Friday, May 31, 2013

Snakes, Why'd It Have to Be Snakes?

As fans of Raiders of the Lost Ark will remember, Indiana Jones was not fond of snakes. If you aren't fond of the creatures either, you might want to skip this post and come back next week.

For some reason, I am not generally as observant of the many water snakes that populate the impoundments and banks of the refuge. However, in the past week two different people shared interesting scenes of water snake life, that I thought you would enjoy.

First, along the banks of the Cross-dike Trail, there was a female water snake and 5 males in a mating ball. From my reading the females once pregnant are unable to reproduce again for a relatively long time. So when a female is ready males race for the opportunity. My understanding is that males are attracted by her pheromone trail. For the males the attraction is to be the first to breed and pass on their genetics to the next generation.

Light Chronicle: GM20130526 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130526 &emdash;
The female is the larger snake

A couple of days later, Alan alerted me to the fact that the carp were going crazy down by the outflow of the lower impoundment and "there's a snake trying to eat a fish". Though it was getting hot, that was something I had to get photos of.
Light Chronicle: GM20130526 &emdash;
Carp fighting to go up river, only to be stopped by the fence by the outflow. The receeding waters leave them stranded

Light Chronicle: GM20130526 &emdash;
The fish had been stranded by the spillway and the snake had dragged it ashore

Light Chronicle: GM20130526 &emdash;
At first you would say there is no way the snake could eat the fish. For over an hour the snake circled the fish trying varying approaches to swallow the fish

Light Chronicle: GM20130526 &emdash;
Finally it settled on the head first approach

Light Chronicle: GM20130526 &emdash;
It got the fish down as far as the gills. For some reason it backed off. Unfortunately, I had been watching this for 1 1/2 hours and had be going. I don't know how it ended, but I do know the fish wasn't there the next time I was by

If all that was a bit much for you, here are some pretty pictures of some of the flora that is blooming at the refuge.

Light Chronicle: GM20130526 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130526 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130526 &emdash;

I'm not usually a big fan of the geese and their goslings this time of year. They make it difficult to traverse the trails as you try to avoid them and their droppings. This one gosling did prompt a smile. It had stubbornly, sat down on the trail, while the rest of the family slowly headed up the path. As I slowly advanced, it had a change of heart and went running to catch up.

Light Chronicle: GM20130526 &emdash;

If you've been at the refuge on one of our recent hot days, you have probably seen a Great Blue Heron with extended inverted wings trying to cool itself. I saw this one up ahead on the path and slowly advanced. At one point it dropped it's beak and bowed its head. All I could think of was the minister holding open his arms and saying "Let us pray."

Light Chronicle: GM20130526 &emdash;

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Next Lap of the Circle of Life

Spring is a great time of year.  Wherever you look there are the signs of new growth and new possibilities.  That is certainly true at the refuge.  If you look closely (and not so closely) you are bound to see nature begin the next lap in the circle of life.  Animals can be see conceiving, awaiting, giving birth to, and raising the next generation.

People like a nice home, in a quiet area; animals are similar.  Often they will find a well hid spot adjacent to our popular walking paths.  If you are not observant, you probably would walk right by without noticing.  Lord knows, I have.  Thanks to those of you who helped point out some of these locations.

Here are some images from the start of this year's lap.

Light Chronicle: GM20130523 &emdash;
Oriole's next along the Upper Impoundment near the river

Light Chronicle: GM20130523 &emdash;
Grackle sitting on a nest near the Boat Ramp

Light Chronicle: GM20130523 &emdash;
Yellow Warbler hiding right under our noses (if you are standing on the tower)

Light Chronicle: GM20130523 &emdash;
Of course you have to thread the needle to be able to see the nest

Light Chronicle: GM20130523 &emdash;
Downy Woodpeckers changing shifts just before the Cross Dike trail crosses the impoundments. (Exiting bird is taking out the trash)

Light Chronicle: GM20130523 &emdash;
Assuming this Song Sparrow is feeding someone, otherwise wouldn't it just eat them one at a time

Light Chronicle: GM20130523 &emdash;
Mother Mallard guides her chicks

Light Chronicle: GM20130523 &emdash;
Mother Wood Duck stretches while her young cluster nearby

Sometimes when the weather is gray and cloudy the water looses most of its color. It can be a challenge to take an interesting photo in those sort of conditions.

As I was taking this image, the scene was really speaking to me. With a couple of adjustments in Photoshop, I turned the water completely white. When printed on matte paper, it looks like a pen & ink drawing rather than a photo. Sometimes you can capture not only what you saw, but also what you were feeling at the time.

Light Chronicle: GM20130523 &emdash;


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Gone Fishing

I am gone for a couple days, but I thought I would leave you with these images to tide you over until I return.

Light Chronicle: GM20130506 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130506 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130506 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130506 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130506 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130506 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130506 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130506 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130506 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130506 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130506 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130506 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130506 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130506 &emdash;

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Today's Special - Warblers

It's going to be a busy weekend and I just needed some "me time" before it got busy. So rising with the sun (metaphorically speaking, I actual slept in another 30 minutes), I headed to Great Meadows to see what the day had in store for me.

I knew it was going to be a good day when I noticed this Flicker in front of the parking spot I pulled into. While I got out it was content to drill on the tree. It continued as I set up my tripod, camera and lens. As I shut the lifgate I was certain it would fly, but it continued unphased. After warming up my shutter finger on the Flicker, I headed into the refuge.

Light Chronicle: GM20130504 &emdash;

It was a quite, misty morning. Down by the river I encountered a few warblers.

Light Chronicle: GM20130504 &emdash; Palm Warbler

Light Chronicle: GM20130504 &emdash;
If like me you don't immediately know this warbler from the front

Light Chronicle: GM20130504 &emdash;
When it turns around there is no mistaking a Yellow-rumped Warbler

After walking along the Upper Impoundment, I was on my way home to tackle my long "Honey-do" list, when I say Joan Chasan ahead busy photographing something along the trail near the kiosk. I cautiously approached, to discover that she was busy shooting a female Yellow Warbler. Well that was another first of the year bird for me, so chores would just have to wait.

Light Chronicle: GM20130504 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130504 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130504 &emdash;

Even with the warbler's constant movement and unpredicatble behaviour, it was tough not to get a few shots that were in focus without branches or leaves blocking the bird. I was almost ready to head home, when I noticed some more warblers along the edge of the parking lot.

By this time I really had shot enough warbler photos, so I started to get piggish. Just another warbler shot would no longer suffice, instead I waited for the warblers to visit some of the flowering trees along the lot's edge. I'm glad I did. A male Yellow Warbler danced among the white and pink flowers. My favorite is the first one which reminds me of a Japanese watercolor painting

Light Chronicle: GM20130504 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130504 &emdash;

If you are not excited by warblers, I did see a few other things as I walked around including.

Light Chronicle: GM20130504 &emdash;
A different Flicker near the Upper Impoundment outflow canal to the river

Light Chronicle: GM20130504 &emdash;
A ubiquitous Red-winged Blackbird. I was struck how this photo catches all the detail in all those black feathers

Light Chronicle: GM20130504 &emdash;
This male Wood Duck's eye looks like a toy glass marble eye

Light Chronicle: GM20130504 &emdash;
Who can resist photographing a Song Sparrow when the background is this perfect

Light Chronicle: GM20130504 &emdash;
I dare not try to identify this bird, but it is nesting high in the trees down near the "Poison Ivy" bench

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Little Breakfast Treat

It's that time of year where the weather is wonderful. You just want to be outside. In New England we tend to stuff so much is so little time. This time of year is filled with outdoor activities ranging from sporting events, to graduations & commencements, to gardening and other outside maintenance activities that have been delayed by the winter.

At the refuge, it is a time where things change on almost a daily basis. At the refuge it is much the same. Animals are migrating, nesting, mating and raising their young. Plants are flowering an blooming. The next revolution in the cycle of life is well underway. Each day you will see something that you haven't seen before this year.

We are all motivated by the same drive. We've go to accomplish as much as we can in that little time that remains. In less than 2 months the days will start getting shorter. Can autumn and winter be far behind? So today we have to do as much as we can, tomorrow will be here faster than we expect.

That's why the last thing I want to do is spend a wonderful day indoors behind a computer. There will be plenty of time for that next winter. So today you get a quick buffet of images from around the refuge. Sample what you may, I know you won't tarry long; you've got to get outside, time's a wasting.

Everyone raves over New England's spectacular fall foliage. I've come to enjoy the spring transformation from grey / brown to greens and vibrant colors.

Light Chronicle: GM20130501 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130501 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130501 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130501 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130501 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130501 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130501 &emdash; >
Wood Anenome

The number of bird species at the refuge grows daily.

Light Chronicle: GM20130501 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130501 &emdash; A First of the Year Common Yellow-throat (not cooperating for the photograph)

Light Chronicle: GM20130501 &emdash; With Mother's Day approaching it's time that Female Red-winged Blackbirds get some love

Light Chronicle: GM20130501 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130501 &emdash; Wilson's Snipe that was hanging around in the mud near the tower

Light Chronicle: GM20130501 &emdash;

Savannah Sparrow

Light Chronicle: GM20130501 &emdash;

Palm Warbler

Light Chronicle: GM20130501 &emdash;
Northern Flicker may be nesting near the Borden's Pond entrance

Light Chronicle: GM20130501 &emdash; Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Light Chronicle: GM20130501 &emdash;

Light Chronicle: GM20130501 &emdash; Canada Geese resolve territorial dispute

Light Chronicle: GM20130501 &emdash; Stealthy Great Blue Heron

Activity among all the other species has exploded.

Light Chronicle: GM20130501 &emdash;
Results of the last post on toads

Light Chronicle: GM20130501 &emdash;
Young snapping turtle headed their way

Light Chronicle: GM20130501 &emdash;
Butterflies and moths are appearing daily

Light Chronicle: GM20130501 &emdash;
Carp stranded by receding river. If given the choice right now, I expect they would pick "Be a small fish in a big pond"