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Stalking the Wild…Something or Other (Updated, below)

Those who photograph wildlife have my undying envy.  Wildlife photography is tough work. The hours are brutal.  And to make matters worse, it’s hard to come up with creative ways of presenting pictures of animals that have been so heavily photographed.  Some commentators have even suggested that there was no longer a need to photograph wildlife as a result.  I disagree.  The presence of “wild” anything, as I’ve said here before, says something about the health of our ecosystem and our relationship with nature.  It is however very useful to document that presence in particular locations. Massachusetts is an urban state, or is it. (Over half the land is forested so maybe “urban” only tells part of the story.)  But sometimes you just get a feeling, and I had such a feeling today.  You know what absolute certainty when you’re inside the Quabbin Gates, particularly those less traveled, that you’re not alone, but wildlife don’t like to mingle with humans.  Most of the time,  But still, there was this feeling.  It might have had to do with our greeter. (Click on the images for a better view.)

Or the task.  We had one goal or two goals today on our trip to Gate 35 of the Quabbin Reservoir in New Salem, Massachusetts.  T’here is an ice pond about .5 miles in from the entrance.  This ice pond was created by a man made dam, probably around the turn of the last century.  Its purpose was to generate ice, ergo the name.  The ice was broken up and put on a train that ran nearby, for sale in urban markets in the northeast.  For some reason, the folks who created the Reservoir left the dam in place.  Beavers have since it seems done quite a job of re-enforcing the structure.

The resulting pond is lovely, and home to quite a range of wildlife.  In particular, the place is crawling with turtles, enjoying the morning sun in this case.  Our main task was to try and get a better shot of this scene.

Herein lies the frustration.  Not enough lens.  You need some heavy duty glass to fill the frame with a scene like this, even though it’s only maybe 100 yards away.  But then again, sometimes you do get lucky.  When walking through an area like this it’s useful to always keep your eyes open, scanning for anything that looks out of place.  I saw some debris falling from a tree, even though the wind had stopped.  That’s peculiar.  Looked up, carefully, and saw a moving lump about 25 feet or so up.  Heart stops. A bear perhaps?  Or, from a more problematic perspective, a bear cub. Closer inspection showed a more unusual shape.

OK, no lions, tigers or even a moose, but still, a very cute little porcupine… (Actually he/she wasn’t so little.  It was probably close to 2.5 feet long. We actually were not sure it wasn’t a fisher cat until we got the images home and could get a better look at the face and see the quills more clearly. Fisher cat also room these forests and we’ve seen their tracks.)

The appeal of wildlife, in the wild I think says something about who we are and our need to grasp something beyond that which we can control.  It was a good day in the field.

Update:  I’m aware that these aren’t particularly great images of the porcupine.  They were two of the best out of maybe 25 taken.  I posted them because of the interesting subject matter.  People who care about wildlife, the Quabbin region, etc. are typically interested in documentation of the wildlife in the area.  I know I am.  Second, the images received a helpful comment on flickr.  Indeed, the little guy almost appears covered with fur as much or more so than quills.  That’s really what threw us off in trying to identify the animal.  The comment suggested that these are developing quills, not fully mature. Porcupine quills start out as hair, fur, and develop a cover of keratin.  I have tried doing some research on the question of whether or not porcupines, like some animals, grow a new coat in the spring, shedding the old, but have not had time to come up with a conclusive answer.  If a reader has the answer, please let us know.  I do believe that this porcupine was too big to be a juvenile, but I could be wrong.  

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Sandra #

    Great porcupine pics — thrilling to see one so close — and I love the pic of the turtles sunning themselves. We have sunning turtles in our pond, but I’ve never caught a shot of them; they scramble into the water when we approach. Good quiet work.

    May 10, 2011

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