Thursday, February 27, 2020


The dark-eyed junco is a frequently overlooked bird. They are low-level nesters, but I have never come across one of their nests, probably because they mostly breed in Canada! We get many of them in the colder weather and they eat where the seeds have spilled from the feeders. The juncos in my photos below are VERY different from the more warm-colored varieties in Western North America. They are sometimes called 'snowbirds'.

The photo above shows ALL the snow we got this winter thus far! I took this shot as the junco hopped across my deck. There are over a dozen species with varied muted colors.

I love the muted and more formal colors that our visitors have as if they are a butler or well-dressed bus-boy.  I will miss them when they leave in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Is This Spring?

This past weekend it was unusually warm (again) and with rain scheduled for today, we decided to walk the granddog for a walk around the neighborhood. I could feel the anticipation in our woods. I could feel the trees pulsing with sap, and in the case of my sugar maple oozing with sap.  We walked the half-mile down the street to the cul-de-sac.

I am usually walking with my nose in the air looking for raptors. It is a miracle I do not end up face down on the pathways!

The wild maple trees were in bloom. Their tiny red blossoms were barely visible to the naked eye as they stood 40 feet tall.

The prickly seed balls of the Sweet Gum were just hanging on waiting to make a difficult path for the barefoot spring.

The dry flower-shaped seeds (in fruit cones) are still on the branches of the Tulip Poplar looking like dried flower arrangements and just waiting to clog drains and scatter across driveways when the sap reaches that hundred-foot height.

We returned to the yard to see that spring was certainly on its way and I think I have forgotten to clean out those birdhouses!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Tighter Turn on a Dime

Hubby walking his granddaughter to school a few years ago.
There is a phrase that comes frequently to mind in my elder age and that is "Life can turn on a dime". According to one derivation: "If something happens on a dime, it happens suddenly, in complete contrast to what was happening before." This can apply to people or it can apply to your life. 

If you have had a sudden tragedy, you definitely understand the full meaning of this phrase. It is like a car accident on a sunny morning ahead of schedule as you are heading to your first day on a job that you really wanted. It is like the birth of a beautiful child that had a terrible challenge in physical or mental development. It is like your flooded home without flood insurance on the day you have made the first payment to your child's tuition or the last to your mortgage. 

I accept that it also can mean a sharp turn for the better in your life, but I do not think most people think of it this way. Maybe I am wrong...lord knows I have been so wrong before.

My daughter was called up to Pennsylvania yesterday to be there for her college friend.  I may have written before that this college friend has a nine-year-old suffering from incurable brain cancer.  The experts predicted six months to two years of life.  Well, even with experimental proton therapy and getting on a list for experimental treatments and tens of thousands spent from savings and donations, the sweet blond-haired girl is now going into a coma and death.  She may have passed as I write this post.  Both parents and the younger brother are lost in this turning of the dime.

I cannot get my mind around this tragedy even though I know this kind of thing happens every day to honest and hard-working people.  My crying will not change the outcome.

I visited my daughter this weekend before her devastating news and she casually, very casually, mentioned that she had been "sexually assaulted" on the street as she was walking home a few days prior!  The scenario was she was walking down the sidewalk off a fairly busy street in mid-day when she saw a young black man ahead.  She has a number of African American friends, so she was not on guard until the black man did not move but forced her to the side.  He then slapped her behind as he passed.  She had the sense to bring out her phone and tell him she was taking pictures of him and sending them to her husband and that he better move on.  He casually smiled and that was when she realized he was  "not all there" but perhaps mentally off.

He did hurry off and she called the police.  They were not at all concerned and even though she sent pictures.  They gave various excuses where they could not assist.  She posted her experience to the various "Ring" folks in her neighborhood.  (This is a neighborhood watch group formed by those who have the Ring security on the doorbells.)  

As the hours passed a number of people called the police noticing that this same man tried to break into their cars and their houses which was documented by "Ring".

My daughter's neighborhood is busy, upper-middle-class and full of well-educated, mostly white people (see photo above).  I am only adding this for background in that crime happens everywhere. Their neighborhood has been having more and more theft problems, but this physical assault was the first.

I guess I was dismayed that the Police would not act on the assault (probably more so because this was my beautiful daughter) but they finally acted on the attempted robberies.  The man is now being held in jail pending a trial and my daughter has to squeeze in a deposition among her many other activities.  And, of course, no matter the outcome, he will probably be released because he is mentally ill and not someone the jails can take care of!

I am thankful that the man was just a bit mentally ill and not a homicidal maniac.  I am thankful my daughter kept her cool.  I am not thankful for what is happening to our society these days.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Sharing Some Raptor Love

I have been lucky this late winter to spot some great raptors while driving or hiking or just looking out my back yard! These stately creatures are so dramatic looking and imperious. They know their place in the grand scheme of things.

I spotted this "fellow" in the photo above in the distance near the mouth of the river as we worked our way down a bumpy country road to a remote boat launch that hunters use. It is an immature Bald Eagle. He does look a little ratty in the close-up below.

Another day and a trip to one of the nearby state parks I saw this beauty along the roadside as we pulled into the parking lot.  He "may" be an immature Cooper's Hawk.  I could not see his front as he has his head is cranked back to see why we were stopping the car.

This final photo below was a visitor to my back yard which I think is a Red-Tailed Hawk. He was hard to capture through all the branches and I did not want to get close enough to make him fly.

These top-of-the-food-chain birds do not eat my songbirds very often.  The best one for catching songbirds is the Merlin and I very rarely see those!

Friday, February 14, 2020

More on a Theme of Botanical Love For Valentines Day

I took these tree photos on a walk last week---I took photos while walking--- for those grammar Nazis!  The sun was low in the sky as we headed back and that made for nicer photos.  I am sure you have observed that trees have both rough and smooth barks and are tall and thin or squat and fat or huge.  Some leaved trees like this beech below hang on to their leaves until spring.  Some trees like the dogwood change their bark texture as they age.

Did you know that tree size is not directly related to age? Small trees are not always young. The amount of rain, quality of soil, amount of sun; all impact site quality that may be good or bad for trees. Also genetic make-up contributes to tree size. That dogwood can be older than the larger oak tree beside it.

Competition for the canopy of sunlight is certainly a factor in both spreading of branches and tree height.

Trees don't live forever (although one wonders about those bristlecone pines estimated at 5 millennia years).  Also, there are clonal or groups of trees that are actually one tree such as the 80.000-year-old Pando aspens!

A living tree can be a home for hundreds of species of insects.  It can feed many birds.  When a tree dies it leaves behind lots of nutrients for the soil and fungus and insects and birds.  

Below are the trees in the setting sunlight of my front yard.  It is exceptionally dramatic because the light bounces off the water from the river in the backyard and reflects on the trees.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Standing or Lying Tall

The crowning jewels of the woods on my walks. It has been too cold and rainy for the last few days, so I am pulling forward photos I took a few weeks ago to share. Majesty, wisdom, loyalty, resonance...I am sure you can think of many more adjectives for these friends.

Gnarly Dude.


Does this make my butt look big??

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Have I been watching too much at the Bird uh TV!

You may have to click on the photos to read the captions.

Saturday, February 01, 2020

A Wave from the Holly Tree

(Taking my medicine and avoiding crowds and shooting photographs from windows, mostly.)

We were invaded by this ruddy breasted and noisy gang last week. I hear from my husband that they eat the fermented berries of the pepper bushes in Florida and fall drunken to the lawns this time of year---much to the excitement of the house cats? 

If I was outside, they were cautious of my presence but also loud and bold in attacking the slightly frozen holly berries.  I live in a holly wood but my holly does not seem to be making wine! The British say robins are mostly solitary, but in our spring they certainly are NOT that. In Britain they call a group of robins a "round" or a "breast." In the U.S. I am told we call them a wave although I have never heard that term. Well, I got a nice "hiya" this week while healing my ear and these photos show that.

Next post will be about robins at the watercooler!