My photographer friend Robert, who lives in Australia, liked yesterday’s picture of a Pink Lady Slipper, because it was a chance to see a plant he only sees “caged” (his word) growing in its natural habitat. Until yesterday, though it is native to Maine, I had only ever seen the Jack-in-the-pulpit, so to speak, in “captivity”…at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Booth Bay Maine, and at Wild Gardens of Acadia at Sieur de Mont Springs in Acadia National Park. You can imagine my surprise, and delight, when I looked down off the edge of the boardwalk yesterday at the Wells National Estuarine Research Center at Laudholm Farm in Wells Maine and caught sight of the unmistakable hood of a Jack-in-the-pulpit. It was almost completely buried in its own foliage, and in the foliage of other plants growing with it. Further investigation showed 4 Jack-in-the-pulpit plants (also called bog onion, brown dragon, Indian turnip, American wake robin, or wild turnip) in a cluster within a foot of the boardwalk. I kept my eye peeled, and found another cluster of five plants, similarly placed, before I came to the end of the long boardwalk. The second cluster, two of which are shown above, were younger, with the leaves not completely unfolded and the hood stripped inside and out and lower on the jack. The first cluster were mature plants, fully flowered with the hood completely green on the outside and drying at little at the tip.
According to the wiki article, the Jack is actually covered in tiny, both male and female, flowers. The male flowers on any one plant dominate early and then die, leaving more female flowers, so the plant is not self pollinating. I also read that it takes 3 years for the plant to mature enough to flower for the first time, so these Jacks have been growing beside the boardwalk for at least that long. There is more in the wiki, and as you might suspect from some of the alternate names, the tuber of the plant is edible…and has been used in traditional herbal medicine.
Finding a something new to me in nature always delights me. To know that I have walked by these plants for at least 3 years, and to have finely “chanced” on them, is simply wonderful…so wonderful that I totally reject the notion that there was any “chance” involved. I could so easily have walked by them again this year. To have found them is a gift outright, an undeserved and unearned gift, the very definition of a blessing. And “wonderful” too in the literal sense of the word…filling me with wonder…with that sense of awe at the beauty of nature and the love of the creator. That they are there is wonderful…to have found them, to have been lead to glance down just at the right second, is awesome! And then to be rewarded with a second cluster…such love!
And now I get to share them with you! How awesome is that? Happy Sunday!
All photos Nikon P900 in Close Up Mode. 80-100mm equivalent field of view. Processed in Lightroom and the panel assembled in Coolage.
Yesterday I posted a panel of May wildflowers from Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge that included a cluster of Pink Lady Slipper Orchids. It was afternoon when I found them, and by then the sun was off the little glade where they grow. I went back yesterday morning to see if I could catch them in the sun. It takes a warm morning sun to bring out the richness in the pink flesh of the bulb…or late afternoon if you can find a patch with the right light.
Nikon P900 in Close Up Mode at 80mm equivalent field of view. 1/500th @ f3.5 @ ISO 100. Processed and cropped slightly for composition in Lightroom.
I took a turn around the trail at the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge headquarters yesterday afternoon, looking mainly for spring wildflowers. We have a later-than-normal spring this year in Maine, and flowers that are normally blooming the first week in May are just now coming into flower. Here we have, top left clockwise around the outside, Wood Violet, Star Flower, Geranium, Two-bead Lily, Painted Trillium, and Pink Lady Slipper. The inset is Spring Beauty, with Wood Violet in the background.
Nikon P900 in Close Up Mode. Mostly at about 100mm equivalent field of view. Auto exposures. Processed in Lightroom and assembled in Coolage. Coolage makes this kind of panel relatively easy to assemble.
On my last morning in Ohio for the Biggest Week in American Birding, I spent a few hours, before the drive to the airport, at Pearson Metropark right on the edge of Oregon, just a few miles from my hotel. The day before had been slow at Magee Marsh, and not much had changed at Pearson. There were a few warblers, Cardinals, Robins, and this very cooperative Blue Jay, posing on a branch long enough for a few shots. Still it was better being in the park than sitting in my hotel or waiting at the airport for the extra hours.
Nikon P900 at 2000mm equivalent field of view. 1/200th @ ISO 400 @ f6.5. Processed in Lightrtoom. The interesting bokeh is from a chain-link fence a few yards behind the bird.
Sometimes, especially when migration hits when the leaves are already well out at Magee Marsh in Ohio, warbler photography is even more difficult than normal. My friend Rich was doing his first serious warbler captures this year and his constant refrain was “Why is there always a stick between me and the bird?” And, of course, there generally is, except when it is a thick bunch of leaves Warblers sitting right out in plain sight, preferably in full sun, are simply very hard to come by, at Magee Marsh or anywhere else during spring migration. So when you see those killer shot of warblers, realize that they are the exception, not the rule.
This Blackpole warbler worked overhead, about 20 feet up, for 10 minutes or more, and I shot a lot of frames to get these four. Still, the panel shows off the Blackpole pretty well. Nikon P900 at 2000mm equivalent field of view. 1/200th @ ISO 400 @ f6.5. Processed in Lightroom and assembled in Coolage on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.
Woodpeckers unwittingly supply nest cavities for many other species. I never thought of the Black and White Warbler as one of them, but this B&W was obviously laying claim to a cavity along the Magee Marsh boardwalk. It sat with its head out like this for about 5 minutes then disappeared back into the cavity and did no reemerge for at least the next 15. I know, because we waited, hoping my friend Rich could also get a shot. (I tried to get him on the bird earlier, but another photographer stepped into the spot I made for Rich.
Nikon P900 at 2000mm equivalent field of view. 1/100th @ ISO 800 @ f6.5. Processed in Topaz Denoise and Lightroom.
This Yellow Warbler along the boardwalk at Magee Marsh during the Biggest Week in American Birding found some standing water for a bath, and then flew up into a bush for a thorough feather fluff and slick and some air drying. And of course I was there to catch it with my camera There is no reasonable expectation of privacy on the boardwalk at Magee.
Nikon P900 at 1800mm equivalent field of view. 1/500th @ ISO 400 @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom and assembled in Coolage on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.
The American Redstart is one of the more common warblers in North America…found most places…and nesting over a wide area of the continent. When they come through Magee Marsh in Ohio during the Biggest Week in American Birding they dominate the marshy forest by sheer numbers. They come in droves. It is easy to begin to think…Oh just another American Redstart…but every one is worth a look. They are perky, active, and fearless…often feeding within a few feet of birders on the boardwalk…and their bold colors, two shades of orange, jet black, with a white undertail, make them stand out in any foliage. These shots, as you see, were taken through openings in the foreground foliage, but the bird certainly stands out.
Nikon P900 at 1800mm equivalent field of view. 1/250th @ ISO 400 @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom and assembled in Coolage Pro.
This is the last day of the Biggest Week in American Birding. I have been here 10 days. I am, but put it mildly, tired out! It has been, as always, a real treat to walk among the warblers and the birders on the Magee Marsh boardwalk…seemingly thousands of each. This week is as close to homecoming as birders get. It is the one time during the year that I can count on some actual face time with many of my social media birding friends. Someone said, “a gathering of the tribe” which implies a bit more blood ties that we actually experience…but it is certainly a convocation of the community…and a celebration of the birds that bring us together. Almost a religious experience, and certainly a spiritual one. Community is good…and the birding community is among the best. Birders are interesting, engaging, mostly very civil folk…people you can enjoy being around even if you are not a birder. And it comes out most strongly where they gather in numbers.
So, though I am tired out after 10 days, I am also uplifted by the community. This is good. Somebody this year coined the hashtag #warblerstock (which dates at least some of us rather obviously), but I do experience The Biggest Week as a kind of spiritual renewal each year. I go home with my eyes full of warblers, and heart full of good feelings…it is not to strong to say…”my heart full of love.” This is good. Happy Sunday!
It rained yesterday morning, but my friend Rich and I got out to the Magee Marsh boardwalk (The Biggest Week in American Birding) late in the day, after 5PM. There were still lots of birds feeding and moving…warblers at eye-level…Magee at its best. We walked right past this Woodcock probing the mud along the edge of the channel under the east end of the boardwalk. A more observant birder behind us pointed it out and we spent 10 minutes watching it work along the edge of the water, within feet of the photographers and birders on the boardwalk above it.
Nikon P900 at 550mm equivalent field of view. 1/60th @ ISO 450 @ f5. Procesed in Lightroom.
I have yet to get my “killer” Blackburnian Warbler shot…but this is good enough to be going on with. The Blackburnian is on my short list of favorite warblers, and may well be (depending on the day and my mood) number one! And, though it is probably an accident, the name of this warbler is one of the most apt bird names. The warbler is black (and white) and yet it burns…that orange throat is alike a live coal in any light. Watching one flit among the leaves, actively feeding, 30 feet above your head is like watching a spark dance…only a spark with intelligence and grace…full of intense intent. Awesome in the literal sense of the word. The Blackburnian, small as it is, inspires awe.
Nikon P900 at 2000mm equivalent field of view. 1/500th @ ISO 320 @ f6.5. Processed and cropped slightly for composition in Lightroom.