The squirrels have taken over. Katie would be incensed.
They do provide entertainment though.
And distraction. They all take flying leaps over to a hanging birdfeeder, then eat until they are full.
Or until one of us goes out and chases them off.
But they come right back. So mostly we just sit and watch the antics.
And then this guy showed up. I thought he was a female, one of the mama deer who are hanging around with their babies.
But I guess he’s not a her.
Sure is beautiful though.
I feel as if summer is sliding away from me, days turning into minutes, weeks into moments. Yet it’s only the beginning of August, there’s plenty of summer left, especially for a retiree. Right? Being retired is enough to make me smile, but my walk on a midsummer’s morning made me absolutely grin.
I was out at my favorite park this past Thursday, while it was still July, while I could still consider it mid-summer, and yet I felt fall encroaching.
I went with my biggest lens, the better to see birds in their natural space versus standing on my outstretched palm.
But what I found instead was a whole forest filled with youngsters. And I don’t mean the busses of preschoolers that arrived as I was leaving. Thank goodness.
I have so much to show you from my walk in the woods, I don’t know if I should break it up into two posts, or if you’ll have the patience to read one long post.
I don’t even know if I have the patience to write one long post.
You can always scroll through and just look at the pictures. I have a feeling the words will be minimal anyway.
I got to the nature center early in the morning, but on the drive through the park I noticed my favorite willow tree island had a beautiful swan. So after I parked I walked back along the bikepath to capture her as she preened.
Notice the grey pile of fluff off to the right? That is her baby, or maybe more than one, I couldn’t really tell. Her partner is swimming behind the island, couldn’t see him well either.
But she (I’ve decided it’s a she, I really don’t know) sure was taking her time getting beautiful that morning.
Then I walked back to the parking lot at the nature center to get the rest of my gear, and found this exhausted and hungry mama, right beside the bike rack.
With my long lens I was able to get quite close without interrupting her breakfast.
And beside her, on the other side of the bike rack, were the normal crane parking lot greeters, getting spruced up for their shift of collecting the lot fee from everyone arriving to enjoy the trails.
Lucky for me I got there before they clocked in.
So I headed into the woods…
…and met this guy right away. He already had breakfast so I didn’t offer him anything more.
It was right about then that I noticed a sense of fall seeping into air. I shook it off and ventured further into the dark cool green, and interrupted two moms and their little ones having some breakfast of their own.
I stood there a long time watching them watching me.
This little one was intensly curious about me.
And then I heard a titmouse, just over my right shoulder, angrly asking why I wasn’t providing a snack. So I handed off a peanut and moved on.
I only saw one other person my entire walk in the woods, and that was another photographer.
As soon as he got down from the bench and moved on this mama came out of the brush.
I took a different trail and moved deeper into the woods. The long lens wasn’t really the right choice with so little light. But I didn’t want to stop to change it because you just never know what you’ll see.
Or how far away it might be.
But the mosquitos were beginning to follow me. I pictured myself running out of the woods with a swarm of bugs trailing me, sort of like a Bernstein Bear cartoon. I moved faster.
After clambering over a downed tree that crossed the trail I was shooting an image of a tree damaged in the recent storms where the fresh wood had a similar color to deer, confusing me for a moment…
…when out of the corner of my eye I saw more of that reddish brown.
These two didn’t seem to realize I was there. Until mama did.
The baby didn’t seem too bothered by me at all, but I went on down the trail so they could enjoy mama/baby time alone. Plus I was beginning to get hungry myself, it had been a long time since my own breakfast, and I was still deep in the woods with a long walk back.
I tried not to stop anymore as I booked it out of the deep woods. Except when I saw something interesting. Or fun. Or both.
But mostly I was trying to get back into the open where the breeze would keep the bugs from swarming around my head. Yes, I had applied bug spray before I left the car, but not on my hands, because I knew I’d be feeding birds. I guess that made me fair game for the mosquitos.
Back out in the open I had a nuthatch and a chickadee makeing big noises about getting a treat, but they wouldn’t come down to my hand. I finally figured out that maybe they were this year’s young, and not quite confident about the whole process of coming in for a snack.
But eventually they both came down, after doing a fly over or two to check me out.
The sky was getting dark and I figured it would soon rain, so I headed back to the car. Climbing the stairs to the parking lot I could hear people, cars and busses.
I was glad I’d gotten my walk in the woods finished before the masses arrived. Time to head back home to the princess who would just be getting up from her morning nap.
It was a good midsummer day all around.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I edged closer.
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.
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.
Still looking for a perfect light and dark image, I noticed these ferns. Very pretty. Definitely light and dark there.
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.
But I’ve done a post about dandelions. And I was hoping to find something new.
Meanwhile I was pretty much smiling the entire walk, but these guys, grooming themselves and oblivious to me made me grin.
And the light off this opening blossom made me smile too.
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.
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.
But there will be more. I promise. You never know what I’ll come back with!
On an impulse, and because I’m still working on my 365 days of walks, I took my camera and wandered the woods of my favorite local park. It was later in the day than I’d normally be out there, and though I had seed and peanuts for any bird I ran into, I wasn’t out there to find picture of birds.
I just wanted to be in the woods.
When I arrived two school bus loads of elementary students were milling about. Not a good sign. But luckily they were loading up to go, so I skirted their noisy mass and headed for the trail the furthest away from chaos.
There I began to notice the trees, and it was as if they were speaking directly to me. Who, they said, ever notices them? Most people are out in these woods looking for birds to feed, or deer to watch, or wildflowers nudging up from the wetlands.
Who notices our bark, they wonder, our towering stature. Who appreciates the shade we provide or the abstract art our branches draw? Who even takes note of the songs we sing when the wind blows and our branches rub against each other?
So this post was going to be all about the trees, the different textures and shapes and sounds I experienced while I was there.
It wasn’t going to be about birds or deer or chipmunks or squirrels.
But as I was concentrating on capturing this lovely old log…
…I heard from somewhere behind me a gentle cry, almost a soft whining. I looked back to find this little one asking politely if I had something, anything, for him to eat.
Normally the nuthatches are a little more reticent and don’t come down to my hand until they’ve studied me awhile, until other birds, those brave titmice or the cheeky chickadee have made successful landings. But this little guy was hungry and no one else was around, so he had to be brave.
And just like that birds began arriving from every direction.
And it was that way the rest of my walk.
But along the way I did find other beautiful things. Like these fungus growing along a fallen log.
And the last bit of winter color hanging on.
And as I climbed a hill I ran into these guys.
Still looking for interesting trees, I turned to walk around the small lake, and was approaching my favorite stand of white pines, rounding a corner, and literally had to stop in my tracks. Because marching down the path toward me were a pair of cranes without a care in the world.
They walked right up to me as I was clicking away, and, without seeming to notice me, walked on by within inches of my hip. This didn’t really surprise me as the cranes here are so used to people. They usually ask for something to eat, but I’m a bit timid about letting them eat out of my hand. So I tossed them a few seeds and moved away to watch.
I had to laugh as they moved on down the trail and one of them stopped to stretch.
I continued on my way around the lake, anxious now to get back to the car. I had more than enough photos to choose from for my one photo of the day. And I’d been out there for a couple hours already and had barely walked 2 miles. Couldn’t even count this walk as exercise!
But the surprises weren’t over.
Around a few more corners, almost back to the busiest part of the park, I saw a deer munching on lunch. And behind her was something white. At first I thought it was just something caught in a tree, some trash perhaps.
Or maybe it was a cow.
A cow? Oh no, not a cow, but the fabled albino deer I’d heard about but never hoped to see. I didn’t get close, and there was a lot of brush and trees between me and it. But oh my.
Be still my heart.
I stood quietly for a very long time, just watching, not wanting to startle it or cause it to run. Eventually I eased myself further away long the path with a huge smile on my face. A once in a lifetime sighting.
So that was my day wandering in the park, talking to the trees and my usual suspects of birds. For a day when I didn’t think I’d see much of anything I sure had some wonderful experiences.
Thinking back on it all I feel, just like Mr. Blackbird, like crowing.