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;