A bee swarm hangs together despite the heavy rain
After first finding the bee swarm one cool spring morning, I was both pleased and concerned to find them still there the next day on a warmer but wetter morning. Despite looking like a solid mass, the swarm was anchored by the bees on top to some mossy branches while the bees below were just hanging on to each other. The mass of bees must have gotten much heavier in the rain, but these stout workers up top held their ground. They also took the brunt of the rain, the bee in the upper left is covered with a drop of rain as large as her head.
I hope they survived the wet weather and were able to find a new colony before they starved to death. I wasn’t able to get back to the refuge until the next week and by then they would have long since either established a new colony or died off. I didn’t see any little bee carcasses on the ground, I took that as a hopeful sign.
My two days with the bees did highlight how I need to get a new tripod and ballhead better suited to the weight of the big lens, I was using it for these shots to keep as much distance between myself and the bees as I could — even in their quiet state I wasn’t taking chances — and even with a remote release vibration ruined many of the shots.
I also need a new raincoat, mine has been shedding its waterproof lining and doesn’t keep me so dry anymore. The camera and lens have some weather-sealing but I also draped them in a heavy old bath towel and stooped below it to take a picture like an old-time photographer.
After posting that I finally had gotten a picture of a deer at Ridgefield that I liked, the very next morning I arrived early in a heavy rain and found a doe and buck just past the entrance gate and before getting onto the refuge proper. I parked my car in a little pullout, rolled down the window, and draped a towel over the door to protect the insides from the rain. I watched the two of them for quite some time, I had the refuge to myself as apparently others don’t like the rain as much as I do.
I got this close look at the damp doe as she grazed in a small meadow at the top of the refuge. There used to be a lot of other meadows in the area even just a couple of years ago but they’ve been plowed under as Ridgefield has exploded into a bedroom community for Portland and Vancouver.
One of my favorite experiences at Ridgefield this spring was discovering a bee swarm early one morning near the parking lot at the observation blind. I had walked right by it at first, more cognizant of the existing bee colony in a tree cavity to the right, but discovered it on the way back to the car. I’m allergic to bees and generally keep my distance but the cool temperatures kept them pretty quiet.
This is the first time I’ve ever seen a swarm, one of the nice things about wildlife photography is that it encourages me to learn more when I see something I don’t understand. A quick visit to the Wikipedia page on bee swarms revealed that the colony was reproducing by sending off a large group of workers to start a new colony, waiting patiently en masse while their best scouts agree upon a new location.
I initially thought the one large bee in the picture might be the queen, but further reading revealed this to be a drone, the male honey bee, and the rest the female workers. I also learned that males don’t sting so I guess I’m only allergic to lady bees.
I have other pictures of the swarm to come, this is the one I cropped to use as the current header.
I enjoy photographing in the rain so I haven’t minded the unusually wet spring here in the Northwest. This cottontail didn’t seem to mind the rain either as it ate in a meadow beside the Kiwa Trail at Ridgefield.
In mid-May I had my first chance to photograph black-headed grosbeaks as they stopped at Ridgefield during migration. I got some nice pictures of females, it’s not typical I get good pictures of an animal on my first try so I was pretty pleased, although disappointed not to get the male in the group that stayed out of sight.
But the very next week, at the end of a 13-hour day at the refuge, this male popped into a bush I had been watching and gave me a couple of poses as it dined on the bush’s berries. I spent as much time at Ridgefield as I could as you never know how long an opportunity will last during migration. Particularly true this time, as I didn’t see a single grosbeak the very next day, nor the next week, and with the berries mostly gone I knew they weren’t likely coming back.