When I first saw this small hawk through the French door in the back, it was plucking a mourning dove. It had apparently made the kill a few feet away on the terrace, as evidenced by the blood stain on the stonework.

From its small size and wide tail stripes, I identified it as a Broad-winged Hawk, the smallest of all hawks, occurring throughout the eastern half of the United States and Canada.

But this wasn’t just any broad-wing; it was the rare dark morph, which my neighbor, Jim, a birder of some experience, confirmed. According to Sibley, the dark morph is rare even where it breeds, in the Great Plains, and is rarer still this far from home. (Of course, climate change may be altering avian distribution patterns.)

Aware that my subject could fly off at any moment, I shot hastily through the insulating glass and screen, reminding myself that a fuzzy image is better than none. Opening a door or window in the back was out of the question, so I quietly went out the front and tip-toed around for a better shot. By the time I got there, however, the rare bird had gone and taken its prey with it, leaving only a forlorn puddle of gray and white feathers on the lawn.

The date was September 15, 2014, and the time, 6:31 pm.

Click image to enlarge it, and browser’s back arrow to close. Comments are welcome.

 


The scene reminded me of a Norman Rockwell painting. Two anglers in the early morning fog, a surface fog caused by warm vapor hitting the early morning air, as yet unwarmed by a late sun.

The date was September 15, 2014, and the time, 6:38 am . Astronomical sunrise occurred at 6:24 am that day, but 20 minutes more must pass before the sun tops the high ridge along the eastern shore.

Related post: Early Birds. Click image to enlarge it, and browser’s back arrow to close. Comments are welcome.

 

The birds are back, at least some of them. Every day, now, I see one or two Double-crested Cormorants on the small, emergent rock in mid-pond that has traditionally been their roost of choice. And every day, I also see a Great Blue Heron at various spots around the pond, flying, wading, perching, always on the hunt for fish, and apparently doing so with a renewed vigor. Most encouragingly, I see a few gulls of various species starting to gather.

If the birds are coming back, then almost certainly the small Bluegill sunfish, that died off so massively and mysteriously in March 2012, are starting to recover as well. I know that some pond residents are skeptical of that linkage, but we should learn more about all this when/if MassWildlife comes next spring to conduct a survey of the fish populations, as they tentatively promised to do.

The Largemouth Bass are not in question; they’ve been here all along — although I took on face value a recent, and as it turns out, erroneous report by an angler that their numbers were down. My normal skepticism was blunted by the relative absence of anglers on the pond most of the summer. When I finally questioned one who came near shore about this, he opined that maybe the anglers were put off by a new, grassy weed that gets tangled in the propellers of their electric trolling motors, and in their lures. I’ve heard others complain. Apparently, the herbicide treatment this spring slowed this invasive plant, but it has since come back, especially in the shallows.

Top photo: Green Heron by First Light, taken July 30, 2014, at 6:22 am. Bottom photo: Great Blue Heron and Friends, captured August 28, 2014, at 7:30 am. Both birds are perched atop eponymously named Heron Rock. The silhouettes were not planned, but were dictated by the lighting conditions at the time.

Related posts: Dead Fish*, The Last Heron*, The Last Heron II*. Click an image to enlarge it, and browser’s back arrow to close. Comments are welcome.

 



Early spring, our city applies herbicide to the pond, as a means of controlling several invasive aquatic plants. In the past, these fast-growing species have all but taken over this shallow pond, and have required expensive mechanical harvesting to remove them.

The state-approved herbicide breaks down, we’re told, and does not remain in the water. So far, the herbicide program has worked well — beyond all expectations, I’d say — with no apparent downside.

Related post: Two Boats. Click image to enlarge it, and browser’s back arrow to close. Comments are welcome.

 


This dawn photo caught my fancy. Obviously, it’s not in a class with those lavish, ethereal displays that appear far to the southeast during the cold winter months, but it has what I like to think of as a “pictorial” quality.

Alas, the wire fencing is a necessary evil; it keeps the geese from coming up and eating the lawn.

The view is toward the east-southeast. Just visible on the shore opposite is a large rental community, which is hidden by foliage during the summer months.

The date was April 9, 2014, and the time, 6:57 am. Astronomical sunrise occurred at 6:14, but twenty minutes more must pass before the sun tops the high ridge on the eastern shore.

Related post: Cold Dawns 2013-2014*. Click image to enlarge it, and browser’s back arrow to close. Comments are welcome.

 
1. 1:52:31 pm
2. 1:52:32 pm
3. 1:52:33 pm
4. 1:52:34 pm
5. 1:52:34 pm
6. 1:52:34 pm
7. 1:52:35 pm
8. 1:52:35 pm
9. 1:52:36 pm
10. 1:52:37 pm

1. 1:52:31 pm

2. 1:52:32 pm

3. 1:52:33 pm

4. 1:52:34 pm

5. 1:52:34 pm

6. 1:52:34 pm

7. 1:52:35 pm

8. 1:52:35 pm

9. 1:52:36 pm

10. 1:52:37 pm

1. 1:52:31 pm  thumbnail
2. 1:52:32 pm thumbnail
3. 1:52:33 pm thumbnail
4. 1:52:34 pm thumbnail
5. 1:52:34 pm thumbnail
6. 1:52:34 pm thumbnail
7. 1:52:35 pm thumbnail
8. 1:52:35 pm thumbnail
9. 1:52:36 pm thumbnail
10. 1:52:37 pm thumbnail

Great Blue Herons are large birds. Their wings span 5½ to 6½ feet. Yet, when I saw one soaring high above the pond, it seemed unimaginably small against the vastness of clouds and sky.

The great bird was so high that my telephoto lens could bring it no closer than you see here. I tried cropping the photos, to pull it a bit “closer,” but the results were disappointing; there just wasn’t enough detail. The magic here is not in the heron, alone, but the heron set against the majesty of the world it inhabits.

Louis Pasteur, the great French scientist, famously wrote, “In the fields of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind.” This sighting is illustrative. I was leaning out the window, head and torso extended precariously over the sill, trying to photograph another bird. Suddenly I caught sight of the Great Blue soaring gracefully high above. I swung the camera up and clicked away.

It’s not unusual to see these great herons flying low over the water, as captured here. But this high, soaring flight was a rare event indeed, and a first for me.

I usually prefer a sequence of stills over a video, and this slide show illustrates why. The entire sequence took place in six seconds flat. Imagine a video of that short duration.

The date was October 7, 2013. The time is noted below each photo.

Related post: Great Blue in Flight.

To view slides on this page, click thumbnails, or use left and right keyboard arrows. To open full-screen slide show, click any image, then use keyboard arrows. Press “Esc” to return.