Yesterday was a day for looking for wildflowers. I took my ebike out to the headquarters trail at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge to see if, despite our ridiculously late spring, there were flowers in bloom. The Hobblebush is, of course, still in bloom, but then, that sometimes blooms in February. The Lady Slippers, generally a safe bet for Mother’s Day, are just budding out. Late indeed. However the Two-bead Lily are past, so they apparently bloomed on schedule. ?? I found the Rhodora above in a road-side ditch on my way to Rachel Carson, and the Wood Violet, Blueberry, and Painted Trillium along the trail. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and assembled in Framemagic.
We interrupt this parade of the birds of Magee Marsh and Ohio with breaking news from the backyard! Carol first noticed the hummingbirds coming to our ornamental cherry tree blossoms a week ago, just as the last light was fading. I had to run for my binoculars to see for sure that they were Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (the only likely hummer we have here in Maine, but never, considering the nature of hummingbirds, the only possible hummingbird 🙂 When we saw them again around the pansies on the back deck, we dug out the hummingbird feeder and I mixed up a new batch of juice and hung it on its hook in one corner of the deck. We have had occasional hummingbird activity in the yard in the past (enough to have invested in the feeder and some hummingbird juice mix) but this year we have two pairs of Ruby-throats…two bright males and two clean females…coming to the feeder every few minutes all day long. At first both males tried to defend the feeder…keeping even rival females away…but now they have settled in to more or less tolerate each other. The females often feed at the same time, and I have seen both males on the feeder during the warmest part of the day. As it cooled yesterday, they got fiesty again, pushing each other from feeding hole to feeding hole around the feeder, but they still managed to share the resource. I have seen the males displaying for the females, and have some hope one or the other pair will nest in the big pines along the edge of our yard. The shot above was taken just before sunset, with no direct sun, and does not show the deep ruby of the gorget. Still I was happy to get what I could, standing in the open back door. There is a bit of heat distortion due to the differential between the warm house and the cooling deck, but I did not dare to step further out for fear the bird would fly. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.
Sometimes the birds along the boardwalk at Magee Marsh on the Erie shore of Northern Ohio are just ridiculously close. This Hermit Thrush was happily hunting right under the boardwalk while we walked overhead. It popped out into sight and full sun and appears to be asking what all the fuss is about 🙂 This is an odd angle on the bird but I was straight above it and not much more than 4 feet from it’s head. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr. (Custom birds and wildlife modifications can be found in my Sony RX10iv for P&S Nature Photography ebook here.)
When I visited southern Portugal in December a few years ago, my guide assured me that if I returned in the spring, I would find the fields full of wildflowers…and that promise figured largely in my plans for our April trip this year. I was not disappointed. The Portuguese practice a form of agriculture which includes a rotation of crops, grazing, and fallow fields…and the fallow fields, not to mention roadsides, hillsides, orchards, cork groves, hedgerows, and riversides, are indeed full of wildflowers in the spring. I photographed well over 70 species. I have only begun to identify them (and may have already mis-identified some). Here is first small sample. The English name is on each photo, but you will probably have to view the photos full screen to read it. Some of the most interesting wildflowers I found are proving the most elusive to identify. The situation for wildflowers seems to the same as the situation for birds in Portugal. The only resources I could find were English language, published in England, by Englishmen (and women). It would certainly be possible to spend as much time in the Alentejo and Algarve studying the wildflowers as you could spend on the birds…which is to say a lot of time! All photos taken with the Sony RX10iv and processed in Polarr.
“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus
I am almost always away from home when our ornamental cherry tree blooms. The buds are just appearing when I have to leave for Ohio and the Biggest Week in American Birding, and are generally gone, swept away by early May wind and rain, before I get back. This year is a pleasant exception. The tree bloomed a bit late, due to our delayed spring, and the blossoms survived the storms of May long enough so that when I returned from several weeks of travel they were still there to great me. As I am sure I have said in the past, this tree has a special meaning for me…for my family. I bought it as a bare root stick at the local Dollar Store when we bought the house in the spring of 1996 and stuck it in the ground next to an old pine tree stump. The stump has long disintegrated, and, against all odds, that little bare stick has grown into a mature tree 30 feet tall and with a trunk two feet through. This year its canopy of dense blossoms shades half the front yard, and I have had to cut it back twice already on the house side to keep in off the roof.
When I see it in full bloom…when I see the tree it has become, it reminds me of all the years we have lived here in Maine…and how rich our lives here have been. Oh, not “rich” that way…but rich in love and growth and joy. There have been difficult times. There are scars in the bark of the tree to testify, but the fact is that it has gown so big and tall and strong and that it is still blooming abundantly and beautifully…that is what matters.
The blossoms are about done for this year. The petals are falling. They spot the grass and moss of the yard. And every petal could mark a blessing that has fallen into our lives in the past 23 years…a wonder of grace…a gift of love. What a wonderful God!
I don’t know how many more springs I have to see the cherry tree bloom (who does?), but I am thankful to see it now…to be reminded into thanksgiving…to be reminded to count our blessings as the petals fall. Happy Sunday!
Most female warblers do not sing…but there are at least 9 species who regularly do (perhaps over 20 who do on occasion). The Cape May is among them. The Cape May is also one of the warbler species in which the female has distinctly different coloration than the male…enough so that you might suspect it is a different species (especially when you find it singing :). And, to add another to the list of things the Cape May is…it is another of those warblers named for where it was first collected…in Cape May, New Jersey…even though it only appears there during migration between its wintering grounds in extreme south Florida, the Caribbean Islands and Yucatán Peninsula, and its breeding grounds in the extreme northern US (in New England and the Mid-west) and southern Canada. In fact, it was not seen in Cape May for 100 years after the first specimen was captured there and is still considered an occasional migrant in New Jersey. I found this one from the boardwalk at Magee Marsh on the Erie shore of northern Ohio during the Biggest Week in American Birding. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.
Red-breasted Nuthatches are yard birds for us here in southern Maine, but I spotted this one off the boardwalk at Magee Marsh on the Erie shore of Northern Ohio…along with a host of other migrants headed north to their Canadian nesting grounds. Only when processing the photo did I notice the spider web behind the bird. It is the web, perhaps, that lifts this image out of the “bird portrait” category. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.
The Black-throated Blue Warblers at Magee Marsh during this year’s Biggest Week in American Birding were among the most confiding. They were there in good numbers, even on the slowest days, and they were feeding low and close to the boardwalk. This one seemed very aware of me…or perhaps it was close enough to see its own reflection in the protective UV filter on my lens. I am not sure what it is accusing me of…but, honest, I was only interested in taking its picture. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.
Not the brightest warbler in the bunch, the Nashville Warbler is still and attractive little bird, with a complex coloration. Notice the slight brown cap above the complete eye-ring. It is one of those warblers that got its name, incorrectly, in passing, since Alexander Wilson happened to see one in Nashville, Tennessee while it was migrating north to its breeding territory. The western race was once considered a separate species, the Calaveras Warbler. I got to watch this eastern specimen foraging for several minutes along the boardwalk at Magee Marsh on the Erie shore of northern Ohio during the Biggest Week in American Birding. It was one of those rare occasions during the event when I was all alone with the bird. There was on one else near me on the boardwalk. I had the Nashville all to myself and it had my full attention. 🙂 Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.
Among the other non-warblers active in the spring passage of Magee Marsh, on the Erie shore in Northern Ohio each May, are the Tanagers, both Summer and Scarlet. One of the rare sunny days during this year’s Biggest Week in American Birding there was a group of three male Scarlet Tanagers and a female working the thickets between the boardwalk and the pond. They were paying a lot more attention to each other than they were to us and came in close and at eye-level. I don’t think there is anything redder in nature than a Scarlet Tanager…though, as in this shot, the sun can bring out the almost orange highlights. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.