Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Crane watching

While I was walking the boardwalk searching for the Queen I noticed these cranes through the bushes and across the road.

Is our lunch being delivered?

What were they watching, I wondered?

You gotta make sure you check both ways before you cross this road!

Oh. You wouldn’t think there’d be so much traffic on a cold mid-week afternoon.

That guy’s got skinny legs.

Don’t worry, no cranes (or runners) were injured in the capturing of these images.

Guess our lunch is delayed.

But I wonder if these guys don’t think it’s about time to head south?


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Queen of the Boardwalk

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.

Anybody out there? Hey Mr. Downy, are you hungry?

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.

Well, at least one bird wants a snack!

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.

They almost always go for the peanuts first.

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.

She’s not too sure about this.

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.

Come on sweetie, it will be OK.

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.

You have options, pick your favorite!

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.

You’re such a good Queen, taking your partner the best peanut.

And the politely waiting chickadee hopped up onto my hand to see what she had left behind.

She’s off to share. Mr. Chickadee is waiting in line.

Now I can say I’ve met the Queen. And it was everything I knew it would be.

I’m glad she left him some of the good stuff.


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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!