As we were turning the boat around after our first Shoebill sighting in the Mabamba Wetlands near Entebbe, Uganda (no easy task as the channel was choked with water plants), one of the African Jacanas that had been feeding nearby decided to come really near. This shot, taken at 1200mm equivalent (2X Clear Image Zoom) is cropped only for composition. The bird was close! Note that unlike most water-weed-walking birds, the Jacana does not have webbed or lobbed toes. It relies on the huge spread of its foot to support it on floating vegetation. Sony RX10IV. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr. #Epic_Uganda_Vacations.
There are always a few “clusters” of Grass Pink Orchids (when there are Grass Pink Orchids at all), and it is common for one plant to have several blossoms, but this year in the remnant bog at Laudholm Farms the orchids seemed uncommonly clustery and particularly prolific. And who can object to such a display, especially when dealing with a beautiful flower that, due to lack of habit, is becoming rare? Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent (top panel) and 62mm (bottom panel). Macro mode (in the Scene Modes). Processed in Polarr and assembled in Framemagic.
I apologize in advance, but you are probably going to have to endure several days of Grass Pink Orchid posts (with maybe a few Rose Pagonias thrown in. 🙂 I rode down to Laudholm Farms yesterday, on a somewhat foggy, misty morning, as a front came through bringing rain, to see if the Orchids were in bloom in the little remnant bog they have preserved in the lower fields at Laudholm. They were…both Rose Pagonia and Grass Pink. And, I have not seen a bloom like this year’s in all the years I have been watching this little bog. There were many clusters of both orchids…half a dozen to a cluster…and the total number of blooming plants had to be above 50…and that is just what I could easily see from the boardwalk. Last year I found only a few Rose Pagonias and only 2 Grass Pinks. What a difference a year can make. The Grass Pinks were fresh, so very purple pink, and the subdued light helped to bring out the intensity of the color. I probably said this last year (and maybe the year before) but they really need to come up with a better name for this orchid than “Grass Pink.” The Greek generic name is “Beautiful Beard”, but this is not, upon reflection, much better. It is, I think, one of the most beautiful bog orchids I have seen. It is also relatively unique in the orchid world because the stem twists to present the flower upside down, with the tongue at the top. There is more of interest here…but I don’t want to tell you everything today, as I have more pics for tomorrow. 🙂 Sony RX10iv at 600mm optical equivalent with enough Clear Image Zoom to fill the frame. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.
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.
The Common Whitetail is not a particularly elegant dragonfly, and, true to its name, it can be among the most common dragons on the wing in early summer, but it is still a fascinating creature. This, taken at Emmon’s Preserve in rural Kennebunkport, is an immature male, which has not developed the pruinose on the tail that will turn it white with time. (Pruinosity is a waxy power that forms on the surface of the dragonfly.) Females don’t have the solid black bars across the wings. This one was posed so nicely for a perfect portrait shot. Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (600 optical plus 2x Clear Image Zoom). Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.
Another very common dragonfly all over southern Maine, but especially at the ponds on the Kennebunk Plains Wildlife Management Area: Slaty Skimmer. Not the most attractive dragon, and very similar to the much more showy (at least in flight) Spangled Skimmer with which it shares habitat. Still, it has an understated elegance all its own. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.
We put up a new feeder pole on the other corner of the deck this week, along with a branch I saved from pruning the cherry tree last fall. The birds started using it immediately. I also added one of those metal screen thistle feeders to replace the thistle sock, which never, in the past three years, attracted a single Finch. That too was a success. The Goldfinches, which came to the Black-oil Sunflower Seed feeders even if they did not come to the thistle sock, started using the screen thistle feeder on the second day. They also like the cherry tree branch, which is straight in line with the deck door and easily visible from the breakfast table…if I am careful I can get the door open a crack before the birds fly, hence this shot of a Gold Finch at close range. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.
I went out for a photoprowl on my ebike to Emmon’s Preserve (Kennebunkport Conservation Trust), mainly to see if there were any River Jewelwings (damselflies) flying. I have seen River Jewelwings only once in my life, and that was in June at Emmon’s Preserve. Not yesterday. One of my goals for this summer is to photograph more dragonflies…and damselflies…odonata in general. My fascination with the form and function…the odd beauty of odonata, continues. Yesterday there was a medium sized dragonfly hunting in one of the little alcoves off the trail around the big meadow. These alcoves, sheltered from the wind on three sides, are often great spots for dragons. It looked, and acted, like a baskettail to me, in flight, and I waited ten minutes to see if it would perch (I have waited on baskettails before with no success.) This one, however, eventually did perch and I got a few shots. So of course I spent 30 minutes there waiting for it to perch again…and it did, twice more. I am never quite sure of my dragonfly ids…we have over 130 species recorded in York County Maine…and, even if a baskettail, there are quite a few baskettails it could have been. I am definitely a novice and I have no experience of iding dragons in the hand. This made an ideal trial for a new app I recently downloaded. Odes by Fieldguides.ai The Fieldguides series of apps (Everything, Odes, Leps, Birds, Plants, and Fungi) is a crowd sourced identification app. Folks submit photos and details, and when you submit a photo the ai engine attempts to identify whatever you submitted. I submitted my photo and the app suggested Beaverpond Baskettail. I was able to study several dozen other photos ided as Beaverpond, and concluded that the app was correct. A quick check with my DragonFly ID app pretty much confirmed it. I could still be wrong, but I have a fair degree of confidence that this is indeed a Beaverpond Baskettail (until someone who knows better tells me otherwise). Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.
As I mentioned in my previous Lady Slipper post, I do know of a few scattered and more isolated areas where the Pink Lady Slipper blooms here in Southern Maine, besides the reliable clumps along the trail at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge Headquaters. There are always a few along the edge of the pond on the Kennebunk Plains…and these are the only ones I know of that are growing in full sun (at least part of the day). This an in-camera HDR shot with the Sony Ultra Wide, 18mm equivalent lens on the Sony a5100…and it puts the Lady Slipper in context. The flower is about 8 inches from my lens, and I used selective focus to focus on it, but the extreme depth of field of the ultra wide renders a scene rich in texture and detail. It would make an excellent 16×20 print to dominate a wall! Processed in Polarr.
Yesterday I biked down to the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters trail to check on the Pink Lady Slipper orchids, which were just budding out the middle of last week, several weeks late. There is a large patch on the inside (land side) of the trail right behind the buildings, and there is a small patch below one of the overlooks where they maintain an opening onto the marsh view. The ones on the inside were still in bud, but at least two of the flowers on the sunnier marsh side had opened. There are more to come, clearly, in both spots and if we get a few warm days here they will all be open. The first blooms to open this year are pale compared to other years. Only time will tell if that is the trend this year, or just characteristic of the early bloom. The Lady Slippers are wonderful, ornate, delicate blooms…endangered due to habitat loss, and protected. I know of a few other more isolated spots where they bloom in the area, but the ones along the headquarters trail are certainly the most reliable and accessible. Sony RX10iv at 365mm equivalent. In-camera HDR. Processed in Polarr.