The Generous Eye: Wild Iris. Happy Sunday!

“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!” Jesus

Here along the coast we will not have Wild Iris for another 2 weeks at least, but just a few miles further inland they are all over the place…in roadside ditches, and along wet swales in hayfields and on the edges of meadows near ponds. Maybe there are that many more this year as we have had a wet spring. I found a boggy pasture edged with pines that must have had 5000 Iris in bloom. Quite a show. Evolutionists will tell you that wildflowers got their form and color due to the evolutionary pressure, not to say competition, for reproduction and pollination. It is not so much that I don’t believe it could have happened that way, as that I find it much easier to believe that the loving creator just likes flowers…loves flowers. There are so many and so many different colors, different forms…from a simple round of petals to the ornate structures of the iris and orchids. Form may follow function, but, to my way of thinking, and my generous eye at its best, part of the function of flowers might just be…well…to be beautiful. If that is naive…or even “simple minded”…then I proudly claim naivety and simplicity as legitimate aspects of the generous eye. The generous eye sees the glory of the creator in everything. How can you not see it in the Wild Iris?

Beaver-pond Baskettail

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.

Classic over the shoulder Red-tailed pose

A second shot from the sequence of the Red-tailed Hawk at Laudholm Farms on Thursday. Such a handsome bird! Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.

Red-tailed Action

Despite my still healing bruised tailbone, I am getting out for photoprowls on my ebike most days when it does not rain all day. Yesterday, after the rain stopped, I rode down to the Bridal Path to check for dragonflies (not yet) and to Rachel Carson to see if the huge Jack-in-the-pulpits were opened out (not yet), and then to finish the circuit rode into the Laudholm Farms parking area before looping back around on Rt. 1 to home (just over 10 miles). I was headed out of the Laudholm parking lot when I caught the hawk on the bluebird boxes behind the hedge at corner. I was able to get off the bike, get my camera out of the rear rack pack, and approach as close as the hedge would allow without the hawk taking alarm, so I got a whole series of photos. It turned out to be an immature Red-tailed Hawk, perhaps drying from the rains in the sun on its handy perch and not in any hurry to go anywhere. Though it might look like it is about to take flight here, anyone who has watched sitting hawks very long knows what comes next…and I have a great photo of the white-wash stream to prove it. They do often fly right after, but this one settled down and remained on the perch until I decided it was time to finish my ride. Sony RX10iv at 840mm equivalent (1.4x Smart Zoom…in-camera crop). Processed in Polarr.

Jack-in-the-pulpit

The Jack-in-the-pulpit is a strange plant, and relatively rare in southern Maine (or at least rare in the places I frequent). I have seen them several times at Laudholm Farms (Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve) but the stands I knew are apparently gone now. This one is growing on the edge of what used to the frog pond at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters. There are several there that I am watching. This is an early bloom. There are some giants there that should bloom over the next week or so, and I hope to catch them. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr.

Passing the petal. Cedar Waxwings

I shared my best single shot of this courting pair of Cedar Waxwings offering an apple petal to each other…but I took more than 50 shots at 3 frames per second as they passed the petals back and forth several times while I watched. This is one sequence. (It reads left to right then down and left to right again.) I am not sure why the female is “puffed out” but it seems to be part of the ritual. Laudholm Farms (Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve) in Wells, Maine. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed in Polarr and assembled in Framemagic.

Courting Cedar Waxwings

I rode my ebike down to Laudholm Farms (Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve) yesterday to see if I could find any Jack-in-the-pulpit in bloom. I did not, not there, though they are in bloom near the headquarters buildings at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge just up the road. While hiking the boardwalk loop at Laudholm I encountered my first Cedar Waxwings of the season for southern Maine…just a few, in the very tops of the trees…but as I hiked on and turned to come up through the old apple orchards…full of blossoming apple and crab-apple trees…I found more and more waxwings. I had to keep revising my estimate up, but I am convinced there were at least 100, maybe 150, Cedar Waxwings feeding in the apple blossoms. They were all around me, sometimes two dozen or more in a single tree.

I was not far into the Cedar Waxwing experience when a pair landed right in front of me on a low branch. Each had an apple blossom in its beak, and I got to watch as they apparently passed the petals back and forth for several moments. At the very least they were offering the petals to each other. I had never seen that behavior, obviously courting behavior between a pair, before, and found it fascinating. I took a lot of photos, and came home feeling totally blessed to been in the right place at the right time.

When I showed this photo to Carol, she immediately remembered seeing another like it on Facebook already within the past 24 hours. Some searching around found not one, but three other recent photos all taken…from Maine to Michigan…of Cedar Waxwings offering petals…Dogwood and Apple…to each other. A forth appeared in my stream shortly after my search. And who knows how many were posted by people I don’t know. Cleary this behavior is synchronized with the bloom of large white showy flowering trees, and evidently they are, at least this year, all in bloom at the same time across the north east quadrant of the country.

So, as it turns out, this is just my contribution to the courting, petal passing, Cedar Waxwing show. I still feel privileged to have seen it…to have been in the right place at the right time…but I now know myself to only one a small select group of people all across the country to have this experience on the same day. How special is that!

Peregrine Falcon on the Dry Tortugas

Peregrine Falcons nest on the Dry Tortugas and are seen most days hanging out on the radio tower at the southwest corner of Ft. Jefferson. In fact, in a spotting scope view, the radio tower is often decorated with bird body parts left over from Peregrine meals. The nesting seabirds provide a constant smorgasbord for the efficient Peregrines. This shot is from out last, early morning, visit to the Fort on our way back to Key West. We were there just long enough to catch the early light on the tower and the birds. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds and wildlife modifications. Processed and cropped in Polarr.

The Generous Eye: Surprise! Happy Sunday.

“If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light.” Jesus

If you go through the world with your eyes open, generously open, you are bound to be surprised by the things you see. This little puff of moss, up against the base of a pine in the forest, surprised me. It looks like a animate creature, an animal…like, at the very least, a sea urchin of the forest floor, or maybe even a hedgehog. Surprising. Delightful. With open eyes, you will be constantly reminded that creation is alive (and often delightful) in all its details, and that the creator is at work every second of every day. Another way to look at it is that the creation is communication. Nature speaks to us. We hear it with our eyes and ears, with every sense, and what it says conveys essential meaning to the spirit of creation what lives within us. Nature sings, and it sings a surprising song. My best hope for you this Sunday, is that you find yourself surprised by creation. It might not be a little puff of moss at the base of a tree in the forest…but there will be something…just keep your eyes open for it.

Magnificent Frigatebird in flight

The Dry Tortugas, 80 miles off Key West, Florida, have the only nesting colony of Magnificent Frigatebirds in North America. For birders it is one of the attractions of the islands in spring. The colony is actually on Long Key, which is closed to human traffic during nesting, so the only way to see the birds on the nest is in a kayak or small motor boat, cruising out along the no-boats markers in the very shallow water in front of the key. To see them in flight, however, you just have to look up…at any given moment there are a dozen or more circling over Ft. Jefferson, and several hundred circling over Long Key. This shot was taken from the top of the Fort, where the birds are often at eye-level and certainly no more than 20 feet above your head. Sony RX10iv at 600mm equivalent. Program mode with my custom birds in flight and action modifications (minimum shutter speed ISO set to 1/2000th in the excellent light). Processed in Polarr.