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Keyes Brook

This image was made on Friday October 19th in the rain. Its Keyes Brook near Nutting Road, taken from the trail/power line access road (old trolley line) that runs from Graniteville to Route 40 near Nabnasset Lake. I like the realistic look of this image. So far I love my G9!

Comments re the (simple) image are welcome.



Down Town Manhattan

(Downtown photograph copyright Frank Winters)

Could a small New England town grow to look like this? No? Then what will stop it?

Comments welcomed.

Hawk in Tree

It seems there are two Coopers Hawks in our back yard.

This has driven most of the small birds away from our feeders. I guess the Hawks will leave once they see that there aren’t many birds for them to prey on.

A friend in town also tells of two hawks in his back yard.

I wonder if these hawks are here because they are young and stupid (unafraid of people) or is their natural habitat being destroyed, driving them to our backyards.

I’d like to know what you think.



Coopers Hawk

A Coopers Hawk has been visiting our backyard perching on a feeder as above or even perching on the railing of the deck.

Its a juvenile hawk so it has not learned to stay away from people. Its beautiful and majestic but…… feeds on birds so it has frightened the other birds away. I’d like to get more photos but don’t want to be feeding birds so that this one can eat them!

I needed help identifying this bird so I posted a photo on Nature Photographers Online Magazine — — in the Avian forum and very soon three bird experts let me know it wasn’t a Red Shouldered Hawk as I thought but a Coopers. NP is a great site for photography and nature. Many of the members who post there are pros — and they are very helpful when fellow members need help. I recommend it highly.

Of course when you observe wildlife and even feed them there will be moments of raw nature, some more pleasant to civilized humans than others.

House Wren Family

We also have a family of what I think is House Wrens living very close to our house in a bird house we put up. Its a really neat bird house that my daughter decorated with one of my photos then painted to match. There are baby birds now being feed by two parents. They come and go ignoring us for the most part. They will nest in the pocket of a shirt hung on a line to dry, I’ve read. This house must be an upscale one for them.

For more backyard wildlife stories here is a report I sent in to Marian Harman, the President of The Westford Conservation Trust who keeps tabs on local wildlife and writes a column about it in the local newspaper:

“This summer our back yard has had lots of activity. We rearranged our feeders and repaired a large one an have had many birds this year so far.

Lots of gold finches, blue jays, nuthatches, chickadees and cardinals. A few downy woodpeckers. For the first time we saw a red winged black bird at our feeder and one lone grackle — I’m used to seeing grackles by the dozens.

We have a pair of house wrens living in one of our bird houses with a noisy family. The house is right by a garden and our deck — lots of traffic as we go back and forth or sit and have lunch but the wrens just go about their way feeding the babies and singing (not as much singing now that the babies are always hungry).

Early in July we had daily visits from a single female wild turkey. Strangely we saw a posting at the grassy pond for a missing female turkey. It said it ‘looked wild.’ We thought for sure it was ‘our’ turkey. But when we called up the woman told us that hers was missing for only 2 days and we had been seeing ours for at least four or five. Then we saw ours again after the missing one had been found. Lately — no turkey.

We saw two deers on the evening of Tuesday July 24th — a doe and fawn in the trees between our house and the one in back.

For the last two days — starting July 23 or 24th — we have had a small young hawk visiting our yard. (I think its an immature one because I can’t identify it from books. I hope to get a photo.) I saw it sitting on top of a feeder, then in our fenced in garden with small pond. It seems to live in trees around our house — we hear it during the day when we don’t see it. I imagine the birds are good prey for it and the fenced in garden has snakes, toads and frogs. In fact about a week ago I saw a snake with a toad’s leg in its mouth. It couldn’t swallow the toad on a bet but it held on for a while — the toad trying to pull free the snake trying to swallow him or pull him into the rocks the snake lives in. When the snake noticed me (I think) it let go and retreated. But then the toad looked around, turned around and followed the snake into its den! I guess they both live in those rocks.”

Snaking trying to eat big toad

The toad’s coloration and rough hide make it blend in with the rocks. Apparently it didn’t fool the snake.

Prospect Hill Gate Take 2

Prospect Hill Gate 

This is my latest effort at photographing the entrance to the Prospect Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in Westford Massachusetts.

I returned early this morning ~ 6:45 am – because there was no wind when I woke up at 6:30. I didn’t like the out of focus wind blown leaves in the first attempt, nor did I like the hot spots caused by the sun. I wanted to show how peaceful and inviting a gated woodland can be, so I tried again and worked for a few hours to process a few variations until I got to this one and decided to call it quits. Not because I was sick of working on this image — I am — but because I think this one will work well as the photo for the month of July in the Westford Conservation Trust calendar.

I find taking photos in and of the woods difficult. There is so much detail but its all similar to what’s around each detail. The lighting is tough and many woodland photos tend to look like all the others. New England woods are somewhat humble, having been cut down by the early settlers, they are just coming back in the last 50 — 150 years. So there aren’t too many grand vistas to capture. But as Robert Frost said of another New England wood — “The woods are lovely, dark and deep…” Yes but I find them a little challenging to capture.

Any thoughts? Do you like the latest image above or do you like the first one better? Any ideas about photographing the woods? BTW here is one of my favorite woodland photos.

Trail Marker

Trail Marker 

The light was magic that morning. I think that’s an important element — magical light — for any photo it makes all the difference and especially in the woods.

If you have a moment please let me know what you think and if you like either of the photos.

Prospect Hill Gate

In his book, Walking Towards Walden, John Hanson Mitchell treks — bushwhacks — with two friends through the woods from Westford to Concord. He spoke at the Conservation Trust’s annual meeting three years ago and was a delight. His book is delightful as well with just enough eccentricity to keep the reader’s interest up.

To start the eccentric motor running he and his small band paid a visit to the site of the stone monument to the Westford Knight, a fabled visitor to North America from Europe who in legend explored the area in 1399. According to Mitchell, no archaeologist has even bothered to refute the claims of this predecessor to Columbus, but many locals firmly believe in the Knight.

Mitchel is a believer in the importance of sense of place and told us at our meeting that he wrote Walking Towards Walden about it. He feels that Concord Massachusetts is the most America of all places. It is the place in the US with the most thereness, he feels.

I think that Prospect Hill Wildlife Sanctuary might be the most ‘Westford’ of all of our conservation lands. Its small — ~ eight acres — and humble but full of history and nature, and its right in the very center of town on Hildreth street (one of our most scenic) across from The Salt Box farm, one of the few remaining farms in town. It has Norway Spruce that were planted after the 1938 hurricane, a huge Shagbark hickory and its thickly wooded throughout making it a good habitat for deep forest birds including Wood Thursh and Blue-winged Warbler. To top it all off there is a corn field as if thrown in for good measure. (These details are from the Westford Trails guide book published by the Westford Conservation Trust)

The Sanctuary is also a place of invasive plant species. The is lots of Fire Thorn and other invasives, something that Lenny Palmer of the Conservation Trust is working to mitigate. It is also a haven for Poison Ivy, so wear long pants and boots if you hike through it.

The land was donated in 1999 by Priscilla Elliott and the entrance to the Sanctuary (nice word) is gated. I wonder of the gate was there before she made her generous donation or if it was put up then. It looks timeless so I guess its old.

I’ve been taking photos of the gate and entrance for the 2008 Westford Conservation Trust calendar. The photo above is my best effort so far. It is more of a challenge than I thought it would be. The sun creates hot spots so I arrived earlier today to avoid strong sun light. But then the breeze blows the leaves around making it difficult to have all the foliage in focus. But then why does it all need to be in focus? Maybe so the the image has a restful, peaceful feeling inviting the viewer into the woods beyond the gate. Or maybe I’m being a typically fussy photographer. If I was painting the scene I doubt that I would try to represent each leaf in perfect clarity.

If you care to please let me know how you like the photo. Or better yet, go to the Sanctuary and hike around then let me know what you think about it. Enjoy the birds and trees but — watch the poison ivy!

I just read a Wendell Berry poem that most people who go to the woods and water ways for peace of mind will love. I hope you enjoy it.

Grassy Pond Reflection


The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
— Wendell Berry

Mushroom Village

In his famous essay “Nature” Emerson says that

“Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact. Every appearance in nature corresponds to some state of the mind, and that state of the mind can only be described by presenting that natural appearance as its picture.”

I love the essay but tend to reduce it or over think it at times.

The essay continues in the same paragraph saying:

“Every appearance in nature corresponds to some state of the mind, and that state of the mind can only be described by presenting that natural appearance as its picture. An enraged man is a lion, a cunning man is a fox, a firm man is a rock, a learned man is a torch. A lamb is innocence; a snake is subtle spite; flowers express to us the delicate affections. Light and darkness are our familiar expression for knowledge and ignorance; and heat for love. Visible distance behind and before us, is respectively our image of memory and hope.”

So I wonder what the meaning of mushrooms is.

Maybe they represent people of all shapes and sizes in the world. Some are delightful, others poison. They grow every where or so it seems and are very adaptable.

What do you think mushrooms ‘mean?’ Is Emerson to be taken literally? Or are mushrooms too insignificant to have any meaning?

Here are some to look at while you think:

Mushroom Couple

Tree Sroom

The photo below has two bonuses from the animal kingdom. They might have a clue re: mushroom and their meaning…..

Trio with Toad

I’m getting ready to be a vendor at my third Strawberry Festival. About 75 vendors sell crafts and works of art on the village green on a Saturday in June. The First Parish Church is the host.

The Festival takes place on the town green — seen here on a cloudy April day from the church bell tower:

Westford Town Green

Its a wonderful event bringing together Westford residents and crafts people — local and not so — on a day we hope is sunny but not too hot — humans are very particular about weather especially for events like this.

I sell photos — of course — and have a theme — “Natural Westford” — landscapes and wildlife photos from conservation land and open spaces in Westford only. Most people seem to like what I offer — framed and unframed photos, greeting cards and this year I hope they like posters like the one below that I’m introducing.

East Boston Camps Poster

Last year and the year before, my daughter Maria sold boxes that she painted using my photos as well — she decoupaged snips from photos and painted around them.

Here is what our tent looked like last year:

Strawberry Festival 2006

(This year I’ll have more stuff to sell — last year I had 27 photos on display and the Parish Center for the Arts across the green at the same time so my inventory was stretched.)

This year Maria (sitting in the photo above) is busy moving into a house she is renting for her senior year of college so we are not sure but she may sell some framed prints that she made in a print making course at school; she is a very fine artist. In any case she plans to come home and help me sell stuff and the Strawberry Festival; my brother Bill will join us and my wife Aurora too — it should be a wonderful day!

Springtime is Buddha time. Time to be awake! If not now — when?


Aurora and I have attended a few Sunday services at The First Parish Church in Westford this month. We’ve enjoyed the fellowship and Reverend Cindy’s sermons very much.

On Sunday May 13th the program for the service included this quotation:

Believe nothing because you have been told it, or it has been traditional, or because you yourselves have imagined it. Believe whatsoever you find to be conductive to the good, to benefit the welfare of all things Buddha

This is a good sign for us because we dislike dogma and this advice about what to believe seems like the opposite of dogma.

But how to determine what is good and beneficial? Meditate on the Four Noble Truths and the Eight Fold Path? Not a bad place to start. Listening to the small quite voice the Quakers teach about will also help. Praying is a good start too. But after the meditation, prayer and quiet listening — we must act.

Does peace of mind come from constructive action or do we need to have peace of mind before we can act? Don’t know — but I guess its a circle — just get on and go. Think about what Buddha said and take action; then think some more, then more action and so on…

The human race is rapidly approaching a time when sustainability will be the only test of any action by individuals or groups. We will need to be awake all the time to figure out and act on ‘whatsoever you find to be conductive to the good, to benefit the welfare of all things.’ This is good — a call to be in a kind of year round springtime!

Let’s be awake!

Use of photos

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