I try to avoid posting birds for #wildlifeonwednesday, but sometimes I just get carried away. This Wilson’s Snipe was sitting on a post right beside the road, and a van load of birders at the Potholes and Prairies Birding Festival just pulled up beside it. I took pics from the passenger seat, across the driver and out the driver side window. The light was perfect. The bokeh was attractive. It just does not get any better than that.
I have never seen a snipe on a post in Maine. I have seen snipe, but mostly in flyovers and fleeting glimpses at marsh edges. In North Dakota sitting on posts is apparently the snipe thing to do. During the course of 4 field trips I saw at least half a dozen snipe on poles. Fence poles. Power poles. Short poles and tall. The North Dakota snipe like to sit on top. ??
Canon SX50HS. My usual modifications to Program (see Program Modifications page above). 1800mm equivalent field of view. f6.5 @ 1/1000th @ ISO 500. Processed for intensity, clarity, and sharpness in Lightroom.
As I mentioned yesterday, all the trees you see on the “tops” of the drift prairie of North Dakota are plantings…installed by human hands as wind-brakes around dwellings and homesteads. What native trees there are are mostly cottonwoods and ash, deep in the river valleys, where the periodic prairie wildfires could not get to them, and where water was reliable all year. The exception is the Burr Oak and Ash forests that grow along the ridge of the Missouri Coteau, the glacial moraine that marks the edge of the ice advance. This is Hawk’s Nest Ridge, southwest of Carrington. It is on private land, but it draws people from hundreds of miles around, to hike and camp in the one of the only real forests in the state. These days most people call the landowners to get permission. Generations of some North Dakota families have camped and hunted on Hawk’s Nest.
And I can understand why. Even for an easterner like me, well acquainted with forest, the Burr Oak forest of Hawk’s Nest is a place of wonder.
Under the bright prairie sun, it is not an easy forest to photograph. Even my in-camera HDR left the highlights overexposed, so this is a traditional 3 exposure HDR assembled and tone mapped in Dynamic Photo HDR and processed in Lightroom.
Canon SX50HS. 24mm equivalent.
For my last field trip of the Potholes and Prairies Birding Festival in Carrington North Dakota, I went with a small van and a few people to explore the very edge of the drift prairies where they meet the Missouri Coteau…the terminal moraine of the last round of glaciers to scrub the area. They call the uplands there Hawk’s Nest Ridge, and it is a unique habitat in North Dakota: A tall hill or small mountain covered in Burr Oak forest. Until European settlers arrived on the prairies of North Dakota any trees were restricted to the deeper river valleys, right along the water…and the only real forest was found on the top of Missouri Coteau…where the Burr Oaks grow.
I was totally delighted to come to an open glade in the Burr Oaks and find it full of dragonflies. I can honestly say I have never seen as many of one species in any one place at any one time. There must have been a hundred of these bright golden, fair sized dragons working the bushes and low growth at the edge of the trees. There were also two Common Green Darners patrolling, and bunches of damsels and dancers in the grass. There was no hope for a shot of the Darners, but I tracked down a couple of the big golden guys who posed just long enough for some photography. I was excited. I was convinced that I was seeing something new to me.
So I got back to the hotel and processed the images in Lightroom. Still excited. Then I began to try to id the bugs. Oh. On closer look they were just Four Spotted Skimmers, one of the most abundant dragons around my home in southern Maine…the first dragon I photographed in Maine this year…and one that I have hundreds of images of already.
I was a little let down, I will admit. There in the clearing in the Burr Oak forest up on Hawk’s Nest Ridge the Missouri Coteau of North Dakota, with the skimmers all around me in the bright sunlight, I thought I really had something new. Four-spotted Skimmers! Who knew.
At the same time, having seen them in that number and in that light, I will never look at a Four-spotted Skimmer quite the same way again. They are a work of art, no matter how common.
Canon SX50HS with my usual tweaks to Program. 1800mm equivalent field of view. f6.5 @ 1/1000th @ ISO 640. Processed in Lightroom.
When you are at a Birding Festival like Potholes and Prairies in North Dakota, you take the weather the day provides. It is not always ideal for birding, or, in this case…the Prairie Ramble…a walk on several sections of unbroken prairie. It is what is it is.
And there is beauty in every day and every weather. This is the view from the Headquarters Building at Chase Lake, from under the overhanging branches on the lawn. Samsung Galaxy S4 in Rich Tone/HDR mode. Processed on the phone with PicSay Pro and then tweaked in Lightroom.
And for the Sunday Thought: Well, you have it already. There is beauty in every day, in every weather, and in every place. Part of the beauty is “out there”, and part is “in here”…in the eye that sees and the mind that frames, in the hands that hold the camera, and press the keys on the computer (in the phone or the laptop). Beauty calls to beauty. Beauty appreciates beauty. Beauty creates beauty. And I will never believe that any beauty is, or even can be, an accident. Beauty flows from the spirit. Beauty is the spirit. The spirit is beauty. Oh, not that way! The spirit embodies as beauty. Happy Sunday!
There is no where like the high drift prairies of North Dakota. Yesterday we took a ramble on the prairie. The Prairie Ramble field trip at the Potholes and Prairies Birding Festival. This is the School Sections at Chase National Wildlife Refuge…a square mile of unbroken prairie which has been grazed regularly (a good thing as we learned from the Chase NWR Manager during the trip…grazing is needed for the health of native prairie plants and wildlife, especially in the absence of regular prairie fires).
Samsung Galaxy S4 in Rich Tone/HDR mode. Processed in PicSayPro, and then finally in Lightroom.
There are probably a lot more exciting birds on the high drift prairies of North Dakota than the Yellow-headed Blackbird, but the fact is that North Dakota is about the only place I see them anymore…and there is no bird more striking than the YHBB. Males were defending territory at our last stop on the Drift Prairie Field Trip at the Potholes and Prairies Birding Festival yesterday, and I got my fill of them (for this year).
Canon SX50HS. My usual adjustments to straight program. 2400mm equivalent field of view (1200 plus 2x digital tel-extenter). f6.5 @ 1/1000th @ ISO 250. Processed in Lightroom.
Just a quick post from the first field trip of the Potholes and Prairies Birding Festival. Samsung Galaxy S4 in HDR Mode. Processed in PicSay Pro on the phone.
I was returning from a fruitless dragonfly prowl down by the mouth of the Mousam River over the weekend, and came upon this fine lady. She had just finished digging a nest, and was laying her eggs. She was only 3 feet from a fairly busy strip of blacktop, between the edge of the road, and a fancy iron fence that keeps the public out of one the larger estates in Kennebunk (last owned by one of the young stars of a recently very popular TV show). They have a large ornamental pond, with a rustic bridge, daffodil banks, manicured white birch trees, etc. She, hopefully, made the pond her home (since otherwise she was on the wrong side of the road from the nearest water…not an issue for her maybe…but a definite hazard to her hatchlings, when and if.)
I mean, this is one tough old lady Snapping Turtle.
Such character! Such power. Such a lady.
Canon SX50HS. My usual modifications to straight Program. 1) 425mm equivalent field of view. f5.6 @ 1/1000th @ ISO 800. 2) 2400mm equivalent. f6.5 @ 1/1000th @ ISO 800. Processed in Lightroom.
I suppose, in the winter, the Herring Gulls of Acadia National Park actually have to work for a living. During the summer months though, tourist season, they mostly hang out where people gather, and live off the bread-crusts, Fritos, and Cheezits (with the occasional whole hot dog and bun mixed in) that they extort from the tourists. They are absolutely without fear. They practice a kind of open sheath approach, sidling up in plain sight, ever closer, until they are, often, within arms reach. They will steal food right out of the hands of unsuspecting children. Of course they never make eye-contact. They seem to believe that if they can’t see your eyes, you can’t see them. That is a reasonable assumption if you are a gull. Not so much when dealing with humans, but since we are, gull wise at least, a fairly tolerant race, they get way with it.
Canon SX50HS. Program with iContrast and Auto Shadow Control. -1/3EV exposure compensation. 1200mm equivalent field of view. f6.5 @ 1/800th @ ISO 400. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.
The Rhododendrons in our yard, and on the boarder between our yard and the yard next door, are in full bloom these past few days. The weather was variable yesterday so I got two series of images of the flowers…one in the subdued light of the overcast morning, and one in direct sun, a little after noon. This is from the sunny shoot, and is close enough to turn the image, almost, into an abstract. I like the way the light is just catching on the two anthers and the tip of the stigma, which stand out against the bokeh of the petals in the background.
Canon SX50HS. Program with iContrast and Auto Shadow Control. -1/3EV exposure compensation. In order to create this effect, I backed away and shot at 1800mm equivalent field of view, from about 5 feet. f6.5 @ 1/160th @ ISO 80. Processed in Lightroom for intensity, clarity, and sharpness.