Just another rambling fool at WordPress.com

Posts tagged “wildlife

Spring Fling

The happy couple

Spring has sprung and the ducks have shown up at our pond. I call it a pond, but it’s really more of a reedy, mucky puddle. No matter, they like the early vegetation that sprouts from the bottom. Being a shallow pond, they can easily reach whatever grows and I suspect they like the water that warms so quickly in the early April sun.

Follow the leader

I get a kick out of seeing them. This year they showed up as an attached pair, whereas in years prior I’ve watched the female get chased hither and yon across the water by several pursuing drakes intent on having her as a mate. Once they’re paired, they stick together like glue, but sometimes the drake has to spend a lot of time chasing off other suitors. Oddly, this year things seem very quiet and it’s been just the two of them.

Bright and showy
Understated and less obvious

His job is to keep tabs on her and protect his future progeny.

He’s watching me

Her job is more complex, as usual. 😉

The soon to be busy Mom

To my surprise, they hung around all day. Usually I only see these ducks once or twice before they leave to raise their young in a safer location, but then they showed up again a few days later and spent the better part of another day eating the black oil seed that has dropped from my feeders and snoozing on a small island of grass in the pond. At the end of the day they left, and I haven’t seen them since. A nearby neighbor has a beautiful, huge, clear pond, so I feel quite honored that this couple even chooses to visit my little puddle when they could have much nicer digs right down the road.

Catching some Zzzz’s

Time to go!





Neena was the first to hear it and let slip a warning growl; a low rumble that started softly and built quickly into a “back off” bark that meant business. In the still seconds before the other dogs sounded their alarm I heard it too: the distant shrill yip of dancing coyotes. Immediately Hazer followed Neena’s lead, leaping to his feet, moving toward my bed and barking ferociously while Gus howled an alarm from his crate in the living room. It’s an eerie sound to hear at 4 o’clock on a crisp fall morning. The pack must have been pretty close for humans to hear them through our closed windows. I lay there thinking about the horses. Coyotes aren’t a real threat to a small herd of healthy equines. But still. And while the sound of yipping coyotes can seem a bit creepy, I can’t help picturing them dancing and playing in the moonlight or running and cavorting through dewy fields and mossy woods. That’s not a frightening vision at all.

The coyotes and dogs carried on for the better part of twenty minutes. There was no stopping them.  Neena didn’t seem to carry on very much, but the boys were thoroughly caught up in the vocal chorus. Gus was especially reluctant to quiet down and continued to bark and growl for some time after the interlopers had moved on. Our first fall serenade.

Thrill Me

untitled--3-3(Click on photo for best resolution)


Nothing excites me like having the opportunity to photograph a hawk in the wild. I’m not sure if the thrill is from the challenge of the shoot (it’s hard!), or if it’s just because I like hawks so much. In this case, the excitement hit me during the processing. Until then, I didn’t realize this hawk was missing an eye. I’m always secretly hoping this hawk shows up in my photos again someday.

Hanging Out


(Click photo for best resolution)



This was quite possibly one of the largest webs I’ve ever shot, and it was a bonus that the architect happened to be home. The weather has switched back to hot and humid. That means some early morning fog, which can make for some interesting photos.




IMG_7151(Click on photo for better resolution image)


In nature, motherhood comes in all shapes and sizes. While not my favorite, this mom stuck around for hours after her brood hatched, watching over them. And it was quite a brood!

Get Down



I’m inclined to want to search the trees for hawks to photograph, but occasionally it pays to look down. I found this little salamander making his way across the back yard one drizzly, humid day last week so I focused on him instead.

Twice As Nice



Not only are the butterflies visiting in droves, the re-blooming lilac is living up to it’s name! That’s a win-win for them and me!

Channeling Mom



Every couple of years we get a pair of hawks that mate and nest somewhere close to our property. Two years ago a striking pair of hawks raised their young in the woods across the street. This year, they picked a big old white pine out behind our new barn and built their nest in the crotch of the tree. There’s always lots of activity when the young are being raised, but it’s nothing compared to the racket once the chicks have fledged. Apparently, like teenagers today, the juvenile hawks stick around for the summer and harass their parents into feeding them. They chase their folks from tree to tree, calling out pathetically for morsels of food and parental attention. The result is four loud, frantic, very large birds flitting from tree to tree all day long. At first I thought it was pretty cool. No matter what time of day I stepped out I was likely to find one or more hawks perched on a low branch nearby, screeching back and forth to each other. But that was back when we were in the throes of a heat wave, when all my windows were closed, the air conditioning was on and I was spending as little time as possible outdoors. Now the heat and humidity have moved on and I’m trying like crazy to get caught up on the gardening and lawn projects that got shelved during the heat. To say the hawks are distracting is a mild understatement. I’m torn between throwing down my gardening tools and bolting for my camera or grabbing ear plugs. I thought it would be easy to capture a few photos of the family, but so far I’ve traipsed all over tarnation and I’ve had very little success. A few days ago we had a grey, misty morning and as luck would have it, I heard one of the youngsters calling plaintively from the willow tree out back. I grabbed my camera and tripod and holding my breath, crept out the basement door. Would the hawk sit still long enough for me to fire off a couple of frames? Barely, but this is one of three photos I got. I would have liked a few seconds more to really get the camera better focused, but it wasn’t to be. Young hawks are especially leery of people and it didn’t stick around long enough for me to make any corrections. Better luck next time I guess!

Note: I don’t know why, but you have to click on a photo now to see better resolution. Anyone know what’s up with that? Annoying …..

Amazing Graze



Horses live for the green grass of summer. Unfortunately, it’s been so muggy and buggy that they haven’t spent much time in the pasture. They venture down between rain storms and graze for maybe an hour or so, then head for the shelter of the loafing shed. I feel a little sorry for them. I know they’d much rather be out grazing instead of hovering around the barn. But with bugs the size of a small dog I can’t blame them for giving up. I’d like to think it will get better soon, but the weather pattern has set the stage for a very buggy second half of the summer, and it will probably continue well into the fall. Oh well. Better luck next year!

Intruder Alert!



 I wasn’t trying to photograph a hummingbird, but one decided to show up anyway! My shutter speed wasn’t set to catch it very clearly, but it’s better than nothing. This little pollinator was pretty fearless and several times it hovered only a few feet away and stared right at my camera. I think it was trying to figure out if I was a friend or foe! I’m finding the longer I stand in one place at the garden’s edge the more nature just accepts me and carries on.




The only thing brave enough to be out in this heat and humidity are the insects. Well, and the birds. I spend most of my time gazing at my gardens from the picture window. That’s kind of sad. I work like a dog to maintain things only to be forced to hunker down in the house between 9 AM. and 6 PM. I can only hope this crazy weather pattern isn’t the new norm.

Fly Away

IMG_6853(For better resolution click on photo)


It’s that time of year again when I drag out the macro lens and try to shoot stuff in and around the property. It’s so humid outdoors now that I have to give the camera and lens about fifteen minutes to de-fog before I can shoot anything. Meanwhile, the bugs attack like I’m fresh meat. It isn’t the best of conditions for taking macro shots today. There’s a pretty good breeze and the light isn’t the best. But I’m getting antsy waiting for the conditions to improve, so I decided to take some photos in spite of it being against my better judgement. The way things are going, the gardens will have gone by before the weather starts to cooperate. It’s been that kind of year so far. It’s been so miserable that I’d like to just up and fly away myself: some place where it’s cooler and a lot less humid. I simply don’t know how people live in the south during the summer. I’m thinking mid-seventies would be just about perfect for me right now.

Family Swim






On Alert



I’ll risk being repetitious and post another picture of this beautiful hawk. Here, it’s watching the walkers who are about to ask me what I’m shooting. I knew someone or something was approaching before I heard them because the bird’s head swiveled abruptly in a different direction. While the hawk seemed to pay very little attention to me, it’s gaze stayed fixed on the pair until they walked out of sight.

I think one of the reasons I was able to drive home, get my gear and return to find this hawk still roosting was because it looks to me like it had recently fed. In some photos I can see a slight tinge of blood at the base of it’s beak and in other photos it looks like there’s a bit of blood on it’s feet. Which could explain why the hawk was so complacent. Many times I’ve tried to get close enough to photograph a hawk, but unless they’re settled in for a good roost they’re usually too wary to let people approach. Of all the pictures I’ve taken, the ones that have been the most successful have shown signs of a recent kill. (One other time I got some great shots of a one-eyed hawk that was perched on a limb that overlooks our pond. At the time I thought the hawk might actually have been hunting the pond, but it was impossible to tell.)

Either way, I’m very thankful that I had the opportunity to take so many good pictures of this hawk. Truly, this was a really big thrill for me!





Sometimes life is hard and you just have to hunker down, tip your head into the wind and make the best of things.

My FIL is doing as well as can be expected. He’s propped up a little in bed, his color looks good and the breathing tube is out. Well, he pulled it out. While his demeanor is good, he’s not exactly what I’d call a cooperative patient. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell if he’s misbehaving because he can’t hear a thing without his hearing aids or if it’s because he’s got some pretty significant short-term memory loss. (Beginnings of Alzheimer’s) He’s telling lots of jokes and trying to make all the nurses and visitors laugh, but that’s just Pop’s way of trying to cope with his discomfort of being where he is. And being in pain. Mom tries way too hard to make Pop understand the minute details of what’s happened, which only makes him more confused. So he asks silly questions, trying to make everything into a joke, and that just upsets Mom even more because she’s convinced he’s lost his mind. Good grief! I tried to tell Mom not to worry about Pop’s comprehension of everything and to just roll with whatever goofy comment he makes. It hasn’t even been 48 hours and the poor man is allowed to have a little post-surgical confusion! It’s not like he’s being combative or nasty. Yet. Hopefully, as the days go by he’ll start to get his sea legs under him and things will calm down between them.

I do think the hospital is doing a fantastic job. Pop has pain, but nothing … and I mean NOTHING like I experienced after my spinal fusion. Oddly, Pop has an epidural line in place just like I had, so I wonder why it was so much worse for me? People say bone pain is the worst and I guess I’d have to agree. I remember having convulsions from the pain, it was so bad. Having had more than one abdominal surgery I guess I’d have to say there’s little comparison. I’m not saying it’s not painful … it’s … it’s just different.

On another note, the horse is doing OK. Her eye looks pretty grim, but I’ll be out there again today to do more doctoring. No reply to the Email I sent to our town departments. No surprise there.





It wasn’t a spectacular fall this year. That makes two years in a row that we’ve had a less than stunning seasonal display of color. And I have to admit, I’m not exactly grieving over it since I’m still not back to normal vision yet. If anyone told me back in March that it might take eight months to get my vision straightened out I probably would have postponed the surgery. But they didn’t. In fact, when I specifically asked about side effects and complications they more or less pooh-poohed my asking. “We do this all the time with great success. We’ll cross that bridge when … no, IF we get to it.” Well that bridge came up awful damn fast.

Most people don’t understand what it’s like to have screwed up vision. We’ve had major advancements in glasses and contacts so those who suffer from myopia seldom have to struggle for very long after a problem has been detected. When I was in grade school every child received a vision and hearing test at school, as well as a dental cleaning and exam. In addition, we were marched off to the nurses office every spring for a remedial physical exam.

The eye test was pretty basic: the students were asked to read an eye chart using first one eye, then the other. Next, the tester would give the child a red, green, white and black marble, and they would hold a picture card in front of you and ask you to place a specific color marble at different spots on the picture. This tested for depth perception and color blindness. I usually nailed the color and depth perception of this test, but after second grade I struggled to read the eye chart.

After the eye test was finished the student was ushered to another room where an audio tester waited with a big black or blue square box. The box had lots of dials on it and a chord with large, clunky headphone attached. The tester adjusted the headset to fit your head, then had you sit on a stool with your back to them as they worked the different dials that made the tone sounds. You were supposed to raise the hand that correlated with the ear that heard the tone. The pitch and intensity of the tone jumped all over the scale from very high to low and super soft or moderately loud. There never seemed to be a pattern for the tones, though like my father I always tried to find one. I was never very good with this test either, but my mother said that was because I had inherited her tiny ear canals and I was prone to inner ear infections.

I hated the dental cleaning and never understood why I had to have it done since our family saw our regular dentist every six months like clockwork. The dental hygiene chair was big and uncomfortable and the water that swirled continuously in the cuspidor made me have to pee. The hygienist would start by asking us to chew a chalky, bright red disclosing tablet, then she would hand us a hand-held mirror so we could see all the “dirty places” the pink stain revealed. I always thought this was kind of unfair since it had either been hours since I’d brushed my teeth or my visit came after lunch. What did she expect? Anyhow, she’d get out her big set of plastic teeth and gums, an over-sized demo toothbrush and would patiently explain how I was supposed to brush my teeth, after which she’d polish my teeth with her oily, belt driven prophy brush. I knew I was almost done when the hygienist shoved a gooey, overflowing tray of orange flavored fluoride in my mouth. The only good thing about visiting the school hygienist was that we got a kit that had a new toothbrush, a slim tube of Pepsident (Mom only bought Crest) and a strip of a dozen or so disclosing tablets.

In the spring  our teacher divided us into two groups (one boys, one girls) and escorted us up to the nurses office for our annual physical exam. During my grade school years we had a delightful school nurse who looked  just like Meryl Streep and had Meryl’s compassion and witty sense of humor. Sometimes I faked feeling sick just so I could be fussed over by Mrs. Hatfield. I adored her. I think all the children did. Anyhow, Mrs. Hatfield didn’t do the exam, a real doctor did it. I felt kind of cheated by that. I mean, I went willingly because I like Mrs. Hatfield, but I wasn’t crazy about having some old man I didn’t know see me in my underpants and undershirt. He looked a little like Harry Morgan, who played Col. Sherman T. Potter in the TV. show MASH.  The doctor tried to make small talk as he placed a cold stethoscope on my scrawny chest and back. Then they weighed us and measured our height, before checking each child for something called scoliosis. Last, but not least, they handed us a little paper cup that held a clear, sweet tasting liquid that was going to protect us from something called Polio.

Back when I was in grade school there were lots of kids who relied on school health services such as these. For many, it was probably the only time they ever saw a doctor or a dental hygienist and for others, it may have been the only time they had toothpaste or a toothbrush. Not that I lived in an overly poor neighborhood. I didn’t. But you always knew there were one or two kids in every class who just didn’t get the simple basic necessities we took for granted.



The architect of this beautiful dreamcatcher wasn’t home. She was probably watching me from a safe distance.

Fairy Dust



Bees have been hard at work pollinating the fall Sedum blossoms.

Horse Webs



It was another foggy morning … good for shooting webs. I didn’t have a lot of time to explore options today because I had things to do and Gus was waiting to come back out and go burn off a little energy.  I took a few photos, then set my camera and tripod aside. The whole time I was shooting the horses were patiently grazing in the side pasture by the barn, but as I approached them I suddenly spotted a HUGE web suspended between the two strands of electric fence! I quickly retrieved my camera and struggled to find a place that would support the tripod and allow a decent shot. While I was doing this the horses continued to munch grass directly behind the web, which was so light-sensitive that if Dharla moved away from the fence the web just vanished into the fog. Naturally, almost as soon as I had things set up both horses got board and started to wander off, so I picked a couple of handfuls of green grass and tossed it over the fence. I hoped that would entice at least one of the horses to come back, preferably Dharla since she’s the darker of the two horses. It worked, and I was able to get a few interesting shots of the web with Dharla in the background for contrast.

Wild Things


The last few weeks I’ve been playing cat and mouse with this little fur-ball. Since all wild bunnies look similar, I don’t know for sure if it’s the same bunny, but I’d like to think so. It’s almost always feeding in the same part of the pasture every morning when I go out to feed the horses. I’ve been watching it since it was less than half the size it is now and it lets me get pretty darn close before casually hopping off to a safer distance, which usually isn’t more than a few short hops away.

When I was about ten years old I caught a wild baby rabbit. My siblings and I were skipping rocks from the bank of a pond when I suddenly saw several very tiny bunnies struggling to swim to the shore. I have no idea how they came to be in the water, but I suspect our hunting dog happened upon them and when they fled their only “safe” escape was into the murky, catail filled water. I didn’t hesitate, but plunged into the pond fully clothed and tried to save the babies. Unfortunately, I only managed to catch one.

My parents were not particularly thrilled that their daughter was soaked to the bone with smelly pond water and insisting we keep the bunny to save it from a fate I couldn’t bear to contemplate. In spite of my father’s insistence that wild animals (and babies in particular) tend to fare poorly in captivity, I saw no other alternative. I desperately wanted to try to save the little critter’s life. Having rescued the bunny from drowning, I felt personally responsible for it’s questionable future.

After grumbling a warning that caring for the bunny would be my sole responsibility, my parents gave me a small plastic container and a towel, which I used to swaddle the shaking baby. I carefully dried it’s wet, matted fur as I murmured soothing words that I hoped would calm it’s badly shaken state of mind. As I cupped the little body in my hands I fell instantly in love with my frail, tiny charge. I hoped against all hope that it wouldn’t die, but my father’s warning hung heavily in the back of my mind. I’d been raised with plenty of exposure to wildlife and nature, and deep down in my heart I knew my father was right; the bunny would probably not survive the night. Despite the small ache of dread I felt, I proposed to my siblings that we name the baby. Several suggestions were offered, but after watching the little tyke warm up and start taking an interest in his surroundings I dubbed him Twitchell, for the way his little nose twitched, constantly testing the air.

When we got home my father dug through the medicine cabinet and found an eye dropper. We warmed some milk on the stove and I tried to feed the baby bunny with the dropper. Much to my parents credit, they didn’t try to take over and I eventually had a moderate degree of success. It’s a wonder I didn’t drown the poor thing trying to feed it, but with a little more practice both the bunny and I got the system down. The next morning my stomach was in knots as I approached our makeshift bunny hutch. It felt like Christmas … I was excited to see if Twitchell had survived the night, but I carried a touch of steely resolve against disappointment in case he hadn’t. Much to my delight, not only had Twitchell survived, he looked enormously stronger!

True to their word, my parents insisted I come up with a way to feed Twichell when I had to return to school the following week. We lived on the bus route and due to a nearby busy road, I’d never been allowed to walk or bike to school. But now that I had a baby bunny to feed I was going to have to devise a way to get home at lunchtime. I proposed that I ride my bike, which meant riding to school, then riding home at lunch, then riding back to school for the afternoon, then riding back home at the end of the school day. Like any typical kid, I thought this was an easy solution, but little did I know just how much bike riding that would entail! Although my mother was a stay at home mom, the idea that she’d provide transportation was never even a consideration. Back then, parents didn’t cater to their children’s every whim; I asked (begged, even) for this responsibility and they were not going to come to my rescue and “fix it.”

So I rode my bike back and forth to school multiple times a day. I barely had time to eat lunch myself after biking home, feeding Twitchell and cleaning his cage. But I didn’t care. I was thrilled that the baby continued to thrive and was starting to actually enjoy my company. My parents often reminded me that wild animals belong in the wild and I would have to release Twitchell when he was old enough to find food for himself. I did my best to understand this, but deep down I hoped they’d change their opinion when they saw how much I loved Twitchell and how dependent he was on me.

Fortunately, my parents never wavered. When it became obvious that Twitchell was old and healthy enough to fend for himself, my parents made me set a release date. As the day drew near my heart filled with dread. I knew we doing the right thing, but I felt protective of Twitchell and I didn’t want to see him go. When the fateful day came, my parents made a family event out of it. We all dressed for a hike, I put Twichell in his portable cage and the family headed for the fields and meadows at the end of our street. I remember Dad held my hand as we walked and talked about how Twitchell would be happiest if he was free. He told me he was proud of what I’d done; how I’d saved the little bunny, then stuck to my promise to care for him through thick and thin. But now it was time to do the hardest part. I had to let Twichell be what he was meant to be: Free.

We picked a nice place where I thought the grass was good and there was plenty of cover if a roaming dog or hawk happened by. I reached down and opened the door of the cage, half expecting Twitchell to come bolting out. But he didn’t. Not quite sure what to do with his freedom, Twitchell took his time coming out and hopping a few feet away. He ate a bit of grass then looked at us, waiting perhaps for me to come collect him like I usually did. When I didn’t move toward him he hopped a few more feet and continued to eat. I closed the cage door and we began to walk away. When we had gone a couple of yards we turned and watched as Twitchell hopped into the long grass and vanished from sight. “Goodbye little bunny” I whispered. “Have a good life!”

From that point on I’ve called every wild bunny Twitchell. Each morning I look forward to seeing my young pasture bunny.  “Good morning Twitchell!” I call to the little critter. The bunny wiggles his tiny nose, stares in my direction for a few seconds, then drops his head and eats while I pause to remember the Twitchell of my youth. As a child I learned wild animals need their freedom to survive. As an adult I’ve learned humans aren’t all that different.



Most photographers would probably hesitate to blog pictures of subjects that aren’t perfect, but in this case I don’t mind. In fact, I chose this photo on purpose because it reminds me of the day I shot it. Sunny and warm, the butterfly bushes were in full bloom. It was an excellent opportunity to shoot some butterflies and I had a dozen or so different colorful subjects fitting about in the sweet smelling breeze. But the wind is not your friend when you’re using a macro lens and the strong breeze was thwarting my attempts at a good shot. When all was said and done I’d chased several subjects, but the only one who photographed half well was this badly battered Tiger Swallowtail. So I have several nice shots of this big yellow butterfly who’s missing the majority of his tail. Not that it slowed him down any! It was fun watching all the butterflies swoop and dart about, oftentimes landing right beside me, then scooting off the moment I focused on them.







I’m feeling a special kind of empathy for my one-eyed kindred spirit.