I was focused on the duck…
Late January, here in the Midwest, we don’t always get to see a lot of sun. It’s cold, sometimes windy, usually snowy, but not often very sunny.
So last Saturday, when the weather people were actually right about the fact we had sun, I knew I didn’t want to squander it. But I also wasn’t sure I wanted to go to my regular parks, they would likely be overrun with people just like me, out to catch a few rays, on the lookout for something spectacular to photograph.
I’ve been seeing in a Michigan wildlife Facebook group that there were special things down on Detroit’s Belle Isle. I figured there was more space there, and maybe fewer people, so I decided to see what I could find.
The color in these images haven’t been touched up, it really was a spectacular blue sky with lovely soft light making everything glow.
And it was busy. Most of the parking spots on the western part of the island, the part which gives you the best view of the Detroit skyline, were full. That’s OK, I just parked further away and walked back.
It felt good to be outside walking around.
I drove around the perimeter of the island several times, catching glimpses of things I wanted to photograph, and stopping back to capture things on my next round. I didn’t feel like I was taking a lot of pictures, but I was pleased with those I got.
Did I ever find the special image I was looking for? Well, yes, yes I did.
For some time I’ve been reading about a pair of bald eagles that live on the island, but I’ve never driven the hour down to Detroit to see for myself. On this beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon this guy was hard to miss.
My first clue was the number of cars parked on both sides of the road. The second clue was the brilliant white head and tail feathers, just glowing in the afternoon light.
I and a couple dozen of my closest photographer friends spent 30 minutes or so watching him watch us. He would look to his left, to his right or straight down at us, but he never moved a wing. When a kid skidded a rock across the glassy ice below him he watched with interest, but he wasn’t fooled into thinking it was anything but a rock.
I was smiling the whole time I stood there…and even now, just thinking about him being amused by all of us makes me smile again. The only thing that would make me smile wider is if I were to buy myself a bigger, longer lens.
Yep. That would surely make me smile.
What’s made you smile this week? Write a post and link it to Trent’s. He’ll gather them all together and post a recap on Monday. We could all use a smile, share yours!
I think I’d be happy spending the majority of my days photographing birds. Or trying to anyway. And I’m lucky that, even with the pandemic keeping us home more, I still have lots of birds to study, right in my own backyard.
Of course I am frustrated by reflections in windows, and sheltie girls that move just as I’m getting that shot, disrupting the carefully posing feathered ones.
I’ve tried to get around the sheltie interruption by sneaking past her when she’s sleeping, but it sure seems like she only closes one eye lately and she’s always up to see what I’m focused on. She assumes there’s trouble outside if I spend too much time at the window, and she feels a responsibility to handle it for her mama.
And of course I’d love to be outside with the birds, not shooting through a window, and I’ve tried that. The birds aren’t too frightened if I stand in the far corner of the deck and stay still. I’m sure they’d get used to having me around and come down from the trees when I put out fresh food if I keep trying.
But then again, there’s the sheltie-girl who puts up a howl when I’m outside and she’s not. So more sneaking around might be in order.
Once I tried taking her with me out on the deck and only the chickadees would tolerate her. Plus she doesn’t know how to stand still. She’s a princess you know, and a princess does not stand in the corner.
And I’m thinking about getting a longer lens so I don’t have to crop so much. So much detail is lost, and so many interesting things are just outside the reach of the lens I have, though it’s a very nice lens.
Still. I have so much fun trying. I’m pretty sure you don’t mind looking at my birds either, right?
Katie says she thinks you’d rather look at her, and that might be so, but this is not called Katie’s blog, so once in awhile I think we have to focus on something else.
But don’t tell her that, I don’t need a mutiny here at home. Especially during a pandemic.
Even if you don’t live in the United States you might have heard that this was a very big week here. Yes, Wednesday was Inaugural Day, where we had a peaceful transition of power between Presidential administrations, based on the November election. You probably also know that this year it wasn’t so easy because the former President never conceded that he lost the election.
But this post isn’t about all that controversy. It’s about things worth smiling about.
My first broad smile on Wednesday was also laced with tears, as I watched the honor guard salute Kamala Harris as she walked with her husband toward the West Front of the Capital where she would be sworn in as Vice President. The fact that they were saluting her made me realize the importance of the moment. I was witnessing history.
Then there was the President’s speech, full of hope even as we face huge challenges, politically, racially and from the virus. So many things that need immediate attention. I smiled a few times while he spoke, but I smiled the deepest when he said:
“Let’s begin to listen to one another again, hear one another, see one another, show respect to one another. Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war.”
I think this is key to our moving forward as a nation. I don’t think it will be easy, we’ve all pretty much entrenched ourselves in our respective views. But suppose, just for a moment, that we could try to put what we believe aside and ask pertinent questions and then listen to the answers from those that think differently from us. Just suppose what we might be able to accomplish.
And of course there’s Amanda Gorman, America’s Youth Poet Laureate. She radiated fire and hope and possibility and made me smile as soon as she stepped up to the lectern. She was spellbinding, both her words and her movement making their points so fast I was afraid I was missing something and I focused in a way I haven’t for a very long time.
I read her poem in full the next day and realized I had indeed heard every bit of it, but it’s something I think we’d all do well to read periodically. There’s something to be learned and understood in her words. Right now my favorite lines:
“Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken
but simply unfinished”
“That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious
Not because we will never again know defeat
but because we will never again sow division”
“A country that is bruised but whole,
benevolent but bold,
fierce and free
We will not be turned around
or interrupted by intimidation
because we know our inaction and inertia
will be the inheritance of the next generation”
And of course the end…
“The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it”
Yes, Amanda Gorman made me smile, through tears I admit, the broadest of all. Because she represents the future of our country. And just see what we have to look forward to!
And then, as just a bit of an extra smile this week, a Carolina wren landed on my feeder this morning.
Just to make sure my week kept on smiling.
What made you smile this week? Write a quick post and link it by Sunday to Trent’s blog so we can all smile together!
This gallery contains 9 photos
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.
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.
I notied a lot of green shining in the morning light, even though all the summer’s leaves had long since dropped.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Then the trail burst out of the woods into the sunshine of a grassy meadow. I thought this made a lovely shot.
And as I made my way to the meadow I found a couple of birdwatchers looking for something special. I hope they found it!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There was another tree across the street decorated all in fishing lures an bobbers. I have no idea why, but it also was pretty.
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.
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.
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.
Well. I think I have a few thousand images of birds. But I went out to my favorite park today and got a few more. Just in case.
You can never have too many pictures of birds. Right?
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.
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.
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.
And the chickadees, who were very noisy about waiting for their treats.
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 …
She watched me for a bit, both of us seemingly holding our breath. Then she picked out her breakfast treat.
She went up to a nearby tree to eat her peanut, but she was right back for more.
Each time she visited my hand she flew off with her prize to enjoy just feet away.
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.
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.
The blue jays followed me for quite awhile, picking up the leftovers.
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
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.
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.
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.
I thought about sitting on a bench for awhile, just take it all in.
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.
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.
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.
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.