American Bittern

Some of our many neighbors.

I was out for a paddle along the Connecticut River near home, this afternoon, and took a side trip among the reeds and brush that form the ‘delta’ at the mouth of Hewes Brook. This area is popular with ducks, herons, geese, kingfisher, beaver, and countless other residents. Today, a pair of American Bittern posed for me in the brush of a tiny islet while I came by. More photos.

American Bittern, in the brush near the mouth of Hewes Brook, Connecticut River, Lyme NH.

Earlier this month I’ve seen white Egrets and Great Blue Herons feeding nearby, as well as Canada Geese, many varieties of ducks, and a pair of loons. Need to bring my camera more often!

A walk in the woods

A sunny day for a walk.

I try to reserve a bit of daylight, each day, to get out for a walk. When I’m especially busy, or lazy, I walk up the road and back, keeping an eye peeled for that bald eagle I saw over the river last week. But when I have a bit more time and energy, I don my pack and strike out up the steep hill on the other side of the road. These hills were formed several centuries ago when the Connecticut River was formed by the receding waters of the Pleistocene-era Lake Hitchcock, after the glaciers receded from what is now northern New England. The hillside is steep, but it’s a good chance to get my legs moving, to fill my lungs with fresh air, to follow my whims, and to see what I might find. What did I find out there today? read on.

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Zürich wildlife

An albino rat explores Bahnhofstrasse.

When your hiking habit shifts its attention to city streets, because of the pandemic, you need to take wildlife sightings when and where you can.  On Saturday morning I enjoyed a chorus of frogs in Zürich’s Irchel park. On Sunday morning I roamed the old streets of central Zürich looking for photographic opportunities.  On a deserted Bahnhofstrasse — the largest and swankiest street in the shopping district — one little opportunity scurried toward me on the sidewalk.  This rat, an albino, popped into a tree well to sniff through the debris left by humans who’d strolled by the day before.

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Costa Rica workshop

A week-long wildlife-photography workshop in Costa Rica.

I had the great pleasure of spending a week on in southwest Costa Rica, participating in a wildlife-photography workshop run by Steve & Rose Perry of BackcountryGallery.com.  Anyone who follows Steve’s blog, or YouTube channel, or has read his excellent books knows that he is an incredibly knowledgeable teacher of photography and, specifically, of Nikon camera techniques. For me, it was a great opportunity to focus intensively on photography, surrounded by other photo enthusiasts and accompanied by a master photographer and deeply experienced wildlife guides. Read on, and check out the photo galleries!

Central American squirrel monkey, drinking from a puddle in the knot of a tree branch.
Central American squirrel monkey, drinking from a puddle in the knot of a tree branch.

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South Carolina

We’re just back from ten lovely days in South Carolina on the shores of Kiawah Island near Charleston.  With lots of family nearby and abundant greenspace around the island, I had plenty of interesting opportunities for photography.

  • A general photo collection, including wildlife, family, and the launch of Chinese lanterns on New Year’s Eve: [smugmug].
  • A surprise encounter with bottlenose dolphins in the straights next to Kiawah Island, while they were strand feeding:  [smugmug].
  • An attempt at dark-sky photography of the new crescent moon, Orion, and the Milky Way:  [smugmug].

    Christmas sunrise on Kiawah Island.
    Christmas sunrise on Kiawah Island.

Rowing the Connecticut

Summer is a wonderful time on the river, in part because the lengthy days allow me ample time to get out rowing.  I like to row well before breakfast, because the river is as still as glass and there are rarely any other boats.  Today, three days after returning from our canoe trip on the upper reaches of the river, I was treated to an unusual abundance of bird life.

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Ranthambore National Park

A safari in the heart of India.

Ranthambore National Park [location], named for the 1,050-year-old Ranthambore fort within, is a sprawling 400-square-kilometer reserve for wildlife. It is most famous for its population of Royal Bengal Tigers, which currently number 36. We were lucky to see one up close, but there are many other beautiful animals and birds, including jungle cat, spotted deer, sambar deer, antelope, wild boarlangur (right), crocodile, turtle, egret, heron, stork, peafowl, treepie, kingfisher, parakeet, lapwing, and ducks.  Not to mention many, many homo touristicus, crammed into 20-seat topless buses and wielding cameras. Read on – we saw a tiger! and See lots more photos.

homo touristicus, in 20-seat open buses.
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More IISc wildlife

I finally got some good pictures of the black Kites.

I’m not sure whether the RSS feed highlights new photo albums, so here’s a quick entry to point out that I’ve added another small collection of IISc photos. Plenty of flowers, and I finally got some good pictures of the black Kites. [location]

This post was transferred from MobileMe to WordPress in 2020, with an effort to retain the content as close to the original as possible; I recognize that some comments may now seem dated or some links may now be broken.

IISc flora and fauna

The IISc campus is, in effect, a wildlife sanctuary.

The IISc campus is, in a way, a huge park with large forested areas, grassy paths, and quiet lanes.  The campus is surrounded by a wall, with guards that limit access through the gates; thus, the campus is an oasis from the noise and chaotic traffic of Bangalore.

I am just beginning to explore this campus, which you can see on the Google Map (zoom in) is covered in large forested areas.   The main roads are paved, but there is a large central wooded section that is cris-crossed by well-defined walkways.  These walkways appear to have been cobblestone, long ago, though today are largely dirt and grass.  The space reminds me of a much larger version of the Dartmouth Green, but covered in trees.  Although much of the campus seems to be left rough and relatively wild, several buildings on campus (such as my department, ECE) have carefully tended formal gardens out front.

It is apparently illegal to cut trees in India, without a government permit, and the IISc campus has countless varieties of trees – many with numbers and labels that imply they are tracked or studied carefully,  All of them are unfamiliar to me, and I look forward to learning more about them.  Today I saw an amazing tree; from one tree grew countless twisted vines (branches?) that spread and were suspended on nearby trees.  It was impossible to capture the incredible spread of this tree’s vines in single image; they stretch the length of the building and across the street.  IISc had even built support poles to hold the branches where they cross the path and cross the road.

As a result of all this green space, there is a lot of wildlife.  There are countless birds – my birding eye is not sharp enough to spot them, but every morning there is a cacophony of birdsong.  Today we saw some sort of weasel poking around the leaves on the side of the road.  I’ve seen small lizards, and I’ve heard there are snakes (and even a “snake rescue” club).  There is, I’m told, an entomology group that looks out for the welfare of the insects on campus. 

Our kids are delighted by the resident population of monkeys, which we have encountered twice.  The first time, there were two adults and two tiny babies on the ground – but we unfortunately had no camera. Today, we spotted three monkeys eating the fruits of a nearby tree (pictured above, and below right). Apparently they will try to steal your food if you are having a picnic, and have been reputed to climb through windows and open the fridge.  

IISc is blessed with a verdant, forested campus. We are lucky to live here.

And yet, the IISc campus is a study in contrast.  One the one hand, they have a nursery and some staff that tend the trees, shrubs, and gardens.  On the other hand, it is not uncommon to see, next a well-tended garden, a large pile of trash, an old pile of bricks, or discarded sinks and other debris.  I recognize that I do not understand the whole picture, but it puzzles me that a campus with such inherent beauty is left unkempt in so many places.

More in the photo gallery.

This post was transferred from MobileMe to WordPress in 2020, with an effort to retain the content as close to the original as possible; I recognize that some comments may now seem dated or some links may now be broken.