Timber Point: Rachel Carson NWR. 10/06/14

Looking at Timber Point from the end of Granite Point Road

Looking at Timber Point from the end of Granite Point Road

It is always wonderful to discover a new place here in Southern Maine to explore, especially as access to public lands is limited in this well developed corner of New England.

A birding couple I met on the beach on Saturday told me about Timber Point and Timber Island trail at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. They were up for the day from Massachusetts, chasing eBird reports of birds of interest. I live practically next door to Rachel Carson Headquarters, and I had never heard of Timber Point or Timber Island. A little research turned up the facts. It is a new trail and a new property for the NWR system, acquired after a locally organized fund-raising drive that covered the $2 million plus purchase price. It is a point of rocky upland and mixed forest extending out along the ocean side of the Little River across from Goose Rocks Beach and south of Fortunes Rocks. At low tide you can walk out to Timber Island. Local volunteers, along with the Civilian and Youth Construction Corps, built trails and boardwalks as needed and one raised deck overlook, and installed a Tide Clock near the head of the passage to the Island. It is altogether a wonderful spot and one that I will add to my regular round of photoprowls. It was dead high tide when I was there yesterday of course, but I plan to get back there the first sunny day we have at low tide.

All images are with the Sony HX400V. Landscapes are in-camera HDR.

Timber Island from the tip of Timber Point

Timber Island from the tip of Timber Point

There were lots of the typical birds of the Maine fall: Gulls and Cormorants in the water, Yellow-rumped Warblers, White-crowned Sparrow, Song Sparrows, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Brown Tree-creeper, Rufus-sided Towhee, Blue Jays, etc. in the trees and marsh…most of which stayed well out of camera range. :) I did manage a few shots. The Brown Creeper was the first I have seen in Southern Maine in at least 10 years.

There were, seemingly, hundreds of chipmunks busy gathering acorns.

I counted 5 species of butterfly: Cabbage White, Clouded Sulfur, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, and Monarch. I was able to photograph all but the Monarch, which came flying across the marsh from the ocean side, down the road a ways to the first opening to the River side, and on out over the water again.

You walk down a shaded lane…the old road to the classic “Rustic” Maine hotel that occupied the point. The building is still there, now owned by the National Wildlife Service, but it is in need of major renovation. Its fate is uncertain, and it is currently out-of-bounds to the visiting public. Along the ocean side of the Lane is an extensive cattail marsh, home, I am sure, to many birds. The lane leads to a patch of rocky upland and a mixed hardwood forest (Timber Point), Then out into narrow meadows along the shore at the tip of the point. From here you have excellent views of the mouth of the Little River, Goose Rocks Beach across the water, Timber Island, and the open ocean beyond.

Cormorant taking flight off Timber Point

Cormorant taking flight off Timber Point

Friday morning is looking good for return trip and a walk out to the island. Look for an update sometime after that. And I am sure these are only the first of many visits to Timber Point and Timber Island in the future.

Nubble Light

Nubble with flowers and sky. :) Sony HX400V in-camera HDR.

Nubble with flowers and sky. :) Sony HX400V in-camera HDR.

This is an expanded version of today’s Pic 4 Today post. :)

All shots are with the Sony HX400V in In-Camera HDR mode, set to a 6 stop spread at -.7 EV center (except the Sweep Panorama as noted). Processed in Lightroom on my Surface Pro 3 tablet.

Yesterday I rode my bike to the beach early, and the sky was so beautiful that I decided to ride my scooter to Nubble Light, 20 miles down the coast, to see if I could get some good shots. It was my longest scooter ride to date, and quite an adventure as I had to ride through both Wells and Ogunquet in September Sunday morning traffic. :)

The sky at the beach with inspired the scooter photoprowl to Nubble Light

The sky at the beach with inspired the scooter photoprowl to Nubble Light

I made it to Nubble by 10am. I only had to go around the parking lot twice to find a slot for my scooter. A lot of other people had the same September Sunday morning idea I had. And, of course, the sky behind the light was clear. :( There were great clouds inland, and I got some shots of the the bay to the north that are memorable, but the Light itself was pretty stark and backlit to boot. I climbed around on the rocks and looked for interesting angles that did not include too many tourists for an hour or so, then went back to my scooter.

A memorable shot of the bay to the north of Nubble.

A memorable shot of the bay to the north of Nubble.

Sweep panorama. Processed for HDR effect in Lightroom.

Sweep panorama. Processed for HDR effect in Lightroom.

I ate my banana. I actually had my helmet on and was ready to board when I happened to turn back for one more look at the Light. Wooo. Where did that nice cloud come from? I realized that the cloud cover inland was moving really fast…really fast…and while I had been eating my banana the leading edge had swung behind the light. I also noticed that the angle of the sun had improved so that the I now had light on one of the inner faces of the building. Excellent! Much to the dismay of the circling tourists in unparked cars, I took my helmet back off, and spent another hour retracing my steps, finding all the angles again…but this time with clouds! :)

It actually does not get much better at Nubble than this!

 

Parting shot.

Parting shot.

September Skies: Kennebunk/port Coast

Beach at the mouth of the Mousam River. Sony HX400V in-camera HDR

Beach at the mouth of the Mousam River. Sony HX400V in-camera HDR.

It was one of those perfect September days (just, it was the 3rd) on the coast of Maine. I started the day with a photoprowl to the beach and the Kennebunk Bridle Path along the Mousam River on my bike. I did a lot of processing when I got home, but it was too nice a day to stay in front of the computer, and I back out, up along the coast from Strawberry Island to Cape Arundel and the Bush Estate, on my scooter. On both photoprowls I was carrying the Sony HX400V.

The beach and the sky above it were amazing. The horizon was at its maximum and perfectly clear. High clouds were coming in from the west and piling out over the sea. I used the flip out LCD on the Sony for a variety of low angle shots, and took a few sweep panoramas. These (except for the panorama) are all in-camera HDR shots from the Sony. All are processed for HDR effect in Lightroom.

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Around the corner from the sea, along the course of the Mousam, looking inland was just as spectacular and the sky over Back Creek Marsh and the road to the beach was something special.

 

As I walked along the back side of the dunes, between the dunes and Back Creek, hundreds of dragonflies came up over the dune, coming in off the sea around Great Head Point into a stiff breeze. They were mostly Green Darners, with a few Wandering Gliders and maybe one or two Black Saddlebags. I put the camera in Sports mode and tried for some flight shots. There were also a whole group of Cabbage White Butterflies feeding on the Moth Mullen on the dune. As I was shooting a single butterfly on the flowers, a second did a perfect photo bomb! The butterflies are at the full 1200 equivalent field of view of the zoom on the HX400V, the dragonfly is at about 600mm and cropped.

I continued on my bike to the Kennebunk Bridle Path, which runs along the course of the Mousam River on the other side from the beach. It passes through forest and marsh all the way back to Kennebunk. There is what I call a water meadow on the other side of the path from the river, not far in, where a tidal brook enters the Mousam. The meadow/marsh is always beautiful, in every season, especially with an interesting sky above it. I took some more in-camera HDR shots, and tried both horizontal and vertical sweep panoramas. The horizontal panorama is shot with the camera in portrait orientation for the tall/wide effect. The vertical panorama is difficult to view on your average screen. Click on it to open it in a new window. Click again to expand it to full size if you want to study the detail.

In-camera HDR from the Sony HX400V, processed in Lightroom.

In-camera HDR from the Sony HX400V, processed in Lightroom.

tall/wide panorama using portrait orientation and sweep panorama.

tall/wide panorama using portrait orientation and sweep panorama.

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vertical sweep panoramas catch a lot of sky above the landscape for unique view.

On the way back across the Mousam River I stopped my bike long enough for a shot upriver. I could not actually get off the bike as the margin on the bridge is very narrow and cars were a constant danger, but I got what I needed.

Looking up river from the Rt. 9 bridge on the Mousam.

Looking up river from the Rt. 9 bridge on the Mousam.

Later in the day I decided to take my scooter and ride along the whole stretch of coast from Strawberry Island off Great Head in Kennebunk, to Cape Arundel and the George Bush Estate. The clouds were gathering, and I did not have full sun for some of the ride, but it was still spectacular. I have photographed St. Anne’s Church on Old Fort Point many times, in all kinds of weather.

St. Anne's Church. Kennebunport ME

St. Anne’s Church. Kennebunport ME

The same goes for the Bush Estate on Walker’s Point. I like the flowers here in the foreground. They are planted around the memorial to George Bush Senior, who summered in his wife’s family’s home on the point for most of his adult life.

Walker's Point and the Bush Estate.

Walker’s Point and the Bush Estate.

We will finish up with another vertical sky panorama, looking back over Colony Beach and the mouth of the Kennebunk River into Kennebunkport and Kennebunk.

Big sky over Kennebunkport

Big sky over Kennebunkport

 

Sweetwater Wetlands Great Horned Owl

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The Owl. Sony HX400V at 2400mm equivalent field of view.

Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson Arizona was one of the first “municipal wetlands” in the US: waste-water reclamation ponds converted to a birding destination. This year they took Sweetwater off-line and replaced it with a new, modern facility down the road, but it has become such a poplar and well-known birding spot in the Tucson area that they are still pumping enough water to keep the ponds full. August us not the time to visit, but it was when we were in Tucson, and it is still good enough birding not to miss. We were, in fact, there three times, once in the early evening and once in the early morning on our own, and again in the early morning with a group from the Tucson Birding Festival.

On the first visit we walked up on a Great Horned Owl sitting between the trail and the pond. We pretty much photographed it from every angle and framed it with the full range of the zoom on the Sony HX400V.

When we walked on the bird was still sitting there. The next morning a group of birders had already found the Owl when we got to that side of the ponds. In fat they had seen it take a Coot, behead it, and fly up to a branch to eat it. Again we took all the photos we wanted before the Owl had had its fill.

Sweetwater Wetlands, of course has other attractions, especially in other seasons, but a Great Horned Owl is always a treat.

Madera Canyon 8/2044

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Coming up through the grasslands to Madera Canyon. In-camera HDR with some "creative" processing on the sky.

Madera Canyon is one of the first birding destinations I ever visited. It is primarily known for Buff-collard Nightjar (in the grasslands on the way in), Elph Owl, and hummingbirds…some of the rarest Hummers in the US visit the feeders at Santa Rita Lodge in the Canyon on a semi-regular basis. In recent years the upper Canyon has also become a reliable spot for Elegant Trogon, and this year, though I was not aware of it before our visit, a bevy of Montezuma Quail has been regular along the watercourse behind the Lodge. Madera Canyon is about 45 minutes south of downtown Tucson, and we’ll worth a visit any time you are in the area.

As mentioned in the Photoprowl on the Tucson Sonoran Desert Museum, on this trip I was traveling light with a single superzoom Point & Shoot camera: the Sony HX400V.

We had only a very short time to visit the Canyon one morning before the vendor hours at the Tucson Birding Festival, so we knew Trogon was pretty much out of the question. Though they have been seen and heard as low as the Lodge, to really have a good chance you have to hike well up form the end of the Canyon road. We parked at the Amphitheater and Nature Trail parking lot and hiked back among the creek bed behind the Lodge to the Parking lot below the Lodge, then climbed back up the Lodge to finish with some Hummingbird watching at the feeders. The creek was, in August, dry, but the Canyon was still lush and green. We found wildflowers on the slopes and birds deeper in.

The first bird we saw in the Canyon was the Rock Wren, but the most common bird was the Mexican Jay. A large flock was working along the water course, looking for bugs. Ash-throated Flycatcher was also there, and, of course Squirrels and Lizards, but the real treat was finding the bevy of Montezuma Quail, though we only saw the sentry bird up on a rock standing guard. The rest of the birds were well down in the brush. This was my first good look at a Montezuma Quail. I had only ever seen them once before…a bevy running across the road in my headlights as I drove in Southeast Arizona many years ago. This was better :-)

Of course the upper Canyon has a beauty all its own, unique the the Sky Islands of the Southwest.

We spent the last half hour of our visit sitting on the benches overlooking the feeders at the Santa Rita Lodge. As mentioned, these feeders have attracted some of the rarest Hummingbirds to be seen North of the Mexican Boarder, along with all of the Arizona specialities. Broad-billed was by far the most common on our visit, and as I have written elsewhere, it really deserves a better name! It is a magnificent hummingbird, but of course that name is already taken. Besides the Broad-billed we also saw a few Anna’s, and I am sure if we had had more time we would have seen all the usual Madera Canyon Hummers.

Of course the highlight of the visit is the worst photo. A Brown-capped Starthroat had been reported at the feeder nearest the building and there were several photographers camped out on and behind the nearest bench. I had to settle for distant, and somewhat random shots, hoping to catch the bird. In this image it is the very large Hummer making the Broad-bills look small.

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I hope on my next visit to Madera Canyon to have more time. The Canyon deserves more. :-)

Tucson Sonoran Desert Museum 8/13/2014

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Looking out over the Desert Experience walk.

The Tucson Sonoran Desert Museum is the highest rated destination in the Tucson area, according to TripAdvisor…and I will certainly not argue the point. Personally, I would not consider any trip to Southern Arizona complete without a morning at the Desert Museum. If you have never visited, “museum” hardly does the place justice, and may, in fact, be misleading. The SDM is, certainly, part traditional Museum, with display rooms and exhibits, but it is also part Zoo with many of the animals of the region in modern natural enclosures, and part Botanical garden. In addition to a formal Cactus garden featuring native species, and demonstration Desert Gardens, the grounds themselves are layed out and landscaped to represent the best features of the region. For birders and bird lovers, the animal displays include a large Aviary with free flying birds of the Sonoran Desert (currently closed for renovation, but scheduled to reopen this fall) and a smaller (but very intense) Hummingbird Aviary…but, of course, the grounds are home to many of the native species of the area. It is a great birding destination in its own right.

I was in Tucson recently for the 4th annual Tucson Birding and Nature Festival and my colleague and I did spend a morning at the SDM. For this trip I limited myself to a single camera: the Sony DSC-HX400V… though it is hardly a limitation with its 24mm-1200mm equivalent zoom, excellent macro capability, and exposure modes to handle any conceivable situation.

The Museum opens at 7:30 AM during the summer months and you want to be there early to catch the desert animals still active, especially in the August  heat. We were still on our way to the Mountain Woodlands displays to try to catch the Mountain Lion when we came across this group of Rock Squirrels. Touch any image in the tiled gallery below to see a larger version. The Rock Squirrels were exceptionally cooperative and allowed me to frame them with a variety of zoom settings for everything from intimate portraits to group shots

It took several passes by the Mountain Lion enclosure before we caught the cat prowling, but it was worth the effort. The SDM had some of the first “natural” wildlife enclosures, built of artifical stone, with water features and native plantings, to resemble as closely as possible the actual habitat of the animals on display. The Mountain Lion enclosure is particularly successful, especially from a photographer’s point of view. It is possible to catch images that could pass for shots from the wild.

Further along the same loop of trail you come to Cat Canyon, another natural enclosure housing the smaller cats of the Sonoran Desert: Ocelot and Bobcat, along with the Porcupine and a Grey Fox. In my experience the smaller cats and other animals here are hard to see even in the enclosures intended to display them. The enclosure features two levels…a lower level with windows looking on the floor of the canyons and an upper level looking down into the canyons. The Ocelot was just barely visible on a high shelf behind vegetation, I did not see the Porcupine or Fox, but the Bobcats were both out. The full profile shot is through the glass on the lower level. The others are from the top.

Also in the Mountain Forest and Desert Grassland section you will find the Mexican Wolf and White-tailed Deer enclosures, along with a minature Prairie Dog town behind glass.

We decided to take the Desert Loop Trail early, before the full heat of the August day desended. When I first saw the Coyote standing the shade of of the mesquite tree I thought it was a wild visitor to the SDM. The fine mesh fence that encloses the Coyotes is all but invisible from some angles. The Cactus Wrens are indeed wild, and we were happy to find our first Fishhook Cactus in bloom.

Life on the Rocks is a new display, not yet completed, which is the SDM’s most ambitious attempt at a natural enclosure yet.

One of my favorite enclosures is the Hummingbird Aviary. It is not big but the Hummingbirds have space to fly and feed naturally and often perch within a foot or two of quiet visitors. Most of these images were taken at less that 600mm equivalent field of view. The Aviary uses special feeders, developed at the SDM by one of the volunteers, which do not attract bees. This has made a major difference in the Aviary since my last visit. Both the hummingbirds and the visitors can be more relaxed. :-) Though there are more species in the Aviary I was able to get decent shots of Anna’s, Costa’s, and Black-chinned (the western cognate of the Ruby-throated).

Next to the Hummingbird Aviary is a small Butterfly Oasis with plants to attract a variety of Sonoran Desert and Southwest species. The well worn Red-spotted Purples would not sit still for me. Monarchs and Gulf Fritillaries were easier, and of course the Green Shield Bug sat perfectly still and allowed a true macro at about 80mm equivalent field of view. Away from the special plantings of the oasis the most common Butterfly was the Gulf Fritillery, which we saw in every section of the SDM.

We continued around past the main Aviary, which was temporary closed for renovation. When open it is my favorite spot at the SDM. The renovated Aviary will, according to a volunteer we met, have even more species. Beyond the Aviary you come to the Desert Bighorn Sheep enclosure and another of the two level enclosures…thus one with underwater and above water views of Beaver and River Otter. The beavers were in their den which has a glass wall. Pressing the light switch gives you a glimpse of them. The Otters, on the other hand, were active and playful. It might be anthropomorphic to say, but nothing in the natural world seems to have as much fun as an Otter at play. The water of the Beaver and Otter enclosures attracts dragonflies, like the big brilliant Flame Skimmer and the smaller Blue Dasher.

Flowing water and plantings attract just about every native bird to the grounds of the SDM, and the same factors make Lizards abundant along the paths everywhere. Zibra-tailed Lizards is the most striking, but there are also Sonoran Desert Whiptails and Eastern Collared Lizard. We also encountered a Chuckwalla.

Though August is not prime flowering season no visit to the SDM is complete without a little time in the Cactus Garden.

Though the Earth Sciences Display comes early in the usual path through the SDM, I always skip it and leave it until near the end of my visit…not because I don’t like it…it is one of my favorites, but because it is underground and relatively cool. In August, that makes a difference as the day warms up. You enter the display through a well designed and constructed replica of a natural limestone cavern…and a wet cave at that. You can even choose the narrow loop that gives you something like the sense of wriggling through a living cave. Deep in the heart of the display there are two rooms, one devoted to a geological history of the Sonoran Desert region, and one filled with mineral specimens on display.

The Reptile House and Aquarium are in the building to the right and left of the main entrance to the SDM, and are, like the Earth Science display, best left to the last, especially in August when you will, by then, need some relief from the sun and heat (the Aquarium is directly behind the gift shop). The images here were all taken without flash in the subdued light of the enclosures using the Sony HX400V’s Anti-Motion Blur mode.

Though it is not the most typical creature of the SDM, I will finish with an another image of the Flame Skimmer we found in the Desert Garden display…just because I like it! And I can almost guarantee that you will find something to like on any visit to the Tucson Sonoran Desert Museum!

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Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens 7/21/2014

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In the Garden of the Five Senses

My wife Carol and I have visited the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay Maine several times over the years on or around our anniversary. This year we were a few weeks later than usual, and we found that it made a significant difference in what was in bloom, and what was not. In early July the roses are still in full bloom…by our visit in the third week in July they were mostly past. The Day Lilies, of which there were many, and many different kinds, more than made up for the roses.

You can find out all you want to know about the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens on their website, but the brief of it is that a group of mid-coast residents got together some 20 years ago and decided to create a world-class Botanical Garden on the coast of Maine. It was an ambitious and, frankly, unlikely project, but they have persevered. They hired some of the top landscape designers in the world to create the gardens, and have steadily expanded to today’s 270 acres. The result is a facility with enough to delight anyone who loves plants and gardens.

For this photoprowl I was carrying my full kit. The Olympus OM-D E-M10 with 75-300mm zoom for long shots…dragonflies, birds, etc. The Sony Alpha NEX 5T with ZEISS Touit 12mm f2.8 for the wide angle contextual shots and landscapes, and the Sony Alpha NEX 3N with ZEISS Touit 50mm f2.8 macro for getting close. I find that the the 75mm equivalent of the 50mm also makes a good short telephoto when I need one.

A highlight of this year’s visit was the number of insects at work in the flowers. At times it seemed impossible to take a photo without getting a bug of some kind in the frame. If you press and hold on any of the images below the caption will come up. If you press or click quickly, the image will open in a larger view. The dragonflies are with the Olympus OM-D E-M10 with 75-300mm zoom, most at 600mm equivalent. Macros are with the ZEISS Touit 50mm f2.8 macro.

Of course part of the delight of the CMBG is the way the flowers are massed and mixed. For this set I used very lens I had with me. The Day Lilies are with the 12mm, the Daisies are with the 50mm Touit, and the massed yellow and pink are with the 75-300mm zoom.

One of my favorite sections of the CMBG is the Children’s Garden, where whimsy rules. They have a tiny section of bog plants at one end of an ornamental pond where the Pitcher Plants were in bloom.

And of course, any garden is going to attract it’s share of wildlife.

The Hillside Garden, with its Weeping Spruce trees, always has something to offer. The Stonecrop was in bloom, and we found a Spiderweb in the trailing yew covered in dew. All taken with the ZEISS Touit 50mm f2.8 macro.

One of these years I plan to get to the CMBG in June when the Rhododendrons and Azalea are in bloom. The section of the garden, at the far end of Birch Alie is always one of the more attractive spots. That is my wife Carol sitting on the shaded bench beyond the ornamental waterfall. The wide angle shots are in-camera HDRs, with further processing for HDR effect in Snapseed on my tablet.

We will finish up with a rather random selection of flower close-ups from around the garden. I am not sure what some of these plants are :-) With the kind of abundance the CMBGs offer it is hard to keep track. These are all with the Sony Alpha NEX 3N and ZEISS Touit 50mm f2.8 macro.

If you are in the mid-coast region of Maine, make a half day stop at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. You will not regret it :-)

Laudholm Beach and the Boardwalk 7/17/2014

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Looking northeast along Laudholm Beach. ZEISS Touit 12mm f2.8 on the Sony Alpha NEX 5T.

I generally avoid the Beach at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve at Laudholm Farm in summer simply because it can get crowded with tourists. “Crowded” being a relative term. I suppose it is the relatively uncrowded nature of this beautiful stretch of sand that inspires people to park at the Farm and walk the mile to the beach, over the hill and through the woods, carrying a full day of beach supplies (which often includes a cooler and sometimes even an umbrella). Still, the tourists, if you let them, do diminish the sense of Reserve. I decided it was worth the distraction on a beautiful July day…and that it was hight time I checked to see if there were any nesting Piping Plover and Least Terns along the Little River at the end of the beach. Both the Least Tern and the Piping Plover are endangered in Maine and nesting sites are carefully protected and monitored, and every check is counted. I knew I was late by most of a month, but I thought there might still be a few birds around.

And of course you never know what other birds you will see on the beach and it is a beautiful stretch of sand! And rocks.

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Rocks are never far below the sand on any Maine Beach.

Tide and stream flow conspire all among the southern coast of Maine to continually expose the underlying bed of rocks that actually forms the beach. I found the last of this year’s Piping Plovers feeding along the edges of little pools in the sand and rocks.

At the end of Laudholm Beach the Little River flows out to meet the sea. Either side where the dune grass starts is roped off to protect the nesting sands of both the Plovers and the Terns. On a day like yesterday it is simply a beautiful spot. The shots are, like the beach shots above, taken with the ZEISS Touit 12mm f2.8 on the Sony Alpha NEX 5T, some are in-camera HDR, and all are processed for HDR effect in Snapseed on my tablet.

There were only a few Least Terns still around the nesting area. I managed a few flight shots and one sitting with the Olympus OM-D E-M10 and the 75-300mm zoom. If you touch or click the images they will open a larger view and you can see that one Tern is carrying some kind of work like thing.

In the rapid shallow water right at the mouth of the Little, a group of Bonaparte’s Gulls were feeding and bathing.

Besides the ubiquitous Herring and Ring-billed Gulls, there were a few Greater Blackbacked Gulls.

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Greater Blackbacked Gull. Olympus OM-D E-M10 with 75-300mm zoom. 600mm equivalent.

Walking back I stopped at the little pond formed where the old road crosses the marsh for a few irresistible scenics of the beautiful Maine day. Again note that the images in the tile will open to a larger view by clicking or tapping.

While taking the landscapes, this little Seaside Dragonlet landed at my feet. The advantage of having two cameras, I the long zoom always mounted, is clear here. I am getting fast enough on the draw to catch shots like this.

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Seaside Dragonlet (male). One of the smallest dragonflies in Maine.

I opted for the boardwalk trail back to the Farm and my parked car. You never know what you will see. This Chipmunk sat and posed within easy reach of the Olympus OM-D E-M10 with 75-300mm zoom, here at 1200mm equivalent using the digital extender.

Just about across from the Chipmunk I caught this Northern Pearly Eye Butterfly drinking sap from a fresh limb cut.

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It was great light for an HDR treatment of one of the big White Birches along the boardwalk. This shot used both the Sony Alpha NEX 5T’s in-camera HDR (+/- 6EV) and HDR processing in Snapseed.

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Only in-camera HDR could capture the blue of the sky behind the shadowed forest scene

I stopped at the overlook off the boardwalk for a view of the back side of the Little River Marsh and the dunes of Laudholm Beach. This is another HDR.

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Sony Alpha NEX 5T with ZEISS Touit 12mm f2.8

Finally I made a detour to the overlook on the Little River by the research canoe launch, before hiking back to the car.

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ZEISS Touit 12mm f2.8.

Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve at Laudholm Farm encompasses a number of very different habitats, which makes it an ideal place for not one, but many Photoprowls.

Day Brook Pond on the Kennebunk Plains 7/15/2014

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Day Brook Pond on the Kennebunk Plains. ZEISS Touit 12mm f2.8, Sony Alpha NEX 5T

I have been visiting the Kennebunk Plains for close to 20 years, and, until this month I have never walked the few hundred yards from the south side parking area to the pond that nestles in the plain there. What a waste! It is a beautiful little pond, pretty much in its natural state, with signs of recent Beaver activity, lots of dragonflies of several species, potential for good birding, and, this week at least, abundant Wood Lilies.

Day Brook Pond is on the Kennebunk Plains, which is jointly managed by the Nature Conservancy and the State of Maine for the protection of this unique sand plain habitat and several endangered and threatened species. For more information on the Plains and the adjacent Wells Barrens take a look at the State’s Conservation Focus Area paper (pdf here).

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The White Birch along the shore attract the eye (and the Beaver) ZEISS Touit 12mm f2.8.

Wood Lilies were in bloom walking in and all along the path around the pond. I used the ZEISS Touit 50mm f2.8 macro for a series of close ups.

I also tried some more environmental shots of the Lilies in context, with the pond at least hinted in the background.

And of course I had to try to catch as many of the dragonflies as would sit still for me. I found the first female Calico Pennants in the brush right by the parking area, and several more on the walk in, but the males stuck close to the water…along with abundant Slaty and Spangled Skimmers, a few Widow Skimmers, Blue Dasher, and one each of Eastern Pondhawk and Green Darner. I did not, of course, get a photo of the Green Darner. :-)

On the way in to the Pond I found a few Coral Hairstreaks on the Wood Lilies.

In a little draw by the pond with some trees and brush, a Field Sparrow sang.

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Field Sparrow. Olympus OM-D E-M10 with 75-300mm zoom. 600mm equivalent.

As I said, Day Brook Pond on the Kennebunk Plains is a great spot. I intend to visit it often.

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A last look at Day Brook Pond on the Kennebunk Plains. ZEISS Touit 12mm f2.8.

Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve at Laudholm Farm : the bog side 7/2014

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Carol, my wife, and my youngest daughter, Kelia, on the bog boardwalk.

I have been visiting Laudholm Farm for the better part of 20 years, and until this month I did not know there was a bog on the property. How can that be? My wife and daughter first explored the loop of trails that includes the bog earlier this month, and I have been back twice to explore it myself since. From the age of the various sections of boardwalk on the trails this is not a new loop…just a neglected one as far as I am concerned. Besides the bog, the trails encompass the lower fields and meadows of the farm, sections of ferny forest, and an overlook on the marsh well south of the Little River.

You begin with a walk through a shaded aisle in a damp hardwood forest.

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Are there fairy rides in Maine. This certainly looks like one. Sony Alpha NEX 5T with ZEISS Touit 12mm f2.8.

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Wild Iris along a small section of boardwalk in the fairy forest.

At the end of the Fairy Ride you make a sharp then and where onto the boardwalk across what I can only call a mini-bog. The whole thing is the size of a housing development from lawn, but is a true bog, complete with Sundew and at least two bog orchids.

Grass Pink

Pink Pagonia

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Round-leaved Sundew. Sony Alpha NEX 5T with ZEISS Touit 50mm macro

Sundew is of course a carnivorous plant. Insects get caught in the sticky hairs on the keaves leaves, the leaves partially close to catch them, and then acids in the plant’s sap dissolve the insect to provide nutrients. Round-leaved Sundew is one of the smallest Sundews.

Past the bog you quickly enter a stretch of forest and then the lower reaches of the meadows at Laudholm. On a good day this can be a great place for both birds and butterflies.

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Damp mixed forest

Where the trail turns sharply to the left there is a side trail leading out to the Marsh overlook.

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The marsh at he Southern edge of the Wells Reserve.

Eventually the trail comes out across from the boardwalk trail on the main trail down to the beach. It is easy to follow the boardwalk around to the meadows at the North-east edge of the reserve bordering the Little River. You never know what you will find. This Red-spotted Purple surprised us in the deep woods.

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Red-spotted Purple is one form of the Butterfly more commonly known as the White Admiral


I am certainly not done exploring the lower loop of trails at the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve at Laudholm Farm. I am certain there is more to see.