Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Surprise!

I was standing in my breakfast room, taking a picture of this red bellied woodpecker….

A modern art image, showing off his red belly.

….when this guy showed up. He’s a male evening grosbeak.

The yellow eyebrows helped me identify our visitor.

According to my Michigan bird book they aren’t supposed to be around here. They live in the northern lower peninsula and the UP of Michigan. But last winter at one of our local bird seed shops there was talk that people around here had seen them.

Such a striking bird, he was hungry and happy that there was seed on the railing.

I’ve only seen one, last winter, just one, and just one visit. But today our initial visitor came back later in the day along with some of his friends!

He brought a friend to the buffet!

First I saw two of them on the railing. And then I realized there were three, then four males, on the railing, in the trees…

A evening grosbeak party at the feeder!

…and on the feeder. Plus one of the birds on the feeder was a female! (over on the left above)

Num, num, num…

It was so cool. I’m thrilled that I got to see them, and even more thrilled that I got some shots.

I’ve been smiling all day.


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Change

Have I mentioned lately that change is hard?

My laptop went through an update. I don’t even know for sure who was doing the updating, and I certainly don’t know what was being updated.

Cardinal on a can

What I am certain of is that I didn’t request the update. It just happened.

So I’m finding, in the process of working on stuff, what has changed. Mostly, it seems, it’s in how pictures are being stored.

And where.

Crow with a snack.

I was feeling pretty cocky when I figured out how to find my images. It looks different, and it’s in a different place, but they’re all there. That was a relief.

But then I went to download images I took yesterday.

Buck looking for love.

WHOA. That process seems to be entirely different.

I don’t know how the images are being chosen to download and even scarier, I don’t know WHERE they are being saved.

Cardinal in a bath.

I used to be able to choose to download only the most recent images and I could pick which folder I wanted images to go into. Now there doesn’t seem to be a choice.

Since I can’t figure out where the images will go, even if I am successful in finding the download link, button or whatnot, I stopped.

Chickadee complaining about having to drink bath water.

I put the card back in the camera and I will do some research before I try again.

Female cardinal wondering what all the fuss is about.

Why do things have to be changed? Was there something wrong with the way we downloaded files before? Or is this some sort of job security for the people that design software?

Couldn’t there be some sort of warning and maybe even some instructions before they do these things?

Bluejay calling his mates to come and get something to eat.


And who is this ‘they’ that has such power anyway?

Darn.

Woodpecker reflecting on why dinner is not on his feeder. And staring at us inside to make sure we are aware of his discontent.

Change is hard.

(Meanwhile, enjoy some images I had already downloaded but never got around to using before today)


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The gift of time

I woke up this morning and watched my girl sleeping curled up in her bed at the foot of mine. These days I watch her breathing and feel grateful for another day.

Welcome to one of my parks!

She’s doing so well, we have her stabilized and she’s been good for several months now. She’s eating meals and doing her jobs regularly. Her poo passes the ‘looks normal’ test, and she’s drinking water on her own again.

It was a cool and windy day. Perfect.

I know she’s still in stage 4 kidney disease but you wouldn’t know by looking at her. What you will notice is she walks more stiffly, and her back legs give out if she tries to jump, or goes around a corner too fast.

This is my yard today!

I take her to her parks as often as I can, knowing that she loves to be out and about, especially in her woods, on her trails, checking under her picnic tables. Her ears don’t hear much anymore, and I suspect her eyesight isn’t perfect. But her nose works just fine.

And she’s a happy girl.

I love it out here, mama!

That’s the most important thing, that she’s happy.

She still barks at squirrels on her deck, at diesel trucks going by, at neighborhood dogs, at people walking on her street without a sheltie permit. She loves her meals, all five plus one late night snack of them. She still loves her walks through her neighborhood.

Let me at that snowball!

Two days ago I took her to one of her parks and we walked the earthen levy at the end of the lake. It was a windy day, no one was out there but us and she got to roam freely. She wasn’t at all ready to get back in the car when I was. She’d obviously dressed better for the adventure than me.

Something smells different about this snow!

This morning she received a special gift. It snowed. My Katie-girl loves snow. She loves it’s cold. She loves to eat it. She loves to chase a well thrown snowball. She loves everything about snow.

I can’t stop smiling!

We went on several walks today, and explored the backyard too. While out there I grabbed some pictures because in the back of my mind I wonder if this is her last snowfall.

My yard is looking good!

Not that she looks like she’s going anywhere just yet. But will she still be here next November or December when winter closes in on us again? Probably not.

Yep, I’m a happy girl.

So for now I toss her a snowball. I watch her twirl in happiness. And I take pictures to save the moment.

Our girl.

Because each day is a gift, and I’ll want to unwrap this one again some day.

Enough pictures already, mama!


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Raw Katie-girl

I’ve been taking a series of free online classes about night photography. Of course the instructor believes we should all be shooting in RAW. It’s not the first time I’ve heard this.

At Katie’s park on a pretty day in March.

Many years ago I took another night photography seminar, where RAW was suggested as well, mostly because you can change the white balance when you’re processing if you shoot in RAW.

“No snow, mama, but still lots of ice!

What does it mean to shoot in RAW? Well, it just means the image you are getting hasn’t been processed at all. There’s more data in the image and it’s all unmodified.

The blackbirds were singing, so it must be spring.

I’ve been shooting JPeg, because, for some reason, RAW made me nervous. Years ago I did a few test shots in RAW, but my processing software wouldn’t allow me to download them. So I haven’t tried again.

“Kinda windy out here, mama!”

But lots of time and software has passed since then, and I figured I should try again. So I took Katie to her park yesterday; in 50 degree (10C) with a stiff breeze, she was in heaven.

“I’m having a good hair day!”

It has been a long time since we visited her park, and, as I remember it, a blizzard was bearing down and it was so very cold that we didn’t stay long at all.

“I love my park!”

Yesterday she pranced like a puppy, tail wagging, nose to the ground looking for all the pee-mail left by other doggies just for her.

“Hey mama, the smells are just wonderful over here!”

I took a few pictures, in RAW, just to see how they came out. To be honest, I can’t tell the difference, but I’ll keep shooting in RAW until I figure out why it’s better.

“It’s so good to be out here, mama!”

Katie says she’ll gladly model for me again. As long as I bring treats.

“Can we come back tomorrow, mama?”


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But what about the blackbird?

Ah yes. I went out to Kensington nearly a week ago to see if there were red-winged blackbirds singing there. I had one lone male visiting my feeder at home, but I hadn’t heard the early blackbird chorus that announces spring every year here in Southeast Michigan.

Not a blackbird.

But I got distracted, first by the turkeys and then by the redheaded woodpecker. Still….were there red-winged blackbirds here in Michigan, aside from the lonely guy at my feeder?

Can’t get over this guy.

I could hear a few, down another icy trail, and I hoped I didn’t have to go too far to gather proof. They were mostly far away, hiding in the cattails. They weren’t making much noise, and seemed a bit shy, or maybe they were just shell-shocked by the freezing temperatures and snow.

“I’m hungry, but I don’t know if I can trust that lady over there.”

One was walking up the path ahead of me. I thought maybe if I put some peanuts and oilers out I could coax him up into a more photogenic location.

“HEY! Hurry up you guys, she left us SNACKS!”

The longer I stood there the more blackbirds I saw, though none were brave enough to come get the treats I put out.

I’d appreciate a snack too, lady. My feet are cold.

Eventually they came closer, and ate some treats that I tossed near them. They even sang a little, but I know that later in the season they’ll be much happier to see me, once they figure out that the people visiting generally have food for them.

“If I don’t look at you, you’re not there. Right?”

So yes, spring has officially sprung in Southeast Michigan. The red-winged blackbirds are here, let the snow begin to melt!

“Gotta get fluffed up and pretty for spring!”


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Search for Red

My purpose, this past Monday, in going out to my favorite park was to see if the red-winged blackbird was back here in southeastern Michigan. I had one visiting my backyard feeder, but I hadn’t heard him or any others singing, my true harbinger of spring.

Everybody’s in a hurry. Why not stop and just enjoy a spot of sunlight?

I knew if they were anywhere, they’d be at Kensington which has large marshy areas and more importantly, people with food for the birds.

Hey lady! I’ll pose for peanuts!

When I arrived I drove past the heron rookery in case the eagle happened to be there, and since he (or she?) was not, I didn’t bother to walk over there after I parked. Instead I considered which trail might be most effective for finding the blackbirds.

I’ll keep watch for you lady! My fee is mere peanuts!

And then I remembered that I have been seeing beautiful images of the illusive (to me anyway) red headed woodpecker taken at this park. And I knew, from those pictures, what area of the trail system he had usually been seen.

I don’t see any red birds over this way. Do you happen to have any peanuts?

So I decided to go check that out before more people showed up. I had only seen one other car in the lot, and I didn’t want a lot of people clomping around scaring off my birds! And speaking of clomping, I was wearing my Yax grippers, and let me tell you, wearing those on ice makes it impossible to sneak up on anything!

The trails were covered in ice, no problem for the big guy.

I arrived at the location I thought I’d find the red headed and there wasn’t a bird to be seen. Nothing. Not a sparrow or a mourning dove. Not a starling or a cardinal. No hawk, no crow. No bird sounds. I stood there a long time. Then I sighed and walked off down the trail, head down, dragging my heavy camera in defeat.

Guy with really big camera charges off into the woods and missed the big show.

And then I heard the little squeak of a nuthatch. He was poking his head up over a slightly hollow stump. Someone had left some millet in the stump and he was poking around eating what he could find

Hey! Don’t suppose you have a peanut for me?

He was adorable. And then there was a second set of squeaking, and I saw a second nuthatch on a nearby tree. Beautiful.

If there are peanuts, I’m in!

I walked over to their stump and put a few peanuts in there, as sort of a reward for posing so nice for me, and then I backed up and waited. Soon enough they were both running around on their stump, and my camera was following them.

She didn’t put very many in here, we better get our share!

And then I heard a bigger squawk. OMG, look what came in for a peanut!

I have arrived!

Well, look at both of them, the red headed and a male downy woodpecker, tucked in lower on the right side of the stump. I could hardly breath as I was shooting.

The little male downy wasn’t sure he was invited.

And even when the red headed flew up into the tree he didn’t go far.

Getting a snack to take up into the trees.

He kept posing for me, up and over branches, in and out of the sun. My arms ached from holding the big heavy lens up toward the sky.

I loved the tree limbs in this one.

But I couldn’t stop smiling.

He looks small here, like a hummingbird, but he’s definitely a good sized woodpecker!

I clicked away until I finally gave up. He wasn’t moving, and I had no idea if I had anything worthwhile.

I’m watching you lady!

Still smiling, I walked away. After all, I had to go find my blackbirds!

Don’t forget about me, lady! I won’t be around here much longer!


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Did you say you wanted to see a turkey?

A couple weeks back Debbie, of ND Domer’s Mom said, in a comment on my post about snowy owls or barns, that she wouldn’t mind seeing a turkey, and I assured her I’d run across a turkey sooner or later.

Hey lady! It’s early and we’re not camera ready yet! Well, except for Ralph over there, he’s a camera hog.

Well, yesterday turned out to be the day.

And in the early morning light they were beautiful.

Showing off my colors while looking for breakfast.

In a weird sort of way.

A face only a mother could love.

And though they were not the reason I was in their park, they turned out to be a feature of the icy walk.

I’m ready for my photo shoot now.

Why was I there? Well, I was trying to confirm whether red winged blackbirds were indeed back, that my loan male visiting my deck wasn’t an anomaly.

What did I find?

Guess you’ll have to wait and see.

What? Am I too early for spring?


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A long drive for a little walk

Earlier this week I decided to visit Chippewa Nature Center up in Midland. That’s about a two hour drive for me, but I kept seeing beautiful photos on a Facebook group of birds and animals that were taken there, and I’d never been. So, since I had one day free and the weather wasn’t too horrible, I decided to buzz up there and see what I could see.

I almost didn’t put tights on under my jeans before I left, and I’m so glad I did because it was much colder up there and the wind was blowing. Great. Once I arrived I studied the map at the parking lot trying to figure out where the trailhead was. It wasn’t very clear, so I wandered a bit and ended up on a paved path designed for preschoolers. The little trail looped around a school. This was the only picture I took.

Preschoolers dressed for winter fun.

Then I went and figured out where the adult trails were, but they were covered in ice and even though I had my Yax grippers with me I didn’t think it looked very fun to creep along the ice on a trail that I had never been on before. Alone.

So I decided to come back another day, after things thawed out a bit. But because I was very near the Midland Park where I had once seen eagles, I stopped by on my way home. No eagles were flying, but I did see two eagles on their nest. Unfortunately the nest isn’t anywhere close to parking, so no pictures. But still cool.

And then, on the way home, having taken only one picture (unheard of for me!) I decided since I was driving right past, I’d stop at the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, a favorite place of mine. I was hoping I would find eagles on the nest I’d seen last time I was there.

On the road out to the refuge I had to stop to shoot this barn. I’ve loved it before, but it was especially pretty with the light that morning.

It’s the tree that makes this barn beautiful.

And this one, too, a little further down the road. Now, even if I saw nothing else, I’d at least have shot three things on this adventure. Some kids and a couple barns.

I’m a sucker for a barn and a row of trees.

There was no one at the refuge when I got there. I was arriving later in the day than normal, but I was still hoping to see those eagles…

So far so good, easy walking and no ice!

…until I got to the T in the trail and to the right, the way I needed to go, looked like this.

That’s a bench up there on the left, but I’m not going to sit on it.

Hmmmm…I could put on the cleats. But still, I was alone out there — if I fell it would be a long time before someone came to help. It didnt seem worth the risk.

Turning left there was a ‘nature viewing’ shack. I’d never investigated it before, and the trail was clear that way so I figured why not.

What’s that back there?

This is the view. Uninspiring.

Well, the trees are nice…

I took the heavy long lens off the camera and put my regular lens back on and decided I’d just go for artsy fartsy pictures on the mile long walk back to the car. So that’s what you’r going to get for the rest of this post. I don’t imagine you’ll mind too much.

There was some beaver damage on downed trees. Not really artsy fartsy, but interesting.

Those beaver have some big teeth!

And a huge tree limb that had fallen across the trail with beautiful insect tracks.

Reminded me of petroglyphs somehow.

I originally thought it was a limb from an ash tree because of the bug trails…but the tree this limb fell from looked like a hickory tree, so I don’t know what caused the damage. I spent a long time taking pictures of the naked limbs with the beautiful but sad markings.

These marks aren’t the same as what I’ve seen made by the ash beetle.

And closer to the car the ice, as long as I wasn’t walking on it, was beautiful too.

In a black and white winter world there was still plenty of color.

Even a bit of frozen grass could be seen as art.

I thought the colors were a perfect representation of winter in Michigan.

And fungus on a stick was certainly beautiful too.

Up close, the better to appreciate the wonder of it.

Back at the parking lot I shot the farm that was way off across a field, and that was the end of the photographic adventure for the day.

One last farm.

Oh! I did see a couple cardinals. Not that I can’t see those at home, but still…it was wildlife.

Hey Lady! I’m right here!

The grand total was some kids, some ice, some dead tree limbs and a bird or two. Not what I went looking for. But it was still fun. I got out of the house, in the fresh (cold) air with my camera. You can’t always choose what you get to shoot, but you can always turn it into something worthwhile.

Guaranteed.


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Sheltie speak

Hey everybody! Katie here!

I know, I know. Today is Wednesday, and so I’m supposed to be wordless. I don’t know who thought up that stupid rule, but let me tell you, this girl has never been wordless in her whole life. And I’m not going to start now!

Mama? Can we please go on another walk?

Actually I don’t really have much to say, being that I hardly ever get to go anywhere anymore, except the vet or the groomer, and those are not places you want to hear about! Or maybe you do?

They’re not going to weigh me are they? Cause I’ve put on a couple pounds.

Really? Well, OK then.

This past week I went to a new groomer. You know how I used to go to my groomer Nicole, I’ve been going to her since I was a baby. And then this weird covid thing happened and her groomer place wasn’t open. So after months and months of no baths or nail trims mama was getting sort of desparate and she asked on her neighborhood FB thing if anyone was a groomer and would be willing to take care of me under the radar…and I went to see Jessica.

Mama….do I look round to you?

Jessica was really nice and the good thing was that I’d get an actual appointment and not have to be dropped off at the beginning of the day and picked up at the end of the day like at Nicole’s. I only had to be in the scary place an hour. And it was pretty close to where we lived so mama liked it. I went to Jessica for over a year.

But Jessica didn’t really listen to mama. Mama likes my furs long and flowy. She loves to watch me walk with all my fur blowing in the wind. Jessica would nod her head and then when mama picked me up in an hour I looked like a tough street kid with short spiky fur! Everybody thought I was cute in the short cut, but mama was frustrated.

I don’t know…I guess it’s a look.

Then Deuce’s mom (you remember Deuce, my cocker spanial friend?) started taking Ace, his little brother, to a groomer right here in my very own town!

Deuce and I went for a walk while Ace was at the groomer, but it was so cold and windy the moms made us go back home.

She had high praise for this groomer, cause Ace, who has only just turned 2 and is a real handful, has a thick heavy coat, sort of like mine, and he takes a lot of maintaining. Kinda like….well….me.

A couple weeks ago mama took me to meet Tracy and to get my nails and feet done.

She only did my nails this time, but I still got a bandana.

And last week mama got a full grooming appointment for me. Mama dropped me off and went home to do some vacuuming in peace. Tracy, the new groomer, sent mama pictures of me and asked if she should take off more or leave parts of me longer. Mama appreciated that.

I was cute but not really feeling the pink floof.

OK, I came home with silly pink things in my furs, but at least I had some furs left! Mama likes Tracy a lot, and I like that I didn’t have to stay there very long, and that the car ride was really short. Cause lately when I get put in the car I go to scary places, so I’m sorta not liking car rides so much any more.

Ah….I remember the old days when mama and I used to go on long car rides and stop at lots of rest stops with great smells, and sleep out under the stars and run on the ocean beach, and walk among old growth pines and hang out on my lake house deck and explore the world and meet new friends.

Me and my Florida friends in 2018!

Yep. I remember those days. I sure miss doing fun stuff like that, but I appreciate mama and daddy taking me out on short walks around the neighborhood whenever I ask. And I ask frequently, cause let me tell you it’s boring here in the house!

Mama, me and my shadow going for a walk this week.

Mama’s been feeling a bit stircrazy too and she says if I stick around until spring she’ll set the tent up in the backyard and we can sleep under the stars again. I can’t wait, I hope spring hurries up and comes! But mama says I shouldn’t wish the days away, cause there are only just so many.

What you talkin’ about, mama?

Sometimes mama is a little obtuse, you know? I think I’ll go take a nap while she wipes her eyes. Darn woman is just so leakey-eyed these days. She never used to be like this, I don’t know what I’m going to do with her.

I guess I’ll sign off for now, mama will have to figure herself out on her own.

Sometimes a girl just has to take a nap

Your perfectly coiffed princess,

Katie.

Don’t forget to wake me up for supper!

PS: Mama says she’s sorry about the quality of the images…most of them are from her phone. She hardly ever takes me on photo shoots with her big camera anymore. She says she can’t give me treats, and so she doesn’t think it’s fair for me to have to pose for free. Plus it’s cold out there.

Mama is a wimp.

Mama and me.