Order! Order!

If I could effectively communicate the mental turmoil that I’m going through right now, the seething internal struggle, with mere words, I would, but I sincerely doubt that you’re understanding it on an emotional level. However, with at least two posts in the pipes regarding the South Carolina trip, I’m not only going to talk about photos obtained after said trip, I’m going to put them up in reverse order of when they were obtained. I know, I know, but sometimes I just feel a little reckless, and damn the consequences.


No, I’m sorry, I can’t fully commit to this. I’ll give a distant nod to propriety and post the very most recent photo last. Some things you just don’t toy with.

common snapping turtle Chelydra serpentina surfacing in morning twilight
A couple mornings back, I was up early and saw what might have been promising colors starting in the sky from the imminent sunrise, and I headed over to the neighborhood pond to see what would happen. The sky never really developed anything useful, there being low-level clouds blocking most of the light, and I simply grabbed a few photos of opportunity. In this case, a common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) was poking around in the shallows under the moody grey sky, and I managed a couple of frames before it realized how close I was and moved off. At first light, lots of turtles were poking their heads out (I’m sure most of us can relate,) but getting decent photos of them was challenging, given the conditions. This one, however, stayed still enough, in just barely enough light, to allow me a dramatic portrait with the 100-300 lens. There’s something to be said about the whole color register.

common snapping turtle Chelydra serpentina peeping from water
If you want a scale, the portion of the head appearing here was maybe 3cm in length, the overall length of the carapace falling somewhere around 30-35cm, I would estimate. Which is way bigger than my next subject.

unidentified juvenile turtle climbing isolation nettingAbout to meet with a student in a botanical garden, I was just poking around and had to shoot this minuscule turtle, who seemed miffed that it was being excluded from the pond lilies within a net barrier. Actually, it’s much more likely that it was simply looking for a basking spot in a pool with few opportunities for such, but yeah, if you’re getting the impression of a toddler trying to scale the baby gate during a party among the grownups, I cant blame you.

During an earlier outing with the Iconoclastic Mr Bugg, we were wandering a less-than-productive section of Jordan Lake when I suddenly spotted an eastern kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula) – despite the promises, about every place I’ve lived, that kingsnakes are common, it’s been decades since I’ve seen one, and I think this is the first that I’ve ever photographed. Don’t ask me how that happens. Maybe I’m naturally kingsnake repellent (there are a few people I know that would say it’s not that specific.)

eastern kingsnake Lampropeltis getula chilling
Buggato has had more than enough time to scoop me on these with his own photos, since he seems to like doing that, but it’s been twelve days since we obtained them, and I can assure you that there is no such post on his site as of this writing – now that I’ve mentioned it, something might, somehow, pop up from the past, but right now, zilcho.

Anyway, as we moved quietly around the snake, it decided it should seek cover, but in a remarkably mellow way. With elaborate casualness, it started slipping forward and wended a meandering route through the undergrowth, disappearing under leaves or logs before reappearing again on the other side, seeming to have no inclination to remain hidden.

eastern kingsnake Lampropeltis getula idly moving along
It was later afternoon on a pretty warm day, so none of the behavior could be put down to morning torpor, but the snake sure looked completely unconcerned, as if bored and deciding to poke around a little. However, I suspect there was a different explanation.

eastern kingsnake Lampropeltis getula crossing over logThe kingsnake actually came around in a broad curve, almost emerging from under a log at my feet (being literally 10cm from my sandals,) before it looped over top of the same log and slipped around the end into a hollow, where it disappeared and remained hidden, despite our waiting for a few minutes. I believe that, as we approached, we got between it and its sleeping spot, and so it had to take a circuitous route back home, as it were. Given the coloration (which works much better for hunting at night,) the species may be inclined to move slowly in daylight to avoid attracting attention, unless danger is distinctly imminent, and we were being quite innocuous ourselves. That’s my guess, anyway.

By the way, overall length was about a meter, which is half of their maximum length, give or take, and they’re completely harmless.

Later on that day, we hit another portion of the lake because the initial one had been so slow, and it was there that Mr Bugg captured his excellent bald eagle shot – I looked up in time to only see it disappearing behind the trees, so no pic for me. However, hanging out for a few minutes more netted me a nice sequence of another species, and I’m pleased with the dramatic poses, so no skin off my nose. Actually, that’s a stupid phrase, isn’t it? Strike that.

osprey Pandion haliaetus beginning predatory dive
An osprey (Pandion haliaetus) was doing its thing, cruising around between 10 and 40 meters up, looking for stupidly shallow fish. Focus tracking was just slightly off at times, but then bang on at others, as I watched it begin its dive after some fish that it had spotted. Later in the afternoon now, the sun was lower for more dramatic lighting, good for shooting birds (because they don’t look very impressive when backlit,) and yet still not turning yellow.

osprey Pandion haliaetus pausing and dropping
These are all tightly cropped from the original, because I really wanted to highlight the body positions. I was firing off a sequence, hoping to catch a really dynamic shot of the osprey seizing its prey, so these are fractions of a second apart.

osprey Pandion haliaetus in dive
There’s a fair amount of luck involved, because the osprey had to be in the right position for the best lighting and appearance, but then again, I’d been tracking it in the viewfinder for several minutes at this point, waiting for the chance of something cool, so I’ll take credit for that, at least.

osprey Pandion haliaetus in dive
Note the turning head, watching its prey, and the talons dropping into readiness. Why aren’t they named, ‘ospredators?’ Stupid ornithologists.

os[rey Pandion haliaetus in dive
The lovely line from eye to wingtip, the fanned tail, the intensity. Clean living and pure thoughts – they had absolutely nothing to do with this capture sequence, so don’t believe what anyone tells you otherwise.

osprey Pandion haliaetus abandoning dive
Annnnddd the intended prey made its exit, so the osprey abandoned the dive – which still looked pretty cool. Osprey are strictly fish eaters, by the way, and pretty common around Jordan Lake, but I’ve never staked them out for a long session dedicated to birds. I’ll have to correct that soon.

osprey Pandion haliaetus resuming circling
The osprey resumed its circling, looking for more opportunities. If you look closely, you can see the head is still tucked and turned, searching – there’s the tip of the beak and a little pointer of dark feathers atop the head that indicate where it’s looking (which makes me wonder if this provides some benefit to the species, perhaps indicating to other birds where their attention is.)

osprey Pandion haliaetus in spread-osprey pose
Notice the difference in background color here – less than a minute after the above sequence, it had moved to a different patch of sky to give me a brilliant underbody view. Well, no – while it was quite well aware of our presence, I’m sure, it probably wasn’t interested in accommodating our paparazzism in any way.

Okay, now we get to the most recent, taken just two nights ago at sunset. The sky again didn’t fully cooperate, but there was a lone patch of cloud colored peach by the disappearing sun, and I used the reflection of it in the neighborhood pond as a backdrop for a dragonfly that briefly perched on a bare branch.

unidentified dragonfly perched on branch against sunset reflection
And, just to show off, I include a full-resolution inset of the same frame. By happenstance, the dragonfly had perched almost directly facing away from me, putting its wings in a nice plane flat to the camera for maximized sharpness, because it was just a few days full of cooperative critters.

full-resolution detail shot of dragonfly
And we will now resume our SC pics. Maybe – I never know for sure what will strike me to post, but they’re coming at some point anyway. And you know how I said a bunch of bird pics were coming soon? These were not them, or any portion thereof – I gots lots more on the way.

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