Oh, Common Yellowthroats are common enough this year. They are another bird that seems to have benefited from the late spring…if numbers are any indication. They are everywhere I go and in good numbers. On a late afternoon photoprowl on the trails at Laudholm Farm yesterday, I saw at least a dozen. Birds were uncommonly active for a late afternoon, perhaps because it had been rainy and gloomy until the sun broke out at about 3PM. This Yellowthroat had taken a grasshopper/beetleish thing, and was, perhaps, in retrospect, waiting until I passed on to take it to its nest. It hopped around in the branches of a tree overhanging the trail for several minutes as I photographed it. In fact I left it still hopping there when I moved on. I did not see the prey in its beak until I got the images up on the monitor at home.
Nikon P900 at 2000mm equivalent field of view. 1/500th @ ISO 360 @ f6.5. Processed in Lightroom.
It is one of the mysteries of our life here on Brown Street in Kennebunk is that our Day Lilies bloom a good two weeks after Day Lilies both up and down the street from us. We might live in a tidal trough…just slightly depressed enough so that the tide blows and draws the breath of our cold sea, two miles downriver, right through our yard. And it might be the shade of our big maples and oaks, that make our yard, our whole neighborhood, look like unbroken forest from the air (easily verified with Google Earth). And it might be when they were planted, or the particular variety, or something in our soil, or…
Whatever it is, I have to wait patiently to photograph my own lilies weeks after they have appeared even 10 houses away. Sigh.
But when they do bloom, one whole side of the yard are double blooms. Instead of a single, simple, swirl of petals around the anthers, there are two…the outer fairly normal, and the inner smaller and more ornate. Again…who knows why? Close in like this, it looks almost like an abstract of itself.
Sony HX90V macro at about 35mm equivalent field of view. 1/160th @ ISO 80 @ f4. Processed in Lightroom.
I have never seen the Kennebunk Plains so thick with Northern Blazing Star. The budded plants are everywhere, in thick stands this year. By the first week in August, the second at the latest, the Plains are going to be purple with Blazing Star. Right now, there are only a few plants here and there in bloom, but the promise is there, and barring any unnatural disaster, it is going to be a very good year for Blazing Star. Of course, the Kennebunk Plains are managed, at least in part, for Blazing Star, which is endangered in much of its historical range, and only has the one major foothold left in Maine. Blazing Star is fire dependent, and patterned and scheduled burns on the Plains keep the population healthy.
And, when the Blazing Star is in bloom, it draws its compliment of insects. Bees of several species, lots of Skippers (like the one captured above, which might be the Least Skipper), Hairstreaks (mostly Coral), Swallowtail and Monarch butterflies, and lots of orb weaver spiders. The Halloween Pennant dragonfly hunts among the the other bugs. And the insects draw the birds: Clay-collared and Grasshopper Sparrow, Upland Sandpiper, (all at the limits of their range on the Plains), as well as Savannah and Song Sparrows. The Blazing Star is the base plant, or the most visible member, for a whole community of life…and because it is so beautiful, and so visible, protecting it has protected the whole community. This is good!
I feel privileged to live so close to the remnant population of Blazing Star…to track it year to year in my informal visits to the Plains, and to share it with you in my photos. Being on the Plains when the Northern Blazing Star is in bloom is, for me, a spiritual experience…a instance of natural, spontaneous, worship. Though the Plains buzz with life in August, and hundreds of people come to pick blueberries, for me there is always a hush…a reverence in the presence of the stands of this rare and beautiful plant. It is awesome in the literal sense of the word. I feel the awe, and can only give praise and thanks. Happy Sunday!
Song Sparrows are common in the marsh behind the barrier dunes and along the Mousam River. Though it is also ideal Salt-marsh Sparrow habitat, and though the marsh is protected in part because of that, I have yet to see a Salt-marsh there. Lots of Songs though. This one is perched on one of the old pilings that line the raised path where it crosses marsh. The marsh was diked and hayed for generations. They are working on restoring it to its native tidal state now. That will likely increase the likelihood that Salt-marsh Sparrow will be seen there in future generations, and perhaps diminish the number of Song Sparrows. My children might be able to see the results.
Nikon P900 at 3200mm equivalent field of view (full optical plus some Perfect Image digital zoom). 1/320th @ ISO 400 @ f6.5. Processed in Lightroom.
I was on the Kennebunk Plains early enough, a few days ago, to find the Wood Lilies still jeweled with dew. Wood Lilies, at least on the Plains, come in two basic colors. This is the oranger of the two. The other is still orange, but edging over toward red. It is not a matter of age, though both get lighter as the bloom ages…it seems to be a genuine difference in the plants. We are seeing the last of the Wood Lilies this week. You can tell from the bare anthers that this one has opened several days now.
Sony HX90V at 44mm equivalent field of view. 1/640th @ ISO 80 @ f4.5. Processed and cropped for composition in Lightroom.
While photographing this meadow full of Knapweed, I observed several male Bobolinks competing for territory. I had, through an oversight, only my little Sony HX90V with me, and it only has 720mm equivalent field of view…only! That really shows how spoiled we are in the Point and Shoot Superzoom world. I used some Clear Image Zoom (Sony’s enhances digital zoom) to stretch out to 1440mm for this shot of the Bobolink with prey among the flowers.
Camera as above. 1/250th @ ISO 125 @ f6.4. Processed in Lightroom.
On my photoprowl to the Kennebunk Plains late yesterday afternoon, I was surprised to find a few Northern Blazing Star in bloom. This is going to be a year with a lot of Blazing Star, and I am expecting a bold display, but not for several more weeks…well into August. Still I was happy to see them in bloom, as often I am traveling when the Blazing Star is a its peak. Maybe early this year
I also found at least two, probably teneral, Halloween Pennants among the Blazing Star. Again, this is a Dragonfly that I have seen on the Plains when the Blazing Star is in bloom, in August. These might be early, and they were almost certainly newly emerged, as the wings were quite light in color. The one on the right is on a Blazing Star bud, far from open.
Sony HX90V at 720-1000mm equivalent field of view. Processed in Lightroom and assembled in Coolage.
Walker Point is one of the major tourist attractions in Kennebunkport, and has been since the first Bush administration. It is the summer home of the Walker family, including Barbara Walker Bush, and 2 presidents, husband and son, have spent summers there. It has been the site of international meetings of heads of states, and too may Presidential Lobster Boils to count. There is significant security presence at the land end of the point, but the town has built a small parking area, done some landscaping, and installed a plaque in honor of the first President Bush. The thing is, it was already a popular spot, with informal parking along the margin, before George Bush was elected, as it overlooks Blowing Cave…a natural coastal feature that booms and shoots spray high into the air whenever the tide is just right.
This is about as classic a view as you can get, whether you count the Walker/Bush connection or not. The house on the point, the rugged rocks in the foreground, the arching sky with decorative cloud wisps overhead, and the three masted schooner passing the point. Romantic!
Sony HX90V in-camera HDR. Nominal exposure: 1/500th @ ISO 80 @ f6.3. Processed in Lightroom.
I was photographing a Snowy Egret in the marsh pools along the Kennebunk Bridle Path late the other day when a Song Sparrow let off relatively close beside me. I swung around to see where it was. All I could see was the head peaking out between tree trunks and branches, but of course I had to try a shot or two. One of the joys of using the long, amazingly well stabilized, zoom on the P900 is the ability to get shots like this! You might note the tricky focus too. The P900 auto focus is up to the job. In the end though, I just like the preky bird poking out from behind the trunk.
Nikon P900 at 2000mm equivalent field of view. 1/125th @ ISO 800 @ f6.5. Processed in Lightroom.
Last Sunday I posed a very studied and classical composition of a Wood Lily, and talked about how, as an image, it drew attention to the artist behind the photo as much as to the subject…and how that made it different from most of the images I take. It was a celebration of the act of creation, as well as a celebration of creation itself…of my small part in the ongoing act of creation, and well as what the creator of all as done. Now, if you think about it, every photograph I take is both…but not so obviously, or so consciously, so.
This “photograph” of low bush Blueberries on the Kennebunk Plains takes the concept even further. Here I used an in-camera Picture Effect to intentionally render the image to look like a drawing…clearly an artifact…rather than a photograph. Though it was taken with a camera, and recorded pretty much just as appears here on the SD card…it is intentionally un-photo-like. The image is simplified to basic shapes and tones, so that the pattern becomes as important as, actually more important than, the subject…the blueberries. If it went any further it would be abstract…as it is it balances on the line between abstract and real, tipped just toward reality. It demands to be looked at as an image, an artifact, a rendering…not as blueberries in the field. And, I think it is beautiful. Striking. Arresting. It rewards your attention. It, itself, not the blueberries.
But, of course, I can not, and do not, take any more credit for this creation than I do in any of my work. Actually, my only creative decision was to play with the settings on the camera…the software in the camera…written by engineers who never saw these blueberries, and certainly never envisioned this image, did all the work. The creator of all still put the blueberries in the field, and, I have to believe, inspired the software engineers in their creative play…so that I could play with the camera. No matter what else I did, I am still only pointing and saying “look at what the loving God has created.” If anything, this image makes me smile…it is fun in way a straight photograph would not be…it is playful. And I like that about it. Because, of course, I appreciate the sense of play that infuses the work of the creator of all in everything I see, in all my experience…and that only inspires even greater love…providing evidence of the playful love of the creator of all. Play is creative love in action. Always! Happy Sunday!