Mid-July Nature 2016

While Jann was at a Soo-Nipi Quilters Guild meeting yesterday,  I took a ride around Newport, Sunapee, and Washington, NH.  I got a variety of nature photos.

These berries will be bright red soon. What is this common wildflower?  Those are the huge three leaves of the plant above. Answer below.


Along the Sugar River in Newport I found a Great Blue Heron.


Also nearby was this dragonfly.


In Sunapee a Gray Catbird was feasting on berries.


In May Pond in Pillsbury State Park I got a snapping turtle swimming under me and looking up at me.

Pillsbury State Park is a wonderful, small, uncrowded state park for camping, kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, and just enjoying  nature. Check it out, and while you are there visit the Goshen Ocean (Lake Gunnison) nearby. It is a great semi-easy hike around the lake. And stop at the Pollard Mill Falls in Newport just down the road from the Little Red Schoolhouse on Route 10.



Heading back along the trail I spotted a tiny warbler. It sure looked small in “real life”.  This is an uncropped photo of a Yellow Warbler.  (Thanks, George)


The first photo in this blog shows the berries of a Jack-in-the-Pulpit.


Juvenile Bald Eagle

My wife and I took a short hike in Sunapee yesterday.  I was carrying around my “walk-around-lens”, one not designed for bird photography.  I didn’t expect to photograph any birds, but I did get some passable shots of a pine warbler.

Suddenly we realized some crows were making a huge racket.  I figured there might be a raptor high in a tree, and I knew that juvenile bald eagles were known to be in the Lake Sunapee area. So I waited at a spot I hoped would be good if the raptor flew and photographed the swarming crows.

Eventually the eagle flew and I got a few shots as it flew away from me with the crows on its tail. I did not see the eagle until it was airborne.




I hope the eagle stays away from the loon chick.

Post Mills Balloon Festival 2016

ED251ABrian Boland, an extraordinary balloonist and balloon maker, held his 11th Experimental Balloon and Airship Meet in Post Mills, Vermont, May 20-22, 2016. If one characterizes the Quechee Balloon Festival as traditional and conventional, Post Mills would have to be labeled avant-garde and almost “hippy”, or at least laid-back. At Post Mills you might see twice as many balloons as in Quechee, and the many unconventional balloons there are fun and exciting.

The event takes place at the Post Mills Airport. Parking is free and just across the road from where the balloons launch. Admission is also free. There is food served by local non-profit groups.  And if you arrive early or stay late you can tour Brian’s marvelous museum — also free. The two and a half story museum is filled with wild memorabilia of all sorts related to balloons and balloon making.


Below is a view of the Post Mills airport at a time when only Brian and I were there. Actually, we were not there at all but drifting toward NH enroute to Brian’s setting an amazing ballooning record.

To the left of the road is the parking area for the balloon festival. You can see Brian’s home and museum at the bottom left. Across the grass runway 3 gliders and 3 tow planes are parked. Other gliders are folded up in the 11 long tubes to the right of the visible gliders. Balloons launch all along the runway which extends a considerable distance to the right of this photo. The photo also shows Lake Fairlee.


The scene looks quite different during the balloon festival. The image below is a 9-shot panorama showing over 180 degrees along the runway just before 7 AM May 21, 2016. Brian’s museum is near the middle of the photo. You can double click this image to zoom way in and use the left mouse to pan around. You can also use the + and – keys to zoom and the arrow keys to scroll. Please wait for the resolution to download.

Below is another 9-shot panorama taken a bit earlier in the morning.  At the far right below the sun is part of Brian’s Vermontasaurus. You can double click this image to zoom way in and use the left mouse to pan around.

This is an Experimental Balloon Meet. Although some of the balloons look a bit conventional, all are welcome. Some balloonists get airborne in lawn chairs instead of baskets, and sometimes even less.



If the wind is light Brian might cruise around the field in a balloon with a rudder and maneuvered by a propeller attached to his basket as in the photo below.


On the first evening of the 2016 Experimental Balloon Meet, one of the first balloons to launch was the “Scrap Palace”. This is the same balloon I flew with Brian when he set his 10,000 hour aloft record. The image at the right below shows a short tethered ride in NH after nightfall after completing that record.



The evening of Friday May 20 had a light breeze. So the balloons launched and flew away.


Photographers scrambled to capture them before they left.


Some of the balloons were creatively decorated.


At 6:30 AM the next morning there were already a number of balloons aloft, but the wind was light so they stayed in the vicinity. The panorama below shows the scene. Double click and pan around if you wish.

The sky was filling up and people were enjoying the scene.



Young children were having fun running around the airfield.



Rick Sheppe was taking off and landing in his piper cub at the far end of the runway. I flew in this plane with him on an assignment for Upper Valley Life a few years ago and later took a short flight to photograph the 5th Vermont Pond Hockey Championships from above for the Lake Morey Resort. For both of these flights the wheels were replaced by skis.



Since the wind was very light, Brian began inflating a giant fish balloon.


Hanging off from his basket was a gasoline engine with propeller.



This allowed Brian to cruise around the airport at will.



More and more balloons were getting inflated.


People were using many different devices to photograph the action.

The early light created some interesting shadows on the balloons.

Brian continued to cruise around the airfield. “Scrap Palace” drifted behind the museum. You can see a row of old balloon sewing machines in the second floor windows.



Near the airport was a church and an interesting old barn that made for an unusual foreground.


EI172 Brians-Fish-and-old-Barn---Pan-(4)

Meanwhile a balloonist from Maine was putting on a show with his legs and muppet.

Brian finally landed.  He coaxed kids and others to help fold up his fish balloon while Tina photographed the proceedings. Then he gave three of them a ride.

Saturday evening was a full-fledged picnic. Lots of people and kids everywhere. It was a great scene, heartwarming and fun.


Someone had sewn balloons together to create a large tent and was blowing them open with a fan. The kids loved it.



Nearby, balloons were being inflated.


A couple in a double seat prepared to lift off.


Families and young children enjoyed the show.



Brian gave some folks a ride this Saturday evening, launching a bit after 7 PM.

It was certainly a great event for balloonists and spectators.


Here are more photos from the 11th Experimental Balloon and Airship Meet in 2016.

If you would like to see large panoramic images from the 11th Experimental Balloon and Airship Meet that you can zoom into and explore, click HERE. Perhaps you can find yourself in some of the images.  This page might take a while to load so please be patient.

Here are more balloon photos from previous events:

Brian’s Balloon Museum and the 2014 Experimental Balloon and Airship Meet

10th Experimental Balloon and Airship Meet in 2015

Brian’s amazing flight when he surpassed 10,000 hours aloft

Penny’s First Week

I’m personally not a fan of naming wild creatures, but others feel differently. The third loon chick to hatch on Lake Sunapee quickly got the name “Penny” although no one knows if it is a he or a she. The chick hatched in a nest on a small rock outcropping near Penny Island on June 30. The photo below was taken on July 1 when Penny was less than a day old.


Last spring, for the first time in over 40 years, loon chicks hatched on Lake Sunapee. Their devoted parents nurtured and guided them through the dangers of predators and boat traffic to a successful late fall departure for the coast. You can see photos of these chicks during the first week of their lives HERE. A month later they entered their “ugly stage” of partial molt. You can see those photos HERE. You can read my story of the 2015 chicks and see photos in the summer 2016 issue of Kearsarge magazine.

This year the pair — presumably the same two — returned and were observed mating on May 5 on the artificial raft they used the previous year.  They started incubating two eggs, then something happened and they abandoned the eggs. One theory is a second male entered the picture and chased the other male away, but we will likely never know. These loons are not banded. The eggs were eventually removed by the Loon Preservation Committee.

Empty raft after abandoned eggs were removed

Empty raft after abandoned eggs were removed

On June 20 Kristen Begor, President of the LSPA, came to remove the buoy lines keeping people away from the raft.  She found a loon on a nest that was used unsuccessfully in 2014 not far from the raft. So she left the lines in place. Ten days later the chick emerged from its egg and entered the water.

Loon on Nest June 22, 2016

Loon on Nest June 22, 2016

Day 1

My first inkling that a chick had hatched came the next morning, July 1, as I entered the harbor.  There I met one of the parents heading out to the main lake to feed.


A few minutes later I spotted the other parent with the chick.


I photographed quickly from a distance with a long lens. I stayed with the pair for just over one minute as the background reflections changed dramatically in the harbor. The photos below were taken in a span of 62 seconds.

Day 3

This was a second very short visit with the young chick. I stayed with the loons for less than 90 seconds.


I was able to capture an interesting sequence of the chick climbing on the parents back under a raised wing and then emerging out the other side. The time span between the first and last photo in the set below was 9 seconds.

Day 4

I spent considerably longer with the loons the early morning of July 4th. When I first found them, both parents were feeding the chick. Here is a sequence.

Shortly after that one parent headed out to the big lake to fish and the chick climbed aboard the other parent to snooze.


Nothing much happened for a long while. I paddled some distance away quietly observing. Most of the time the chick was in the water and was infrequently fed.



About an hour after it left, the other parent returned. When it did it seemed to get into a minor dispute with its mate,  perhaps about it being gone too long.


They both fed the chick. The chick had not yet mastered the art of not biting the beak that fed it.

A parent shook violently with a chick nearby.  One photo of this sequence is a cropped version where you might be able to see the many colors in the reflections in the water droplets.

The chick made its own attempt at stretching and shaking.


Over the next 20 minutes there was more fishing and feeding.



Here is a feeding sequence.

And then there was preening.EI549A

Often when one loon returns from feeding in the big lake the second parent departs almost immediately. But this morning both parents stayed with the chick while I was present.


Here is a slide show taken over an almost 30 minute period.

Below are some photos taken during a two minute period.

After a while the chick got full and refused to eat more. Here is a series of photos where the parents try unsuccessfully to get the chick to take a delicious-looking fish.

I watched the chick repeatedly refuse crayfish.  When you are full, you are full.

Day 5

I spent all of one minute with the loons late in the afternoon of July 5. The chick was floating but had its head tucked safely under its parents wing — sleeping no doubt.


Day 6

On July 6 there was never more than one parent with the chick at a time, except for a quick one minute exchange of babysitting duties. I only have one photo to show you from the morning that has both parents present.


The chick seemed to spend most of this morning preening.



It was neat watching the chick preen — it would spin like a top making a full revolution in 2-3 seconds. Here is one such spin.

There was some feeding going on…


… but most of the time it was preening and stretching … and waiting for the other parent to return.

Here is a series of the chick preening and spinning near its parent.

At one point the chick nestled under a wing.


Mostly the action was very slow. And the morning was getting hot, even though it was only 7:30.  So I decided to leave the loons for a while and paddle over to the mouth of a creek where I could float under the shade of some trees.  I was only there for a few minutes before the most exciting adventure of the morning happened. And it only lasted 30 seconds.  I posted it earlier. If you missed it you can read about this exciting half minute HERE.  Hint, it involves a mink.

Emerging from the creek I saw the loon and chick had worked their way far out of the shallow part of the area.  I was a considerable distance from them when I watched a boat pulling a young woman on skis run almost directly over them. They both dove, and it took what seems like minutes for them to surface. I thought they had perished.

Perhaps they learned their lesson. They began to swim back toward the shallow water. Maybe I helped as I positioned my kayak between them and the main lake.  Here they are heading back.


Back in a safer area there was some feeding.



I took a last photo of the parent with its chick and paddled away. On my way back I passed the other parent returning.  It had been gone for over 90 minutes.


More Photos from the First Week

Here are some of the other photos I took the first week of Penny’s life.  I hope he or she survives skiers, boats, snapping turtles, and eagles, and makes it safely to the coast this fall.

For those who care about such things, the main camera body I use these days for birds is a D500.  I have 300mm, 200-400mm, and 200-500mm lenses and sometime use a 1.4x on the 200-400. These combination gives full-frame equivalents of 450mm, 750mm, and 840mm at the long ends.