Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Into the woods we go

So. Let me see, where was I? Ah yes, casually racewalking into the woods. I had left the more traveled path behind, along with with the pesky turkeys. If only real life could be that easy.

I couldn’t ask for a prettier day.

It was quiet back there, and the sun was shining down on me walking silently on a cushy bed of fallen oak leaves. There was something pretty no matter where I looked.

Oak leaf caught in sunlight.

I notied a lot of green shining in the morning light, even though all the summer’s leaves had long since dropped.

Nature’s art was everywhere.

I wanted to get a good shot of some moss. It was hard to get it in focus and I’m not sure I succeeded, but if you just think of it as abstract art you’ll be fine.

I enjoyed the delicate green enjoying the sun.

I finally got myself back on my feet and headed down the path again when a slight movement caught my eye off to the right.

She’d been watching me while I was busy with the moss.

She wasn’t very far off the trail, just enjoying the sunlight and chewing her cud and she wasn’t disturbed by my being near at all. I whispered that she shouldn’t get up, she telepathed back she hadn’t planned on it, and I quietly moved along.

Enlarge this image. How many faces do you see? I never saw the others until I looked at this on a big screen.

Her eyes followed me, and then she turned her head away. At the time I thought she was pulling a Katie – – not wanting to look at the camera unless there was something in it for her. I even said “You little stinker” as I took the shot above. Turns out that she had just noticed something else and had written me off as nonthreatening.

I was working to get this closeup of some fungi when I heard footsteps approaching. Thinking it was the deer, I glanced over my shoulder.

Fungi art.

It wasn’t the deer, just another woman walking through the woods. I asked her if she had seen the doe, and she looked confused, then said no, she was too busy with her own thoughts. I smiled and she walked on by. I’m pretty sure the doe saw her, and that was what made her turn her attention away from me.

Another photographer, going the opposite direction. I’m sure HE saw the deer just around that next corner.

I didn’t see many people on those back trails. When we did meet we generally just nodded or said a quiet “good morning.” It was sort of like being in church.

I got to an intersection. I had another choice to make. I could go straight and be back at the car in 15 or 20 minutes. Or I could turn left and make another large loop up and down some hills and through a meadow and a wetland. I almost headed back, I was certain that was what I was going to do. My neck and back were getting tired from carrying the camera with the long lens. I was hungry. I had pictures of large birds and a doe.

Light shining through yesterday’s leaf.

My work was done for the day.

But I stood and studied the map considering. And then I turned left. Almost instantly I hear the familiar sound of wings near my head. Interesting. I never have birds begging on these back trails. There are very few people and the birds aren’t as trained.

Seriously hungry here lady, toss me something good!

But lucky for them I happened to have quite a bit of seed left in my pocket, seed those pesky turkeys didn’t get. A few little birds came down for a treat. The woodpecker stayed around begging but waited till I left him something on the ground to grab lunch.

The path led past one of my favorite benches, though I’ve never sat there. I just think it’s in a pretty spot.

A nice place to sit in the winter, in the summer you’d be a meal for the mosquiteos!

Then the trail burst out of the woods into the sunshine of a grassy meadow. I thought this made a lovely shot.

The beautiful day in all it’s forms shone everywhere.

And as I made my way to the meadow I found a couple of birdwatchers looking for something special. I hope they found it!

“What’s that over there?”

They obviously weren’t looking for this little guy, as he was right behind them. He came down for a bit of a snack after they moved on.

Chick-a-dee-dee-dee!

The trail took me back toward the road, and when I got out there I noticed a tree I had seen on my drive in. It was covered with ornaments and I’d thought I’d stop there on my drive out after my walk. But it wasn’t that far away, maybe about a quarter mile. And I was right there.

I decided to change to the short lens and walk over there. After all, who knew what the light would be like by the time I was driving past it later? So there in the woods I switched lenses and then I walked out of the woods and down along the road toward the tree.

I don’t know what the significance is of this tree, there’s no sign. But it was pretty.

As I got closer I realize not all the sparkles were baubles. The trees were filled with bluebirds! And me with the short lens on the camera. I stopped right there on the side of the road and switched back to the long lens. Still, the birds were flitting back and forth, up and down from the tree to the ground. I’d catch a flash of brillant blue, but couldn’t get the bird in focus.

He has an acorn cap in his beak.

Finally one dropped down to the ground and stayed there long enough for me to capture him. He was adorable! Then he took off with that acorn cap and I reflexively shot.

He still has the acorn cap in his bill.

I got some of him in focus accidently. But I was thrilled just to see them all there on a mid-December day.

After the bluebirds left I concentrated a bit on the tree itself.

Pretty in the sunlight.

There was another tree across the street decorated all in fishing lures an bobbers. I have no idea why, but it also was pretty.

A fishing theme far away from the lake.

After the bluebird interlude I put the short lens back on the camera and headed back into the woods to finish my trek back to the car. As I got closer to the nature center the little birds began swarming my head. They were quite insistant. So of course I had to take the obligitory picture of a bird in the hand.

“HEY! That was the biggest peanut and it was MINE!”

Or, in this case, two birds in the hand.

The big hawks were gone when I walked past their trees. I wondered which photographers were patient enough to wait for them to lift off in flight. That would have made a cool photo too. But I was happy with my menagerie of images. Plus I’d gotten over 3 miles of walking in.

Liftoff!

Choices, choices. Every choice has some kind of consequence, good or bad. I think I made the right choices on Friday when I visited my favorite park.

Don’t you?

Follow youe heart, you never know what you’ll find.


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Shenanigans on my deck

I’ve started putting some seed along the deck railing for the birds, and by default the squirrels.

The downside is that they are making a mess and I’ll have to go clean up after them soon. The upside is that they make me smile every day. And seriously, who doesn’t need a few smiles during these scary times?

We’ve been slowly getting over the virus, though both husband and I still have difficulty taking a deep breath.

I tried playing my clarinet a couple weeks ago but didn’t have the air to do it. Maybe that would have been the case after weeks of not playing anyway. Or maybe it’s the result of covid. It would probably be good respitory therapy to play a little every day even though it sounds, well, to be honest, bad.

I’ve been reading too much facebook, too many dog friends have crossed over the rainbow bridge lately. In particular, Sarah the bookstore dog, who I’ve met a few times and who was always glad of a head scritch and posed for me without demanding a treat. I will miss her.

And Nico, a sheltie I’ve never met in person but who showed up in my FB feed every morning with a greeting and sweet semi-worried face. I will miss him too. And the other shelties, so many, including Dallas and Dakota, I will miss hearing about all of them.

2020 has been a year of loss and I don’t suppose all that will just stop on New Years Day. But there are bird and squirrel shenanigans happening daily on my deck and there are vaccines on the way.

All told there is reason to hope. And even smile.


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Now for the good images

When last I left you I was being overrun by hungry birds. A few of them might even have been angry birds, but I don’t like to judge.

The new camera did a fabulous job, notice the detail in the feathers!

As I moved further into the woods I noticed I was being followed by lots of little birds. So I stopped again to see who was hungry. Naturally the titmice dropped down immediately.

We have lift-off!

And the chickadees, who were very noisy about waiting for their treats.

“I’m so excited I dropped my peanut!”

But most intriguing was a female red bellied woodpecker who was watching me while keeping some space between the feeding frenzy and her perch high in a tree. Yet…the longer I fed the little ones the closer she got. She’d move to a different tree and then feign indifference as she checked out her new position for any stray bugs. Then she’d move closer.

I decided to ignore her, turned my back and kept feeding the busy little birds. And suddenly …

I wasn’t sure I could trust you, lady, but I’m really hungry.

She watched me for a bit, both of us seemingly holding our breath. Then she picked out her breakfast treat.

You can make this and any image larger by clicking on it. Check out how beautiful her eyes are.

She went up to a nearby tree to eat her peanut, but she was right back for more.

“This peanut looks good.”

Each time she visited my hand she flew off with her prize to enjoy just feet away.

Displaying her red belly and her amazing wingspan.

She came down a total of three times, and I felt like we were becoming best friends. She chased all the little birds away each time she arrived. After her third trip I tossed some seed on the ground for her or anyone else and I moved along.

The little birds were grateful. The blue jays were jubilant, they’d been screaming about being left out for several minutes.

“Than goodness she’s gone! I thought I’d never get anything else to eat!”

I kept playing with the settings on my camera, intent on catching the wing of the birds as they landed and took off again. Each time I fidled with the camera birds became impatient.

“Hey lady, you know little woodpeckers are pretty cool too!”

The blue jays followed me for quite awhile, picking up the leftovers.

They’re pretty, but man they can be noisy!

And a male red bellied woodpecker followed me too. He wanted to come down for a treat. He’d get close, but couldn’t quite make himself do it. My shoulders ached from holding one hand out with seed, and the other hand holding the heavy camera ready just in case

Little stinker would wait until I moved along, then come in for the leftovers.

I guess he figured I wouldn’t leave him out, and I didn’t. I always left him a couple peanuts on the trail.

Least you think I wasn’t paying attention to things other than birds, I assure you there were plenty of pretty things without wings.

I don’t know what these seeds were from, but I thought they were pretty cool.

It’s just that every time I concentrated on something else, every time I rested my tired shoulder and lowered my seed filled hand, someone would fly around my head in protest.

Double incoming!

The day had started out cold and very windy, but as I wandered in the woods the sun broke through, and I warmed up. Trapising up and down hills while being pursued by birds warmed me up too.

A little chickadee ready for takeoff.

I thought about sitting on a bench for awhile, just take it all in.

Morning light on one of my favorite benches.

But there were more and more people wandering in the woods, and I had plenty of pictures to share. Plus, I’d been there a couple hours longer than the original few minutes I had planned on.

Sunshine makes everything art.

So I headed back toward the car…past the crane parking lot greeters who were now wandering down the path. They were much less interested in me than they had been when I arrived, when they almost mugged me for something to eat.

A crain and her shadow.

The sun was out now, the sky a brilliant blue. Part of me wanted to stay, but my shoulders and back ached. And since I had forgotten to eat breakfast before I left home, I was starving too.

It was turning into a beautiful day!

I didn’t think the birds were going to give me anything to eat, so it was time to go. I had a wonderful time even if it wasn’t anything at all like what I had come to find.

That’s the cool thing about this park. No matter what you plan, no matter what actually happens, it’s always going to be beautiful.

Love the heart on her head.


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Tangled titmouse

My husband surprised me with a new camera a couple weeks ago. It’s actually the same as my old new camera, a Nikon Z6, but with upgrades that are supposed to make the focusing issues much better. It’s a Z6 II. Both of us have spent a bunch of time setting up menus but there’s a lot I don’t know about the inner workings of the changes.

Early this morning I went out to my favorite park intent on looking for some swans and ducks. I wanted to do something different than my usual birds in the hand images. Oh, don’t think I didn’t have a pocket full of seed, I thought I’d stop by the nature trails to visit my little birds after I found that perfect image of a duck.

As I was driving through the park I saw a bunch of swans in the early morning light, and a parking lot not so far away. I smiled.

Sitting in the car I switched to my long lens and then headed out into the freezing cold, windy day. I was half way to the edge of the lake, sneaking up behind trees so as not to alarm the swans, when I turned on my camera and got an error message. Something about not updating something or other related to the adaptor used to connect the long lens to the new camera body.

Drats.

Early morning light and some far away swans.

No long lens meant no swans and ducks and deer and…well…drats. I wasn’t smiling any more. Who knew that there would be this sort of error. I remember the days when cameras were easy, but that’s another blog post.

Back in the car I switched back to the short lens, then grabbed a shot of the swans just because, and headed over to the nature trails and my little birds. I thought I’d spend a few minutes with them, and then head home.

Mission not accomplished.

The usual crane greeters were in the parking lot, but I ignored them. They weren’t what I was looking for, I had plenty of pictures of cranes. Come to think of it, I had plenty of pictures of birds eating out of my hand too. It was cold and windy. I didn’t have gloves.

I decided I’d only stay a few minutes.

Looking to collect the entrance fee from all visitors.

You know that nightmare where you’re parked in a dark parking garage and you get out of your car and turn and there’s some guy standing right behind you? Well. That sort of happened with me and the cranes.

While I was parking and considering whether to go feed the little birds they had come up behind the car. And as I got out and turned toward the trail they were both right there, in my personal space. They were inches from me, and very intent on getting something to eat. My bag of seed was jammed in my pocket and I couldn’t get it open very fast.

They moved closer.

They were almost as tall as me and their red eyes were focused on my hand in my pocket. If I couldn’t get that seed out they were going to get it out for me!

Finally I tore the bag open, grabbed some seed and flung it as far away from me as I could. They dutifully trotted after it and I retreated in the opposite direction. I scampered down the stairs to the trail and what did I find?

Four very large, very hungry turkeys.

Hey lady! Did you bring us breakfast?

When they saw me they started running. Toward me. (They must not realize how close it is to Thanksgiving!) The image above is out of focus because I hadn’t had time to adjust the settings for fast moving birds in dim light. Plus I was grabbing for some seed to distract them before they ran into my legs.

I tossed some seed as far away from me as I could fling it and they ran after it as I retreated down the trail.

Wow. So far all I’d done is get one bad picture of swans and fended off large birds. I hadn’t even fixed my camera settings. So I stopped part of the way down the trail and began fiddling with dials.

All of the sudden there were little birds flying all around my head. The sound of their wings was confusing because they were coming from all over. I looked up and there were titmice flying at me from everywhere, with a chickadee or two and a woodpecker thrown in for good measure.

Kinda out of focus woodpecker choosing his treat.

They were swarming my head, one landed on my glasses (which, by the way, were on my face) one or more was on my head, and at least one was tangled up in my hair, and a few more were flying around me looking for somewhere to land.

Every one of them was hungry.

It was early on a cold morning and they had obviously not eaten since the day before. I managed to get my seed out and didn’t try to get pictures, just enjoyed having them so close and personal.

When things settled down everyone got something to eat.

I got a few bad pictures and a couple good ones before I headed on down the trail. I’ll post about the good ones in the next blog. It’s possible you’ve figured out by now that I stayed longer than just a few minutes.

Stay tuned.

Yep, another out of focus shot.


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Morning smile

Wow, what a crazy time we are living in. But this morning I received a gift and I thought I’d share it with you.

A couple weeks ago, while in a wildlife store purchasing thistle seed for my finches I heard that evening grosbeaks were being seen on local feeders even though their range doesn’t normally come this far south.

I’d never seen an evening grosbeak, so I looked them up in my birdbook and began to keep watch. Nothing much showed up, at least while I was watching, but this morning as I was passing by the glass door in my kitchen I noticed a shape on the railing that didn’t fit my regular bird visitors.

The early morning light is bad, but there she is!

Whatever it was was bigger than my little birds, and sort of the shape of a smallish robin. And then, in the early morning light there was a slight flash of yellow. And that white bar on the wing. The light was so poor, but I couldn’t help but grab the camera, change the lens to the long one, amp up the ISO and try.

I was satisfied with the bad photo because I had proof of my visitor. And that made me smile.

Then the bird, I think it’s a female, flew up into the tree above the birdfeeder, watching the chaos that always surrounds morning breakfast.

A little more light, but still not great.

Still the light was bad and I had to up the ISO until the image looks more like an illustration than a photo. But I was smiling.

She dropped down for a try at the feeder.

“Maybe I’ll grab a quick bite during this lull in activity at the breakfast bar.”

She made it in to grab a seed but the bully bluejays were right there chasing her away.

“Gotta be quick!”

I put the camera away to tend to the dog. But passing by another window I saw morning light slice across her as she sat on the railing, picking up seed others had left behind.

The rising sun gives us just a peek at how beautiful she is.

And then, wonder of wonder, she dropped down to the deck, right into a patch of light.

“Nom, nom, nom.”

I think she did that just for me.

I especially liked this shot, that shows the dog footprints on the frosty deck. Katie and I had just been outside, filing the feeders and sniffing for good stuff.

“Hmmmm…smells like dog around here.”

I’m sure glad she stuck around to show me herself. She’s definitely part of the good stuff around here. She was a gift this cold November morning.

And now I’m sharing it with you.

Smile!

Look how pretty the wings are from the back.


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Haehnle Bird Sancuary

This week I decided to explore a new (to me) bird sancuary over near Jackson Michigan. I’d heard vague things about it over the years, that it was filled with migrating birds, particularly sandhill cranes.

This path leads down to a space where lectures are held.

Every year I meant to get there, either in the spring when the birds were coming back or the fall when they were heading out. Every year time gets away from me.

The day was beautiful, with sunshine and a breeze kicking leaves out of their trees.

So this year I was determined and I did some research before I drove over there. Seems the migration period would be late September to the end of October. I was cutting it pretty close.

Heading away from the wetlands and into the woods.

The website also told me to be there at sunrise or sunset when the birds were moving from or back to their perches for the night. So I had a plan.

But you know how it goes with plans. I got a later start in the morning than I had planned, and it was later in October than optimal too. On the hour and a bit drive I did see a huge flock of sandhills in a field, about 2 miles from my house, but I didn’t stop for pictures because I was going to a bird sanctuary.

A few trees were hanging on to their color.

When I got to Haehnle the parking lot was a muddy mess. Leaves covered everything but it was obvious there were huge muddy holes that you wouldn’t want to drive through. I turned around and backed into a spot up next to a fence where I had a straight shot getting out.

As I left my car to begin exploring I did hear some cranes flying, but it was already almost 9:30, really long past sunrise. There was one flock of geese that flew over, but nothing really special.

In a meadow the sun glinted off the dried weeds.

So I decided to just walk the 1.5 mile trail and not worry about finding birds.

It was a pretty trail, that started out skirting the wetlands where I could imagine thousands of cranes visiting. Then it turned left into the woods.

Walking on all those leaves was fun.

There were still very beautiful colors in a few of the towering trees. The trail meandered through a meadow and then back into the woods. I didn’t see another person until I was almost back to the car. This mother and her two children were enjoying the sunshine and the crisp autumn air.

Taking a walk.

All in all this was quite a disapointment, but I think I will try again in the spring, maybe go at the right time of year and earlier in the day. I figure most of the disappointment was my own making.

The details were beautiful, I just had to look for them.

And the drive over there was often spectacular, roads through golden tree tunnels. You’ll have to imagine those as there was nowhere to safely stop.

This place could be interesting at the right time of year.

Regardless of the lack of birds, I can’t complain about a pretty walk in the woods. And on the way home I found a couple barns.

At the exit where I stopped to get gas.

Because what’s an adventure without a barn?

Not sure what a barn sanctuary is. Maybe I should have explored there.

Why, no adventure at all!

I don’t know what this was, but it was cool.


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Death of a woodpecker

You all know how much I love birds. Any birds, really, but especially the birds at my feeder. I like to think they love me too, they certainly are all waiting in the trees above our deck every morning as I put out seed.

One of my favorite visitors.

One of my favorites is the red bellied woodpecker. He lords over the feeder, picks a favorite seed and flies up into the trees to eat it.

Then he’s right back.

So you can imagine my horror yesterday afternoon when I saw him dead on the deck. He’d obviously hit the window, hopefully was killed instantly before he knew anything.

My heart broke.

I was so upset I took Katie to a park for a long walk among the fall foliage, but that’s another blog post. When I got home I buried my beautiful woodpecker boy under a rosebush in my garden.

Final resting place.

I was sad all night, and this morning considered not putting out any seed. I felt like my woodpecker’s death was my fault, for enticing him to my deck in the first place.

So you can imagine my delight when this showed up.

“Got anything to eat lady?”

At first when I saw that red head I was afraid this would be my guy’s widow. I was still filled with remorse. But this one is a male too, and instantly began lording over the seed.

“I stopped by to make you smile!”

I caught my breath as he grabbed a seed and flew up into the trees. Fly that way, little buddy, fly away from the house.

Thanks for stopping by, stay safe!

You are healing my broken heart.

I’m thankful for the morning visit.


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A walk through Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge

I follow a wildlife group on Facebook. I’ve been seeing pictures of what were identified as Brown Pelicans that people were seeing out at the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge which is only a little over an hour from me. Pelicans in Michigan?

Early morning at the refuge.

I’ve been to this refuge once before, about a year ago. I saw lots of pretty things then, but no pelicans. I’ve never heard of pelicans in Michigan and I wanted to see them.

I startled a racoon as it swims over to a log to exit the water.

But life, as it usually does, interfered. I had too many commitments, too many places I needed or wanted to be. I kept putting off my trip up to Saginaw County, but those images of these beautiful birds continued to show up on Facebook.

Huge flocks of sandhill cranes flew overhead in the early morning light.

Finally I decided to add a stop at the refuge to a scheduled trip north to my happy place along the shores of Lake Michigan. I figured since I wanted to be at the refuge at sunrise I could spend as much as four hours there and still get up to Northport at a reasonable hour.

Water on either side of the dike I was walking on.

So one day last week I let Katie get me up at 3:30, put on my waterproof shoes and lightweight hiking pants and headed out the door by 4:30, prepared for a double adventure.

I arrived at the refuge as the sun was coming up. In hindsight I should have arrived even earlier, because it’s a two mile walk back to the wide open wetlands where the pelicans were supposed to be. But I saw plenty of things on my two mile walk, even as the sun crept higher and higher into the sky.

A damp egret watched me walk by.

I crept along as well, because the trail was covered in crushed stone and my heavy, waterproof shoes were so noisy on the rock that every few steps ducks rose up from the water on either side of the dike I was walking on. The noise of their flight up out of the water is startling, even after I heard it a few dozen times.

I frighten a wood duck couple into leaving.

It was hard to get a decent image of anything in the low light, no matter how high I set my ISO. But I had fun trying.

A juvie green heron, just out of focus.

By the time I got out to the open wetlands I was already tired. Such an early start, so many missed images. But then I rounded a curve and saw these guys. They sounded an alarm as I slowly approached them.

“Should we stand our ground or get the heck out of here?”

They were between me and where I needed to be in order to check out potential pelicans. I wanted to get a good picture of them flying, so I stayed prepared with the camera held up to my eyes as I moved forward. Eventually they gave up and rose into the air with great fanfare, warning about my trespassing into their space to anyone else out there that cared. They were absolutely beautiful.

The sun on their wings was so beautiful.

I coldn’t stop shooting as they rose higher and higher.

They looked like a painting.

Once they had flown off over the woods and the sound of their calls had faded I looked around and saw what I thought were some swans preening on a log on the other side of some open water.

Those are swans over there. Right?

I couldn’t see them very well, even with my long lens because I was shooting into the morning light. I was pretty sure it was a bunch of swans, so I spent some time seeing what else was out there.

Egrets discussing the weather. Or something.

The egrets were beautiful in the morning sun. And everywhere I went something flew out of the water. It was hard to keep up.

I startled this blue heron too. He left without looking back.

Still, those swans out there called me and I took more pictures. But time was ticking, and how many images did I need of a group of swans? I was getting tired and I was disappointed that I hadn’t seen the pelians.

A female wood duck takes off. I seem to be disturbing everyone!

I turned to go, and over my left shoulder three large birds flew by. Three large white birds. Could it be? Yes! They were pelicans! My settings weren’t right for a moving bird, but I got some OK shots.

White pelicans!!!!!

Then I took some more shots of those ‘swans’ back where I had turned around. Because you know what? There were more and more gathering there. And behind them were hundreds more, out of camera range. Pelicans masquerading as swans.

They call a group of pelicans a ‘pod.’ This pod was getting bigger by the minute.

I looked them up and I think these are not Brown Pelicans, but American White Pelicans. They have big black stripes on the ends of their wings, just like the images in the article. I feel lucky to have seen them.

All those white birds flying in the background are pelicans too!

After spending a long time watching them I turned and began my long walk back to the car. By now the sun was really up and so were all the little birds. Lots of hopping around in the underbrush, chirping, flitting across the path. I only got one of the little ones in a decent shot.

A little round yellow bird. Maybe a warbler?

But I saw several others too, though the images are terrible so I won’t share. I’m just glad to have seen a juvinile rose breasted grosbeak, and a white throated sparrow, who, people say, is only around in winter. Uh oh. Winter??

What a beautiful place to be on a beautiful morning.

On the way back I concentrated on moving along, but also stopping to notice the flowers still in bloom…

Everything was yellow, green or red.

…and the beautiful fall colors just starting.

The maple trees were glowing in the early light.

Four hours later I had walked a little over six miles, my feet hurt, my back hurt but my heart was full. I still had a four hour drive to Northport, but I was headed to my happy place, and had been in a very beautiful refuge. Couldn’t complain, that’s for sure.

Morning light.

Plus….I had seen hundreds and hundreds of pelicans! And now you have too!

Definitely worth getting up early!