Archive for the ‘swamps’ Tag

06-19-2016 Journal – Weekly Update!   Leave a comment

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Summer is finally here but it’s been a little disappointing so far.  It’s the middle of June and the nights remain chilly which is doing nothing to help my pepper plants in our garden.  Very disappointing but not totally unexpected, it is Maine after all.

This week I’ve been consumed by these designs that I’ve been creating.  Each day I become more adept at using the computer software to color my sketches.  It’s an interesting process but it’s very detailed and time consuming.  I sat for almost three hours yesterday totally focused on what I was doing and when I finally finished and stood up I was suffering from eye strain and legs that went a bit wobbly. Even with all of that the results were much better than I expected.  The work will continue today and I’m actually looking forward to getting back into it.

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Most people just don’t get it. They see my time spent doing these designs as wasted but they couldn’t be more wrong.  The hours spent in these tasks are the highlights of my day.  The focus needed to complete them is something I’ve grown to need over the years and I’ve looked forward to it since I was a young child.  It’s the best addiction I’ve ever had and I hope I never lose it.

I’m hoping to breakaway for a while this week if the sunny weather continues. I could use some quiet times in the woods taking a few photographs of my favorite subjects . . . dragonflies.  They should be swarming near the swamps in large numbers by now and I plan to make the most of it. Here are two shots taken in 2011 when there were huge numbers of them in the area.

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I’ll be disappointed if I can’t get a few pictures but these cool nights may delay their arrival just a bit. I may be forced to return to the swamp a few more times before I have any success at all. Thankfully I live close enough which makes things so much easier.

ENJOY YOUR DAY

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.

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.

11-21-2014 Fall in Maine!   Leave a comment

I needed a few hours of peace and quiet and since that’s virtually impossible at home I decided to take my camera and disappear into the woods for a couple of hours.  The temperature was in the low forties which made the woods a little more bearable than normal.  No hordes of black flies and gnats and no sweating through my clothing because of the summer heat.  That’s a win/win anytime for me and motivates me to make more visits during these cooler months.

As I walked onto the trail the first thing I noticed was the absolute quiet. That’s a Winter quiet that takes a little getting used to.  During warm weather the place is nothing but noise from birds, squirrels, and any other wildlife that’s passing through the area.  The leaves have fallen and the fields of milkweed pods have opened up and spilled their seeds everywhere.

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This place is usually teeming with birds but almost all of them have headed south for the Winter.  I saw two cardinals frolicking through the nearby trees filled with red berries.  They should be really happy, there’s enough berries in this area to feed them and all of their friends until next summer.  If you squint just a little you can just see the male cardinal keeping an close eye on me while his mate eats nearby.

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I always try to visit the small ponds and swamps when I’m here and today I found the places dead quiet as well.  It’s been just cold enough over the last few days to begin freezing the ponds.  Even in these conditions I still love spending time here and I’m not sure why, I just do.

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Another thing I like about the late Fall is that the leaves have dropped and now make it possible to see things you normally can’t.  It’s the only time of the year when I can truly appreciate the beauty of the white birch trees scattered throughout these woods.  They almost seem to glow in the bright sunlight and it’s really breathtaking.

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The quarter mile before returning to my car is a walk that takes me through an area diverse with every kind of tree and bush.  It always seems in such perfect balance, something Mother Nature seems to be very good at.

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As I return home I feel refreshed and relaxed, something that always occurs after I’ve spent some time here.  I’ll be returning soon after the first significant snow fall to begin my 2014 Winter collection of photos.

I’m still stalking my friend, the big fat barn owl.  I took this picture a few years ago and have been trying to find him just one more time ever since.  I’ve seen him flying overhead on many occasions but he apparently roosts  in some of the tallest pine trees located along the Scarborough River.  It makes getting any decent photographs very difficult. I hope some day my persistence pays off and he agrees to pose for me again.

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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)

06-29-2014 Journal Entry – Hiding in the Woods!   Leave a comment

Do you ever feel the need to get away, to hide from the world, or to avoid the people you care most about?   It happens to me periodically for no apparent reason and at odd times.  I normally just disappear from the house proper and take refuge in my man-cave but that doesn’t work as well as it once did. It seems that other people, including a rather inquisitive grandson have figured out my secret hide-away. When  that happens my last resort is to take my camera and head for the woods.

Yesterday was one of those days when the better-half was working and I was tired of gardens, gardening, household fix-it jobs, and the occasional unexpected telephone call.  I told no one where I was going, packed up my gear, turned off my cell and hit the road.   It was hot and humid and I didn’t care at all if anyone knew where I was going.  After arriving at my destination I parked my car, sprayed myself from head to foot with bug repellent, grabbed my camera and disappeared into the woods.  It’s one of the reasons I love living in Maine.  There are more woods here than I could ever visit in my lifetime.

I’ll give you a short walk-along as I made my way through a number of trails, two swamps, and my favorite blackberry patch. The bugs were out in large numbers but the repellent kept most of them at bay.  Since this Spring has been a wet one the woods are lush and green.  I didn’t walk twenty feet before I discovered these wild daisies.

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I found a patch of these smaller yellow flowers as well and I have no idea what they are or where they came from. I do know they’re very delicate and love being photographed.

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The trails are over grown in places and it was dead quiet. I visit this spot every so often because there are so few people who even know it exists.  It’s just me, the bugs, and the occasional wildlife visitor. 

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I was especially interested in visiting the swamps.  It’s a little early for the dragonfly population to be booming but I thought I’d check it out anyway. I’m fascinated by them and have hundreds of photos in my files.   Unfortunately the swamps today had almost no dragonflies at all. I found that a little unusual but I’ll try again later in July when it gets a little warmer.  As I neared the first swamp I saw this wild Iris just sticking up out the water all by lonesome.

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A  few steps further on and I almost stepped on this bull frog who was hiding in the weeds near my feet.  He refused to move so I took immediate advantage.

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I made my way a short distance to the edge of the Scarborough River and Marsh.  It’s a thousand acres of a fresh water marsh with a water connection to the open ocean.  Beautiful scenery as far as the eye can see.

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I followed anther trail that took me along the river and then inland to a second swampy area.  Again no dragonflies just another big fat bull frog who refused to look my way.  He sat quietly and gave me the cold shoulder until I left the area.

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I decided to make my way back to my vehicle and along the way check out my favorite blackberry patch.  Over the years this patch has supplied my better-half and I with dozens of jars of delicious jam that is to die for.  It’s a huge patch as you can see and it is loaded with berries that should  begin ripening in big numbers in a month or so.

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That was a photo of the patch but here’s one of the berries I intend to pick and eat in a few weeks.  I can’t wait to make more jam and freeze a few quarts of those big fat berries for use on my morning cereal.  There’s nothing better.

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I headed home with a few dozen photo’s and a better outlook on life. Being in the woods has always supplied me with that clarity of thinking that’s so important. 

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.