Posted in Back yard bird buffet, backyard birding

Especially for bird lovers…

Even bluebirds can have bad hair days (especially when it is raining).

My “Pics” for the Week…January 1-7, 2017

All the “Pics” for this week are birds (except for two squirrels that sneaked in when I wasn’t looking) ūüėÉ. ¬†All pics were taken in my “Backyard Bird Buffet.” The first week in January has been very cold (currently 12 degrees) and more cloudy and wet than sunny, which explains why all the pics were shot¬†through my kitchen window. ¬†Some birds were chosen because they are favorites of mine; others because they are new or infrequent visitors; and still others, just because they make me smile, and smiling is always good. So here¬†are my “pics” for the week, the pictures I especially like. I hope you like them too.

New or infrequent visitors

The red-bellied woodpeckers haven’t been around much so far this winter, but I have high hopes they will appear more often. The same can be said for the Eastern bluebirds, which first appeared near the end of December, but haven’t visited in the last few days. I’m missing them!

These are among my favorite visitors.

Here are the birds that made me smile this week

Some birds make me smile by the way they pose or by the expression on their faces (beaks), and others by the way they interact with other birds or utilize an ornament in the buffet.


I can’t forget the squirrels. They are a permanent part of the Backyard Buffet, and they eat more than their share of the birdseed. Some people love squirrels, others not so much, but I have fun watching their antics as they race around the yard. I wish I had that¬†much energy!


There you have it…my “pics” for the first week of¬†January. If you have a favorite, I would love to know what it is.

Thanks for visiting today. See you tomorrow on Cellpic Sunday.
Trail Walker
Posted in Back yard bird buffet, back yard buffet, backyard birding, nature photography

Bright spots on a wintry day


Overnight the temperature dropped to single digits and several inches of snow fell. The Backyard Buffet looks much more appealing when the ground is covered with a blanket of white, and because that same blanket had covered over much of their natural food, the birds were looking for food at ALL the feeders. That includes the hawk that visited yesterday, so all the little birds must be alert to the danger. We saw him on the ground at the edge of our backyard this morning, but he flew away too quickly for a photo opp. He is a beautiful bird, but I wish he would go scrounging for his meals¬†among the snakes and rodents (If some of them¬†aren’t hibernating)¬†in the nearby park instead of in the Backyard Buffet. ūüėí

Enjoy these bright spots
That’s all for today.
Look for more Backyard Buffet adventures tomorrow.
See you then! -Trail Walker (aka Carolyn or Skip)
Posted in My trail walks

Branxton Meadows

If you are interested in British or Scottish history (as I am), you might enjoy this blog by photographer James Elkington. His photography is outstanding, as is his commentary on the history of the places mentioned in his blog. ~Trail Walker (aka skip22037)

Walking with a Smacked Pentax

These green meadows, on the English/Scottish border at Northumberland, look so lush and inviting. A great place for a walk, or maybe a family picnic.

But 500 years ago it was a scene of unimaginable slaughter ‚Äď in the space of less than 4 hours, 14,000 were slaughtered in the biggest and bloodiest battle of the Borders. For this is Flodden¬†‚Äď another name for these Branxton Meadows ‚Ästand here¬†took place¬†‚ÄėThe Batttle of Flodden Field‚Äô.

The little village of Branxton, a mile from the battlefield.

It was on the 9th September 1513 during the reign of Henry VIII. England was at war with France, and the French Queen persuaded King James IV of Scotland to invade Northern England, thus assisting the French. Scotland and England had an uneasy relationship, with various battles and skirmishes fought for centuries. Money and arms were sent to the Scottish over a period of months in readiness for the…

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Posted in Back yard bird buffet, backyard birding, Eastern bluebirds

Back to the bluebirds


I’m always delighted when I see Eastern bluebirds, especially when they are visiting my Backyard Bird Buffet. When yesterday dawned cold and soggy, I wasn’t expecting to see them, but as Bob and I watched the regular, daily¬†visitors to¬†the Buffet, a little flock of bluebirds joined the crowd and made themselves at home.

First this little male visited the new seed cylinder. I didn’t see him munching at the cylinder, but apparently it also works well as a perch and a place to check out the activity in the backyard.

A female joined him…

…and he kept watch while she tasted a tidbit.


Next they flew to the stump where they were joined by another female.


Uh-oh, an intruder!


A hungry one!

Fortunately red-bellied woodpeckers are not a threat to bluebirds and other songbirds, so peace was restored in the Bird Buffet until a hawk flew in for a visit. At that point, all the guests at the Backyard Buffet scattered for safety. No one was left for the hawk to harm, so he flew away too.

That’s the end of Tuesday’s adventures at the Backyard Buffet.
Thanks for visiting! See you soon.
Trail Walker
Posted in blogging, Memorable Moments, My trail walks, nature photography, Trail walking

Eastern screech owl redux


What should a photographer, who loves trail walks, do on a cold, rainy January morning? She could of course put on rain gear, thumb her nose at the wet weather, and head down the trail. However, this trail walker (me) found a more appealing (and much dryer) activity this morning. Sitting in front of my¬†computer, I¬†opened the WordPress website, clicked on the link to the “Reader,” and began to wander through the blogs of other WordPress contributors. What followed was not my¬†usual walk down the trails in Chagrin River Park or Holden Arboretum, but was, nonetheless, a fascinating (and dry) trail walk that linked me¬†to trails in distant states and far away countries.

One of the first links I¬†clicked on was this one, posted this morning by Belinda Grover, an outstanding photographer I follow regularly. Belinda’s post today, an Eastern screech owl, reminds me of the screech owl that lives in a nesting box in Chagrin River Park. ¬†With that reminder, ¬†I dug into my photo archives until I found¬†the little owl posted at the top of this page. ¬†My sleepy-eyed owl is cute, but Belinda’s is much sharper, and she even caught it with one eye wide open, so I implore you to take a minute to click on the link and enjoy Belinda’s photography.¬†I hope you return here, however, and read the rest of this post,¬†because my intention¬†today, in addition to introducing you to Belinda’s work,¬†is to share several tips that have helped me become¬†a better photographer and blogger.

  • First, I want¬†to encourage¬†you to take a little time every day (0r as often as you can) to click on¬†the WordPress Reader. It has links to a wealth of interesting blogs, fascinating bloggers, and exciting opportunities to visit new places and¬†see beautiful scenery.
  • Second, I want to suggest that examining the work of¬†other photographers, via the Reader, can help you become a better photographer. Not only have I met¬†new people and visited places I will probably never visit in person (think Switzerland, Denmark, or New Zealand), I have also learned from photographers who are more experienced than I. What a wonderful way to get an education.
  • Third: Remember to mine your own archives every once in a while. You may find photos you have forgotten (like my sleepy owl) that could¬†become the focus of future posts. How exciting is that? They’re yours; you won’t be breaking any copyright laws; and they are already on your computer, making them¬†easy to access.
  • Finally, related to mining your archives, is a¬†fourth tip. Please make a habit of giving a few¬†keywords to¬†all your images. When you want to find that picture you took in Kuala Lumpur or Hawaii¬†(Don’t I wish!), it will be much easier to bring it up, if you have given it a few relevant tags (keywords).

However, this business of leaving the familiar trail¬†and wandering through the Reader and/or through your archives,¬†comes with a warning. It¬†will be interesting, educational, and¬†unbelievably¬†fun. It can even be eye-opening, introducing you to new blog friends and far-away places. However, above all it can be addictive.¬†So you might want to set a timer to remind you when it is time to come back to earth, i.e. to your own blog. You’ll want¬†to leave enough time to finish your post¬†for the day.

Thanks for stopping by.
Some bedraggled (think dripping wet) bluebirds visited the
Backyard Buffet, while I worked on this post! So…
Come back tomorrow to see them!
(Preview below)
Trail Walker





Posted in backyard birding, bird photography

The watering-hole gang


Although they don’t look exotic, house sparrows are considered an exotic species. They are non-native birds that were introduced into North America in the mid-ninteenth century, and to say they have thrived is putting it mildly. Currently they are thriving in my backyard, and I am not thrilled! Before the big oak tree on the back of our property fell in November and we ended up with a large brush pile in our backyard, flocks of these sparrows were happy inhabitants of a large shrub at¬†the corner of our neighbor’s driveway. Now they have relocated from the overgrown shrub to the brush pile. To say they are happy is an understatement, but me…not so much! Currently the tufted titmice, nuthatches, chickadees, downy woodpeckers, and blue jays are coexisting with the sparrows, but I am concerned that they will drive away the little bluebirds and other migratory songbirds with their noisy behavior, overwhelming presence, and¬†tendency to take over nesting boxes. As the proprietor of the backyard bird buffet, that would make me a very unhappy home owner.

At the moment I am somewhat entertained by their antics at the “watering hole” as evidenced by these pictures of the male and female house sparrows:

…but this gang is¬†aggressive and wearing out their welcome with me! ¬†As winter wanes and the migratory warblers reappear on the annual return journey¬†from their winter homes in warmer climates, I am hoping to offer them a safe haven in my backyard buffet. Unfortunately, the presence of a noisy¬†flock¬† gang of house sparrows is definitely less than welcoming.

If any of you bird lovers have suggestions for how to discourage these invaders, please pass along what you know. I don’t want to play host to unfriendly¬†invaders¬†that are¬†detrimental to all the beautiful songbirds that could find¬†a happy home here. Meanwhile I am using the power of google to learn what I can before the time arrives for the spring migration.


That’s the latest update from Skip’s Backyard Buffet.
Thanks for visiting! See you soon with another report.
Trail Walker (aka Skip)
Posted in Back yard bird buffet, bird photography, Eastern bluebirds

A joyful ending to 2016


A little flock of Eastern bluebirds came by this week to help me finish off my backyard buffet posts for 2016. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I looked out the window and saw them because I have NEVER before seen a bluebird in our neighborhood. They aren’t uncommon in northeast Ohio, but they are usually seen in spring and summer. I did capture this one in November at Holden Arboretum,

…but was completely taken by surprise to see a little flock in my backyard on Wednesday, dining with the sparrows, starlings, titmice, and other familiar year round birds. On Thursday, I was away from home from before sunrise until long after dark, so on Friday I kept an eager eye out the window, hoping they would return. They didn’t, and I began to wonder if they had just made a brief stop here on their way to a warmer climate and had already moved on. Imagine my joy this morning (Saturday) when they reappeared among the usual breakfast time visitors. I picked up my camera, which is always on the shelf below the window, held my breath, and began snapping away. Here is a little bluebird portrait gallery, some taken on Wednesday and some today.

I’m excited to be able to share a “new” bird (new to my backyard buffet) on the last day of 2016. Every year has its ups and downs, and every day brings things for which I am thankful, but, as we come to the end of what has been a very unusual¬†year for many of us, ¬†it gives me joy to share these beautiful birds with you.

Happy New Year, Trail Walking Friends!
Let’s look forward to 2017¬†with hope, faith, joy, and love.
See you soon!
Trail Walker
Posted in celebrations, Christmas 2016, Memorable Moments

Sharing Christmas joy


Joy to the World!

Joy to the world! The Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart
Prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and heaven and nature sing

Christmas is a joyful holiday, especially for those who celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus. But I believe that those who celebrate Christ’s birth should do everything we can to spread the joy of this celebration and share it with others in our community and beyond. That is what our¬†church, Willoughby United Methodist, was doing on Christmas Day when we prepared a delicious Christmas dinner and sent out an open invitation to our community to come and enjoy it with us. Weeks of planning and several days of cooking turkeys, hams, cookies, and more, culminated in a¬†festive celebration¬†that was enjoyed by many.¬†¬†Chatting with the guests¬†and snapping their pictures added to my joy, and I hope sharing this Christmas Day dinner with others added to theirs.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year, Friends!
See you in 2017

Meanwhile, enjoy this rendition of “Joy to the World,”
sung by a boys’ choir from Ireland in 2013.

Trail Walker


Posted in celebration, Cellpic Sunday, Community, Memorable Moments

Everybody loves a teddy bear!

On Christmas Day, our church (Willoughby United Methodist) serves a free turkey and ham dinner with all the extras to anyone in the community who wants to join other people for a delicious holiday dinner. This year it followed our Sunday worship service. We give teddy bears as gifts. We also take bears to give away when we go Christmas caroling in nursing homes. People of all ages love teddy bears!