Downy Woodpecker on the suet.

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The birds have been coming to the back deck feeders more frequently over the past few days. Maybe there is a lul in the native seed harvest, or they are already feeling the urge to bulk up for the cooler weather coming all too soon. The is an early morning shot, with the sun still not fully up over the trees. Though the light was challenging for photography, I like the subtle detail.

Sony HX400V at 1200mm equivalent field of view. ISO 1600 @ 1/60th @ f6.3. Processed in Snapseed and Photo Editor by dev.macgyver on my tablet.

Butterflies of August

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And late August in Maine at that. The Common Buckeye in the upper left is a late summer migrant in Maine. In fact it does not breed anywhere in New England. It wanders north seasonally. And then we have the Monarch. Monarchs have been rare in Maine this summer so far. This is maybe the third one I have seen. There is no lack of Milkweed. The fields at Laudholm Farm, where all these pics were taken, are full of ripening Milkweed pods. Just, for whatever reason, very few monarchs. Next (bottom left) we have a very worn Red-spotted Purple. Amazing that it is still flying. Finally my first Black Swallowtail of the season, though I am sure that have been flying for many weeks now. This one is certainly already showing signs of wear.

Sony HX400V at 600-1200mm equivalent field of view. Processed in Snapseed on my tablet. Assembled in Pixlr Express.

Bug’s-eye View of Cedar Waxwing

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This is what the mild mannered Cedar Waxwing looks like if you are a bug! :-) Super predator. We have more Cedar Waxwings this summer that I have ever seen before in Southern Maine…and less Dragonflies. Do you suppose there is a connection? This one was hunting the edge of a meadow at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve at Laudholm Farm yesterday afternoon. I was shooting a sequence of shots on the branch when he launched.

Sony HX400V at 1200mm equivalent field of view. ISO 80 @ 1/360th @ f6.3. Processed in Snapseed on my tablet. Cropped slightly for composition.

Nectar

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Great Spangled Fritillery taking nectar from a Clover flower. All business :-) I never noticed that GSFs have furry eyes until looking at this shot, and confirming it in others from yesterday. Emmons Preserve, Kennebunkport ME.

Sony HX400V at 1200mm equivalent field of view. ISO 100 @ 1/250th @ f6.3. Processed in Snapseed on my tablet.

The Blue Beyond. Happy Sunday!

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A week ago today in was still in Tucson for the Tucson Birding Festival and, since it was the last day of the festival and we were both tired out, my colleague and I made no plans to go out before the show hours. Still I walked along the river behind the hotel and, when the chance occurred, borrowed the car for a short drive to a city park that one of the locals had recommend. There was nothing much happening at the park…it was nice as parks go, but the promised birds were simply not there. There were of course Mallards, tamed by the daily proximity to the park patrons, and as I walked by one (you practically had to shoo them out of the path) I looked down into this amazing window of blue on the wing. Zoom. Snap.

Sony HX400V at about 900mm equivalent field of view. ISO 200 @ 1/250th @ f5.6. Processed in Snapseed on my tablet.

And for the Sunday Thought. For me the patterns of color in bird plumage, and the structure of the feathers themselves, will always be testimony to the actions of a loving creator. I simply can not believe that any sequence of random mutations could have resulted in anything as intricate and beautiful as the feathers on a Mallard duck. I can not conceive of any evolutionary advantage to the contrasting patch of blue fire that flashes when the wings are held just so…that glimpse of the pure blue beyond. Personally I find it that I am forced to consider the possibility of an intelligence behind the design…a loving intent expressing itself in feather and color…in the living being of the duck under foot. I take our ability to see and appreciate such pattern and such intent as central to who we are and to the nature of the universe we live in. It was exactly at the moment when I came to that conclusion I my life, that the Creator broke in in Jesus Christ and demanded that I consider his claims to be that intelligence, that person…the one who spoke the love in the blue beyond the structure of the universe. Honestly I resisted the idea, but when he offered me, in the simple act of opening myself to belief, whatever proof I might want, I surrendered, and he has been proving the truth of a life of faith ever since…one day at a time…speaking in every second in every circumstance…in every encounter…in the blue beyond the beautiful feathers of an apparently random semi-tame duck on a pond in Tucson AZ on a Sunday morning in August. And I have every reason to believe he will prove himself again today. And I an confident he will do the same for you if you can open yourself to believe. His love is always there, speaking in the blue beyond. Happy Sunday!

Female Common Yellowthroat

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While checking out the Blazing Star just before my trip to Tucson last week I came up on a few birds feeling in a stand of trees by Day Brook Pond on the Kennebunk Plains. There was a Rofous-sided Towhee singing that alerted me, but this female Common Yellowthroat was feeding lower in the same tree.

Sony HX400V at 1200mm equivalent field of view. ISO 1000 @ 1/250th @ f6.3. Processed in Handy Photo on my tablet.

Stare of the Cat

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One of the highlights of the Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson AZ is the Mountain Lion enclosure, which, if I remember right, was among the first natural enclosures built in any Zoo in the US. It combines cliffs and ledges with a small pool and native plantings and provides the big cats with relatively familiar (if very restricted) habitat. I have mixed feelings about Zoos of any kind…and captive animals in general…but I understand the roll they play in research, preservation, and education, and approve of any effort to make the captives lives as normal as possible. And the natural enclosure at the SDM certainly provides an opportunity to photograph the Mountain Lion that would be very hard to come by in the cat’s own territory. For me a zoo is always going to be a guilty pleasure.

This Mountain Lion has certainly maintained its dignity in captivity, and I am thankful for that as much a short the image.

Sony HX400V at about 500mm equivalent field of view. ISO 1000 @ 1/250th @ f5.6. Processed in Snapseed on my tablet.

Blazing Star Welcome

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I still have lots of images from the Tucson trip, but just to prove I am back in Maine, here is the Blazing Star that was waiting to welcome me back. It is not a super year on the Kennebunk Plains for the rare species, or at least not in the accessible areas of the Plains. They burned well away from roads last year and the Blazing Star is always most lush in recent burns. There is still a decent crop, but no solid stands of purple. It is spread thinly over most areas of the Plains.

Sony HX400V at about 120mm equivalent field of view. ISO 80 @ 1/640th @ f5.6. Processed in Snapseed on my tablet.

Rock Squirrels Everywhere

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I suspect that the animal with the highest biomass in the Tucson area must be the Rock Squirrel. They are everywhere…from the basin beside the Santa Cruz River Channel, up through the whole Sonoran Desert layer and into the Pinion-Juniper-Oak forest. We did not get that high but I suspect they also inhabit the pine forest at the tops of the mountains surrounding the basin as well. This specimen was half way up Sabino Canyon, just enjoying a snack on its rock couch in the shade.

Sony HX400V at 1200mm equivalent field of view. ISO 80 @ 1/320th @ f6.3. Processed in Snapseed on my tablet.

Cardinal Encounter 2

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You may remember this cooperative Cardinal from my post a few days ago. Because he spent so much time with us while we waited for the Sabino Canyon shuttle, I had time to frame him at just about every focal length. This is 2400mm equivalent field of view from about 8 feet. (1200mm optical, plus 2x Pure Image Zoom.) One of the highlights of the trip to Tucson :-)

Sony HX400V. ISO 80 @ 1/400th @ f6.3. Processed in Snapseed on my tablet.