A Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) Perched Atop a Nest Box
UPDATE: The original version of this post mis-identified the location of the Tree Swallow photograph. While there was much activity at Sandy Ridge Reservation, the nest box bird portrait was actually made at the Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve, Huron, Ohio.
On Monday we ventured to Lorain Metro Parks’ Sandy Ridge Reservation for a walk and to see how wildlife activity was going. In short, the protected wetland is becoming busier all the time. We saw Canada Geese sitting on their mounded nests, some just a step off the trail, and we spotted the first goslings of the season … all ready! A flock of Coots floated in one area, and four widely-separated Great Egrets waded, looking for prey. Tree swallows zoomed over the waters, between hollows in trees. We even spied a water snake catching some rays, that unusually warm afternoon!
We also visited the Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve in Huron, Ohio. Tree Swallow activity was very high there, and finding a bird that would stay perched for more than a minute was pretty rare. One swallow, however, stayed put — perched on a nest box — for several minutes, providing a great photo op! Among the numerous shots I made of the little bird was the one shown here: my best ever of a Tree Swallow, showing off its beautiful iridescent head and back. Although I have other good shots, the one of a little bird looking into the sky is my pick of the day!
Trying out some new equipment today, we visited Schoepfle Garden, a Lorain County Metropark. I shot all manner of subjects including a favorite: dragonflies. The most abundant seemed to be the Blue Dashers and they were very active! One little fellow I photographed was resting in a shaded area of water plants with a natural spot of soft light falling over him from the cloudy sky. It wasn’t until I got home and processed the image that I discovered one of the insect’s wings was badly damaged. The resulting image is somehow a bit saddening; the dragon appears to be marooned, so I gave it a sad title. Not to worry, however, as the little guy seemed perfectly capable of excellent flight!
The lake at Wellington Reservation on a beautiful autumn day.
We spent a lovely late-morning on a photo-walk around the lake at the Wellington Reservation of Lorain County (Ohio) Metro Parks. Fast-moving clouds at times obscured the sun but between those clouds, bright blue sky showed. The air was brisk, fresh, and carried the light scent of fallen leaves. Yesterday was dark and wet. Today was bright and dry; a day of a different sort.
Some are dressed for fall while others are not.
Layers of cumulus clouds billowed over the region this Sunday.
We had a late breakfast, did a quick shop at Target, watched a little TV, and tried to figure out what to do. It was a muggy day, dawning overcast with a high chance of rain. We didn’t want to be too exposed to the weather but really didn’t want to spend the day indoors, either. Saving us from a boring, “wasted” day, She Who Must Be Obeyed came up with the brilliant idea — visit the Lorain Metro Parks’ Columbia Reservation. I had been there by myself a couple of times recently but She had not. It was a splendid idea.
Damselfly male Blue-fronted Dancer (Argia apicalis) had better watch himself, there’s a fish perhaps watching him!
We took the same hiking trails I had taken late in June. I could serve as a sort of guide but also see what changes have ensued since my last visit in this, so far drought-plagued summer. Some of the flowering plants have been spent, fulfilling their reproductive mission. The water levels in seasonal wet areas have dropped dramatically, some of them scarily! But some other things showed little change. We both took plenty of photographs this afternoon and, while I shot a variety of subjects, I found myself drawn back to one of my favorites… dragonflies! In one pond I spotted not a dragonfly but a pretty little damselfly posing on a bent stick protruding from the still water. Shooting several frames to try and get focus and lighting right, it wasn’t until I reviewed the images later that I discovered a sunfish lurking beneath the surface. I don’t know if the fish was watching the insect or me; in this little pond, the sunfish follow people as they walk back and forth on a small platform over the water!
Finally got a nice shot of a Twelve-spotted Skimmer (male) dragonfly.
In the final portion of our nature walk I was finally able to fulfill my goal of photographing a beautiful dragonfly I’d spotted there back in June. My first time there, I’d spotted the dragon but didn’t have the focal length to capture its image. I returned another time equipped with the right optics but saw none of its kind! Today was perfect: I had the optics, the dragonfly was cooperative, and the lighting and scene were nearly ideal. And my portrait of a male Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella) was my pic of the day! Third time’s the charm!
Female Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) with captured dragonflies.
Birds gotta eat, I know. Still, it seemed unfair. A female Red-winged Blackbird had captured a meal. I photographed her perched on a swaying tree branch at the Columbia Reservation of Lorain County Metroparks. I could see, clutched in her beak, the shining gossamer wings of a dragonfly. I’m a fan of dragonflies and of Red-winged Blackbirds too, for that matter, so had a little remorse over the fate of the dragon. Birds gotta eat, I know. Preparing this photograph for posting today, however, brought out unexpected details in the picture. The tangle of dragonfly in the bird’s beak contained two dragonfly abdomens and, yes, two heads, and too many wings — the blackbird had captured two dragonflies. How could that happen? I can only think of one way. The insects were mating in flight, as they do, when caught. It seemed somehow unfair that they should die in that last embrace.
Could it be? This yellow dragonfly appears to be a female “Little Blue Dragonlet”, counterpart to the male I recently photographed in an obelisking pose!
It was a much warmer day than I expected with the high temperature reaching about 87 degrees (F). Still, I decided to pay a visit to the Columbia Reservation of the Lorain County Metroparks System for a good, long walk and to shoot some dragonflies — shoot pictures, that is! The walk on the park’s gravel trails was plenty warm but it felt good to be out in the woods and by the wetlands. The only nuisance came from a few deer flies — no mosquitoes approached me, even amongst all the wetlands. The ever-present Red-Winged Blackbirds scolded from their tree-top perches. I spotted a Great Blue Heron and a Green Heron as they flew from one site to the next. Dragonflies buzzed all around! There was, however, one particular type of dragonfly I was really after: a yellow one! I’d spied one about a year ago and tried photographing it. I thought then I’d captured its image but, lo, the image was dramatically over-exposed –blown out, as they say– and unrecoverable. Since then I’ve refined some of my skills and believed I was up to the challenge. What should I see in the first 1,000 feet of my hike but a pretty yellow dragonfly! It was perched on the seed head of dried grass, just the same as the “lost” dragon, and in nearly the same spot as before. Of course, today’s was a different seed head and a different dragonfly. The grass swayed occasionally in the breeze but the insect held tight and posed so well. I shot photo after photo and, when I was through, I was certain I’d made a nice portrait of an interesting insect. It turns out the yellow dragonfly is the female Little Blue Dragonlet — Erythrodiplax minuscula — counterpart to the “obelisking” male I photographed recently at another location! I captured nearly 200 images this afternoon and will likely post a few more from today’s shoot. The pick of the day, however, was a year in the making!