Mt. Hunger Hike in Waterbury, VT

On July 14th I went with a group on a hike to the summit of Mt. Hunger in central Vermont. It was warm with quite a bit of cloud cover when we started up the trail. The trail to the top was only two miles but it was really steep. It was a very challenging hike.

The top of Mt. Hunger is above the tree line proving a great view for hikers.

Mt Hunger Hike July 14 2013-16There was a dark cloud to the south of us.

Mt Hunger Hike July 14 2013-11Due to the hazy conditions I did not get the distance shots that I was hoping for. However, I did get some pretty good shots towards Waterbury Center and Stowe. I did a succession of shots of Waterbury Reservoir and Waterbury Center getting closer each time.

Mt Hunger Hike July 14 2013-9

Mt Hunger Hike July 14 2013-8

Mt Hunger Hike July 14 2013-7

Adding some black to the photos when processing in Lightroom or Photoshop helps to reduce the impact of the hazy conditions.

Mt Hunger Hike July 14 2013-6

As I had hoped, I could see the ski trails at Stowe. The haze really made this shot difficult.

Mt Hunger Hike July 14 2013-14

This is the view west towards Stowe.

I would like to go on another hike this season for more photographs!

Kayak Trip to Grafon Pond

The kayaking fun continued on Sunday with an early morning trip to Grafton Pond. I brought my Pentax with the 300mm lens.

We were extremely lucky and had the privilege to have several close encounters with wildlife during the trip.

Early in the trip we spotted a Loon and several chicks. We drifted quietly while they swam on by us. We all remained very quiet and moved very slowly. Grafton Pond 4 Star-1

The adult Loon kept dunking its head underwater as it swam around. I assume it was looking for fish and other food to dive after.


Grafton Pond 4 Star-7

The next amazing encounter was with a Great Blue Heron. I still can’t believe that it did not fly off.

Grafton Pond 5 Star-8Grafton Pond 4 Star-10

A while later in another part of the pond we noticed a couple kayakers looking up at the top of a tree. One had a camera with a large lens. (He later told me it was a 400mm.) It turns out they had noticed a Great Blue Heron nest with several chicks. While we were all watching one of the parent herons returned to the nest and began to feed the chicks.

Grafton Pond 5 Star-12Grafton Pond 5 Star-13I feel fortunate to have witnessed this scene. Great Blue Heron are one of my favorite birds!


Kayak Trip to Hebron Marsh on Newfound Lake

I was able to get in a lot of kayaking over the 4th of July holiday. Saturday I went back to Newfound Lake to explore more of the Hebron Bay and Cockermouth River area.

This time I came prepared with the Pentax and 300mm lens.

By drifting very slowly and quietly I was able to get very close to this duck. From the color of the ducks head, and especially the eye band, I would say this is a Black Duck. However I noticed some green colored feathers like you might see on a Mallard. This could be one of the hybrid Mallard and Black Duck that I had read about.

Black DuckThe duck got pretty comfortable with me quietly drifting in my kayak. I even got a few close-up action shots.

Hebron Marsh July 6 2013-3

Hebron Marsh July 6 2013-4

I expected to find some turtles getting a little sun and I was not disappointed.

Hebron Marsh July 6 2013-5

Hebron Marsh July 6 2013-6

I spotted what appeared to be a couple otters swimming at the mouth of the Cockermouth River. I tried to snap a photo but of course it came out blurry.

I missed several opportunities to photograph a Great Blue Heron before I drifted by this one. I am amazed how tall this heron is.

Hebron Marsh July 6 2013-7I drifted back out towards the lake and encountered my friend the Black Duck again. He let me drift very close as it preened it’s feathers on the shore.

Hebron Marsh July 6 2013-10

Hebron Marsh July 6 2013-13

I left the duck and headed out towards the lake on my way to the Audubon Center. Next thing I know a family of Canadian Geese swam by.

Hebron Marsh July 6 2013-16

The photo below is one of my favorites since I got both of the adults together.

Hebron Marsh July 6 2013-15The family swam off as I headed back toward the Audubon Center. Much to my amazement I encountered another flock of geese hanging out on the beach.

Hebron Marsh July 6 2013-18I had a nice visit at the Audubon Center and even got a chance for a quick swim to cool off. As I approached the Cockermouth River and the boat landing another family of geese appeared.

Hebron Marsh July 6 2013-22The Cockermouth River and Newfound Lake is a fantastic area to kayak and observe (and photograph) wildlife. It’s on my list of kayaking spots to return to.

Key Largo Dive Trip June 15th

On Saturday the 15th we started the day on Molasses Reef before heading south to Conch Reef for the afternoon dives.

Our group had some interesting sightings at Molasses Reef. An interesting fish that can be difficult to video or photograph is the Yellowhead Jawfish. It’s difficult to get close since they drop down into their holes when frightened. No only did these two let me get extremely close, one left the area around the hole to swim closer. It was probably wondering what the hell I was.

For the afternoon dive we went to a new dive site named Conch Reef. This site is near the Aquarius Undersea Lab and Conch Wall, where I had been before. Right after getting in the water we spotted several large Southern Stingrays.

Southern Stingray at Conch Reeff
Southern Stingray at Conch Reef

We also spotted a Lionfish hanging out under a ledge. I was wishing I had to equipment to capture or kill it since it is an invasive species that is causing lots of problems.

I later witnessed an interesting scene where some Bar Jacks were circling a Bluehead Wrasse. The book Reef Fish Behavior mentioned that Bluehead Wrasse, especially the juveniles, will occasionally clean other fish. The Bar Jacks were circling the wrasse as if they wanted a cleaning but they were also “going mouth to mouth” with each other. I have read that this is a sign of aggression among some species of fish. The Bar Jacks could have been establishing dominance to see who would get cleaning services first. Watch the video to see what I mean.

Conch Reef also has a small population of Pillar Coral. Since 2005 I have been watching a nearby reef with Pillar Coral (named Pillar Coral Ridge) degrade and die. I hear it is so bad that it is not even worth diving there anymore. It makes me very sad.

Pillar Coral
Pillar Coral

This small colony of Pillar Coral is in better condition than the main group of coral on top of the ridge. I wonder how long this coral community will survive with the climate and environmental pressure.

Key Largo Dive Trip Friday June 14th

Visibility and current conditions were even better by Friday. We started the day by going south to Snapper Ledge. Snapper Ledge is one of my favorite dive spots in the Key Largo area. It’s a shallow dive that is pretty easy to navigate. There are huge schools of snappers, grunts and other fish. It’s a really neat visual experience to swim through a school of beautiful fish.

The big sighting on this dive was the Green Moray Eel. Usually all you see the head sticking out of its hole. We got to see this one swimming in the open as it headed to another hiding place.

Scrawled Filefish are one of my favorites because of their bright blue markings. This time I was lucky enough to find two of them swimming together.

After Snapper Ledge we went to Sand Island, which is just north of Molasses Reef. We then popped over to French Reef where we had some great sea life sightings.

Porcupinefish is another species that I keep an eye out for while diving. Shedd Aquarium describes this fish as “Shaped like a short baseball bat.” This is the best description that I have seen yet.

One of the best things about French Reef are the places that you can swim through a hole or tunnel in the reef. You often see fish and life that you don’t see on the reef. The school of Glassy Sweeper fish in this video (below) is an example.

The Minnow Cave is another great location to visit on French Reef. We were lucky this trip to encounter a minnow school. I enjoy watching the school shimmer and move as larger fish and divers move through the school.