Jeweled Stripes

Jeweled Stripes

This is an image I’m still working on in anticipation of entering it in the Harlow Gallery Member show running from June 21 to July 27. The theme of the show is stripes.

I went out for a hike in the Kennebec Highlands in Rome, Maine on March 21, 2019 with my friend Glenn LeBlanc to see what we could find to photograph before spring temperatures and rain took the remaining snow away. Actually, there was quite a bit of snow still out there that day. This tree caught my eye with its riveting lichen bejeweled bark with its lovely vertical stripes. The blue lines are a mystery. The orange and green are typical lichen growths. But what explains the fine blue lines?

I hope to get back out there before the leaves have sprung forth to see if the mysterious blue lines remain. I will also send the image off the Cooperative Extension to see if someone there can tell me what the blue is.

Valentine’s Day Crows

The murder of crows

settle among my trees.

Perched in clumps of five and ten

along branches,

directly outside my window.

They yell,

bobbing up and down,

looking below,

looking skyward,

calling out imagined insults or directions.

The cacophony drives me to take out my camera

to capture their show.

A white polka dotted curtain masks their many faces.

Snow is falling.

Black bodies create graphic bird shaped splotches

along the vertical lines of tree branches

rising upwards into gray skies.

Two birds sit closely together.

The one on the right leans towards the other.

He strokes the her head gently with his beak.

She sits still.

Accepting his sweet caresses.

He is tender and patient.

I cannot see if she lifts her face to him.

The falling white snow obscures their intimacy.

Two lovers among the crowd of gawking onlookers.

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Eagles fishing for alewives

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Yesterday I went looking for osprey fishing for alewives. In May osprey are easier to spot because of their presence in places where large quantities of alewives are swimming upstream in Maine’s many tidal rivers to reach freshwater lakes and ponds.

The alewives return from the ocean as adults to the lakes and ponds where they were spawned to repeat their cycle of birth and renewal. Their annual runs up Maine rivers and streams all along the coast coincides with the blooming shadbush (otherwise known as the serviceberry). Alewive numbers have declined principally from loss of habitat due to dams and other man made obstacles restricting access to their spawning grounds, as well as other factors (such as harvesting and pollution of ocean waters). Their numbers are coming back with the removal of many dams and new passages through the use of additional fish ladders.

I went to one of the oldest uninterrupted fish ladders in Damariscotta Mills. It creates a conduit between the Damariscotta River at Great Salt Bay and Damariscotta Lake. The alewives are plentiful because this ladder has existed since colonial times. Everything seemed to be out to eat the alewives except birds of prey.  There were cormorants and herring gulls crowding the shores and stalking the milling schools of alewives as they made their way to the ladder. The herring gulls filled the edges with flapping patterns of wings of white and grey. The sound of the gulls filled the air with constant cries that was louder than the flowing water. I checked the sky for osprey flying overhead, but there were none to be seen.

I went further south to Fort Popham to observe how the alewives were running as they entered the mouth of the Kennebec River and to assess whether this would make a good location to photograph osprey. The water was much deeper and wider. At high tide the alewives run right off the waters near the fort. Herring gulls, cormorants and seals were actively harvesting the alewives at Fort Popham, but still no ospreys!

A couple asked me if I had spotted the immature eagle on the ledge of the fort. They said they knew it was an eagle by its yellow feet. I thanked them for their information and went up to see the eagle for myself. My view was impeded by a cage of metal bars, but I could see the eagle on the ledge. It was not an osprey but an immature bald eagle. Later it would return to the same spot; by then I was below it on the ground.

Waiting and patience (and practice) is what it takes to get good images of birds in flight. A good location is  one that allows unobstructed views with a distance between photographer and bird that matches the zoom capacity of one’s lens.  Mine is a relatively short telephoto for bird photography (only 70-200mm).  I practiced on the herring gulls and cormorants. My patience was rewarded by a shot of the immature bald eagle when it landed again on the edge of the fort.

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On my return home, I crossed the Kennebec River near Ticonic Falls and spotted four ospreys flying in the air. One had a fish in its talons. I thought how ironic that what I wanted was right in my own back yard! If I  just wait patiently, I could shoot osprey much closer to home than a trip to the coast.