Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Descent of the cardinals (and their friends).

I interrupt my eagle search to bring you this morning’s craziness right here at home. We’re getting a light snow. It’s cold. Katie and I were napping as the early morning light began to invade our dreams.

“Come on over, there’s plenty for everybody!”

I glanced outside and was both amazed and guilty as I saw birds all over the empty feeders, searching frantically for something, anything, to eat.

“Hey! Can we get a little water over here?”

Stuffing my naked feet into an old pair of sneakers, and throwing on a sweatshirt, not slowing for a coat, gloves or boots, I ran outside. Katie waited in the comfort of her palace, watching me intently.

“I think this lady serves the best oilers in town.”

My freezing fingers fumbled with the seed bin lid. The birds stayed close, not flying to their usual safe places, sitting on the deck, in the honeysuckle bush, the beech tree, hovering around my head.

They were too hungry to be afraid.

“Don’t judge me, I’m having a bad hair day.”

I filled the thistle feeder, the oiler feeders, the suet cage and then spread seed along the railing so that all of them could eat without having to wait their turns.

“I think I’ll head over to the quieter thistle feeder. These cardinals are crazy”

And they did. And in return they let me take their pictures.

“Yep, she puts on a great spread. She was a little late today, but it was worth the wait.”

I’d say it was a even exchange.

“I heard there was a ‘one shot, one treat’ rule around here. I already gave you my one shot.”


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Seeking an Eagle

Today, while much of the rest of the United States was under various weather advisories, we had sun. It was cold, but the wind of the past few days has blasted off toward the east coast. Nineteen degrees farhrenheit (-7.22 C) and blue skies just begged for a photography adventure.

And I knew just the place.

Maybe this is the eagle!

Not far from me is a National Cemetary; I’ve taken you there before. But lately I’ve been hearing about an eagle hanging around the acres and acres of gleaming white headstones. I’ve been out there a couple times hoping to find him, but couldn’t find the nest and never saw the magnificent bird.

Since it’s so close to home, and it was a pretty day, I figured I wouldn’t be disappointed if I failed again. And you know me, I’ll always find something to take a picture of!

What about those globby shapes over in those trees?

Right near the entrance I saw a bird in the top of a dead tree. Could that be the eagle? Naw…just a big crow.

Then toward the back of the cemetary I saw a bunch of blobs high up in the trees, could those be eagles? Naw..just some clumps of leaves, maybe squirrel nests.

I wandered around some more, but saw nothing else that looked promising. Still, I wasn’t sad, it was such a pretty day…

The sun makes everything beautiful.

…and the moon was setting. I always enjoy a late setting moon.

Moon over Michigan.

And then, just as I gave up and turned the car around to go, I saw this out of the corner of my eye. Could it be?

If that’s another squirrel nest, it belongs to a really big squirrel.

I put that car in park fast and was out of it, moving as quickly as I could across the lawn, then creeping into the woods. I had to pass two signs that warned me not to trespass, hoping to get a shot before someone arrested me.

Taking a break from this year’s remodel project.

And I did. But the eagle knew exactly where I was too, walking on all that crunchy snow I sounded like a herd of elephants making my way through the woods. I only got a couple shots before he took off.

He flew in a big wide circle, and then vanished into the trees.

“Tourists! A guy can’t catch a break around here.”

I didn’t have any stellar shots…but I got to see an eagle fly.

“See ya later, lady!”

On the way home I took a different back road, and realized almost right away that it wound along the back of the cemetary. And guess what?

Well, duh. The view, with the morning sun is way better over here.

There’s a much better view of the eagle’s nest from back there!

And on the way I got to see a barn.

Red barn, white snow, blue sky. Perfect.

When I got home I was still excited about seeing the eagle and having such a good time with the camera on such a pretty day. And I’ve heard there’s an eagle out at Kensington, my favorite park.

That’s not so far away either. The sun is still shining.

Too pretty a day to spend inside.

Should I head out there? What are the odds that I’ll find an eagle just sitting around waiting for me to discover him?

What are the odds?

Guess you’ll have to wait and see.

Eagle or no eagle, always good to stop by this place.


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Whiting Overlook Park

After seeing several photographs of eagles and pelicans on Facebook I decided to head up to Midland and see this park for myself.

Nature and industry coexisting.

I could tell from many of the photos that this was not a conventional park filled with hiking trails and wide swaths of woods for wandering.

But I was still surprised to find that it consisted of a parking lot on top of a high hill overlooking ponds which are part of the Dow Chemical complex.

As I drove up the hill I could see an eagle sitting in a tree.

Guarding the park.

The light wasn’t good, a bank of clouds was encroaching on the sunshine I’d left at home, two hours to the south. Still, on occassion when I first arrived, the sun broke through the clouds.

Oh! And a juvinile down below!

And it was windy! Between trying to focus on the eagle who flew out over the water as soon as I arrived, and trying to keep my hair out of the frame, I almost missed the pelicans swimming very close to the edge of the pond, behind the chain link fence.

It was hard shooting through the chain link fence.

While I was trying to catch an image of them, shooting through the fence, I lost track of the eagle until I heard a whole lot of eagle type noises coming from the trees.

Look closely, there are three juviniles here, all landing in a tree.

Turns out there were three juviniles, all landing close together. I’m pretty sure one of them had a fish.

This little diving duck was surprised when he came up right in front of the pelican!

Pretty much the whole time I was there I was pointing the camera either at the water following the pelicans, or the sky trying to get a sharp image of the eagles.

The light felt like it was evening, but it was 9:30 in the morning.

I was facinated how these beautiful wild birds coexisted so well with industry.

Such an unusual place to witness an eagle in flight.

I was unsure if the eagles coexist with each other quite as well.

Looks like the adult has something to say.

Mostly the eagles soared round and round, higher and higher. I never saw any of them dive into the water, though when they were flying closer to the ponds the ducks seemed to scatter.

The sky was interesting, but made shooting the birds so difficult.

It was hard to keep track of the big birds, they were really very far away. Sometimes the only way I knew where they were was their noisy discussion amongst themselves.

The light caught his head and the lead edge of his wing.

When the sun slid out for a moment it was easier to find the adult, with his bright white head…

Sometimes the tail was the give away.

…and tail.

The whole time I was there, sitting in the car until an eagle took off from a tree, then popping out to try to get an image, I didn’t think I got anything worth looking at.

He turned into a painting.

I was shooting pretty much into the light, what light there was. And the birds were so darn far away. These were all shot with my longest lens, and they are still cropped a whole lot. Hence the painterly looking images.

I think I’ll go back some day when the sun is shining brighter, and perhaps later in the day to get the sun behind me rather than shining in my eyes.

The best part of the day was just sitting and watching them fly.

I felt lucky today that they were so active. I didn’t get the perfect eagle (or pelican for that matter) shot, but I got to see them flying, so much more fun than watching them watch me while they sit still on a branch.

Landing gear down, more pelicans arrive.

None of these images are great, but I had fun, and I figured you’d have fun looking at them too.

Soar like an eagle….

If you’re a birder, this would be a fun place to visit with powerful binoculars. You can sit in the car and watch some amazing birds. Can’t beat it! (You might want to look at these pictures on something bigger than your phone!)

The clouds moved in and I moved out.


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Convergence

I want to write a post thanking all my fabulous donors who contributed to the Truck Safety Coaltion today during the Giving Tuesday campaign. That’s what I thought I’d be writing about tonight, because you were all truly amazing.

But just before 1 p.m. today, Giving Tuesday, five days after Thanksgiving, only weeks before Christmas our county became another statistic. There was a school shooting here, in a high school a couple of towns over. While we were talking about trucks and death and injury and funding, while we were congratulating each other on moving toward fundraising goals, a 15 year old was shooting classmates and a teacher.

There are three dead students so far, 8 more people injured, several are critical. A fourteen year old girl is on a ventiltor.

Oxford is a small, tight knit community. They are all in shock, as are the rest of us in this county. Just like truck crashes you never think it will happen to you or your family or your community. Until it does.

Tonight, after a full day of fundraising and an afternoon moving from disbelief and incredulity to sad acceptance, I went to my community band rehearsal — our Christmas concert is next Tuesday night. It seemed a lot to process.

The truck crash stories I’d heard today bounced around in my head, ping ponging against the sights of ambulances and medical helicopters and running students and crying parents that I’d seen on television, offset by comforting music played distractedly by folks that are parents and grandparents and high school students themselves.

So many emotions converging, it’s all a jumbled mess inside my brain. So the thank you post I planned to write will have to wait.

Tonight on my way home from rehearsal I thought about the three families who’s children didn’t come home from school today. Who will never come home again. And I thought about the families who’s children are fighting for their lives in the hospital. I thought about how the actions of one person can irreparably damage an entire community, a whole county. A family. How Christmas, and Thanksgiving too, will never be the same in Oxford.

And how Christmas music will forever bring up wells of grief for so many, just as it did in our family for so many years.

If you believe in the power of prayer, please send some this way. Because it feels like crazy has converged here, in a small town, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the holiday season.


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Thankful

One of my brothers flew into town last Wednesday, and on this last night of our Thanksgiving weekend I am thankful for all the family time I’ve had these past five days.

Thanksgiving yummy food and big smiles.

My husband, brother and I spent Thursday with my dad’s sister, my aunt, talking about people from generations before, and eating traditional Thanksgiving fare.

The rest of the weekend we hung out around home, watching the nature in my backyard…

Hey! Are you guys going to share any holiday treats with me?

…and today I took him out to Kensington to experience the bird in the hand phenomenon.

Artsy-fartsy bird in the hand image.

All of it was so much fun.

I’ve got my eye on a treat!

He goes home tomorrow, his own dog is anxiously waiting for him, but Katie sure loved having another admirer in the house. We played together in the new snow a couple of times, and she was all smiles.

Uncle Paul took this picture of me. He didn’t know about my treat policy, but I let him off with a warning.

I’m not looking forward to telling her that her new loyal subject won’t be around to wait on her after tomorrow.

I think I’m late leaving for a warmer climate. Maybe I’ll hitch a ride with that Paul guy.

She and I are both going to miss him.

See ya later, Uncle Paul! Come back any time!


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Waiting on my numbers

Hey everybody! Katie here.

So most of you know that I’ve been fighting kidney disease for much of this year. I go to the vet every month and donate my blood so the lady vet can see how I’m doing.

Me at my park where they have a children’s storybook walk.

Daddy and mama took me to the vet yesterday, they say I shouldn’t be so scared every time, but they aren’t there in the back room when those vet techs get my blood! I’m starting to feel like a pin cushion, all those needle pricks over the past nine months!

At a rest stop on our way home from the vet yesterday.

It’s scary back there, I tell you, and I’m so glad when they take me back to my daddy; I’m always ready to go go go back out to the car where mama waits impatiently for me.

During one of my neighborhood patrols.

But the lady vet and daddy always have to stand around and talk after I give away my blood. They usually look at all the test results, but this time they just talked about my poop!

Checking out my yard.

Geeze! Can’t a princess have a little privacy about anything? Mama and daddy have been taking pictures of my poop for weeks! I guess having soft runny poop is not a good thing. Who knew?

My yard has a katsura tree and all the leaves fell off in one day!

Now I have medicine to help my poops get back to normal. Mama says we’ll see. Literally I guess, right?

My yard has a ginkgo tree too. It’s leaves also fall off in a single day!

And the test results? The ones that will tell us if I’m getting worse? Well, the lady vet sent my blood out to a lab instead of running the tests right there, so we won’t know until sometime next week.

At my park.

I’ll keep you posted, cause I know you want to know!

Meanwhile, I’m chowing down like the food hog I’ve always been and that makes mama and daddy smile.

A little snow.

I hope you all have a great week, and those of you in the United States enjoy Thanksgiving! Mama and daddy say they are very thankful for me. Well of course they are. And I guess, if I’m honest, I’m very thankful for them too.

Another favorite park.

And I’m also thankful for each of you, my loyal subjects. Thank you for stopping by and reading about my poop during a holiday week. I should probably talk to mama about being more appropriate, but you know how mama is. No sense of decorum, that woman.

I love being in the woods with mama!

Anyway, these photos were taken the past couple of weeks during all the walks at my parks and around the neighborhood that mama’s been taking me on. She says she knows how much I love the colder weather and she wants me to get out and enjoy as much of it as I can.

Just another thing I’m thankful for, fall in Michigan!

Come on, mama!

Talk later, your cool air loving, pincushion girl, Katie.

All this walking makes a princess sleepy.


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Shiawasee Nature Refuge part two

So where did I leave you? Ah yes….at the viewing platform overlooking the wetlands, about two miles from the car.

An excellent place to watch the birds.

Since we’ve been lugging the camera backpack filled with lenses and spare batteries all this way, this would be a good time to change to the long lens. Don’t you think? And perhaps take a sip from the water bottle that’s been adding weight to the bag for the long trek out here.

I loved the stripes of color.

There, that’s better.

So, out here in the open marsh you can here sandhill cranes and Canadian geese as they fly in and out. A few trumpeter swans too. No pelicans this time, and that’s disappointing, but I’m too late in the season for much of a variety.

These guys decided to move on to a place less habited by nosey humans.

The other people on the viewing platform have high powered binoculars, and they are watching a northern harrier harrass a young bald eagle. I can’t see any of that of course, but I enjoy listening to them talk about it.

Yep way over there is a tree that often hosts eagles. In fact that might be one to the left, or that might be the harrier.

Mostly I watch the geese that were nearest to me and enjoy the sun and the sitting down for a bit.

And then I decide I’ll head back, but take a path I’ve never chosen before, out past the tree where, on a previous visit, I’d seen so many eagles, out along the edge of the wetlands, because you just never know what you’ll find.

It was a beautiful day, even if I didn’t get any great shots of an eagle.

And I do find the juvinile eagle, I think, though I can’t get a close enough view of him to be sure. I have a longer lens than I had last year, but he was still a long ways away. For all I know, this is the harrier, rather than the eagle. He (or she) is fun to watch either way, soaring high above the grasses, searching for a meal.

A super cropped image of a bird. Might be an eagle. But I think it’s the harrier. Cool either way.

I come across a passel of cranes, standing around out there in a clump. No noise, just hanging out. When they see me noticing them they begin to walk away at a fast clip, so I move on, not wanting to upset them.

Moving quietly back into the grass so as not to attract any more attention.

And then I begin the long wander back to the car. It is a beautiful day and I’m not at all disappointed that I don’t have anything spectacular to shoot. But wait! There’s an eagle’s nest! Wow, that thing is huge! Now I know which way I’ll walk next spring when there might be some activity there, maybe early in the season before leaves obscure the view.

This won’t be easy to see once the tree leafs out.

It’s not far from the tree where I’ve seen eagles, adult and juviniles…and it’s in the direction I always see them flying from out there. Now it all makes sense. I’m excited for next season!

But other than that my walk back is just filled with beautiful fall sights. I am walking on a path less traveled, and mostly not mowed, so I am glad for my waterproof hiking shoes keeping my feet dry.

Even though I am on the lookout for birds of any size, and though I hear a few, I don’t see any. I probably need to sit in one place, as I’ve considered on other visits to this park, and wait for something to come by in stead of tromping noisily through the woods.

But I am hungry, and tired, and still a long way from the car, so I trek on.

I like the spunkiness of the little tree growing in the remains of it’s ancestor.

The views don’t disappoint. Just about any direction I look there is something pretty.

Another dyke flanked by leaning trees. These always remind me of Marines at a wedding, with their swords forming a tunnel for the bride and groom. Actually, a wedding woud be amazing here.

I can’t stop taking pictures, but that’s no surprise to anyone. Right?

Such great colors and shapes, it’s impossible to resist taking just one more shot.

But eventually I put the lens cap back on, resolving to move faster toward the car and the banana waiting for me. I even pass up the opportunity to sit on a bench, because I know I am only half a mile away from the parking lot.

A tempting bench. If I’d had my lunch with me I might have stopped.

I promise myself I’m not taking any more images. Just going to forge ahead, eyes front, no stopping. Really.

Hmmmm….what’s making all that noise over there?

But I can’t ignore the huge ruckus coming up from a field just beyond the trees to my right. When I come to an opening I see what must be the party room for cranes. Because they are dancing up a storm. So I had to take the lens cap back off. You would have too, I’m sure.

And then I hear this little guy, and since he is the only little bird I’ve seen clearly all day, well, the lens cap comes off again.

It’s not even a good shot, but he is the only one that cooperated, so he gets to be in the blog.

And then, finally, I make it back to the car. My 4+ mile walk through the woods is over, and I know I wouldn’t be back until spring. Unless I decide a winter hike is in order. I guess I’ll put that idea into the ‘things to ponder’ file drawer and see what the winter weather is like this year.

Always notice the light.

More likely I’ll be back in the spring, when northern migration is happening and there will be more activity to wittness. I’ll be sure to bring you along whenever I go back. Maybe I’ll even carry a banana with me so I can stay out there longer.

Come along with me, the walking is marvelous!

You’ll be responsible for your own snacks. And your waterproof shoes.

Stay tuned.