Purple Loosestrife | July 20, 2012


Purple loosestrife can be quite beautiful, but it is highly invasive and often crowds out native species, both plant and animal. Here’s what Wikipedia says:

Infestations result in dramatic disruption in water flow in rivers and canals, and a sharp decline in biological diversity as native food and cover plant species, notably cattails, are completely crowded out, and the life cycles of organisms from waterfowl to amphibians to algae are affected.

Biological controls have proven effective, the article continues, using beetles that feed on the plant, or weevils that breed on it. A vast area of marsh in the northwest corner of Hardy Pond, long overrun by purple loosestrife, could well be a candidate for such a program. The beetles attack only the loosestrife, we’re told, and never stray far from the release site. They make a good classroom project.

Local beetle initiatives have long been supported by the Massachusetts Purple Loosestrife Biocontrol Project, but the following statement now appears on their web site:

Please note that the following links are provided for informational purposes only. DER is not actively recruiting new Biocontrol release sites at this time.

Funding is limited, no doubt; nevertheless the statement seems to leave the door open. Would DER accept a new site if pressed? (DER is the Division of Ecological Restoration, of the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game.)

The photo was taken from the southern end of the pond, looking west, on July 20, 2012, at 2:37 pm.

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Beautiful though they are, water lilies can become a nuisance if allowed to grow out of control. In some areas they are considered an invasive species.

Early spring, the City of Waltham applies herbicide to the pond, as a means of controlling several invasive aquatic plants. In the past, these non-native 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.

Water lilies are not specifically targeted by the program, but the herbicide does seem to restrain their growth in the spring, without killing them. They’re particularly robust this year because the water is low, making it easier for them to take root in the pond’s bottom.

I had been watching this bunch for some time, thinking the pads alone, even without the blossoms, would make a good photo. Their texture and massing appealed to me. I finally caught them when they were at peak, and the light was just right. The photo was taken on July 20, 2012, at 1:56 pm — not surprisingly, within two calendar days of last year’s water lily photo.

See related post: Water Lily*. Click image to enlarge it, and browser’s back arrow to close.

 

Although these distinctive, medium-to-large woodpeckers are common and widespread in eastern North America, only rarely do I see them, perhaps one or two every few years towards the end of July. This is a Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker, so-called because of a yellow shaft along the edge of its primary wings, as well as yellow under its wings and tail. The very similar Red-shafted is found further to the west.

We know this is a male because of the black bar on its cheek, known as a “malar.” Both male and female have a distinctive red crescent on the back, or nape, of their necks.

Unlike most woodpeckers, the Northern Flicker forages on the ground, feeding mostly on ants and other insects, but also taking seeds and berries, especially in winter. This is a beautiful bird. In flight, its white rump and yellow underwing produce a dramatic visual effect (the white rump also suggesting to me an airborne cottontail rabbit).

These photos were taken through the window glass, on July 20, 2012 at 7:27 am.

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The Orange Coneflowers pictured here are one of 23 species in the genus, Rudbeckia, all of which are commonly called coneflowers (for their conical shape) or black-eyed susans. They are beloved by gardeners for their festive color and pattern, and hardy nature.

Hardy they may be, but these were suffering pretty badly from the recent lack of rain, until the tropical downpour a few days ago. They’re much better now, but still showing signs of their ordeal. In an earlier post, I gave these flowers a well-deserved rave review; I urge you to read it.

Of the three photos above, the first steals my heart for its naturalness and delicacy, the flowers playing hide-and-seek, escaping the bonds imposed by human hands. The second and third photos are interesting for what they can teach us about photo composition. They are almost identical, except for the focus point noted below each photo. When lenses are used close up, the depth of field, that is, the range of sharpness, is compressed. This gives photographers a valuable device, “selective focus,” by which to draw out certain elements in a picture, or to heighten the perception of depth.

Selective focus can also change the dynamics of a photo. For example, the second photo is relatively static, while the third is visually more active. That doesn’t mean one is necessarily better than the other, just different. Of course, the viewer is entitled to a preference. What is yours?

Related post: Coneflowers.*

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I went down to the water’s edge after lunch to photograph a large patch of water lilies growing near the shore. I’d had my eye on them for awhile, thinking the pads themselves, even without blossoms, would make an interesting photo.

As I was snapping, I caught sight of an unfamiliar white bird landing on a rock in the middle of the pond. The rocks were exposed due to a dearth of spring rain. Not far away, on another rock, stood an imposing Great Blue Heron.

Was the new arrival a swan? Nope–too small. A gull? No again–much too big. Then it could only be one thing, an egret, a bird we don’t have the pleasure of seeing very often on the pond.

The birds were far away, and the resulting images small even though shot with a telephoto lens and digitally enlarged. Still, by opening the full-screen slide show (click an image), you should easily see enough detail for a proper identification. The black legs and feet, slender yellow bill, long neck, deep neck bow in flight, and absence of plumes, all suggest a Great Egret, not the smaller Snowy Egret. The size relative to the Great Blue, is about right, too; a Snowy would be smaller.

The photo at right (click to enlarge), was taken earlier in the day by Claire LeBlanc, a neighbor at the northern end of the pond. Note the long neck. The date for all the photos was July 20, 2012. The slide show photos are time-stamped below each.

To make the white bird stand out, I reduced the background brightness of the slide show photos, which accounts for their overall gloomy appearance.

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The Shasta daisies lasted a pretty long time this year, considering how dry it’s been. But the 93-degree heat finally did them in. I’ll cut the heads off, and hopefully with a little rain, more will come along.

Here there’s beauty in death: the textured centers, burnt gold in color; the drooping petals, modeled by the light to make them vividly three-dimensional; and the depth and the texture conveyed by the picture as a whole.

The photo was taken on July 17, 2012, at 2:21 pm.

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