1. Thalia Jonquils | May 8, 2014
2. Chives | June 8, 2014
3. Chinese (Tree) Peonies | June 7, 2014
4. Chinese (Tree) Peonies | June 8, 2014
5. Chinese (Tree) Peonies | June 14, 2014

1. Thalia Jonquils | May 8, 2014

2. Chives | June 8, 2014

3. Chinese (Tree) Peonies | June 7, 2014

4. Chinese (Tree) Peonies | June 8, 2014

5. Chinese (Tree) Peonies | June 14, 2014

1. Thalia Jonquils | May 8, 2014 thumbnail
2. Chives | June 8, 2014 thumbnail
3. Chinese (Tree) Peonies | June 7, 2014 thumbnail
4. Chinese (Tree) Peonies | June 8, 2014 thumbnail
5. Chinese (Tree) Peonies | June 14, 2014 thumbnail

These flowers are the “usual suspects” from years past, all still growing in our garden by the pond, but less formally portrayed this year, perhaps, than in earlier posts. The Shasta and ox-eye daisies were late, so they’re not here. The herbaceous peonies were spoiled by the rain, so they’re not shown, either. (The latter are cultivars, and have always seemed less hardy than our traditional Chinese peonies.)

I’ve been asked about the difference between “herbaceous” peonies and “tree” (or “shrub”) peonies. The latter have woody stems and stand up by themselves. The former usually require the help of metal hoops for support. The former also die off in the winter, but come back in the spring.

To the right: Siberian Irises ‘Caesar’s Brother,’ photographed on June 7, 2014. Click to enlarge.

The Thalia Jonquil (above) is out of scale, that is, it’s rather big relative to the other images in the slide show, and so belies the petite size of the living flower. Viewed full frame, however, this softly backlit image becomes just large enough to reveal the delicate, intricate modeling of light passing through the translucent petals. (Note: Click on the image to enlarge it. The full-frame, high-definition image can be slow to load, but your patience will be rewarded.)

If you look closely, you’ll notice a slight variation in the Chinese peony color from frame to frame (although it’s the same plant). That’s due to subtle differences in the color and brightness of the outdoor light when the photos were taken. Ambient light, as it is known to photographers, can vary from day to day, or even hour to hour. If the resulting color differences prove disconcerting in a slide show, I may try to adjust them in my photo editor, but this is not always easy to do, and may occasionally make matters worse.

In point of fact, all colors we see — whether indoors or out — vary more or less continually with the ambient light, although our brain may try to compensate and hide such variations from us. One notable effect is too great to hide, however — that of low, late afternoon sunlight that renders any scene before us gloriously golden.

Less obvious are the tricks played by overcast or cloudy skies (my favorite light sources). Such skies can be gray and dull, emitting a flat light of little use to photographers. Or they can be brightly lit, bathing the subject in a shadowless, live light of blue, red or orange cast. These colors are not always discernible when we look up (the brain, again), but they are strong enough to influence how we see a flower, for example.

If you start paying attention to these color effects, you’ll soon adopt the careful habit of seeing that is common to artists, photographers, architects, designers, naturalists, and anyone whose stock-in-trade is visual observation.

Related posts: Daylilies After Rain*, Spring Garden 2013*, Siberian Iris*, Chinese Peony*.

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8:39:08 am
8:39:10 am
8:39:35 am
8:42:27 am

8:39:08 am

8:39:10 am

8:39:35 am

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Most mornings this winter, I’d look out at first light and see fresh tracks in the snow. A coywolf had passed within feet of the house, often directly under a window, heading from the wooded area northwest of the pond (I surmise) to the street in front of the house.

The individual shown here was almost certainly the author of those tracks. My neighbors and I had seen it more than once, during daylight hours, cutting through our shared yard. Sadly, it seemed to suffer from a bad case of mange.

When first I spotted it through the window, it was already aware of me. I think my presence gave it pause. After surveying the scene for three minutes, it turned on its tail and returned whence it came.

(A note: If I’m not sure of an animal’s gender, I use the neuter pronoun, “it.”)

Coywolves were reported all over the neighborhood this past winter — not only lone individuals, but also a group of three (a family, I suspect). Two local residents, living a mile apart, each told me of seeing three together in his yard.

With the coming of spring, these furtive visitors melted away, along with the snow. No doubt they had ventured here, into this densely settled area, to scavenge for food. With snow on the ground, prey must have been scarce. Now, they’ve retreated to the suburbs, or beyond.

What is a coywolf? I admit I had never heard of such a creature before I saw a remarkable program, Meet the Coywolf, on PBS’s Nature, a few years ago. Not until I saw a rerun last January, however, did its full impact hit me. (You can watch the streaming video here.)

What is a coywolf? The question is answered in the program’s introduction:

The coywolf, a mixture of western coyote and eastern wolf, is a remarkable new hybrid carnivore that is taking over territories once roamed by wolves and slipping unnoticed into our cities. Its appearance is very recent — within the last 90 years — in evolutionary terms, a blip in time. Beginning in Canada but by no means ending there, the story of how it came to be is an extraordinary tale of how quickly adaptation and evolution can occur, especially when humans interfere. Tag along as scientists study this new top predator, tracking it from the wilderness of Ontario’s Algonquin Park, through parking lots, alleys and backyards in Toronto all the way to the streets of New York City.

The photos are a bit soft, due to circumstances. I had to shoot quickly, through a window. The subject was far; to bring it “closer,” I cropped the photos severely. All were taken during three minutes early in the morning of January 5, 2014. The time is noted under each.

Related post: Coyote!

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Coneflowers, also called Rudbeckia, left standing in the fall, dry out and morph into an abstract composition, vivid against the snow. They present themselves differently every winter — as if arranged by a master painter — and bring new pleasure.

In this scene, the brilliant sun is subdued by a fine haze. The stiff stalks play against the soft, luminous tones of freshly fallen snow. The white backdrop is not a sheet hung out by the photographer, but new snow covering the pond ice.

The photo was taken on December 18, 2013, at 8:54 in the morning. It is best viewed in low light.

Related posts: Winter Garden Early 2013*, Two Winter Gardens*.

Click image to enlarge it, and browser’s back arrow to close. Comments are welcome.

 
9:34:18 am
9:34:21 am
9:34:31 am
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The big bird was chipper, if not downright frisky, full of itself, and having fun. After all, it’s not every day that a Great Blue Heron gets to stand on water instead of in it.

In an earlier post, I described this bird as “variform.” The first two images here only hint at the bird’s vast contortionist repertoire.

All four photos were shot within a minute, on November 25, 3013. The Great Blue was standing on thin ice between Heron Rock and Smith Point, just off our little cove.

The subject was just beyond the range of my telephoto lens. I cropped to bring it closer, in the process, losing some digital data. As a result, the images are a bit coarse.

I was stationed discreetly behind the window glass, but the bird no doubt spotted me; after the fourth frame, it abruptly flew off.

Related posts: Variform Great Blue, Big Great Blue.

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1. Herring Gull
2. Herring Gull
3. Lesser Black-backed Gulls
4. Lesser Black-backed Gulls

1. Herring Gull

2. Herring Gull

3. Lesser Black-backed Gulls

4. Lesser Black-backed Gulls

1. Herring Gull thumbnail
2. Herring Gull  thumbnail
3. Lesser Black-backed Gulls thumbnail
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Suspended momentarily in midair, then swooping or diving, the gulls were excited by the prospect of Bluegills for lunch. The small sunfish are caught and brought to the surface by migrating mergansers. It is a service these diving ducks have reliably performed every spring and fall as they’ve stopped here to rest on their long journey. This year, however, hopes were dashed; there were few Bluegills. The pond’s stock of small fish suffered a massive die-off in March 2012, and has not yet recovered. Bird life has not been the same since.

The migrating mergansers moved on quickly, soon to be replaced by more of their kind. Overall, the migrating ducks have been disappointingly few this spring, but not unexpectedly so. The gulls also left, presumably for better opportunities elsewhere.

I’m partial to gulls, and I miss them. They are smart (even cunning), cooperative, and uncommonly graceful in flight. To see them soar effortlessly on ocean thermals is to witness a harmony with nature that eludes us humans. Their trademark, plaintiff cry I regard as one of the most beautiful sounds in the natural world.

I photographed the Herring Gull on November 15, 2013, and the Lesser Black-backed Gulls on November 24, 2013. Species identification I made from their wing patterns, but it is tricky with gulls, especially from photos, and I could be wrong.

Related posts: Snatching Gulls*, Gulls’ Lament*.

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1. Steely | September 14, 2013, 6:21 am
2. Bleeding | September 16, 2013, 6:23 am
3. Filtered | September 21, 2013, 7:17 am
4. Forked | October 9, 2013, 7:13 am
5. Spotted | October 11, 2013, 7:09 am
6. Furrowed | October 23, 2013, 7:30 am
7. Mackerel | November 4, 3013, 7:46 am
8. Electric | November 19, 2013, 6:38 am
9. Ribbon | November 21, 2013, 7:01 am
10. Neon | November 23, 2013, 6:43 am
11. Icey | December 4, 2013, 7:15
12. Silvery | December 7, 2013, 8:15 am
13. Layered | December 18, 2013, 8:46 am
14. Snowy | December 20, 2013, 7:32 am
15. Wooly | December 31, 2013, 7:50 am
16. Angled | January 1, 2014, 7:26 am
17. Molten | January 20, 2014, 7:16 am
18. Wispy | Thursday, January 23, 2014, 7:32 am
19. Delicate | February 27, 2014, 6:37 am
20. Corduroy | March 11, 2014, 6:25 am

1. Steely | September 14, 2013, 6:21 am

2. Bleeding | September 16, 2013, 6:23 am

3. Filtered | September 21, 2013, 7:17 am

4. Forked | October 9, 2013, 7:13 am

5. Spotted | October 11, 2013, 7:09 am

6. Furrowed | October 23, 2013, 7:30 am

7. Mackerel | November 4, 3013, 7:46 am

8. Electric | November 19, 2013, 6:38 am

9. Ribbon | November 21, 2013, 7:01 am

10. Neon | November 23, 2013, 6:43 am

11. Icey | December 4, 2013, 7:15

12. Silvery | December 7, 2013, 8:15 am

13. Layered | December 18, 2013, 8:46 am

14. Snowy | December 20, 2013, 7:32 am

15. Wooly | December 31, 2013, 7:50 am

16. Angled | January 1, 2014, 7:26 am

17. Molten | January 20, 2014, 7:16 am

18. Wispy | Thursday, January 23, 2014, 7:32 am

19. Delicate | February 27, 2014, 6:37 am

20. Corduroy | March 11, 2014, 6:25 am

1. Steely | September 14, 2013, 6:21 am thumbnail
2. Bleeding | September 16, 2013, 6:23 am thumbnail
3. Filtered | September 21, 2013, 7:17 am thumbnail
4. Forked | October 9, 2013, 7:13 am thumbnail
5. Spotted | October 11, 2013, 7:09 am thumbnail
6. Furrowed | October 23, 2013, 7:30 am thumbnail
7. Mackerel | November 4, 3013, 7:46 am thumbnail
8. Electric | November 19, 2013, 6:38 am thumbnail
9. Ribbon | November 21, 2013, 7:01 am thumbnail
10. Neon | November 23, 2013, 6:43 am thumbnail
11. Icey | December 4, 2013, 7:15 thumbnail
12. Silvery | December 7, 2013, 8:15 am thumbnail
13. Layered | December 18, 2013, 8:46 am thumbnail
14. Snowy | December 20, 2013, 7:32 am thumbnail
15. Wooly | December 31, 2013, 7:50 am thumbnail
16. Angled | January 1, 2014, 7:26 am thumbnail
17. Molten | January 20, 2014, 7:16 am thumbnail
18. Wispy | Thursday, January 23, 2014, 7:32 am thumbnail
19. Delicate | February 27, 2014, 6:37 am thumbnail
20. Corduroy | March 11, 2014, 6:25 am thumbnail
The fire gods were busy! No fewer than twenty exquisite dawn skies graced the pond this past fall and winter, a new cold-weather record. In the previous year, I counted just twelve between November and March, and that itself was a record.

These fantastic displays usually fall into two categories. A few depend on low, local clouds lit from above well after the sun has risen.* Most, however, are produced by high, distant clouds lit from below by a sun either still hidden from view or just coming into view. They are the richly colored, limitlessly varied, delicately detailed displays that so often take our breath away.

Ordinarily, I’d have published these photos a few at a time, but I’m playing catch-up after a long absence from blogging. So, I present them all here — with apologies — in one big bite.

The photos are arranged by date. As you arrow through them, you’ll notice that the sunrise moves from left to right, that is, from easterly in September to southeasterly in late December. Then it reverses course and heads back, reaching its northeast limit in late June. This seasonal swing, we’re told, is due to a “wobble” in the earth’s axis during its year-long orbit of the sun. (See the year of wobbling compressed to 40 seconds in this short animation. Patience! It may be slow to load.)

Related posts: Winter Solstice 2012, Fiery June Dawn, Early December Dawn.

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*See photos 6., 7., 12., 13., 15. (1. and 2. are hybrids, with breaks in the local overcast lit by a still-hidden sun.)