Thursday, July 28, 2011

No Sunset?

I was in the mood for a dramatic sunset. There were some clouds forming on the western horizon, so I headed to Great Meadows late Wednesday afternoon hoping that they would arrive to help form the canvas for a dramatic sunset. Unfortunately, they decided to spend the afternoon in the Berkshires, resulting in a boring sunset.

Though it's summer time and the living is easy, there is always something new at Great Meadows. With the dropping water levels in the Upper Impoundment, shore birds have started to arrive to feed in the mud. This Killdeer was near the first gap in the reeds on the Cross Dike Trail.
Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110727 &emdash;

The water level in the lower impoundment is dropping due to evaporation. The channels are much more clearly defined.
Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110727 &emdash;

Most evenings you may see fishermen near the boat launch, but this is the first time I've encountered a fly fisherman.
Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110727 &emdash;

The setting sun quickly casts long shadows that make photography more challenging. However in this case a gap in the trees cast a spotlight on the Great Blue Heron with the tower and lotus in the background.
Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110727 &emdash;

This red dragonfly is attracted to this red plant where from the right angle it blends into the background.
Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110727 &emdash;

This duck made a surprise landing near where I was standing on the observation deck. Thankfully, my camera had appropriate settings. This is one of my better panning shots. I need to get this down before fall to capture the migrating ducks and geese. Often I pan too fast, sometimes too slow.
Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110727 &emdash;

With all the lotus you might thing that I Photoshopped out the background of this next photo. However, careful positioning the blossom against a patch of inky black water complemented by setting sunlight resulted in a photo that has a fine art feel. It quickly became one of my favorites of this month.
Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110727 &emdash;

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Break From The Heat

The heat wave has broken. So Monday morning, I got up early to see how the refuge had responded to the heat wave. Overall it was a typical warm summer's morning, with a dense cloud cover.

Because it was a Monday there was extra executive jet activity into Hanscom. Whenever you are at Great Meadows you will probably hear an airplane every 10 to 15 minutes. This morning the planes looked pretty as they flew towards the rising sun with the sun reflecting off their metallic skin.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110725 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110725 &emdash;



Out in the upper impooundment the American Lotus are blooming like crazy. However the lower water level is starting to affect the fish that are caught inside. Near the water control gate you could see several carp rapidly approaching the end of their life. There was a funny disturbance in the water. After watching it for a while, I realized that these were catfish schooling.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110725 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110725 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110725 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110725 &emdash;


Insects of all types were busily working away. Here are a few that caught my attention.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110725 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110725 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110725 &emdash;

Out on the Dike Trail, the Swamp Rose Mallow is starting to bloom. These flowers have some of the largest blooms seen along the dike this year.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110725 &emdash;

Among the avian residents it seems like the American Goldfinches are becoming much more active. They seem to be especially attracted to the Evening Primrose.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110725 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110725 &emdash;


Many of the other birds seemed to be a bit quieter, maybe recovering from the heat wave like us. Of course there were a few that were cooperative and had there photo taken.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110725 &emdash;
Yellow Warbler

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110725 &emdash;
Duck with Canada Geese escort

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110725 &emdash;
Eastern Phoebe

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Not How I Planned It

I hoped to beat the thunderstorm to Great Meadows, but I lost. Since it was pouring when I reached Bedford center, we went for breakfast instead. With the cloudy skies after breakfast, we continued on to the refuge. From the tower you could see that the lotus plants have exploded into bloom in the impoundments.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110723 &emdash;

The drained upper impoundment is starting to attract some different birds. Several Great Egrets were hiding among the lotus. While we were talking with Alan, three Green Herons flew in and landed in one of the maples near the tower. Of course, I had the wrong lens ... back to the car for the 500mm. When I returned they dropped into the brush.

All wasn't for naught as this Song Sparrow serenaded us for a few minutes. The Green Herons popped up again and headed to the channel. Two hid in the reeds, while the third wandered in the least photographic area it could find. They day continued like this; some interesting opportunity, followed by something that messed it up.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110723 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110723 &emdash;


Back on the Cross Dike Trail there were plenty of the usual suspects like ducks and geese. There were also some more recent arrivals like this juvenile Viginia Rail and these American Goldfinches.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110723 &emdash;
Canada Goose Landing

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110723 &emdash;
With the temps in the 80s this duck's bill couldn't be cold

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110723 &emdash;
Juvenile Virginia Rail - my how they've grown in 3 weeks

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110723 &emdash;
Goldfinch

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110723 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110723 &emdash;
Female Red-winded Blackbird on Lotus


The Great Egrets and several Great Blue Herons flew to the upper impoundment ditch in the that feeds the water control gate. I seemed to always have the exposure set for an egret when shooting a heron and vice versa. I hope the next time I visit that they'll be closer to the gate. Even with the 500mm they were a quite far away. Some how, one Great Blue Heron snuck up the canal to go fishing. I did manage to catch him as he caught lunch.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110723 &emdash;
Great Egret

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110723 &emdash;
A Great Meadows classic view of lotus and the tower...need to take it again when people are on the tower


Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110723 &emdash;
Great Blue Heron with Lunch

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Census

Weekly, volunteers get together to count the various species of birds found at Great Meadows Concord. The results of the census are shared with other Massachusetts birders via the MassBird list. The results are also entered in the ebird a database of North American bird observations sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society.

Reading the census reports for a day that I've visited the refuge, I've been impressed about how many more species of birds they see. Curious about the process, I joined Kathy Dia, Will Martens, and Alan Bragg in the parking lot at 6:30AM to get a birder's perspective of Great Meadows and learn some of their secrets of success. David Swain joined us in progress and Clayton Swanson's BBC group also provided some observations.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110720 &emdash;
Front to Back - Will, Kathy & Alan checking out the Wood Ducks on the Cross Dike Trail

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110720 &emdash;
Looking for the Least Bittern (Not) at the "Poison Ivy Bench"

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110720 &emdash;
Will and Kathy checking for birds at the Upper Impoundment Spillway


I am glad they allowed me to tag along. I was amazed at how they are able to identify birds. I learned so much. Probably half of the sightings start with recognizing a birds call. How they are able to hear a Willow Flycatcher while all the Red Winged Blackbirds, Robins, Catbirds, and Goldfinches are calling around the refuge at the same time is amazing. Knowing what they are looking for, they can look in the appropriate area to try to see the bird.

Birds in flight were even more amazing. While I was just starting to notice a bird flying, they would generally sight the bird with their binoculars and identify the bird before it disappeared out of view.

Their identifications helped me put names (and quite a few visuals) with the many calls I hear while walking around. This post is a little light on photos since I spent so much of my time observing, and observing the observers. However, I was able to take a few photos to share. (Note any errors in identification are due to my memory, not their skill!)

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110720 &emdash;
Tree Swallows

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110720 &emdash;
Downy Woodpecker

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110720 &emdash;
OSHA would approve - notice the nictating membrane protecting the woodpecker's eye at the moment of impact

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110720 &emdash;
Black-crowned Night-Heron perched seen from boat landing

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110720 &emdash;
Juvenile Eastern Wood Pewee

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110720 &emdash;
Willow Flycatcher


I had to take a photo of this Common Whitetail dragonfly as it posed on a rock. Normally, you only see them hiding in plain sight on the crushed gravel path. It was so rare to see one on a natural background that I had to take the shot.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110720 &emdash;


These were just a few of the 50 different species they identified today. Here's the full list

Great Meadows NWR--Concord Unit, Middlesex, US-MA
Jul 20, 2011 6:15 AM - 11:15 AM
Protocol: Audubon NWR
200.0 ac
2.4 mile(s)
50 species

Canada Goose 90
Mute Swan 2
Wood Duck 21 7 juveniles
Mallard 10
Hooded Merganser 1
Double-crested Cormorant 2
Great Blue Heron 8
Green Heron 1 Upper impoundment, 500' out from the tower in the ditch.
Black-crowned Night-Heron 4 3 flyover, 1 perched seen from boat landing
Red-tailed Hawk 1
American Kestrel 1
Killdeer 2
Spotted Sandpiper 1
Lesser Yellowlegs 6
Least Sandpiper 4
Rock Pigeon 4
Mourning Dove 5
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 9 1 Juvenile
Northern Flicker 4
Eastern Wood-Pewee 2
Willow Flycatcher 3 Observed frequent flying to possible nest site in marsh
Eastern Phoebe 3
Eastern Kingbird 5
Warbling Vireo 11
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Blue Jay 5
American Crow 5
Tree Swallow 9 Juvenile being fed by adult in maple tree just past kiosk on cross-dike trail
Barn Swallow 2
Black-capped Chickadee 11
Tufted Titmouse 3
White-breasted Nuthatch 4
Marsh Wren 23
Wood Thrush 2 Juvenile with adult on RR bed near gate.
American Robin 7
Gray Catbird 8
Cedar Waxwing 3
Yellow Warbler 5
Pine Warbler 1 Near Maintenance Shop
Common Yellowthroat 9 Adult feeding juvenile
Chipping Sparrow 2 near Maintenance Shop
Song Sparrow 11 2 Juvenile
Swamp Sparrow 4
Scarlet Tanager 1 near Maintenance Shop
Northern Cardinal 4
Red-winged Blackbird 200
Common Grackle 40
American Goldfinch 15
House Sparrow 1

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2 (http://ebird.org)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What's The Buzz?

The NECCC Photography conference this weekend was great, but as a result it has been almost a week since my last visit to Great Meadows. The weather has been warm and dry with really hot temps coming later this week. So I figured I would check what was up at Great Meadows before I had to carry as much weight in water as I do in camera gear.

It's always good to get an overview from the tower before wandering out into the refuge. Looking down you can see the effects of draining the upper impoundment. The beavers would have a long walk before they could swim! The lotus in the upper impoundment is starting to bloom. As I started to descend the tower this Eastern Kingbird flew to the dead branches near the tower and posed.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110719 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110719 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110719 &emdash;


As I ventured onto the Dike Trail, I noticed that some of the milk weed has turned to pods, but a lot is still blooming. The buzz of bees was quite audible as I walked. They were everywhere; on the milkweed, on the tick-trefoil, even on the cat tail reeds!

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110719 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110719 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110719 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110719 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110719 &emdash;


The dragon and damselflies were quite active as the temperature started to soar. Maybe it was all the sessions on macro photography that I attended, but I was quite happy to take their photo. The refuge has exploded with varieties of damsel and dragonflies. I will have to dedicate a whole visit to photographing them.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110719 &emdash;
Eastern Forktail

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110719 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110719 &emdash;
Blue Dasher

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110719 &emdash; Damselflies Mating
Eastern Forktails Mating

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110719 &emdash;


(I apologize for any dragon / damselfly identifications I got wrong, my Field Guide Dragonflies and Damselflies on Massachusetts is on order.)

I've learned to expect the unexpected at Great Meadows. Sometimes, my camera even has the right settings to take advantage of the situation. Here are a few from today's visit.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110719 &emdash;
Muskrat with a Large Garden Salad - To Go

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110719 &emdash;
One of four A-10 "Warthogs" that took off from Hanscom (Surprisingly - quieter than most of the executive jet takeoffs)

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20110719 &emdash;
Catbird with Insects Returning to Nest