Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


Bits of gold flit over the pond

Last night, while eating dinner, I noticed a bunch of little birds, darting around like bats, over the pond across the street. What caught my attention was that they were glowing in the early evening sunlight.

What ARE those?

There’s a lot of shrubs and trees between me and the pond so I couldn’t get a very good look. But there seemed to be a flurry of unusual activity. All I usually see over there is one kngfisher, a heron and sometimes an egret.

Now I was seeing dozens of birds darting up and down and around above the water.

Darting around like bats, it was hard to get them in focus.

So after dinner I put my long lens on the camera and wandered over there. I tried to stay in the shadows so as not to spook the birds that were wheeling high overhead, then darting down near the water and back toward the trees.

Shooting into the sun was creating unrecognizable sillouettes.

With the sun so low they were lit up like gold ornaments, but I couldn’t get a good look at them myself. Staring into the sun I couldn’t even get the camera to focus on them, no matter how high I set the shutter speed.

A little bit of a hint here.

I was just about to give up when I noticed several of the birds were roosting in the dead branchs of a tree.

I think these might be….

But every time I moved to get a better angle they’d fly away. I wasn’t sure, but I was beginning to think I knew what they were.

Flashing a wing at me.

The distinctive shape. The flash of yellow on the tail.

If you love birds you’ve probably already figured out what they were. I never got really good pictures, but it was fun trying.

And if you guessed cedar waxwings you’d be right!

I got much better images of cedar waxwings last year at a rest stop, but this little photo shoot, resulting in not much more than out of focus blobs, was fun too.

And then the sun lit up the thistle.


Things that make me smile from my living room window.

After my three day adventure in Michigan’s thumb I settled back at home, grateful for a more comfortable bed, my husband and my Katie-girl.

I forgive you, mama, for leaving me behind. But I expect a double reward for posing for you now.

Still, it’s hard for me to take pictures for three days and then just put the camera away. Especially when there’s so much going on in my own backyard.

Two turkey mamas bring the youngsters in for breakfast.

Do you want to see? Well settle in, because this might get a little long. But I guarantee you’ll be smiling just like me.

One of our resident deer watch the turkey breakfast, considering whether or not to crash the party.

The weather was changing and the birds seemed to realize it. They were in a frenzy at the feeders.

A juvenile blackbird holds his own even when the big birds show up.

Lots of comings and goings and squawking and jostling for position.

The youngster stood up to all the birds, even the bully grackle.

And then it started to rain, the first rain we’ve had in many weeks.

We got a steady, all day, summer rain. It was marvelous.

But rain didn’t keep my birds from coming in.

Resting between courses.

I especially enjoyed watching this young oriole.

Do you have any good food for me, lady?

I think she may have a cognitive problem. She spends lots of time at the hummingbird feeder.

This is my private buffet.

She works very hard at trying to get to the sugar water.

Maybe there’s something under here?

But eventually she’ll move over to the oriole feeder. If she thinks I’m laughing at her she gets a little bent out of shape.

Look lady, I was just exploring my options.

Meanwhile, the juvinille red winged blackbird watches everything from his elevated perch.

I don’t know why they are all excited about some damp oranges.

We still have one adult male oriole stopping by. When he’s eating the youngsters aren’t so welcome at the feeder.

I brought you into this world and I can take you out!

They try to quietly swoop in for a bite, but he’s not having it.

Maybe I can grab a bite on the go.

He never stays long though, so if they are patient they can get back to enjoying lunch.

Wait, what’s that over there?

Keeping watch.

The chickadee stays out of the orioles way by feeding at the finch feeder. I hardly ever see any goldfinches these days, but the chickadee eats plenty.

It’s much more peaceful over here. Nom, nom, nom.

And little Miss Confused checks out the hummingbird feeder again.

Look lady, there’s sugar water in here and I’m going to get it. Now leave me alone!

The other young orioles are fine with that, leaves more oranges for them.

Personally, I think she’s crazy. But I guess every family has one.

So now you know why I’m smiling on a dim, rainy summer day. Oh yea, there’s this too.

We call him the flying squirrel because he leaps great distances to get to lunch.

I hope you’re smiling by now. You should write a post about what makes you smile and link it to Trent’s weekly smile post. He’ll recap next Monday and share it with lots of other smiling people!

Thanks Trent! You make us all smile too!

I’d smile more if all these youngsters would leave my lunch alone!


So much to smile about.

Both of them worked so hard to keep the kids fed.

Well, first on my smile list is the fact that I’m figuring out the new laptop, and the new Lightroom and even though there’s still a lot that I’m frustrated with I know eventually it will all work out.

Sneaking around the side to check on the kids.

But here it is, Sunday afternoon and I can’t let the second week go by without posting a smile for Trent’s Weekly Smile campaign. I don’t understand how time moves so fast when I’m not really doing anything. They say (and they are right, whoever they are) that time speeds up as you get older. Maybe that’s what I’m experiencing.

Listening to what the kids are up to in there.

Anyway, a couple weeks ago I took a series of photos of my wren family while mom and dad were frantically feeding the youngsters. The light wasn’t always good and certainly cropping these made them even more grainy, but they were such a delight to watch that I’ve been meaning to share them with you.

When either adult arrived at the box they’d do a little wing flap dance. This time they both arrived at the same time.

And even though they’ve been gone for a week or more now, looking at these images still makes me smile.

“I’ll wait here, you take yours in first.”

Of course the wrens aren’t the only thing worth smiling about around here. Yesterday I went on a guided walk through one of Katie’s park, she calls it Katie’s Park II, with a knowledgeable young man who manages the township’s nature preserves.

Doing their happy dances.

I didn’t take my camera and there were at least a couple moments that I wished I had it. In the next day or so I’ll be going back to see if I can capture a couple things I hadn’t noticed when I was walking there with Katie-girl.

“Eat your bugs and then dad will bring you desert.”

And during our walk someone told me about another park that she really likes, so I'll be going out there too. I'm pretty sure you'll get to see photos from both soon. Might even be next week's smile!

“Where’s my shift replacement?”

Meanwhile, enjoy the wren couple. I miss hearing them sing all day while they’re sitting on top of their home. I hope all their babies are growing big and strong and maybe next spring one of them will raise another brood here. Maybe I’ll get to photograph them with a more powerful lens, or at least in better light.

Taking a breather.

Oh, and Katie says to tell you all HI! She’d tell you herself but she’s busy planning her next nap. She says that’s about as exciting as it gets around here these days.

She’s not wrong.

Heading out to find more dinner for the hungry brood.


Bird brained

When I left you at Kensington last week I promised to show you some of the craziness happening in their giant heron rookery. The heron babies are now teenagers and I think they’ll be flying free any day now.

How many youngsters do you see in the image below?

Here’s a shot of just one side of the rookery. You can click on any picture in the blog and make the image bigger, I’d do that if I were you to see all the detail. And do this on your desktop or laptop or something with a bigger screen than your phone.

I don’t know either, I think around fifteen. I sure would like to see a few of them leave the nest for the first time. Talk about suspense!

I’m so certain they’ll be leaving soon that I went back to the park, even though it’s 40 minutes away from where I live, the morning after my last post. And the morning after that.

I was hoping to see an adult feeding the teenagers. I’ve seen it once before and those young adults can get pretty aggressive with mom or dad. I remember thinking that somebody was going to fall out of the nest there was so much tugging and pushing going on.

Some testing of the wings, getting ready for takeoff?

But the second morning I got there a little late, more like brunch than breakfast, and I think I missed all the action. There was some sibling pushing and showing off, but mostly everyone was just waiting for the next meal to show up.

Yep, it’s pretty boring around here.

There was one flyover of an adult heron. That was exciting for those of us waiting on the boardwalk. After all there are only so many pictures you can take of a bunch of herons standing in a tree.

Accompanied by a harassing redwinged blackbird.

I was about to give up, figuring all the adults were napping after feeding their hungry broods earlier in the morning, when a mama or a daddy showed up to a very excited youngster.

One very happy camper waiting in the nest for a snack.

Everybody else, in the neighboring nests, had their hopes dashed again.

Disappointment down below.

Yep, now things were getting interesting up there!

Hey Jerry! Look at that!

But that was it for the excitement; I figured I was too late to see the show, so the next morning, when Katie got me up at 4:30 I stayed up and got out to the park before the moon had even set.

It was a lovely morning. Doesn’t look like anyone’s awake up in that tree yet.

The light was wonderful.

The usual suspects were standing around waiting for a meal to arrive.

In fact I was so early, and so sleep deprived that I forgot to check the camera settings.

I like this shot anyway, even if it was an accident.

Which is how I got the above image. My ISO was still set at 100 which is nowhere near high enough for the low morning light and a sandhill crane flying right by me.

Meanwhile a heron landed at the very top of the tallest tree in the rookery.

Make way, I have arrived!

He (or she) appeared to be giving a lecture to the captive audience below.

Pay attention kids, I have things to tell you about the world out there.

He or she sat up there for a long time.

“Talk, talk, talk, these older folks don’t have a clue.”

After awhile the kids all started looking elsewhere for a snack.

“Hey! Is that mom coming this way?”

And finally he or she gave up and flew away.

“You can’t tell this younger generation anything.”

After all that excitement it was quiet again. I decided to take myself for a walk to see what else I could find. Want to come with me? I’ll try to keep it short as you might be bird-fatigued already.

Oh, there was this other artsy-fartsy image I kind of liked, though it wasn’t what I intended.

Sort of Edgar Allen Poe, though this isn’t a raven.

I fed a jay from a bit of seed I had in my pocket.

“Thanks lady, most people ignore us jays cause we won’t come sit on your hand like those annoying little birds.”

He seemed to appreciate it.

And there was a plump female bluebird way up in a tree watching everything.

“What’s going on over there?”

I had a red-winged blackbird follow me down the path and perch noisily in a tree about 3 feet from my face while I was changing from my long lens to something shorter. I asked him what he wanted and he looked at me like I was crazy. Of course. He wanted something to eat. So I offered him a bit of seed and he came down and took both peanuts and flew off. Little pig. No picture of it, but you can imagine.

Rounding the next corner I saw a sandhill crane couple looking beautiful in a meadow.

Posing like she’s getting her senior year photo taken.

She and her mate and I got up close…

“If I show you the top of my head can I have another treat?”

…and personal.

Such pretty birds!

They were both interested in having a little after breakfast snack…

This feels somewhat scary, their beaks are so big, but they are very gentle.

…though only one wanted to take the seed directly from me. I left some on the ground for both of them to share and moved on down the path.

“Bye lady! Thanks for sharing!”

There were other things in the forest that were calling my name.

“Hey! You got anything left after those big birds held you up?”

I began to move along faster, I’d already been out there longer than I expected. But it was such a lovely morning and I knew how lucky I was to be able to walk in the woods instead of hunker down at a desk on a Monday morning.

Sure beats going in to the office!

Retirement is a wonderful thing.

Yep, nice to get out of the house and spend the morning in the woods.

Around the other side of the lake I saw a complete sandhill crane family. Dad was standing guard and mom and baby were off in the tall grass. I didn’t get a good shot, but this is the baby, all legs and long beak.

Pretty baby, as soon as it got too far away from it’s mom it scurried to catch up. Dad never took his eyes off them except to shoot me a look.

Almost back to the rookery I stopped to contemplate this plaque on a bench.

Born 6 days after me, died one week after my wedding day.

It made me realize all over again just how lucky I am.

Then, back at the rookery where there was more horsing around and wing flapping.

“My wings are bigger than your wings!”

But there didn’t seem to be much else going on so I decided to head home. I didn’t get the shots I had come for, no parents feeding their youngsters. None of the teenagers took a leap into adulthood and flew away.

“Come back any time, lady!”

But I saw a lot of really interesting and pretty things. And, as always when I walk in the woods, I came away grateful.

Isn’t this swallow beautiful?

And that made me smile.

Contemplating the good life.


Multiple objectives on a walk in the park

Katie gets me up early every day and today I should thank her because I used her motivation to head down to Kensington, my favorite park, which is about 40 minutes south of where Katie and I live.

The woods was full of light and dark images. Should this be the “one” for the weekly photo challenge? No…I don’t think it’s quite right.

You’ve been on walks with me there before – would you like to come along on this one? Are you sure? It’s going to get a bit long, but there are benches strategically placed along the way in case you’d like to stop for a bit.

This is a pretty bench, should I convert it to black & white for Cee’s challenge? No, I don’t think this is the perfect bench shot yet.

Speaking of benches, that was one of my photo objectives because benches is the subject of Cee’s Black & White photo challenge this week. And Nancy’s Photo a Week Challenge is all about light and dark.

Plus I needed something for Trent’s weekly smile challenge.

Surely that drop of early morning mist will make you smile.

So I headed into the woods hoping I could find beautiful things that would satisfy those three challenges. Because when you go into the woods you just never know what you’ll find…but you know you’ll always find something.

This is light and dark, but so much like my Wordless Wednesday post, maybe it’s not ‘the one.’

Truth be told I headed to the most remote trails first thing this morning hoping that I’d see some deer and maybe even some fawns. I got to the park at 7:30 and almost wished I’d arrived earlier, though it was hard to keep an eye out for deer when the path was so full of roots and rocks just waiting to trip me up in the dark, damp woods. I sure didn’t want to fall, so I was being extra careful.

Lots of places for a person like me to trip.

But I did catch this doe. (6/6 edit: Let’s thank Linda for noticing that this ‘doe’ has the beginning of antlers! You can enlarge photos by clicking on them, and apparently she did! This is a he, so I’m changing all the shes and hers to hes and his) He seemed to be alone and I wondered if he had a baby or two somewhere nearby. I only got one opportunity to get his picture, then he dashed away. I liked how the light made his ears pink. I looked hard for a fawn hidden somewhere near but I didn’t see one.

Get your shot lady, I’m not sticking around!

Eventually the soft forest trail turned into a sort of mowed pasture path. The grass was long and wet. I stopped and tucked my pants into my socks and sprayed my ankles with deet. I’d never been on this part of the trail and I was curious what might be ahead.

Turns out the path went right by this small pond with it’s accompanying….bench.

A good place to rest if you have bug spray.

Yes, I thought to myself, now this is the perfect bench for Cee’s Black & White challenge. I stayed there for a bit, trying different angles, but eventually the mosquitoes made me move along. Mosquitoes are like that.

After a couple of miles the trail headed back and reconnected with the more popular paths. I figured I wouldn’t see any more deer. But I was wrong.

She was busy watching another woman who was coming toward me on the path.

A woman talking on her phone was coming toward me and she captured the doe’s attention.

I edged closer.

I cropped this so you could see her eyelashes. She looks surprised but she didn’t mind me at all.

She let me take as many photos as I wanted as long as I didn’t move fast. In fact it seemed like she was posing.

Did you get my good side?

She was definitely a nursing mom, but I didn’t see a fawn hidden anywhere nearby, and she didn’t seem nervous, so maybe it was napping further away.

Continuing on I heard a rustling in a pile of last year’s oak leaves. I expected another chipmunk or squirrel, there had been dozens of them rushing around the forest floor.

Mr. (or Mrs.) Snake went slithering off in search of breakfast.

Still looking for a perfect light and dark image, I noticed these ferns. Very pretty. Definitely light and dark there.

I liked the deep color and the repeated pattern, but it’s not ‘the’ image.

But maybe it’s not exactly right for the challenge.

Moving along, still on the lookout I noticed this perfect dandelion sitting in a puddle of sun.

The light made the seeds glow against the dark background. Still…it’s not quite what I wanted.

But I’ve done a post about dandelions. And I was hoping to find something new.

Definitely light and dark. Hmmmm…maybe it’s the one.

Meanwhile I was pretty much smiling the entire walk, but these guys, grooming themselves and oblivious to me made me grin.

You’d think we could get some privacy here.

And the light off this opening blossom made me smile too.

Pretty in yellow.

But what would be the perfect light and dark image for Nancy’s photo challenge? There were so many to chose from.

In the end I loved this one. One of the first images I took at the beginning of my walk when the sun was barely up…the dew lining the edges of the leaves.

This one met two objectives – light and dark and it made me smile.

After I got out of the woods I wandered over to the boardwalk that lines the lake where a giant heron rookery lives. The baby herons are now teenagers and huge! Mom and dad herons are very busy trying to feed their demanding children. There is a whole lot of activity, and even though I had already met my objectives I couldn’t help but stop for awhile and watch the goings on.

But this is already long enough. If you want to see the craziness that was visible from the boardwalk you’ll have to wait for the next post. In fact I’m thinking about going back tomorrow morning, getting there earlier and spending more time watching the rookery and the lake that surrounds it.

Wait. What? You say you want to see the herons now? Well here’s a taste.

Incoming parent, hungry teens wait for lunch!

But there will be more. I promise. You never know what I’ll come back with!

Very cool tree art.


Just one more smile

It’s raining today, a steady rain, soaking into our dry, dusty soil. That’s a good thing and made me smile this morning because I’ve been pulling weeds for days (that’s how I know our soil is dusty) and husband has been hauling mulch around the yard for days too. Rain makes me smile because I don’t have to feel guilty not going out and doing more.

So I’m mostly sitting inside watching traffic go by and working on a set of four or five little paintings that will be headed to Norway.

But before I start those I did this one.

Isn’t it adorable?

I was weeding yesterday and pulled up an acorn that had sprouted a little oak tree. I thought it was so beautiful, so intricate yet so simple, that I brought it inside and put it in a glass of water so I could study it again. This morning I drew it and then colored it in — I smile every time I look at it.

And then I looked up from smiling at the little oak tree and saw this:

I think it’s the female orchard oriole, though I haven’t seen her before. She was very focused on what’s left of the oranges. Notice her proprietary foot on the fruit.

I took several pictures of her, at at one point the camera was collecting itself after a series of shots and when the shutter opened up again she was gone and in her place was this one:

This is the female baltimore oriole. She too was very focused on the fruit even though I put jelly in the feeder earlier in the day. Notice she’s standing on what’s left of an orange quarter.

And I made a note to self: Females eating in the pouring rain obviously know what’s better for them. They both focused on the bits of fresh fruit and ignored the sugar. Can’t say the same of the males who have spent all day eating jelly. Just saying.

OK. That’s four smiles for today. So far.

These make me smile too.


Smiling so early this morning

I have many things to smile about this week and it’s only Tuesday morning!

First, of course, there’s Katie-girl who makes me smile most days even when she’s getting me up to go out into the pre-dawn morning. Which lately has been very cold to boot.

We couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry this morning about 6 a.m.

And I have what now appears to be multiple orioles at my feeder. Last night there was a series of orioles usurping each other, including the orchard oriole who I hadn’t seen for several days.

This guy is pretty nervous about being photographed.

But the biggest smile today happened just moments ago. I was taking bed sheets off sensitive perennials in my garden, covered last night to protect them from frost and this morning’s snow. It was early, the rising sun was melting the last bits of snow and warming the air. As I pulled the sheets away from the tender shoots I caught a flash of yellow in my red crab apple tree.

Just a goldfinch I thought, but something wasn’t right about the shade of yellow, and I looked again.

A rounder shape, black and white stripes…he hopped along the branches of the crab apple, just a few feet from my head…then he popped out to the end of the branch and the sun lit up his yellow throat.

And me with no camera.

I stood still and we eyed each other. He tilted his head to get a better view of me. I whispered a “thank you sweetie,” to him. We stood that way for a long time and then he flew into the neighbor’s yard.

I’ve never seen this bird before and he’s not in my Michigan bird book. But I went online and found him.

He was absolutely stunning, and he’s not supposed to be in Michigan. The site says it’s even unusual that he’d be in northern Ohio. I wish I’d had the camera, but probably if I’d lifted a camera to my eye he’d have been frightened off and I wouldn’t have had those long moments with him. So I’ll keep him in my memory and be grateful I saw him at all.

Oh, another smile, also early this morning:

It’s what’s left of the infamous flower super moon of earlier in the month. It’s not full but it’s still beautiful.

Two smiles in one day and it’s barely 9:30 in the morning. Can’t wait to see what the rest of the day has in store for me!


Can’t help but smile

May is my favorite month here in Michigan. The grass greens up, the spring flowers bloom, the trees begin to leaf out in that pretty spring lime green, the weather isn’t hot, or dry, or cold, and it doesn’t (usually) snow.

You may need to open this on a bigger screen to see the love birds in the redbud tree.

There’s so much potential. The gardens are still in the planning stages, stuff hasn’t died or rotten on the vine yet. The deer haven’t eaten all the greens, the ground hog hasn’t eaten the green beans and there are big, juicy tomatoes on the vines in our anticipatory imaginations.

And my summer birds come back to the feeder.

This week the orioles came in for the summer. I put my feeder up after reading that others in my area had seen them. Four hours later the first male baltimore oriole tentatively checked it out.

Is that grape jelly down there?

I was thrilled and couldn’t stop smiling.

Hope you got my good side, lady!

They are such beautiful birds, it’s hard to miss those colors as they fly through the yard. And it’s hard to miss their anxious call too, that loud crackling sound they make when they’re unhappy about something. I always know when they’re in the trees above me as I’m filling the feeders.

This year I have another visitor to the oriole feeder too. I’ve never seen an orchard oriole before, in fact I never heard of them until a couple years ago when a friend in New York state mentioned having them.

Orchard orioles are a darker, rusty orange.

He is very skittish and I’ve only been able to grab pictures once – I was already standing still in the house taking pictures when he arrived. If he’s at the feeder and I move to pick up my camera he flies off. So, for now I’m sitting still when they arrive and just enjoying them.

I was out in the yard yesterday afternoon and saw the baltimore oriole, the orchard oriole and a goldfinch sharing the feeder. I think they were taunting me because I didn’t have my camera. It sure was beautiful to watch though.

But this morning, the early morning sky was lighting up just the tips of the trees and I was outside trying to capture the magic…

The sun lit, just for a moment, the very tips of the trees across the street.

…when up over my head, high up in the birch tree I heard that now familiar call.

Hey lady! Go back inside, you’re making me nervous and I want my breakfast!

Good morning Mr. Oriole! Welcome to my yard and the grape jelly in your newly filled feeder! Have a good day!

Geeze, I thought she’d NEVER go inside! I was starving up there in that tree!

I know he will. Little stinker.

What’s that over there?