Categories: Wildlife Photography, Herpetological Photography
Here in Michigan red dragonflies appear in the middle or latter parts of the summer. The last dragonfly, which in the modern climate can linger till early December, is the Autumn Meadowhawk. In July and August I watch for these crimson harbingers of the fall, knowing that their arrival means that summer has peaked and that the day swill surely begin to shrink while night will blossom and grow…
Each year is different. Last weekend - the first in September - I finally spotted the first red meadowhawks. It seems that the dragonflies of spring and early summer have lingered longer than usual, and the red dragons are late or absent.
Here are a couple of Blue Dashers, a species that hits the scene in late May and early June, still lingering here in early summer (click on the images for a larger file):
And here are some red dragonflies - the males are red, the females brown. It is very difficult to indentify red dragonflies from photos or simple observation, but I think these are all Autumn Meadowhawks:
This is the first red dragonfly that I encountered. The first shot is OK, but shifting the camera a little results in a better, more high key background. More shots of others follow.
Yesterday was World Pinhole Photography Day and I was in the Allegan Forest taking pinhole photos, of course. NO word on how those have come out - still waiting for the color film to come back from the lab, and just getting started with scanning the B&W… But, standing in a clearing I looked down and spotted this lovely golden colored Hognose snake, resting in the warm afternoon sun.
I didn’t thinkt hat an 8 second exposure would do the trick, so I switched up to the Pentax K-5 and A* 200 macro lens. The snake was small - just under two feet long - and it gave a nice show as it slinked away. So - tongue up, grass blade up:
Tongue down, grass blade down:
Click on the images for a larger file.
A while back I mentioned that my main workhorse lens - a Pentax A* (star) 200mm f4 ED - had stopped working. I sent it to Pentax Repair, who were unable to repair it due to a lack of parts., and so they returned it as it was.
Enter Eric Hendrickson at pentaxs.com… He disassembled the lens and, determined that it was essentially worn out A crucial part that operated the aperture blades had several hole worn out of round, and it was the primary reason why the aperture mechanism was no longer functioning correctly. But the lens. This lens has seen heavy use since I bought it new in 1998, and that use had caught up with it. In addition, several internal screws had simply worked their way loose over the years, making disassembly of the lens a real problem.
Since parts were not available Eric found somebody who could fabricate the worn out piece. There was no guarantee that it would work but I was willing to pay up front on the hope that it would. A few weeks later the lens arrived and is working like new! The shots in this post were taken with the repaired lens - it is meting accurately and the aperture blades are running smoothly! Since there is no longer any 200mm class macro lens made for Pentax, it was well worth the repair. All in all, the repair cost less than half of the only close match to the 200mm macro - which as of this writing is still not available.
Eric proved to be a great resource and I have more stuff to send his way. He can be reached at email@example.com.
And just a few more photos …
It’s mid July and the long sweet days of summer are upon us. I haven’t had the chance to blog much these last few weeks, but still I carve out a few hours on the weekends to visit the Allegan Forest and mark the passing of the season.
A midsized pond located in a field of 48th street is a frequent destination during these visits. When I first started photographing in this area the pond was just a vernal marsh. In 2006 it even dried up enough that I could walk through it. A mucky spot with a few reeds was the only sign of the water then. Now it is dozens of yards across and full of open water. Many larger trees have their roots submerged, and have finally succumbed to the rising water.
The pond is home to lots of odes (odonates), but also many frogs and toads. Usually, they scatter as I walk along the water’s edge – green frogs in particular cry out “eeeeee!” and then jump out into the water. Below is one green from that was unimpressed by my presence, and let get me get down to eye level with it for a portrait.
As I mentioned, the pond also hosts a large number of Odonates. Here’s a very large damselfly – these are about two inches long and are very numerous around the pond. I don’t know what kind of damsefly it is, and my field guides don’t show anything this large in Michigan (at least that I can find.)
Meadowhawks arrive at the peak of summer. It’s great to see them appear in their crimson glory. So far this year I have not seen any red ones, but it is still early. I have, however, spotted a few of immature meadowhawks – signs that the red dragons are not far off. Here’s a shot from this morning:
Of course, as the days progress the spring dragons start to waiver. This year’s cold and wet spring meant that many early dragons appeared later than usual and many are lingering longer than usual as well. Of course, some – like the dot tailed whiteface – will be around for several weeks yet. Here are three spring dragons taken on earlier trips in recent weeks. First, Dot Tailed Whiteface:
A Calico Pennant:
And lastly, a four spotted skimmer:
While the water level in the pond remains high, the last few weeks have seen little rain and the field is taking on the burnish of the drier months of summer. I hope to have some summer dragons – brilliant red dragons – in the near future.
Here are some more spring wildflowers from 2009.
Here is one of the very first sping wildflowers - though it hardly looks like a flower. Skunk cabbage is one of the first plants to emerge from moist soil The flower smells like carrion and attracts flies for pollination:
Another fiarly early wildflower flowwer - Marsh Marigold:
May Apple Blossoms:
False Rue Anemone:
Thats it for wildflowers for now…
I haven’t been out shooting wildflowers this spring, but I found a directory of shots from the spring of 2009 that I never got around to posting. So here is the first installment (there will be a few more.)
These are all early spring hepatica. Most of these were taking in Berrien County, Michigan. The last couple of shots were taking in the Allegan forest. The dime gives an idea of the size of these blooms.
These were all taken in the early days of April, 2009.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been remarking on the little toads that seem to have popped up everywhere. After a little bit of web research, I’m pretty sure they are Fowler’s Toads. The individuals I’ve been seeing are all a bit small – most an inch or les sin size – but I assume that’s because ethey are just very young.
I’ve been seeing these creatures in the Allegan Game Area, and since they like woods and fields with sandy soil, that seems like a perfect habitat for them. During today’s visit I saw 5 individuals within a few moments of arriving at a sandy field. Here’s one shot:
Sunday. Walking back towards the car after wandering through he fields north of the Kalamazoo River, I look down at a small ribbon the ground, barely clear of the front of my boot. The intricate pattern on the speckled band is intriguing, and I wonder who left a snippet of a patterned shoe lace here.
And then the band suddenly moves – it’s a tiny Hognose snake, barely six inches long and lucky that my foot didn’t fall smack on it.
The little serpent proved to be an interesting photographic subject. Most of the hognose snakes I’ve seen have been brown with darker spots and a light yellow underside - like this one - but this individual is a gray tan with black spots. The snake was patient with me as I snapped a few portraits from different angles, and then I finally left it alone. It slowly made its way along the sandy soil, and was last seen sliding into a patch of thick ferns.
If it can avoid becoming a meal to some larger predator, it should have an ample supply of crickets and grasshoppers these next few weeks. Let’s hope it grows to be a formidable serpent - and I’ll hope to meet it again someday.
Sunday turned out to be a good day for herpetological subjects. After leaving the little Hognose Snake I made my way through several fields and finally down to the old farmstead. The mowed field was full of dragonflies, but they all dove low and clung to the stubble that prickled up from the sandy soil – not many opportunities for nice perching shots.
I made my way down to the pond. The water has receded a bit, though there is still open water at least 20 yards in from where the edge of the marsh used to be. Several frogs jumped into the pond as I bumbled down to the water’s edge, but looking down I noticed this green frog already in the water:
I have to admit that I paused for moment before laying down in the muck to get its photo. If you look closely you can spot a few mosquitoes on the frog’s head – though they are pretty much lost in this web-sized image.
After that I hiked back up to the north end of the cleared field. I tried to stay by the edge of the field, where there are still some patches of long grass, but ultimately I got no dragonfly shots. I guess the dragons are telling me to move on.
Anyhow, I did find another small tree frog or toad way up at the north end of the field. I’m seeing these guys all over the place this year. After a bit of digging, I’m reasonably certaint hat these are very small Fowler’s Toads - Bufo fowleri. They must be pretty young because they are typically described as being at least 2 inches long.
One thing about these guys – their camouflage is outstanding. Take your eyes off them for an instant and they are lost and gone.
Finally – one shot with a quarter in it for size reference. The little toad was quite accommodating.
Here it is, late August, and autumn is already sticking her fingers into the pie. Well - two shots form last spring - the wildflower called Spring Beauty
A shot from early May -
And another from very late in the season - May 24th! How long ago does *that* seem…
A young buck at twilight - taken in West Virginia (plenty of deer there!)