Back yard birding

Posted on SEPTEMBER 16, 2015

…and subtitled “Where in the world is a red-bellied woodpecker when you need one?”

Although trail walking with camera in hand, is my favorite kind of nature photography, there are times when the weather, my schedule, or my energy level demand that I do backyard birding instead of the usual trek along the trails. After yesterday’s 120-foot-tower-climb, I felt the need for an easy day today, so my back yard birds are getting their day in the sun.

I haven’t seen a downy or red-bellied woodpecker all week though, and I’m sort of suspicious that the hummingbirds may have taken off for warmer climes. Northeast Ohio in the winter isn’t included in their travel itinerary.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit today. We’ll go walking on a “real” trail later this week, so hurry back. You won’t want to miss it!

Trail Walker

PS: Although I have been “Carolyn aka Skip through several years of blogging,” I have changed my signature to something that better fits my blog, an idea I hatched in the Blogging 201 class.

Climbing the Kalberer Emergent Tower

I’m not comfortable in high places… Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to making the climb at Holden…or at least attempting it.

Three days ago, I made that statement in a story I posted about the new 120 foot tower at Holden Arboretum. This morning Bob and I made that climb, and I’m glad to report that I survived, and thoroughly enjoyed, the experience. The morning dawned with sunshine and an almost cloudless blue sky. In fact I was wishing for some interesting puffy clouds and a little less brilliant sunshine, although I can’t believe I’m saying that, given the fact that once winter arrives (and that will be all too soon), cloudy gray skies will be our norm.

As a photographer, I was wishing for some big, puffy clouds to add interest to the sky.

We arrived at the Arboretum just about 9 am, picked up our admission tickets for the Tower and Canopy Walk, and took the trail through the woods to the Tower. My first experience with high places, when I was eight years old and visited the Empire State Building with my parents, didn’t end well. I’ll spare you the details. My most recent experience on a nighttime photoshoot at Terminal Tower in Cleveland was only a little less traumatic, so I was somewhat concerned about my reaction to climbing this 120 foot tall tower, and emerging above the treetops. I shouldn’t have worried. I enjoyed it immensely. Even when the tower vibrated as other people climbed up, I was unconcerned. The pictures in the gallery will show you why. Along with pictures of Bob and me and the views from the top, I have included pictures of the structure itself to show how well-built it is. Take a look, (and don’t forget to click on a picture to scroll through the gallery).

Thanks for joining me for this trail walk.If you missed my earlier post, look back two days for more pictures taken from ground level as I wandered around the Tower and Canopy Walk. I hope you’ve enjoyed this photowalk. If you have anything to add, please leave a comment. I would love to hear from you.

Trail Walker

No turning back!


Summer is almost over. Autumn is making its way into northeast Ohio, and there’s no turning back! This rudbeckia is proof-positive of the fact. Sigh!

I snapped this end-of-summer flower in the Butterfly Garden at Holden Arboretum this afternoon.There were no butterflies.

Carolyn aka Skip

Something brand new at Holden Arboretum

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The Holden Arboretum, one of my favorite places in Northeast Ohio for photo walking, just added two brand new attractions. Known as the Kalberer Family Emergent Tower and Murch Canopy Walk, these two features will offer visitors the opportunity to explore the forest in a brand new way. Even if heights make you uneasy, as they do me, you may want to pull yourself together and take a walk down the Canopy Walk and climb the Emergent Tower.

At the top of the Tower, you will have a 360 degree view of the surrounding countryside.

When you emerge at the top of the tower you will have a 360 degree view of the surrounding countryside, including Lake Erie to the north. It will be a brand new experience.

I have climbed the tower and canopy walk at Myakka State Park near Sarasota, Florida, multiple times, and that is a great experience, but the Emergent Tower at Holden Arboretum promises to be even more challenging.

One hundred twenty feet at its highest, the views will be phenomenal.

At its highest, the Tower will be as tall as a 12 story building.

I’m not comfortable in high places. Last year on a night time photoshoot from the top of Cleveland’s Terminal Tower, I got vertigo-dizzy, disoriented, the works-when night fell, darkness descended, and the lights on the Tower came on below me. I had to descend much sooner than planned. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to making the climb at Holden…or at least attempting it.

Today was a beautiful, cool, almost fall day, so I packed up my camera and headed to the Arboretum. My goal was to wander around the Tower at ground level and see what to expect and also to find out how early it will open in the morning because that’s when I want to make the climb. Our weather forecast for this week is predicting several sunny mornings, so maybe this will be a good week for this adventure. I’ll let you know. I began today’s walk at Corning Lake and Lotus Pond, both part of Holden’s $9 million dollar New Leaf Capital Campaign that also made the Emergent Tower and Canopy Walk projects possible.

And here we are at the beginning of the Canopy Walk with some ground level views of the Emergent Tower and Canopy walk that I took today.

What do you think…Would you like to climb to the top? Come back in a few days for another walk down the trail. Maybe you can make the climb with me.

Thanks for joining me on the trail today.
See you soon.
Carolyn aka Skip

Molting: more normal than you might think!

When I posted a picture of this pitiful-looking bluejay on my daily photo site, some viewers expressed sympathy for him and his (normal, but sickly-looking) appearance. Molting, the process that causes some birds to lose their old, worn out feathers and get new ones, does leave the poor bird looking pretty sad for a short time.

Molting, sometimes called shedding, is a process in which an animal routinely casts off a part of its body, either at specific times of the year, or at specific points in its life cycle.

For some of us, who photograph birds, a bird like this bluejay may look alarming in the advanced stages of the molting process; however, it is a natural process that occurs regularly (often seasonally) in bird and other animals. Many pet owners, for example, will be aware of shedding when they must clean their dog’s or cat’s hair off the sofa or vacuum it from the floor. Shedding is a form of molting. Chickens are another example of animals that molt, which I knew, but I didn’t know they often stop laying eggs until their new feathers grow in. Another interesting fact I discovered is that salamanders and frogs shed their skin, and then often eat it. These are just a few examples of molting. Students of biology and people who regularly work with animals in the course of their daily jobs would probably take our bluejay’s scraggly appearance for granted, knowing it is caused by a normal process, but I didn’t recognize it for what it was. Now that I know (a little), I thought I would share what I learned with the rest of you.

Thanks for reading this far. If you have anything to add to this rudimentary information, please join in the conversation by adding a comment below.

See you along the trail soon.
Carolyn aka Skip

It’s that time of year…even for the birds

Despite the intense heat and humidity of the past week, the birds at the “backyard buffet” know the time has come to change into their winter wardrobes. I think the duller goldfinch (top) is a female because her coat is more subdued all year round, whereas the male goldfinch has a bright yellow coat with black trim during the summer months and gradually loses his bold colors as autumn approaches. (If you don’t agree with the identification, please leave a comment to share your information with the rest of us.) The sorrowful-looking bluejay, pictured on the right, usually so proud of his snazzy coat with the royal blue feathers,  is going through the process called molting (or moulting) as he changes from his summer to winter garb.  It’s normal and happens every year, so don’t feel too sorry for him. His appearance will soon improve, but meanwhile he is probably the scruffiest-looking bird in the neighborhood. It’s a blessing he can’t see himself in a mirror.

Cooler weather is coming soon, maybe by tomorrow afternoon, according to the forecast. I’m breathing a sign of relief and looking forward to hitting the trail for a real photowalk. I  hope you will be here to go with me. Thanks for visiting today. Come back soon.

Carolyn aka Skip

PS: It was so hot today I took all these pictures from inside, looking through the window.

A mouth-dropping moment

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We were attending a 50th wedding anniversary party for our brother-and-sister-in-law. Few people knew it was also my husband Bob’s 80th birthday, so when the hostess carried in a birthday cake, it was a big surprise to everyone, including Bob. Mouth-dropping shock was the response of all the guests when Bob stood up and clapped his hands together above the cake, instantaneously extinguishing every candle. Spontaneous applause erupted in the room. As you can see from the picture I captured, the hostess was possibly more surprised than anyone else. Thankfully she didn’t drop the cake.

Carolyn aka Skip

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Mouth Drop.”

A three dog day!

This week I had an opportunity to capture pictures of our springer spaniel, Gulliver, and his two cousins, Cooper and Mabel, so I am departing from my usual photowalking routine to post their pictures.

Having caught a nasty, lingering cold, my excuse for not taking a photowalk, I figured today would be a good opportunity to introduce the pooches and shine a little bloglight on them.

Gulliver originally lived with our daughter and son-in-law, but he has ruled the roost (to mix metaphors) at our house for about 12 years. He’s our second “springer,” and was adopted into our family when he was a very young pup. As a senior dog, he has lost most of his hearing and slowed down quite a bit, but he still enjoys an evening walk in the park and seemingly can tell time because he knows when the daily mail (and dog treat) delivery is due.

Cooper, a Portuguese water dog, joined our daughter and son-in-law’s household when Millie, their first English sheepdog, died. At first, they were in no hurry to get another dog, but pretty quickly realized that they needed a dog around the house. That’s when they “found” Cooper, a delightful, lovable, energetic ball of black fur.

The last of this trio is Mabel, who erroneously thinks she’s a lapdog! Walk into their house and sit down, and Mabel will want to bounce into your lap (and no, she doesn’t ask permission first). She’s a great watchdog though, as the people who come to their door or walk up the sidewalk past their house quickly discover. If she doesn’t know you, she isn’t going to open the door and invite you in.

That’s the canine branch of our family or part of it…at least those that live nearby. All our children and grandchildren have dogs, except for the eldest granddaughter who lives in an apartment with her cats! They all seem to agree with me that a family isn’t complete without a pet (or in some cases two or three) in the house.

We recently had a family gathering where these three siblings were all present.
Because that rarely happens, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take this family photo.

Laura with her brothers, Joe and Bob
Laura with her brothers, Joe and Bob

“I don’t believe an accident of birth makes people sisters or brothers. It makes them siblings, gives them mutuality of parentage. Sisterhood and brotherhood is a condition people have to work at.” … Maya Angelou

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