Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Birds - Tree Swallows

I wasn't familiar with Tree Swallows until I started visiting Daniel Webster a MA Audubon sanctuary in Marshfield, MA.  Barn Swallows I knew, with their orange fronts and blue black backs they were a familiar sight as they had a colony at the Boat House on Greenwich Point.  But the hansom blue, black and white tree swallows I don't recall seeing prior to Daniel Webster. There they are a constant during spring and summer, flying over the fields and Panne catching insects on the wing. By fall they are gone heading off to their wintering areas.

Above is a Tree Swallow that I photographed at Daniel Webster. It was breeding season, in fact I had just seen a pair mating at one of the bird houses, and this bird was far more interested in its own affairs than it was in me even when I was just a few feet away.

Tree Swallows are cavity nesters, so bird houses are just what they love. At Borderland State Park near the old White Farm house bird houses are incorporated into the fencing. Tree Swallows usually are the occupants. I can see where in a time before pesticides Tree Swallows would have been valuable neighbors.

Down in the field at Attleboro Springs, MA Audubon they have a scattering of bird houses around the edges of the field. Earlier this year I photographed this tree swallow poking its head out of one of the boxes. Obviously a pair had taken up residence.

 Yesterday I was back down in Attleboro, checking out the field for butterflies, and noticed a lot of activity around the bird house.

 Parents were being kept busy bringing food to the young ones inside the house.  The parent was really shoving it down the throat of this young bird.

Another view of young birds being fed. From the look of them, I would say they are almost old enough to be out of the nest box, learning to fly and catch their own bugs.

That is it for today, for more information about Tree Swallows click on the link attached to the first mention of their name in the first paragraph. Per usual comments are welcome.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Some Flower Photographs

OK I sort of promised flower photographs in my last update.

A little personal history. Back in the 1980's I started walking in the Blue Hills Reservation which is just outside of Boston, MA. I decided to sign up for a sponsored walk that would take a group from one side of the Reservation to the other, about 8 miles. We didn't finish the walk, one of the hikers in our group blew out her knee and couldn't finish, but along the way our leader had pointed out the various wild flowers that were just coming into bloom. I got interested, and thought it would be a good way to motivate my walks, looking for new wild flowers to ID. So I purchased a Petterson Guide to Wildflowers and spent the next several years on the hunt. No camera, those were back in the days of film and I couldn't afford either the film or the camera, but I did try to draw some of the flowers I found. After several years I had to give it up, just walking in the woods would cause my eyes to water and my nose to run. I had become allergic to something, probable leaf litter molds.

After a break of about 20 years I started walking again, wanted to get in shape and loose some weight. Thankfully I seemed to have outgrown (aged out) of the allergy. But I also try to stay on trails that don't have leaf litter. By that time I had acquired a digital camera (for the blog actually) and it was a no brainer to begin making photographs of the flowers I found.

So here we are thousands of photographs later, above is a clump of Blue Eyed Grass, photo was made at Massasoit State Park, East Taunton, Ma. this June.

Not a wild flower and certainly not a native one to MA, but I love poppies. This one was blooming in the bird/butterfly garden at Oak Knoll a MA Audubon Sanctuary in Attleboro, MA. Also photographed this June.

Not sure if these are native Iris or imported ones, but these were growing in the water at Lake Rico in Massasoit State Park, East Taunton, MA. I don't believe the blue iris are as invasive as the yellow ones, so please if you want to plant water iris plant the blue not the yellow.

These next two photos I just like the lighting (image) I captured. Another not native flower, I believe this is Evening Lychnis, or as Go Bottany calls it White Campion, but I could be wrong, there are a couple flowers that look a lot alike with just small variations. But I am pretty sure I am right. Photographed at Ames Nowell State Park, Abinton, MA. also in June.

Last flower image, is Daisy Fleabane, this is a native plant, one found in open fields and waste areas. Still I think it can be a pretty flower and I really like this photo. Photographed at Ames Nowell State Park, Abington, MA. June 2017.

Sorry I can't resist, the Checkerspots are back at Attleboro Springs field. Not in huge numbers but they are back as of this week. Above is a photo of a Baltimore Checkerspot I made at the site, love their orange eyes and tips of antennae. Checkerspots are a very pretty mid sized butterfly.

That is it for today. As noted previously comments are welcome. Though I have a feeling I have lost most of my readers. There will be art again, eventually, I just don't want to promise when.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Matisse in the Studio

Late last week I took a trip into Boston to met a friend at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. First time I had been back to the museum for several months. A combination of things has kept me away, mostly weather related. Then I get out of the habit and just end up not making the trip. Not good, as there are several exhibits at the museum that I want to spend more time with. On this trip the main focus was the Matisse in the Studio Exhibit which is in the large gallery space. Though we also spent time in the Botticelli exhibit.

Henri Matisse was a French Artist who along with several other Artists was involved with the beginnings of modern art in Paris around 1900.  Unlike Picasso who worked at developing his artistic skills as a young man Matisse didn't discover art until after he had started a career in law as a court administrator. While he was recuperating from an illness his mother gave him some art supplies and he fell in love with art. He then returned to school in Paris to study art. If you wish to read more about Matisse click on the link embedded in his name above and read a full biography.

The exhibit pairs his paintings (selected as representing his entire career) with objects from his studio that he had collected or had been given and then used in his paintings. Matisse liked to paint from life.

In the painting above it is the screen and table that were items in his studio. Both are in the exhibit.

Both the tree above and the lithograph below are from a later time in his career/life, when he along with Picasso was interested in simplifying drawings and design. Course the men were lifelong friends by then and probably discussed their goals with their art.

I find that I enjoy looking at these simplified images. And I have to say that it isn't as easy to do as Matisse makes it look. 

Matisse was also known for his use of color, which can be seen in the painting I posted at the head of this post. 

I am not going to say much about the Botticelli exhibit though it includes paintings from his instructor. While I enjoyed viewing the works I can't say that I really admire them. I can only take so many virgin's with child before I have had enough, and Botticelli lived at a time when religious art was the main stay of his career. They do have one of his Venus paintings, and another that shows Athena with a centaur, both classical themes that again I find a bit, wearing. That said both paintings are beautifully executed and if you like art of that period (Renaissance) are worth a visit to the MFA to see.

One totally non relevant comment, in the Matisse exhibit I saw a man going around to each painting and photographing it. He didn't bother to look at the paintings, well only enough to make the photograph, and then quickly moved on to the next one. What was he doing? Did he not have time to spend in the exhibit and wanted to document that he had been there? Did he honestly think he could study the paintings in his photographs as if he were in front of the actual works? By the way you can't, photographs lie, and gallery lighting isn't good enough for a really good photo. It seemed very strange to me. While I made a few photos (for the blog) I don't usually even try to photograph paintings. I am more likely to photograph sculpture or other works and then more as a memory jogger rather than as something I would study at leisure. As far as I am concerned he was just wasting his time and perhaps looking for bragging rights. Oh well it takes all kinds.

That is it for today. Next blog post will probably be pretty flower pictures.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


The flower photo above is just because I like it, the flowers/plants are cow vetch (the purple) and sheep sorrel, the reddish spikes.

Amphibians are animals that while they may live on land have to return to the water to lay eggs, and their young go through a stage where they have to live in water.  Today I am focusing on two groups of amphibians: Toads and Frogs. Some Frogs live on land all the time and others prefer to live in the water. Toads are pretty much land based once the emerge from the water. Massachusetts has Two Toads, five True Frogs and Two Tree Frog species.  So far I have managed to photograph one type of Toad, four of the five True Frogs and none of the Tree Frogs in the wild

The above photo made in April 2015 at Borderland State Park shows a toad in the water with an inflated throat for a Toad call. I chanced to be there on the day that the American Toads were breeding. The sounds attracted my attention first, then I noticed the activities in the water. The toads were hopping about, making toad noises, and swimming around, occasionally there would be some activity in the water that had things stirred up, toads piling on top of each other. Well really the males were piling on top a female who was laying eggs, but I couldn't see that in detail. Unfortunately they were a bit too far away for me to really document the event.  There were hundreds of toads, or at least it seemed like there were that many, I had certainly never seen so many in one place before or since. 

The above photo was made this year in May in Massasoit State Park and shows tadpoles in the water. I don't know what kind, maybe bullfrogs which I know live in the lakes at Massasoit.  Anyway tadpoles are the intermediate stage for amphibians, they have to live in the water and develop (slowly) into adults.

The above photo is of a very young very small American Toad, made at Borderland in Aug. of 2015, please realize that this little toad was about the size of my thumbnail (3/4 inch) which is why the quality of the photo isn't very good.

Above is an adult American Toad, photographed this May at Massasoit State Park. I have been seeing a lot of toads there this year, 4 yesterday which is what sparked this blog post.

Now for some frog photos:

Pickerel Frog, this one was photographed this spring at Massasoit State Park, these frogs in my experience tend to wander away from water, though they aren't strictly terrestrial. 

Bull Frog, also photographed at Massasoit State Park this spring. These guys prefer to live in the water at the edges of ponds. 

Green Frog, and yes that is its name not just its color. This one was photographed at Houghton's Pond in the Blue Hills Reservation, September of 2012. These frogs also prefer to stay close to water, though in heavy rain they made head for the woods.

Wood Frogs, the top one photographed in a vernal pool this spring at Borderland State Park. The 2nd was photographed at Fowl Meadow part of the Blue Hills Reservation, Summer 2016. These frogs as their name indicates live in the woods.

Some day I hope to photograph the frog I am so far missing, the Leopard Frog. I doubt I will ever see a tree frog, they mostly live up in the trees which I don't climb. Oh yes you can relax now, most likely the next update will be flowers, no promises, but in the meantime comments are welcome.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Turtle Days

I am not the only one out and about these past few days. Above are a couple of horseback riders I saw at Ponkapoag Pond in the Blue Hills Reservation, Canton, MA. yesterday (June 10). Not sure if you can tell from the photo but the horses are wearing net head protectors to keep the bugs away from their eyes and noses.

Painted Turtle

But the focus for todays post isn't human visitors to the parks I visit. It is the Painted Turtles that I have been seeing the past couple of days. They also seem to be on walk about, though their purpose is entirely different from mine or the horseback riders above.

In the past couple of days I have come across 3 painted turtles out of their ponds wandering the paths that I walk. Above is the first that I found, in a rain puddle at Ames Nowell State Park, Abington, MA. I fear I was mean and pulled the turtle out of the puddle in order to better photograph it. It took off through the grass (2nd photo) and wasn't in the least harmed by my handling.

Above are the two painted turtles I ran across yesterday at Ponkapoag. Note that the turtle in the lower photo has mud on her tail and back of her shell. She was heading back toward the pond.

And finally, this photo which I actually made last year in DW Field Park here in Brockton, shows the activity that has them out of the ponds and on the trail, digging a hole and laying eggs. It is that time of year for painted turtles. They leave their ponds to dig holes in sandy (or not so sandy) soil that is in a location that will get direct sun some hours a day. They will then lay eggs, between 2 to 20 depending on the size and age of the female. Once she covers her nest hole with dirt the nest is usually indistinguishable from the surrounding ground. Casual observers would never know she had been there. It takes about 90 days for the eggs to hatch, and the baby turtles will dig themselves out and head to the nearest body of water.

That is it for today. Hope you enjoyed the photos and learning a bit more about turtles.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

A Change of Purpose

Originally the purpose of this blog was to document my development as an artist. Laid off from my job I had decided to go back to school and develop my ignored art skills. The problem is after so many years I find that my focus has mostly switched from drawing to photography.

Last fall I purchased a new camera which is allowing me to make much better photos of everything, including birds, which with my old camera had been pretty much off the table unless I was right on top of them.

To get these photos I spend more time outside on walks. Which is good don't get me wrong, but it leaves less time for art. Then when I am home I have to spend time on the computer evaluating and sorting the photos I have made so again more time spent that can't be used for art. Then there are the other chores of living, cooking and eating food, shopping for food etc. Now I know that creating drawings doesn't have to take a lot of time but... OK I will admit it, I am just not motivated at the moment. So my other activities of reading and playing games on my tablet seem to come out ahead. All this means that I have been neglecting the blog, not good.

I have decided to stop letting lack of art for the blog stop me from updating it. I have photographs. Granted I share some of them on Facebook, others I post to a photo sharing site for artists. But I hope those who follow my blog will also be interested in reading about my walks and looking at photos. I am not ruling out posting art. If I make some I will post it.

Earlier this week I visited Houghton's Pond in the Blue Hills Reservation. I was looking for anything interesting to photograph per usual, dragonflies, butterflies, birds, and wild flowers top my list, but sometimes there are frogs or toads or other animals. The walk that day seemed a bit disappointing. There was a Spicebush Swallowtail, one of the 4 black swallowtails in MA. but it didn't stop fluttering its wings so the photos I made of it just didn't turn out well. Note: there is a Spicebush Swallowtail on my butterfly page that did hold still if you are curious about what they look like.

There were these blooming water plants, that so far I have not been able to identify, blooming in the pond that feeds into Houghton's Pond. As I was about to leave the site I decided to go look at another pond that is at the far end of the parking lot. There was a family of Canada Geese swimming around and feeding. Then I noticed a bird in the tree just above me. And made the next series of photos. 

 Just a tail is visible in the above photo and also what looks like some grass hanging down.  There aren't a lot of orange birds so my interest was caught.

Here you get to see the head, identifying the bird as a female Baltimore Oriole, note the mass of what looks like grass below her.

 In this photo she is holding something in her beak, looks like a dried grass to me.

My final photo, when I first started photographing her I thought she was hunting for food in the branches of the tree,  and I was trying for a body shot, turns out she was building a nest, I will l have to keep on eye on this tree in my future visits to the Pond. 

Last photo is a view of the beach at Houghton's Pond where locals can come to swim (well get wet, the lifeguards don't really want people swimming) and sit in the sun for free. It is a small pond, the walk around it is about a mile, but they have picnic tables and grills so it is a popular spot.

One last comment, my Esty shop is closed. Esty has made changes to their payment policy that I am not going along with, I will be taking down the links at some point but just wanted to post a FYI.