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 :-)

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.

Saco Heath 7/1/2014

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Sheep Laural still in bloom along the boardwalk, ZEISS Touit 12mm f2.8, Sony NEX 5T

Saco Heath is a remnant Peat Bog, the southern-most in Maine, near the town of Saco. It is owned and managed (and protected) by the Nature Conservancy. For many years there has been a trail in through the wet woods and a boardwalk across the bog itself. Over the past 2 summers, a Volunteer America grant and matching funds have rebuilt much of the bog section of the boardwalk. In early spring the Rhoda and Sheep Laural blooms along the boardwalk. In July you look for Pitcherplant and bog orchids. In August the high-bush blueberries are ripe and bird life is at its peak. In Autumn, the trees and bushes take on color. It is a wonderful place in any season.

On July 1st, I drove up to the Heath in mid-morning and spent a few hours walking the boardwalk and the trails. I was carrying the Olympus OM-D E-M10 with 75-300mm zoom, the Sony NEX 3N with the ZEISS Touit 50mm f2.8 macro, and the Sony NEX 5T with the ZEISS Touit 12mm f2.8.

Right out of the parking lot is one of my favorite stretches of forest in Maine. It is a wet forest, with lots of lush ferns and undergrowth, and short sections of boardwalk of its own to keep your feet dry as you hike into the bog, and it is always full of life.

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Entering the Preserve through the wet forest. ZEISS Touit 12mm f2.8, Sony NEX 5T.

Most of the shots in the slide show are with the ZEISS Touit 12mm f2.8. The obvious macros are with the ZEISS Touit 50mm macro.

Once you reach the bog, things open out. This is a authentic Peat Bog, formed when Peat (mostly decayed Sphagnum Moss, but also a variety of other wetland plants) fills in a glacieral pond. The Peat in the Saco Heath is hundreds of feet deep, and completely saturated with water. The super-acidic environment favors only a few plants besides the moss. There is an excellent Nature Conservancy brochure here.

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Pitcherplant. The cups fill with acid water and trap insects with dissolve to feed the roots.

The Pitcherplants were well grown and in flower, but the flowers were a bit past their prime. When they rebuilt the boardwalk (a very necessary improvement) the Pitcherplants nearest the boardwalk had to be sacrificed, but there are still some within reach of a telephoto. These shots (including the one above) are with the 75-300mm zoom on the Olympus OM-D E-M10 at 600mm and 1200mm equivalent.

The Rhodora of the spring are were well past on the first of July, but there were still a few Sheep Laural plants in bloom.

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Sheep Laural along the boardwalk. Sony NEX 5T with ZEISS Touit 12mm f2.8.

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Still with the 12mm.

The other plant in bloom on the Heath on the first of July was one of the bog orchids…probably the most common in Maine…the Rose Pagonia. The panel that follows is a mix of telephoto macros with the OM-D E-M10 and conventional macros with the ZEISS Touit 50mm f2.8 macro.

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Rose Pagonia. Telephoto and conventional macros.

And for a sense of the plant in its environment, a shot with the 12mm Touit.

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Wide shot of the Rose Pagonia as you would see it from ground level in the bog.

Of course there is more than plants to Saco Heath. Common Yellowthroats were singing all over the bog, and a Roufous-sided Towhee was “drink your tea tea tea”ing from the top of a Jack Pine. Song Sparrows sang from the lower limbs of the Pines. All of these shots are with the Olympus OM-D E-M10 with 75-300mm zoom at 600mm and 1200mm equivalent.

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Common Yellowthroat. Olympus OM-D E-M10 with 75-300mm zoom.

I am sure this will not be my only Photoprowl at Saco Heath this year. Stay tuned for more.