Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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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!


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Had so many smiles this week I haven’t had time to share

This week was filled with smiles, so filled in fact that I’m having trouble finding time to process all the photos to share with you. So how about I show you just a couple, a teaser of sorts, to keep your interest for a few more days.

The maple trees were turning.

I traveled north on Wednesday, stopping at the Shiawasee Nature Preserve on the way to my final destination. I took you for a walk there a year ago, this week, unlike that walk, the colors haven’t peaked but I saw lots of really neat things.

I startled ducks wherever I walked.

Including pelicans. Did you know there are pelicans in Michigan? Me neither! But there they were. I felt lucky to have seen them, I’m sure they’re just passing through.

See all those white birds back there? Pelicans. And notice the blue heron down on the left bottom? Busy place.

Anyway, the four hours I spent there early on Wednesday morning made me smile. A lot. I will share more of this magical place as soon as I can finish looking through the more than 800 photos I took.

Avoiding the noisy human.


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Thank you

You are all so nice to be worried and I appreciate all the helpful suggestions about my lost pictures. I should have been more clear in telling you I do have all the pictures on the old laptop backed up on an external drive. I just never deleted the files on the laptop. I have a hard time deleting anything.

This is the way my birdfeeder looks when I’m shooting through the window, there are often reflections that bisect the feeder, but this was my first sighting of what I thought was a juvenile rose-breasted grosbeak. They love safflower seeds. Notice there are none on the feeder.

I also have most of the pictures over here on the new laptop too. So really, there was no reason not to delete a boatload of stuff off the old laptop to make room for the few pictures I wanted to find.

So I did.

I put some safflower seed out. And I waited. The cardinal was very pleased, it’s one of his favorites too.

I found most of what I remembered and downloaded those to the old laptop, then looked at them over there and emailed myself a few of them which I then downloaded to my new laptop.

I waited while other birds showed up looking for lunch.

Seems convaluted but it sort of worked. The hardest part was trying to find the photos I remembered from a couple weeks ago looking at little thumbnail images. But I got most of it.

I think.

Lots of other birds showed up.

I wonder why I have such a hard items deleting stuff when I know it’s being stored somewhere else and it’s just taking up valuable space.

And when I’m taking new pictures and sorting through them the image has to be really really bad for me to delete it. And if it’s family or Katie, well, even really really bad images get to stay.

Finally! See him down on the baffle, right at the level of the deck railing in this shot. See the beginning of the rose patch on his breast? He’s not at all sure about all the bird activity up above. In fact that might be another grosbeak landing!

Why is that?

I think one of the reasons I love taking pictures is that it preserves that moment in time, a moment that is already gone by the time the shutter shuts. And each moment seems so precious that even if the image is bad it’s still some sort of preservation.

Finally they both showed up. (This is the other one, and possibly an adult femail.)

I don’t think most people feel this way and I wonder where it comes from.

Anyway, today’s images are brought to you from deep in the memory card and a couple weeks ago when I had a juvinile rose brested grossbeak at the feeder. Maybe I had two, there’s one image with one on each end of the feeder.

They were adorable to watch.

They were only here for two days and I’m glad I got to watch them and capture their cuteness before they went on their way. I hope they come back next spring!

Immature male cardinal? Or just an older molting guy?


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I wish things were easy

Hmmmm…that title makes it seem like this is going to be a deep, heavy conversation about something important.

It’s not.

It’s just that with my new laptop I have a steep learning curve and here’s my latest problem.

A couple weeks ago I took some pictures of my birds (not a surprise) and in particular a juvinile rose breasted grossbeak that was adorable. (I think anyway). And when I went to download those pictures to a specific folder on my laptop I found that some of the numbered images had the same number as older things in that file (maybe a new card, I don’t know) and I panicked and somehow hit something and the new images I just took went somewhere and I have no idea where.

This laptop downloads pretty automatically, I insert the card and it pulls the most recent and not already downloaded images up, I can then cut and paste those into a file of my choice. But once they’ve been downloaded the laptop won’t access them again. It only ever shows me the stuff that’s new.

My old laptop would show me everything on the card regardless of whether it had already been uploaded. Sometimes that was a pain. But sometimes it was handy. Like now.

So I thought about just using the old laptop, finding the image I wanted, uploading that to the old computer and then emailing it to myself for download onto the new computer.

Brilliant, right?

Except the reason I have a new computer is that the hard drive is filled on the old one. And it won’t let me download anything.

So…unless someone has a good idea, and I’m sure there is one out there, I think I have to delete a bunch of stuff on the old computer and then download the picture I want to it.

What do you think? Of course the longer I stall and the more pictures I take, the harder it will be for me to find the one I would like to salvage. So I better get a move on.

If you read all the way to the bottom of this ramble, I’ve posted a picture of a pretty barn as a reward.


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Cedar waxwings redux

A couple weeks ago I posted about the flying bits of gold I saw across the street over the neighborhood pond. Cedar waxwings, birds we don’t see very often, were chasing insects in the fading evening light. (For this post you really should click on the images to see them larger.)

Such a beautiful bird.

Two nights ago while eating dinner I caught a glimpse of gold over the pond again.

Their golden color glowed in the setting sun.

Last time I struggled with the dim light and the quick slivers of golden wing.

Artsy fartsy image.

Focusing was pretty much impossible.

Heading out looking for dinner.

So this time when I headed over with my camera fitted with the long lens I knew better then to try to get them flying across the pond.

Incoming!

And I knew just where the dead tree was that they landed in regularly to rest between flights.

A fly-over.

So that’s where I stayed, right below that tree, catching them coming and going.

Whatcha doing down there lady?

Still, I had to move the ISO up very high so there’s quite a bit of grain, especially when they’re cropped.

The lowering sun lit the birds up as they rested.

I like to think of those as art. So many of them show the elegence of these birds, in an almost stylized manner. I think some of these look like paintings rather then photographs.

And I’m OK with that.

Juveniles joined in as well.

Each of these images makes me smile. I hope you’re smiing too.


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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.


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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!


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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.