to think i haven't been back to ponkapoag bog all this year, one of my favorite naturing places of all times! the last time i went was back in november of last year, and i didn't have my SLR camera with me because i'd let my parents borrow it on their trip to taiwan-cambodia. i was excited to revisit the bog but also to get some photo workout.

i left after 1pm, heading towards jamaica plain and cutting through dorchester and mattapan to blue hill avenue, where it was then pretty much a straight shot to ponkapoag bog. i was a bit disappointed to see some other cars already parked outside - i like my naturing best when nobody else is around - but figured i'd make the best of it. i changed out of my shoes (left them underneath my motorcycle, didn't think anyone would want to steal those old things) into my hiking footwear (since my feet would probably be getting wet at some point) then sprayed down, before clipping my lenses to the straps of my backpack and heading into the forest.

the water level changes dramatically at the bog. back in november, the place was pretty much flooded. now here at the end of july, the water level has subsided and in many places there's just wet mud. there was a teenage couple in front of me, but since i go pretty slow on the boardwalk, i didn't run into them until they were coming out. also at one point a man walking his large black labrador came up the boardwalk. i felt repulsed by his utter lack of bog respect, letting his dog splash around in the floating layer of sphagnum moss, and god knows what else.

it didn't take long before i spotted my first sundew. i remember in years past where there was only a very small place that had sundews, but in recent years they've really been flourishing (or maybe i'm just better at spotting them now). i realized for the first time today that there are actually two different kinds of sundews: round and spoon-shaped (elongated).

for most of these sundew photos, i was laid out flat on my stomach with my camera just inches from the wet sphagnum moss where the sundews were growing. whenever i found a suitable broken tree branch, i'd hang my bulky backpack from the natural hook.

i tried to find sundews that were in some sunlight so i could really showcase their glistening sticky dew drops. i found it really hard get the correct depth of field: more depth of field means lower shutter speed which translates to blurrier photos.

besides the sundews, the second showcase plant of the bog are the pitcher plants. from past visits i sort of have a mental map of where they are (they're perennial, so they always appear in the same spots) from some old favorites were gone this year (i hope nobody's been stealing them). i found that with the telephoto lens i can actually get some good pitcher plants photos, since they're a pretty good size (versus sundews, which are so tiny, only a macro lens can truly capture them in all their glory). telephoto is also good because some of the sundews are further in the bog, where i can see them but i can't walk across the floating sphagnum carpet to reach them.

the third thing to check out at the bog are the dragonflies. there were a lot of damselflies but i don't usually pay too much to them because 1) they're so small it's hard to get decent photos and 2) most of them look alike anyway. i like the larger dragonflies, and two i saw flying around where pondhawks (male and female) and whitetails. since i've seen those before i didn't bother getting any photos; however, i did spend a long time shooting a green female pondhawk dragonfly eating a damselfly. when i first spotted her i didn't realize she was feeding, but i should've figured it out because she didn't fly away when i got close enough to take some photos. that's when i noticed she'd grabbed a damselfly by the end and was eating it alive. dragonflies - with their big cartoon eyes - seen pretty innocuous, but they're actually pretty ruthless predators, eating other dragonflies (like in this case) (notice the red mite parasite on the green pondhawk).

in the end, i actually saw a few new dragonflies: the emerald spreadwing, sedge sprites, and the elfin skimmer (i've seen these small dragonflies before, but this is the first time photographing a male - i shot a female elfin skimmer here last year).

right next to the bog is a summer camp. after i made it to the end of the boardwalk, i heard the unmistakable sound of noisy children. i braced myself for impact, as a few dozen kids with their teenage camp counselors came charging down the boardwalk. the boardwalk is narrow, hardly enough space for one person, let alone two people trying to pass each other. nevertheless, i was able to let the large group go by relatively unscathed. "i like your camera," one of them said, touching the barrel of my telephoto, prompting everyone does to do the same as they went by me. "leave that nice man alone," one of the counselors told them, and rolled her eyes when she saw me. nice man. that sounds so old. i bet most of those kids were born in the late 90's, if not this century. later i heard loud screaming. since the kids were with their counselors, i wasn't too worried. when they came back around to leave the bog, i saw one of the little girls was covered in mud - apparently she'd fallen into the bog!

today's naturing has been approved...by snakes! i have a lovefear relationship with snakes. but i've found that my best nature outings come when i encounter snakes in the field. getting the serpentine seal of approval is the ultimate indication that a particular nature spot is pretty good, since you don't find snakes just anywhere (and especially not if you're noisy or not observant of what's around you). leaving the bog, i saw something moving in the water. at first i thought it was just a frog jumping away, but when i noticed multiple ripples i knew it was too big to be a frog. then i saw the long black body of a snake. it wasn't particularly big, no more than 2 feet. initially i thought it was a black racer snake, then maybe a milk snake, but after closer examination, it turned out to be just a water snake. these snakes are the most common ones i encounter when i'm out and about. unlike garter snakes, they can easily be found since (as their name implies) they live near the water. at first it slithered away when it heard me approaching, hiding underneath the wooden boardwalk plank. but since snakes are cold-blooded, i knew sooner or later it'd have to come out to keep warm and sure enough it poked its head out. it was doing something i've never seen before, where it kept perfectly straight, imitating a branch. once it felt safe, it slithered out to a sunny spot in the reddish bog water. now up to that point i hadn't gotten any mosquito bites, but because i was standing so still taking photos of this snake, i ended up becoming mosquito food.

i left the place around 4:30. i was afraid i'd hit some serious traffic, and a look down at the congestion on nearby route 93 didn't assuage my fears. however, i actually got home with little resistance (i guess most of the traffic was going in the opposite direction).

early this morning, i went out to cash my checks (including the money my mother gave me yesterday to help pay my bills) before visiting my garden then julie's garden. i tied some strings on the metal fence where her cucumbers are desperately trying to climb but with little success. i've told her before but she didn't take my advice so i'm doing this secret favor for her while she's away. the metal fence is too smooth for the cucumbers to get a good grip; plus, the metal heats up in the sun and will scald the cucumbers. hopefully before she comes back i'll have her cucumbers trained to climb the ropes already.

for dinner i had my leftover thai red curry. maybe i was really hungry, but it was surprisingly good for leftovers (especially thai, which i've found to be notoriously awful when saved as leftovers).