Hard frost

Winter is coming.

When I first moved to this region it was generally understood that gardeners should put their garden to bed for the winter around Labor Day, because one could expect a frost to kill off any remaining vegetables soon afterward. As four decades have passed, I’ve noticed the frost arriving later and later. This year, we didn’t even have a hint of frost until mid-October. Today was the first true frost, with the leaf-covered lawns thoroughly tinged with gray, and where one’s fingernail could scratch patterns in frost-covered railings or other wooden surfaces. The good news, at least, is that clear skies bring us warm sunny afternoons as well as frosty mornings!

Riverside birds

Camera practice.

I took a short paddle today on the river beside our home, and came across some ducks … and some fast-flying insect-catching birds. I welcome tips about the name of these birds! Update: it appears to be an Eastern Kingbird.

A pair of Eastern Kingbirds, next to the Connecticut River, near home.
An Eastern Kingbird, next to the Connecticut River, near home.
A mallard duck in the Connecticut River, near home.
Mallard ducks in the Connecticut River, near home.

Groundhog

Dinnertime.

Canon R5, 800mm + 1.4xTC, f/16, 1/200; ISO 12,800. Cropped about half.

After sunset, and as the summer evening fades into twilight, our friendly neighborhood groundhog comes out to browse. (I think he lives under our storage shed.) He’s quite shy, so I snapped a few photos from the deck – using my new 800mm lens plus a 1.4x teleconverter (effective 1120mm). The combination is fixed at f/16 and, combined with the deepening twilight, the photos are a bit noisy. Still, he’s a cute fellow!

Canon R5, 800mm + 1.4xTC, f/16, 1/200; ISO 12,800. Cropped about half.

(Also known as a woodchuck!)

Bald eagle

Our new neighbor.

As I was rowing on the river this morning, I scanned the tall riverside trees to see whether I might see anything interesting, as is my habit. Unlike other days, today I spotted the telltale white head of a bald eagle, high in the branches of a distant dead snag. I turned around, headed home, grabbed my camera, and drove up the road to that location. This was a great opportunity to test my new 800mm lens!

Canon R5 with 800mm f/11 at 1/400, ISO 500, cropped

It appears to be a somewhat immature bald eagle – not fully developed with the all-white head of an adult. It stuck around as long as I would, and beyond. I hope to see it again sometime soon.

Black bear burgles birdseed

I should know better.

It was 4:00am and, it being a lovely summer’s night, the bedroom windows were wide open. In a few minutes, as the dusk softened, the birds would start to chatter and sing, waking me for a new day. Instead, I awoke to hear a clattering out on the deck, like the sound of a hanger being tossed around on a clothes rack. I knew what was happening even before I got up to investigate.

We are fortunate to live in a rural area with nearly every sort of wildlife – bear, moose, deer, fox, coyote, bobcat, fisher, mink, groundhog, beaver, not to mention birds and countless small critters. I’ve had even greater good fortune to see each of those, and to photograph a few. We know bears are hungry in the spring, and it is well known that bears will seek out birdfeeders, as birdseed is rich in fat and nutrients. I failed to bring the birdfeeders inside last night, as our black-bear neighbor discovered on his morning rounds.

A black bear tears down our birdfeeder for breakfast.

It was still rather dark, and although I could see well, the iPhone XR doesn’t quite have sufficient dynamic range. After the bear polished off one birdfeeder, and headed for the second, I turned on the outdoor lights. That didn’t faze the bear at all, but allowed me to capture the final four minutes of his visit on video. At the end, you can see our cat, watching intently, growling softly.

This behavior is not good for the bear, or for us. Or for the birdfeeders 😉. It’s my responsibility to remember to bring in those birdfeeders every night… or to delay using birdfeeders until later in the summer.

Summer solstice

Longest day of the year?

PhotoPills screenshot showing time/date for equinoxes and solstices.

Today is the summer solstice (in the northern hemisphere). More precisely, the solstice occurred at 5:15am here in the Eastern timezone. The summer solstice is the moment at which the sun has ‘traveled’ to its northernmost latitude, in its annual cycle of apparent movement to the north in summer and to the south in winter. (It’s a great day for those of us with solar panels, because it means we’re getting hours of sunlight!) Read on.

Continue reading “Summer solstice”

Bear crap

Big and hairy.

As the weather warmed, our local population of black bears started to stir. Since there is little natural food available yet, our birdfeeders and compost bin are an easy target. We try to remember to bring in the bird feeders each night, but sometimes forget… leading to damaged feeders and a hugely diminished supply of birdseed.

This weekend, while out for a stroll across the yard, I found this fresh evidence of our overnight visitor. Click on the photo and zoom in if you dare!

Two days later, after repairing our compost bin, he was back…

Ready for winter

Warms you twice.

Today we took delivery of one cord of firewood – cut in late winter, then cut into stove length and split into quarters, the seller dumped it on the driveway this afternoon. In the evening, when it was cooler, Pam and I started stacking it in the garage. Halfway through, I paused for a photo of the remainder.

Halfway done!

When done, our woodpile looks tidy and ready to spend the summer drying out. It’ll warm us again when the snow flies!

Stacked two deep and about 5-7′ high.

Green wood is heavy! It will spend the summer releasing all that moisture, so it will burn well in the winter. In the fall, if experience serves, there will be several families of mice who make their winter home in the deepest nooks and crannies, away from the chill (and the cat). So many uses for a pile of wood!