Whence comes the title of this post? The photo was taken late at night, not late in the month. I first caught sight of this lonely moon, pale and distant in the southeast, well past 10:00 pm. What drew my attention were the spooky, Halloween-style clouds draped over it. By the time I grabbed the camera and figured out the exposure, the clouds had consolidated, and the more interesting ones had vanished. Not five minutes after the photo was taken, the clouds had closed ranks entirely, blocking the orb from earthly view.

Technically, I believe this is called a Waning Full Moon, occurring as it did on June 5, 2012, one day after the Full Moon itself, which took place on June 4, 2012. You can see these two, and all of June’s moons, at a glance, in the elegantly illustrated Moon Phases Calendar.

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This vignette I captured Sunday Morning, June 10, 2012 at 6:15. It was an hour after I recorded a most magnificent fiery dawn rising over the eastern end of the pond.

Largemouth bass are mostly what’s caught here. A few are big enough to keep, but most fishermen I talk to tell me they throw them all back, regardless of size.

My practical grandfather had a different idea. He taught me: catch only what you’re going to eat.

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A woke early as usual. Through the tangle of trees and brush on Smith Point, I caught hints of a bright orange glow. A forest fire to the north? The question came unbidden. I pulled on some clothes and went out. After banishing a goose family trying to destroy our lawn, I moved down to the far, southeastern corner of the property, at the water’s edge. Turning to the northeast, I was surprised and delighted to see this picture-perfect, orange and gold sunrise.

During the course of a year, the sunrise moves from the southeast to the northeast. Here you see the it near its most northerly limit. 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 a full year of wobbling compressed to 40 seconds in this short animation.)

The sunrise will reach its most northerly position precisely on June 20, 2012, the date of the Summer Solstice, and its most southerly on December 21, 2012, the date of the Winter Solstice. December is the month, you may remember, that often gives us the most dramatic and colorful dawns. So, far, June isn’t doing too badly either.

The photo was taken on June 10, 2012, at 5:11 am. Astronomical sunrise occurred at 5:07 that day. The sun had yet to climb the high eastern ridge, topping it some twenty minutes later.

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Related: Wildfire Dawn*, Orange Dawn, Independence Dawn,* and Fiery June Dawn*.

 

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It was with surprise that I glimpsed her lounging about the lawn on the northern side of the house. Ducks are not usually so casual about their safety. She wore the scalloped brown of many female dabbling ducks, so I assumed she was a Mallard. That was my first mistake.

When I came back to the window with my camera, she was gone, but I guessed where to. I hurried to the french door at the back of the house and, sure enough, there she was beneath the thistle feeder, harvesting thistle seeds dropped by the sparrows and finches.

I took half a dozen shots, through three layers of glass, and then backed off, impatient to get back to my work, and not wanting to disturb her further. That was my second mistake. I was still unaware how special she was. Had I waited a bit longer, I might now have some great shots of her walking about or taking flight.

The heavy rain made her head appear darker than shown in my bird book. That threw me off at first, and delayed my identification. Suddenly, her long neck and dark gray bill caught my attention, and all became clear. She was a Northern Pintail, rare in these parts, but common in the upper Midwest, and known to migrate great distances.

Years ago, there were a few pintails on the pond, and they would come up to our back deck along with the Mallards for a handout of corn. In those days we didn’t know better and fed the waterfowl.

Northern Pintails nest on the ground in marshy areas. The male is extravagantly and beautifully garbed. His long, fine tail gives the species its name. I’ll keep an eye out for him.

The photos were snapped late in the day on June 4, 2012.

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Over the course of two days, a miraculous event transpired outside my window. A flock — or maybe “swarm” is a better word — of Barn Swallows came to feed. They swooped and dived, banked and turned, and amazingly flew non-stop, hour after hour, in a remarkable display of aerial virtuosity and endurance. They were snatching tiny insects out of the air, bugs invisible to a human observer onshore. Their technique might be called aerial refueling, the bugs being a good source of protein.

The swallows are attracted to open fields and open water, where they can exploit their agility in the air to forage for flying insects. They were present here on the southern side of Smith Point, but I saw them off the eastern tip as well, so I presume they were also on the northern side (which a neighbor now confirms), up to and including the arc of wetlands in the northwestern corner of the pond.

These are diminutive birds, about 6¾ inches long, with a 15-inch wingspan. Their small size and constant, darting motion frustrated my attempts to get a close-up photo on the wing. The swallow in the photo was flying just offshore, its motion frozen by a 1/4000th second shutter speed, and its tiny image blown up digitally.

Every so often, one of these little dynamos would fly directly toward my window, only to turn away at the last moment. With my glasses on, I could catch a glimpse of the glossy blue-black upper side, the rusty chin, the white-to-orange underside, and the delicate white pattern on the tail. An exquisite bird, sleek, delicate, chiseled, it is one of nature’s jewels.

The dates were June 4th and 5th, 2012.

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This is the biggest swan I’ve ever seen. He’s the current resident male, (the victor in the swan fight I posted earlier). His neck is green with algae because he’s been feeding from the bottom.

His mate was nearby when this was taken. She’s off the nest now, but with no signets to show for her efforts. Either the eggs were washed away by all the rain, or they were done in my the unseasonably colds nights. As a neighbor pointed out to me, we’ve seen no ducklings either this year, presumably for the same reasons.

In the parlance of ornithologists, the male swan is a “cob” and the female a “pen,” as regular readers of this blog will know. The photo was taken May 31, 2012, at 2:15 pm.

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