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.

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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