Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Quiet Visit

I wasn't planning on stopping by Great Meadows today. In fact, I drove into Mt Auburn Cemetery with one of my friends to see if we could photograph the Great Horned Owl. Unfortunately, the owl was not very cooperative in its choice of location, so it was a short day. Frustrated that I was wasting such a sunny day, I stopped by the refuge.

Great Meadows was exceedingly quiet. The impoundments were frozen over except for the flowing water near the bridge. I was amazed that I couldn't see any coots, either at the impoundments or in the river. However, just as I was leaving, I saw one on the backside of the reeds near the bridge.

Looking out over the lower impoundment, I noticed the tops of the trees were much redder from last year's new growth and the early signs of budding.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120125 &emdash;

One animal you are almost always guaranteed to see is the Downy Woodpecker. Today was no different. I decided to include one photo with its nictating membrane (third eyelid) which descends whenever it is pecking wood.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120125 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120125 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120125 &emdash;

Down by the river I spied an Eastern Screech Owl sunning itself. Unfortunately there were too many branches between the path and the tree to capture a good photograph...but the discovery made the walk worthwhile.

Most of the geese and ducks have relocated down to the river. Even there ice is starting to encroach on their territory.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120125 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120125 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120125 &emdash;
A pair of black ducks


To amuse myself and to ensure I came back with a couple photographs, I did snap off a couple shots of mushrooms growing on trees.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120125 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120125 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120125 &emdash;

All in all, it wasn't a spectacular day for photography, but it was a pleasant walk and a positive move towards keeping my New Year's resolution of getting more exercise. Hopefully, this will help tide you over until your next visit.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tastes Like Chicken

It was a very windy morning as I joined Will and Kathy for the weekly bird census. The wind was gusting up to 50 miles an hour which made for a cold walk and fewer birds.

When we first arrived a Northern Harrier was feasting on the carcasses of two dead coots on the edge of the open water in the lower impoundment. This isn't a good month for coots, we later saw 4 other carcasses floating in the upper impoundment. With the purpose of the day being birding not photography and with the gusty wind, I though it prudent to not bring my 500mm, so you'll have to satisfy yourself with some crops from my zoom lens.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120118 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120118 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120118 &emdash;


This is the harrier with the stick in the back, affectionately nicknamed "Spike". However, we have since learned that it is a female. Somehow Spike no longer seems appropriate. May I suggest her nickname become "Stiletto". Even she wanted to find shelter from the gusty breezes. We later saw her resting in the cattails on the lee side of the trees.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120118 &emdash;


The gusty winds started last night and there were downed branches along the road and on the impoundments.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120118 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120118 &emdash;
Broken windblown trees are nothing new at the refuge. This one is an impressive home for moss & fungi.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120118 &emdash;
This cute red squirrel didn't seem to mind the cold breeze

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120118 &emdash;
Hairy Woodpecker

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120118 &emdash;
Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120118 &emdash;
I thought this was interesting. It appears that there is either snow/frost or trapped air bubbles on the stones captured under the ice.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Radio Controlled

Frustrated that I had missed Monday's exciting action of Eagles, Peregrines, Harriers and Goshawks I wandered over to Great Meadows,Tuesday morning hoping that maybe one or two of these may make a return visit.

The eagle was perched in the tree at the near end of the Cross Dike Trail. Unfortunately he was on the wrong side of the tree for good photos. He flushed when a walker arrived and flew down the river.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120110 &emdash;

Far across the lower impoundment this harrier was cruising. At first I thought it had a radio antenna attached, but looking at the photographs more closely, I believe it is a stick. These are extreme crops, so you can reach your own conclusion.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120110 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120110 &emdash;

While standing on the deck in the freezing cold (where was that sun they were predicting) with fellow observers I took a few shots to entertain myself.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120110 &emdash;
This coot appears to have some cattail reed fluff frozen to his beak. Funny how coots would rather walk 1/2 across an impoundment rather than fly for 10 seconds.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120110 &emdash;
Lotus pod on the ice

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120110 &emdash;
The eagle returned and perched in one of the pines near the maintenance barn. Later something on the ice caught his attention before flying away.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Not What I Was Looking For

Though I am sick, I ran over to Great Meadows for a quick photography visit. I hoped to confirm that the Screech Owl remained and to catch him early enough that his eyes would be fully open. Failing that, I was hoping that the Bald Eagle would come visit the Coots clustered in the open water of the impoundments. Final score - Birds:2 Larry:nil

The day wasn't a total wash out. Here's what I did encounter during my cough filled walk.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120107 &emdash;
Downy Woodpecker doing serious construction

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120107 &emdash;
Female Bufflehead among the Canada Geese on the river

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120107 &emdash;
Did the refuge tile the spillway?

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120107 &emdash;
Lotus pods frozen in the ice. Waiting for the thaw and flooding to take it to its new home

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120107 &emdash;
Song Sparrow on Cattail


I made one last pass, by the "owl hole" but the owl still wasn't there. While hanging around hoping that maybe he would show, this Red-bellied Woodpecker started working on a dying tree in the background. The sun was making his red head shine.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120107 &emdash;
Redbellied Woodpecker

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Off The Market

Based upon Cherrie's report of a Bald Eagle enjoying Coot Tartare for lunch at Great Meadows yesterday, I wandered over to the refuge to see if I could catch it in action. When I arrived, I ran into Will who told me that the eagle had visited the refuge very early this morning.

The refuge was almost totally frozen over, with little obvious animal activity. Thankfully, Will reported that we had a new visitor in the neighborhood. During the Christmas Bird Count, we heard a Screech Owl. During today's census, Will noticed that one had moved back into the hole vacated by the last Screech Owl.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120105 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120105 &emdash;


It's a Red Morph Eastern Screech Owl. I did have a little difficulty finding it. I wasn't expecting it to be filling the whole hole! I'll have to try again earlier in the day to catch it with its eyes open.

I continued around the impoundments all the way to Borden's Pond. There really wasn't much activity, a couple of Chickadees, the Canada Geese in the field across the river, a couple of Downy Woodpeckers, and two pairs of Mallards floating with the current.

On the way back to the car, I stopped to enjoy the Coots waling and slipping on the ice, as they foraged for vegetation and congregrated at the few spots of open water.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120105 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120105 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120105 &emdash;


Of course our strange winter weather is forecast to continue. This weekend there will be a warming trend, providing more water for the coots, encouraging them to the remain for a while longer. I guess that's okay.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Christmas Bird Count

It was o'dark thirty when I woke up Monday morning. I was starting to question the wisdom of agreeing to participate in the annual Christmas Bird Count group counting the East Concord area which includes Great Meadows. Thankfully, it wasn't brutally cold, as I arrived at the refuge at 5:30AM. The sun would not be arising for another 2 hours, but everyone was there to see which owls we could count. With a bit of patience, a Screech Owl was heard near the neighborhood, and a Great Horned Owl in the distance.

At last light was starting to spread over the refuge as we started to venture out into the refuge. We hadn't made it to the kiosk before David spied this mature bald eagle high in the trees at the near end of the Cross Dike trail. When it has visited in the past it has always perched towards the far end of the Upper Impoundment. While we were able to get good looks with binoculars and scopes, it was a bit far for the lens I brought. It eventually moved on (after doing a fly by scaring the coots) and we proceeded.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120102 &emdash;

As we made our way onto the dike there were the usual Canada Geese, Coots, and Sparrows along the way. I was clearly the novice among this group of birders, but it was interesting to watch and listen as they learned from each other. In the early morning light, I took this group photo.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120102 &emdash;
(l-r) Allison, David, Bryan, Scott, Julia, Claudio

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120102 &emdash;
"Heavy" coming in for a landing, Expect wake turbulence

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120102 &emdash;
Approaching front, about to pass thru


While we were stopped next to one of the trees on the Cross Dike, this Downy flew in to count the Christmas Counters.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120102 &emdash;

At the far end of the Cross Dike trail, the group split and my group covered the Lower Impoundment, Timber Trail, and the Railroad Bed up to the treatment plant. Along the Timber Trail Connector (my new name for the ad hoc trail used by the neighbors to connects the Timber Trail to the Rail Trail) we discovered a new tree down across the path.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120102 &emdash;
I found the pattern of fungi interesting

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120102 &emdash;
Proof that man may try to impact things, but slowly and surely nature will have its way in the end


The day was more about birding than photography, so you'll have to be content with these few grab shots. The good news was that when we arrived home from Rochester, my repaired D300 was sitting on the steps. The bad news was that the repair reset all the settings in the camera, so much time during and after the walk was spent getting it set up to function the way I need it, to take the photos you enjoy.