Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus)

Chipmunk spotted despite camouflaged stripes blend with forest's edge.

I don’t think I have photographed a chipmunk before. A long time ago I planted tulips and other bulb plants in the garden bed at the front of our home. Whenever I was in the garden cleaning up dried leaves and and pulling weeds I would see a chipmunk scoot across the driveway from our yard to the neighbour’s. I have not seen any on that side of the house. I think they ate all of the bulbs as the tulips have not grown in years.

I noticed a chipmunk scampering around on the deck in the rear of our home but this is the first time I have seen it in the open. It was easing something. I assume it was berries. It scampered around on the soft green moss under the trees before heading for the fence line to forage in the dried leaves.

Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus)
Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus) · 10 April 2024 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR

The dark brown to blackish stripes on the back and sides help to camouflage the chipmunk. Once he started scampering around the leaves at the fence line marking the forest edge it became hard to find it for the photograph.

Eastern chipmunks are listed as a species of Least Concern according to the IUCN Red List.

Common Yellowthroat at Mercer Meadows

This wasn't the first time I had photographed the Common Yellowthroat Warbler, but it was my first time doing so at Mercer Meadows.

After a brief distraction watching a rabbit enjoy breakfast, I continued my search for birds. Earlier, two photographers with impressive zoom lenses on their cameras had passed by, clearly interested in capturing avian moments. I walked past them and found a spot about ten meters ahead to focus on my own bird photography.

I attempted to capture images of birds coming and going from their nests in the meadow, but unfortunately, I didn't have much luck. As I was trying, the two photographers caught up with me, and we struck up a friendly conversation. The elder photographer seemed quite familiar with the park and shared some helpful tips on where I might have better chances of spotting birds in the meadow. The other photographer appeared to be around my age and was relatively new to bird photography.

While we were talking, I heard a chittering sound coming from a nearby thicket, and I immediately got my camera ready. This wasn't the first time I had photographed the Common Yellowthroat Warbler, but it was my first time doing so at Mercer Meadows. The male warbler was busy hunting for insects in the thicket, and I was fortunate to capture a shot of him holding his prey in his beak.

Common Yellowthroat Warbler.
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) · 18 June 2023 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR

The Common Yellowthroat Warbler stands out due to its unconventional nesting habit. Unlike other warblers, it chooses to nest in open marshes, making it a common sight in reed beds and areas with cattails throughout the country. The male of this species can often be seen perched on tall stalks, delivering its unique song, characterised by the rhythmic repetition of "Wichita-Wichita-Wichita."

Sunbathing Turtles

On the picturesque banks of the Delaware & Raritan Canal, a delightful sight awaits those who happen upon it: turtles basking in the sun's warm glow atop a weathered log

When walking along the banks of the Delaware & Raritan Canal, I often see turtles basking in the sun's warm glow while sitting atop a weathered log. I’ve wanted to photograph these turtles for a while, but up until now, I’ve not had a lens long enough to make a capture without getting too close and spooking them. I was fortunate that this time I had my XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR lens, which I was using to photograph the Princeton University crew races on Carnegie Lake.

painted turtle (Chrysemys picta)
painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) · Saturday 22 April 2023 · FujiFilm X-T3 at 1500 sec, ISO 400 · XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR at 185.6 mm at f/6.4

The turtle climbs onto a sun-drenched log, soaking up the sunlight as it filters through the overhanging foliage. There's a fascinating mix of patterns among the turtles of different sizes. They hold their heads high and scan their surroundings with their eyes. The rustling of leaves and the occasional plop of a turtle into the water create soothing background noise.

Chrysemys picta, commonly known as the Painted Turtle, is a freshwater turtle native to North America. These turtles showcase a distinctive and eye-catching appearance, making them easily recognisable. Their upper shells, or carapaces, exhibit a blend of dark olive or black colouration with vibrant red, yellow, and orange patterns. These markings resemble brushstrokes, which give rise to their name, "Painted Turtle." The carapace is relatively flat and smooth, providing efficient water and land movement. The lower shell, or plastron, is typically yellow with intricate black markings.

painted turtle (Chrysemys picta)
painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) · Saturday 22 April 2023 · FujiFilm X-T3 at 1500 sec, ISO 1000 · XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR at 600 mm at f/8.0

Painted Turtles range in size between 4 to 10 inches in length. Their heads are small and triangular, equipped with sharp beaks for capturing prey. Their eyes have a warm reddish-orange hue.

Painted Turtles thrive in various freshwater habitats, including ponds, lakes, and slow-moving rivers. They have a diverse diet, consisting of aquatic plants, algae, small invertebrates, and even carrion. Painted Turtles contribute to nutrient cycling and control populations of certain aquatic organisms, thereby maintaining the ecological balance.

painted turtle (Chrysemys picta)
painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) · Saturday 22 April 2023 · FujiFilm X-T3 at 1500 sec, ISO 1000 · XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR at 600 mm at f/8.0

They are skilled swimmers, aided by their webbed feet. When they are sunbathing, don’t get too close. The turtles are easily spooked and will take refuge in the water. If you step back from the log and wait a while, you’ll soon see them pop back up for more sunbathing.