THE GREAT OUTDOORS: Another photography goal accomplished | Lifestyles


One of my photography goals this spring was to capture a mother goose on her nest the day the goslings were hatched. It was not an easy task as the nest had to be in a location that was close enough to the road for me to use my vehicle as a blind. This would also allow me to condition the goose to my presence and she would become comfortable with me nearby in the vehicle. The other hard part was that goslings leave the nest about 24 hours after hatching, making timing a critical factor.

Geese usually nest on an “island” in the water, such as a muskrat house, where it is easier to defend and protect from predators. They usually hatch out in 28 days and after one day abandon the nest, never to return.

I spotted three nests near the road, and they were pretty much free of vegetation that would obstruct a good, clear shot. Two of the nests hatched and the geese left before I could try to photograph them.

The third nest was not too far from my house, so I could check it more often. Sometimes I parked nearby for awhile just so the goose would get used to my presence and act naturally. After a time she recognized me and would actually fall asleep with her head up while I was there. The gander also quieted down and quit honking and threatening me whenever I stopped by.

I had just returned from some errands and drove down to check the nest. Bang! There were three cute little yellow goslings next to the mother goose on the nest.

The lighting conditions were not good — I had to shoot into the evening light, which switched from overcast to sun constantly — but this was my chance.

The goslings quickly scooted back under mom for warmth and to snooze. The gander stood guard next to the muskrat house upon which the nest was made, and neither parent showed any alarm at my close presence.

Knowing the goslings would periodically come out from underneath mom and romp around her, I settled in for the wait. My hope was to eventually catch one of them poking his head out from between her body and wing.

As I sat in the comfort of my car (no hard seat or cramped blind today!) I thought about some other good shots I got from this spot while preparing the parent geese for my appearance. One morning as I pulled up to the spot, a little green heron flushed from the cattails and landed in a nearby tree. He stayed long enough to allow me a few good images. The next day he did the same thing and I got better shots.

Another day while “training” the geese, I saw a yellow flash in a bushy red maple tree between the goose nest and me. It was a yellow warbler looking for food in the tree. He darted around, making it almost impossible to get a good shot, but patience won out, eventually.

Then, suddenly, another bird showed up and the yellow warbler chased it off. Lucky for me it came back and turned out to be a yellow-rumped warbler, a bird I had not previous seen. It too eventually gave me a few good shots.

Other birds such as turkey vultures, ospreys, red-winged blackbirds and great blue herons also gave me good shots from this spot.

The morning after I photographed the goslings, I returned to that spot hoping to catch them again before they left, but with better lighting. As it turns out, I did, and I got better shots.

There was one egg left that I could see when the mother goose got up. The three goslings got very active and wanted to explore and so she covered that last egg (which I think was not fertile) and they left the nest that was on the muskrat house.

The parents brought the goslings up to the road edge, by me, to let them pick at insects and dirt. I felt privileged to witness this with the parents acting like I was not there. That is what makes nature photography so worthwhile for those of us who enjoy it and its challenges.

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The snapping turtles are finishing their egg laying process, which has been ongoing since the beginning of the month. I have never seen so many snapping turtles in the Alabama Swamps, and their average size is much bigger, too. I believe the state needs to adjust its management plan on these guys soon or our local waterfowl production is going to take a big hit. Snapping turtles take a lot of young waterfowl and even the adults.


Friends of Dragon Run to dedicate Teta Kain Nature Preserve June 22


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Teta Kain has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the York River and Small Coastal Basin Roundtable, a forum for information sharing and collaboration among water quality and conservation-minded stakeholders within the York River, Mobjack Bay and Piankatank River as well as the Dragon Run, Mattaponi River and Pamunkey River. The Roundtable presents the Lifetime Achievement Award at its biennial conference to individuals who have a lifetime of volunteer service focused on educating and protecting the quality of life within the watershed.

On June 22, Friends of Dragon Run will also honor Kain by dedicating the Teta Kain Nature Preserve. The preserve is located on Farley Park Road (Route 603) at the New Dragon Bridge in Middlesex County.

Like the Lifetime Achievement award, the new name for this FODR property recognizes Kain’s extraordinary volunteer service to Virginia and the Middle Peninsula through her decades of work on species counts, protecting swamps and wetlands, capturing nature through photography, as a nature guide for hikes and kayak tours, as a speaker about the natural world, as the leader of nature-focused organizations in Virginia, and as the organizer of bird counts, butterfly counts and moth nights.

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A force of nature, Kain’s enthusiasm and leadership have made key and measurable contributions to the natural world. She always has both a sense of purpose and a sense of humor. Legions of Virginians know more about nature and became nature enthusiasts based on her charismatic skill and magic. She has gifted environmental literacy to countless individuals and groups.

For 35 years Kain has been a key leader within Friends of Dragon Run, as a former president of the organization but most famously as the kayak paddle guide who led more than a thousand individuals on tours of the Dragon and the Dragon Run watershed. She is known to many far and wide as the Doyenne of the Dragon, later as the Queen of the Dragon, and now as the Empress of the Dragon.

As a leader for the Friends of Dragon Run, she also worked with the counties and their governments in the Middle Peninsula, various steering committees and commissions, and Virginia agencies and organizations to protect Dragon Run and expand knowledge of the flora and fauna of the Dragon and Virginia. Kain both inspires and educates with her presentations about the flora of Dragon Run and the rich biodiversity found in the forests, swamps and wetlands.

She is an extraordinary communicator and a life-long learner. Her energy, positive attitude, subject matter expertise and communication skills have had a clear and measurable impact on motivating people to learn about and embrace the natural world and to volunteer. Her volunteer work defines what it means to be a selfless naturalist who betters the commonwealth of Virginia. Kain is an extraordinary informal educator, a dynamic spokesperson and leader for the natural world, and a champion for the importance of conserving and protecting the natural world and her beloved Dragon Run.

Her own words describe her years in Virginia: “[I] met literally thousands of people, chased a million birds and butterflies…[there] aren’t enough hours to do all of the wonderful things to be had here.”

Friends of Dragon Run is a non-profit corporation. Its mission is to protect, preserve and encourage the wise use of the Dragon Run watershed. It fulfills that mission through education, stewardship and citizen science. For more information about Dragon Run and to join its activities, visit