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Starting off..

This is the post excerpt.

For some time, friends have been suggesting I start a blog, and I have finally got around to trying. I live in two wild and beautiful places: Western Maine , USA, and the Cotswolds, England.  I also travel to far-flung much wilder places.

I take photos with my trusted Panasonic Lumix, sometimes beautiful photos, more often photos that tell a story.

The blog will be erratic, depending on what catches my eye.

For my first post, from Maine, here are the tree swallows that nested in our old purple martin house and raised four young. They fledged two weeks ago.

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Cruising along…
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She often fed them without touching down at all
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It took a while to ram this down the throat of the largest chick

 

 

Undersides

I’ve left Maine, but going back through my photos I thought I’d write another blog or two from the summer’s joys.

Most of the time we look at the tops of things, because that is the first view we get. First impressions may be important, but looking underneath yields further pleasures.

The crusader moth is dramatic from above, P1080628but when it takes wing there is a flash of orange,

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and if you can persuade it to pose for you its underparts are a bright rusty shade.

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This enormous mushroom is dramatic enough (it weighs over 50lbs),

52lb Berkeley Polypore

but it’s underside is a maze of frilly canyons.

And the giant swallowtail butterfly is just as exquisite from underneath:

P1070609P1070589So don’t be content with the surface of things.

Summer’s end

I leave this evening, so a last few photos to help me remember through the winter.

The natural world is preparing in different ways, getting ready for a time when food will be scarcer. The animals seem to emerge from the woods a bit more, like this pair of ruffed grouse crossing the road by my house:

Ruffed grouse

My red squirrels are collecting, eating, and storing the nuts from the hickory tree inside its hollow tree trunk..

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The paper wasps are frantically building their nests, laying a single egg in each cell, then sealing it up.

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A late dragonfly, a Shadow Darner, was hunting through my flowerbeds.

Shadow Darner

And the lake is serene.

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Inside a milkweed pod

It just started to rain again, so I have time for another posting. Only a week left in Maine, and then I will probably go quiet for a while.

Milkweed is a remarkable plant. Native to New England, it is the only plant that the threatened monarch butterfly caterpillar eats, so I encourage it until it tries to take over the entire field. This summer, the monarchs were here, and so were their caterpillars. (The butterfly is on a liatris flower, not a milkweed.)

Milkweed has a very unusual flower, botanically speaking. The anthers are fused up the outsides of the stamen, like little pillars, and instead of loose pollen they contain capsules of pollen, Pollonia, which insects dislodge and carry off. I took these photos a few years ago.

It then produces a big fat seedpod, and the seeds inside are arranged like roof tiles,  each with its own tiny parachute. I opened one up, and took these photos.

Milkweed pods

And the silks are ravishing:

Milkweed podsAll this beauty, in plant and butterfly too.

Hanging on

A spell of wet weather, so I shall compose a flurry of blogs!

Some animals and birds spend a lot of time on vertical surfaces, so they are specially equipped to find footholds just about anywhere. This squirrel is using its front paws to eat upside down on the hickory trunk, so it is only using its back feet and its body to hold on to the rough bark.

Squirrel

Nuthatches are good at this too, and tend to do their scavenging and eating head down.

Nuthatch with grub just extracted from tree bark

They have very long claws which seek out tiny cracks in the bark.

Nuthatch

Finally, this woodpecker has claws like grappling hooks, seen in closeup on the bird feeder.

On the tree trunk, it uses them to seek out tiny holes and crevices, to make itself truly stable before it begins to hammer away. Mountaineers, watch and learn.

Hairy woodpecker

Squirrel 1 Chipmunk 0

There is a flat rock covering an old well by our hickory tree, creating a good flat platform that is little higher than the rest of the garden. Both the red squirrels and the chipmunks like to take their food there because it is a safe vantage point. The red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) are a different species from the ones in England, and are very aggressive. This time of year, they are gathering hickory nuts for the winter. They chew off the green outer casing, then gnaw through the very hard nut to get at the kernels inside.

 

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The squirrel left for a bit and the chipmunk came along.

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But then the squirrel came back, and took a dim view of this intruder. The much smaller chipmunk, after a brave show of aggression, beat a hasty retreat.

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And the squirrel did a victory dance.

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All birds great and small…

Summer is winding down now, but we still sit outside with a glass of rosé in the evening. Last night George was joined by a large flock of wild turkeys, four females and all their little ones, maybe twenty in all. They practice communal childcare, very sensible.

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At the same time, on the scarlet honeysuckle growing beside our porch, was our smallest bird, a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird. An adult weighs about 3.8g.

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A fully grown male wild turkey can weigh up to 14Kg. That is as much as 3500 hummingbirds.

 

My 50% eclipse

Too late, I realized that even though we were well away from the path of totality, it would still have been smart to get a pair of special eclipse glasses. So I had to improvise. The pinhole camera I made out of a cereal box was useless, but even simpler methods were rather magical.

The first photo shows the patterns made by the sun through the leaves of our hickory tree: see how the crescent shape of the 50% eclipsed sun shows up?

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The next photo is the shadow cast by my kitchen colander’s round holes: each hole creates its own pinhole camera, and the screen is the white siding on our house. And each hole shows the crescent shape.

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The last photo is the intact sun at the end of the same day, setting over the White Mountains seen from our porch.

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