Saturday, July 31, 2010

Rumble in the Marsh

The salt marsh is a summer favorite, as the entries stuffed with long grass and ospreys will attest.

The high tide in the grass brings out the monster in the brothers, and Comet is often the brunt of their desire to chase and bite. I always watch to make sure they’re not too hard on him, but he’s constantly going over, taunting them, and running off.

(Top to bottom: Ajax, Ojo, Comet)

It really does look like a whole lot of fun, especially if you like biting.

What would a trip to the salt marsh be without a chance to take pictures of Osprey? This is one of my all-time favorite Osprey pictures.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Ben grew up in Eastern CT, so he knows many of the secrets of the backwoods there. He also knows where to get noodles and barbecue chicken pizza.

So, we set out early one morning to check out Devil’s Hopyard with the dogs.

(Left to right: Ojo, Ajax, Comet)

The Hopyard is famous for some unique rock formations, and popular lore says that the settlers thought the cylindrical holes in the rock were made by the devil. There’s also an odd cave called “The Devil’s Oven.”

Regardless of how the formations came about, it’s a lovely park on about 860 acres, which gives you enough space to wander without bumping into too many folks on the way.

(Photo credit: Ben Taylor)

It’s a dog’s paradise, with a brook running by a large section of the trail, big fern gardens, rotting trees, and all the mud you could ever want.

There’s even a viewing spot that’s not too hard to get to. The dogs, as always, couldn’t care less about views, but they were good sports about parking in front of the vista for a few minutes so we could grab some pictures.

(Photo credit: Ben Taylor)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Before, After, and After

Since I was going through the same routine so often, I started posing the dogs each time. The photo post isn’t just an opportunity to take a picture. It’s also an opportunity to practice that all-important skill, the stay. In a semi-controlled environment (a familiar field with no other dogs or people), it’s a great opportunity to test them with a few distractions but nothing too tempting.

Ojo, as you can see, does beautifully.

(Left to right: Comet, Ojo, Ajax)

I really do enjoy snapping photos just as I give them the “OK.” You get the silliest expressions.

Since we head through the same field on our way back, I thought an “after” photo was in order. It’s coincidence that they sat in almost the same configuration.

And the requisite “OK!” photo.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Catch Up

I’m writing this entry and the next few from a few months’ distance. I fell behind a bit, but now I’m making a little project out of catching up. I certainly have the pictures.

I spent July taking the dogs all over the place, but we consistently returned to our favorite river spot. Since there’s a field on the road’s side of the river, it was a nice spot to fetch for a few minutes and dry out the wet dogs before we returned to the car.

(Left to right: Comet, Ajax, Ojo)

Seconds after the last photo, Jax caught up to Comet and I caught him in the midst of a very bratty body check and muzzle bite. Comet will sometimes outrun or outfake Jax in the ground game, but Jax is a fierce competitor too.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

An Egrettable Pun

Ben and I got so many great bird and dog pictures that I ran out of space in the last entry and had to extend it here. I’m filled with remorse for the horrible pun in the title of the previous entry, so I made it worse by repeating the mistake here.

This is a Great Egret, a larger cousin of the Snowy. Like the Ospreys, he obligingly engaged in interesting behavior for photos instead of just standing there like a lump. For reasons that make perfect sense if you’re an egret and no sense at all if you’re me, he puffed and ruffled himself for a few minutes.

Right at the end of our walk, we saw yet another Great Egret, and he let me get quite close to his tree before he finally took off.

Where There's a Willet, There's an Osprey

I apologize for the truly tortured pun that makes up the title of this entry, but since both birds make an appearance, I really couldn’t resist.

The end of July saw us at the salt marsh quite a bit. Because of beds of aptly named razor clams by the trail, I only like to go there at high tide, when the dogs are less likely to slash up their paws. Fortunately, it seems as if every time I’ve checked a tide table, high tide and sunny weather were predicted  at exactly the time I wished to head out there.

A large part of the trail crosses the marsh on a raised concrete causeway. The dogs happily slog and swim their way out through the grass and the channels, and then they sprint back along the causeway when they’re called.

This Snowy Egret is one of many wading birds that frequent the marsh during the day and roost nearby it at night. When he first saw the dogs, his first tactic was to freeze, which worked surprisingly well. A flapping bird is an object of religious devotion for a Golden Retriever, but a still one might as well be made of grass.

He did eventually spook and fly off a few minutes later, to my relief, since I’d hate to have one of the dogs successfully injure a heron, which they’d no doubt do if they managed to catch him.

I think this is my all-time favorite picture of Ojo because it captures his total abandonment to the water, salt, and mud, broken by a millisecond’s check-in to the silly humans who never seem to jump into anything.

(Photo credit: Ben Taylor)

My dad was able to identify this as a Willet from an e-mailed photo. Though I have a great field guide on my phone and an even better one on my bookshelf, it’s often more fun and less work to test my dad’s mettle.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

What There's Time For

The walks are starting to blur together, particularly the ones at our standby loop on a local town land trust. Fetch in the field, swim in the river, hike the loop, swim in the river, fetch in the field again, back in the car.

All times become each time, as if we took a hike for weeks and weeks, circling back to the same spot with no breaks and no loss of charm in the repetition.

I’ve had some time to practice taking photos of the ubiquitous damselflies. I thought this one was sufficiently artsy to be included.

Damselfly identification is a huge pain. This one may be the same species I’ve photographed before in Vermont, a Black-winged Damselfly or Ebony Jewelwing. The female Calopteryx maculata has a white spot at the tip of the wing. Her wings tend to be less dark too, but in this photo, that’s not particularly helpful.

I’m still working on acquiring the knowledge of all three hundred or so birds who spend at least part of the year in New England, but once I’m done, if there’s still time left over, maybe I’ll move on and learn about all hundred and fifty odonates.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Yet another post-sit-stay photo, this one taken more like a second after the release, rather than just a fraction of one.

Ojo’s really getting into our routine, and the regular swims may be making him shinier. That or possibly the high fat food and the fish oil supplements I’ve been plying him with.

(Left to right: Comet, Ojo, Ajax)

And, another sit-stay after walking the loop and swimming in the river. I’ve been able to take the dogs on a crazy number of big outings this summer, and it’s satisfying to see them so tired and happy.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

He Ain't Bitey, He's My Brother

Comet has always loved being chased, and from Jax’s earliest days with us, Comet has taught him to love to chase. The arrival of Ojo has allowed Jax to add some serious chasee skills to those already developed chaser skills.

Jax has the best ball-spotting abilities of the three when it gets lost in the grass. Comet often gets there first, but Jax usually gets it if they don’t quite see where it rests.

Ojo gets it his share of times, and he can lead Jax on a merry chase.

The shot below needed to be blown up for full effect. Even when Jax gets it, everybody has fun on the way back.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Ojo Gets the Hang of It

Two days ago, Ojo was still splashing himself in the face, and couldn’t hold a mixedly-metaphorical candle to Comet’s swimming ability. By today, he couldn’t quite beat Comet to the stick, but he was able to keep up with him enough on the way back to get a hold of it.

I got really, really close to a great shot here, but I didn’t quite get it. It took some careful cropping and post-processing to get the photo this good, so I’m not fully happy with it.

Still, it’s a decent picture of a really beautiful local bird, a Cedar Waxwing. He was likely hawking for insects over the stream on the other side of the path and fled to the woods when we came crashing through.

When I first saw him, I despaired that I’d be able to get a picture, since the camera was in the bag over my shoulder. Waxwings are a bit skittish, so I decided just to enjoy him. However, he stayed for a few seconds, then a few more, and then I was suddenly fumbling for the camera, trying to get it zoomed all the way in and focused before he disappeared.

I got three exposures before he flitted away, and this one was the best.

Of course, there’s the requisite sit-stay with distractions. Ojo and Comet are taking to it like normal Goldens. Jax, however, is so driven and focused that he actually halts his own natural panting so he can listen more carefully for the first, barest hint of a release word.

They all halt panting when they’re trying to hear a little better. I have dozens of pictures, though, of Jax doing it and relatively few of the other dogs.

It’s one of the things about him that reminds me most of Gus.