Backlit Chipper

Chipmunk, Wells National Estuarine Research Center at Laudholm Farms. ME

The Chipmunks are very active at Laudholm Farms this year…everywhere actually, in Southern Maine. This individual was very busy collecting and eating some kind of seed, in the mowed grass of one of the trails through the meadows. I began shooting it when it was just a dot in the center of the finder…thinking it would surely scamper off into the brush as soon as I approached, but it stayed out in the open, finding more seeds, until I could get this frame filling shot at 2000mm equivalent field of view. I was about 30 feet from it at that point. :) I like the backlight…and the camera held detail in the shadows very well.

Nikon P900 at 2000mm equivalent field of view. 1/500th @ ISO 200 @ f6.5. Processed in Lightroom.

Grass Pink Orchid

Grass Pink Orchid, Wells National Estuarine Research Center at Laudholm Farms. ME

The little remnant bog at Laudholm Farm, smaller than a baseball diamond, seems to be particularly healthy as bogs go, and produces several interesting species of bog wildflowers. This is Grass Pink, one of Maine’s few native orchids. The name is peculiar. The single leaf may be grass-like but the flower, at least as it grows in Maine, is certainly not pink. It is obviously purple, which is only made more certain when it grows, in our bogs, next to another Maine orchid, the Rose Pogonia, which is, in fact, very pink (See my post on Rose Pogonia here). According to my little bit of research, the presence of Grass Pink is a good indicator that the bog’s surface and the ground water are healthy and pure. It is very sensitive to contamination. It is one of the few orchids to be “right side up”…having its fringed lip at the top when the flower is mature. All orchids start out with the lip at the top, but the stem holding the flower twists as the flower matures so that the lip is presented at the bottom. Very strange.

Grass Pink is also one the few orchids that can be grown from seed…and you can buy plants for wet sunny corners of your yard…or for inside cultivation. I far prefer to find them growing in the healthy little bog at Laudholm Farm. :)

Sony HX90V at 44mm equivalent. 1/320th @ ISO 80 @ f4.5. Processed in Lightroom.

Eastern Towhee x2

Eastern Towhees, Wells National Estuarine Research Center at Laudholm Farms, ME

Eastern Towhees, Wells National Estuarine Research Center at Laudholm Farms, ME

I have mentioned before that we seem to have a lot of Towhees this year. They are singing wherever I go, and see them most places. At Laudholm Farms yesterday afternoon, on my photoprowl in search of bog orchids (among other things) I found several and was able to photograph 3 different individuals. The panel above shows two of them, singing within a 100 yards of each other.

You might notice that the bird on the right is freshly banded. June Ficker has operated the mist nets and banding station at Laudholm Farm for 25 years…an incredible achievement. She and her team of volunteers give banding demonstrations each Wednesday morning in the summer when the weather cooperates, under the spreading Copper Beech between the barns and house at the farm. In fact, I may well have see this bird banded last Wednesday on my way back to the car from a photoprowl. :)

For more information on June Ficker and bird banding at Laudholm Farms, visit here.

Nikon P900 at 2000mm equivalent field of view. Processed in Lightroom and assembled in Coolage.

Ebony Jewelwings

Ebony Jewelwings, Batson River rapids, Emmons Preserve, Kennebunkport ME

Ebony Jewelwings, Batson River rapids, Emmons Preserve, Kennebunkport ME

It is just about Ebony Jewelwings time of year again. After my encounter with the River Jewelwings a few weeks ago (here), I went back to the rapids on the Batson River on Saturday to check for early Ebonys, and there were indeed a number of males dancing over the rapids and pools. All Ebonys, no River…which is, I think, an interesting thing to note. And I found no females, either near the river in the forest, or in the meadows. Maybe next week. There is, of course, nothing like the iridescent blue/green of the Ebony Jewelwing’s body…sometimes bright blue and sometimes bright green, depending on the angle of the light.

The center image is from the Sony HX90V and the surrounding images are from the Nikon P900. All are processed in Lightroom and assembled in Coolage. Coolage is such a great program for this kind of panel!

Introducing The Willing Eye. Happy Sunday!

Batson River at Emmons Preserve, Kennebunkport Land Conservancy, ME

I love the little stretch of the Batson River (more a large brook) that passes through the Kennebunkport Land Conservancy’s Emmons Preserve. The meadows above the river behind the Headquarters building are a good spot for butterflies, dragonflies, and birds, and the shaded rapids and small falls and pools of the river as it passes through the forest are always a delight. This time of year, the Ebony Jewelwings dance over the rapids, and I am always attracted to the water where it tumbles down over a rocky bed between moss-grown banks, singing all the way. I have photographed this little run hundreds of times, but I am compelled to photograph it again on every visit.

This shot is an in-camera HDR with the new Sony HX90V, a camera I a trying out for just such scenic views and macros.

I have been thinking a lot, over the past week or so (inspired by a dream I had one night) about a name for the aspect of my photography that extends beyond the technical stuff and photographic inspiration of Point and Shoot Nature Photography (psnp.lightshedder.com). I am about to embark of a series of tours and workshops…group trips to photogenic locations…where I will attempt to help others to get the most out of their Point and Shoot cameras photographing nature…but there is more to my photography than that…more I have to share. There is a way of seeing…there is the underlying motivation for my photography…the act of seeing, celebrating, and sharing…that is a akin to worship…and that gets recorded often in these Sunday posts.

My smugmug gallery is called WideEyedInWonder, and the name is taken from one of my favorite sayings of Jesus: “The eye is the lamp of the body. Therefore if you eye is single, your whole body will be filled with light.” (I should warn you there is a little scripture lesson coming…but persevere!) In my favorite, non-literal, translation it reads “If you go through life wide eyed with wonder and belief, then your whole being will be filled with light.” That actually might come closer to what Jesus meant than the traditional translation. We have what he said already in translation…in Greek (which he certainly did not speak)…and the gospel writer used a word for what your eye needs to be that is translated several different ways in different contemporary texts. It could be “single” as in “single minded…focused on one thing.” (as the King James version has it) or it could be “simple, as in uncomplicated” (as several modern translations have it), or it could be “generous, as in giving and forgiving, open to the needs of others.” (which, oddly, no translator has used). Some modern translations say “if your eye is” “clear”, or “healthy”, or “sound.” I think it is a combination of the literal meanings of the Greek word…single, simple, generous…that inspired the “wide eyed in wonder and belief” translation. And the word translated “body” is definitely the Greek work that implies the whole being, body and soul.

However, Point and Shoot Nature Photography is already a long name for what I do. Wide Eyed In Wonder is another long name. I need something (or so the dream said), short and pithy, but something that still captures what the eye needs to be if we are to be filled with light, and if we are going to have light to share with the world. Single, simple, generous.

That is where “The Willing Eye” comes from. It means to me: willing to see, and to see good in all we see, willing to believe (to see the divine in all we see), willing to celebrate, willing to help, willing to share. It is a active seeing…a willful seeing…a vision that celebrates. The Willing Eye.

So it is with this photograph of the rapids on the Batson River. It is seen with The Willing Eye…and if fills my whole being with light…as I can only hope it does yours. Happy Sunday!

Evening Willet

Willet, Back Creek marsh, Kennebunk Maine

On my after supper visit to the local beach, with the sun about an hour from setting, but already warm with the evening light, there were several Willets feeding in the marsh grasses and along the edge of the tidal flow of Back Creek near where it meets the Mousam River. Our New England Willets are warmer in tone than western Willets anyway, but the early evening light really brings up the warm, almost rust, color of plumage.

Nikon P900 at 2000mm equivalent field of view. 1/500th @ ISO 320 @ f6.5. Processed in Lightroom.

Piping Plovers

Piping Plovers. Laudholm Farm Beach, Wells ME

Piping Plovers. Laudholm Farm Beach, Wells ME

As I mentioned yesterday, there are a few endangered Piping Plover nests on the south end of Crescent Surf Beach and the north end of Laudholm Farm Beach, on either side of the mouth of the Little River. All Piping Plover nests in Maine are protected by law, both Federal and State, as the bird is on the Endangered Species List. The nests in Kennebunk and Wells are carefully monitored…eggs counted, hatchlings counted, fledged birds counted. There has been, in past years, a full time Maine Audubon staffer on Crescent Surf Beach to watch over the chicks, and to try to keep the nests and chicks from being eaten by domestic dogs. The nest sites are protected by page-wire enclosures to keep gulls, cats, raccoons, foxes, etc from getting to the eggs and chicks. And still, the chicks that reach adulthood in Maine, or at least on our local beaches, can be counted, too often, on the fingers of both hands (one hand some years).  The Piping Plover in Maine hangs by a thread.

These shots were all taken at 2000mm or more, and of birds away from the nests and the nest sites. I certainly do not want to add to the pressure on the Piping Plover. They are such perky little birds…full of scrap and sass…and they look like they should be able to take care of themselves. The problem is that the beaches where they nest are also the beaches most attractive to humans, and they nest, often, right on the sand above tide line, or just into the beach grass, where human traffic is always present. As I have mentioned before, domestic dogs and cats are a huge problem…the Plovers have no defense. The beaches where they nest are closed to dogs and well posted, but I am rarely on those beaches without seeing one or more dogs, often running loose while their people watch. All I can say is “what’s up with that!!??” What are they thinking? A few times I have confronted dog owners…but it is like talking to a wall. Anyway. Rant over. Back to enjoying the Piping Plover while we can.

Nikon P900 at 2000mm equivalent field of view. Processed in Lightroom and assembled in Coolage.

Least Terns in Flight

Least Terns, Little River, Laudholm Farm Beach, Wells ME

Least Terns, Little River, Laudholm Farm Beach, Wells ME

Yesterday, prompted by a post on Maine Birds, I took a walk to the mouth of the Little River on Laudholm Farm Beach at the Wells National Estuarine Research Center. There is a protected colony of Least Terns there, on both sides of the river back a few hundred yards from the sea, as well as a few Piping Plover nests…Piping Plover is an “endangered” bird. I saw terns in good numbers and a few Plovers. I say protected colony because it is very visibly posted and “roped” off, more heavily on one side of the river than the other, and they have erected actual cages around the Piping Plover nests. Maine Audubon and the Fish and Wildlife Service have monitors on site for most of the breeding season, especially on the north side of the river where dogs often run free. Dogs are prohibited from the beach but that area backs up to summer homes. On the south side, it is Laudholm Farms behind the beach and access is through the Farm itself, which has a strict no dogs policy. Then there are cats, foxes, gulls, raccoons…even Blue Jays.  It is a big deal every time a Piping Plover nest successfully fledges, and every chick that reaches maturity is a victory!

The Least Terns were actively feeding in the shallow ripple sections of the river where it crosses the sand of the beach…and. of course, I had to try to catch them in the air…in flight. It took me a while to get my hand and eye in…and I have not done a lot of Birds in Flight (BIF) with the new Nikon P900…so out of several hundred exposures I got maybe a dozen keepers. This panel of 4 shots is representative. Not easy. Quite frustrating. And lots of fun!

Nikon P900 at various focal lengths: from 650mm equivalent field of view to 1200mm. Generally ISO 100 at 1/640th. Cropped and processed in Lightroom. Assembled in Coolage.

Eastern Towhee 2

Male Eastern Towhee, Laudholm Farms, Wells ME

I mentioned in previous posts that we seem to have a lot of Eastern Towhee’s this year…the females are everywhere I go…but that I had not seen many males. In the past few days I have encountered two males, widely separated, so they are indeed here as well. This male was singing along the trail at the Wells National Estuarine Research Center at Laudholm Farm. Not easy light, but a decent image of this interesting bird.

Nikon P900 at 2000mm equivalent field of view. 1/30th @ ISO 800 @ f6.5. It is hard to imagine that any camera could manage this image! Processed in Lightroom.

Chipping Sparrow Chicks

Chipping Sparrow chicks, Kennebunk ME

We had had a nest of Chipping Sparrows in our Honeysuckle bush in the front yard, right at eye-level but buried deep in foliage, right next to the driveway where there is a lot of foot traffic (my wife teaches piano and her students and their families are coming and going all day long, every day). I had little hope for a successful fledging…but they made it. At least four chicks moved off the nest yesterday. For a while it was just an adult on eggs peeping up over the edge of the neatly woven nest, and then you could see a few dark grey heads with bright yellow gapes if you stood on your tiptoes, and then they took on more of a sparrow look, and now they are gone…probably sheltering on a branch somewhere near and still being tended by the adults. This shot, though it might look invasive, was taken from outside the bush with about a 170mm equivalent telephoto. I was careful when checking the nest, not to get close enough to alert predators, and I only checked the nest about once a week…and I certainly did not move branches for a better view. The Chipping Sparrow buried the nest deep in the bush for a reason. Considering the placement of the bush, I was really happy to see them succeed. :)

Nikon P900 at 170mm equivalent field of view. 1/80th @ ISO 100 @ f4.5. Processed in Lightroom.