There are only about 4500 Brown Noddies on the Dry Tortugas, compared to 100,000 Sooty Terns, but somehow they seem just as prevalent. The Noddies roost on the ruins of the North Coal Dock, at one angle of Fort Jefferson, and if you creep along the shore, between the brush and the water, you can get quite close to them. Afternoon light is best. It picks out all the subtitle details of the birds’ plumage and the rich textures of the rusted chains and stays of the Coal Dock. And, as with any group of “resting” sea-birds, there is always a lot of action and interaction, as the birds seem to squabble continuously over the best perches. I kept the Sony RX10iv in Program mode with my custom birds in flight and action modifications and let the lock on tracking auto focus do its work. This shot was just back from full zoom at 570mm equivalent. 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.
On my ebike photoprowl to the Kennebunk Plains Wildlife Management Area on Sunday, though I was looking mainly for Odonata and wildflowers, I did see a few birds around what I call Day Brook Pond. The pond has no name on the maps, and there are two ponds on the Plains. The other pond, slightly larger, is generally called Kennebunk Plains Pond on maps, though it is perhaps more properly Cold Brook Pond, so I call this pond “Day Brook” pond. It is an active beaver pond that has had a man-made dam added near the headwaters of what becomes Day Brook. But the birds: Two warblers and two sparrows. In the panel we have a Pine Warbler and the best shot I could get of a Canada Warbler that was skulking along the immediate shore of the pond. And then an American Tree Sparrow from the pines along the pond and a Vesper Sparrow from further out in the plains. Both Tree and Vesper were part of small flocks. (There were also Tree Swallows and Robins around, but I did not bet photos.) I rarely see either the Pine or the Canada Warbler around Kennebunk (in fact the Canada may be a first in Maine for me), and I have only seen Tree and Vesper Sparrows on the Kennebunk Plains. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed and cropped in Polarr.
I apologize to those of you who don’t like snakes…but I think this is the largest Northern Water Snake I have ever seen and deserves some celebration. I was looking for Odonata and wildflowers along the edge of the pond on the Kennebunk Plains Wildlife Management Area in West Kennebunk when I spotting this snake swimming along the edge of a little peninsula-like extension of the shore about 10 yards from me. It proceeded to turn and swim right toward me, across the shallow little bay full of vegetation, passing in front of me at a about 10 feet. It had to be 6 feet long and maybe 4 inches through its thickest section. A big water snake. I was busy zooming in and out to frame the snake and I shifted my feet on the spongy moss underfoot. It disappeared in a sudden dive under the vegetation…so I am pretty sure it had not been aware of me until just that moment. Sony RX10iv at 600mm and 244mm equivalents. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and assembled in Framemagic.
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.
“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus
It seems like we have not had a “normal” spring in southern Maine in years. Perhaps it is time for me to admit that this might be the new normal…or at least the current normal. Wildflowers are blooming late, and migrant birds and dragonflies are arriving late, and our native dragons are emerging later each year. And, the season is compressed. When the wildflowers bloom, they bloom all at once. Take the panel here. These flowers should not be in bloom at the same time…and they certainly should not be having their first blooms at the same time. In the recent past, the Painted Trillium (upper left) and Blue-bead Lilly (upper right) would be showing their last tired blooms before the Lady Slipper (in the center) began to show. And the smaller forest floor flowers like the Starflower and Twin-berry would have be in full boom by the time the Lady Slippers appeared…but this year these are the first blooms I have found. If you are at all aware of the natural world around you…if you observe the rhythm of the seasons through the birds and insects and trees and wildflowers…it is hard to deny that the climate is changing. Spring in Maine is later and later, and more and more compressed. You can debate whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, for us humans, and for the earth…or you can be uncertain of the causes, and doubtful of the solutions, but it is becoming harder and harder to deny it is happening.
The generous eye is an open eye…one that sees what is in front of it. A being full of light has the wisdom to identify causes and the hope to see solutions…or at least to see the things we can each do to help the planet, and our species, children of the living God that we are, to survive this change in climate. And if we each did what we can do, that might be enough. Certainly if we all did what we can do, together, then I have to believe that that would be enough.
A late compressed spring may be the new normal, and it may be just a transition phase toward a more balanced planet. It begins with generous, open, eyes, and moves through beings full of light to a future where what is normal is better, for us, and for the planet.
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.
There are often Eastern Screech Owls nesting or roosting along the boardwalk at Magee Marsh, and this year there were two…sitting out approximately 100 yards apart. They were there every day I visited during the Biggest Week in American Birding. There was often a spotting scope on one of them, effectively blocking the boardwalk and creating a owl-jam that was difficult to navigate. The panel shows both individuals, three shots of one, and one shot of the other (bottom right). Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and assembled in Framemagic.
After seeing a few dragonflies in Florida when I visited Key West and the Dry Tortugas, and one dragonfly when in Ohio, I have been eagerly checking my local ponds for my first Maine dragon of the season. Earlier in the week I stopped by the Southern Maine Medical Center drainage ponds here in town, one of my most productive dragonfly spots over the years. Nothing happening. Yesterday, only a few days later, there were at least a dozen Common Green Darners hunting over the water and the adjacent parking lot. Green Darners are highly migrant and these are probably last year’s darners returning from a winter spent further south, and they were mostly males, but I caught at least one pair in the act of depositing eggs in the reeds at the edge of the pond. Things are looking up! Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.
Yesterday was a day for looking for wildflowers. I took my ebike out to the headquarters trail at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge to see if, despite our ridiculously late spring, there were flowers in bloom. The Hobblebush is, of course, still in bloom, but then, that sometimes blooms in February. The Lady Slippers, generally a safe bet for Mother’s Day, are just budding out. Late indeed. However the Two-bead Lily are past, so they apparently bloomed on schedule. ?? I found the Rhodora above in a road-side ditch on my way to Rachel Carson, and the Wood Violet, Blueberry, and Painted Trillium along the trail. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and assembled in Framemagic.