Sunday, May 31, 2009

Black Locust

Doesn't Black Locust really look like a member of the pea family? As far as I can tell, those pink flowers are simply a variety in the same species. At this time, there are clouds of white blossoms around the lake and very, very few pink ones.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pitch Pine

Pitch Pine, Pinus rigida, is not all that common around the lake. At first I thought this specimen might be Red Pine because the older cones looked similar and the needles had comparable length and coarseness. The needle count closed the case--Pitch Pine is the only three-needled pine found in the Northeast US.

The male flower...

And the female cone, this year's and last...

Another this year's cone...

And last year's cone...

And one from at least the year before. This species is known to hang on to its older cones.

Friday, May 29, 2009


We first looked at Fetterbush about a month ago with photos taken on April 20.

Here's shot from May 15...

...and one a week later.

I have had the intent all along to capture each species through all the seasons. Of course, having intent ain't exactly the same thing as getting it done. :-) But, by simply delving in, I am gaining experience.

For example, I used to think along the lines of a shot for each season. Well, that doesn't really cover the leafing out nor does it get through the flowering. I feel it comes down to the intimate knowledge of each individual species and when it does most of its dances. Some flower before leafing, others after. Some buds pop early while others have only recently unfolded. At this time, I'd have to try hard to document what I know but I do feel like the knowledge is now a part of me because I learned it hands on. I'd like to think that early next spring, I will have an intuition to be watching the right species at the right time for first stirrings.

All the shots in this post come from the same location. It's probably my favorite spot for lots of species but most of all for the beautiful birches. I'm working through some past shots for a little birch tribute, so until then, here are a couple of shoreline views from my fave spot.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Milkweed and Buttercup

It's sometimes difficult for me to isolate the subject from the background. I've found that the addition of black may help, but it can be a bit tricky because color seems to saturate as it darkens. I mean, that's cool with me and I do like the look, but it does lose some realism. And yet, I argue, that what is left is the essence of the species.

The dairy motif didn't immediately become apparent. Or the fact that these species were well known to me as a child. Could it have been subconscious? Enough pondering; it's on with the ID's!

Here's a Meadow Buttercup, Ranunculus acris. We've all as children done the butter test, right?

And here's a young Milkweed of the genus Asclepias. I won't try for the species at this time--there are something like over 140... Hey, you've broken leaves and stems to watch the milk run out, haven't you?

What I didn't know as a kid is that the milk is poisonous and that monarch butterflies leverage that to protect themselves.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Virginia Creeper

Here's a pretty vine that I now see all over the place. Five tooth-edged leaves. A real climber. Known for brilliant fall foliage. Will be sporting attractive purplish, although poisonous, berries later on.

For way too long, I'd pass by this species telling myself that 'it's not poison ivy'. Sometimes I define by negation. I guess it's a method to manage the unknown. :-)

It's Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia.

Here's a Photoshop experiment using a few filters. I've received positive feedback on my dreamy attempts and I do like that effect but something about bright, almost garish, color seems to attract me. For tomorrow's post, I will attempt a middle ground treatment--that is, closer to reality but in a contrastingly isolated fashion.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

House Sparrow

The House Sparrows will wrap up our winged miniseries. It's ladies first here. She popped into sight right behind her gentleman friend. I do see quite a few House Sparrows, although it's usually the males that I notice. Of course, I didn't know the female's plumage until capturing and researching this species. There is always so much to learn... :-)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Cedar Waxwing

I spotted this pair of Cedar Waxwings, Bombycilla cedrorum, almost straight above me in a dead Red Pine tree. When surprises like this happen, I almost can't believe it! This is heart-pounding stuff! Okay, I had to buckle down and get the shots off. Autofocus was going beserk with those intervening branches. I knocked off the AF and slowed down, stayed still, and got off all the photos I could. Then I realized that these birds weren't that spooky so I moved around a bit.

There was a good bit of behavior where it looked like one had its beak in the other's. My Audubon guide tells me that they are very social and like to pass berries around, sometimes down a long line of them!

Waxwings are exclusively fruit eaters and have been known to become intoxicated from eating fermenting berries. No, this one's not staggering off the limb but launching up to another branch.

And here's where the waxwing gets it's name--those hard, red, wax-like tips on the secondary feathers.

In this shot, I noticed a curious little hook on the tip of the beak.

I have recently observed what I had thought to be Mourning Doves in flight, but due to their agile gliding and cornering, I suspect I have been witnessing waxwings. The behavior just didn't seem quite right for a dove.

Most of this Waxwing information comes directly from The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds Eastern Edition.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Avian Reruns

It's not that I don't have a plethora of new species in the wings, but it's so exciting when I capture a new bird, especially one I have never seen before. is a segue to tomorrow's star, and it gives me an opportunity to share a few recent favorites of mine.

Mother Robin is collecting seeds for her brood...

A little Yellow Warbler was close by while I captured tomorrow's post...

And this character, well, the Nuthatch is one of my faves. I like how it wanders up and down branches in search of bugs as it peeps quietly, like it's humming contentedly while it works.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


All week I've been taking pictures of this little one, but I was never happy with the exposure. I'm still not thrilled, but at least now it looks like Starflower, Trientalis borealis, the species formerly known as T. americana. I wish I knew why there was a name change!

Seven petals is the most common configuration, but five or six does comes up. Just like the books say, I found this one with company in the shaded woods--they spread with underground rhizomes.

Here's a gang of grackles I found hanging out just before sunset.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Yellow Iris

The discoveries and surprises are never ending. I've paid little mind to those green leaves growing out of the water at the shoreline, that is, until today when I noticed a bit of yellow. I got as close as I could without getting wet but the shots weren't satisfying so I figured I'd come back later in the day with the telephoto. But as I made my way around the lake, I came upon masses of flowering Yellow Iris, Iris pseudacorus.

From a spot at the furthest point of my lake trips...

I disturbed this family. Count 'em! Seven little ones! I have noticed many families with dwindling counts of goslings. In fact, I think some are now sadly without any at all. How do some pairs lose all their children while others seem to still have a full complement?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Common Grackle

When I sit still near water's edge, it won't take long to notice a grackle or two poking around. Either that or one swooping down from close by and immediately getting into that same behavior. I'm not sure what they're after.

I'm still trying to capture them in flight. It's so cool the way they hold their tails when sailing by, kind of like a V shape.

Then there's that blue iridescence that I find so attractive. There's nothing common about this grackle.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Yellow Wood Sorrel

This little one took some research! Peterson's Wildflowers just couldn't get me there but the Field Book of American Wild Flowers (Gretchen's recommendation) tentatively identifies this one as the Yellow Wood Sorrel, Oxalis cymosa. This could possibly be the considerably rarer O. stricta but I don't think we can know for sure until the seed pods develop.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


These blueberry shots come from different plants around the lake. In fact, they might be different species. I won't try to nail that down at this time, only to recognize that the probability exists.

From a few weeks ago.

I've photographed this bush since winter when only those galls were present. This shot was taken in early April. I just found out that the Blueberry Stem Gall Wasp, Hemadas
nubilipennis, is responsible for these galls.

Here's the same bush a week or so ago. It doesn't show the galls that well here but they're still there.

I found that little bit of blue most curious.

And here with most of the blossoms gone by, we can see the early development of the berries. I think as the berries plump up that the pointy edges will become that little crown on each berry.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Will the real cinnamon fern please...

Ah well, mistakes do happen. The recent posting on the cinnamon fern has been uncovered as an impostor! Here is the real Cinnamon Fern, Osmunda cinnamomea. The mistaken fern, although still in the genus Osmunda, is really the Royal Fern, O. regalis.

The clearing up of this mix up would not have been possible without Peterson's Ferns of Northeastern and Central North America. A Google Book did the trick and now this book is soon to belong in my library. I always thought I was mixing the two species into one but didn't have the detailed information to prove it. Now I feel better.

I have a few spots around the lake where I like to relax and let the shots come to me. Often times, that'd be grackles, by the way coming up later this week--they like poking around close to water.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Red Oak

Years ago when I worked with my farmer friends, the vegetable gardener would say that it's time to plant corn when the oak leaves are the size of a squirrel's ear. Got your corn in yet? :-)

Here are a couple of red oaks. This first one is a youngster without blossoms.

This mature specimen towers over my house.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Eastern White Pine

The Eastern White Pine, Pinus Strobus, is so common around the lake that it's easy to gloss it over. You know how it is, to look towards the unusual while the inherent beauty and complexity of the common goes unnoticed. In fact, this post began as combined with the Red Pine, but that's now for another day.

Here's what I think is a second year cone. I didn't know that cones take two years to mature!

Here's bud growth from over a week ago.

And this was from yesterday.

I include the shot below to illustrate how those five little bud branches above become next year's branches that each host their own batch of five bud branches. And, each batch of needles is in groups of five.