Early spring, our city applies herbicide to the pond, as a means of controlling several invasive aquatic plants. In the past, these fast-growing species have all but taken over this shallow pond, and have required expensive mechanical harvesting to remove them.

The state-approved herbicide breaks down, we’re told, and does not remain in the water. The herbicide program has worked well — beyond all expectations, I’d say — with no apparent downside.

Related post: Two Boats. Click image to enlarge it, and browser’s back arrow to close. Comments are welcome.

 


This dawn photo caught my fancy. Obviously, it’s not in a class with those lavish, ethereal displays that appear far to the southeast during the cold winter months, but it has what I like to think of as a “pictorial” quality.

Alas, the wire fencing is a necessary evil; it keeps the geese from coming up and eating the lawn.

The view is toward the east-southeast. Just visible on the shore opposite is a large rental community, which is hidden by foliage during the summer months.

The date was April 9, 2014, and the time, 6:57 am. Astronomical sunrise occurred at 6:14, but twenty minutes more must pass before the sun tops the high ridge on the eastern shore.

Related post: Cold Dawns 2013-2014*. Click image to enlarge it, and browser’s back arrow to close. Comments are welcome.

 
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Great Blue Herons are large birds. Their wings span 5½ to 6½ feet. Yet, when I saw one soaring high above the pond, it seemed unimaginably small against the vastness of clouds and sky.

The great bird was so high that my telephoto lens could bring it no closer than you see here. I tried cropping the photos, to pull it a bit “closer,” but the results were disappointing; there just wasn’t enough detail. The magic here is not in the heron, alone, but the heron set against the majesty of the world it inhabits.

Louis Pasteur, the great French scientist, famously wrote, “In the fields of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind.” This sighting is illustrative. I was leaning out the window, head and torso extended precariously over the sill, trying to photograph another bird. Suddenly I caught sight of the Great Blue soaring gracefully high above. I swung the camera up and clicked away.

It’s not unusual to see these great herons flying low over the water, as captured here. But this high, soaring flight was a rare event indeed, and a first for me.

I usually prefer a sequence of stills over a video, and this slide show illustrates why. The entire sequence took place in six seconds flat. Imagine a video of that short duration.

The date was October 7, 2013. The time is noted below each photo.

Related post: Great Blue in Flight.

To view slides on this page, click thumbnails, or use left and right keyboard arrows. To open full-screen slide show, click any image, then use keyboard arrows. Press “Esc” to return.

 
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
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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

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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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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*.

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