Sunday, August 30, 2015

Foggy morning on the Kennebec River

Drew and I visited Swan Island on Saturday morning. This is my favorite photo from the trip. It was taken at 6:45 am, looking toward the bridge crossing from Richmond to Dresden. Simply Gorgeous!

This scene caused me to reflect on the beginning of the school year. I thought about seizing each special moment, appreciating beauty where we find it, building bridges and making lasting friendships, and sharing our talents and knowledge with our students so that they can grow from what we know and experience.

Early morning visit to Swan Island

Early Saturday morning, after a short ferry ride, we took a truck tour of Swan Island in the Kennebec River.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Botanical Garden Whale Rocks in Action

Stone whales welcome guests to the children's section of the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Flowers for Framing

I am being "commissioned" to find a trio of photos to frame for Shannon and Billy. So, I grouped a few of my most recent flower photos together by color and texture. What makes this more fun is that I can upload my photos to Fotor and group them in any order until we find the combination that is "the one." This is something I can offer to anyone who is looking for gorgeous flowers and wildlife for frames from 4"x6", to 5"x7" and 8"x10". I print the photos through Shutterfly.
Dahlias and snapdragons.
Shannon is a certified lover of the color pink! So, I have chosen several groupings of pink.
Bachelor's Button, Dahlia, and Cleome.
Purple is also a great color having some association with pink!
The only flower I am familiar with in this group is the morning glory.
More pinks and purples...
Thistle, Crane's Bill Geranium, Delphinium
Purple is my personal favorite color of all!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Green Frog

Green Frog
This green frog was hanging out in one of the many pools at the Botanical Gardens. He is so handsome. He may be someone's future prince!

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly
We only saw a couple of Monarch butterflies while on our visit to the Botanical Gardens. I didn't get much in the way of good photos, but here is what I took. I also added an older photo to the grouping as well.

It is so disturbing to walk through the Gardens and see mostly bumblebees, just a smattering of honeybees, and only a couple of butterflies in a 3 hour timeframe. In years past, we were surrounded by butterflies, but no more...Widespread use of pesticides (for farming and home gardens) have spelled the ruination of so many groups of important insect pollinators.

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Pathways abound through 270 acres of gorgeous gardens and forested trails.
Billy, Shannon, and their nephew, Brad accompanied us to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. This is one of the premier botanical gardens in the United States. We are so proud to be members of this wonderful organization. We truly enjoy bringing friends and relatives to the gardens, as often as we can, as it is one of our favorite scenic destinations in Maine.
Gazebos, walls of flowers, fountains, and more are available for your pleasure.
There is something for everyone of all ages at the gardens. We enjoy moving water and there are so many fountains spread throughout the gardens. None are traditional, and all are beautiful.
Billy and Brad enjoy the pathways made of stone throughout the gardens.
There are rocks of all types throughout the gardens, and walkways lead you to so many wonderful places. The shiatsu stones are a big draw as people massage their feet while walking the circular stone path.
Speaking of stones...Here are a few of my favorites as we walked down to the Meditation Garden.
The Children's garden is my personal favorite in the Botanical Gardens. Children of all ages (from 1 to 100) enjoy the flowers, sculptures, exhibits, frog pond, and more.

We left our guests to wander the rest of the gardens as my knees just cannot seem to cooperate walking the all pathways throughout the gardens, as there are lots of elevation changes. We missed out on the river paths and the rhododendron garden, but they got to enjoy it all. Fun!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Stump Garden - Late August

All four sides of the stump garden
The primary stump garden has gone through so many changes since springtime. Here it is in all of it's late August glory.

Zucchini in a box

We have zucchini! Drew crafted two planter boxes into which we put some nice, rich soil. The boxes are situated on top of the stumps of some apple trees (in the front yard) that got the axe last year.
No, zuchs are not coming out of our ears, but we are able to cut one for dinner every few days, which, in my humble opinion, is just enough, thank you very much. Yummmy!

The Shed

Every home in Maine should have an equipment/workshop shed. Of course, it must be adorned with flowers to make it more attractive. I think our shed is just dandy! This year, I decided to simply plant deep orange colored elfin impatiens in the planter boxes. And, the hosta was extremely happy as well. Oh my, oh loverly...

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Emerald Ash Borer Monitoring

The Emerald Ash Borer is a beetle that attacks and destroys ash trees. It is moving closer and closer to Maine, and foresters and entomologists with the Maine Forest Service are worried.
They have begun monitoring ash trees to see if the beetles are present. Thus far, no beetles have been found, but it is just a matter of time.
While driving the dogs to the vet, in Topsham, Drew spied an ash tree that was girdled. There was a sign attached to it. Upon investigation, he found that the tree is being monitored for the Emerald Ash Borer.  The tree is girdled to stress it so that it will attract the emerald ash borer beetle, if it is present in the area. Check out the Portland Press Herald article to learn more about this invasive insect.

Boating in the Fog

We often get thick morning fog, on Caesar Pond, that slowly burns off as the day advances. This was one of those mornings. I began my outing by turning around in a circle, to show you the fog, before taking the boat to the north end of the pond where I was looking for wildlife. I often see beavers, snapping turtles, painted turtles, and a variety of birdlife there. 

This morning, I was joined by Neighbor Carla (who often accompanies me on my nature adventures.) We heard the call of a kingfisher, but it never came close enough to view. We did, however, see an Eastern Kingbird, which I videotaped. This is one of my favorite pond-dwelling birds, and I am always treated to observing them in the larch trees at the north end of the pond.

Due to the heavy mist in the air and dew on the grasses, we also saw thousands of spider webs covering virtually every surface of the islands of the bog. They added to the mystique of the morning.

We checked out the beaver lodge and the small dam at the northern edge of the pond. The beaver works continually to keep the dam in shape so that the water doesn't drain out of the pond. (Ummm...I get rather silly when in the boat with Carla, and some of my "non-scientific speak" makes her laugh, hence the silly dialogue...;-)

The only other wildlife that we observed were hundreds of waterbugs, which Drew identified as Water Striders (Aquarius remigis), in the true bug family Gerridae. These speedy bugs are so fascinating. Drew had to slow their movement down by 50% so that you could catch a glimpse of them in the video. I found this information in Wikipedia about them:

Water striders are able to walk on top of water due to a combination of several factors. Water striders use the high surface tension of water and long, hydrophobic legs to help them stay above water. Water molecules are polar and this causes them to attract to each other. The attractive nature results in the formation of a film-like layer at the top of water. This top layer has gravity acting downward in addition to the water molecules below pulling down the upper molecules. This combination creates surface tension.

Gerridae species use this surface tension to their advantage through their highly adapted legs and distributed weight. The legs of a water strider are long and slender, allowing the weight of the water strider body to be distributed over a large surface area. The legs are strong, but have flexibility that allows the water striders to keep their weight evenly distributed and flow with the water movement. Hydrofuge hairs line the body surface of the water strider. There are several thousand hairs per square millimeter, providing the water strider with a hydrofuge body that prevents wetting from waves, rain, or spray, which could inhibit their ability to keep their entire body above the water surface if the water stuck and weighed down the body.[4] This position of keeping the majority of the body above the water surface is called an epipleustonic position, which is a defining characteristic of water striders. If the body of the water strider were to accidentally become submerged, for instance by a large wave, the tiny hairs would trap air. Tiny air bubbles throughout the body act as buoyancy to bring the water strider to the surface again, while also providing air bubbles to breathe from underwater.[4]

The tiny hairs on the legs provide both a hydrophobic surface as well as a larger surface area to spread their weight over the water. The middle legs used for rowing have particularly well developed fringe hairs on the tibia and tarsus to help increase movement through the ability to thrust.[4] The hind pair of legs are used for steering [9] When the rowing stroke begins, the middle tarsi of gerrids are quickly pressed down and backwards to create a circular surface wave in which the crest can be used to propel a forward thrust.[4] The semicircular wave created is essential to the ability of the water strider to move rapidly since it acts as a counteracting force to push against. As a result, water striders often move at 1 meter per second or faster.[10]

“Gerridae.” N.p., n.d. Web. 

[4]Ward, J.V. (1992). Aquatic Insect Ecology: 1. Biology and habitat. New York: Wiley & Sons. pp. 74, 96, 172, 180.
[9] Williams, D. & Feltmate, B. (1992). Aquatic insects. CAB International. pp. 48, 121, 218. ISBN 0-85198-782-6.
[10]Andersen, Nils Moller & Cheng, Lanna (2004). "The marine insect Halobates (Heteroptera: Gerridae): Biology, Adaptations, Distribution and Phylogeny" (PDF). Oceanography and Marine Biology: an Annual Review42: 119–180.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Poking around on Caesar Pond

A bit of pond scenery on a foggy morning.
Ahhh...I spent 3 hours just poking around on Caesar Pond. I brought the camera (forgot the tripod), and had a blast. It was foggy as heck out there, until around 10:30 am, and mysterious looking, with the fog and mist rolling past the boat along the surface of the water.
Spider webs abound on the islands.
As I was puttering along, sometimes humming a song, I witnessed spider webs of all varieties blanketing practically every surface of the islands. It so happened that I was wearing my spider shirt (which I cannot wear in public as it grosses too many people out;-), and I thought it so apropros as I thoroughly respect spiders and their importance to life on Earth.
Upper Left: Arrowhead (see leaf shape)    Upper Right: Cattail
Lower Left: Pitcher Plant             Lower Right: Red Maple leaf
There were still many pond plants in bloom (from grasses, to pitcher plants, to aquatic plants), but I only photographed a few of them. I want to go back out with my close-up lens (100 mm lens) to do a thorough job of it.
I saw very little in the way of pond life. But, I did see some painted turtles as I toured the shoreline. One turtle was very curious about me and swam toward the boat several times. I also saw what I think is a species of hoverfly on the arrowhead flowers. But, I couldn't I.D. it from my guide books.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Boat early and boat often...

We took the Pond Prowler out for one more shake-down trial. This time, Drew divided the 60 pound sand bag into two 30 pound bags. First, I went out with both sand bags, then with one sand bag, and finally with no sand bags for ballast. I found that 60 pounds does give me the best tracking in the water, but 30 pounds works almost as well. 
The summertime configuration with me at the bow of the boat moving forward.
This was also the first time I went out with the camera tripod (due to my oral surgery recovery time of two weeks.) That worked well, although with me sitting at the front of the boat, I have to swivel around to the tripod, turn the boat around, run the motor backwards, all to take a photo. This situation will only have to occur during the height of summer when the grasses and pond plants are at their peak. In springtime and autumn, I'll be able to have the motor at the back of the boat with the tripod in front of me, with no problem, as I won't have to be on the lookout for plants to foul my prop. Note, that I brought out an old camera and a kit lens for the trial run. I'll do more serious photography later in the week.
Drew took the canoe out solo as well, and we had a blast bee-bopping around the pond together! I found that I could run the motor on the lowest setting, then turn it off and drift so that Drew didn't have to paddle at full throttle to keep up/;-)

And, here is a quote from Henry David Thoreau's "Walden" that I found fitting:
       “A lake is a landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature. It is Earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.”   

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Spring Peeper on Daylily

What do you spy in this flower?
While I was breaking off old daylily flowers, I passed by an open flower and did a double-take! What the heck? I thought there was a leaf lodged inside one, at the base of the throat of the flower. I put my finger inside to flick it out, but stopped half-way in. I looked more closely, and saw a spring peeper! He must have spent the night there (to hide out from the tremendous thunderstorm and hard, driving rain that we'd had.)
Check out his/her coloration and patterning.
Did you know that the Spring Peeper is our smallest frog in Maine, and is one of our most common frogs as well? We just don't see them much, except during springtime when they are so incredibly vocal. This individual had the typical brownish gray coloration.
Male peepers are 0.8" to 1.2" long, while females are 1.1" to 1.5" long. No wonder the peeper I photographed fit so nicely down around the base of the pistil and stamen!  
"After breeding, some peepers establish home ranges between 1.2 and 5.4 meters in diameter around bark debris, logs, stumps, or other vegetation." (Hunter, Jr., Malcolm L. Maine Amphibians and Reptiles. Orono, Maine: The University of Maine Press, 1999. Print.) 
I found this peeper in my front stump garden. It is the perfect habitat for him/her, and there are plenty of tasty spiders, ants, and butterfly and moth larvae to munch on for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Fun, fun, fun!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Dusty Rose Gladiolus

Photographed on Aug. 20th

This was the last gladiolus to bloom, and it is still producing flowers through most of August! It is subtly gorgeous and the hummingbirds seem to enjoy the sweet nectar from its flowers! (Click on either photo for a larger view.)

White Gladiolus

Photographed on July 27th.
I love the white gladiolus. I wasn't so sure it was my cup of tea when I planted the bulbs, but when the first blossom opened, I was pleasantly surprised.  The purple coloration of the stamens is gorgeous in contrast to the pure white petals. And, there are tiny pink lines way down the throat of the flower as well. This happens to be my most prolific glad of all. I planted five bulbs, and easily have had at least ten stems rise through the soil. It will also give me several more weeks of enjoyment.

Red Gladiolus

Photographed on July 23rd.
This is by far my favorite colored gladiolus. But, don't tell the other glads I said this! The flowers are incredibly rich in their coloring. And, I was surprised to see that the five bulbs I planted in this pot have yielded eight stems, three of which are just coming into bloom now! So, I will be treated to viewing these royally garbed glads for many weeks to come;-)

Fuschia Gladiolus

Photographed July 22-24.
The fuschia glads came into bloom after the yellow ones had started. There were also only five stems in the pot.These beauties are still in bloom, although there are only a few stems with a couple of flowers left on them. 

Yellow Gladiolus

Photographed on July 21st.
These were the first glads to bloom.There were five stems in the pot and they were gorgeous. I just cut back the last stem last week.

Gladioli Magnifique!

Photographed on July 24, 2015 
I am in love with gladioli. This year is the first year that I have been successful growing them, and I think it is because I ordered mini-glads, and I put them in pots! And, the pots are on stumps!! I have put markers into each pot telling me the color of the glads, and because they are in pots I can dig them up and put them in the cool basement over winter, and grow them again next year. Genius;-) Note: The glads were not all flowering at the time I took this photo.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Puttering and muttering...

Today is a puttering and muttering day. Why? Well, I just had oral surgery which calls for a couple of quiet, non-blood pressure rising days, and it hurts too much to talk, thus the puttering and muttering. I'll deadhead some astilbe, cut the empty stalks off the daylilies, and photograph the one of my gladiolus plants. Then, I'll organize school papers and actually begin to think about going back to school. UUUUUGGGGGAAAAABBBBUUUGGGAAAA...... The end of my summer is drawing nigh...

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The open water trials of our front mounted trolling motor have begun. I had a difficult time with the tracking of the boat when we switched the trolling motor to the bow (which is a necessity for me to see the devious grasses that continually seek to wrap around the prop.) But, genius Drew thought of placing a 60 pound sand bag, next to the battery, in the stern of the boat. It worked like a charm!

Next...figuring out where to put the tripod for photography from the boat...That'll happen this weekend.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

One Foot in the water (Animated Gif)

This post is dedicated to Shannon who is dreaming of going to Popham Beach as soon as she returns from Pennsylvania in three weeks! Yahoo! Shannon, see...I got my feet wet! It felt sooo refreshing;-)

Morning visit to Popham Beach

We took the pups on an adventure to Popham Beach this morning. We wanted to hit low tide, so we got there just after the tide had changed and began coming in. We were able to walk a large expanse of beach, from the water's edge to the base of the dunes. 'Twas a loverly day, with the temperature ranging from 65F to 75F during our stay. There was a very slight breeze, and the water was almost glassy smooth. To see photos of the pups, go to this link at MaineNatureGreyhounds.