Living up to my intentions

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In my last post, I wrote about my intention to create posts for my blog at least twice each week. I admitted that I have failed to post on a regular basis. For years, starting when I retired in 2000, I took trail walks, camera in hand, nearly every day. Whatever the season, I hit the trail with my camera to get a daily dose of healthy exercise and capture some seasonal images to fill my Nikon’s memory card. For years, photowalking (trailwalking with my camera) was an important part  of my daily routine. A healthy habit and a welcome one, even when the other chores didn’t get done!

Twenty-one months ago, my husband Bob had a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery. Our lives changed and for many months daily trail walks were off my schedule. I simply didn’t have time for trailwalking or processing the pictures that would accumulate on my memory card. So I put down the camera and stopped taking regular trail walks. I missed it, but gradually other activities filled my days. We celebrated Bob’s successful recovery and moved on. However, I eventually  began to feel a large gap in my life and decided to pick up my camera and return to the trail. That is what I did today and intend to do at least twice each week.  Here are a few pictures I captured while walking at the arboretum on this early spring morning.

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Gardener at work
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Flowers in the buttercup family
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Snowdrops at the base of the sugar maple

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The orange of this early flowering plant, a stonecrop, caught my eye.
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Lotus Pond
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Golden willow tree framed by the trunk of another tree

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Just a little hint of spring
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I found this bright yellow winter aconite, which blooms even before crocuses.
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Bench and Canada geese by Lotus Pond
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Cluster of snowdrops

That’s what I collected on my Nikon’s memory card from today’s trail walk in Holden Arboretum. Is it any wonder the Arboretum is my favorite place for trail walking? These images and the memory of this early spring walk are the reasons I intend to continue walking with my camera. Trailwalking is wonderful in any season. In Spring, it’s especially good for my winter-weary soul.

See you soon for another trail walk. Don’t forget to bring your camera!

Trail Walker (aka Skip)

New year’s resolution???

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My intention for 2019 is to create a blog post at least twice each week. As you can see from my record so far this year, I haven’t been very successful despite my good intentions. As I post this, on March 14th, we are much closer to April Fool’s Day than to New Year’s Eve. My (poor) record speaks for itself, and if I continue at this (slow) pace, I’m in danger of feeling a little foolish, or negligent at best.

However, to borrow another idiom that seems to fit my situation: Better late than never…because my intention is related to two specific goals: to get more exercise and the improve my photography. Both are still possible in 2019. After all, we’ve not yet a third of the way through the year.  So with my goals in mind, I took my camera and hit the trail in Chagrin River Park several times this week, which is where I spotted the deer at the top of this post and captured her picture, as well as those below.

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A walker left seeds for the birds on the park bench…
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This deer knows there must be some left for her.

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Hopefully, this towhee got his share.

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And the squirrels never miss a chance for a tasty treat.

That’s my bounty for this trail walk. I only walked about a mile, but that’s a start. Wish me luck, or, better yet, put on your walking shoes and join me.

See you soon.
Trail Walker

 

 

A glance out the kitchen window

Cleaning up the kitchen after lunch, my eye was arrested by the sight of a lonely bluebird huddled on top of the nesting box in falling snow.2019_03_05__Backyard birding_0025
The temperature was 18 degrees, and I could only imagine that, despite his fluffed out feathers,  the little fellow was feeling a bit cold. Grabbing my camera, I snapped his picture, then soon discovered he wasn’t the only wind-blown bird in the backyard. At least one other bluebird, a downy woodpecker, and a robin were nearby. (Click to enlarge pictures.)

 

I’m looking forward to spring when sunshine and warm breezes will waft away the cold and snow. I have a feeling my feathered friends are just as eager for a change in the weather. How about you?

Thanks for visiting today. See you soon.
Trail Walker

 

Monday musings

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My calendar insists that today is March 4th. In sixteen short days, we will observe the spring equinox, the astronomical first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere; in other words, the first official day of spring! Here in Ohio, we will “spring forward” next weekend, turning our clocks an hour ahead for the beginning of DST or daylight saving time. Not that it really saves any time, and sometimes I wonder if I wouldn’t prefer leaving my clock on standard time all year round. Nevertheless, I will conform and save myself from the confusion of never arriving anywhere at the “right time.”

So there you have it; spring is almost upon us, but, oh, how I wish it felt (and looked) more like spring! That won’t happen here on the south shore of Lake Erie until sometime in April, if we’re lucky. But here’s some good news. The birds have begun their spring migration. And I saw undeniable proof this week: a redwinged blackbird appeared in my backyard. No, I didn’t capture his (or her) picture, but I saw it. Truly I did, and that made me smile. Maybe if I carve out time this week for a trail walk in the arboretum, I will discover some tiny snowdrops, another sure harbinger of spring. Meanwhile, a bevy of birds were active in my backyard today, and they were willing to pose for some photo opps. Here are a few that I captured through my kitchen window: First, the blue jays:

Here’s another junco, like the one at the top of the post. They don’t linger once spring arrives, so they will soon be on their way to their summer home. For that reason, they are sometimes called snowbirds.
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A cardinal and an American robin also made a visit. All of these birds, even the robin, live year round in our neighborhood. I’m not sure how  robins got the reputation for being one of the first signs of spring because they don’t deserve it. We see them all year round, although it is true that we see more in warmer weather. (Although I’ve never actually counted, so that could be inaccurate.)

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My favorite little birds have been hanging around recently. Despite their reputation as summer birds, they also appear in the winter. I was shocked the first time I saw a bluebird in the middle of winter. But here they are. (Click to enlarge).

The two on the right are males. I’m not positive about the one on the left with the more subdued color, but I think it is a male too. I do know they enjoy perching on top of the “rabbit” that watches over the garden.
And, as always, the “not-a-birds” have been busy scampering around the yard and up and down the trees, “stealing” food from the feeders. They can’t fly, but their agility is amazing as they climb the pole to get to the hopper feeder.

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That’s it for today’s bird count. You can be sure I will keep my eye out for that redwinged blackbird. Maybe I will hear him before I see him. That’s often the way it is with the redwings. Every spring, their loud, distinctive call announces their arrival. Come back soon to see what I find in the backyard or along the trail.

Thanks for stopping by today. I always enjoy your visits!
Trail Walker

Backyard bird gallery

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Male Eastern bluebird
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Red-breasted nuthatch

Weatherwise, February is usually a dreary month along the south shore of Lake Erie, but this year Valentine’s week brought a few birds to the backyard buffet that I hadn’t seen in a long while, most notably the beautiful male bluebird and the red-breasted nuthatch pictured above. To be honest, the birds I have been seeing most often when I look out my kitchen window are the ever-present pesky starlings. Starlings in small numbers are interesting birds with pretty feathers, but starlings never appear in small numbers. They invade! For that reason, I don’t usually take their picture more than once in a while when the backyard bird pickings are slim.

But this has been a good week, one that culminated on Friday with the appearance of a female bluebird and another appearance of a red-breasted nuthatch. The white-breasted nuthatch is a regular visitor, but the red-breasted variety is truly a rarity in our neighborhood. I’ve read that an irruption, or invasion, of red-breasted nuthatches is possibly due to a lack of spruce seeds farther north in the bird’s typical winter range. I’ve only seen a few so far this year, not nearly enough to count as an irruption, but when they appear in my backyard, I consider it to be an exciting event. Here are several that I have seen this week:

And here is another picture of the male bluebird as well as his mate, who showed up today. Contrary to what many people believe, some bluebirds do winter in Northeast Ohio, but that is unusual enough to create some excitement.

Here is a little gallery of the backyard birds I have seen this week. Click to enlarge…

And finally, my husband’s favorite, the smallest woodpecker, a downy.
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That’s the backyard bird gallery for this week. As the old-fashioned expression goes, I’m pleased as punch to be able to include a couple of reasonably rare birds among the current collection.

Thanks for visiting the backyard buffet with me.
See you soon to find out what next week will bring my way!
Trail Walker

Confused by the weather

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Since the beginning of the year, our weather has been unsettled, or maybe I should say unsettling. We’ve had snow, extreme cold, and now rain. Glancing out the kitchen window this morning, I noticed an empty hopper feeder. Slipping on my jacket and boots, I sloshed out and refilled the feeder. A short while later, I spotted this little critter on the tree stump enjoying a feast.

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As you can see, the squirrel is not on the hopper feeder, but on a nearby tree stump. It makes no difference to him, just as long as someone treks out to refill the food supply, and I imagine he is pleased to find his snack on the stump, instead of in the puddles that surround it.

Two weeks ago, the stump was covered with snow and the backyard looked like this.

Snowy Sunday

When Bob carried out the bucket of birdseed to refill the feeders, he had to sweep off the top of the stump before scattering the birdseed and pouring seed in the feeders. That was on January 27th.
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For a few days, a joyful crowd of sledders, had a grand time on the hill in Chagrin River Park (See my recent post “When the Snow Finally Fell”). Unfortunately, a few days later, during the first week of February, our temperatures topped out in the sixties, with 63 degrees on February 4th, and 61 degrees on February 7th. The snow melted, and the sledders vacated the now-barren sledding hill in the Park. Then, on February 9th, when the high temperature once again plummeted to 21 degrees, our brief taste of spring ended; the rains came; and the river almost reached flood stage, prompting warning calls from the authorities who keep a watch on such things.

Currently we are in a holding pattern. I can hear cars splashing through the puddles as they drive past our house, and I have no incentive whatsoever to take my camera to the park or the Arboretum for a trail walk. Who knows when spring will actually put in a real appearance. After all, it is still February. In Cleveland, we don’t hold out much hope for sunshine and flowers until at least April…or maybe sometime in May???

Cross your fingers fellow trail walkers.
And don’t put away your boots yet!
~Trail Walker

Would you believe?

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A happy red-bellied woodpecker

Barely a week ago, we were shivering inside our house, wrapped in blankets to keep warm, as the temperature plummeted to zero degrees and below. Then the weather prognosticators, that is, the experts that should know, predicted a warming trend. We found it hard to believe, but, sure enough, yesterday and today we experienced a taste of spring! So instead of birding from my kitchen window, I headed to the park for a trail walk. Here are a few pictures I took in Chagrin River Park this afternoon when the temperature peaked in the high sixties.

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Male northern cardinal
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… Found a peanut.
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And so did Mrs. Cardinal.
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They were overjoyed to see walkers back on the trail.
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The chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches came out to join the fun…
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…but the cardinal refused to share his peanuts with the sparrows!

Despite the fact that I left my extra layers at home, including my hat and gloves, I wasn’t feeling cold as I walked past a couple of young deer along the trail, so I paused to snap pictures of one of them before I headed down the river trail to see if there was any truth to the warning that the river was nearing flood stage.

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Today the river is looking pretty quiet, although there is still a coating of ice on the water. Rain is predicted for tomorrow, so who knows what to expect. Hopefully, it won’t be a return to sub-zero temps. I’ve had enough of the arctic climate. Cross your fingers!

See you soon for an update.
Trail Walker

 

Too cold for trailwalking

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As I warned in my last post, right after spotting the red-bellied woodpecker above, our temperatures plummeted and for the past several days have hovered around zero (F). Yesterday the high temp here along the south shore of Lake Erie peaked at zero degrees Fahrenheit and went down from there. The “feels like” temp, given the wind chill, was many degrees lower. It was, as I had expected, painfully below my acceptable trail walking minimum of 23 degrees, so I resorted to backyard birding…through my kitchen window. Here are a few of the birds I saw this morning after we trudged out to refresh the feeders.

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Starlings arrive in large groups
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They are pesky, but, taken individually, can be cute.
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Sometimes they search under the feeders.
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A solitary tufted titmouse

That’s all the backyard birding I have time for right now. Maybe I can capture a few more later, but I wouldn’t blame them if they all found a warm spot to huddle together out of the wind.

Thanks for visiting. Hopefully I will soon be back on the trail. Our temperature is supposed to moderate in a day or two. I’m thankful for that prediction because I have had enough of this worrisome sub-zero stuff. I’m fully aware that, while I am warm and cozy, as I watch the birds through my kitchen window, many others aren’t so fortunate. Some have to search out shelters for protection. They need our prayers when the weather conditions become treacherous, something that seems to happen with increasing frequency in recent months, or maybe I should say years.

Stay safe, fellow bloggers, and give thanks for your safety.
Trail Walker

When the snow finally fell…

 I saw a walker hurrying toward me…

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Then I noticed why she was in such a hurry.

A big buck  behind her was closing in!

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And right behind him were two more bucks, headed her way.

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Look closely! There are three bucks in this picture.

With a healthy sense of self preservation, I clicked off a few pictures, swung around, and left them all behind. Following the trail that  led to the sledding hill, I paused to capture a few pictures of the sledders. Nobody was warming up by the fire pit because they were all on the hillside having fun.

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Also along the trail today, flitting among the trees and just possibly hoping for some peanuts or other tasty treats, I saw birds who don’t seem to mind the cold weather…

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Mrs. Cardinal, her feathers ruffled by the wind!
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Mr. Cardinal
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Mrs. C. with a peanut
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And a pair of chubby titmice, their feathers fluffed up against the cold.

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Heading towards me, I saw a happy little dog, bundled up in her winter coat…

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…bouncing down the trail, and Atka, a big dog with an Eskimo name, according to the person with him.

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Winter sunsets happen quickly in this latitude, and the afternoon was rapidly waning. It was time to follow the trail back to the parking lot and head for home. I hope you enjoyed today’s trail walk. Cold weather is coming our way…really cold weather with temperatures hovering near (or below) 0 degrees F. Don’t look for me on the trail for a few days…not until the temperature moderates to something around 23 degrees or higher. I’m fine with winter and snow, and all that, but there is a limit to my tolerance for frigid temps. Here is one more shot from the trail; then maybe for a few days I’ll snap some backyard birds at the feeders…from inside my kitchen window… until the weather warms up again!

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Thanks for treading the trail with me today.
Trail Walker

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