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Happy Independence Day!

 

What Lurks Beneath…

Usually, when parking myself in my lawn chair next to the pond, I end up with lots of photos of dragonflies. But one day a couple of weeks past, I had sat at the water’s edge for a few minutes when the bullfrogs began to emerge from the water. They always flee at my approach, generally quite noisily, and a few will return to show themselves, but not this many.

My pond is not very big, maybe fifty feet across at the widest, and I counted 14 bullfrogs at one point. And with all the cover available to them, I know I had to have missed at least a few.

So I’m sitting there watching the frogs, occasionally shooting a photo when there’s a large splash on the opposite bank. I figured it was yet another frog, but I couldn’t see one in the vicinity of the splash, but that was to be expected. Then something started moving underwater, disturbing the water shield that covers the pond as passed. And it was coming towards me!

duunnn dunnn… duuuunnnn duun… duuunnnnnnnn dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dunnnnnnnnnnn dunnnn 

I watched its progress as it continued to approach, still tracking it by the movement of the plant cover. It stopped moving about 10′ from me and I figured that would be the end of it. But then, very slowly, this emerged from the water.

I wasn’t surprised that there was a snapping turtle in the pond. After all, one came from there several years ago and laid eggs in the yard. I was surprised to see her, simply because she simply doesn’t show herself very often. I’m calling it a “her” because turtles are very long-lived and this could easily be the same turtle as the egg-layer. 

She kept raising her head further and further out of the water. She only stopped when it seemed her neck would stretch no further, looking like a scaly periscope. Then she abruptly pulled her head back underwater and began moving away towards the water-lily in the northwest end of the pond. Approaching the far side, she popped her head up again, parting and lifting the small pads of the water shield.

Apparently satisfied that there were no threats present, she dragged herself out of the water in the shallows near the edge. 

Once there, she periscoped her head again, then quickly plunged it into the water.

Once there, she periscoped her head again, then quickly plunged it into the water.

She caught something; I could see that she was eating but frustratingly couldn’t make out what it was. Finishing her snack, she resumed her hunting posture.

She was still there when I left my seat. The frogs all went willy-nilly for the water when I moved, but she either couldn’t see me from that distance or simply ignored me. Hopefully, it’s not another five years before I see her again.

Flickr Update – June 30

I’ve added about 70 photos over the last couple of weeks. Mostly birds, but there are also dragonflies and a few box turtles.

 

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Drive-by Shooting

Driving home after work one day last week, a small hawk came gliding low across the road in front of me. I was heading into the sun, so I couldn’t tell much about the bird other than he was too small to be a Red-tail. Watching him as he crossed the road, he looked as if he were making an approach to land in a tree a short distance from the right of way. I mentally marked the tree, drove the few hundred yards to the next cross-over between lanes and turned back to have a look.

I pulled off on the shoulder and started scanning the tree where I thought he’d landed, but didn’t see anything. I started to pull back into traffic but decided to take one more look. This time I spotted him, higher in the tree than I’d expected and partially obscured by foliage. But through the binoculars, it was clear that he was a Broad-winged Hawk.

Had he been a Red-tail, he would have been long gone. But Broad-wings aren’t generally that spooky and he was still sitting there ignoring me. With the passenger side window down and the motor turned off, I shot a few photos from within the truck. Now that I had a few photos, I got out and went around the truck and started shooting again. I was able to work my way to the left and get his head clear of the obstructing limbs.

 

He was still not moving, so I started walking through the Sericea lespedeza in his direction. Unfortunately, the bank dropped steeply away after a short distance and I could go no further. I was closer to the hawk, but the light wasn’t as nice as before and I prefer the images shot back near the truck. The background is more attractive.

I ended up with around 80 frames but since the hawk wasn’t moving more than turning his head, they’re all very similar. Still, it was well worth the trouble of turning back and taking the time to shoot.

Birthday Bird

I had my 50th birthday back in May. Usually, Dayna and I go day-tripping on my birthday, looking for birds and a good place to eat. But this year found me out in the Powder Mill area, documenting flood damage.
 
At one stop, I saw something large and shiny in a little clearing back in the dense bottomland cover. I made my way to it and as I got closer it resolved itself into a 500-gallon propane tank. While photographing the itinerant tank I realized I was hearing a familiar song coming from nearby. I stopped to listen and realized I had a Swainson’s Warbler almost on top of me.
 
Fortunately, I was carrying two cameras. My D7100 with a 150-600mm lens was hanging from my shoulder, so I was properly equipped for this unexpected opportunity.
 
I was standing in a small clearing that actually had a bit of light, but the bird was back in the deep, dark cover. Taking a decent photo there would be essentially impossible so I needed to bring him to me.
 
I also had a Bluetooth speaker clipped to my belt loop and it was soon hanging from a low limb on the edge of the clearing. I was only planning to use playback for 30 seconds or so, but I only needed half that. By the time three repetitions had completed, a small brown missile came tearing out of the woods.
 
I tapped my phone to stop the playback, got the camera up and started shooting. The light still wasn’t great, but it was the best situation in which I’ve encountered a Swainson’s. He hung around for a couple of minutes and I kept the camera firing at its full 5 frames per second, ending up with over 200 photos.
 
Many were near duplicates of course, but I still had a veritable gold mine to dig through. This was my favorite shot:
 

The others are on Flickr if you would like to see them. Links are below. And Happy Birthday to me!

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