Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


In search of cinnamon

An hour north of me is another magical place. I keep track of it on Facebook, where people, dedicated to photographing the wonders there post images and after periods of time away I am always itching to go back and see for myself.

I always try to arrive before sunrise, to witness the Shiawasee National Wildlife Refuge waking up. Sometimes it’s very noisy, but last Friday it was quiet, no flocks of cranes flying over, just some little birds and a couple swans.

Waiting for sunrise.

But the moon was coming up and that kept me company as I waited for daylight. I was there to see the cinnamon teal I’d been hearing about. A bird that doesn’t frequent our part of the country had been sighted regularly, in a pond right next to the parking lot.

Absolutely beautiful moonrise, big and golden, it came up just ahead of the sun.

Just as the sun rose a car roared into the parking lot, and a woman, dressed in waders and lugging a camera with a huge lens eased her way into the water beneath the viewing platform. I was still in the car.

Ummmm….what would this angle afford that standing on the viewing platform wouldn’t?

As the light brightened I figured if she was that prepared I didn’t want to disturb her or any potential shots, and I avoided the viewing platform in favor of the parking lot itself. And guess what? The cinnamon teal was there, with his lady friend.

Yep he’s out there, and not that far away from where the woman was standing.

But the light was still low and I was far away. Still…I have proof that I saw him and that was enough for me. I left her to her project and started down the road to the trails, intent on what other wonders I could see.

He really was beautiful.

There was this female merganser swimming all by herself in the ditch along the road. I wondered where her mate was.

Sometimes a girl just needs some alone time.

And this killdeer was be-bopping along in the wet grasses. He didn’t really want his picture taken but I got what I could.

If I hide behind this piece of grass she won’t see me.

Mostly I was just happy to be out there in the golden early morning light. But I kept thinking about that teal…and when another car pulled in and a guy clompped his way up the viewing platform I figured I had as much right to be there as either of them and I walked back, tiptoed up the viewing platform and saw that the teal, and his lady were nowhere to be found.

She’s still under there, and he’s stomping around up top. People…sigh…

I wasn’t surprised, with all the commotion. So I took a couple pictures and walked on back down the road. I was kind of disappointed that I didn’t have a clear shot of the teal. But I had a couple of tree swallows dive bomb me. They were so fast I didn’t get a good focus, but it was kind of cool.

People are kind of overbearing, don’t you think Harvey?

I resigned myself to the fact I might only get images of common birds, like robins who seems to pose for me as if to say they were tired of being overlooked.

Say lady! I’m sort of cinnamon colored!

And there was this little bird, that was cute, but I couldn’t tell in the low light what he or she was. I figured a sparrow and I wasn’t too excited. When I got home and began to process the photos I realized it was a phoebe with nesting material! What a cutie! But at the time I was feeling sort of sad.

I know I just look like a little brown bird, lady, but I’m really cute!

I trucked on, stopping when I heard something, looking for opportunities. I talked to a birder who was walking behind me for quite awhile. He said he was out there to see deer and eagles. I assured him he’d see eagles near the back of the trail, and there had been deer earlier, by the parking lot.

What’s that over there?

Just after he left me I noticed these guys in a field to my left. I wonder if the birder noticed them at all.

Shhhhh, don’t tell him.

I moved slowly down the path. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that when I’m walking I don’t see much, but the wildlife sees me. I’ve missed lots of opportunities by moving around too much. And by changing lenses.

No wildlife here. I just liked the colors.

I almost always think I have the wrong lens, and plenty of times on this walk I wished I didn’t have my long lens on the camera, but this hike I was determined to use one lens and stop often.

In the end I think it worked out.

Not in focus, but he was flying directly at my lens, so I just instinctively pushed the shutter. Kind of cool.

I noticed this little bird hopping along a big limb. Turns out, though I couldn’t tell at the time, that it’s a cute little junco. You can tell it from the phoebe by it’s pinkish bill. They should be migrating further north any time now.

He definitely wanted his picture taken.

As I moved closer to the back of the trail I concentrated more on the beautiful reflections in the still water.

Not everything beautiful here comes with wings or fur.

And the angles of the light and trees as another birder passes me looking for anything interesting.

What’s that up there?

About then I heard what I thought was a woodpecker right above my head. Well darn it, I thought, so far I haven’t gotten images of much of anything…where IS this woodpecker? And then…there he was.

Not a hairy woodpecker.

I thought maybe he was a hairy woodpecker, he was bigger than a downy, but it was hard to tell. Guess what? When I got home, and after looking at some other photographers’ work, people out there the same day, it turns out this is a yellow bellied sap sucker! I don’t think I’ve ever seen one before. Or if I have, I didn’t realize what it was.

So exciting. Still, while I was out there I didn’t know what I had and I was still pretty discouraged. I trudged on, out to the eagle’s nest. I figured I’d at least see an eagle or two or three…and yes, way off in the distance, in a massive nest was one eagle, mostly cleaning the nest with his or her back to me. Hardly anything to look at.

Yep, there’s an eagle in there, tending to the nest.

But there’s a bench out there and I was tired so I sat and watched the swans chase each other around in the water just past the eagle’s nest.

Lots of angst, all in the name of love.

There seemed to be quite a rivalry going on. The light was still low and they were far away and I was having the hardest time getting a focus, but I tried.

And in between the swan shots I’d check the eagle. Finally I could see the adult eagle more clearly and I got the best shot I could.

Well that’s a better image.

Then I wandered on, past the dueling swans…

Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Oh wait…that doesn’t apply here.

…where I met another birder coming the other way. He told me that there were lots of little birds on the next section of trail. Kinglets, thrush, swamp sparrows, towhees, just lots of little birds.

He says he lives just down the road and does this walk almost every day. Lucky guy.

Great I thought, I’m having trouble getting BIG birds in focus, and I’ve never been very good at getting the littles. Those guys never hold still.

Plus, did I tell you that Thursday evening my husband and I, with the help of a neighbor and his tractor with a frontend loader, moved 30 yards of mulch? I was a little sore and a lot tired and I was double thinking even being out at the Refuge, much less walking the four mile loop. Especially when all I had so far was a bunch of out of focus bird shots.

Kinda like this one.

Or so I thought.

So I trudged on along the water, then turned to head back south for the last mile and a half to the car. I was starving. My back was tired. My eyes hurt from straining while looking through the viewfinder.

But there was a mama goose, all curled up on her nest. How pretty. How peaceful.

I’m watching you lady.

And there, up ahead was a bench. And I had an apple and a bottle of water in my camera backpack. I gratefully slid the backpack off and sat down. The camera sat on the bench beside me, backpack at my feet and I munched the best ever apple and contemplated my day.

No matter what it was still spring and the sky was blue and the trees were in bloom and the birds were singing.

I was still glad to be out there, but I was tired. I didn’t really think I’d see any little birds. I was pretty unhappy with the cinnamon teal image, the eagle image, the combating swan images. I didn’t know I had a phoebe or a junco or anything else.

But the apple tasted really, really good.

I could always call them artsy-fartsy images….right?

And the blue sky and warm sun made me smile too. Would it be enough, just sitting in this beautiful place? Or would I ultimately be disappointed by my hike through a Michigan wonderland?

These guys were interesting.

You, dear readers, will have to wait and see.

Because this is already way too long.

Don’t worry, she’ll be back!


Blue magic

It began, as these things often do, during an early morning wander with the puppy in the back yard.

My first glimpse from across the yard.

What was that flash of blue I caught out of the corner of my eye?

My wife likes these fixer-uppers. Personally I’d rather have a move-in-ready place.

Why look at that, a bluebird, shining in the early morning light, claiming ownership of an old bluebird house out near the road.

But you know how it is….happy wife, happy life. Right?

I hurried back to the house, got the camera and long lens, and tiptoed out onto the deck.

And besides, she says she’s going to do all the work, so whatever.

I got to watch for awhile as she worked hard to get new nesting material into the old box.

I told her the renovations were going to cost more than just buying a nicer place. But she insisted this one felt like home.

The story unfolds in pictures.

Things in the renovation zone are too noisy for me. I’m going to sit over here for awhile.

Might as well take this personal time to spiff myself up.

Maybe I can get a date night tonight, know what I mean?

But wait. Maybe I need to woo her a little bit. After all she’s been working pretty hard all day.

I don’t know where he is. Just like him to fly off when there’s work to be done.

Best to just do it yourself, I always say.

Just a few more accessories and it will be perfect.

Hmmm….I should have measured the door before I brought this back.

If I just push a little harder…

Man, that was tough. But a woman’s work is never done, and this will all be worth it in the end!

I’m so excited about this place. We got it for such a great price!

OK! I found her a succulent insect, her favorite. Now where is she?

Is she in here?


I don’t get it. Where could she be?

She’s got to be around here somewhere.

I got her this great treat and she’s not even here!

This bug is going to go stale if she doesn’t eat it soon. I don’t think she appreciates my efforts.

Women! I’m going to go hang out with the guys down at the bar.



It’s definitely spring here in Michigan. Proof is everywhere, but especially at our backyard birdfeeders.

The male goldfinches have turned yellow, and it seems like it happened overnight.

Olive green one day, brilliant yellow the next.

Or so it seems anyway.

I hope my little goldfinch made you smile. What says spring where you live? Has it happened yet or does winter still hold your neighborhood hostage? OR….are you in the southern hemisphere and you’re headed into autumn? What changes are happening in your backyard?


Let the adventures begin!

Penny, our 4 month old sheltie, has been fully vaccinated for a couple weeks now, so it’s safe to take her beyond our neighborhood. The little girl has no idea how big the world is, but we introduced her to a tiny part of it last weekend.

Where are we, dad? Is this another vet?

On Friday evening my husband and I took her to Katie’s park. She wasn’t sure about the whole adventure thing when she emerged from the car.

I think turtles have been here, mom!

But by the time we got to the pond she was having a good old time. There were so many things to sniff!

This is kinda fun, you guys, being out here in the evening!

We just wandered around the pond, we didn’t do the whole trail. After all, she’s just a little girl, and there will be plenty of time to explore the whole park in the future. This visit was just an introduction.

What’s this down here, dad?

Of course I talked to Katie quite a bit as I took pictures of Penny and her dad. Katie says she is fine sharing her park, especially with her little sister. Of course I wish she could have been there to introduce the park to Penny herself, but I like to think there was a bit of Katie there, showing us all around.

Is there another puppy here, mom?

Then on Sunday I met a friend and her five month old cocker spaniel named Whisky for a longer walk at a park Katie had only visited once.

Ok Whisky, I’ll let you give kisses to my mom. This time. (Picture by Whisky’s mom, Karen)

We walked on a combination of cement paths, wooden boardwalks and dirt paths along a fast moving river.

These leaves smell AMAZING!

Personally I liked the woods the best, and once Penny got over the abundance of leaves on the ground, and realized she couldn’t eat them all, she settled right in trotting along the path.

This place is so cool!

She also got to see lots of other people and dogs enjoying the park. She was interested in all of them. When she sees something new she sits, very alert, and considers what it might mean. She’s a thinker, this one.

What might that be over there?

I think she had a wonderful time. It was her longest walk, and in a new environment, and she was a trooper.

This was the very first log I’ve ever jumped over!

She fell asleep in her crate on the drive home and pretty much napped the evening away. But the next day she was bored at home, now that she knows there are more exciting alternatives out there.

Hey mom! Did you know I can do zoomies in the WOODS?!!

I might have created a monster.

Yep, I got a little muddy. It was amazing!


In search of a loon

I belong to a Michigan birding Facebook group and there have been images showing up of some loons that are currently hanging out at Kensington Metropark, only 40 minutes away from me.

The blue herons are back and nesting in their rookery, waiting on this year’s crop of little ones.

The weather hasn’t been great. And I’ve been occupied with a certain fuzzy puppy so I hadn’t made it out to the park. But we all know that loons wait for no woman.

“Hey lady! Don’t forget us in your quest to find loons!”

So Monday I headed out much later in the day than I’m usually at the park. Instead of early morning I was heading out there as the day was closing and evening was descending. It felt weird walking onto the boardwalk while most people were heading back to their cars.

“Where have you been? I have to do all the nest building around here!”

On the other hand I didn’t see too many people, and those I did see were mostly photographers there for the soft late day light. Just like me.

“If you’re not going to feed me then you’re not worth my attention.”

I ran into one photographer who was headed back to his car. He was all excited about the loons he had photographed “right near the nesting sandhill cranes.” He wanted to show me his images on the back of his camera, and I have to admit they were beautiful. I was excited for him too. “I can’t wait to get home and see these on a bigger screen,” he said, as he scampered off (there’s really no other word for how he moved but scampered!).

I knew the feeling.

Any loons out there?

But the light was fading and I hadn’t made it out to the bay with the nesting cranes and loons yet. So I left him and walked as quickly as I could until I saw the crane on her nest.

“Midway through my shift and I’m getting hungry, I wonder if I can get something delivered.”

Then I moved slowly, to a better position, and stood for a long time, another photographer nearby, silently shooting images of her as she moved around her nest.

I need to stretch my feathers a bit.”

And, as she stood up, I gasped quietly in delight. She had an egg!

“That egg was pressing up against my breastbone!”

Then another crane on the other side of the lake began to call. Our nesting mom stretched her neck and called back…

“Hey you! Be quiet, you’re stressing the baby!”

…and then was joined by her spouse who was standing nearby.

“Hey don’t upset the Mrs! It’s quiet hours now!”

It was pretty amazing to be so close.

Then she got back to work cleaning the nest and checking her youngster, still in the shell.

“There, there, little one, mama’s got you all warm and safe.”

In between watching her I tried to see if there were any loons out in the bay. There were a lot of ducks, but they were all far away and the light was fading fast. There were probably a couple loons out there, but I couldn’t be sure. What I was sure of was the spouse of my nesting crane stalking past me headed for quieter dining.

“You can’t get a quiet meal around here.”

Eventually I moved back to the main path where I saw the spouse of the nesting pair strutting his stuff. I guess he had had enough and needed to get away for awhile.

“I hear there’s a new bar and grill down this way,”

I found him shortly after, having a drink at the local pub.

“And another thing, ever since she had that egg she ignores me. It’s always all about the egg!”

He was sharing tales of woe and his fear of becoming a father with the local bartender, this muskrat who was munching on bar snacks.

“I know what you mean man, sometimes it’s just easier to hang out alone.”

In the end I never did see the loons up close, though I walked all the way around the lake.

Toward the end of my walk I was focused on capturing the moon in the branches of a tree, almost back to the car, when suddenly two cranes flew low right over my head and landed on the path directly in front of me.

A nice evening was coming to a close.

That was startling, and I was kind of worried about getting past them in the growing dusk. They seemed intent on me paying some sort of passage ransom.

Notice this one is missing his or her right foot.

So I threw some seed toward them and inched by. As I was doing that I heard rustling in the reeds right behind me. Turns out there was a third crane walking back there, perhaps a distant family member of the two who had just dropped in.

“Just toss us the food, lady, and nobody gets hurt.”

Regardless I bid them all a good evening and scurried back to the car. Night was closing in on the rookery and it was time for me to head home.

Thus ends another beautiful day at the rookery.

I didn’t see the loons, but I had such a wonderful walk and saw plenty of things that made me smile. And now I hope you’re smiling too!


A little pond adventure

Penny here!

HEY! I know Mom said I should just lay low for awhile cause you guys have seen enough of me, but HEY! I’m right here people, and I’m pretty stinking adorable, and everyone, just everyone says they want to see more, more, MORE of me.


Watching the neighbor and his dog Simon jog past our house.

OK, so maybe not everyone. But majority rules, so I’m going to tell you about my recent adventure anyway, cause I’m the majority and I do what I want. Mom and Daddy have begun to understand that about me.

But I digress.

My first visit to the neighbor’s pond.

Mom and Daddy are still being very protective of me, and decided I couldn’t go anywhere that had other dogs for two weeks after my last set of vaccinations. Geeze. All the other dogs get to go and I’m stuck here at home with a couple of old folks.

I swear, they can hardly get up off the floor after getting down there 5 or 6 times every morning to play with me.

Sometimes I think I should trade them in for newer models, but something tells me if I just wait a little bit longer (say, a week or so) there’s going to be all sorts of fun stuff to do!

My back yard is fun and stuff, but I want to see the WORLD, Mom!

Anyway, Mom decided that we could visit our neighbor’s pond today. It’s just across the street and no doggies go over there, so she figured it would be the perfect place for me to explore.

Mom! This place is AMAZING!

And boy was she right! We found out right away that I’m not afraid of getting my feet wet!

My very first muddy feet!

In fact I loved walking along the shore in the water even though Mom said it was really cold and wouldn’t let me explore near the deep parts.

I thought it was important to taste it too, in order to get the full effect….

Nom, nom, nom.

…but I don’t think I really like the taste. I might have to taste it again, though Mom wasn’t real keen on me drinking from the pond. She says I have nice clean ice cold filtered water at home. I said, sure Mom, but that doesn’t taste like frogs and turtles and fish and muskrats!

Moms don’t always understand stuff until it’s explained to them.


I had so much fun over there. I got water up my nose and got to shake it off, my first real doggy shake. I think this little adventure proves I’m a big girl now, and ready to take on the world, if they’ll just let me!

Nothing that a little shaking won’t fix.

And just to prove how responsible I am, when we got back to my yard I helped Mom by picking up my poop bag she’d left behind and carrying it back to the house for her. I figured it was only fair that I pick up after myself in return for having a great little mini adventure.

Mom says that pond was nothing compared to what I could see if I continue to be a good girl.

Don’t worry, Mom, I’ve got this!

I told her just watch me. They didn’t name me Unstoppable Penny for nothing.

No siree.


Snowy baby pictures

Hey Peeps, Penny here. You don’t mind being called Peeps, do you, cause I think of you all as my people! Yep, every single one of you. Mom says you can never have too many Peeps, and since I’m just a baby still, I’m taking her word for it.

Speaking of baby, mom took a bunch of pictures of me a thousand weeks ago when we had lots of snow, and she’s hardly shared any of them! Mom says she doesn’t have time to sort pictures cause she’s running around making sure I’m happy.

Personally I think she needs to hone her time management skills, in fact, as I recall my sister Katie told me this very same thing. Mom gets tied up with too many things and stresses out. Katie and I both suggest she just focus on the puppy all the time. I think mom’s stress level would lower right away if she did that.

What do you guys think?

Any-hoo, I’ve been bugging her (my most important job as new puppy in this household) to post my baby snow pictures before the daffodils bloom. I understand once the yellow flowers start showing up I’ll have to do a lot of modeling, and it would be embarrassing to still be working through snow pictures. Bad for my modeling career, you know, to be so far behind.

So far I’m still sleeping through the night and I’m mostly house trained. I can sit when asked but I’m not going to stay. No siree, there’s no stopping this girl when I get moving, and I’m mostly moving all the time.

Mom puts me in a timeout if I get overly excited or if I’m cranky. It’s not so bad, I have a big cushy bed in there, and some of my toys and a water bowl, so I don’t really mind going into my timeout pen. My Auntie calls it my rest stop. I do mostly fall asleep in there, so it’s a good place for me.

And when I wake up mom or daddy take me outside right away. I love my yard, but there’s a lot of presents from the resident deer out there that are apparently off limits. I don’t know why, I think they smell fabulous! Sometimes mom and daddy are no fun.

So this is my life right now. No parks quite yet, no walks with friends (I don’t even know if I have any friends!), no visits to the store, no adventures unless you call a sedate walk down the driveway and back an adventure.

WAIT! I DID have an adventure!

Mom promised me one last Friday and I was sort of excited. Not a lot excited because, never having had an adventure, I wasn’t even sure what an adventure was, but kind of excited. We ended up at the VET! And they stuck me twice!! I’m gonna check with Katie, but I’m pretty sure this is not what she was talking about when she told me about all the fun she had going on adventures.

Well, Peeps, I’ll sign off for now. Time to get a little shuteye in my rest stop. If you can, please poke mom for me (I do plenty of that but a girl can’t be poking constantly, it’s not lady-like) and see if you can prod her into taking me on a real adventure soon.

I’m counting on you,

Your adventure-girl, Unstoppable Penny.


Wordless Wednesday lost

Mom says we missed Wordless Wednesday. She says it’s Thursday now and I need to move on, but seriously, I think Wednesdays are perfect days to showcase me, especially during my cute puppy days.

Cause everybody knows that puppyhood doesn’t last forever.

Mom called my name, so I turned right around.

So I have tasked mom with making sure she posts a picture of me, her Adventure Girl, every Wednesday.

I figured I better speed it up, in case there were treats.

And, because she messed up already, I am requiring additional photos today. Sort of an advance on future Wednesdays, just in case she loses track of time again.

Just the THOUGHT of treats made me leap for joy!

I’ve only lived with mom and daddy a month and I can already tell I’m going to have to keep them in line. They mumble something about being retired but that’s not going to fly with a puppy in the house!

I’m coming, mom!

I’ve got so much to tell you, but for now, over and out,

Really mom? One piece of kibble for all that?

Your feisty chewing whirlwind Adventure Girl, signing out!

Play hard, sleep hard, that’s my motto.