Wednesday, June 18

Butterfly Dreams

Monarch Butterfly in flight

I go through these days when I just can't think of anything particularly meaningful to post that hasn't been said already. I'm into all the political stuff that's going on, and I'm reading, but my brain just can't think of anything relevant to add. Sometimes, on days like this, I do photo diaries, usually of birds or of light drawings.

Today, I thought, maybe I should do something about butterflies.

I do a lot of birding, but sometimes (actually, kind of often) things can get quiet while birding and I'll notice interesting insects. Fortunately, my camera allows me to get decent insect photography as well. While I don't know much at all about insects, I do know I enjoy photographing them. After the fold is a mixture of butterfly and moth pictures, many of which I've managed to identify (with help), but some of which I haven't.

*Note*: these are smaller versions of the photos, all of which are hotlinks to the larger version. The links also frequently tell you what kind of camera I was using when I took the photo and if it's my primary lens, they've got a "Sigma 50-500mm" tag added. That's the lens I use for most wildlife photography and is very flexible in the field.

My primary camera is a Pentax K20d, but some of these were taken with earlier models (*ist, K100D, K10d). That said, here are the butterflies:

This photo is of a mystery butterfly. I don't know what it is, but I'd appreciate any help. It was taken at Parker River Wildlife Refuge in early October of 2007:

I've no idea what this butterfly or moth is, but it's absolutely gorgeous.

This is a pair of white admirals, which found something it liked on the ground near our campsite a few years back.

Butterflies rarely stay still for me.  I'm thrilled that I came across this group of white admirals.

This is an atlantis frittilary from Woodford, VT from two years ago:

Atlantis Frittilary

This is Tiger Swallowtail from our garden, taken while I was still using a 35mm camera:

This butterfly showed up in our garden one day.  All I had in the camera was 64-speed Kodachrome, so I had to do the best I could with a very difficult shot: no time to set up tripod to get better depth of field, but I still think I got something decent out of it.

This Common wood nymph also came from Parker River Wildlife Refuge, from August of 2006:

Common wood nymph.

This Black Swallowtail showed up while we were up on Putney Mountain watching hawk migration a couple years ago:

Black Swallowtail observed in a lull period during hawk watch.

This red admiral showed up in our gardens one day:

Red admiral.

This mystery moth was in our gardens last year:

Not sure what kind of butterfly or moth this is.

This Milbert's Tortoiseshell was flitting around while we were looking for obscure sparrows this weekend. No obscure sparrows, but nice butterfly:

Thanks to folks on the NH Bird group, I was able to discover that this is a Milbert's Tortoiseshell.

This is a Silver-Spotted Skipper from our gardens:

Silver-spotted skipper, feeding off of a flower.

This Great Spangled Frittilary was in a spot we found while driving around the Island Pond area in Northeastern Vermont:

Great Spangled Frittilary close-up

This creature showed up while we were looking for unusual birds in Kennebunk, ME a few weeks ago:

No idea what kind of butterfly or moth this is.

And, to close, one more photo of a Monarch Butterfly:

Monarch butterfly on thistle.

Wednesday, June 4

I voted for Nader in 2000

This isn't a confession.  I'm not ashamed of my choice and I'm not going to apologize for it.  But things have changed, and they've changed in ways that I don't know that I can fully articulate, though I think most of us know.  If I'd lived in a swing state, I probably would have voted for Gore, but in Vermont I had the luxury of making a protest vote.   The electoral college map wasn't going to change. Vermont was going to go for Gore no matter what I did.  If I'd lived in Florida, Ohio, New Mexico or New Hampshire, I would have voted for Gore.  I didn't have to make that choice.

For those of you in Vermont, the first few paragraphs that follow will be familiar to you.  For those of you who don't, you'll learn some very strange things about the way we choose a governor.

To explain this a little further, I didn't cast a protest vote in our Governor's race.  [Warning: obscure Vermont political rules follow].  In Vermont, we had a 3-way race between Howard Dean who, at the time, was a bit of a weak Democrat (I like him a lot better now, which is a whole other story), and he was running against a right wing loon (Ruth Dwyer) and Anthony Pollina, who was a lot more openly left-wing than Dean was.  I wanted to vote for Pollina, but Vermont's got odd rules.  If any candidate for Governor doesn't meet the 50% vote threshold, it gets kicked to the legislature, and there was a good chance we were going to end up with a Republican legislature: it was the election right after civil unions were enacted, and there was a short-lived right-wing backlash which lasted a single election cycle before reversing itself.

So there was this genuine risk that if Dean got 49.7% of the vote, we could end up with Ruth Dwyer as governor and I thought that as much as I liked Pollina, I just couldn't take that risk.  So I voted for Dean.  He got just over 50%, and I'm glad.  The second place (Dwyer) got around 35%, so yeah: good choice.

And I think that, given what I knew and understood at the time, both Dean and Nader were, in Vermont, good choices.  It wasn't because I liked Nader.  I've met Nader.  He's a jerk and a bit of a self-aggrandizing fool.  I was voting for the Green Party, which I'd previously respected a great deal.  Now it's a bit of a joke, which sometimes happens to political parties.

You might ask why I had such trouble voting for Gore.

The answer is really simple: the death penalty.

I have serious problems supporting any candidate who supports the death penalty.  This is a major problem for me, and still continues to be one.  It gave me trouble when I was supporting Dean in 2004, and it continues to give me trouble with just about every candidate I come to support.  Very few of them are anti-death penalty and I find that unconscionable.

But I have to let it go, for one specific reason: it's far better to have a candidate who supports the death penalty than to have one who supports the death penalty and will help to overturn Roe v. Wade.

It's infinitely better to have either Clinton or Obama than to have McCain on just about any issue you can measure, whether or not any of these candidates support the death penalty.

It's so much better to have a Democrat in the White House than to have McCain in the White House.

In 2004, when I was a bit disgusted with Kerry, I voted for him.  I didn't make a protest vote.  I wasn't happy with him being the choice, but I accepted the choice of one of the weaker candidates, and let it go.  I wasn't happy with the way he slimed Dean, and I wasn't happy with all sorts of things he did.  I even refused to work for his campaign, though I did work for anti-Bush groups.

But he got my vote.

I don't think I even have that much luxury any longer.  I don't think I can sit this next election out and only cast a vote.  I don't think Obama is the best choice we could have made for a nominee, but I don't think Clinton is either.  

I voted for Nader in 2000, and I'm not sorry about that, but I'm not voting for a non-viable candidate again.

I didn't work for Kerry in 2004, and I'm not sorry about that, but I'm not sitting back and letting other people do all the work this time.  I don't have the luxury to sit this election out and let it go without my involvement.  And this goes even if Clinton manages to pull off some sort of insane upset at the convention.  Would I be angry?  Oh yeah.

But I'd still work for her campaign.

I am going to do what I can to take down McCain and take down every last vestige of this sewer of an administration.   There's a really big cesspool in D.C. right now.  It's time we clean up all the toxic runoff that's coming from Crawford.

It's going to take a long time, and we all need to see to it that this clean-up effort starts today.

Tuesday, June 3

Julie Waters e-notes: Tue, June 3, 2008

Hey all: a few things:

First, I've got a show coming up in Pliny Park in Brattleboro on Saturdy, July 12th; it's an evening gig from 7-9pm.

Second, my music's on Rhapsody now. If you're a subscriber, all you have to do is play my tunes from time to time and I get automatically paid for the listen; doesn't cost you anything extra, but it earns some extra income for me.

Also: all four of my CD's are now on iTunes and; there are links to purchase them from the web site ( and if you click on "audio stream" you can play through short clips of all the songs available.

I'm having a real resurgence in music and musical creativity. I'm going to find time this July to complete a new CD, doing digital release only.

For the first time, ever, I'm thinking about the musical choices in terms of financial return. It's not that I'm going to play music I don't care for, but I can see which of the pieces I've sold on iTunes were most popular and which ones haven't really sold at all. And it helps that the top selling song of mine on iTunes (my rendition of the Bach Minuet) happens to be one of my favorite pieces I've ever developed.

So I think I'm going to make the next CD all in that same vein: taking classical and traditional pieces (Bach, Beethoven, for certain, and probably some old folk tunes) and perform them in my own very unique style. It's the work I do which seems most likely to generate sales, but it;s also some of the work I genuinely love.

Good to check in with everyone again. Hope you're all well!
More info:

Julie's photography:
Upcoming events for Julie Waters
Sunday, June 15th 2nd Sundays Song Circle (tentative) at RAMP Gallery; Bellows Falls, VT

Saturday, July 12th Julie Live Jam at Pliny Park; Brattleboro, VT

Sunday, July 13th 2nd Sundays Song Circle (tentative) at RAMP Gallery; Bellows Falls, VT

Sunday, August 10th 2nd Sundays Song Circle (tentative) at RAMP Gallery; Bellows Falls, VT

Sunday, June 1

Great Places to Bird: Parker River Wildlife Refuge

crossposted to Birding New England
Located on Plum Island, MA, Parker River Wildlife Refuge is, by far, one of my favorite places to bird. It's not just that there's a huge variety of birds, but that it's very uncommon to find nothing of interest during a visit and so many of the regulars who bird there are willing to share their information readily with other birders.

Take, for example, this american woodcock on her nest:

I'm amazed that anyone was able to spot this American Woodcock nesting near the Hellcat Boardwalk, but the directions I got to track it down were very good.

There is no possible way I would have found this nest without help from a fellow birder (Nancy Landry, who has some very nice shots of all sorts of birds on the Island), who, a couple days after my photo was taken, got a photo of the mother woodcock with the hatched young right next to her.

After the fold I'll be presenting a photojournal of various birds I've seen at Parker River, along with some of my favorite experiences there.

Please note: almost every photograph here is a clickable link to larger versions of the same photo, with details that often include type of camera, type of lens, settings, etc.

Warblers and other small perching birds

Warblers, are by far, among the hardest birds to photograph in the wild. They range from small to teensy, and like to hang out in bushes and trees, which are often leafed out so as to render them virtually invisible. And yet, still, sometimes I get fortunate. Take for example, these two birds: a black-throated green warbler and a black-throated blue:

Black-throated green warbler.  Best picture I've ever taken of one.

This was the first day I was able ever to get decent photographs of a male black-throated blue warbler.  This was the best of the lot.

The first of these birds was easy. There was a flock of them hanging out in the trees overhead and I just kept taking photos and kept the best of the bunch. The second was an immense amount of work. There were several warblers on the boardwalk trail (near Goodno woods) bouncing all over the place. I was excited to see a black-throated blue, as I'd never gotten a good photo of a male before, but it kept itself behind branches, twigs, never allowing a clean shot of it. But, eventually, persistence paid off and it presented itself with a clean clear view.

Other small perching birds I've seen at the refuge include manypalm warblers, Ruby Crowned Kinglets, a blue-gray gnatcatcher and a savannah sparrow:

Palm Warbler
Ruby-crowned kinglet, one of the best photos I've ever taken of one.
Blue-gray gnatcatcher.This is an extremely small bird, and not even remotely easy to photograph.  I was only able to get three or four clean pictures of it, as it was jumping about through underbrush, but persistence paid off, as I now get to add a new life bird to my list.
I didn't think this was a Savannah Sparrow at first; the colors are much darker than I'm familiar with.  Having looked at Cornell's website, however, I'm convinced.

Duck-like birds

You get a wide variety of duck-like birds at the refuge. One of the best photos I ever got there was of these
brants, which are small, dark geese, fighting over a piece of seaweed:

Brants are a new bird for me, so imagine my surprise when I got to watch nearly fifty of them hang out right near shore.  My favorite picture of the bunch is this one, where several of them are fighting over a piece of seaweed one dug up.

Another favorite, however, was this very close sighting of a
Wilson's Phalarope:

Wilson's phalarope, 2nd day sighting.

Northern Pintails are, during migration season, plentiful on the refuge:

Pintails; taken from over 100' away.

But perhaps high on this list is this pied-billed grebe, which took me a few days of dedicated searching to find this close to shore:

I had just about given up on getting a high-quality photo of a pied-billed grebe when today I spotted one very close to shore.

Wading birds, big and small

Being on a migration path, the refuge can yield some really nice shorebirds of various sorts. Clicking on the photos will give you larger versions with info about the specific birds in the photos:

Angle of light makes a major difference. <br /><br />I already had good pictures of this bird by this point, but when it moved to a new position, I found I could get myself between it and the sun.  Having the sun behind you and the subject in front is generally the very best scenario for photographing birds.  This especially applies to birds that are primarily white.
I was taking pictures of this white-rumped sandpiper as it was flying by, not realizing I'd capture a whole field of pipers in the background as well.  In the background are semipalmated plovers, white-rumped sandpipers, least sandpipers and semipalmated sandpipers.
Snowy egret congregation w/greater yellowlegs.

And finally, this whimbrel:

I'd only ever seen a whimbrel before from a great distance away, and the only pictures I'd had of one were of relatively poor quality.  So imagine my surprise when we discovered one hidden amongst some geese today.  Not only did it keep getting closer, allowing me to get progressively better shots, but after a short time, four other whimbrels came in to join it.

And to conclude, a mimic

This Brown Thrasher was making all sorts of noise, but it took me some time to track it down. I finally set the camera on auto-focus and managed to get it properly set up, but it took real work:

Brown thrasher, hidden in the underbrush.  This was not an easy shot.

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