Thursday, December 31, 2015

Laurie's New Year Resolutions

Here we go again...I didn't meet any of my last year's resolutions, so I am going to try again, as I am bound and determined to make positive changes in my life. Here are my New Year Resolutions:
1. Spend more time with my wonderful family doing outdoor adventures. And, plan a big adventure for each summer. This year's adventure - Machias Seal Island!
2. Leave school by 3pm each day.   
3. Spend more time photographing pond life, from ice-out to ice-in, on my Pond Prowler. And, photographically catalog the life on one small island of the pond.
4. Cut out the electronics time and spend more time doing the things I truly enjoy, like researching and photographing lichens, photographing my sand samples, improving my macro-photography techniques, and learning how to stack photos of the night sky for some awesome Milky Way shots.  
5. Start writing the contents for my first outdoorsy children's book. I know, I know...silly... but who knows! I might get lucky enough to get it published someday;-) 
6. Exercise and eat right to become a healthier individual.  
7. Have monthly check-in's, with neighbor Shannon, as to my success with these resolutions. 

Yellow-throated Warbler is back today (rare bird in Maine)

Click on the image for a larger view.
Yup, our pretty bird has returned! Some birders from Lewis Hill Rd. happened to pull into our driveway just as I was setting up to photograph the warbler (as Drew had seen it at around 2pm.) Here is my best shot from this afternoon. I took the photo from the deck using my 70-200mm lens (at 200mm, with a 1.4x teleconverter on it.)  And, two more sets of birders just e-mailed to visit on New Year's Day! is fun to be so popular, and birders are some of my favorite people!

9 pm update: 5 sets of birders may be coming over tomorrow!

Yellow-throated Warbler update (rare bird in Maine)

I just got this message from the American Birding Association - Birding News "Maine Bird News" network (where I uploaded information about the warbler):
Ralph Eldridge says:
Good bird and a chance it will hang around.
 I've had one at my feeders for 6 weeks or so. It goes for suet exclusively, although it occasionally checks other feeders for insects. 
Presenting suet in a manner that minimizes competition was the key for me. I molded soft suet to fit a globe-caged feeder, thus eliminating Starlings, Jays, Woodpeckers etc. Chickadees are the biggest bird that can enter and they are no trouble. (See Photo Below.)
My warbler has a definite pattern (most of the time). Appears suddenly, but look for it when Chickadees arrive. Goes right to the suet but rarely stays there for more than 30 seconds, making it really easy to miss. Leaves the suet with a morsel which it eats nearby. Then it likely will forage nearby, especially searching nooks and cracks of building, from peak to foundation. 
Appearances begin fairly early in the morning at intervals of 15 minutes or more.
Appearances are lowest during the middle of the day and are greatly influenced by feeder activity. The more birds around, the more the warbler comes, although the warbler is not sensitive to human presence. I've had it come in and feed while I was filling feeders only 3 feet away. The most predictable time to see the warbler is late day feeding rush: mid to late afternoon and often too dark for photos.
Photo by friend of Ralph Eldridge on Dec. 27th
(Click on the photo for a larger view.)
This is great information for me. We'll try to find a globed cage feeder asap to accommodate our little warbler. 

I'll go out and photograph the bird today, if I see it again. We do have the woodpiles and wood bins that it could also find spiders and other insect food in;-)  Thanks for the information and photo, Ralph!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Yellow-throated Warbler (rare bird in Maine)

Photo taken through the kitchen window so as not so spook the bird.
Wowee! Our first sighting of a Yellow-throated Warbler (Dendroica dominica) was today, and it was at our suet feeder. I know this isn't the best photo, but it was getting dark outside, and I was hand-holding the camera whilst balancing on tiptoes, and leaning over the kitchen sink to focus through the kitchen window. At least it is a recognizable photo;-) If I see it tomorrow, I'll try to get outside and sneak a few sharper photos of it.
This warbler should be in south Florida by now.
I think this individual is in its first winter as I see a tiny bit of yellow in the supraloral area of its face.
The warbler had a few words with the downy woodpecker.
The downy woodpecker was waiting patiently for the warbler to finish its meal.
The warbler got nervous and flew away!
In referencing my Sibley Guide to Birds, copyright 2000, Yellow-throated warblers were rare in Maine. Of course, this book was written 15 years ago. It looks like they were common up to around New Jersey, and wintered in south Florida and were found coastally up through North Carolina all year long. "Yellow-throated is found in mixed pine and broadleaf woods near water." Sibley, David A. National Audubon Society - The Sibley Guide to Birds. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000. Print.

Snow Throwing after the storm

Drew decided to snow throw the driveway since the snow has almost stopped falling. We'll have another sprinkling of snow this afternoon, and then freezing rain overnight. UGH!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Snow Storm

We got a whopping 4" of snow during the day. The snow plows were busy keeping the roads safe and the birds were lined up at the feeders! The outdoor temp. rose to a whopping 21F, but with the wind blowing, the "feel-like" temp. ranged from the single digits up to about 13F. Suffice it to say, 'twas a frigid day.
We had a cardinal, lots of doves, blue jays, titmice, nuthatches, and woodpeckers flocking to the feeders all day long as they tried to eat enough calories to stay warm.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Happy Holiday Everyone!

Wow, what a day! We had a sunny sky and 54F for a high temp., so we decided to take our hounds to the Papermill Trail for a short walk. 
The Sabattus River was running swiftly alongside the trail which provided us with some lovely, rushing water sounds for background noise.
Lady Flame and Toby enjoyed all the scents left behind by other pooches, and they actually walked at a pretty good clip for a change.
Toby was relaxed to the max, and his tongue was hanging out the entire time. We call this action "durping." Durpity, durp, durp...all along the trail. It is quite endearing;-) And, Lady Flame was very affectionate today, which made for a pleasant Christmas.

We don't exchange gifts with each other on this day because the gift of life, a happy marriage, and wonderful pups are all we need...

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Digging up Gladiolus corms

Do you see the tiny cormlets at the base of each corm? Aw...Gee...they are so cute!
Who would have thunk that I'd be digging up gladiolus corms on Christmas Eve! It has been so warm, that I found the need to wait until now to dig them up. One must wait until the stalks have gone brown and dried up. Out of the five varieties of glads that I have, the dusty rose colored variety still had somewhat green leaves. But, I had to dig them up because we are going to get snow next Tuesday!

I put the corms of each colored gladiolus in different containers so that I'll know what colors they are when planting them in late spring.

Care of Glads: I need to let them cure for two days before transferring them to a cardboard box and storing them at 85F for two weeks to dry completely. We don't have any temp. approaching 85F, so I'll put them in the laundry room (where the boiler is located.) That will have to do.

I didn't know this, but the new corms form on top of the old ones, so I'll have to separate them and keep the new ones. I see new ones in these photos? How am I supposed to figure out which is the original corm? I R Stumped;-)

 I'm also supposed to cut off any foliage then. (Well...I already did that when I should have left it on. I hope I didn't ruin them. Aughh..time will tell!) Then, I'll dust off the excess dirt.  I'll also keep the tiny cormlets and will try to grow them into new bulbs over the next few years. I haven't figured out how I am going to do that yet...  The Gardening Know How website has this so say about storage:
"When thinking how to store gladiolus over the winter, think about imitating the environment the corms would experience in nature, only just a little bit better. Place them in single layers in cardboard boxes with newspaper in between the layers, or store them on screens or in onion bags. You may also place the corms in a breathable bag, like a paper bag, a cloth bag or nylon pantyhose. This will allow the air to continue to circulate around the gladiolus corms while they are being stored.
Keep the corms in a cool, dry spot just about freezing, or around 40 degrees F. (4 C.). Many people choose the vegetable bin in their fridge or an attached garage to store their gladiolus corms. An unheated basement or enclosed porch is ideal as well. Store the corms until next spring, when all chance of frost has passed."
So, I'll store my bulbs in Neighbor Carla's basement, as it is kept at the optimal temp. of around 40 F for most of the winter.

Weather Update

Click on the chart for a larger view
Well...we certainly won't have any snow for Christmas, and the temps. have been in the 40's and 50's. As often happens, it looks like the change to cold weather will be like the flip of a switch on Dec. 28th, and we are set to get our first measurable snow on the 29th It's a good thing that we are putting our snow tires on the car before then as we might get up to a foot of fluffy, white stuff! Check out the Portland Press Herald news story on our warm weather!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Dean's Sweets - My favorite Maine-based nut-free chocolatier

I think it is only fitting to chat about my favorite Maine-based chocolatier during the holiday season. And, for the fact that I always bring chocolates with me on each photography outing. My justification is that if I get stuck in the woods or out on the pond, I need sustenance, and what better energy food is there than chocolate?

 Dean's Sweets is my only go-to shop in Maine for nut-free chocolates. I was so psyched to find them. They are located at 475 Fore St., Portland, ME. They are open 7 days per week which is very important when chocolate is a necessity to a healthy and happy life;-)

I love truffles, and Dean's makes great hand-dipped ones. I've made my list and checked it twice, so we'll see if I've been naughty or nice;-) Here are what I think are the top 9 flavors, in order of awesomeness:

Espresso Buttercream, Coffee, Maine Sea Salt Caramel, Lemon Apricot Chevre, Blueberry, Peppermint, Raspberry, Ginger, and Double Dark.

Mind you, there are many more flavors, but these are my personal favorites! Our neighbors surprised me with an 8 piece assortment on my birthday, and I went gaga over them!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Update on Gardens Aglow

Update: I talked with two different co-workers, both of whom attended Gardens Aglow. One person went on a Thursday evening, and the other person went on a Sunday night. Both of them got in with no problem. So, timing is the key. Go on a Thursday or Sunday evening. Do not try to get in on a Friday or Saturday night!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Gardens Aglow - NOT! This is a rant...

Well....we tried to get into the Botanical Gardens to view and photograph "Gardens Aglow", but we goofed and went this evening. Everybody in the MidCoast area must have been in line to enter the Gardens as well. We had to drive past the entrance, turn around, and then were flagged in. Our friends were a few cars behind us, and knew the flagger woman who told them that it was a 1-2 hour wait for a parking space. Needless to say, we turned around as soon as we could and headed for home. This was a 2.5 hour driving bust for us. I have a few choice words to say to the Botanical Gardens, and they are, "How about selling tickets to the event so that people can actually get in to see it!" They really need to manage their big events better. Maybe sell tickets ahead, for a 1 hour time frame, to see the garden lights? The management needs to talk to other gardens to see how they manage events. Gardens Aglow runs through Dec. 31st. Are we going to try again? Nope.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Maine Scenery Calendar-2016

I have finally completed one calendar of my photography for the 2016 year. It is titled Maine Scenery 2016. I am selling it through LULU press. Teachers, give me a holler if you want one, and I can add it to my order for school (which has to be input by Dec 9th to get it before we go on vacation). It costs $16, and half the profits will go to Dempsey Challenge. Yup... I am starting my Dempsey Center For Cancer and Hope fundraising already!
Click on each photo set for a larger view.
Here are pages 1-4 of the calendar.
Here are pages 5-8 of the calendar.
Here are pages 9-12 of the calendar.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Weather Update, etc.

It is a boringly warm autumn with daytime temps in the upper 30's and 40's, thanks to El Nino. Darkness is coming early, and work keeps me so busy that I rarely see the sun during the week. Ugh... I bought a new camera and haven't even had time to use it. Maybe over Christmas vacation...

Monday, November 23, 2015

The First Dusting of Snow

We got our first dusting of snow overnight as the temperature dropped below freezing for a short time. Since the daytime high was only in the low 30's, the snow did not melt. Now, at 10pm, the temp is 24F (with a feel like temp. of 18F.) It feels so cold outside and will take some time for us to get used to the new lows!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Gardens Aglow - Boothbay

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is hosting the largest LED light show in Maine. The staff have strung lights (nearly 200,000) all over the main gardens for their Gardens Aglow exhibit. Check out Bangor Daily News article for a review. The Gardens will be open Thursday - Sunday evenings until Dec. 31st. I know that we are going sometime soon. How about you?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Pond Prowling at Sunset

I felt a great need to hop in the boat after what felt like a long week at school. With the time change, I rarely saw the sunshine during the week, so I just had to go for a pond prowl, even if only for an hour, and even though the air temperature had dropped into the high 40's.
The sun dropped down behind the trees within a few minutes of my launch, and the sky got dusky fast.
As you can see, the deciduous trees have all lost their leaves, and the starkness of late autumn has begun.
I crossed over to the western shore to check out a deserted beaver lodge.
Then, I headed to the north cove to check out the duck boxes, and to search for our resident beaver.
I didn't see the beaver, but he tail-slapped the water three times to let me know of his disapproval of my presence in his territory.
I soon saw the moon, situating itself high over the pond, signaling approaching darkness.
The shadows began to deepen, and I realized that I had better head for home as darkness was descending rapidly on the pond.
As I began motoring toward the south end, I found that I couldn't see much of the water's surface because I had forgotten to bring a flashlight. I came up with an ingenious solution! I periodically half pressed the shutter button of the camera as if to take a picture. Looking through the view finder, I found that the camera was quite good at gathering light, and I could see the surface of the water, and the tree-line, just enough to find the dock.
Of course, I had to take a few more parting shots of the calm, watery reflection of trees and clouds.
And, then I bid the pond a fond adieu...Sleep soundly, my friend...

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

First hard freeze

The surface water of the bird bath froze over this morning. This was the first hard freeze we've had this season as the morning temperature dropped to around 25F. Gee, winter might actually be arriving soon;-)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Commenting is now enabled

Due to a request by a good friend of ours (who is a Facebook aficionado), we have enabled comments on our blog. We tried this back in 2007, and it was a great success with family and friends. We had some great discussions, storytelling, and friendly banter about nature and photography. In the past, my students were so vulgar that we had to disable commenting, but we are now willing to try again. Enjoy! (P.S... If you are a student of mine who does enjoy the blog, and you are emotionally mature enough to comment intelligently and nicely, please feel free to do so;-)

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Popham Beach State Park Scenery

There is nothing like a day at the beach. The soothing sound of waves caressing the sand, gull calls, the whinnying of horses, the happy chatter of children, barking dogs, and the contented sighs of adults as they all let go of their cares for a few moments in time...beach time, that is. Ahhhh....
We love poking around on the beach, and today was perfect. The temp. was nearly 60F, with a nice breeze under a mostly cloudy sky. There were horses galore, a group of greyhounds and their owners (us included), and random families spread over the wide expanse of beach. Never did we feel crowded. It was low tide, and we spent a good bit of our time climbing around on Fox Island. The views were spectacular.
We also did a bit of beach combing along the water's edge. I am trying to accumulate enough good photos for a scenery calendar this year. I found this clam shell getting pushed around by the surf, so I took a number of photos of it in different positions. And, the sand dollar was a bonus;-)

Friday, November 6, 2015

Pond Prowling on a warm afternoon

Ahhh... the joys of pond prowling after a rough week of school. Today seemed like the longest day ever. Maybe it was because I knew that I was going boating as soon as I got home. And, I did. I was out on the water by 3:45 pm, and I enjoyed every minute of the hour I spend poking around. It was rather cloudy out, and the sun set at 4:30 pm, but since the sky stays light until 5pm, I was able to bebop around to my heart's content.
The predominant colors are gold and burnt, orangey brown this time of year. The oak and beech trees are the only deciduous trees to still hang onto their leaves, but even they are dropping a few leaves here and there.
I love photographing sunsets, and the clouds added a bit of drama to the sky. 
This was my favorite photo from the prowl. I was still at the north cove as the clouds were lit from below. Shortly after this shot, darkness set in and I headed for home.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Firearms Season begins

Toby is ready for hunting season to begin.
Firearms Season begins today and runs until Nov. 28th. Please, please, please, do not go out into the woods without wearing blaze orange.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Maine Resident Day

Unless you are a hunter, it is advisable to avoid the woods as today is Maine Resident Day. Stay home, have a cuppa hot cocoa, and carve a pumpkin!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Raking Leaves Business Sign

Now, this is an enterprising youngster! I think I might just hire him/her just to see the face behind the sign;-)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Youth Deer Day

That's not a deer! That's Toby;-0
Today, is Youth Deer Day, and it is not a good idea for us to be in the woods. Toby must have known so, because he only walked a short way through the woods, with Drew, and wanted to go home. As soon as they turned around, they saw a hunter go by wearing his orange vest. Good call, Toby!

Mom's view of the natural world through painting

I love looking at artwork, but have no talent for drawing and painting (due to never having pursued it.) Mom, however, is another story. She has always been artistic and has dabbled in all things artsy throughout her life. I envy her many talents. One of my favorite periods of Mom's life was the oil painting period. Mom painted for a period of about 10 years; she use water colors and dabbled in oils. I love her work. It is simplistic, yet beautiful, and shows a love of nature.  Now, at the age of 84, I wish that she would take up painting again. 
I miss the hand painted cards she used to send me. They are so special.
This card, of Woodbury Pond, was painted after we took Mom and Dad canoeing. We saw quite a few loons as we traversed the pond and Mom sent me this card soon after. What a great memory of a fun day together. The cards sit on a shelf downstairs where I can see them when lounging in front of the wood stove.
Once, I mentioned how much I enjoyed watching the nuthatches who favored the maple tree outside our kitchen window. And, not too long after that conversation, I received this painting. I liked it so much, that I asked her to paint another one for me.
Chickadees are my all-time favorite bird. They are so brave, and allow me to get within inches of them for photographic purposes. They are great models. Mom painted this snowy picture for me, of a chickadee on a hemlock tree.
Well, to make a trio of small paintings, I asked for one more...that of the Cedar Waxwing. These birds often hang around the north end of the pond, and give me lots of company as I sit for long periods of time waiting for subjects to photograph. I love, love, love it!
And, my favorite painting of all is the one of Peggy's Cove lighthouse, in Nova Scotia. Mom, Dad, and sister Jane took a trip to Nova Scotia together many moons ago. They fell in love with Peggy's Cove. And, this painting is a result of that trip. It graces a wall in our dining room. It symbolizes our collective love for the ocean. Moms are awesome, and I know that I have the best Mom in the world! I love you, Mom...forever, and ever, and ever...

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Work day sunrise

We always bring a camera with us, just in case there is something interesting to photograph, on our daily travels to and from school. This morning, the sunrise was pretty in pink. As my neck was rather stiff, I could not twist my head around to look behind me, so I used the rearview mirror for the first shot.
Then, as the road angled into a better position, I was able to shoot through the window opening for the second shot. While not great photos, they do show the beauty of the sunrise. What a great way to begin my day;-)