Northern Blazing Star: Kennebunk Plains Preserve, Kennebunk, Maine, USA — I tried to look it up, but I can find no information (in a casual search) on what percentage of Northern Blazing Star flowers are white…but from my experience it can’t be very high. Among perhaps a hundred thousand blossoms on the Kennebunk Plains in August, I have seen 3 plants with white flowers, for a total of less than a dozen flowers. So these white flowers are a rarity even for an already rare plant like Blazing Star. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos. ISO 100 @ f4 @ 1/800th.
Clouded Sulphur: Kennebunk Plains Preserve, Maine, USA — Monarchs are not the only butterflies to be happy to see the Northern Blazing Star in bloom. While there were not as many Clouded Sulphurs as Monarchs, there were still good numbers, and the numbers will increase as the full bloom comes on. Nikon B700 at 1440mm equivalent. Program mode. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.
Monarch Butterfly: Kennebunk Plains Preserve, Kennebunk, Maine, USA — More of the Monarchs among the early Northern Blazing Star on the Kennebunk Plains. A study in color contrasts. Nikon B700 at 1440mm equivalent. Program mode. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.
Monarch Butterfly on Northern Blazing Star: Kennebunk Plains Preserve, Kennebunk, Maine, USA — The first early blooms of Northern Blazing Star are just opening right now. It looks like a very good year for Blazing Star on the Kennebunk Plains as there dense stands of plants about to bloom over wide areas of the plains. Already the insects are gathering. I saw more Monarchs than I have seen in several years yesterday, even in my short hike through one section, as well as a couple of Cloudy Sulphurs and Wood Nymphs, hundreds of Bumble Bees and wasps, and some very large and very loud hornet like things. The Monarchs, in particular, are beautiful feeding on the Blazing Star. For those who don’t know, Blazing Star is a threatened and protected species across most of its historical range, and here in Maine. The Kennebunk Plains are managed, in part, for Blazing Star. I leave on Monday for a week in New Mexico and I hope the full bloom is still going on when I return. Blazing Star and the insects it attracts in August always make for one of my favorites times of year on the Plains. Nikon B700 at 610mm equivalent. Program mode. Spot focus. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.
Kennebunk Barrens Nature Conservancy, Kennebunk, Maine, USA — I had been disappointed in the crop of Northern Blazing Star on the Kennebunk Plains (now known, after the most recent changes in management, as the “Kennebunk Barrens Nature Conservancy”) after the prescribed burn of last September. Northern Blazing Star is an endangered flower, with a very limited range, and the Kennebunk Plains is one of its last strongholds. It is a fire dependent plant, and needs periodic fires to maintain a healthy population. I will admit, I did not know exactly what to expect after the fire, but I was hoping for a bumper crop this year…and we did not see that…at least until the last few days in August. It might be that the bloom was just later than usual due to the fire, or that it was late due to an abnormally dry July and August, but it was certainly late. We had some tropical storm remnants come through the last days of August, with some significant rain, and suddenly there are a lot of Blazing Star in bloom on the plains. Not the best crop I have seen, but better that it looked like it was going to be this year. We also had a sudden influx of Monarch butterflies. This has happened other years, but I am always surprised. This year I have seen, until last week, maybe a half dozen individual Monarchs…few enough to be somewhat worried. Even when the Milkweed was in bloom, there were very few Monarchs to be seen. However, when the Blazing Star finally bloomed, I saw more individuals in one day than in the rest of the summer. It was hard to get a count as they were actively feeding on the Blazing Star and moving from patch to patch, but first impression was that they were every where…and maybe about 20 individuals in the few acres along the shore of the pond there. It makes me wonder were they have been all summer…or if they are newly emerged to match the timing of the Blazing Star bloom?? They were certainly “fresh” looking butterflies. Sony Rx10iv at 24mm equivalent in HDR mode for the landscape, and at 600mm equivalent in Program with my custom birds and wildlife modifications for the butterfly. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.
We have been having one of our southern Maine spells of hot summer weather and I have not, honestly, been inspired to push through the heat to do much photography. It is all I can do to get my exercise bike ride in. 🙂 I was determined to get out yesterday and, as I got my camera ready and got myself on the bike, I was thinking that a dragonfly or a butterfly on Blazing Star would make the trip worth-while, and was perhaps a reasonable expectation out on the Kennebunk Plains these early days of August. The Blazing Star was not as far along as I had though it might be, based on early blooms in late July, but I was still rewarded with my shot…just as I had foreseen it. The Calico Pennants are getting smaller and darker as the season progresses, but still put on a good show, and the Blazing Star is just barely beginning to open, but still…it is undeniably a dragonfly on Blazing Star. 🙂 High, gusty, winds keep the Calico Pennant in constant motion. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.
When the flower head of Northern Blazing Star is fully open it is difficult to see the structure of the actual flowers. This head is just open enough to see individual blossoms. Northern Blazing Star, as I remind you every year at this time, is a plant with a very limited and rapidly shrinking range. Here in Maine, it is mostly found on the Kennebunk Plains, a remnant sand plain kept open by wildfire in the past, and now maintained by the Nature Conservancy. It is often called “the Blueberry Plains” because of the wild blueberries that grow there. They did a prescribed burn of the section where I go most often last September, and the Blazing Star, which is fire dependent, is coming back strong this year. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.
“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus
I am rapidly approaching 69 years old (next month) so I am always surprised and delighted to discover something in the world right at my doorstep that I have never seen before. Seen is a tricky word. I suspect that I have seen Bee Flies before now…but I certainly never looked at them. I did not know they existed. If fact, when I bent down to take a photo of this very early Northern Blazing Star, in flower on the Kennebunk Plains Wildlife Management Area yesterday, I though I was looking at a bee. It is furry like a bee. It has superficially bee-like wings. It was behaving like a bee…but I knew it was no bee I had ever seen before. I had certainly never seen a bee that color or with that long a proboscis. A little googling (small hairy bee with long proboscis) brought up the Bee Fly family. Ah…not a bee at all. A bee mimic. And a bee parasite. (The female lays her eggs at the mouth of the hive of ground nesting bees, and the fly larva attack the larva of the bees.) There are many species of Bee Flys in North America (over 4500 world-wide)…all I can say for certain is that this is NOT the most common of them: the Greater or Large Bee Fly, which is sometimes called the Dark Edged Bee Fly because the wings are dark edged and patterned like those of a hummingbird moth.
I was also surprised, by the way, at the number of Northern Blazing Star plants in bloom already on the Plains. While it is far from the show I expect in two weeks (the normal timing of the bloom), our unusually hot July must have forced many plants into bloom early. The Blazing Star on the Kennebunk Plains is, as far as I am concerned, one of the highlights of the natural seasons here in southern Maine. It is endangered in most of North America, and the Kennebunk Plains is one of the few places it still grows in abundance. The Plains can be purple with it in mid-August.
So that was two surprises for yesterday…and one “the surprise of a lifetime” in that it was my first real look at Bee Fly.
And of course that is the thing about the generous eye…always open and ready to be surprised. Another translation of what Jesus said about eyes, from The Message Bible, is “‘If you live wide–eyed in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light.” 69 years on the planet, and I can still be surprised by the living nature around me…by God’s loving invention…I am still discovering new wonders. And each new wonder only confirms and strengthens my belief. This is good. And it is my hope for you, whatever your age, this Sunday!
You might remember that back in late July and early August I was tracking the bloom of the Northern Blazing Star on the Kennebunk Plains and predicting one of the best years for the flower in recent memory. On August 5th I left for 2 weeks of travel and it rained for a few days when I got home…so it was yesterday before I got out to the Plains to see how the Blazing Star was doing. And it was certainly doing! I have not, in my more than 20 years of living in Southern Maine, seen the Blazing Star so dense or so extensive. To say that the Plains are purple with it is an understatement. This might be full bloom. I saw no unopened buds, and the oldest, topmost buds on each plant are fading…but, oh my, what a bloom!
Sony HX90V, in-camera HDR at 67mm equivalent field of view. Processed in Lightroom.
I sometimes think that mankind is unique among all God’s creation in the ability to praise the creator. We have the privilege, not only of being created, but of knowing that we are. And we know, if we know God at all, that we are created with love…lovingly created…and loved all life long. We respond to the greatness of that love with praise…thankfulness, awe, joy…we make a joyful noise before God…lifting hands and faces…bold in the awful presence of the Creator of all.
But then I see the Kennebunk Plains ablaze with the purple of Northern Blazing Star, and I am not so sure we are alone in our ability to praise. A plain full of Blazing Star in bloom looks a lot like praise to me…as though the earth itself lifted its face and hands and broke out in exalted song.
A praise of Blazing Star!
When we praise the creator of all, how can we not believe that all creation praises with us. And I, for one, can not look on the Plains ablaze with Blazing Star without praising… Happy Sunday!
For the next two days I will be in a van with my daughter Sarah, helping her move from Pittsburgh to Santa Fe, NM, and then we move on from there to Tucson for a birding festival. It seems I am always traveling at the height of the Blazing Star bloom on the Kennebunk Plains Wildlife Management Area. This year I might have just caught the forward edge to of the peak. 🙂 It will not get much better than this, but it will get better. I shot this at a fairly long telephoto to compress the mass of blooms.
Sony HX90V at 520mm equivalent field of view. 1/400th @ ISO 80 @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom.