Archive for the ‘dragonflies’ Tag

08-30-2015 Journal – Miscellany!   Leave a comment

With August in the rear view mirror, this week was a mix of this, that, and everything else.  I was a little unfocused but that’s not all that unusual anyway.  I spent part of the week back in the swamps looking for those illusive little dragonflies that were as always,  illusive.  A few dozen mosquito bites and another overexposure to bug spray yielded very little.

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There were more than a few in the area but they avoided getting anywhere near me.  I’ll be trying again in a week or so after the next crop hatches. I have a few decent pictures but I need five or six more before the cold weather sets in.

I was wandering around my garage looking for something to do when I saw my former satellite dish lying in the corner.  For more than four years that dish provided me with thousands of hours of television and cost me a few thousand dollars in fees and charges. With that much of an investment I just couldn’t discard that dish.  The company told me they didn’t want it back so threw it in the corner which gave some time to think about it.

I take great pride in my ability to repurpose objects that have out lived their original usefulness, why not this stupid dish.  I dismantled the old dish, took everything apart, and began the changeover from satellite dish to table.

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There’s a lot more work to do including a nice, deep black, and high gloss paint job.  Once it’s complete it will take it’s honored place among my other trophies as a game table in my man-cave. Thanks again Dish Network.

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08-20-2015 Journal–A Return to the Sanctuary!   Leave a comment

The Dog Days of August are upon us with all of the heat and humidity that they bring.  I’ve been staying fairly inactive due to the heat but it’s driving me crazy.  I just need to get the hell out of the house.

I decided to visit an old friend today. That’s the Wildlife Sanctuary in Scarborough, Maine.  Over the last five years I’ve spent a great deal of time there documenting the plants and wildlife.  I was driven to create a photo book of the place which took me two years to complete.  I was very proud of the result but knew all along it could be a double-edged sword.  My biggest fear was that people would read the book and then decide to visit the place in large numbers that might change things in the Sanctuary.  Unfortunately I was correct.

In past years the Sanctuary wasn’t visited all that much and remained a pristine place to monitor and photograph the wildlife.  In just two short years the place has dramatically changed.  Since the town received copies of the book, they’ve begun promoting the place.  The trails are now mowed to twice their original size and from all of the piles of dog feces, it’s becoming a dog park rather than a wildlife refuge.

Vandalism is evident in certain places with hints of teenage visitors from nearby high schools occasionally appearing. Most of the wildlife I initially photographed is now almost impossible to find.  They must have decided to leave the immediate area due to the increased human and canine traffic.

Here are a few photos I snapped as I made a casual walk-thru just looking for anything.

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‘The milkweed fields are as healthy as ever.’

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“Thistles continue to flourish.’

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‘Lots of elderberries available for use.’

The birds and squirrels are harder to find these days and even the deer seem to have moved on.  I decided to made a quick stop in the swamp, hoping for some dragonfly activity but even it was minimal.  In years past they completely filled the air over the swamp but that’s no longer the case.  I was hard pressed to get more than a handful of usable photo’s.

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I continued on to a second small pond looking for damn near anything.  Usually the place is overrun with frogs but I found just these two.

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There was a time when I could visit the sanctuary three times a week and never see another person.  Today there were three cars plus my own. A family with three small children and three dogs were running here and there while the parents picked blackberries nearby.  They spent part of their time trying to keep the dogs from attacking me, which I greatly appreciated. 

I’m sorry I ever made the book available to the public. I should’ve visited the Sanctuary, created the book for myself, and kept my mouth shut about it.  I may have helped ruin the place and that makes me sad.

04-20-2015 Journal–Spring in the Woods!   Leave a comment

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While we’re having a string of bright sunny days the nights continue to be a little too cold for my liking.  It seems to be taking so damn long for the temperatures to heat up so I’ll do the best I can not to whine continuously about it.

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‘You gotta love those pesky woodpeckers.’

This week’s  weather milestone permitted me to don my first pair of shorts for 2015 and to sun myself on the deck.  I even managed to get a light sunburn on my face and arms which tingled nicely as I showered last night.  A truly delicious pain, right up there with hot peppers.

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With the better-half having a weekend off we decided to get away from the yard work for a while and to take a walk in the woods.  With cameras in hand we made our way to our favorite sanctuary located along the Scarborough River and marsh. 

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I love visiting this area early each Spring but to most people it just looks drab and dismal.  The greenness of the plants is a week or two away, the ground is a little muddy, and the winter damage to the trees is highly visible.  We got a little wet and muddy but the sun was shining and bright and we really enjoyed the fresh air. We walked though the sanctuary and ended up along the river bank overlooking the river and the marsh beyond.  I’ve already used one of those photos for my IPad screensaver and I hope to collect many others as the summer progresses.

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As we walked along we ran into another couple and their big old barking dog. The people were friendly enough but the dog left a lot to be desired. We continued walking back through the woods to check out the two small ponds looking for signs of any wildlife.  We saw a few birds and some noisy crows but not much else.

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It appears that it’s still too early for the frog population to make their appearance.  The ponds were full of tadpoles swimming everywhere and there should be no lack of frogs later this summer.  I’m not sure why I have such a fascination for swamps but I really do.  Frogs are cool and my favorites, the dragonflies, are just weeks away from making their first appearances.

I can look forward to a summer of regular visits here and lots of terrific pictures, I hope.

08-24-2014 Journal Entry–Swamp Stomp!   Leave a comment

What does beautiful weather and a lack of humidity mean to you? To me it means a day in the woods and swamps with my camera and a gallon of bug spray.  This summer hasn’t allowed me as much time as I’d like to roam around. We’ve been much too busy to take the time and I’m not at all happy about that. So today I decided to make time for a little of Mother Nature’s healing influences.

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I’ve been attempting this summer to collect as many photo’s as possible of the illusive dragonfly.  I packed up the car and made my way back to my favorite swamp for another attempt.  In years past there were a constant supply of dragonflies beginning in July and lasting until Labor Day.  This year has been quite a bit different possibly due to the higher than normal rainfall.  The number of dragonflies in the skies around our home has steadily increased over the last few weeks and I’m hoping for the best here in the swamp.

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As I arrived at the sanctuary I discovered a few vehicles parked around meaning other visitors in the area. Hopefully they’re here to pick black berries and aren’t stumbling around near the swamp scaring the wildlife away.  I cover myself in bug spray and head into the woods. The milkweed pods are in bloom in really large numbers this year. I’ve also noticed a much large number of thistle plants as well which always makes for interesting photographs.

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The closer I get to the swamp the more dragonflies I’m seeing and as I enter the swamp they’re everywhere.  I also notice that most of the ones I’m seeing are all the same color.  In a normal year I would see at least a dozen brightly colored variations but not today. 

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There are a few mallard ducks flying around but they refuse to sit still long enough for me to get a few photo’s.  They seem a little jumpy which could mean a few visitors had been in the area before my arrival.  I stumbled into an area with a large cluster of dragonflies so I stood perfectly still and waited for them to come around to check me out. This was my best picture of the day. This guy was a rather small specimen who’s actual size was only about an inch and a half long.

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Since the selection was somewhat limited I decided to move on to a secondary swamp located nearby that usually has large numbers of frogs and turtles.  I hope to find a little more activity there.  It’s unusually quiet today which can only mean previous visitors which for me isn’t a good thing. I arrive in the area and there’s no wildlife activity at all except for this stupid frog.  No dragonflies, one frog, and no turtles.  I decided to call it a day and began my trek back to my car.  It seems today was a wasted trip.

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As I made my way along the trail I came upon that group of visitors. They were all clustered around my favorite blackberry patch filling up their containers.  It appears a number of new people have stumbled onto the patch which translates to less berries for me and my better-half.  We’ll need to stop by in a few days and hopefully collect enough berries to make our usual batch of summer jam. 

We shall see.

07-15-2014 Journal Entry – Back to the Woods!   Leave a comment

This has been a week of rain then sunshine then rain and on and on and on. The humidity is constantly high and sleeping is a real challenge. It certainly limits my activities to hanging around the house and driving my better-half over the edge. It must be true because she tells me that at least twice a day. What to do, what to do.  My only solution is to take my camera and go forth to play in the woods.  Maybe it was time for a quick check of my favorite swamps to look in on the dragonfly situation. With this much humidity and heat there should be a large increase in their numbers (I hope).  It’s a reasonably short drive so I loaded up my gear and took off.

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I arrived at the sanctuary, parked the car, and stepped into the world of sweat bees, gnats, and those little mites that congregate around your head by the thousands.  I used half a can of the strongest bug spray I could find and it was of little help.

It’s common practice here in Maine for the horse farmers to cover the eyes of their horses with netting to keep the bugs from driving the horses crazy.  If it works for horses then why can’t it work for me.  I reached into my bag of goodies and found some netting made specifically to be worn over a baseball cap and then tied tightly at the neck.  It’s not a perfect solution but it will keep the gnats in the swamp out of my eyes and ears.  The rest of my body is up for grabs but even those damn mosquitos and ticks have to eat too.  Without a doubt I’ll be their lunch entrée.

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On my way to the swamp I have to pass through a few acres of milkweed plants. They’re just coming into bloom and in a few short weeks will be covered with visiting Monarch butterflies.  They love laying their eggs on the milkweed plants which contain a chemical that keeps predators from eating their eggs.  I’ll be back in a few weeks for their arrival which promises  a gang of excellent macro photographs.

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I arrived in the swamp covered with swarms of bugs and discovered to my delight a reasonable number of dragonflies flitting around.  I’ve found if you stand still in one place for a few minutes they tend to approach to check you out. These pictures were of a few that seemed to be purposely posing for me.

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I lasted almost an hour but the bugs made staying any longer impossible. I’ll be better prepared on my next visit and hope to obtain more photos of dragonflies and damselflies.  The variety of colors is absolutely amazing.

***WILDLIFE ALERT ***

(Sarcasm On) This Wildlife Alert arrived on my desk today from my better-half and I promised her I’d put out A BOTA (Be On the Lookout) alert for a herd of those terribly dangerous and ruthless gourd eating deer.  She plans on hanging some sort of crazy noise-maker in the garden to scare them off. Truthfully we’ve had deer eat almost everything in the garden at one time or another but not a single one has ever munched on a gourd.  She has a strange attraction for gourds which I still don’t understand.  Maybe I’ll build a blind for her to sit in near the garden and she can jump out in the middle of the night to scare the crap out of them. I promise to get lots of pictures if she actually does it. (Sarcasm Off)

07-30-2013   4 comments

Today turned into a real adventure quite by accident.  The sun was shining and I had no plans of any kind for a change.  My only chore was to deliver my better-half to work and to pick her up later in the afternoon.  I suppose I could have just worked around the house or even cut the grass but I wanted something a little more interesting.

I purchased a new Nikon SLR two weeks ago and I really needed to spend a little time learning how to use it.  I packed up my camera and the rest of my equipment and made my way to the marshland located along the coast. I arrived there in short order and made my preparations to enter the swamp.  I was there primarily to photograph dragonflies but I had a small problem. If I doused myself in Off then the dragonflies were sure not to come near me but if I didn’t use the Off I was sure to be eaten alive by thousands of mosquitos.  I used a moderate amount of the spray, picked up my camera and monopod and trekked into the swamps.

Photographing insects requires the use of a macro lens that then requires the use of a monopod to steady the camera to get that perfectly clear shot.  I have to say it sounds much easier than it actually is.  I sat crouched in that damn swamp for two hours because I’ve been told that patience is always necessary for any photographer.  It was close to eighty-five degrees with no breeze of any kind.  I began to sweat like I’d just run the Boston marathon.  Unfortunately bugs just love sweaty humans to buzz around and bother and then to sting when they’re swatted away.  It became quite difficult to sit quietly while surrounded by a few hundred of my newest friends. Photography Tip #1: Use as much bug spray as you can.  Take a damn bath in it if you must.

I managed between bites to take a number of shots but even the dragonflies were being difficult.  Due to my constant swatting of bugs I was apparently scaring them off  as well.  Everything was just freaking perfect.  Oh yeah, did I mention there are also snakes in that swamp.  As I squatted there I must have seen six or seven slithering in the waters around me.  Photography Tip #2:  Never wear sneakers when working in a swamp, it bothers the snakes.

I lasted as long as I could and actually was able to take a few dozen pictures and a few of them appear to be pretty good.  I’m really happy with the new camera and I’m sure we’ll have a long and happy relationship together.  It felt good to get out in the wild for a bit but it will probably take a few days for all of these bug bites to heal.   I can’t wait to get these photo’s onto my computer later so I can really see if there as good as I think they are.

All in all it was a fun day and I look forward to many more just like it before the snow flies. The downside to any really good day is returning to reality which always kind of sucks. I’ll pick up my better-half in a few minutes and then head home for dinner and a quiet night. 

02-21-2013   1 comment

With winter seeming to drag on endlessly I decided to spend time today working with my photographs.  I currently have almost fifteen thousand photos taken over the last five years that need to be properly sorted, filed, and backed up.  It’ a tedious and time consuming process but absolutely necessary when dealing with these large numbers of pictures.

It’s a chore that  I really enjoy and it gives me an opportunity to again relive when I took them and in many cases why I took them.  The last two summers I’ve been involved photographing a subject I just love, dragonflies.  Dragonflies have become one of my all time passions due to their delicacy and beauty.  I purchased a great lens about five years ago and it’s primarily used to take macro photo’s.  These photo’s are so detailed you’re able to see the segmented wings and the gorgeous colors like never before.

In a local area nearby I found a small isolated pond that teems with dragonflies of all types and colors.  I spent many hours sitting near the swampy end of that pond amongst the cattails observing the dragonflies and attempting to identify the many types I was seeing.  They’re very curious and upon my arrival they normally swarmed around me to see what I was doing. Getting them to pose for photo’s was difficult at best because they almost never stop moving.  It was frustrating to say the least and it required me to study up on the species in an attempt to solve that problem.

They live in a larva stage in the water of ponds often for years where they’re able to prey on small fish to survive. The winged stage is very short and is for mating, egg laying, mosquito eating, and then death.  They’ve been around in one form or another for millions of years and have slowly evolved into these smaller versions of the originals.  Fossils have been found with dragonflies more than two feet long.

I did discover that many of the smaller ones I photographed were not actually dragonflies but damselflies.  Dragonflies have huge eyes that touch each other but the damselflies eyes are separated and they’re much smaller.  They come in a number of vivid colors but the ones I see most often are an electric blue.  Both species as I mentioned earlier are very curious and militantly territorial.  They spend their entire lives looking for food and fighting to maintain those territories whether in the water or out.  They’re what you might call scrappy.

I needed to find a way to get them to sit still for a few seconds. Taking their photographs in flight while OK wasn’t giving me the detail that I needed.  I first took a small piece of gum and attached it to the end of a reed sticking up in the swamp.  They did land occasionally on those reeds and it appeared they were resting or possibly sunning themselves.  No luck with that strategy, they landed for a second and then were gone. I next tried a drop of sugar water on the reed and had some successes but still not what I was looking for. Eventually I found an ant, squished it, and then placed a piece of it on the end of the reed.  Bingo, they landed and stayed for  a few seconds longer than usual and I began to get some great pictures.

Over the next two months I took some truly amazing photographs.  Once they determined I wasn’t a threat they forgot about me completely and came close with little or no fear.  If you’d like to give it a try you’ll  certainly need a great deal of patience and a supply of ants.

Well, back to the computer to finish up my sorting.  I’m starting to get a small jolt  of spring fever and excited for warm weather so I can get back to the swamp.

Posted February 22, 2013 by Every Useless Thing in Just Saying

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