Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Icy Personality

Westwoods, one of our favorite local hiking spots, has an active adjacent granite quarry, and the hiking trails overlap some land that was quarried, or at least explored for quarrying, at some point in the past. The current quarry company mines several kinds of decorative rock from the area, including the pinkish granite that Stony Creek is famous for. Apparently, there's a huge stretch of it underground from Branford to Guilford, but in this section of the woods, the granite must not have been as desirable, and you can tell that it largely lacks the distinctive pink color. Oddly shaped boulders with drill marks dot the landscape, and large sections of the trail have terraced cliffs of exposed granite. These cliffs make for extraordinary icicle formations during the right parts of winter, as the thermal inertia of the granite sometimes melts the snow on a cold day or freezes the runoff on a warmer one.

The dogs love it because they love to crunch the icicles we break off for them. I love it from a photography perspective because it makes a neat backdrop or reflective light source. So today, I hiked up off the side of the trail to pose the dogs near a big ice shelf. The dogs weren't feeling cooperative, though. Comet wanted to keep grabbing snow and ice from between his paws so he could crunch on it, and Jax looked really impatient with holding his sit-stay while I fiddled with exposure settings.

This photo did not live up to my intentions as a beautiful picture of gorgeous dogs in the outdoors. The exposure values are really nice, but I didn't frame it with the right focal length (I had to stand too far back from the dogs), and the dogs simply didn't give me the windblown-in-the-great-outdoors look I wanted.

It does, however, capture the two dogs' personalities absolutely perfectly. Goofy Comet has his "what's next face" as I cue him to keep his head up. And serious Jax has the absolutely perfect "how much longer is this stay going to last?" face. In another context, Comet might be the serious one, and Jax the goofy, but when it comes to the daily stay, this photo is as true to life as it gets.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Backyard Color

There was some nice light this morning, so I stuck my lens out the back door and caught a couple of brightly colored backyard visitors.

This Northern Cardinal was particularly bright. He was a bit of a challenge to capture, since he was high up in one of our Eastern Redcedars, eating immature cone fruits.

Not quite as dramatically colored, this House Finch was all puffed up for warmth and sitting on an exposed branch where it was easy to catch a quick shot of him.

The last cooperative bird of the morning was one of our resident Carolina Wrens. Sometimes they sit on exposed branches and sing territorial songs, but this this one seemed to be foraging and had no time to pose for me.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Leaper, Creeper

On our second snow day of the winter, I took the dogs to the Supply Ponds to enjoy the storm's aftermath. Jax, as always, is a full-on, face-first enjoyer of all things, and snow is tied for first with mud when it comes to things he wants to enjoy that way. He romps and leaps everywhere he goes, but the snow does bring out a special level of joyful kangaroo hops.

I know the birds of our region pretty well, but it was only recently that I learned to properly ID the Brown Creeper, despite the fact that they're quite common around here. They're drab, but their behavior clearly distinguishes them from all the other species in our area. I had seen one a week prior, and I texted my dad a description—which is a lot more fun than looking birds up on the phone.

There are only a handful of birds in New England that will hop up the side of a tree: woodpeckers, nuthatches, and creepers. And creepers are unique because they only go upwards, typically in a spiral pattern, unlike nuthatches and most woodpeckers, which can go upwards or downwards headfirst. 

Of course, once you learn a common bird well, you start seeing it everywhere, and sure enough, today I saw creepers twice. I was able to get a pretty good shot of this one hopping up the underside of a branch, which is ability exclusive to the aforementioned woodpeckers, nuthatches, and creepers. It's also an ability that's highly advantageous when you're hunting for insects below the wood's surface and the top side of every branch is coated in snow.