Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Looking for Ducks

The pond is long and narrow, my absolute favorite place to spend time photographing birds that spend time around water: ducks, herons and egrets, kingfishers, tree swallows, several species of blackbirds and osprey. It’s my favorite because its very narrowness means that birds on the far shore are within range for good photos and the sun is at my back.

For years the pond was used by beavers although they didn’t build the long dam that backed up the water. The dam is actually an old road and all the beavers had to do was plug the culvert carrying the water beneath the road – not much effort for a significant return. Across the old road is a larger pond where the beavers had their lodge – at least they did until a trapper caught the two adults and their two kits several years ago. Now the ponds are beaver-less and some of the ponds’ spirit is gone.

On a spring morning I walked to the pond in anticipation of photographing ducks. On the way I passed another pond where there was a pair of Canada geese and a lone pair of green-winged teal, both too far away for good photos

As I got to my favorite pond there were no ducks to be seen, only a pair of Canada geese standing on a fallen tree –

They both set up a great clamor, especially the gander who was defending his pond. They left their perch and proceeded to swim to the pond's far end –

The honking continued with nary a pause until a red-tailed hawk soared past –

As the hawk passed from view the goose’s clamor resumed. Usually after about 15 minutes, and sometimes less, geese lose interest in a camouflaged me. But not this time, the gander honked and honked and honked. After somewhat more than a half hour, no ducks having arrived, it was time to leave and let the geese relax.

When I got up and turned around, what did I see but an immature bald eagle in a dead tree that stands in the pond across the road. From the random patches of white in the its plumage it was clear that the eagle was about two and a half years old

So it wasn’t me that kept the gander agitated, it was the eagle that had come in behind me and had remained unseen in its tree – unseen by me, but not by the goose.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Turkeys in the Fencerow

A camera trap in a fencerow can capture all sorts of interesting wildlife. One balmy morning in March I checked a camera trap that’s been in a fencerow for quite some time.

This fencerow separates two fields that were once planted to crops, later one was used as a pasture for a handful of beef cattle while the other was maintained in hay to provide winter fodder. The fencerow has long had trees: red and white oak, hickory, black cherry, black walnut and white ash. The white ash has succumbed to the emerald ash borer, some dead trees still stand, but most have fallen. For about 20 years there have been no cattle in the pasture and no hay has been cut.

As in much of Pennsylvania, autumn olive, an invasive shrub from Asia, has become established along both sides of the fencerow. That border of shrubs has expanded the fencerow’s width to 30-50 feet.

The oaks, hickories, black cherries and autumn olive produce an abundance of fruit and nuts that attract a wide variety of wildlife. Among the wildlife the camera trap had captured was a flock of about 20 wild turkeys that moved through the fencerow feeding as they went –

                Turn your speaker on if you want to hear turkey talk.

The turkeys spent a little over 14 minutes scratching and pecking to find seeds and invertebrates. Last winter there was little snow, no icy crust on what snow there was, and above average temperatures so wild turkeys had an easy time.

By the flock will soon disperse as breeding season arrives. The toms are gobbling and gathering a band of hens which, after they’ve bred, will further disperse to build a nest on the ground and lay their eggs.

I've begun a new blog, In Town and On the Road, please take a look at the first post. If you enjoy In Forest and Field, fear not it will continue with its weekly posts.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024


Although I've never been particularly interested in astronomy or space and had previously said I didn’t plan on photographing the eclipse, circumstances intervened.

Our son and daughter-in-law live the zone of totality and asked us to come for a visit – of course we were happy to take them up on the invitation. A photographer whose studio isn’t far from their house kindly donated a solar filter that fit my lens. I took over 600 photos but only saved about 25; it took me quite a while to adjust the camera's settings since the recommendations I'd found on-line the night before were, unfortunately, of little help.

The solar filter was only necessary before and after totality and the Sun in those images is orange-colored. During totality the filter was removed and, in the images made then, the colors are what could be seen with the naked eye, without solar glasses.

Below is a short time-lapse video of the total eclipse which took almost exactly two hours start to finish, therefore the video significantly condenses the entire process.

Baily's Beads form as the edge of the Sun shows through gaps formed by valleys and craters on the moon. 

The Sun's corona is the outermost part of the Sun's atmosphere, it normally can't be seen except during a total eclipse. 

Those pink -colored spots on the Sun's rim during totality are called solar prominences, eruptions of plasma from the surface of the Sun.


The Diamond Ring Effect forms just as the moon completely hides the Sun or, as in the video, just barely exposes the Sun once again. 

During the eclipse our surroundings didn’t become totally dark and there was a 360 degree sunset as the light dimmed –

Earlier, as the eclipse progressed, the light developed an odd gray tone very unlike ordinary twilight. Then after totality that gray light returned until the sky brightened to a normal late afternoon.

During the eclipse the air became noticeably cooler and then warmed again after the eclipse was over. Because of the open pastures around us, we could watch the moon's shadow approach and then recede.

There were some high thin clouds during the beginning of the eclipse, those clouds increased markedly over the two hours and made later photos less clear. In spite of that, sunspots can be seen as small dark spots on the surface of the Sun in some of the 600+ photos I took  –

We had the benefit of astronomers' predictions and solar glasses and camera filters so we could anticipate, understand and view the Sun during the eclipse.
It's easy to understand how, lacking that knowledge, our ancestors in the dim distant past could have been superstitious and perhaps terrified as the light dimmed and the Sun appeared to vanish.

The eclipse was fascinating and wonderful, I'm glad we had a chance to experience it and happy I got a few images that I can share.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Day by Day Throughout the Year - 1st quarter

It’s now been about 70 years since I used my father’s Kodak camera, which took size 616 roll film, to take a few photographs. The negatives were about the size of postcards as were the black and white prints of the landscapes through which we hiked.

When I was in college I bought a rangefinder-style camera that took 35mm film, I still have some of those slides – photos of family and scenery.

In the early 1970s it was a single lens reflex camera and several lenses that went with me day by day, it produced 35mm slides of our kids as they grew up and the wildflowers and wildlife that had always interested me. I’m still photographing those things, but added our grandchildren to the list of subjects.

For the last 50 years I've seldom been in forest and field without a camera a camera that has made me more aware of the wonders of the world in which we dwell.

Five times over the last decade I’ve made it a project to post an interesting photograph day by day throughout the year. Some days it's been of something large enough that it couldn't be missed, other days it's something small that's frequently overlooked.

These are photographs taken day by day throughout the the first quarter of 2024, photographs of the natural world where I’ve spent a lot of my life both at work and at play. These images are from wherever I might have been and of whatever may have caught my attention

Those are the day by day photos from the first three months of 2024. Photos of the second three calendar months will follow as spring flowers bloom, insects become more active and spring fades into summer.

Projects like this are well worth doing because they encourage me to take a closer look at the world around us. Consider doing something similar with anything that interests you. You don't need an expensive camera, a cell phone or an inexpensive used camera could yield interesting and inspiring images.