Posts in Category: animals

Porcupine, and a cautionary tale

North American Porcupine: Wells Estuarine Research Reserve at Laudholm Farms, Wells, Maine, USA — As I came to the junction of the Piliger Trail and the Laudholm Connector there was a family standing just beyond under the old apple trees, with cell phones out, looking into the deeper brush, so of course, I had to go see what they were seeing. Nothing much they said, just a porcupine in the apple tree. And indeed, there was one, out on a branch asleep when I first saw it. Not easy to see as it blended well with the bark of the tree. I (again, of course), took hundreds of photos from all different angles, mostly trying to get a clear shot of the face. It is pretty rare in my experience to see a healthy porcupine right out in plain sight (as opposed to flattened the road). In fact, my last “out in the open” sighing of a porcupine was the Mexican Porcupine in Honduras many years ago. When I had my photos, I left the porcupine to the attention of others who had come down the path after me. Going up the hill toward the Knight Trail and back to my eTrike, I was pretty full of the experience (and myself to be honest) and decided to take a look at a few of the photos on the back of the camera just to check if I had ever really gotten the face. The face is easily lost, black on black within the gray cowl of the quills. “NO CARD, CAN NOT DISPLAY” What? This was not a good time for the camera to tell me that! Not useful at all. Very disappointing. I mean, why not tell me that when I took my first photo of the porcupine? This is not the first time this has happened to me, but the first time when the photos really mattered to me. I mean, really, my porcupine shots? Not that it would have done me any good if the camera had been more forthcoming. I stopped carrying a second card when out on my eTrike several months ago. That is a bad habit I will now make every effort to break. Always carry a spare card! Sigh! So I trudged back to the apple tree. The porcupine was still there, though it had, under the pressure of less cautions observation (there were a lot of folks using the trail that day), retreated down the branch toward the safety of the crotch of the tree, where it had taken refuge. I was just a bit chagrined to be among the cell phone photographers, but I put my Sirui 60mm portrait lens on my iPhone SE and got as close as I felt good about to take my shots. Nothing great, but I did get the face. This shot has been through Pixomator Pro’s ML Super Resolution treatment to simulate a longer telephoto, as well as being processed in Apple Photos. So folks, always carry a spare card! You never know when you will see something very special in the wild.

Northern Black Racer

Northern Black Racer: Kennebunk Plains, Kennebunk, Maine, USA — The Northern Black Racer reaches the northern limits of its range here in York County, Maine. It is on the Maine State Endangered Species List, and is a Species High Concern. There is a monitored population on the Kennebunk Plains Reserve, which is managed by the Nature Conservancy in cooperation with the state wildlife agency. It is, in fact, one of the species, along with the Northern Blazing Star plant, Upland Sandpiper, and Grasshopper Sparrow populations, and a few other endangered or threatened species, which prompted the Nature Conservancy, the Kennebunk Land Trust, and the state of Maine to preserve the Plains. Black Racers are not easy to see…they are secretive and keep under cover much of their lives. Wildlife and Inland Fisheries has a radio tagging study on the Kennebunk Plains, and I have bumped into the researchers a few times. Even with radio tags the snakes are hard to find. I did not find this one. I just happened to be there when a gentleman…and amateur herpetologist…was releasing this snake where he had captured it the day before. He had taken it home to treat some wounds on its belly (perhaps from a hawk encounter) and to show it to his son, who had never seen one. I am not condoning this behavior…it is both illegal and in my opinion unwise (especially when it comes to endangered species)…something this gentleman was well aware of. To be fair, he was very conscientious about handling the snake with care…and the snake did not seem to be any worse for the experience. And, since I don’t go around turning over logs on the Plains (or anywhere for that matter) I would not have seen this snake any other way. (I have seen one Black Racer before on the Plains…but that was a chance encounter…and once out of many hundreds of visits to the Plains over the past 20 years.) This was not a big racer…though compared to the size of the head (about the size of my thumb) it was a very long snake (likely five feet or more). Like most constrictors its body, with it smooth scales, just exudes power. And, once sure of its footing after release, it demonstrated how apt its name is by racing, about as fast as my eye could follow, for the deep cover of a low stand of dense brush. Nikon B700 at 370mm, 140mm, and 445mm to frame the snake. Shutter program at 1/640th. ISO 220. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.

Painted Turtles

Eastern Painted Turtle: Kennebunk, Maine, USA — There are seven or eight species of turtles in Maine, depending on what authority you check. By far the most common is the Eastern Painted Turtle, which is found in ponds all over the state. They tend, in my experience, to be relatively shy…sliding into the water at any approach. I rarely get as close to them as I would like for photography. These live in the little drainage pond at the back of the Southern Maine Health Care parking lot, and seem especially brightly painted. Nikon B700 at 1440mm equivalent. Shutter program at 1/400th. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.

Red is back again

Red Squirrel: Kennbunk, Maine, USA — We had a Red Squirrel visiting yesterday…probably the same one that visited a month ago…but it is really hard to tell. This time I decided not to be satisfied with photos through the thermal glass deck door. I opened the door gently and, when the squirrel did not take much notice, I stepped out on the deck. For the next half hour I watched and photographed as the squirrel continued to explore and enjoy the feeding station. As I noted in the last Red Squirrel post, he (or she) can get into all the feeders…even squeezing through the outer cage around our double cage suet feeder. Once inside it climbs up on top of the inner cage where the suet is and eats its full…if indeed it understands the concept of “full”. I suspect it would eat the whole block. If I went right over to the cage while it was in it…it would scamper out…but it did not leave the deck. This is a bold Red Squirrel indeed. It would sit on the rail, staring at me, and chattering, laying its claim to the deck and all the feeders. It came back several times during the morning, but I did not see it after that, and it has not appeared this morning yet, so I suspect it has moved on to another yard, or returned to its own territory in whichever of the surrounding stands of trees it calls home. And to be honest, while I enjoy its visits, I would not want a family of them making a home in the yard. They get into everything. It was another “dark” day yesterday…very like the last visit…with heavy overcast and some mist in the air, but being able to photograph without the glass between us made for much more satisfying shots. Sony Rx10iv. This particular shot at 380mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos. ISO 1600 @ 1/500th @ f4.

Nothing is safe from a Red Squirrel

Carol called me from the bedroom where I was setting up for my morning qi gong. I thought she said “I think there is a dead squirrel here…” so I came to look…turns out she said “I think there is a Red Squirrel here…” and, indeed, there was. A highly caffeinated Red Squirrel at that. In the 10 minutes or so it was on our deck, it was everywhere, and into everything…all very rapid…a lightning raid before it scampered off. Red Squirrels must live in the surrounding woodlands, but they only appear in our yard once or twice a year, at least while we are looking. Just as well too, since nothing is safe from a Red Squirrel…we have come to an uneasy truce with our resident Grey Squirrels and Chipmunks (we are host to at least 4 squirrels and what sometimes seems to the hundreds, but is more likely dozens of Eastern Chipmunks), but the Red Squirrel is another beast altogether and no “squirrel proof” feeding solution will even mildly discourage them. Still, they are undeneighably cute with their rusty tail, little round ears and big round eyes…and those little paws…and it was fun to watch one scamper all over our deck and feeders…for a change…once in a great while. Sony Rx10iv at 500-600mm equivalent…through the thermopane glass of our deck door. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos. And, of course, before full sun-up so the light was a problem.

Dust bathing Vesper Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow: Kennebunk Plains, Kennebunk, Maine, USA — This bird was a ways away…captured at 1440mm equivalent with the Nikon B700. It was also very busy, taking a dust bath in the middle of the foot trail out along the woods beyond Day Brook Pond. I would have had trouble identifying it if 1) Vesper Sparrows were not among the most common sparrows on the Plains, and 2) if that distinctive little patch of chestnut feathers on the shoulder was not showing so nicely. Even Google Lens was able to id the bird…if I needed any confirmation. Again, Nikon B700 at 1440mm equivalent. Program mode. ISO 100 @ f6.5 @ 1/640th. -.3 EV Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos.

Ninja Chipmunk

Eastern Chipmunk: Kennebunk, Maine, USA — We have, of course, lots of chipmunks in our yard, but it is always fun to see them “in the wild”…out in the deeper forest. This is one of two who were playing tree tag in Rachel Carson forest as I was walking the other day. One of the fun things about carrying the Nikon B700 is the 1440mm reach that allows for shots like this from a fair distance. B700 at 1440mm equivalent. Program mode for ISO 1000 @ f6.5 @ 1/125. -.3EV Vivid Picture Control. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos. I think this is a satisfying shot for high ISO with the small sensor on the Nikon.

Mom to be

Grey Squirrel, Kennebunk, Maine, USA — Some of the squirrels in our yard are already getting ready for the first litter of the year…the females are getting just a bit plump and, in compromising positions, you can see their nipples swelling. You can just see the first signs here. This is the only time of year I can tell the females from the males. 🙂 Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent from my backyard photo blind. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos. ISO 200 @ f4 @ 1/500th.

Squirrel among the Maple blossoms

Eastern Gray Squirrel: Kennebunk, Maine, USA — I looked out of my window yesterday afternoon, peaking between the blinds, and saw a squirrel on the maple branch above me. He appeared to be eating the maple blossoms…I have been watching the maple blossoms since they were just tiny red beads on the branch tips. Maple blossoms are one of my favorite things about spring. They are so beautiful, and so unlikely. I suspect the vast majority of Americans do not know that maples flower, and certainly do not know how beautiful the flowers are. Our blossoms are not quite ready to open into full flowers yet, but they have made a lot of progress the past few days. I certainly did not expect to see the squirrels eating them. A google peruse this morning shows that it is common behavior…to the extent that are recommended “cures” to keep squirrels from decimating ornamental maples in folk’s yards. We have so many maple trees here in Southern Maine, and even in our yard, that it would take a plague of squirrels of biblical proportions (as they say) to do much damage. Much as I appreciate maple flowers, if the squirrels prefer them to my sunflower seeds in season, I say “let them eat flowers!” Anyway, I got my camera and spent a while watching and photographing the squirrel getting into all kinds of greedy postures among the maple blossoms. Each of these three shots tells its own story, and together they tell a tale. Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos. ISO 400, 250, and 250 @ f4 @ 1/500th.

Pugilant Squirrel

Grey Squirrel: Kennebunk, Maine, USA — Great light, engaging squirrel…what could go wrong? I was in my backyard photo blind (a chair blind I put out when I need it, and take down when I don’t), and the squirrel was certainly aware I was in there. He or she was not threatened enough to do more than aggressively posture…but posture he or she did. 🙂 Sony Rx10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and Apple Photos. ISO 250 @ f4 @ 1/500th.