Posts in Category: Saco Heath

Canada Tiger Swallowtail at the Sheep Laurel, Saco Heath

While visiting Saco Heath last week with my friend Stef, we were treated to this Tiger Swallowtail feeding on the Sheep Laurel next to the Atlantic Cedar grove at the end of the boardwalk. I am still not sure how to distinguish Canada from Eastern, though the Colby College butterfly list has Eastern only as a “Rare Stray” in Maine. The safe bet then is Canada Tiger Swallowtail. The real zone of overlap seems to be in Northern Massachusetts…which is not so far south of us as the crow flies. 🙂 Sony RX10iv at 600mm optical and 2x Clear Image Zoom for 1200mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.

Pitcher Plant

A friend drove up from Concord to visit for the day yesterday and I took him to Saco Heath…the southern-most peat bog of any size in Maine…protected and maintained by the Nature Conservancy. Over the past 3 years they have completely renewed the boardwalk across the bog, and upgraded the trail, so it is a pleasure to visit. The Sheep-laurel is in bloom, but there (as in Southern Maine in general) it is not looking good this year. The blossoms are small and bit weathered looking. However the Pitcher Plant was also in bloom and there were lots of them, way more than I have seen in past years (at least near enough to the boardwalk for photography) and they were looking very healthy indeed. This is one of the larger specimens…about 3 1/2 inches across. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm optical with some Clear Image Zoom to fill the frame. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.

House Wren in the wood pile

House Wren, Saco Heath, Saco Maine

I have a spotty record with wrens, photographically. I find them hard to photograph, for some unknown reason. I am always happy to try! I am always happy to see on, even if I can’t photograph it. (The obvious exception is the Marsh Wrens of Arcata California with are dead easy to photograph…though I am always happy to see them as well.) So, when I spotted this House Wren hopping around in the pile of broken boards from the old boardwalk at Saco Heath I was delighted. The fact that I got a decent photo is even better! The Civilian Conservation Corps replaced almost the full length of the Saco Heath Boardwalk over the past few summers, and the Nature Conservancy (who owns the property) and the State are doing controlled burns when weather permits to get rid of the old rotting wood. In the meantime it is piled six feet tall in several piles just as you come off the boardwalk into the Atlantic White Cedar grove. House Wrens love wood and brush piles, so it is not too surprising that one or more have taken up residence in these attractive piles.

This has, to my eye, the look of a young bird. I think I see just a hint of left over gape at the back of the beak, but I could be wrong.

Sony RX10iii at 600mm equivalent field of view. 1/250th @ ISO 640 @ f4. Processed and cropped to about a 1000mm field of view in Lightroom.

Pitcher Plant

Pitcher Plant, Saco Heath, Saco Maine

Pitcher Plant, Saco Heath, Saco Maine

I took the new Ford C-Max Hybrid on its maiden photoprowl yesterday…a swing north to Saco Heath, then cross-lots on back roads to Route 1 and eventually to Cascade Falls and back home. I am not sure I have been to the Heath this season at all. I know I missed the early bloom of Rhodora and Sheep Laurel and High-bush Blueberry, and the Grass Pink Orchids. I was surprised to find the Pitcher Plants in full bloom. I had remembered them as early bloomers, but I was happy to be proved wrong. Not only were they in bloom, but there were more than I have ever seen on the Heath.

Saco Heath, if you are just tuning in, is a raised peat bog, where the peat and sphagnum moss have risen above the level of the ground water. It is one of a very few in Maine and the only one in Southern Maine. The environment in a peat bog is highly acidic and very poor in nutrients, so it is populated by a group of rare plants that are specialized to nutrient-poor soils, and by stunted Pitch Pines. There a slightly higher section of the bog that supports one of the only stands of Atlantic White Cedar in Maine. The area is protected by the Nature Conservancy, and by the State of Maine. A boardwalk, renewed over the past several summers by the Civilian Conservation Corps, runs right across the heath to a loop of trail in the Cedar stand.

Pitcher Plants survive in the nutrient poor sphagnum surface by capturing and digesting insects. They are carnivores. The “pitcher”, a tube of adapted leaves, contains a digestive fluid at the bottom. Bugs crawl or fall in and contribute most of the nutrients the plant needs. The flower is very large (3-4 inches across), on a tall stalk, and more “interesting” than “beautiful”. As I say, there were many of them along the more raised sections of the boardwalk in the Pitch Pine hummock, and along the edges of the White Cedar hummock.

Sony RX10iii. The first shot is a telephoto macro and the bottom side-view is a wide angle macro. Exposure varied. I was shooting in Program and shutter speeds were from 1/60th for the pitcher shot to 1/320th for the telephoto. ISO ranged from 100 to 250. All shots at f4. Processed in Lightroom and assembled in Coolage.

Rose Pagonia


I spent several pleasant (if hot) hours at Saco Heath the other day. Saco Heath is one the southern-most Peet Bogs in the North-east, a remnant bog just north and West of Saco Maine, now protected by the Nature Conservancy. The Rodora is all gone by, only the last of the Sheep Laural is in bloom, and even the Pitcher Plant flowers were well past their prime. But the Rose Pagonia is in bloom. Rose Pagonia is the most common bog orchid at Saco Heath (it may be the only one…it is certainly the only one I have see there), but it is certainly worthy of a close look.

This panel combines telephoto macros taken at 1200mm equivalent with the Olympus 75-300mm zoom, and conventional macros taken with the ZEISS Touit 50mm f2.8 macro. Most of the orchids, of course, are well out from the boardwalk, where only a telephoto view is possible. A few are close enough so that, if you sit right down on the boardwalk and hang over the edge, you can work them with a shorter macro. 🙂

Olympus OM-D E-M10 with 75-300mm zoom and Sony NEX 3N with ZEISS Touit 50mm macro. Processed in Snapseed on my tablet. Assembled in Pixlr Express.

I will be sharing more of the images from my visit to Saco Heath, but for the full effect of the day, you could visit the gallery at Gallery: Hit the Slideshow button for an easy stroll through the Heath.

Fall among Cedars


There is a well grown stand of Atlantic White Cedars at the far end of the boardwalk at Saco Heath. The trail loops through the trees and back. A softwood sapling provides a splash of color along with the dying ferns of fall.  And the light of a late afternoon in October sheds its glory over the whole scene.

Samsung Smart Camera WB800F in Rich Tone mode (in-camera HDR). Processed in Snapseed on the Nexus 7.

9/29/2011: First of Fall on Saco Heath

I spent a few hours at Saco Heath recently. Fall is coming. The maples along the edge of the heath have felt the change in day-length most strongly and, with the slightly cooler transition temperatures along the edge, have responded. Green chlorophyll is dying. The red chlorophyll is becoming dominant. This is the beginning of the fall foliage show in New England.

This is a 3 shot HDR, with the center shifted .7 EV toward the dark side, tone mapped in Photomatix Pro, and final processed for Clarity and Sharpness in Lightroom. I prefer subtle HDR. If you notice the effect, then, in my opinion, it is too much already. Every time I revisit HDR I have to learn the lesson over again. My first efforts are always over cooked. This is a second pass…and I think I got it just about right 🙂

Nikon Coolpix P500 at 23mm equivalent, f6.3 @ 1/800th @ ISO 160 for the nominal exposure. 

And for fun…here is another shot from the same day.