Mercy, Mercy Me … Tuesday is Earth Day. Celebrate the world’s natural places near, far and this year, Green Cities.
It has been raining like a cow p… well, you know. It’s been raining a lot here. So, I thought I’d take the time to play with some B&W conversions of some images I made while in Africa, in Kenya and Tanzania to be specific, a few years ago. These were originally shot on 35mm Kodachrome 25 and 64 films. That spectacular film, along with the rest of the Kodachrome line-up is gone. Victim of a crowded marketplace with other fine films that found favor with photographers and eventually by digital imaging. The colors in Kodachrome were legendary, the grain superb, there was nothing like opening a newly developed box of transparencies and putting a lope to the first few samples from a great shoot … too bad. In any event here are some conversions –
Around here, dolphin regularly engage in an extraordinary learned behavior called “Strand Feeding.” It works the same way a good Border Collie handles a large flock of sheep. A pod of Bottlenose Dolphin will find a school of fish and cooperatively work to move the fish by circling, corralling and herding them into progressively shallower water, until the school is hemmed in by the shore on one side and a ring of dolphin on the other, cutting off any avenue of escape for the “schoolers”. Then one member of the pod darts into the school, creating a large bow wake that pushes the water and some of the fish flopping onto dry land. Each Dolphin then rushes up onto the mud-bank and, eat its fill of the stranded fish, at least as many as they can grab, while totally out of the water. After all the fish on the bank are taken, the pod retires to deeper water and repeats the operation. Many dolphin “strand feed” in other areas of the world but only on about a 100 mile stretch of coastline around Charleston, S.C. and the Low Country does it happen regularly, daily.
This behavior is not just limited to pods of Dolphin. This evening, I was walking down to the dock head, which is about 350 ft. straight out from shore (see this post for a more thorough description) and stands about 8 ft. above the Spartina Grass heads and oyster bars that spot the shallows, when I saw something very large moving very fast in one of the outflow channels. During a falling tide, when most of the entire expanse of the mud-flats are fully exposed, the only water left is in small erratically winding channels that converge with other progressively larger channels until they form a channel several feet deep and 12-15 ft. wide that empties out into Bohicket Creek, a deep water, fully navigable waterway perhaps 500 ft wide, that separates Johns Island, where I live, from Wadmalaw Island. In the out-going tide an adult Dolphin and a fairly small juvenile were “stranding feeding” in one of the larger channels that empties into the Creek. The juvenile was watching more than taking part in the fun, but the adult was moving a lot of water around and taking fish off the bank with practiced precision and herding other fish towards the juvenile, who caught several as I watched. In the shallower areas, the adult was moving through the soft Pluff-mud at remarkable speeds and only the fastest, and luckiest, fish made it to the safety of the smaller, and shallower connecting channels that were far too shallow for her size. A few Laughing Gulls and a couple Little Blue Herons were also paying close attention to what was going on, but weren’t fast enough to get any fish … though they tried a couple times. After a few minutes, the pair had apparently exhausted the supply of fish in the channel and moved out into the deeper water of the Creek and were gone, leaving only a tiny trail of smoke-like mud in the water pointing in the direction of their leaving.
Last evening, just before sunset, with a hot, 100 degree wind blowing off the water and into our faces, Jackson (my blond, 60 lb, Chow/Lab mix who is sometimes mistaken for a bad golden retriever by folks not familiar with dogs) and I were walking back down our driveway, which is made of what they call plantation mix. It’s very common here, a mixture of crushed granite and granite dust, Sometimes there’s an addition of crushed oyster shell as well to even out the texture, we put oyster shells in everything here, but this is just straight mix. This section of the driveway is about 1/3 mile long from the road & gate and meanders leisurely between 100 ft. tall water oaks and enormous moss covered live oaks with three running wood fenced horse pastures, populated more sparsely with more oaks, on our left for half the distance to the barn. Then on for another 1/4 mile to the house at the edge of the marsh. We were perhaps half way down the drive near the end of the paddocks, heading home after a “successful” walk, Jackson on a long retractable lead 10 feet ahead of me, when an irregular ball of reddish brown fur comes crashing out of the thick brush perhaps 50 ft ahead and to our left. Jackson immediately freezes and I see his muscles tense. His nostrils flair, to catch every wisp of information, ears are erect and forward, head slowly, almost imperceptibly, flattens and lowers, stopping just a few inches from the ground. His rear right leg, which stopped in mid-stride, starts to quiver slightly and his back starts to tuck under and coil with the anticipation of a chase. I say “leave it” in a faint whisper, not sure whether he can hear me, but the quiver stops abruptly and the tension in his body so visible seconds before is gone. But his head stays low.
Immediately the brown ball split in two and I realize they are Fox Kits maybe 12-13 weeks old. Beautiful dense fur, reddish brown all over with black stockings and full, puppy faces. They don’t see us since they’re so involved with each other and because we are downwind from them. They roll and bound, playing closer and closer to us and Jackson starts to tense up again when I see movement 18 inches from his right rear foot . A large, maybe 1+ inch, bright red & black fuzzy insect moving, with purpose, toward him. A Velvet Ant. They are beautiful. Brilliant red & black with a dense fuzz that resembles velvet and six legs that can cover ground. The females are wingless. They’re called ants but in reality they are one of the flightless wasps and are common here in the Low Country and, for that matter, all the way up the east coast. They’re commonly called “Cow Killers” … not because they kill cows but because of the extreme intensity of their sting which folks say is “so painful it could kill a cow”. I reflexively lean forward, to intercept the “Ant”, and tell Jackson “leave it”, more forcefully this time, and at once the Kits freeze as they see us. Their eyes are wide realizing their mistake and the close proximity of what must appear to them terrible danger, not 35 ft away. After 5 or 6 seconds of frozen indecision the closest one gives a quick flick of the very tip of his tail, and instantly they are gone, exploding back into the scrub from which they appeared seconds before. I say “here” just before the Ant and Jackson meet, and he comes over and rubs up against me with what looks like a grin on his face. He had a good time. “You want to eat dinner?” I ask. He barks, spins around and we head home. Fun walk.