My friend Stef and I took a loop out through the Kennebunk Plains Wildlife Management Area yesterday to take in, among other things, the last of the Northern Blazing Star bloom. Blazing Star is endangered in Maine and the Plains are one of its last strongholds. I was reminded just how important a resource it is. Besides flocks of busy Goldfinches and Pine Warblers, the Blazing Star along Day Brook Pond was full of insects…butterflies and moths and bees and flies. When I first saw this White-lined Sphinx Moth I took it for one of the Clearwings. I have seen both Snowberry and Hummingbird Clearwings working the Blazing Star in the past. A closer look showed that despite similar size and behavior, this was a different moth. No transparent wings. I had to look it up when I got home. The White-lined Sphinx, like many Hawk moths, is mostly nocturnal, and mostly seen early and late, during dawn and dusk, so I can be forgiven for assuming it was a Clearwing. If I remember correctly, my only other sighting was years ago by artificial light on our back deck, feeding on the potted plants we keep there, when I, like many others, called it a Hummingbird Moth because of its size and behavior. (That name actually belongs to the Clearwing.) The White-lined Sphinx Moth occupies a huge range, all of North America and parts of Central America, and there are apparently known populations in Europe, Asia, and Africa. This one was very cooperative, working the same patch of Blazing Star for 15 minutes or more, and coming in close enough for lots of photos, before zooming off in search of a new patch of flowers. Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (2x Clear Image Zoom). Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.
I am working back through my photos from my Birding the Manu Road adventure with Amazon Journeys more or less in order. This is from the first day, still on the highway to Purcartambo (where the Manu Road really begins). We pulled off in a “likely spot” on one of the hairpin turns to walk a ways and see what we could see. This is the Chestnut-breasted Mountain Finch, a lovely little bird the Birds of Peru guide lists as rare and local throughout its limited range on the mid-range dry slopes of the Andes. Sony RX10iv at 1200mm equivalent (600mm optical plus 2x Clear Image Zoom). Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.
We had a long cold spring in southern Maine this year, and most dragon and damselflies are late arriving or late flying, but here in the first weeks of July, we are finally seeing some action. These dragons were all at the drainage pond at Southern Maine Medical Center in Kennebunk yesterday. Unicorn Clubtail, Twelve Spotted Skimmer, female Eastern Pondhawk, and Blue Dasher. All but the Unicorn will be abundant at the area ponds for the next month or more, but it is good to see them flying. Sony RX10iv at 600mm optical equivalent, plus enough Clear Image Zoom to fill the frame. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.
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.
I still have lots of photos from my three spring trips to post. Portugal, The Dry Tortugas, and the Biggest Week in American Birding in Ohio, all packed into a one month period. 100,000 Sooty Terns nest on the Dry Tortugas. You can not get very close to them during nesting but the mass of them over, on, and around Bush Key as seen from the top of the fort is totally impressive. If you are lucky enough to have a small boat and cruise out along the no-boats markers past Bush Key (on your way to Long Key to view the Magnificent Frigatebirds nesting, for instance) you have a good chance of seeing the Sooty Terns rise and circle over the shallow waters to fish and drink. They can literally surround your boat…often passing within a few feet. On our last day on the islands, the Sooty Terns rose and circled us not once, but three times. It was spectacular. Catching them on the wing, and as they drink, is a challenge…but one that few bird photographers can resist at least trying. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds in flight and action modifications (1/2000th minimum shutter speed ISO). 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.)
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.
While warblers are the stars of the show during the Biggest Week in American Birding along the Erie shore of Northern Ohio every May, it is hard to ignore the numbers of House Wrens along the boardwalk at Magee Marsh. This year there seemed to great numbers. They were hunting in the leaf litter and singing from low branches everywhere. I caught this one in the act of dispatching a spider. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.
The Biggest Week in American Birding is officially over for another year, but of course the birds are still coming north in numbers. This is a Northern Parula singing above the boardwalk at Magee Marsh on the Ohio shore of Lake Erie. A perky little bird, often hidden by leaves. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.