Twofer Tuesday: towhee edition
I love me some Spotted Towhees which frequently hang out in our backyard. We often hear them scrabbling through the mulch and leaves as they jump forward and scratch backward with both feet, and over the last two summers they nested in the yard which meant we also got to hear the juveniles making their raspy cries for their parents. Spotted Towhees have a high entertainment value.
These images were taken within days of each other last October and might possibly be the same bird. The only thing I know for sure is that they are not-great images! But what better way to celebrate Twofer Tuesday than with two poor photos of the same subject?
This first one is woefully out of focus but we still get the the slightly punk rock attitude with those ruffled head feathers and red eye.
The second photo gives us a lovely view of the towhee’s back along with a glimpse of its underside. You know, to help with identification. HA. Mostly, it’s a nice shot of our deteriorating timbers and weed-choked pavers.
My mother-in-law once told Zippy that Spotted Towhees were her favorite bird (but then thanks to her memory issues, she promptly forgot that statement.) No matter, I remember and every time I see one, I think of Alice. Sweet-sweet-teeeeaaa.
No more mourning
For the past couple months, I’ve been struggling with my new middle grade project idea, trying to land on the “correct” tone and approach. I’ve written a bunch of scenes, but knew I was missing the mark. Today in desperation, I turned to the google and asked a convoluted question about how to write a first draft when wandering around in the dark inside your head, clueless about how to find the right approach to the story. And this came up!
None of this approach is new to me, but the way J. Elle framed the info resonated, plus the timing was just right. This afternoon, I was in the right head space to take in the info and think about my project in these terms. I now have a short pitch and tent pole moments, although those may still change. I’m mostly just excited to have a solid-ish foundation upon which to build. No matter what happens next, I feel as if I’m moving in the right direction.
No more sad, mopey mourning for me. This project is finally on its way and for that, I am grateful.
Thankful Thursday: mystery solved
Yesterday I glanced out the window and saw a flock of birds in the distance. I grabbed the binoculars and watched as they descended into two treetops. Despite the added magnification, I couldn’t see well enough to identify them. But I kept watching them, hoping the image would miraculously sharpen. Alas, no miracles. However, at one point I thought I saw a little crest. Soon, the flock took off and I watched it wheel across the sky as the birds synchronized their movements. Tears filled my eyes as the mass of birds “shimmered” while it swooped low over the foothills and out of sight.
Later, I described the beautiful sighting to Zippy. I was so sad not to have identified the birds, but when I mentioned thinking I’d seen a crest when watching as they perched in the tree he suggested maybe they were waxwings. A ping went off in my head as I replied, “Maybe.”
Fast forward to this afternoon when I went for a run. Halfway up our street, I heard a commotion in trees on either side of the street. I stopped to observe and, sure enough, the birds had crests. Cedar Waxwings!
Probably about fifty of them, flying back and forth between those two trees (one of which was covered in berries). Some were on the pavement, drinking puddled water from the melted snowbanks. A glorious sight and sound!
I got to see/hear them several times as I ran back and forth on that sunny stretch of street (it was cold with 20 mph winds!) and then they were gone. It was such a gift. I don’t think I’ve seen a waxwing since we lived in Anchorage and would see them (Bohemian Waxwings) flying drunk on fermented mountain ash berries, and I’m extremely grateful for the timing of my run. If I’d procrastinated going out into the cold and wind, I would’ve missed them.
All gratitude to those beautiful, social birds!
The more things change
I enjoy looking at photos from the same date in earlier years, just to see what I was about to at the time. Apparently, I’m very much a creature of habit.
Here’s what I was thinking about and photographing exactly one year ago today:
And here’s my photographic muse on January 21, 2020:
Clearly, I’ve got robins on the brain. And what about January 21, 2021? Well, I didn’t take any photos that day. However, tomorrow it’ll be exactly two years since I photographed this Cooper’s Hawk which, by the way, is staring quite intently in the direction of the bird bath.
How about you . . . do you check out your photos from earlier years? And if so, do you have a more diverse repertoire than me?
Friday Haiku open mic
Wordless Wednesday: snow finch edition
Wordless Wednesday: flight edition
Mourning Dove at rest
The simplicity of winter has a deep moral. The return of nature, after such a career of splendor and prodigality, to habits so simple and austere, is not lost upon either the head or the heart. It is the philosopher coming back from the banquet and the wine to a cup of water and a crust of bread. ~ John Burroughs
Conjuring warm memories
It’s bitterly cold today and uppermost in my mind is that I’m exceedingly grateful for my warm home. We had to take our dog to the vet this morning and it was a slow fourteen mile drive. Many were equally cautious but, of course, there were those who treated the snowy-icy streets as their personal speedway. We had to detour on the way home to pick up something and by the time I was at the red light at the top of our exit ramp, I was looking forward to being off the road.
Rear-ended by someone who’d missed the memo that the streets were freaking slippery. The good news is there was no damage to the car (except the impact knocked the muffler tape loose and now our old Subaru is REALLY loud again). The bad news? The collision triggered my PTSD and I was weepy and shaky for a bit, not to mention suddenly feeling so much anger toward people. The unmasked and the fast drivers, aka the people who don’t seem to give a damn about anyone else’s health and well-being. Part of the issue is that I’ve been rear-ended a bunch of times over the years and I’m really, really sick of it.
But again, uppermost in my mind today as the temperatures dipped well below zero is that I’m exceedingly grateful for my warm home. In that spirit, here’s a beautiful Mourning Dove I photographed at the Chatfield Audubon Center last May. A much more soothing image than the puffed-out birds hunkered down in the trees today.
Peace until all of us.
Two magpies flew in front of me as I ran on the streets this afternoon, providing a much-needed boost as my energy lagged. I called out to them, “Hello, magpies! I receive the gift of your beauty!”
Of course, I didn’t have a camera with me so here are two that visited my backyard almost exactly one year ago. The bird on the fence had just finished bathing and my photo session shows a continuous stream of magpies performing their ablutions.
I feel incredibly fortunate to see magpies on a daily basis. They’re stunning birds that never fail to bring a smile.
Wordless Wednesday: watch the birdie
This Acorn Woodpecker, photographed at Cave Creek Canyon Ranch in May of 2019, is going after the suet with a laser focus.
I can relate. These last few days, I’ve been food-obsessed. Yes, some of that’s been mindless eating and/or eating my emotions as we careen through multiple planetary crises. I’m like a bear fattening up for the winter . . . hungry all the time. Not for suet, though. Yech.
Dark too early
Each time the sun disappears behind the foothills it feels like a door slamming shut, locking me in a dark dungeon of despair. I mean, five o’clock and it’s pitch black outside? As G.O.B. would say on Arrested Development, “Come on!” But as a friend reminded me, we’ll start gaining daylight on December 22nd. I just have to hang in there until then.
I searched Pixabay for a night image that would convey my misery and happened upon this delightful Eurasian Pygmy Owl.
I’m going to try to reframe my outlook and think about this time of day being good for owls. It makes me slightly less grumpy to think about them out there in the dark, stalking and killing unsuspecting prey. At least someone’s enjoying themselves.
Don’t forget the joy
Always leave enough time in your life to do something that makes you happy, satisfied, even joyous. That has more of an effect on economic well-being than any other single factor. ~ Paul Hawken
Twofer Tuesday: Gray Jay edition
One of the friendliest bird species out there, here are two Gray Jays at our campsite in Mueller State Park. I know they have a reputation as “camp robbers,” but I enjoyed their presence and was glad whenever I had another sighting or heard them making their assortment of sounds off in a tree somewhere.
While running on the trails one morning, I nearly had to come to a full stop to avoid running over a jay in the middle of the trail. Not even my 9,000-feet-elevation huffing and puffing could scare it away.
A friendly and self-assured species, those Gray Jays.
Twofer Tuesday: nuthatch edition
Last week I spotted a White-breasted Nuthatch at the feeder and snapped two quick photos. All I got was a blurred image followed by an empty feeder tray. As I peered out the window, trying to locate the nuthatch again, it hopped up onto the window sill right in front of me. My subject was just inches away! Once again, it moved too quickly for me to photograph, disappearing as quickly as it’d appeared.
But then the nuthatch took pity on me and posed on the rail with a safflower seed in its beak.
And it even gave me a profile shot.
Such a thoughtful feathered friend.
This afternoon I’d just started a post about a White-breasted Nuthatch that visited our feeder when I heard a cacophony at the other end of the house. The magpies were back! (Here are some photos I’d taken earlier.)
Anyway, I hurried to the window overlooking the patio and saw two magpies in the bird bath and a line of magpies on top of the fence, all making a ruckus. I grinned and called for Zippy to come see the fun. And then I noticed something else.
A magpie on its back. Unmoving on the patio.
Rather than having fun, they were mourning their flock member. Zippy and I were in anguish, debating how long to leave the bird there so they could have their “funeral,” when after another minute or so of their raucous cries, the downed magpie began moving its beak. They’d called it back to life!
As some flew down next to it, the magpie got up. My movement at the window startled the rest into flying into the neighbor’s pine tree. The injured bird moved into the shade of a big pot where it sat panting for about thirty minutes. I watched with binoculars through the window and took photos. In fact, I took a ton of photos over the next couple hours but because they were taken at an angle through a not-clean window , they’re not very good.
Here’s one of the earlier photos after it’d moved from the shade of a big pot to pant here in the vinca and sedum.
The bird slowly began moving west on the patio. First underneath the loveseat where it was joined by another magpie that appeared to hunt for insects and offer them to the dazed bird which rebuffed it. Then a long pause as the injured bird was out of sight behind the huge herb pot where I hoped it could drink from the bee bath. And then the magpie came back into view again.
It went through the wire (that’s supposed to keep Emma from destroying the flowers in the raised bed HAHAHA) and across to the timber in back.
And then it went out of sight again for a looong time. Zippy kept watch while I took a fast bathroom break and then I continued watching and waiting. I needed to know the bird was okay. Well, after a while I couldn’t take it anymore and very quietly stepped outside.
There I found a motionless magpie with its backend in my yard and the front end in the neighbor’s.
Distraught, I went back in the house. But I needed to know: what was going on? So out I went again.
This time, the head was up and the magpie was panting again. Probably because I’d stressed it out! I moved away and it went completely under the fence. A moment later, it hopped up and over a short wall.
That’s the last I saw of the magpie. I texted my neighbor to give her a heads-up and she put her dog inside then searched the yard. The only thing she found was a large, dead rat. (As she said: Ew.)
Here’s hoping those healthy, agile hops transitioned into healthy, flapping wings that carried the beautiful magpie back to the sky.
Twofer Tuesday: grasshopper edition
This robin held those two grasshoppers in its beak for about ten minutes. When I first spotted it on the wire, I refrained from running for my camera because I was sure it would fly off and I didn’t want to miss watching it. I was curious about how it would ingest two grasshoppers at once.
But after several minutes of the bird staying put while turning its head side-to-side, I went for the camera AND took the time to switch out the lenses. Still there! I took a bunch of shots, playing with the settings, and then went back to watching. Soon, a house finch landed on the wire a few feet away. It also appeared curious about the robin’s intent. Then, from off in the distance, another bird flew toward the wire. Before I could identify it, the finch and robin took off.
They knew what was up: a Cooper’s Hawk! The raptor landed in the tree, but all its potential meals had disappeared. We were both disappointed. I’ll never know if that robin was able to eat both grasshoppers.
Sunday Confessional: learning curve
Historically, technology and I have maintained an uneasy relationship that borders on adversarial. Which is why it was quite a shock when last December, I spontaneously decided to purchase a drawing tablet which would require learning new software.
Big surprise, I became discouraged fairly quickly. Because not only was it all new to me, I was trying to learn while dealing with vision issues. Rather than push on through, I set aside the whole endeavor until this past week.
Unfortunately, the learning curve hadn’t magically disappeared. I found many YouTube tutorials on various aspects of Krita (free, open source software) and began learning things. A few things. I called upon Zippy to watch the one on removing backgrounds from images and we worked together to figure it out. It was a boost to my self-esteem to find out he also struggled to understand just what in the hell was involved in the process. Still, at the end of yesterday’s session I was exhausted and demoralized: all those hours and I still didn’t really know how to do what I wanted.
Today, I had an epiphany. Rather than view Krita as a problem to be conquered, I switched my perspective. Krita and I were allies! Krita was there to help me bring my creative visions to life! I won’t lie . . . I still felt discouraged at times today, but I also relaxed into the process. And now I’m proud to present my very first creation:
The Halcyon image is from footiechic on Pixabay and I hope that stunning bird is happy in the little setting I created. I’m grateful for it’s presence.
Exploring the sunflower theme
When we returned from our walk around the neighborhood this morning, I spotted these two extra-tall sunflowers peering at us over the fence.
I took their photo with the intention of a Twofer Tuesday post. But after downloading the images from the camera, I discovered some sunflower pics Zippy had taken last week.
Sunflower plus an upright male Goldfinch:
Sunflower plus an upside down Goldfinch:
And a whole lot of sunflowers plus an almost-disappeared Goldfinch:
July 20, 2022
Did you spot him in that tangle of green and yellow? If not, check the upper right corner.
A little magic for this Monday
The morning we had to leave the Routt National Forest, we went down to the pond where the light was soft and golden. I got up from the boulder to wander with my camera and heard a chip chip chip coming from the willows. Tiptoeing, I moved closer and closer still, scanning. Who was making that sound?
After about ten minutes of quiet stalking, a sudden movement caught my eye. A bird alighted in a pine tree. I quickly aimed the camera into the shadows and took a series of photos, not sure what I was seeing or whether I was even capturing an image. And then the bird disappeared again.
When we returned to our campervan, I downloaded the photos. Not great images, but hopefully enough detail to identify the bird. With Stan Tekiekla’s BIRDS OF COLORADO FIELD GUIDE on my lap, I studied the best image. Some kind of warbler?
I glanced down to consult the field guide which had fallen open on my lap. Right there in front of me was the Wilson’s Warbler page and the photograph looked exactly like my photo! Exactly the same, except my warbler’s tail is up and Mr. Tekiela’s image is much sharper.
I’m smiling as I remember that moment of recognition because it truly felt like magic. And I don’t know about you, but these days I’ll take all the magic I can get. As the sticky note on my bathroom mirror says, MAGIC WELCOME HERE.