Monday, November 11, 2013

November means Waterfowl

Wow, it's been over a month since my last post. Sorry for the long gap. First there was the government shutdown, then a long trip to visit our daughter in Atlanta, sandwich around that all those typical autumn activities, combined with the daily activities of life and Poof before you know it a month has gone.

For photographers November is not a kind month. The beautiful flowers and greenery of summer, have morphed into the radiant colors of autumn, but now those leaves lie at our feet dull and brown. One of my friends calls this sticks & twigs season.

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At Great Meadows all is not lost. The impoundments are flooded. The cat tails are dying back and dropping over, letting us see areas that have been hidden much of the summer. Many birds have migrated giving the waterfowl an opportunity to entertain us.

Each morning we are entertained by the Canada Geese who depart to forage, but return later in the morning to cruise the impoundments. The mornings are cold & brisk, with both the people and birds trying to stay warm. I enjoy watching the geese fly. Given their large size they don't look air worthy, but once aloft do demonstrate a certain gracefulness. When they return landing crosses that gracefulness with the abruptness of an uncontrolled crash.

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Another star species of the month are the ducks. The mallards dominate. If we lived anywhere else where they weren't so plentiful we would wax poetically about how beautiful they are. Instead they take a back seat behind the Wood Ducks, Teals and other less common visitors who have stopped by.

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Light Chronicle: GM20131111 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20131111 &emdash;

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A female Northern Shoveler was swimming in circles in the Upper Impoundment, near the river side. It was feeding. Its oldly shped beak is well suited to the task. You must admit it looks a little like a bird designed by a committee.

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Light Chronicle: GM20131111 &emdash;

At this time of year even the swans are welcomed back. Though it with mixed emotions that we greet the darker juveniles.

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Monday, September 30, 2013

In Case of Shutdown - Read Blog

While the houses of Congress pass continuing resolution bills back and forth like a Miller beer commercial; "Less Filling", "Tastes Great" and the president sits back and watches, it seems apparent that we may have to endure a government shutdown. Last time one was threatened, Fish & Wildlife said the refuge would be closed and access would be prohibited. So if a shutdown comes to pass you may have to depend on this blog post to help you over Great Meadows withdrawal.

During the last couple weeks, I've been able to drop by the refuge a couple of times. The weather has just been too nice to stay home and post photos, so here they all are.

The season has definitely changed from summer to autumn. The evidence of that is abundant. For example if you've been observant you would have noticed - Warblers migrating through

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Most of the Egrets moved on early in the month, but one held on a bit longer.

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Light Chronicle: GM20130930 &emdash;

Some things look normal.

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Some were just interesting. Like this Sandpiper. Most often they are found foraging in muddy areas of the refuge. They too have moved on, but this one stuck around a bit longer and could be seen wandering along the floating leaves of the lotus plants. Though the sandpiper weights less than 1/10th lbs. it's fun to see its weight causing the leaves to bend and buckle like a child playing on an inflatable raft in a swimming pool.

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When I think of fall at Great Meadows, I think of ducks. This year there have been an abundance of wood ducks. They are quite skittish, even when a far distance away. But the short glimpses you get of them are impressive, especially the males. The last photo is the most adult Wood Ducks I've captured in a single photograph.

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Throughout the refuge, the colors of autumn are bursting forth. They are hard to miss. They provide refreshing new backgrounds for even the most common of scenes. They also beautiful in their own right.

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Hopefully, our government will soon take a lesson from some of the wildlife at the refuge and learn how to get along with each other (or at least find some space where they aren't fighting with each other). Until then, hope the blog tides you over.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Vignettes Around The Impoundments

A break from my other photography project allowed me to wander over to Great Meadows twice this week. The first visit was quite quiet. I was starting to wonder if it was some sort of a karmic payback for not spending enough time there this summer. The second visit was a bit more productive photographically. However, to paraphrase an old saying, "Even a bad day at the refuge, beats a good day at work."

I was greeted by several of my avian friends. The Marsh Wrens which seemed so scarce this year, seemed to have successfully produced the next generation. It seems like there are many more to been seen or heard.

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Back by the grapes near the "Poison Ivy" bench this female Common Yellow Throat posed for a moment. But like most divas she quickly shot me a menacing look and was gone.

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With all the hot weather you would expect to seen many dragonflies. It's hard to walk down the dike paths without scaring up one with each step. My visits didn't disappoint.

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Female Common Pondhawk

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Male Blue Dahsher. The background is the original, with the right angle & aperature the gravel path becomes this solid grayish / brown color. It was the perfect match for the pinkish / magenta flowers.

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Male Twelve-spotted Skimmer - the guide book calls the body color pruinose gray

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I can't decide whether I like the horizontal or vertical orientation better, so it's up to you to choose your favorite.

Of course the American Lotus still dominate the landscape. Sometimes obscuring the wildlife, other times providing a pleasant backdrop.

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The shorebirds are big fans of the water draw down in the lower impoundment to allow the dredging of the drainage canals. My birder friends also concur.

Unfortunately, they are drawn to the muddy flats one the backside of the lower impoundment. The best views are from the observation deck, with a scope or binoculars.

While my big camera lens looks impressive, it is not up to the task of photographing them that far away. Don't forget to check the outflow from the upper impoundment to the river, occassionally some of the shorebirds can be found quite close feeding in the mud.

Personally, I find the shorebirds section of my Sibley guide a scary place. They all look so similar. I know these are members of the sandpiper family, but I'll leave precise identification to my birding friends.

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I believe that this one is a Wilson's Snipe based upon the striped head, long beak and general coloring. However, the buffy stomach is not described in Sibley so I can't be sure.

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Many summers we are treated to visits by Great Egrets. Their white plumage is a nice change from the drab grey of of Great Blue Herons. Usually they are well out in the impoundments, but today one was fishing near the outflow near the boat ramp. Still a challenge because of the backlighting and drab background their beauty still comes through. When they get in front of the lotus, they are a treat for the eyes.

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Light Chronicle: GM20130823 &emdash;

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If your life is driven by the calendar you have probably noticed that Labor Day is just around the corner. School will resume soon and our summer fun will be over. If you however your life is based upon the rhythm of nature, you too will probably have noticed the subtle signs that summer is winding down and a new season is approaching.

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