Thursday, March 31, 2011

Flight School

Wednesday morning found me at Great Meadows just as the sun was starting to rise above the tree line.  I hoped to get some good photos of the Canada Geese as they started to take-off and leave for the day.  Photographing geese taking off is periods of  boredom, sandwiching periods of absolute terror as you try to aim, compose and capture the birds departing.  (Definitely click on this photo to see the larger version!)

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110330 &emdash;

Canada Geese help the photographer by generally starting honking to each other.  Like they are exhorting each other, "Hey, let's get going!", "Yes, I'm getting hungry", "What are we waiting for?"  Then as the honking reaches its peak, a group burst forth, and blasts off into the air.  If you can figure out the ring leaders, you actually stand a chance of getting some reasonable shots.  A lot of the geese are starting to pair off and stake out their territory, soon they will start building nests.



Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110330 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110330 &emdash;

I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived to find a group of Snow Geese clustered in the midst of the Canada Geese.  Unfortunately, I assumed that all geese would behave the same way regarding departure.  So I was almost caught by surprise, when out of the relative silence, the Snow Geese just up and departed.



Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110330 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110330 &emdash;

Photographing birds in flight is challenging.  I've been working into it, starting first by photographing the "slow" moving planes and jets leaving Hanscom, then progressing on to the larger birds like Geese and Swans, then the slower moving gulls, soaring hawks and Osprey.  Occassionally I can capture a fast moving duck in flight, but that's still equal parts luck and skill.  Today gave me a chance to practice on all the living birds.



Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110330 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110330 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110330 &emdash;

Another sign of spring is the return of the joggers.  These two women were serious joggers, as they did multiple laps of the impoundment.
Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110330 &emdash;

After photographing the various departing birds, it was time for my personal lap of the impoundment.  In the water there were Mallards, Ring-necked Ducks, and Hooded Mergansers.



Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110330 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110330 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110330 &emdash;

Mean while on land there were the ubiquitous Red-winged Blackbirds, some sparrows, and a bush full of Tree Swallows.


Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110330 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110330 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110330 &emdash;


My favorite of the morning may have been the Mourning Dove, that pretty much ignored me and went about his business.  It was one of those rare times that the bird was getting too close and I needed to zoom out to keep the bird in the frame.



Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110330 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110330 &emdash;

An Osprey made a quick visit, but it didn't say long.  Within just a couple moments it had found and caught its prey and departed for home.  There was one last sign of spring as I was departing, that was the arrival of a family with children.


Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110330 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110330 &emdash;

Vitamin D and A Mental Health Morning

Last week was busy.  A long to do list awaits me for the coming week.  After spending Saturday locked in a dark room all day viewing nature photography images, I just had an overwhelming urge to spend some time outdoors, get some sun (albeit cold sun) and some fresh air.  So Monday morning found me at Great Meadows checking out the water levels, seeing what was new, and taking a few photographs.

It wasn't a great day for photography.  I had slept in.  In doing so I had missed most of the Canada Geese taking  off.  The sun was getting high so the light was "Eh".  There was a bit of wind, so most of the animals were sheltered on the lee side of the reeds, generally far away from the trails.  Finally, I just wasn't in that great photography zone.

All was not lost.  I learned many things.  The trails were all clear, dry, and frozen, except for the spillway into the upper impoundment.  Here the stepping stones were starting to appear, but boots were still necessary.  Even the US F&WS folks were able to circumnavigate the refuge in their truck.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110328 &emdash;

The muskrats are starting to become active.  You can see them swimming and foraging for food.  I saw my first turtle of the turtle of the year, sunning itself on a rock.  Unfortunately, it was deep in some brambles, preventing all attempts to photograph it.  This Tufted Titmouse was momentarily seeking shelter from the breeze, while enjoying the sun.



Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110328 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110328 &emdash;

The usual duck suspects were still around, though generally out of range.  I did manage to get my first photo of the year of a Green-winged Teal.  Several wood ducks saw me, before I saw them, taking flight and torturing me with their cry as they departed.  The one exception to birds being difficult birds to photograph today was a pair of Mallards that were feeding next to the path, near one of the benches, totally unphased by the passers by.


Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110328 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110328 &emdash;

I had a brief conversation with someone who emotionally shared that he was moving to California, and that today was his last visit to Great Meadows and that he was going to miss visiting this place.  This further reinforced that GMNWR is a special place for many who visit.

On the way back to the parking lot, I noticed this tree that must be one of the tower beavers' favorite foods.  The bark was eaten off for a good foot to eighteen inches all around the trunk.  I also noticed that across the trail near the tree was an aquatic path that the beaver has worn into the reeds headed straight towards their lodge.
Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110328 &emdash;

Friday, March 25, 2011

Terra Spongy

It's been a crazy week.  Mom was in the hospital for a couple days.  The rest of my free time has been occupied preparing to conduct Saturday's Glennie International Nature Photography cometition.  Looking at almost 1,000 beautiful nature images, definitely had me in the frame of mind to sneak over to Great Meadows early this morning for a little photography of my own.

From the tower, you could see the US F&WS staff already out taking the census of birds visiting the impoundments.  There were lots of types of ducks, a griebe, and plenty of Canada Geese.  Unfortunately for me, most of these birds are shy and generally stayed outside camera range.


Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110325 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110325 &emdash;

Several Red-Winged Blackbirds were posing and singing while sitting upon Cat Tail Reeds in the golden light of dawn.  With the light and the pose, I didn't even need my flash.  Normally, they are a bit skittish, but these two birds allowed me to get pretty close.


Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110325 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110325 &emdash;

At the refuge water in a few spots water is still overspilling into the impoundments and over the dike path.  But now you measure the depth in inches, not feer.  Most of the paths are still soggy, reflecting their recent submersion.  With careful walking I was able circumnavigate the lower impoundment and the length of the upper impoundment without water coming over my boots.

The Canada Geese were honking up a storm.  Soon clusters of geese were up and taking to the skies.  Their webbed feet allow them to run along the surface of the water, until they are up to speed and take flight.  Ironically, as one of the gaggles of geese took flight, a C-130 transport plane also lumbered into the sky from Hanscom AFB.  The geese are starting to pair off, however the water level is a little high for them to start building nests.


Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110325 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110325 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110325 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110325 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110325 &emdash;

Species more common to spring were active.  There were plenty of robins and sparrows feeding along the paths.  


Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110325 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110325 &emdash;

I spotted two birds that I hadn't seen yet this year.  First, a small flock of 8 Tree Sparrows were rising, dipping and circling along the reeds along the back of the the lower impoundment.  Later in the morning, two Osprey stopped by to do some fishing.  On the edge of the refuge, I encountered some carp that had been washed or  brought ashore.  Several had obviously been a meal for some other animal.


Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110325 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110325 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110325 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110325 &emdash;

Finally, a few days late, I was finally able to stop by the deck to capture a spring panorama.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110325 &emdash;

First Day Of Spring

Sunday afternoon, I arrived at Great Meadows on a mission.  For my project, I've planned to get a panorama of Great Meadows from the deck, on the Spring & Fall Equinoxes and Summer & Winter Solstice.  Today, was the first of those days.

The parking lot was full of people who were here to enjoy the first day of Spring.  The water level, was still up, but had dropped substantially since my last visit.  Families with children had "repurposed" their winter boots to allow the children to explore in the shallow water.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110320 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110320 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110320 &emdash;

I could see some bare spots on the path along the dike.  Perhaps the goal of reaching the deck was a possibility.
Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110320 &emdash;

I began my journey of wading towards the bridge.    Unfortunately, I made it to within 10 yards of the bridge before the water level was higher than my boots.  So we'll have to settle with a panorama from a different angle.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110320 &emdash;
Disappointed that I couldn't fulfill my mission, Amy & I walked to the lower impoundment outflow to observe the water levels there.  The water was still high there too.  That bridge was also out of reach.  Along the walk we saw one of the last reminders of winter.  In the shade of the forest, a bit of snow, compacted by skis and snowshoes, persisted.
Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110320 &emdash;
On the hike back along the Edge Trail, I heard a drumming sound.  I was expecting to find a woodpecker drilling on a snag.  Instead, I found a Nuthatch furiously working on a branch.  After about 5 minutes of working, he triumphed and left with the object of his efforts.
Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110320 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110320 &emdash;

The geese arrived back for the evening, and we started home.  I was disappointed with the day photographically.  I hadn't achieved my mission. Returning home, I realized that today I missed an opportunity, and hopefully learned a lesson.  I had become focused on the refuge landscape and the animals.  Today was all about people enjoying the refuge - that's what I should have focused on.  All my best shots were those of people, enjoying nature and a sunny day.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110320 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110320 &emdash;