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A Variety of Nature...

Aside from the hawk-watching (update posted last night), there has been other Nature to admire and photograph, so let me catch up here...



Actually, to start with, let's go back a week. A month or so ago, I signed up for a bird-banding workshop through Mass Audubon, held up at Joppa Flats and Plum Island. Alas, while it was a lovely day to be out, we spent 5 hours (from 7am to 12 noon) dutifully walking the circuit of a couple dozen mist nets, without netting a single bird. "This has never happened before!" said the people in charge. (Boy, have I heard THAT one before.) So we got to go back on another weekend, when hopefully there would be birds.

And last weekend, indeed there were. About 20 birds were netted and processed, mostly warblers, with the odd catbird and chickadee thrown in.

Here, a female magnolia warbler:


Here, a male chickadee. He was a "recatch" -- one already banded. Apparently a local, he had been caught 7 times already this spring.


Moving along... on Friday, which was a lovely day, I went out for a 3-hour walk in the Callahan State Forest. At one point, called (stuck in traffic on the Belt Parkway), so we chatted for a bit, and it was while I was on the phone with her that I came around a bend and noticed something way up in one of the white pine trees. WAY up. It is indicated below by the white arrow. That is a good 15 feet off the ground.


It was white and cottony looking and I really could not figure out what the hell it could be. Wasn't a bird. Then I got closer (still talking to Raqs), and... it turned out to be a small plush Snoopy doll, hanging from a long piece of what looked like fishing wire.


That has really got to be one of the most random things I've ever come across on one of these nature walks.

On to more conventional wildlife... at one point I heard a rustling nearby and caught a glimpse of a red squirrel running up a tree, and thought I could get a shot of it. It wasn't until I had focused on it that I realized it had been brought up short by meeting another red squirrel on its way down.


The amazing part there was that they didn't start screaming at each other. Boy, red squirrels are noisy and contentious!


Maybe they waited until I was gone.

Meanwhile, I eventually came to one of the big meadows in the middle of the forest, which are lovely and full of wildflowers and stuff. Walking along the edge, there was a LOT of dragonfly activity. Now, I don't really like bugs. But dragonflies largely don't bother me. It's hard to explain why. Maybe it's because I know they won't bite me, or because they tend to avoid people rather than buzz in their ears. The fact that they eat mosquitoes is a bonus.

Here is what I am tentatively identifying as a blue dasher dragonfly, which came to rest on a stone in the path about 5 feet in front of me:


I would guestimate that it was about 3" long.

And then, about 2 feet further along, on a bigger rock, a couple of whitetail dragonflies came to rest: a female on the left, and a mature male on the right (these were only slightly smaller):


Note to the web: what I WANTED was a website that would have tons of pics of dragonflies that I could SCAN so I could figure out what these were. Not umpteen sites organizing all their pics by dragonfly name, where you had to click on a name to see the pic. I mean, sure, making an index to find pics that way would be useful. But for someone trying to figure out the name in the first place just from a visual? Aargh. (I did finally find a helpful site set up the way I wanted.)

Finally, my favorite of the dragonfly pics: a female whitetail, on some grass:


I really love meadows that are full of wildflowers, although I admit, I am less fond of the insects that buzz around your head. And it is sobering to gaze out over the peaceful meadow and think, "boy, is that thing probably full of ticks". But still. Lovely.


I took the above shot after wrestling with trying to take close-ups and failing because like an idiot I had forgotten how to access my macro setting. And the thing is, I feel like it's not the best shot, because the light's a bit overblown to really see some of the colors of the flowers. And yet, since posting this last night on Flickr, someone has favorited it. (And my reaction was, "... Really? Really? Okay.")

I have NO idea what all the flowers are. The yellow stuff is probably a type of goldenrod. But there's some blue-purple stuff, some white stuff, and some pretty salmon-pink stuff that I can't figure out what it is.

Moving right along... yesterday, elishavah and I went out to Tower Hill Botanical Gardens, on a somewhat crappier day, but we had a nice walk around nonetheless.

Classic roses near the entrance:


I rediscover my macro setting! Pollen-laden bee on rose. (Man, those roses totally smelled like classic rose. Wonderful. Clearly the bee thought so, too.)


I really should have written down what this neat little thing was. It was in the Systematic Garden, in which each section featured a different family of flowering plants (not all New England natives). I just can't remember what section this was in:




Pliny's Fountain, located at the end of Pliny's Allee, a long avenue of oak trees. (Apparently the whole Pliny theme was in memorial of someone with a middle name of Pliny, plus the fact that Pliny wrote some naturalist treatises.) We liked this fountain design, with the rustic big stone and very low, almost volcanic-looking bubbling water.


A ways further on, there was a lovely, rustic Adirondack-style gazebo overlooking the Wildlife Refuge Pond:



Which was handy, as not long after we got there, a rain shower hit. From what we could see, or more accurately, hear, the pond was largely a refuge for eight billion frogs. Mostly green frogs (I discovered later to be the identification of the "rubber-band twanging" sound that predominated), but with a few bullfrogs, which we got to hear really sound off a couple of times. Over in elishavah's LJ, she has posted a short video that contains the frog sounds.

The other thing the pond supported a great deal of were red-winged blackbirds:



There was also a brown female red-winged blackbird doing a lot of activity in the reeds right around the gazebo, and she kept flying back and forth, but I couldn't get a good shot of her.

I also couldn't get a good shot of a swallow perched on one of the boxes in the middle of the field next to the pond. It looked very blue. A barn swallow, perhaps? Darn, I wish I had a clear shot.

... Something else pretty along the pond's verge. Wild guess: orange hawkweed?


And there were a lot of wild mountain laurels (i.e. rhododendrons), which was neat to see, especially as I think they look really cool in bud:



And, as we bid a fond farewell to Tower Hill Botanical Gardens: a chipmunk next to the car. (The place was LOUSY with chipmunks, but they and the light were not cooperating earlier.)


Okay, so finally, you want to know the story about this guy:


So, we went and had lunch at a saloon in downtown Clinton, where we also ate last week (when we had just failed to make it to Tower Hill before it was closing), discovering that it had great burgers, and served the most perfect half-sour dill pickles ever. (It was a little scary to walk in, sit down, and have the same waitress from last week come over and remember our drink orders.) Then, we were driving back up 110 to 117 to head home, when my eye was caught by something on the opposite verge of the road. "Roadkill?" I thought, and then, "looks like a gnarled branch," and right as we were whipping by I realized what it was, and to Eli's bemusement, turned around in the next driveway to head back. There, I put on my blinkers. The above shot was taken through the windshield, before we got out.


Yes, BIG ASS eastern snapping turtle. Man. Look at that thing! And as you can see from where it is in relation to the white line, partway out onto the narrow road already, and heading further out.

So I figured -- if we just left it there, it was going to get killed by a car very soon.

But, how do you rescue a BIG ASS snapping turtle that does not want rescuing? Well, first I tried to pick it up on either side of its shell. (Yes, snappers have long necks, but they really can't reach you if you do that.) And then, Eli and I learned firsthand how damn fast those things can lunge when they are Very Irritated. (REALLY FAST is the answer.)

So, I've seen pics on the web of people picking them up by the tail. That sounded safe to me. I now very much regret not pausing for a longer second while I was holding it up, so that Eli could have gotten a non-blurry pic of it in that position. Ah well.

Getting a grip on a Very Irritated turtle:


Moving the Very Irritated turtle off the road:


Putting down the Highly Irritated turtle:


The Extremely Irritated turtle beats a hasty retreat back the way it came, at a surprisingly brisk clip, and thankfully in the opposite direction from the road:


Well! And that was probably enough excitement for one day, possibly for one weekend. That was a whoooole lotta Nature. But very satisfying.


May. 30th, 2010 05:49 pm (UTC)
Dude, that is one honkin' big snapping turtle! Great shots. Especially love the red winged blackbird. And the macro shots. Yay!

Oh, and the dragonfly is gorgeous, that one shot at the end is perfect. Something about dragonflies....wings like stained glass and perhaps we've been conditioned to like them because of how wonderfully Louis Comfort Tiffany portrayed them?
May. 30th, 2010 06:02 pm (UTC)
I somehow knew that you would appreciate the ones that I think are the best shots in this whole batch -- the dragonfly on the grass blade, and the open-mouthed red winged blackbird. :) I was rather proud of those.
May. 30th, 2010 06:06 pm (UTC)
Hee! Well, you do know what I like. And you're rightly proud, those are great shots. *hugs*