I was out there to meet the Queen. I’d been trying to get an audience with her for several weeks. But she’s a Royal and follows her own rules. I’m used to that.
You see, almost every day I’d see, on Facebook, a photographer who calls herself the “Hand of Snacks” feeding a female cardinal along the boardwalk at my favorite park.
Lots of birds come down to any number of hands filled with snacks at this park, but cardinals are famously shy. Quite stand-offish. So to see this female sitting in a hand regularly intrigued me. And I drove the 30+ minutes every week or so, hoping to get to meet her Majesty for myself. Oh, I’d see her – sitting in the scrub along the boardwalk. I’d offer a treat. She’d watch me. But she never showed any interest in getting to know me better. Week after week I’d leave disappointed.
This Wednesday, there she was, sitting among the twigs of a dogwood bush with her partner, the bright red Mr. Cardinal. And that morning she seemed interested in me. She moved out to the end of the branch and eyed me up and down. I stood still, gifts offered. She flew to the railing, quite a far bit away from me and eyed me some more.
Clearly I was not her Hand of Snacks. I was an imposter. But she was hungry. But I was an imposter. Could she trust me? Would she trust me? She hopped along the railing to get a closer look. She looked up at me and then down at the snacks in my hand. I stood still, barely breathing.
And then she reached out, her feet still firmly planted on the railing, she wasn’t going to actually stand on my hand, and grabbed an oiler seed, moving rapidly away from me to eat it. I stood still.
She hopped over again and helped herself to another treat, not moving so far away this time…and then she grabbed a peanut and with a slight nod to me, she flew back into the bushes to share it with her partner.
And the politely waiting chickadee hopped up onto my hand to see what she had left behind.
Now I can say I’ve met the Queen. And it was everything I knew it would be.
Once in awhile I like to mess around with black and white images. Most of the time I look for stark images with clean lines and a big contrast between the darks and lights. Kind of ultra modern.
But I also like nature in black and white, so when I saw Cee’s challenge I went looking for something from my archives that would fit the bill. And, as you know, I have a LOT of bird images so I decided to pull this Sandhill crane from a visit just last month to my favorite bird park. It was all about the shadow when I took the image, and I think it’s the shadow that makes this a great black and white.
I hope you like it too! Thanks, Cee, for the challenge!
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.
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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
But they were definitely willing to grab a bite if I left it somewhere for them.
And the squirrels were very upfront about asking for something too.
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.
The squirrel was not as excited about meeting the cranes.
It ran up and down the other side of the tree, gathering seed I’d spilled while the young crane closely watched.
It was hysterical.
By the time I left them the squirrel had scampered away and the crane family was poking among the leaves for any leftover treats.
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.
We didn’t get any close encounters with birds, but we saw plenty of bald eagles, both adult and juvenile flying high overhead.
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.
And dozens more were flying in, their grey feathers glinting in the afternoon sun.
It’s just as magical, in a different way, as Kensington.
Lucky me, to get out into places like this so regularly.
I wish you all could come!
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.
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?
It’s that time of year where a walk through the woods reveals babies everywhere.
I visited my favorite park early one morning after a night of rain.
The parking lot was virtually empty, and the birds were frantic for some breakfast.
Swarms of blackbirds and starlings swirled around me. The little birds tried to get some attention too.
They lined up on the railing for a chance to get something to eat.
The rose breasted grosbeak got first dibs. Just based on beauty. Plus he was pushy.
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.
Eventually everybody got something.
And then I went on down the trail
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.
Then the other parent emerged from the trees to complete the family.
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.
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.
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.
And then he fed it to his youngster who had been following all the excitement eagerly.
I crept away as they were eating.
Lots of little birds came in for a snack once I was away from the attacking woodpecker.
I enjoyed their visits in the quiet woods.
It was peaceful out there, not many people wandering the trails.
And then I heard a squealing and yelling headed in my direction.
The quiet of the woods was interrupted, but I was OK with that. Kids need to spend time outside too.
So I headed out to the rookery to see if any of the teenagers were still there.
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.
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.
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.
And then I left the park, stopping for a moment to check on the osprey nest where the youngsters were flexing their wings too.