I still have tons of wildflower shots that haven’t made it onto this blog. Here’s another shot of wild columbine, from May 2009.
Archives for: "July 2009"
Today was a another cool, cloudy, dark and damp Saturday. During the evening a gentle rain fell for a bit, by morning things were just damp. Now and again a light rain would fall for a few minutes, and then fade away.
There was no point in wasting gas to drive out to Allegan, I instead I visited the McLinden trails. THe breezy overcast weather kept the dragonflies at bay, and few were to be found on the wing. When I arrived at the park, however, I was happy to find a few Band Winged Meadowhawk. These are the smallest of the meadowhawks and, while not rare, and among the less common meadowhawks.
I saw but did not photograph one male, who was in the distinctive red meadowhawk color. Several females were in the area as well – here’s one shot:
Aside from that, one Ruby Meadowhawk paused for a moment in front of the camera. This afternoon the skies have cleared, so maybe tomorrow will bring a bit better luck.
Back in June, when the days were the longest, I’d listen to the robins sing in the dead of night. They would start up around 2:30 AM, first one lonely singer, then another. Dawn was hours away but the birds sang to the darkness, or perhaps to the promised light.
Just as the pre-dawn twilight emerged, other birds joined the song. First cardinals, and then myriad house sparrows with their chatter – not really a song except when hundreds of birds join in. Mourning doves, fox sparrows, finches and chickadees all would join in; at times crows added their dour “caw-caw-caw” to the mix.
This morning I awoke at 2:30. People were talking outside the window, the garage door was open and the light was on. I rushed out, ready to fight, but found no one there. The voices were gone. A cluttered garage basked in the light. Nothing was missing - did I just forget to turn off the light and close the door?
Locking up, I thought to sit back and listen to the robins sing and let the adrenaline ease away. But no bird spoke in the darkness. I had trouble getting back to sleep, and listened in vain until the sun was coming up. The tardy July sun.
Around 6 a few birds picked up the call, and dozen or so voices rose to the morning chorus. Bless them for thier singing, though it was an faint echo of days gone by.
And so – the turning point, again. The sun is already rising later, and soon the mornings will be silent.
Here’s a photo of a prickly pear cactus in bloom. It was taken last year. I had intended to take a photo of one of this summer, but did not realize that the one day in June when I saw them blooming on the barrens was the only day this year I’d see these flowers.
There was a surprise in my photos from last June. While shooting dragonflies in the usual haunts, I saw this specimen. I took it to be a dot tailed white face, but was perplexed by the whitish coloration at the base of the abdomen.
Looking through field guide I realize that this is a Frosted Whiteface -Leucorrhinia frigida. Considering the yellowish dots on the abdomen, this would be an immature male Frosted Whiteface. I don’t recall having ever seen this species before, and I’m sure I never photographed it. Great to see something new out there.
Shot on June 20th, 2009, in the Allegan State Game Area.
Saturday morning. Rain spatters on the windowsill. Cars passing outside splash through puddles. Now and again, a rumble of thunder churns through the clouds. These are all good reasons to linger a bit in bed… and so it isn’t until late morning that I head out for my weekly photographic session.
I leave under cloudy skies with the occasional puddle still in the road, but by the time I get to the game area the skies have cleared. The July sun quickly dries the oak savanna, but cool gusty breezes make the day mild and comfortable.
Despite the morning shower, the fields are finally starting to show a bit of summer brown. The sandy soil in Allegan County holds little water and even a week or so without rain is enough to make the green grass fade.
I decided to start on the north west end of the game area, and work my way back to the Old Farmstead.
Twelve Spotted Skimmer
I have been spoiled by the years in which I freelanced. In those days, I never visited the woods on weekends – too great the chance that I’d see a person. Now I only venture in on Saturday, Sunday afternoon, or perhaps some summer holiday. Most of the places I visit are still secluded and quiet. A few, though, are not.
On this afternoon, the sound of gunfire peppers the air in the fields north of the river. There’s lots of hooting and hollering, cheering, and some left over July 4th fireworks – sounds of people having a good time. The dragonfly fields are just on the other side of the stand of trees I talked about last fall – where the pine got so shot up that it fell over. The place *is* a recreation area, so I can’t complain – but the noise was a distraction.
Nonetheless, here there were twelve spotted skimmers, a few blue dashers, and the very last
rapidsmidland clubtails of the season. Shortly after stepping into the field I observed a gorgeous northern black widow spider – a large female, ebony and ruby colored - taking down a grasshopper at least four times her size. Sorry – she disappeared before I could level the camera at her.
One new thing on this particular day – the camera I was carrying is the Pentax K7. It arrived Friday, and as soon as I opened the box my old K10D was officially retired. Nothing wrong with that camera – it is a fine one – but I know how it goes when a new tool lands in your hands. IN my case, I have spent zero time reading the manual thus far. I simply snapped the A* 200mm macro lens on the camera, completed with my DIY flash bracket, and kept on shooting like nothing had changed. I did have to adjust flash settings, but aside from that, it was business as usual for shooting dragonflies.
Anyhow – I spent the day visiting a few places, dodging bullets and finding dragonflies. I ended up at my favorite new pond. Here I found the trees taking on autumnal colors – leaves turning yellow, orange, and red. The trees that have been submerged in a few feet of water since the pond rose last fall are finally starting to show the stress. A few smaller bushes have flat out died, but now the trees in the 20 to 30 foot tall range are showing signs of stress. What the water level has dropped a bit – a few inches – I doubt they will see much relief. When this place is a marshy grassland in a few years – like it was a few years ago – I fear that dead trees will linger on as monuments to the rapid emergence of this new pond.
And now – the big news of the day. The first red dragon of season made its appearance - a Ruby Meadowhawk. The season turns on the back of the red dragon, and the seeds of autumn are sown.
This summer has been slow to unfold – and as a result Blue Dashers (and other Odonates) have been a bit late to appear. But here’s a couple of shots of Blue Dashers from a couple weeks ago
July. Summer has officially arrived. Long days come and go like waves rolling on the sea. Since I am working now I don’t visit the Allegan Forest as often as I use to, but still make it out there at least once a week, usually visiting a few favorite places.
It’s a cool, wet summer, and the sandy savannah is lush and green. The pond near the old farmstead has stopped rising, but shows no signs of receding back to being a simple marsh. It’s hard to believe that last year at this time deer would spash across the shallow marsh - and in years past I would walk through high grass where now these is open water.
Some of the trees that have been inundated since this spring are finally giving in to being underwater. Most still look fine, but here there trees and bushes turn pale green, then brown, as they succumb to the new water level.
Twelve Spotted Skimmer
Along the pond’s edge I regularly see raccoons scurrying about in the shallow water, probably looking for frogs to dine on. When the raccoons spot me they make for the nearest tree. The sound of water draining off their fur coat follows them as the climb up the branches – it’s like the sound of a dish rag being drained into a sink full of water.
A small group of Canada geese have also taken up residence in the pond. They glide away into the shallow water almost silently. They hang out in a grassy area, not far from the patch of wild raspberries that reached it’s apex this time last summer – but this year is completely underwater.
Sorry – I’ve seen no snakes these last few weeks.
Among the Odonates, Dot Tailed Whitefaces are still abundant, though the larger Twelve Spotted Skimmers and Common Whitetails are now firmly established. Blue dashers have finally appeared. Calico Pennants and Spangled Skimmers have been around for a while. I have yet to see a Halloween Pennant yet this year – a species that is usually common and abundant. Surly they will arrive soon.
Meadowhawk Dragonflies have arrived, though. They are still in their immature gold and black colors, but I spotted a few that are just taking on a reddish orange glow – a shadow of the vibrant color they will soon bear.
Immature Meadowhawk Dragonflies
The coreopsis has come and gone. A few red spotted purple butterflies and a very few great spangled fritillaries and tiger swallowtails hit the yellow flowers. During the week or two when the coreopsis is at its peak I to try to get photos of perching dragonflies with the yellow wildflowers in the background – but this year saw no luck with that. The dragons are late in arriving.
Tiger Swallowtail on Coreopsis
Vetch would normally be blooming this time of year, and in some places small patches of it manage to eek out a few purple flowers. But the fields that I visit were mowed last summer, and that has beaten the vetch back significantly.
Now in early July butterfly weed is blooming. I always hope to find some stunning butterflies on these orange flowers - last weekend all I managed to come up with was this rather ragged old butterfly making its way along the prairie.
Swallowtail on Butterfly Weed
North of the river is still home to a good number of large
Rapid Midland Clubtails. Blue dashers have begun to appear in these fields as well, and from time to time, I spot a large spiketail or two, but have yet to get a photo of them.
Overall, the lazy summer days continue to roll out across the forest and the Pine Barrens. Maybe due to the wet weather, I see more wildlife than usually – raccoons, deer, turkey, and coyotes. They all enjoy the long and bountiful days of this season. Like I said - I’m only here to photograph the dragonflies…