What a first day in Alaska. It started with arriving at the Anchorage at 2:30 a.m. and then catching a 6 a.m. flight to Fairbanks. That meant catching a few winks in the airport, very few.
Walter and I hit the ground running, heading right out to shoot in the beautiful weather. Our plan was to head to Copper Center near Wrangle-St. Alias National Park, the nation’s largerst and least visited. We stopped in North Pole on the way to make fun pictures with all the Santa stuff, then it was down the Richardson Highway. We stopped for lunch along a river and then met our first big animal. A moose who was happy to pose for pictures. The rest of the day featured big mountain ranges, following the Trans Alaska Pipeline, watching a loon family and ending along the Klutina River.
Read daily details at Walter’s blog.
I was driving through Bridgewater late in the day and the deer were everywhere. As I turned a corner, there stood there good-sized white tail deer bucks. The boys usually hang out together in late summer right before the rut, so it is fairly unusual to see them grouped together while they still have velvet on their antlers.
Today was the summer solstice, the first day of summer, the longest day of the year, the most sunlight. As the sun was setting behind some light clouds, swallows were diving near the water of the South Branch of the Raritan River. I like the way the bird silhouetted against the clouds reflecting in the water.
I took a little drive this evening and the deer were out in full force. They were in yards, walking in the roads, wandering through woods and enjoying a field of beans.
Down at The Hungry Hound, the pet boutique owned by Robin’s sister Penny in downtown Somerville, there is a very large photo of my old buddy Boomer. Boomer was a Bernese Mountain Dog who was a great friend, he always met me at the door, loved attention but wasn’t needy. He’d hang around me for a while then head off to another room to snooze by himself. I could take Boomer anywhere and not worry about him running off, he’d come when he was called and never wander very far. He had a great smile and would always make me laugh. Boomer got cancer when he was way too young and was gone within a month. He can still make me cry, but I still have his smile to keep me smiling.
It looked like there would be some nasty thunderstorms late this afternoon, so I hopped in the Jeep and headed out. I was driving along the South Branch of the Raritan River and saw a Great Blue Heron on the opposite bank. I pulled over and as I climbed down the bank, the bird flew farther down the river. Then he walked out on a log in the river at a bend and posed from some shots. The storm didn’t really happen, there was a short rain and some clouds, but they cleared. I started to head for home and noticed something running in a plowed field. It was red tail fox kits and they were casually crossing the open field.
Thursday I was joking after photographing a turtle in my back yard about all the “wildlife” around here.
Today, it was real wildlife as a young, 150 pound black bear was in a tree seven blocks from my house. Bears wandering through the area isn’t uncommon but they don’t come to Somerville very often. This guy had been seen in the area the last couple of days. He had been captured in Parsippany last week and released in a state forest near Chester earlier this week. He made the 20-mile trek to Somerville during the week. The bear climbed down from the tree after a couple of hours and was shot with a tranquilizer gun by state wildlife officials. They put him in the bear jail and took him away, hopefully this time farther away from towns.
I walked out the door this morning to go work feeling fairly blue about not being in Vermont and out amongst nature. I opened the garage door and looked down the alley behind our house. There was a bump on the asphalt that looked a lot like a turtle. It is about two blocks to a little creek, so it was pretty strange to see a decent size box turtle crawling around. Of course, I went over to say hi and welcome him to the neighborhood. We had a little portrait session and then I picked him up and took him across the street near the brook. His belly was scratched from crawling on the pavement but he looked to be in good condition. After I was sure he wouldn’t have to cross the street again, it hit me how diverse New Jersey is and even though there are more people per square mile than any other state, there also seems to be more wildlife.
I went back to the big pond on the property I visited yesterday. It was the perfect day and place, the air was warm but not too hot, the scenery was beautiful and the only sounds were frogs, birds and wind. It is a place of total relaxation, I’ll be spending a lot of time there.
I was driving along the Ottauquechee River this afternoon just west of Woodstock, Vermont, when I saw a Common Merganser sitting on a rock with some chicks. The road was about 20 feet above the river and the bank was pretty much straight down. I found a place I could climb down with my big lens and monopod. I thought I was far enough away that I wouldn’t scare them but when I finally got to the river I saw them floating down the river away from me. I climbed back up the bank and drove downstream to see if I could find them again. There wasn’t any access to the river until I got to a trailer park, so I drove in and found a place I could get to the river. The merganser was right there with her chicks. She seemed pretty nervous and stayed on the other side of the river and hid under a boulder. I sat quietly and they finally relaxed and came out and swam down the river.
I was hoping for a sunny day so I could photograph the beauty of Vermont in morning light. I saw a little bit of sun but the clouds took over and created a soft light. I found a large patch of ferns, so I put the soft light to work with them. I like to photograph ferns, and they look better, or at least more natural, when there isn’t strong sunlight hitting them. Harsh shadows and ferns don’t work for me.
As I was driving along the Ottauquechee River in Woodstock and saw a bird in the river. It was swimming upstream slowly, and I walked along the river and made pictures until it decided to take off. I thought it was a loon until I looked closer, it was a Common Merganser, with a red head. I would have loved to had sunlight illuminating that color. Maybe tomorrow.
It has been a couple of months, but I was finally able to get back to our home in Woodstock, Vermont. As I was driving, I was looking at a swamp just north of Bennington in hopes of seeing a moose. I swear the Vermont state tourism department is in charge of putting up Moose Crossing signs, because I’ve seen dozens of signs but no moose near them. But I’m always looking. As I was scanning the swamp I saw there was a small Great Blue Heron rookery. There were about a dozen nests and all of them seemed to have birds in them. The road was up high and the swamp was about 75 feet lower than the road. The closest tree with a nest was at the same height as me. I could see right into the nest and there were two or three younguns and a parent. It is pretty unusual to be able to photograph into the nest of a heron without going to extreme effort to get up high.
After dinner I pulled a chair out into the backyard and just looked up and watched the sky. It was a clear day with a few light clouds rolling past. Being 35 miles from NYC and Newark airport, there is almost always a jet flying by, some days we are on the landing pattern, some days they are just leaving when they pass over Somerville. Tonight was a landing night. As I was watching the clouds and planes, a few birds were buzzing around. Up high were swallows, down around the trees were robins and starlings.
We had a recent additional to the household – Zian, another Bernese Mountain Dog. Zian is about the same size as Sophie, our other Berner. That gives us about 170 pounds of dog in a house that should have about 50 pounds of dog. Zian and I were out in the yard this morning as the first light of the day came streaming across his head. It sure made him smile.