Monday, June 27, 2011

A Quiet Morning

The sun had been up for 45 minutes when I arrived at Great meadows this morning. It was quiet. The water was calm. There was no wind. So after a couple quick squirts of bug spray, I wandered to see what I could photograph.

The Great Blue Heron was by the bridge. Uncharacteristically he wasn't in the water. When I stepped on the bridge the water started churning as large carp scrambled in each direction. A little further up the dike it seemed like 30 geese were congregating. Some were starting their morning hygiene rituals. I liked in this silhouette how the tips of the feathers are separated as it flapped after dunking several times.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110627 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110627 &emdash;


The Cat Tail Reeds are getting quite tall, so it's tough to see out into the impoundments except where there are openings, or benches to stand upon. Today, my eye seemed to be attracted to small little details and the way the morning light shone upon objects.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110627 &emdash;
I liked the reflection off the back and the contrast with the cat tail.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110627 &emdash;
The light makes all the feather detail visible...this made up for the lousy location.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110627 &emdash;
I first noticed how the dew on the grape leaves beaded on the tips of the leaves. The pattern leads you around to the fly.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110627 &emdash;
I was hoping this was a Double Tooth Prominent because of the leaf...but I was wrong.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110627 &emdash;
My guide to Massachusetts Dragon and Damselflies is on order. This is a Damselfly.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110627 &emdash;
The bees were busy pollinating the Milk Weed

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110627 &emdash;
Daisy Fleabane

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110627 &emdash;
I love the detail on the cap

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110627 &emdash;
A caught this chipmunk dashing into his den...then waited for him to poke his head out

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110627 &emdash;
An adolescent gosling, looking more like an adult than a chick.



Some other highlights of my walk that eluded photographic capture included more sightings of the Virginia Rail, the Belted Kingfisher was hanging out on the snag in the river near the river refuge entrance, there was also another rail that I couldn't see well enough to identify in the reeds near the river entrance.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Reunited

At long last my beloved Nikon D300 has been repaired and returned. I've been dying to give it a work out at Great Meadows. When the weather was good, my Achilles was acting up and I could barely walk. Now that my foot is fine the weather has been rainy. Today the weather was just drizzly, so in spite of everything I headed to the refuge mid-morning.

The parking lot was pretty deserted, but the US F&WS crew soon arrived with their pickups, canoes, and personal flotation devices. This crew was pulling the water chestnuts. I had been hoping they were going to look for volunteers like last year. I thought it would be cool to bring my camera along. If the sun ever comes out these kids will have a great tan by the time they finish.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110624 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110624 &emdash;

While the weather wasn't cooperating, this Marsh Wren was. This pose with the Marsh Wren grasping two reeds is a classic.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110624 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110624 &emdash;

A little further down the Dike Trail, I encountered a Red-Winged Blackbird in a tree. I was amazed at how close I was able to get before he decided to fly. (This photo is not cropped.)

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110624 &emdash;


On the backside of the upper impoundment I encountered the Virginia Rail. When I first saw them the mother and baby were nearby. The baby was a cute black cotton ball of a bird. Mom quickly escorted the baby deeper into the reeds where light and prying eyes do not penetrate.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110624 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110624 &emdash;

At the end of the path I encountered this young bird that encountered its untimely demise. Another reminder of the circle of life at the refuge.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110624 &emdash;

As I was leaving I spent some time with the Great Blue Heron that hangs out by the Dike Trail bridge. Because many people that pass by here, it has gotten habituated to people. Unless you make a sudden movement, it will allow you to get so much closer than your average Great Blue Heron. After getting a good full length photo (from the tips of its submerged toes to the top of its head), I proceeded to work on capturing some detail photos. I especially like the way the chest feathers look. When the heron opened its mouth, I discovered that it still contained feathers from its preening.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110624 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110624 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110624 &emdash;


It was good to get out even if the weather was wet and cold. I originally had so many ideas planned for this week, I hope the weather improves so I can try to get to some of them next week.

Friday, June 17, 2011

An Evening with the Blanding's

Last month's trapping expedition with the the Blanding's Turtle researchers was a precursor to tonight. In the early evening, I joined Bryan Windmiller, along with some students and educators from Concord to track and hopefully protect nesting Blanding's Turtles. They trap the turtles to find females so they can attach radio transmitters to their shells. Tonight, we will track those females to see who is nesting and hopefully protect their nest.

Before setting out Bryan shows everyone a Blanding's that a neighbor found on their lawn shortly before our arrival. This female's radio had failed, so it was going spend a night in a turtle B&B, receive a new transmitter in the morning, and be released to lay her eggs.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110616PM &emdash;

Because this is nesting season the females are tracked each evening. If they are still in the water they won't be nesting this evening. They search for those on land to see if they are nesting.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110616PM &emdash;
Each turtle has their own frequency. Notice the unfortunate note that one died crossing Route 62.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110616PM &emdash;
At each stop directional antennas and receivers are used to listen for each turtle's frequency.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110616PM &emdash;
Knowing who is still in the impoundments, we're off to the neighborhoods.


The Blanding's Turtles like soft sandy soil to lay their eggs. They seem to prefer a sunnier, south facing location for their nest.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110616PM &emdash;
Getting permission to go on home owner's property. Ironically, this is the home of one of the Fourth Grade teachers whose class has Head Started Blandings.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110616PM &emdash;
This turtle was found hiding in a person's garden of lilies. Checking every hour or two, they determined that she wasn't ready to nest, but this is where she was spending the night.


The Blanding's Turtles can walk quite a distance to nest. The one we are searching for is near the office park on Virginia Road. That's about 1.5 miles from the refuge. This turtle had to risk her life crossing both Route 62 and Virginia Road. Finding her was challenging because the radio signal was bouncing off the buildings.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110616PM &emdash;
Last year, she nested in the petunias right by the front door.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110616PM &emdash;
Found 2031 wandering through the woods

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110616PM &emdash;
The distinctive yellow neck identifies a Blanding's


As night set in, the children's bed time was rapidly approaching. Tomorrow is a school day, so they left to go home. Diane Kablik, Concord's Elementary Science Curriculum Specialist and Susan Erikson a fourth grade teacher from the Thoreau school preserved on.

Diane has been working with the Blanding's program since 2009 and last year secured a National Science Teacher's grant to bring the program to all eleven of Concord's fourth grade classes. Susan's class entered the Disney Planet Challenge this year where they were awarded second place nationally. Her class not only collected and analyzed data while head starting their turtles, but became advocates for the turtles in Concord. They raised awareness in the neighborhoods where Blanding's nest and the rest of the town through stories, brochures, posters, and podcats.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110616PM &emdash;
Susan is reading out transmitter frequencies and making notes when turtles are found, while Diane is holding the flashlight.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110616PM &emdash;
Looking for turtles from the tower. John is with Zoo New England Head Started 10 of the turtles released this year.


Back on the road, we check up on where the turtles on land have moved to and what they are doing. It appears that tonight 2031 will be nesting.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110616PM &emdash;
2031 was found nesting near by. Sorry but I couldn't use the flash over concern that it would bother her nesting. We'll check back on her later.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110616PM &emdash;
The proud mother after she had laid her eggs. She can be 25% lighter after laying eggs. Blanding's are meticulous landscapers and can take 1.5 hours covering the nest and rearranging the grass and leaves.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110616PM &emdash;
Bryan and John use twigs to mark the edges of the nest.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110616PM &emdash;
The nest is secured with a thick, metal screen to protect it from predators. 2031 thinks she's still on the nest and is covering the ground behind her with dirt.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110616PM &emdash;
The screen is anchored with large staples to keep out predators. In a couple weeks the nest will be outfitted with thermal data loggers which will help Bryan know when the eggs are ready to hatch.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110616PM &emdash;
Almost midnight, 2031's work done. As a reward she got a free ride across Virginia Road. She'll send overnight visiting the swamp there before continuing on. Hopefully she will cross Route 62 without problems


The whole evening was exciting. There was the intrigue of who was where and whether they were nesting. It was like being let in on a secret. While most everyone ended their day and headed to bed, we got a special glimpse into part of the circle of life. That alone would have made the night one of my most memorable experiences.

An appetizing side dish on the evening was when we were up in the tower. The night air was warm. The large chorus of frogs drowned out the typical man made noises. Below us in the reeds fire flies danced in a luminous ballet.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110616PM &emdash;
A 6 second exposure made by placing my camera across the corner of the tower. The long exposure makes the sky look brighter than is actual was.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What's Bruin At Great Meadows

Sorry, for the lousy pun, but it was thrilling last night to watch the Bruins win their first Stanley Cup since I was a youth. It was with mixed emotions that I went to bed; elated that the Bruins won, dreading the alarm set for 5:45AM. Roy had emailed the camera club that he was going to be at Great Meadows at 6:30AM and welcomed anyone who wanted to join him. I caught up with him and Lou shortly after they arrived.

A Great Blue Heron was fishing in the water next to the bridge. My friends got their fill of heron shots, reflection shots, and even a few heron portraits. Moving on to cross the bridge the bird finally felt unsafe and flew away...towards me. Learning from prior mistakes, this time I was prepared and got a couple good photographs, in the early morning light.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110616 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110616 &emdash; >

Around the refuge it was quiet. Photographically, there weren't a lot of subjects of interest. Most of the shots that were available were not as good as others that I have previously taken.

Wandering into the woods at the end of the upper impoundment we surprised a Belted Kingfisher which flew away. We found it a few moments later in the neighboring pond. As Roy and Lou tried to stealthily approach the bird, I stayed on the far shore. I was able to get these flight shots as the bird flew off when two joggers came thundering by.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110616 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110616 &emdash;

Back near the center Dike Trail two families of geese were busy walking the path. The young goslings are growing fast. This family seems to have weather predators without too much impact.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110616 &emdash;

As the weather becomes warmer you are starting to see Dragonflies and Damselflies. The few that you do encounter are usually busy flying back and forth. They are just now starting to light upon flowers and reeds. I have to add learning about identification of these insects to my growing To Do list. I've been told that while resting Dragonflies keep their wings outstretched but Damselflies fold their's back along their body
.
Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110616 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110616 &emdash;

Starting All Over Again

Except for Sunday's Caterpillar walk, I pretty much had to take a week long break from my Great Meadows project for medical reasons. Monday's procedure went well and by Wednesday afternoon I was chomping at the bit to get photographing again.

My hope was that some of the nesting birds I knew of would still be there, so I could get some more photos for my catalog. Unfortunately, the Chickadees, Wood Thrushes, and Robins had all fledged and the nests were empty. I was saddened when I got to the snag with the Tree Swallow nest. Where there had previously been two holes was now one big gapping hole which looks like some predator helped themselves to a dinner of eggs or young chicks. This snag was close to where I had encountered turtle eggs that had been dug up and opened.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110615 &emdash;

That made me feel like the male end of the cat tail reeds which in three short days are starting to droop, shrivel and soon will fall off.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110615 &emdash;

So I was back at square one. I was going to have to see with fresh eyes. I started slowly. At Great Meadows planes are often seen flying overhead. Today they seemed to be coming in low. With all the problems of birds striking planes, I never could understand the wisdom of aligning an airport runway with a wildlife refuge.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110615 &emdash;

After a while, I started to notice that the setting sun was making the ordinary look interesting.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110615 &emdash;
Who says autumn has a lock on colored leaves?

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110615 &emdash;
I'm not a big fan of the Mute Swans, but they do look good in the evening light

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110615 &emdash;
This duck landed in the water next to the Dike Path bridge. Uncharacteristically, it was more interested in personal hygiene than concerned about people.


Checking in the reeds, I found this Great Blue Heron which was trying to ambush dinner. Nearby, while looking for Marsh Wrens, I encountered a fledgling Red-Winged Blackbird. The identification was easy based upon the way the parents reacted when I paused to take the photo

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110615 &emdash;


Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110615 &emdash;

As the sun was sinking closer to the horizon, and the shadows and exposure times were growing longer, I wandered back to the tower. A Rose-breasted Grosbeak hopped up into the setting sunlight for a brief moment. An unsolved mystery is where all the fur came from? It does not match many of the animals. On the other hand, since dogs are not allowed in the refuge it shouldn't be from someone grooming their dog.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110615 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110615 &emdash;