On the first day of spring I walked down to the bog in the evening and watched golden sunlight fall across the dry grasses. Amongst the reeds and cattails I found a muskrat romping. Birds were everywhere calling, singing, and flying about. I heard a soft but steady rustling in the reeds and turned my eyes to the sound. I could see the grasses bend and sway and then watched in utter surprise and delight when a dark lumpy creature crawled slowly into view. It was a giant snapping turtle! I held my breath and didn’t move as it lumbered over the bent grasses and slipped away into a pool of water. What a way to start springtime at the bog! However, I did not have my camera with me on March 20th, so today I was determined to bring it along and get some decent shots*.
It is Tuesday, April 3rd and the sun is shining brightly as I head to the bog. I arrive around 8:50 AM. Though the sun is bright and the temperature around 45F a northwest wind is blowing, so I am wearing gloves along with my two shirts and a down vest. I do not often come to the bog to count birds at this time of day because the sun is rising in the east and I am standing on the western edge of the blog. this makes it difficult to get the right lighting for photography or even for Bird identification. It is much better to have the sunlight behind your back falling on your subjects! But, here is my dilemma, often the birds are most active in the morning, so I am here and I am not disappointed!
When I heard a laughing rattle I knew to look for a Belted Kingfisher! this is the female sitting on this branch. Later she was joined by her mate. It is the first time i have ever seen more than one kingfishers at a time at the bog. I watch her for awhile, then am distracted by tree swallows swooping low over the water on the far side of the bog. too far for pictures but not too far to observe that characteristic shape of to see the sunlight glinting off those beautiful metallic blue backs! As I am watching the swallows fly I suddenly hear a ruckus and look to see the kingfisher engaged in evasive flight as a pair of crows chase her down! It appears that she may have caught a fish and they are trying to steal the prize from her! I watch as they swoop and dart in-between tree stumps and snags. suddenly the kingfisher drops from my sight and the crows peel off. did she win? I don’t know, but what a thrill that was to see. I was rooting for her, of course. Those old crows can find their own food as far as I’m concerned!
Just as this drama is unfolding I hear a rat-a-tat-tat behind me. something is drumming on the guardrail! but why? It sounds so close, so I turn to see and there on the other side of the pine tree I am standing behind is a Yellow-shafted northern flicker! It is so close that I could almost reach out and touch it if this tree wasn’t in my way. I don’t dare move but watch and wait. I even try to slowly maneuver my camera around to see if I can somehow get a shot through the foliage, but then a car comes up the road and the flicker flies off. after the car has passed I see the bird on the opposite guardrail across the street. I move slowly and get into position and snap off a dozen photos of this, one of my favorite birds.
I am always struck by the bare branches of the dead trees reaching up to blue skies. How is it that there is so much life among the dead? The thought so overwhelms me that I stop to write a poem: There Are the Dead.
Then the murder of crows starts up its mobbing again! This time it has a Red-tailed Hawk in sight!
But before I leave the flicker comes to bid me good-bye. It lands on the curb at the edge of the road, then hops up into the shade cast by the pine trees along the edge of the guardrail and the bog. I finally figured out WHY the flicker was drumming on the guardrail. You can read about it over at Birding is Fun on Saturday, April 7th when I post My Friend Flicker.
A little white-breasted nuthatch has landed nearby. Grackles are still whistling and clicking, red-winged blackbirds call. The nuthatch’s mate flies over to join him and they fly off “yank, yanking” to a snag in the bog.
*Note: After four years of owning my Nikon D80 I am finally getting frustrated with the quality of my photography so I decided to be brave and see if I could change a few of the settings on the camera. I went into the menu and switched the White-balance to Daylight, then I switched the ISO to 400. After offloading my photos I discovered one choice was good and one choice was bad. The choice to change the White Balance really brought out the colors in my shots better but the choice to drop the ISO meant I lost some of my depth of field. If you are wondering WHY it has taken me so long, it has been because I was so impatient to just take pictures, so I left the camera pretty much in Auto Mode except for a couple of tricks I learned from Troy, a fellow blogger. Besides, I was more interested in having the adventure and telling the story than in taking time to get perfect shots. I would say that is still my focus, but I want to see if I can do better. So, we will see!