Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bombs Away !

This is the first time I have really noticed the cedar waxwings flocking to my neighborhood.  I am not as observant as I had hoped, because I must have certainly missed these in prior years and others have told me they frequent the woods near here.  There were perhaps twenty-five of these birds enjoying the afternoon winter sun near a county park although not making much noise which they are known for.  They could have been missed by me had I not noticed the calling cards.

I was returning to my car from a short day hike and I saw that they had also pooped berry remains all over my car windshield and hood.   Next time I will look before I park.  They are messy birds.

They are more yellow than appears in these amateur photos.  I am guessing that they wear masks so that we cannot identify who was making the mess.  Therefore, it was no surprise when I learned they were members of the Bombycilla family of birds.  They get the waxwing name because they have red waxy deposits at the ends of their secondary feathers. (Click on photo for a closer look if you dare.)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Party Hardy

"Tis the season to be jolly," and these guys make sure that there is a party every single night in my neck of the woods.  They fly in with the setting sun filling the skies with laughter and 'quackling'.  They are a rowdy crowd full of high energy and impossible to ignore.   "Let's get this happy hour going," they say as their feet slap the surface of the water and they skid to a stop just breaking the landing speed limit that has been set for this end of the river.  There must be no landing rules in Canada from whence they came.

Each group gathers in little pockets staking their claim to that section of the river and they begin immediately with honking noises to catch up with their nearby mates on whatever has happened elsewhere during the day.  The chatter is deafening and one wonders how anyone can hear anyone else.  Like big Italian families or large Chinese gatherings at the dinner table, they all talk at once and yet all seem to understand each other, or perhaps they are actually ignoring each other.

It doesn't take long for the guys to spot the gaggle of females on the other side of the river calmly preening their feathers into place.  The males' jokes get louder and more disgusting and the laughter carries far over the water in the formerly quiet early evening disturbing all others who have begun to snuggle in for the night.

The gals laugh just a little in the golden setting sun and undulate a little straining to meet up but also taking their time.  After all, this happy hour lasts until the wee hours of the morning.  It is often that I sit up from my bed in the dark night wondering what hilarious joke was told that so suddenly filled my bedroom with that loud honking laughter.  They do know how to have a good time but as lovely as they are, I don't really miss them when this 'spring break' comes to an end and they leave to return to their mating grounds.  I can only guess how noisy it gets there!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Electronic Wishes

When Christmas bells are swinging above the fields of snow,
We hear sweet voices ringing from lands of long ago,
And etched on vacant places
Are half-forgotten faces
Of friends we used to cherish,
And loves we used to know.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox


(Please visit my other blog for the gift giving.) 

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I was rushing to the Post Office with a handful of holiday greetings to drop in the mail when the tree (photo above) near my neighbor's driveway caught my eye.  It looked like it was oozing something.  I remembered this tree with its stunning fungus on my return trip to the house.  I stopped by the roadside and brought out my point and shoot from my purse and took several photos of this luscious cluster of creamy fungus.  I knew that my neighbor would not be surprised or wondering what I was doing as I am rarely seen outside without a camera covering my face.

Don't they look so buttery?  Good enough to eat.  No squirrels are nibbling, so I am guessing that in reality they are not good enough to eat.  They are perfect in their form and have beautiful ridges beneath their vanilla skirts.  Click on the photo for all the delicious details and tell me what they remind you of.

Monday, December 21, 2009

It Comes at This Time Every Year

"It's her birthday?"
"Yep, all day, looks like"
"Who'd have thunk she would
live this long?"

Saturday, December 19, 2009

End of the Day Heartjumps

This heron sometimes tucks himself into the high grasses at the foot of my dock in the early evening waiting for dinner, and a few times, in my eagerness to capture a lovely sunset I startle him and then he startles me.  We have got to stop doing that to each other before one of us has a heart attack!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Opposites and Fibonacci

I have heard that opposites attract. That is certainly worthy of a longer blog post some day. I have also learned in my marriage that my husband sees the big picture and I see the details in our march through the decisions in this life. Oddly, he sees the details while I see the vistas when we are out of doors marching through the woods. This little guy in the photo above just missed being compressed by the wheels of my bike tire when hubby spotted him far below. The heavy rains had washed him onto the pavement. I stopped and lifted him carefully back into the marshy grasses on the side of the road where his journey would be safer.  He was about the size of a nickel.

This "golden spiral" of the snail shell is a concrete illustration of the rules of "divine proportion."  It is an equiangular spiral so named by none other than Descartes.  Hidden in the direction of the growth rings are the mysteries of Pi.  It is a perfect example of symmetrical and balanced growth.  We need to study this method and try to figure out how to incorporate it into our spiritual growth as it is known by the ancients as the way that is easiest.

Had my math teacher given this example when teaching, I might have been a much better student. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Like Stuffed Animals

These diving birds are called buffle heads and here are so shy and wary that getting close enough to enjoy them with binoculars is a challenge.  The other day when a break in the weather came, we headed out to the nearby park that touches the shore just inside the bridge.  These were the only two birds on the glassy winter water.  They look like secret lovers, don't they?  They look as if they were stealing a mid-day tryst.  We only see them in the winter as they mate in Canada.  I want to go there someday and see the elaborate courtship displays they are known for.

I peaked through the break in the trees on a bluff overlooking this wide part of the river.  It was a dangerous game because the bluff had recently dumped its sandy edge onto the beach about 25 feet below.  Wildlife photography is challenging.  I was also carefully still, knowing if they saw me they would swim farther out and I would not catch even this grainy memory.  They are far lovelier than this photo reveals.

Both would dive tails up and then disappear for several minutes while searching for food, but returning close to where they began their dive.

Their common name fits them so well as they have these soft round heads and puffy little bodies that only the word buffle comes to mind when thinking of them. 

Monday, December 14, 2009

Bike Trip!

One of the most energizing days in early winter is to be able to take a bike ride after a pause in the pattern of cold gray rain when the windy weather breaks into the rare sunny 60's.  We had this lucky weather break the first week of December.  We drove to a state park on a point of land on the Bay where we then set out by bike.  Water on one side of the point was as calm as blue glass and on the other side choppy with white frothy peaked waves.  


The air had been washed so clear you had to squint your eyes to see against the angle of the sun. We had the state park all to ourselves except for a young romantic couple out by the lighthouse on the point.  The prior night's heavy rain had flooded the coastal area and we had to bike around small ponds, and little rivers of mud and leftover rain, and washed up sand and drifts of pine needles across the trails along the marsh grass and by the shore.   With my camera in hand I found beautiful bronze, copper, and golden remnants of the summer glittering in the sun.

One is only given a handful of jeweled days like this and my chest cold had at long last reached its wane so that I could enjoy the day fully.

OK, guess I am ready for winter.  (As always clicking on photos gets a better view.)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Common Loons

I heard their distant and haunting song just before the last holiday and I knew they had returned once again and brought winter with them.  I have read that the Ojibwa Indians said the loon song was an omen of death.  It has never seemed that sad to me.  It is a lovely piercing cry that carries far across the water and if it is an omen of death it sounds 'released.'  It  may sound like a lover calling that last passionate plea declaring love for his mate.  They fly all the way from Canada to winter here in my river.  Their torpedo shaped body disappears for great lengths of time beneath the surface of the river, reappearing hundreds of feet away to avoid a photo.  We now are getting dozens of them out in the middle of the river but very few near my shore.  Since they cannot walk well on land with their legs placed so far back, they were named the loon.  I have never seen one on land.  Although their average life span is 30 years, they have so many predators on land, water and in the sky, that it is a miracle they survive at all.  This photo (probably a female) is the best I got this year...thus far.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Hawk Eyed

The trees now stand in creaky upright poses with branches all crooked like a witch's knobby fingers reaching to the blue winter sky as if grasping for the return of the warmth of the sun.  All is brittle and gray brown.  Nothing is left to hide the temporary visitors anymore.  Although the shapes and brown and gray of bony tree joints sometimes look like backs or necks of the larger birds, this first of the prey birds was visible in the front yard holding watch on one of the sturdy branches with the warm sun striking his breast as he carefully surveyed for movement or sound across my flower beds and across the dormant garden beds lying far below.  He was patient and focused.  He waited for quite some time before flying to the west in search of a better food market.  I was hoping he would spot a mole or two or perhaps one of the small gray field mice that tend to find their way into my basement and chew through boxes for bird seed.

This hawk looks like a juvenile and since the photo (snapped through a double-paned glass window) is not very good even when tweaked, I could not identify him.  You can click on photo for a closer look.   I always have hope that someday I could sneak up on one of these hawk-eyed beauties outside and that is what makes me look forward to each winter day.  Next time I will try to get the red tail (if he has one.)  They live for an average of 21 years, so I have some time to capture this resident for my photo archive.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Marauding Hoard

There were a total of five six of these marauders in the ravine, actually four five and one fawn almost grown.  They were hanging out most of the early morning which gave me time to grab the camera and cross the deck to the other side and snap some photos.  The weather was gray, wet and cold.  The rain had stopped, so I did not have to shelter my camera.  You can click on the photo to see how angry this first one looks at being interrupted in his pursuit of food.  I did have to 'red-eye' him, so he looks a little intense.

Because the woods are now clear, I could see them as well as they see me in real time.  Usually I only saw them after hearing much crashing and stumbling up the hill on the other side of the ravine with white tails flashing like surrender flags as I make my distracted way to the dock focusing on my own errand.  They are so lovely even though they have destroyed anything I plant in the back yard.  We now have the pomegranate under netting as it tries to grow at the very top edge of its natural range near the sunny corner of the house.  Eventually I will have a meeting of the minds with this gang and they will probably win.

Yeah, back at yah!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Dance

The dance has come to an end.  Each year it starts with an Adagio where only the dignified release their poised stance and hurl themselves across the sky arms flying.  This is followed by the Allegro where all sizes begin the march to the forest floor in unison and with regimentation as the wind pushes them in a straight line.  If you are beneath them they will bounce across your head in their dance or catch in the collar of your shirt.  They sail straight to the end of the movement.  Then we get the Allegretto grazioso tempo which is filled with pirouettes and skids and whirls, and then perhaps, changes in percussion of the wind moves the movement to Prestissimo as they fling themselves high and wide and they sail far far from their home over all of the forest.  Finally the end of the performance is Tranquillo.  A large and lovely dancer, the prima ballerina, twirls ever so slowly to the earth and you cannot help but watch mesmerized.  Then the dance comes to an end and will not repeat until next year.