Posts in Category: Kennebunk Plains

Monarchs and Northern Blazing Star

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.

Blazing Star pollinators…

Northern Blazing Star, Kennebunk Barrons Nature Conservancy, Kennebunk, Maine — Though the Blazing Star crop this year is not what I expected after a controlled burn, there are clearly enough blossoms to attract a wide variety of pollinators. Many different insects are attracted to this endangered plant, which is good, as it gives the plant its best chance at survival within its highly restricted range. It’s a good deal for the insects as well. 🙂 Left to right and down, Cabbage White butterfly, Clouded Sulphur butterfly, Cuckoo Leaf-cutter Bee (sp?), Green Metallic Sweat Bee (sp?), Leonard’s (?) Skipper, and Monarch butterfly. I am sure if I had spent more time there I could have found others as well. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.

Bee Fly

This is, according to iNaturalist’s iSeek, another Bee Fly, the second species I have found on the Kennebunk Plains. The Bee Flies are not called “bee flies” because they look like bees…though they do a bit…but because they are bee parasites, laying their eggs in ground bee nests where the larva eat, first the food the bees have stored, and then the bee larva when they hatch. Unsavory 🙂 Still it is an interesting creature. This one is quite a bit bigger than the white-furred one I found previously, and has more patten on the wings. There are many species of Bee Flies, and iSeek and its AI engine could come no closer. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.

Calico Skimmer on Blazing Star

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.

Blazing Star just opening

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.

Martha’s Pennant

Out at Day Brook Pond on the Kennebunk Barrens Nature Conservancy (what used to be the Kennebunk Plains Wildlife Management Area), we always have an abundance of Calico Pennants, from early in the spring to late in the fall. Other Pennants come and go. Right now we have emerging Halloween Pennants (previously featured here) and on my last visit I found one Martha’s Pennant. The Martha’s Pennant I tend to think of as “that other Pennant.” It is not nearly as colorful as either the Calico or the Halloween. If not for its very Pennant like perch, I would have trouble identifying it…and I do actually, almost every year. It did not help that this one was hanging just at the far edge of the emergent vegetation in the pond, stretching the limits of my 600mm lens. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.

Halloween Pennant

Halloween Pennant, Day Brook Pond, Kennebunk Barrens Nature Conservancy, Kennebunk, Maine, USA. — This is the subject of yesterday’s Day Poem, in all its transient glory. This dragonfly is newly emerged…you can tell by the extra cellophane like gloss on the wings…and, of course, I saw it come in off the water and land on what had to be it’s first flight. The wings gain strength quickly and it only perched a few times, very briefly, before it was off somewhere inland. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.

Bee Fly on Blazing Star

There are two things of interest in this photo. Of course, the Northern Blazing Star…an endangered plant that grows abundantly on the Kennebunk Plains. This is a very early flower…the massed bloom will not happen until mid August…but there are generally a few plants in favored spots on the plains that bloom early. It is one of my favorite flowers and I wait patiently for it each year. The Nature Conservancy did a prescribed burn on the Day Brook side of the plains last September, and, as Blazing Star is “fire dependent”, I expect a really good bloom this year. The signs are shaping up. There are abundant plants and a few early bloomers. Should be good. The other thing of interest is the bug. It is, I was able to determine after some internet searches and a couple of AI powered identification apps, one of the Bee Flys…all of which have that long proboscis for drilling down for nectar. They are Bee Flies not only because they somewhat resemble bees, but because they are bee predators…bee parasites…laying their eggs in active ground bee nests, one egg per nest, where they hatch and the larva eats both the bee’s stored food and the bee larva themselves. The things you can learn on the internet! Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.

Comet Neowise

I had my first looks at our new comet last night. The sky was not as clear as I might have liked, and the mosquitoes were horrific until it got totally dark, but it was an experience not to be missed. I am not totally happy with any of the photos, but if we have at really clear night anytime before the comet begins to fade, I will put what I learned last night to good use. 🙂 If you are interested in seeing or photographing the comet, I would advise not even trying until the stars are visible. Though it is just barely visible to the naked eye, it is easier to find using pointer stars, which will give you a much better idea of where to look. It is almost exactly half way down to the horizon, in a line that extends down from the lowest star in the bowl of the big dipper…but still much higher in the sky than I anticipated. Sony Rx10iv from 24mm to 300mm equivalent. The first two are manual exposures, 6 seconds, and 10 seconds at f4, auto ISO in the Multi-frame-noise-reduction mode. The wide angle shot is in Auto Low Light mode. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos. Kennebunk Plains Nature Conservancy, Kennebunk, Maine.

Before the season passes….

I won’t say “one last Wood Lily” because you just never know, but I want to post at least this one, before the season passes. Many of the lilies are very tall this year, probably to do with the timing and amount of rail we have had, the number of sunny days, etc. This pair, photographed on the Kennebunk Plains Wildlife Management Area here in Southern Maine, was close to 3 feet above ground level. Sony Rx10iv at 367mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.