The fire gods marched forth for the second day in a row, to produce another ethereal beauty, this of the vulcanian persuasion — a repetition unprecedented for the warm month of September.

The date was September 29, 2014, the time, 6:42 am. Astronomical sunrise occurred at 6:39 that day. The sun is still hidden behind the high ridge lining the eastern shore.

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

 


These exquisite, high-altitude dawns seem to be occurring earlier in the year. This is the first one I can remember in warm September. Two years ago, I saw one in mild October, thinking how early that was. Prior to that, I had come to expect them only in the coldest months, November through January, when the sun is at or near its lowest point in the sky.

Here, the sun has just topped the high ridge along the eastern shore. It is rising in the east-southeast. By the winter solstice, on December 21, it will have moved to south-southeast. The scene was joyfully recorded on September 26, 2014, at 6:59 am.

At such an early hour, the vapor trail was most likely left by a military aircraft, as it was leaving Hanscomb Air Force base in nearby Bedford, Massachusetts.

Related posts: Lava Dawn*, Orange Dawn*. Click image to enlarge it, and browser’s back arrow to close. Comments are welcome.

 


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

From its small size and wide tail stripes, I judged it to be 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 my subject could fly off at any moment, and resigned to a fuzzy image, I shot quickly through the insulating glass and screen. 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.

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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.