April 30th, 2011 permalink
As explained in a recent post, the Canada Geese in the millpond usually depart near dusk to either feed in nearby fields or roost at less accessible parts of the pond. My camera doesn’t handle their movement well in the low light conditions, but I think the above shot still conveys the beauty of their flight.
The photo at left was taken from the higher vantage point of the Tridge so their reflection is shown in the almost-still pond water. Only a couple of dozen geese are at the pond during this season. More will arrive once their goslings are born. During the summer molt, the geese will not be able to fly for at least a month as they grow new flight feathers. Near the end of summer, other family groups of geese will arrive to stay until the southward migration. A few of the geese will winter here if they aren’t physically strong or find adequate food sources and open water.
April 29th, 2011 permalink
I have no idea what species this budding tall tree is. It stands beside the millpond and its golden buds are opening to reveal a slew of raspberry red “beads.” I’m not sure if they are flowers or leaves at this point. The close up (below) shows the bright colors of the sepals as well as the contents. The green stems add an extra touch to the colorful display. Each bud is only an inch long at this stage of unfurling so they probably aren’t noticed by many of the walkers along the path.
April 29th, 2011 permalink
While we are waiting for dramatic signs of spring, tiny hints are showing. In the garden of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, white hyacinths bloom next to a scattering of blue flowers in myrtle as the leaves of iris begin to head toward their full height. Below, a bluejay holds a twig tightly in a stiff breeze as buds expand on the nearby tree branches. In the far distance, new blades of grass pop out of the ground sporting the yellow-green that is quickly lost after being exposed to a few days of sunshine.
April 28th, 2011 permalink
Toward the end of the day, the sunlight paints tree trunks with golden light as fluffy clouds float through a bright blue sky. It’s an odd mix of warm and cool colors. The rippling of the pond’s surface distorts the reflected landscape and transforms the scene into what could easily be a pastel painting.
April 27th, 2011 permalink
On almost the same day last year, I remarked on the miracle of buds carrying so much genetic information, and how they explode into perfectly formed flowers and leaves in a matter of days. Watching this transformation is an annual joy for me, one I yearn for throughout the winter.
Above, a blue Hyacinth is in the early stages of bloom. As you can see, all of the individual flowers are already formed and ready to unfold as the stem grows. Below, Spring Beauty (Scilla siberica) is a tiny bulb plant just a few inches tall. It has complex flowers in a brilliant blue. It blooms in cultivated gardens just after the crocus have whithered.
April 26th, 2011 permalink
Both of these images click through to larger versions that you might enjoy as desktop patterns. While I have no hard evidence, I think staring at them during your workday might lower your stress level. The soft colors and smoothed ripples echo the late afternoon stillness at the millpond on Easter Sunday.
April 25th, 2011 permalink
Finally some bright colors arrive near the millpond! This lone tulip blooms on Easter in the shade of a mature pine at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Brighton, Michigan. While the day was slightly overcast, this tulip radiated its own sunshine. The inside of the tulip (below) is presented at full resolution of my camera.
April 24th, 2011 permalink
The Easter Bunny resides at the Brighton millpond during his off season. He spends most of his days munching grass and bark, but does leisurely hopping to keep in shape for delivering baskets on Easter morning. I don’t know where he keeps that colorful suit he wears on Easter. I’ve never seen him wearing it around the pond. It’s probably stored at the dry cleaners so the satin doesn’t get moldy in his burrow.
April 23rd, 2011 permalink
How I wish the above shot was in crisp focus with brighter color, but I’m posting it anyway because I’m a hack photographer and can get away with it. Both of these photos were taken with no time to focus or set up the shots: Point. Shoot. Hope.
I like the point of view of this shot and the rippled pattern of clouds from the blue sky. It’s as if I’m flying just above the mallard. With a little effort, I could brighten all of the colors in Photoshop, but there’s no chance of removing the blur.
Blur is only one of the problems in the photo below. The placement of the cracking cement lip on the millpond really dooms the shot. I like how the late afternoon light brings out the iridescent lavender on the drake’s usually-green head.
April 22nd, 2011 permalink
April 18: A little less than 2″ of snow fell again, well past when we expected it. The only difference between this snow and all of the other ones during the past six months is that, where it was visible, the grass was green instead of ash gray/brown. That’s a hopeful sign. The snow only stayed on the ground for a day because rain washed it away.
April 21st, 2011 permalink
April 20th, 2011 permalink
This duck paddled into the sunset probably trying to decide where he wanted to spend the night. Some ducks return to the same general area each evening but others don’t seem to follow a pattern. Sometimes they tuck their bills under their wings while floating in the pond, safe from most predators. Usually, however, they like to be on solid ground when it’s dark.
April 19th, 2011 permalink
The urge to feed young/cute babies and animals is surely hardwired into humans like it is in some animals (a bald cardinal?). That’s why I often preface posts about feeding ducks with “well meaning humans.” My dad once explained it was an evolutionary necessity: without that desire, we’d find child care too bothersome and children would starve.
Many naturalists oppose feeding wildlife because it can have a negative impact (overcrowding, transmission of diseases, poor nutrition and obesity, etc.) but I favor it within reason. I also favor zoos. I don’t think people learn to care about animals unless they have direct contact with them. You need to smell an elephant at least once in your life so you’ll care enough to keep them on the planet. If you’ve never interacted with wild creatures, insuring their survival is an intellectual exercise rather than a personal one.
I wish, however, the people compelled to feed wildlife would do it sensibly. Bread is junk food for ducks yet throughout the winter, piles of it are brought to the pond (above). Just this week, someone dumped a few pounds of cooked pasta into the water (above, right). It might be eaten by carp, but not the ducks. Tacos were left at the shoreline (above, left). Ducks rejected them, but I saw a muskrat munch so they didn’t go to waste.
Cracked corn (left) is a better food, but it doesn’t have enough protein to keep ducks healthy. If too much is left, it can attract mice, rats, and muskrats. The best food is “Duck Chow,” a balanced diet in pellet form, available across Main Street at Wildernest at about 50-cents a pound. The store is filled with wildlife foods, feeders, books and gifts. Here are more good duck feeding suggestions.
Signs near the downtown millpond area encourage visitors NOT to feed the wildfowl. The main reason? Food going in the front end comes out the back end soiling the sidewalks and grass. Bringing a few treats so you and your kids can interact with the ducks is one thing. It’s quite another to cart in buckets full of unhealthy stuff.
April 18th, 2011 permalink
This sounds like fiction: As I was watching two ducks court, I heard a duck flying at me from the other side of underbrush along the millpond trail. I turned and snapped the above shot just before the mallard drake hit the vines. You can see a blurred duck in the lower right with its wings up and forward.
That drake ended up hanging by his neck on one of the vines two feet in front of me. At first, it flapped its wings but then gave up and silently hung there. I should have taken a photograph so you’d believe this story <grin> but I was worried about the duck. I reached out and discovered it was just hanging by its chin on the vine like an acrobat at the circus. Odd. I shook the vine a couple of times, released the duck, it flew to the pair I was originally photographing and proceeded to mate with the hen.
Males of all species shouldn’t be allowed to fly or operate heavy machinery when their hearts are filled with amorous thoughts. :-)
April 17th, 2011 permalink
We have less drama in Brighton than Carlsbad does, but it’s still exhilarating to watch. Carlsbad has 400,000 bats, the free-tail ones (not the Carlsbad Bats) that leave the cave each night to gobble mosquitoes on the wing. Brighton has a couple of dozen Canada Geese instead.
As dusk approaches, a honk will ring out that triggers more honks. The honks build to a crescendo and a family group of 2-6 geese slaps the water with their wings until they gain enough speed to lift off. Up, up they go as they head out. A few minutes later, another family group begins to honk, take flight, and depart the pond. I’ve yet to get a great shot during this nightly event, so these will have to do. The top photo reminds me of an SST as it leaves a runway.
April 16th, 2011 permalink
While the rest of the new home building industry falters, the mute swans at the Brighton millpond buck the trend. Just 10 days before, their nest was hidden deep in the cattail reeds. Now it’s plainly visible from the same vantage point. The reeds that shielded it have been gathered to create the nest that’s now about two feet above the waterline. As of April 12th, no eggs had been laid. Stay tuned, but don’t get your hopes up. Last year, no cygnets were raised by the swans at the millpond. This may or may not be the same pair and there are lots of obstacles ahead for them.
April 16th, 2011 permalink
Maybe it’s the surrounding colors, but it seems sunlight at the end of some spring days has a golden hint that isn’t evident in mid-winter. We see cold pink skies sometimes, but not golden ones. Perhaps it’s my faultering memory. Just before the sun sets, the piers supporting the millpond’s boardwalk are illuminated and cast reflections in ripples like quick brushstrokes.
April 15th, 2011 permalink
Muskrats have been one of my favorite photographic subjects at the Brighton millpond because they are illusive. It’s a challenge to get good shots of them. If they see or hear me, they skedaddle. I may have to find a more challenging prey after a recent encounter.
Well meaning humans leave piles of edible things beside the millpond for the ducks, none expect furry rodents to sup on them. They do. I watched a muskrat pull himself up over the rim of the millpond (see yesterday’s post), a height almost taller than he was, so he could reach a pile of cracked corn. Then I began a careful creep forward shooting picture after picture knowing that, once the critter saw me, he’d high-tail it back into the water. But he didn’t. He stood his ground and let me get within 18″ of him. I’ve never seen anything like it before.
I went home with 89 pictures of him as he chowed down on the corn. He was in gastronomic bliss and wasn’t about to interrupt his feast just because some flash of light snapped every few seconds. I got some good shots and learned a couple of things:
- Muskrats have messy table manners and never use napkins to wipe their mouths. (Top)
- Muskrats have very long whiskers, toes and claws. (Left)
- Muskrats express guilt when caught eating food left for ducks. (Below)
The following night, I watched the same guy dine at another pile of cracked corn and took more pictures. I won’t post them. I’m sure you’ve seen enough by now, but you’ll surely see more muskrats on this blog. The wildlife species at the pond are limited and muskrats will remain one of my favorites as I pursue the *ultimate* muskrat photograph.
April 14th, 2011 permalink
We’ve all seen it happen:
A vulnerable youngster starts sneaking out in the dead of night to get their fix. They become disheveled, spin in a downward spiral of crime, and act irrationally. Find out more tomorrow.
April 14th, 2011 permalink
It could be a scan of my aging skin by an Electron Microscope like this ant head. It has that monochromatic look even though it’s a “full color” image, but its focus isn’t as precise. It’s actually the reflection of an overcast sky in quickly moving water just before it tumbles over the Brighton millpond dam. The diagonal lines on the left show the direction the current is pulling the water. The ripples on the right are caused by a stiff breeze.
April 13th, 2011 permalink
Sometimes it’s the color, sometimes the patterns. Sometimes I just snap pictures wildly not knowing what I’m going to find visually interesting when I view them on my computer monitor back home. Yeah, I’m a hack photographer.
The falls at the millpond dam always interest me. No matter what season or time of day, the water looks different. I shot the photo to the right and then found the three images in this post within it. Each is a nice abstract “painting” that stands on its own. Click on them to see the larger versions. You’ll see more detail.
April 12th, 2011 permalink
All of the characters on afternoon soap operas are replicated at the millpond these days as hormones rage. Here, a mallard drake is quickly asked to leave after he made advances toward another male’s beloved hen. He compiles but will soon be attempting to court other hens who have already selected this year’s BFF. Chances are pretty good that he’ll be able to find a partner for a romp if not a long and meaningful relationship.