Friday, June 22, 2012
It's been a couple weeks since I've been to Great Meadows. We were in Atlanta for our daughter's wedding. While setting up for the wedding, I managed to fall and turn my ankle. You have to know a little pain is not going to stop a proud dad from walking down the aisle and having the father / daughter dance. Of course temperatures in the high nineties and a sore ankle were enough to persuade me that sitting in an air conditioned bedroom with ice on my ankle was appropriate. By Friday the record temperatures were starting to break, my ankle was feeling usable, and my curiosity motivated me to get up early and get out to the refuge. My focus on this visit was to visit the Tree Swallow nest near the outflow of the lower impoundment. Just before I left, the parents were seen using the nest. I was curious had the young hatched? Had they fledged? Had a predator found the next like last year? It was a long, slow walk but when I arrived, I was rewarded with seeing the parents taking turn flying from the nest, gathering bugs and returning. The chicks must be young because you couldn't hear them crying out and they weren't peeking out the hole yet.
Female Tree Swallow peeking out of hole
Male returns with a mouthful of food
They often will land on this branch just before they arrive / depart
They weren't making noise, so best as I can figure they are panting to stay cool
Tried for about a half hour to get a flight shot. This was my best one.
Each trip lasts about five minutes, so in between I alternatively; enjoyed the beautiful day, thought about the week that passed, enjoyed the shade, and observed the other animal activity in the area. The outflow area is quite peaceful in the early morning. So few people, other than the occasional jogger, actually make it down there in the early morning.
I wondered about why the swallows weren't hunting the many dragonflies at their door step.
Maybe they are just too large. One photo that didn't make the editing cut had three damselflies in the swallow's mouth.
Once the light got too harsh I proceeding to walk back around the impoundment on the Dike Trail to return to the parking lot. I scared this large snapping turtle back into the water. Its shell must have been about 18-24" long. I encountered a couple more smaller ones. I wish I had been fast enough to catch the one who dove 9" off of the water control gate to the water below.
I noticed that you could follow this snapping turtle by watching the bubbles, between his visits to the surface.
Most of the turtles you see are either Painted Turtles or Snapping Turtles. Here a Blandings Turtle crosses the path from the river to the lower impoundment. (You can tell by the distinctive yellow throat).