Monday, August 20, 2012

Joan's Honey Hole

Monday morning it was cold and cool with a hint of the approach of autumn in the air.  Mist hung over the impoundments and was slowly starting to clear.  As I started out the cross dike trail I encountered the bird census crew with binoculars glued on the immature Little Blue Heron.  A few moments later the Black Bellied Whistling Duck made a quick flight settling down close to the cattails.

The count of birds continued up the cross-dike, pausing to take advantage of the openings near the channels.  Looking up I saw Joan Stoner waving to everyone to come to the Observation Deck.  She had spied a Least Sandpiper foraging in the muck at the base of the cattail visible from the ramp.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120820 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120820 &emdash;


That kept everyone entertained for several minutes as everyone studied the bird closely.   Just as we were ready to move on, a Virginia Rail pops out from the same area in the reeds.  

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120820 &emdash;

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120820 &emdash;


The rail didn't linger, but continued walking parallel to the trail, under the walkway until it disappeared into the reeds on the other side.  Everyone waited for a few moments for what Joan had scheduled next, but alas that was it for that spot.  (Of course either one would have been a treat, both was spectacular.)

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I'm not sure whether I like the lotus fully open or in the process of opening better.  This lotus caught my eye as an almost perfect specimen without blemish, the right balance of symmetry and asymmetry.  I guess today I like opening lotus better.

You generally can see the odd cormorant at Great Meadows, but usually they are far in the distance or standing upon one of the duck boxes.  This one, was swimming and diving in the channel reasonably close to the cross dike trail.  

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120820 &emdash;

I was kicking myself for not having charged the batteries in my flash after they died on Sunday.  While I enjoy this shot, I wish that I could have added a kiss of light to open up the shadow on its face and bring out the color of the blue eye.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mowing The Lawn

While that is only one of the many reasons I haven't posted in a while (including driving to Michigan, watching the Olympics, helping with a photo camp, and other activities) that isn't the reason for the title of this post.

If you have been to Great Meadows recently you will notice a couple of pieces of equipment out in the upper impoundment. I ran into Stephanie Koch, a US FWS biologist, the other day and she explained they are trying to mow the American Lotus before it completes making the seed pods, hoping to reduce their reproduction. This will hopefully provide some room for other types of vegetation to fill back in (and attract different sorts of birds).

To accomplish that they have a marsh tractor with a mowing attachment on the back. Before they start work they check on the location of the Blandings Turtles with transmitters. They are mowing as much as they can, but will stay 50 years / feet (my memory fails me) away from the cat tails. That's because the Blandings often will bury in the mud near the cat tails. The lotus they can't cut with the mower, they plan to address with weed wackers...a much slower, laborious process.
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Looks like fun

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120814 &emdash;
A view of the business end

It also appears that they have finished with the work dredging the channel. They are now starting on creating "refugia" - deeper pool areas to provide habitat for the Blandings turtles and other amphibians during those periods when they drain down the impoundments. It looks like it will be good size based upon the pink flags.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120814 &emdash;

You can see the excavator working on the first refugia in the background.

Also popular this month are all the egrets that are at the refuge. Look carefully, you may actually see an immature Little Blue Heron (which is white with a pale grayish, green bill with a black tip and green legs). I thought I had gotten a photo of it in the distance, but upon closer inspection when I got home, I realized that it was a Snowy Egret.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120814 &emdash;
Snowy Egret

Also seen around the refuge are Great Egrets. They can often be found fishing along the banks of the channels. I was watching and photographing this one. After catching and eating a fish, he started wandering among the lotus and catching something. If you look closely you will notice he was enjoying a dessert course of dragonflies!

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Keep your eyes pealed near the areas of open water. You may catch an Osprey hovering overhead looking for fish.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120814 &emdash;

When I think of the hot summertime at Great Meadows, I think of the diversity of dragonflies that you can find there. You can hardly walk along the dike trails without rousting several dozen.

Light Chronicle | Photography: GM20120814 &emdash;
A rare Common Whitetail - rare because their favorite place to perch is in the middle of the stone dust on the path. You rarely see them posing on vegetation worthy of a photograph.

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A Widow Skimmer

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I think this is a female Twelve Spotted Skimmer, but it could be a female Common Whitetail

I promise it won't be so long to my next post. I actually have "photos in the can". I just need to process them and post.