Thursday, April 25, 2013

Toads - NSFW

That is this post is Not Safe For Work, ... if you work with a bunch of toads. Today at the refuge if you walked to the river end of the Cross Dike Trail you were greeted by a choir of Eastern American Toads singing loudly. (Thanks to Alan Bragg for the identification.)

If you followed the sound down along the Lower Impoundment to the first break in the reeds you would have been greeted by a veritable frenzy of toads. It seems that the warm weather had turned their hearts to love. You would find toads calling, mating, and chasing other toads to either capture a mate or chase away a potential suitor.

At times the noise was quite loud. In this video the toads are closer than the airplane, but notice the relative noise levels.


It was impressive when you would see the male toads expand their vocal sac and start to call. It would expand to almost twice its normal size.

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When a male finds a receptive female, he will come up behind her. Giving a big hug she grabs her around the chest and holds on. Together they wander around until she starts to lay her eggs, which he fertilizes. The eggs are in long strands. Look carefully and you will notice them in the photos.

Of course along the way other toads try to horn in on the action. It seems that one of the defensive strategies is for the couple to submerge leaving the chasing of mates to the toads on the surface.

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Of course it does sort of remind me of junior high school. There were a few lonely toads that just had not yet met the right girl.

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The one thing I found curious is that with all the noise, that no predators were attracted to the scene. Walking down toward Borden's Pond, I encountered a Great Blue Heron that probably would have had a feast, if he had been fishing in the correct spot.

If you are interested in more information about toads, I found this useful link. useful link.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Dose of Fresh Air

The last couple of days I've been at home, sick. While it has been an effective way to loose weight, I don't recommend it to anyone.

This morning, I was feeling a little better and thought maybe some fresh air and sunshine would help me feel better. Combine that with the weather forecast calling for increasing bad weather the next few days, I decided to head over to Great Meadows.

It probably wasn't the wisest thing I've done, since I was totally tired when I got home, but the change of scenery did encourage my spirit. Along the way, I played with my teleconverter and captured some photos you might enjoy.

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A ringed-neck duck. Click on the photo to view large, probably the best photo I've taken about why it's named a ringed-neck instead of a ringed-bill duck.

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A Mallard in flight. Nothing special, except the longer the focal length, the tougher to find birds in flight in the viewfinder.

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Do you prefer the blue or brown background?

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If this Downy had gotten any closer I was going to have to backup!

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A different pose

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This time I did photograph some Palm Warblers

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They were between the river & the trail, maybe 100 yards west of the boat ramp

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A pair of Black-capped Chickadees were checking out this snag for a nest

I must be getting better. Though I was tired when I came home after a little nap. I was up and hungry (something I haven't been for 48 hours) with enough energy to assemble this post...but now I think I need another nap. See you around the refuge.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Odds & Ends

One of the challenges of this blog is what to do with photos I take, that don't quite fit with the theme of that visit's post.  Alas, many end up on the "cutting room floor", destined to spend their life spinning around on some anonymous disk drive, patiently waiting for some special call for a certain type subject.

Other times, like my Mom the day before her next grocery shopping trip, I empty the "refrigerator", mix them together forming some new dish, and serve them up, making room for more.  So you can think of this post as left-overs or as I think of them as "previously unconsumed delicious dishes".

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One of the joys of spring are the misty mornings caused by the cool water, meeting the warm air. It adds a bit of mystery to the refuge.

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Most mornings the Red-winged Blackbirds take the place of roosters in greeting the morning.


If you've been to the refuge recently you've probably noticed the hundreds of swallows. Often in the early morning they are a little slow to get moving. One morning they reminded me of locusts as they covered practically every cattail.

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Here are a few dishes I only have a single serving left over. I hope you find something you enjoy.

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When the sun, bird & camera at the correct angles to each other; you can clearly see where the Red-tailed Hawk got its name.

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When geese are landing I am always a sucker to try to catch them touch down. This morning the water was almost glass like.

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Birds in flight are a photographic challenge, especially when I'm using the long lens. Thankfully this Wood Duck was just gliding along looking for a place to set down.

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It's been a while since my last Downy photo. How can you resist a bird that lands on a branch right near you without a tangle of branches surrounding it?

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It's official spring is here. The pussy willows are out.

Monday, April 8, 2013

A Spring Census

Many Monday mornings I accompany the bird census crew as they wander the refuge inventorying the avian wildlife. For me this is more of a birding activity than a photography activity as it helps develop my birding skills. (It is also a little difficult to juggle the long lens & tripod and binoculars. You never know whether you should be trying to capture a photo or study a bird.) I do often bring a camera with a shorter lens, but it's usually bird girst and then capture record shots.

Here are some moments from today's census at the refuge.

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The Wood Ducks are plentiful. While still skittish love is in the air, so you can get some good views before they swim off.

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There are currently 100-200 Tree Swallows at the refuge. I think this photographer has "too much lens" to try to capture all of them.

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I wish their flight pattern was more predictable, so it would be easier to photograph them in flight. On occasion one heads straight at you which is easier.

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With that many close together there are bound to be some disputes

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It appears that geese also enjoy having their neck nibbled on during the act.

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Ringed-neck Ducks practicing marching for the upcoming Patriot's Day parade...close, but not quite right

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The single Purple Martin first identified by David Swain continues at the refuge

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You definitely know it's not a swallow from the underside

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It is official spring is here, because the warblers are here. This Yellow-rumped Warbler was near the impoundment outflow near the boat ramp.

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It was a good day for ducks. Here a male Blue-winged Teal heads for a landing

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Not as clear, but a good look at the colors

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Another sign of spring we've started to see reptiles

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and Amphibians too.