiet Morning

Waking up early, I was motivated by the pretty sunrise, and the moon setting in the early morning light to get up and get going.  The weather is supposed to be poor the next couple days, so I high tailed it to GMNWR to see what was up.

Strapping on my cross country skis, I was soon skiing up the old railroad bed.  The only noise was the sound of my skis.  It was a quiet morning.  There were no signs of life at last year's screech owl nest, no woodpeckers on the Timber Trail, and only a few chickadees chattering way off in the distance.  As I neared the impoundment, I could hear several crows mobbing a hawk off in the woods, but there was still nothing to see.

Skiing around the impoundment, there were signs of mammal life - fresh rabbit and coyote tracks, probably some others that I didn't recognize too, but no mammals.  There was the occasional sparrow or chickadee to photograph, but nothing special.  So I entertained myself photographing the cat tails beaten down by the wind and decorated with snow.  



Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110120 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110120 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110120 &emdash;

Nearing the holt, I started to encounter some photogenic downey woodpeckers in the trees.  Continuing on, there was one very determined (and probably hungry) chickadee working over the cat tails.



Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110120 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110120 &emdash;

Since the sun was warm, rather than returning to parking lot, I followed the path along the upper impoundment.  Boy am I glad I did!

As I approached the bench I noticed small birds flying around.  So when I got there I just stopped and sat.  After a while they started to return.  Boy was I glad they did.  Six to eight Eastern Bluebirds returned to feast upon the Winterberries.  Once they got used to my presence, they were more interested in eating that worrying about me and my camera.


Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110120 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110120 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110120 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110120 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110120 &emdash;

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Sense of Place

I've often seen the signs on the kiosk listing Cherrie Corey's Sense of Place walks at Great Meadows NWR, but my schedule and pressing items always seemed to interfere.  Imagine my surprise Saturday, when not only did my schedule cooperate, but my wife thought that a walk in 18" of snow, temperatures in the mid twenties, and a good breeze would actually be fun.


So it was bundling up in layers, and off to Great Meadows we went.  If you get the opportunity I suggest you go.  I learned quite a bit.  That was with everything covered in a blanket of snow.  I can only imagine what Cherrie could have told us when things are blooming and the action hoping.  I would recommend making a place in your schedule to go on one (or more).


It was interesting to see the contrast in only two days.  Right after the storm there were very few footprints, Saturday there were tons; birds, mice, deer, coyote and even human footprints criss-crossed the marsh.  One of my favorite photos is of footprints that then caught the wind, creating little tufts of snow & ice, while the surrounding snow was blown away.  The remaining snow formed a serpentine curve that was reminiscent of a backbone.


There were about 15-20 people on Saturday's walk.  But we weren't the only people braving the elements.  The parking lot was quite full as many people were there cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, and even just plain old walking.


As night was falling and we returned back to the parking lot sparrows were drinking at the open water near the bridge.  They seemed more interested in drinking than people, so you could get fairly close.  Unfortunately, it was tough to take any good photos with the rapidly fleeting light.  I'll have to go back soon.


Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110115 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110115 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110115 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110115 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110115 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110115 &emdash;

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Day After the Big Storm

I've always wondered what Great Meadows was like right after a major snow storm.  So today, I got up with the sun, intent on learning what it was like.  My first surprise was arriving  there to find it had not yet been plowed!  As I headed to get some coffee, the US F&WS plow showed up.  In no time, he had the lot open & I had my snow shoes on to explore. 


While I may have been first in the lot, several of the neighbors appeared to have already visited with their cross country skis.  Snowshoeing is a lot harder than it looks.  I was hoping to get down by the boat ramp to get some photos of the trees with snow still on them, but my the time I got down there the wind and sun had whipped most of it off.


The snow had drifted and blown, carving some interesting patterns into the snow.  The cattail reeds were weighted down with snow, though some appeared to be frosted.  There were lots of foot prints in the snow, but not many animals visible.  I missed the Great Blue Heron, but could see where he had stopped by to check the open water, both near the parking lot and the lower impoundment.   Most of the animals were still hunkered down, though there were a fair number of chickadees and sparrows around.


Light Chronicle | Photography: 20110113 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: 20110113 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: 20110113 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: 20110113 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: 20110113 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: 20110113 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: 20110113 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: 20110113 &emdash;

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Cold & Windy Day

Arriving at Great Meadows, it was 25 degrees and windy.  I had bundled up in several layers, but after a few minutes walking towards the impoundments, I realized that if I wanted to stay out for more than a few minutes I needed some additional gear.  A pair of nylon wind pants made the legs feel warmer as well as adding a second pair of gloves.  Of course now that my hands were warm, it was more challenging to operate the camera.

The morning light was beautiful as it light up the reeds a golden color.  As the sun started to rise, it became more enjoyable to be outside.  However, if you got out of the sun but still in the wind, you could feel it cut through you like a knife.

Today, I took time to explore the Timber Trail since it was sheltered in the woods.  At first, all I saw were long frozen footprints from small animals left after the last storm and lots of their scat.  But, after a while, I stumbled upon a small cluster of dead trees, with light shining on them.  A downy woodpecker didn't seem to mind the attention but continued to occupy himself with eating and expand his holes.  


Light Chronicle | Photography: 20110110-GM &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: 20110110-GM &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: 20110110-GM &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: 20110110-GM &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: 20110110-GM &emdash;

Monday, January 3, 2011

A New Year

With my Dad's illness, passing and helping Mom with the transition, I really haven't spent much time with my camera over the last couple months. The new year, brings new starts. Today, I first went to Town Hall with my wife Amy to watch as she took out nomination papers to run for Town Clerk. Then since I've got a new wide angle lens it was off to Great Meadows to test it out. Walking around the impoundments seemed like a good way to ponder my New Year's resolutions and goals for 2011.

It was a brilliant, sunny but cold day. Much of the Christmas week snow storm has melted. The paths are well trodden and the footprints have all turned to ice. At first it seems like not much is going on, but as you stop, listen and observe you slowly start to see life. You'll hear birds rustling in the reeds. Waiting patiently finally some Chickadees will start to make themselves clear as the feast upon the tender core of cat o nine tails. Geese huddle on the ice to stay warm, but then move on swimming away. A red squirrel forages for food.

Walking to the far end of the lower impoundment, I meet Michael Kolodny another photographer who was watching a Great Blue Heron feed in the outlet stream to the Concord River which was not yet frozen over. Unfortunately, the space between the path and the heron is crowded with branches, so it was tough to get a clear shot.




Light Chronicle | Photography: Great Meadow Blog &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: Great Meadow Blog &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: Great Meadow Blog &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: Great Meadow Blog &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: Great Meadow Blog &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: Great Meadow Blog &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: Great Meadow Blog &emdash;