Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Getting outside

I’ve been able to get outside for long walks a couple of times in the past week or so. Being outside always makes me feel better.

Patterns in ice greeted me when I arrived.

In fact, that’s advice I give regularly to people who are feeling down or sad and wistful. Being outside just makes me smile.

I’d heard the queen of the boardwalk was a lovely female cardinal. And she was there, but not hungry.

I suppose that’s why mom always told us to go outside and play. Or, just possibly, it was to get us all away from her!

Mrs. Red-bellied didn’t want to sit on my hand either, but was willing to grab a snack for later.

Either way, we spent our childhoods romping around the neighborhoods we lived in, climbing trees and stomping through mud, riding bikes, roller skating, playing kick the can and just generally running around.

Mrs. Red-bellied flew every peanut way over to the rookery for storage.

I don’t roller skate anymore…haven’t kicked a can in a few decades, used to run, but don’t do that now either.

Swans flew over but didn’t stop for a treat. I guess they had better pickings somewhere else.

But I can still stomp around in mud and walk through the woods and look for good climbing trees, though I don’t dare actually climb these days.

Mrs. Red-bellied races a blackbird for the treat on the boardwalk railing.

And I can look for the birds and others who generously share their woods with me. And sometimes, though certainly not nearly all the time, I can grab an image to remember it all by.

A nuthatch decides my seed is better than the bittersweet.

A little over a week ago I decided, late in the morning, to go to Kensington, my favorite bird park, even though I’d arrive much later than normal and the odds were the little birds would have full bellies and not want to socialize with me.

“I’m not really hungry, lady, but if you’re giving it away…..”

Well, the pictures above are from that walk. The little ones were more than happy to visit with me, though the red-bellied woodpeckers and the redwing blackbirds weren’t willing to sit in my hand that day.

I’ll hop over to your hand, lady!”

But they were definitely willing to grab a bite if I left it somewhere for them.

Waiting in line for a snack.

And the squirrels were very upfront about asking for something too.

“Could you spare a bite, madam?”

And then there was this sandhill crane family. The juvenile (you can tell it’s a youngster because his/her head is still brown, not red like his folks) was transfixed by a squirrel that was up in a tree.

Youngsters also have yellow, not red, eyes.

The squirrel was not as excited about meeting the cranes.

I’ll just wait up here a bit, see if they move on down the trail.”

It ran up and down the other side of the tree, gathering seed I’d spilled while the young crane closely watched.

“Now, if I stay over here on this side of the tree, he won’t see me.”

It was hysterical.

“What is that? Is it edible?”

By the time I left them the squirrel had scampered away and the crane family was poking among the leaves for any leftover treats.

It’s a standoff.

And just this weekend I went up to the Shiawasee Nature Preserve with a friend. We walked almost 2 miles back into the woods, wandering the dyke system and marveling at the engineering.

It’s a totally different kind of wonderland.

We didn’t get any close encounters with birds, but we saw plenty of bald eagles, both adult and juvenile flying high overhead.

“I see you two down there, ladies, and I’m not getting any closer.”

And we heard hundreds of sandhill cranes, their calls coming from all around us. When we got out into the open we saw many of them walking in the mud flats far out in the wetlands.

Time for a bit of snacking.

And dozens more were flying in, their grey feathers glinting in the afternoon sun.

The afternoon sun made them glow as they flew in.

It’s just as magical, in a different way, as Kensington.

The lines of the landscape are irresistible to this photographer.

Lucky me, to get out into places like this so regularly.

Can’t resist these lines either.

I wish you all could come!

What kind of winter do you think we’ll have?

But since most of you live so far away, I’m counting on you to look around your area and find some wild beautiful place and take me along with pictures and words some day. We’ll both be the better for it.

Another perfect adventure.

Guaranteed.


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You’ve seen it all before

I had a chance visit my favorite park this week, a late afternoon decision.

You’ve seen images like this before. I’ve taken hundreds of images just like these.

But of course I took the camera.

And of course there were birds — that was the point, is almost always the point when I walk these trails.

And luckily the birds were hungry.

Very, very hungry.

And of course we had a very good time. Because, really, how could we not?

I think the birds had a good time too.

For the most part anyway.

So I’m hoping you don’t mind seeing images like this again. Because I never tire of taking them.


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Both sides of my lens

I changed the photo at the top of my Facebook page yesterday. It’s a shot taken by a friend of mine while we were out at my favorite park earlier this week.

Many people ask how I get the images of birds eating out of my hand, and this shot tells you the entire story. Basically you just shoot as fast as you can and hope.

This was one of the only times I’ve had a picture of me taking a picture where I knew that I had grabbed shots from the very same moment.

So now you can see both sides of my lens.

I remember hearing birds swarming around my head, and I just kept the shutter clicking, not sure what I’d end up capturing.

In the end Mrs. Red-winged got something to eat, after the rude Mr. got his choice and flew away.

I was rooting for her. Weren’t you?


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Two opportunists or just one con-bird?

I was back out at Kensington this week, on a dreary and damp Wednesday morning. The birds were overjoyed to see us. And of course I have loads of images. Some are quite good.

But my question today is about one particular little bird. Or perhaps two.

We were still very near the nature center when a rose-breasted grosbeak demanded a treat. This is the first year I’ve ever seen a grosbeak come in for a hand held treat. But these days I often see, on Facebook, a picture of one enjoying himself. It kind of looks like the same bird I’ve fed out there.

And I wonder if there is only one that comes in to eat our treats, or if the entire rose-breasted population has figured out the secret.

So here’s the bird that ate from our hand near the nature center.

And here’s the bird that flew down from a high branch of a dead tree to get the last of the snacks just before we left for the day.

What do you think? Is it the same bird? Or did we have two hungry birds begging for attention?

Inquiring birders want to know.


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Father and son

Now look here, son, you’re almost an adult. You’re as big as me and your head is starting to turn red! It’s time for you to learn how to feed yourself.

Hey! None of that flapping your wings for supper stuff. Look over there, see the woman with peanuts in her hand?

Are you listening to me, boy? Pay attention!

Look, that’s not going to get you anywhere with the humans around here . You have to have more finesse!

Now watch me, I’m gonna go schmooze a snack. For myself.

The kid’s gotta learn to get his own food sooner or later.

Dad?

DAAAAADDDDD!!!!!


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Of wings… or the attack of the red bellied

I’ve hidden my babies over here.

It’s that time of year where a walk through the woods reveals babies everywhere.

Hurry up, I only have a 10 minute break from the babies this morning, lady!

I visited my favorite park early one morning after a night of rain.

Did you bring us all something to eat?

The parking lot was virtually empty, and the birds were frantic for some breakfast.

Make way! I, the big bad red-winged blackbird require food!

Swarms of blackbirds and starlings swirled around me. The little birds tried to get some attention too.

Talk to the wing, blackbird!

They lined up on the railing for a chance to get something to eat.

“Lady! We’re hungry!”

The rose breasted grosbeak got first dibs. Just based on beauty. Plus he was pushy.

Nom, nom, nom Thanks lady!

Even the mourning dove hopped over to get a treat. I’ve never had either the grosbeak or a dove land in my hand before.

“This is a joke, right? Did that pig the grosbeak eat all the treats?”

Eventually everybody got something.

“About time, lady.”

And then I went on down the trail

“Come on into the woods, lady. It’s not your responsibility to get them ALL fed.”

Where I quickly ran into this family out for a morning stroll. I first noticed an adult with a teenager almost as tall. Notice the teenager’s knees.

“Meet my son, Junior.”

Then the other parent emerged from the trees to complete the family.

“Come on over this way, mom and dad, I think the best stuff is on the other side of the trail.”

Once I edged carefully by them, which wasn’t easy because one of the parents was keeping an evil eye on me, I found a papa red bellied woodpecker. And his son.

“Watch this, son.”

To be accurate, I didn’t find him. He got my attention when he dive bombed me. Repeatedly.

He wasn’t interested in coming in for a treat. He flew right at me, did a touch down on my head and landed in a tree behind me. Then he came back and hit me in the head before landing back in the tree with his young one.

“I see you lady, move on down the road, OK?”

He did this over and over, as I continued to duck and weave and move on down the trail.

Eventually he picked up a bit of seed that I had flung behind me as a desperate distraction and perched on a broken branch to peck it open.

“First you have to crack the seed open, son.”

And then he fed it to his youngster who had been following all the excitement eagerly.

“Here, taste this, pretty good, ey?”

I crept away as they were eating.

Lots of little birds came in for a snack once I was away from the attacking woodpecker.

“Thanks!”

I enjoyed their visits in the quiet woods.

“Coming in for a landing, lady!”

It was peaceful out there, not many people wandering the trails.

“Good morning mama.”

And then I heard a squealing and yelling headed in my direction.

“This way!”

The quiet of the woods was interrupted, but I was OK with that. Kids need to spend time outside too.

“Thanks for the dive-through service, lady!”

So I headed out to the rookery to see if any of the teenagers were still there.

“Where’s the lunch lady?”

Many of them were. I guess they’re planning on staying as long as mom and dad are willing to feed them.

I witnessed one parent arriving with something good to eat. The craziness is hard to sort out in pictures. And the noise was amazing.

“OK, ok. I’m here with lunch. Settle down you two!”

Personally I think it’s time the folks kick the kids out. Most of them are flying from their nests to other branches, but come back to the nest for food.

“Hey! I want some over here too!”

None of the commotion appeared to distract the egret, just below, from continuing his grooming. Egrets move in when the herons leave the rookery. This guy was early I guess.

“Kids. Can’t wait until the neighbors move out!”

And then I left the park, stopping for a moment to check on the osprey nest where the youngsters were flexing their wings too.

“Hey! I think I’m getting this flying thing!”

Another good walk in the woods.

So peaceful. So fun. So exciting. You take your pick around here!

Babies everywhere, all growing up so fast.

“Parenting is so exhausting.”


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Not photographed

I met a friend at Kensington today. She’s a budding birder. Me? I’m just trying to get focused bird images.

The little birds weren’t particularly hungry today and not many were coming down to grab a treat. Besides, she wanted to add new birds to her life list…so we didn’t spend too much time trying to tempt the regulars.

Wait ladies! I’m just a baby, a little slow on the uptake. But I’m cute!

We were wandering out to a boardwalk that bisects a wetland when we noticed a squirrel trotting down the path toward us. I was a bit concerned because it seemed to be a fast trot, and I didn’t want it running up our legs. And then I realized this was a very long squirrel. Kind of skinny too. And it had something in it’s mouth.

When it got close, just before it veered off into the weeds next to us, I realized it was a mink. I’ve never seen a mink before. I had a camera hanging around my neck. Did I get a picture? No I did not. I was too busy processing what I was seeing. A mink, with a mouse, or perhaps a vole, in it’s mouth trotted right by and I have no image to show for it.

Oh well.

A beautiful day.

We moved on down the path to the boardwalk where we began to hear at least two Common Yellowthroat birds. They were calling, quite loudly, from trees on both sides of the path. My friend was using her binoculars and I was using my camera to try to find either one of them.

I’ve never actually seen one, and I wasn’t even sure what I was looking for, so I looked for any small bird. She saw it first, and then I saw it hop from one branch to another. And then it flew right toward us and landed, for a split second, on the boardwalk just to the left of me.

I had time to register the swooping black eye patch and the bit of yellow, and then he was off, following the call of the other one behind us. Did I get a picture of this beautiful bird while it was there on the path beside me? No I did not. I was too busy processing the fact that the bird had actually landed so close.

Oh well.

We spent a long time on that boardwalk, looking for more Yellowthroats. We heard them and caught brief glimpses of them flitting among the branches. I actually have one sort of bad image, and was lucky to get that.

A yellowthroat contemplates us looking for him.

While we were there a blue jay landed on a limb of an oak tree above us. He watched my friend as she offered treats to a couple little birds without success. He hopped closer, tilting his head to peruse her hand. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the blue jays never come down for a treat, they all wait until you give up and move along, then they swoop down to gather from the ground whatever you’ve left behind.

He’s calculating how he’s going to get a treat from us without lowering himself to our expectations of gratitude.

As I was fiddling with the camera settings to get a picture of him above her he dropped straight down, wings folded, a little torpedo headed right for her hand. He landed on it with a plop which scattered the seed from her hand onto the boardwalk. In the midst of the chaos he grabbed a peanut and flew back up into the tree to gloat while he enjoyed his spoils.

We looked at each other stunned. So…did I get the picture? I did not. But it really happened, I can get my friend to vouch for me.

There was a bird on these branches. Honest.

Oh well.

Eventually we headed back to our cars, happy that we had seen the mink and the Yellowthroat, and even the blue jay. And as I drove out of the parking lot I saw a sandhill crane couple with their two teenage colts. A lovely image. Did I get the picture? I did not.

There was nowhere to park and by the time I did and walked back I got one very poorly focused image of the back of one baby as they slipped off into the tall grass.

So….this post will have to fuel your imagination. Imagine walking down a wooded path on a beautiful warm breezy day. Imagine a mink running toward you and a beautiful little yellow bird flying by and a big ole blue jay figuring out how to get a contactless treat and a whole beautiful family of cranes complete with twins.

It’s always a good day out here. Even if you don’t get perfect pictures.

I bet, if you do all that, you’ll be grinning as much as we were, in fact you won’t be able to help yourself.

We sure couldn’t.


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Distraction

Two days after Katie flew free we had company. My brother and sister arrived for a visit that was planned weeks before we knew Katie wouldn’t be here to greet them.

It was a good distraction, to have additional people here in the house. The days were filled with activities and meal preparation. I told stories about my girl, and cried when I needed to. It was nice to have extra people around who knew and loved her.

I don’t suppose you have a peanut for me?

Of course we went out to Kensington to see the birds. The heron rookery was filled with teenagers waiting for their parents to show up with food. They’ll soon be off on their own.

Do you see the delivery guy? He said he’d be here in 20 minutes and that was an hour ago!

And then we wandered a few of the trails looking for hungry little birds to come down for a treat.

You know I won’t come to your hand, but I’d appreciate it if you drop a few treats for me along your way.

We were later in the day than I generally visit, and I wasn’t sure what we’d find. Little did I know the park would be teeming with wildlife. At the beginning of our walk we came across an assertive raccoon.

Looking for lunch, people, give up your seed and no one gets hurt.

Another walker told us she had been fed by people (against the rules) and was now stalking guests. We tried to run her off, because there were small children present. But it was difficult to get away from her.

Finally we took a different path away from the other people and not far down that path we witnessed a great battle. We first heard the sound of a wound up sandhill crane very close.

Then we saw the action begin.

Mama stands over in the tall grass as the battle began.

We think the crane couple had a nest, or perhaps a young one, and the turkey was intent on getting too close. The crane was intent on not letting that happen.

The crane was relentless.

As we stood there, me with a camera lens that was too long because they were so close to us, the battle moved from the field to the path we stood on, and then into the woods. And back again.

You can’t hide from me, Turkey!

It was very loud, mostly the crane screaming at the turkey.

“Get moving out of here, you turkey!”

But the turkey was stubborn too. Each time the crane thought he had banished the turkey, and began to walk calmly back to his family, the turkey followed him, and the battle began again.

Yep, took care of him, he won’t come back this way again.”

It got quite brutal.

“Get back, I say!”

There were the three of us and one other woman essentially trapped on the path, snapping pictures. I never took time to reset my camera settings for the low light and activity, so lots of images are out of focus.

“Take that!”

Still you get the idea of the epic battle we witnessed. It was amazing.

“Darn turkey. Can’t let your guard down a moment around here.”

When they finally settled down, we moved on.

“I’ll be back.”

Turns out even in the middle of the day there were lots of hungry littles out in the woods. Especially since we were on a less traveled path.

“Hey! Don’t forget about me!”

We had a few little birds follow us, and one larger male red-bellied that came down to visit us multiple times. That’s very unlike my typical experience where they usually act quite shy.

“HI!!! I put on my best outfit to show up for a meal! What did you bring me?”

We had a lovely walk, the weather was perfect with dappled sun deep in the woods, and a slight breeze keeping the bugs at bay.

My artsy-fartsy shot for the day.

This park never fails to entertain. When I’m feeling blue I can always count on finding a smile out among the trees.

Nature is amazing.

I hope you each have a place like this that mends your soul. I feel lucky to have mine.