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.

Mother’s Day Moose

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Mother’s Day was spent enjoying an afternoon drive north and west to outrun the rain clouds associated with the front running downeast along the Maine coast Sunday. The skies were dark from overcast clouds shedding light drizzle to occasional showers. The forecasts for almost the entire state of Maine held no hope for sun and little hope for dry overcast skies. But on the western edge towards the White Mountains and Rangeley, the forecast called for clearing skies by afternoon. I was in the mood for a Mother’s Day meander and we headed out about noon for Rangeley via Route 4. It was a successful tactic, yielding more than drier skies for sightseeing. Just below Smalls Falls (just outside of Rangeley) we spotted a mother moose and her calf pretending to be trees about 30 feet from the road.
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We stopped the SUV and backed up to position ourselves to see them from across the right side of the road. I didn’t dare ask to position the car any better for fear of spooking them deeper into the woods. She kept her calf behind her and vigilantly kept her eye on us.
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The mother reminded me of popular wolf pictures depicting wolves gazing out from behind trees. The eyes stare at me, knowing me for who I am and watching. She almost decided against walking towards us.
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Would she have stayed if I had been in a pickup truck instead of my SUV? Was it the SUV shape that convinced her I was harmless? Would she have approached the road to drink the salty runoff if she didn’t need the salt?
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Six minutes. It felt like fifteen. Time enough for 52 images. Enough images to review their behavior from the luxury of my large computer screen to see what transpired in those short six minutes.
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Her body color of mixed and patchy grey on the front half camouflaged her form as it split the front grey half from being perceived as part of the darker solid brown of the back half. Her front body looked like tree and her back as forest shadow.
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Her head with its rectangular shape looks more like a horizontal tree trunk than the head of an animal.
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This forest habitat clearly shows off their entire bodies and their long legs, so often invisible beneath the deep waters of streams where they are more often photographed in Maine.
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I expected more motion from them. They were still and peaceful. Not the quivering nervousness of deer. She was regal and queen-like. And when they left, they quietly walked away and disappeared into the trees.