Acadia Birding Festival 2015 – Day 1

The Acadia Birding Festival is Maine’s premiere bird watching festival and was established in 1998.

Group at Indian Point Blagden Preserve
Group at Indian Point Blagden Preserve

This year, the Festival is from 28-31 May, plus two post-festival trips on 1-2 June, and over these days it visits 27 different birding locations.

Male Hairy Woodpecker feeding young at nest hole
Male Hairy Woodpecker feeding young at nest hole

For ourselves, the main Day One trip was to Indian Point Blagden Preserve – a path through mixed woodland leading down to the beach at the N.W. corner of Mount Desert Island and the Acadia National Park.

Red-eyed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo

Our list of warblers seen included: Ovenbird, American Redstart, Northern Parula, and Black-and-White, Magnolia, Blackburnian, Yellow, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Blue & Black-throated Green Warblers.

Black-throated Green Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler

Other species seen included Common Loon, immature Bald Eagles, Hairy Woodpecker (at nest), Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, American Robin and Dark-eyed Junco.

Magnolia Warbler
Magnolia Warbler

Species heard but not seen included: Mourning Dove, Eastern-wood Pewee, Red-breasted Nuthatch and Winter Wren.

Oven Bird
Oven Bird

And the guides for this event?  Well, there’s a whole truck-load of experts – too many to mention by name – but they are headed up by two internationally-known names:  Ken Kaufman, inter alia the author of several excellent books about birds, and David la Puma, Director of the Cape May Bird Observatory in New Jersey.

Harbor Seal, just off shore
Harbor Seal, just off shore

But for now, I’m just looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings!

Eddie

 

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Our first visit to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens at Boothbay was most certainly worth the effort.  The location is about an hour north of Portland, ME, and three hours north of Boston, MA.

This isn’t an article/text blog so hopefully I’m just going to let my    photographs speak for themselves:

The 'Bleu Aimable' tulip
The ‘Bleu Aimable’ tulip

 

The 'Angelique' tulip
The ‘Angelique’ tulip
'Rote Glocke' Pasque Flower
‘Rote Glocke’ Pasque Flower
'Rote Glocke' Pasque Flower
‘Rote Glocke’ Pasque Flower
'Pink Chintz' Wild Thyme
‘Pink Chintz’ Wild Thyme
'Pink Chintz' Wild Thyme among 'Angelina' Stonecrop
‘Pink Chintz’ Wild Thyme among ‘Angelina’ Stonecrop
And last but not least some wonderful ferns
And last but not least some wonderful ferns

 

 

Garden in the Woods – NEWFS

Garden in the Woods, at Framingham, Massachusetts, is a remarkable piece of woodland that has been developed and nurtured over many decades with the primary aim of encouraging the use of NE USA native plant and flower species in people’s gardens, and the protection of endangered species.

One of the ponds at Garden In The Woods, Framingham, MA.
One of the ponds at Garden In The Woods (cellphone photo)

It  is  the headquarters of the  New England Wild Flower Society [NEWFS]   and   –   especially in May – is a delight to visit and see so many flower species in bloom.

A Trillium (I believe 'grandiflora', but I need to check that.)
A Trillium (I believe ‘grandiflora’, but I need to check that.)

My own first visit to G.I.T.W. was a couple of years ago and I will always remember it for two reasons.  The first of these was that I had never encountered such a delightful setting for so many species of wild flowers.  The second, however, was for one of the worst-possible reasons, and that came in the form of a telephone call from my wife, telling me that evil, homicidal morons had just set off a bomb at the Boston Marathon, only a few miles to the east.  Enough said.

Not exactly a native species, but azaleas are an obvious, spring high-point in virtually any garden.
Not exactly a native species, but azaleas are an obvious, spring high-point in virtually any garden.

Since then, I have been back three further times, including my most recent visit, to which this post refers.

I have to confess, though, that I have yet to time a May visit to perfection – in other words to be there when the spring ephemeral flowers are at the height   of   their   glory.  This time I was just a few days too late.

A small but very eye-catching mint or deadnettle species that I need to check more thoroughly.
A small but very eye-catching mint or deadnettle species that I need to check more thoroughly.

 

Star Flowers
Star Flowers

Bad timing aside, this visit did bring me into contact with some extremely pleasant people, the first of whom – Dave T. – is a volunteer at Garden in the Woods.  Dave, I enjoyed our conversation greatly and a large part of that enjoyment came from your knowledge and great enthusiasm for this remarkable place.

As a Twitter acquaintance wrote, that's me "getting down and dirty!"  Yes... Can't deny it. But I like to think it was in a good cause! {:-)
As a Twitter acquaintance wrote, that’s me “getting down and dirty!” Yes… Can’t deny it. But I like to think it was in a good cause! {:-)

And then there was an immensely pleasant couple who were sufficiently amused to find me laying flat on my face across a path, in order to take a photo of starflowers, that the gentleman in question photographed me doing so, and one of his shots is shown above!  (Please know that my daughter in England saw your photo on Twitter and made me laugh when she commented:  “My Dad is so normal. I know who to blame now!”  {:-)

The pendulous flower of a Purple Pitcher Plant
The pendulous flower of a Purple Pitcher Plant

Oh, and for those of you with children or grand children to entertain, I was really pleased to see that a very imaginative and very natural play area has been installed that is clearly on a woodland theme and will undoubtedly be a great and rather crucial way to introduce youngsters to the natural world that is nowadays increasingly ignored in favour of computer games and other, related distractions.

I intend to add more to this post in a few days’ time, after my wife and I get home from a few days vacation in New England (some of which will be the subject of additional wildlife photography posts in this blog).

I can't close without showing you a lovely little 'Skipper' species of butterfly on Eastern Bluestar
I can’t close without showing you a lovely little ‘Skipper’ species of butterfly on Eastern Bluestar

Until then, I hope that at least you can enjoy the photos I have posted here.

Stay well!

Eddie

Other Photos from Five Rivers

Common Yellowthroat yelling "Witchety, witchety" at me.
Common Yellowthroat yelling “Witchety, witchety” at me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia) in breeding plumage
Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia) in breeding plumage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spotted Sandpiper in flight, showing wing and tail markings
Spotted Sandpiper in flight, showing wing and tail markings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No, I still can't resist getting shots of Tree Swallows!
No, I still can’t resist getting shots of Tree Swallows!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Painted Turtle in the water
Eastern Painted Turtle in the water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Chipmunk
Eastern Chipmunk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well-camouflaged grasshopper on wood mulch
Well-camouflaged grasshopper on wood mulch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A geometrid moth larva, looping.
A geometrid moth larva, looping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Azure butterfly on the invasive plant, Garlic Mustard
Spring Azure butterfly on the invasive plant, Garlic Mustard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Azure butterfly from above while feeding
Spring Azure butterfly from above while feeding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Geranium
Wild Geranium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I believe this is Corn Speedwell (Veronica arvensis)
I believe this is Corn Speedwell (Veronica arvensis)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See also: ‘Here Be Dragons and Damsels‘ (same location & same day)

Here be Dragons (and Damsels)!

Yes, back to the NYSDEC’s excellent Five Rivers Environmental Education Center preserve yet again, but this is something I anticipate writing frequently in this blog now that we are living once more in the Hudson Valley!

[Also see ‘Other Photos from Five Rivers’ – same location & day]

A 'baskettail' species of dragonfly, and - because it is perched in bushes away from water - this one is likely to be a female
A ‘baskettail’ (Epitheca) species of dragonfly, and – because it is perched in bushes away from water – this one is likely to be a female

For me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of spring is seeing the reappearance of odonates (a.k.a. ‘odes’)– the dragonflies and       damselflies – and even though they are only just getting started, today’s short hike (May 14) was no    disappointment.

Because dragonflies are predators and are more robust than – say – butterflies, they tend to have less human admirers, but that’s a pity because they    really  are remarkable and often spectacular.     Damselflies are   predators too,  but are typically much smaller and more delicate.

This photo, from animal-kid.com, shows how enormous ancient dragonflies used to be
This photo, from animal-kid.com, shows how enormous ancient dragonflies used to be

They are also very ancient creatures and fossils of very large dragonfly ancestors are found from 325 million years ago. Indeed, in those days, due to there being more oxygen in the atmosphere, dragonflies used to grow much bigger, with wingspans up to 750mm / 30 inches across.

None-the-less, in recent years far more people have started taking a lot of interest, particularly in dragonflies – often birders who are finding it to be an additional and equally enjoyable use for their binoculars. (Close-focusing binoculars are by far the best for getting a good look at timid dragonflies and butterflies without frightening them away.)

A male baskettail patrolling his territory, over water, waiting for a female to arrive
A male baskettail patrolling his territory, over water, waiting for a female to arrive

One of the challenges with getting interested in odonates is that some of them are very difficult to tell apart. Recognition of various species can literally require catching them and taking a very close look with a hand lens.  The good thing is that they can be caught and handled then safely released with no harm done, but in my case I have more than enough to carry in the form of camera gear without adding a long-handled net to the burden, so I will apologise now for not always being able to give a definitive identification for all of my ‘ode’ photographs.

Damselflies' eyes are set wide apart, like a dumbbell, whereas dragonflies' eyes (see above) typically touch at the top of the head
Damselflies’ eyes are set wide apart, like a dumbbell, whereas dragonflies’ eyes (see photos above of the baskettail species) typically touch at the top of the head

As the photos in this blog show, this hike turned up a beautiful dragonfly (just one species, I believe) and at least two species of damselflies.  (I should add that in both types of creature it is common for males and females to look very different, but that is not always the case.)

Apart from the positioning of the eyes (see the above photo caption) another good way to tell dragonflies from damselflies is how they hold their wings when they are not flying.  If you look at the top photo on this page, of a dragonfly, you can see that it rests with its wings straight out at right-angles to the body.  Now look at the damselfly photos, above and below this paragraph and you can see that their wings are held along the body, not sticking out to the sides.

A beautiful male 'Eastern Forktail' damselfly
A beautiful male ‘Eastern Forktail’ damselfly (Ischnura verticalis)

One thing they do all have in common is a need for water for the reproductive phase of their lives, so any water (other than the sea) can be a good location to see ‘odes’, whether it is a large pond, a small pond, a fast stream, a slow stream or even a tiny ‘seep’.

If you decide to try photographing them, be aware that they have huge eyes for a reason.

I believe this is a female but I'm not yet sure what species. (It also has a distinctive kink in its abdomen.)
I believe this is a female but I’m not yet sure what species. (It also has a distinctive kink in its abdomen.)

They have near-360-degree vision and because many birds will eat them they react instantly to fast movement, so approach very, very slowly.  Some species are easier to photograph, though, because they will habitually come back to the same twig or blade of grass as a perch, so watch where they land then move closer – at which point they will probably fly away – then move closer again and keep your fingers crossed that they do come back to the same place.  Patience will pay dividends!

If you would like to look at books on this enjoyable subject, I wholeheartedly recommend (for North America):

  1. Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East, by Dennis Paulson; Princeton Field Guides
  2. Unsurprisingly the same author does a book for the ‘West’, too
  3. Dragonflies Through Binoculars, by Sidney W. Dunkle; Oxford University Press.

[Also see ‘Other Photos from Five Rivers’ – same location & day]

 

New Dragonfly & New Moth at Tillman Road

A last-minute change of plans took us back to our old stamping ground in Western New York State at the weekend, so I grabbed a couple of hours to re-visit the Tillman Road Wildlife Management Area, at Clarence.  The WMA is described by the NYS DEC as “a wet lowland with an emergent marsh, open water, grassy fields, a deciduous swamp and hardwood forest.”

A male Carolina Saddlebags dragonfly
A male Carolina Saddlebags dragonfly

Tillman’s greatest appeal to me, over the last 12-or-so years that I have been a regular visitor, is that one never knows quite what will be found on any visit and ‘drawing a blank’ is rare.

Carolina Saddlebags, rear view to show wing detail
Carolina Saddlebags, rear view to show wing detail

This time, I turned up two new insect species I had never before  seen or photographed:  a male Carolina Saddlebags dragonfly  (Tramea Carolina), and what – to the best of my very limited ability with moths – I believe to be a White Spring moth (Lomographa vestaliata).  The latter sat motionless on a leaf, to the extent that I wrongly presumed that it would be some sort of ‘bird dropping moth’ but the former was on high-speed patrol along the margin of a pond and settled only briefly, each time, before doing another lap of its territory.

I believe this to be a White Spring moth
I believe this to be a White Spring moth

I’ve been very careful in identifying the dragonfly because it is very similar, in both appearance and range, to the Red Saddlebags (T. onusta) but I’m fairly confident I’ve got it right… However, as is always the case on my blogs, if anyone recognizes that I’ve made a mistake please do add a    comment below to put me right, and I will correct any error.

The various species of ‘saddlebags’ dragonflies get their name from the dark patches on the inner section of their wings, and when seen – usually in silhouette – from below, this creates an outline that looks like what the name says.

A Red Admiral butterfly, laying an egg
A Red Admiral butterfly, laying an egg

Up where we were, close to Lake Ontario, the Carolina is fairly close to the northern limit of its range, which is over the border in southern Ontario province. Even in this part of New York State, it is further north than its usual breeding range.

Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia)
Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia)

 

My other insect of the day was a rather worn-looking Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atlanta) which – to my surprise – was laying eggs in low, rough vegetation where I could see no trace of any of the future caterpillars’ necessary food plants.  Does a first-brood adult lay eggs randomly around an area in the hope that at least some of their offspring will find suitable food after the plants all grow?  Or was this one operating by smell (chemical sensing) and by that means actually knew the right places to leave eggs?

Tree Swallow
Tree Swallow

As for the other photographs, well I’m always a sucker for violets and I’m not going to walk past a ‘posing’ Tree Swallow, either!

Nature at Olana

It could be argued that if ever architecture looked out-of-place for its location it is at Olana, in the Hudson Valley, New York State, on the east bank of the river, on the opposite side to the town of Catskill.  It’s origins, however, are of significant artistic interest.

Frederic Edwin Curch's Persian-style mansion at Olana
Frederic Edwin Church’s Persian-style mansion at Olana

Olana is a Persian-inspired mansion that was built for Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900), an American landscape painter born in Hartford, Connecticut. He was a central figure in the Hudson River School of American landscape painters, and perhaps best known for painting large panoramic landscapes, often depicting mountains, waterfalls, and sunsets… Church’s paintings emphasise light and a romantic respect for natural detail…  [For more detail, go to Wikipedia.]

Rue Anemone
Rue Anemone

I paid two visits to the grounds (which is free on weekdays but costs just a few dollars for admission on weekends and public holidays), once in late April and again early in May.  As I was short of time on both of these occasions I limited my walks to a lap of the man-made lake     although there are several other walks available to visitors.

Hepatica
Hepatica

On both of my visits only a couple of spring ephemerals were present: Rue Anemones and Hepatica, although the latter was past it’s best on my May walk.

As for the lake itself, I have been here a few times but this was the first time I was able to see that there are some Koi carp present (either that or some very large goldfish, if that’s not the same thing!).  The other non-native that was present, but fortunately in very small quantities was the invasive reed Phragmites.

Koi Carp in the lake at Olana
Koi Carp in the lake at Olana

Much more interesting were the male Common Green Darner dragonflies that were patrolling sections of the shoreline, waiting for the arrival of females.

Several birds were present, though I didn’t get good photos of as many as I usually manage.

The ones not photographed included:

  • Northern Flicker
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Common Grackle
  • Blue Jay
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Palm Warbler
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Song Sparrow
A male Baltimore Oriole
A male Baltimore Oriole

I certainly expected to see more species of migrating warblers passing through but             disappointingly that didn’t happen.

The two species that did surrender to my lens were the      ubiquitous America Robin and the spectacular Baltimore Oriole.

My bird ‘stalking’ usually gets more prolific results!

Last but by no means least, the humble Inch Worm!
Corrected caption:  NOT an Inch Worm but likely a Noctuid moth caterpillar!

While I was there, though, what I took to be an ‘inch worm’ dangling in the sunshine caught my eye.  Most Americans undoubtedly have seen inch worms but after I got home from this walk I looked it up and was staggered to find the claim that there are, in fact, over 1400 different species of inch worm in North America!  To check further, I sent the above photo to someone vastly more knowledgeable than I about entomology and their response was that this was not even an inch worm – a fact     given away by the number of pairs of ‘sucker’ legs!  Instead, this is likely to be the caterpillar of a ‘Noctuid’ species of moth, and there are hundreds of different species of those, too!  My thanks to ‘Ask An Entomologist’ – on Twitter @BugQuestions – for this information.

For those people interested in Mr. Church, his home and his artwork, guided tours of the house are available on certain days. For details go to: www.olana.org/plan-your-visit/

Over the delightfully-named Rip Van Winkle Bridge in the town of Catskill, one can also visit the home of Thomas Cole – a famous English-born artist – which is now a National Historic Site. More info at: www.thomascole.org/visit-main/

 

Wildlife, Fly Fishing and Conservation Blog