Posted in backyard birding, bird photography, nature

Hummingbirds lead perilous lives!

It’s easy to be charmed by the antics of these tiny birds, especially when they put on a show, and that’s what this one was doing in my back yard today. Let’s sit for a bit on the patio bench and watch.
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Uh-oh! Watch out, Hummer. You’re not the only one that likes the sugar water. You’ve got competition!

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Lots of competition!

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August is not my favorite month because that’s when the yellow-jackets and wasps discover the back yard buffet, and they love sugar water. It doesn’t seem really fair to me. The hummers will soon begin their fall migration. They will head south…very far south, to their warm winter home somewhere in Central America. It’s a long and difficult journey from the south shore of Lake Erie over the Gulf of Mexico, and our tiny friends, the hummers, need plenty of nourishment to prepare for the rigors of migration.

Unfortunately, in the middle of August, hundreds of “bees” (yellow jackets, wasps, etc.) try to take over the sugar water feeders, but hummingbirds are feisty little critters, and I’ve watched them chase off the hungry hordes like this one eventually did today! Hummingbirds may be small, but they are not easily intimidated.

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I can’t help feeling sorry for the hummingbirds at this time of year, but I also feel a little sorry for myself. After mixing up the sugar water and filling the feeders, a day or two later I have to spill out the water, and clean and refill the feeders that are clogged up with the bodies of bees! What a waste! I don’t like bees any more than the hummingbirds do, but I definitely enjoy watching the hummers.

That’s all for today. See you soon.
Trail Watcher
Posted in backyard birding, nature

To share or not to share?

That is the question!

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As you can see from the picture above, the downy woodpecker and black-capped chickadee don’t have a problem sharing the bark butter at the suet feeder. They are peaceably pecking away, each on her own side of the feeder.

However, these two goldfinches aren’t getting along so well on their perch.

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And the hummingbird and bee? How do they feel about sharing?

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I’m not so sure about the bee, but the expression on the face of the hummingbird makes his feelings very clear. If he could talk, he would be screaming,”Scram! Scat! Skedaddle! I was here first!!!”

…And I wouldn’t blame him one bit!

Would you want to share your beverage with a bee?

 See you soon.
Trail Walker
Posted in animal photography, backyard birding, nature

A little rain and a lotta lazy!

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Rain was threatening, and I was feeling lazy, so I hung around the house for some back yard birding instead of heading to the park for a trail walk. As it turned out, lazy wasn’t a bad choice, and I ended up having loads of fun just sitting on the bench in my back yard. A lady hummer came for a visit, and she was joined by a downy woodpecker, a finch (I think), and a little bird with a punk hairdo.

I don’t know if you can tell from these pictures, but we have a new feeder for the hummingbirds. Today the hummer was taking turns sipping from them.First one, then the other! The new feeder is different. It’s shallow with a ring around it for her is rest on while she drinks, and, best of all, it is much easier to clean and refill. That’s especially important when it is hot like it has been recently because the wasps and ants are also attracted to the sugar water feeder, which must be emptied and refilled every two or three days.

As an extra treat, the birds and I were joined at the back yard buffet by Samantha Squirrel. Sammy and her extended family love the bark butter suet cakes as much as the birds do, and I love to watch their antics as they climb the poles, hang onto the feeders, and help themselves to the bark butter. Fortunately the birds are willing to share!

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That’s it from the back yard buffet today. Nothing earthshaking. Nothing political. No name-calling, no violence. Just food, fun, and congeniality. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Thanks for joining me today. See you soon.
Trail Walker

Posted in My trail walks, nature photography, Northeast Ohio, photography

Following up on…

… my recent post about close up filters.

 

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When I was in my teens (many, many years ago), my mother tried to encourage me to take an interest in gardening. She was a gifted gardener and spent hours each day on her knees, cultivating her flowers, and probably  even communing with them. I suspect she was hoping the pleasure she found in gardening would rub off on me and maybe, just maybe, I would become a gardener too. However, as I wrote in one of my recent posts, I (unfortunately) did not become a gardener.  Instead, when I retired from teaching and had some extra hours to pursue a hobby, I took up photography. While I appreciate the vibrant colors of flowers and the beauty of birds and butterflies, I find my joy in walking the trails of local parks and the streets of my community with my camera over my shoulder and, after I return home, keeping a blog about the things I’ve  “seen along the trail.”

Regular visits to the blogs of other photographers also provide inspiration for my growth as a photographer. In my last post, I mentioned that I have been inspired in recent months by  Weekly Fifty, a blog by Simon Ringsmuth, an educational technology specialist at Oklahoma State University, and a blogger who writes a weekly post based on pictures taken with his 50mm lens. Some of his posts have focused (no pun intended) on the combination of the “nifty-fifty” lens and a set of close up filters. I don’t own a good quality macro lens, but I do own two sets of close up filters, one for my 50mm lens and one for my zoom lens. Reading his weekly columns has inspired me to consider a project with my close up filters and “nifty-fifty” lens.

I have enjoyed photographing birds for many years, but for this project I turned to flowers, and my first step was to find some flowers I could “borrow.” My son-in-law, Mike, is a gifted gardener, so recently I visited his garden for my first set of close ups. Here are a few of Mike’s flowers:

That was so much fun, I wanted to try some more close ups, so yesterday, even though the weather was steamy and threatening rain (It actually did rain for a few minutes, forcing me to find shelter),  I went with Bob to change the sign in front of our church, something he does each week.  While he changed the sign, I took a short, slow trail walk (actually more of a wander) down the sidewalk along the street next to the church where every summer another gifted gardener creates a flower garden that many of us admire.

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Despite the occasional raindrops, there were butterflies, bees, and an unidentified insect enjoying these flowers:

Although the flowers are perfect, even the few that are past their prime, I know the photos could be improved. The focus of a few of them is anything but “tack sharp”, and the bees wouldn’t hold still for their photo opp, but I had fun experimenting with the filters. Every time I go out with my camera, I learn something new. This was no exception, and in a day or two, I will hit the trail again, enjoying the beauty of God’s creation and hoping to bring home some images to share on my blog. Thanks for joining me along the trail today. I hope you will take a few minutes to click on the link to Simon’s blog. Maybe it will inspire you too.

See you soon!
Trail Walker

Posted in Back yard photoshoot, nature photography

The day after the storm…

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Last night we had a storm. Stepping out the back door this morning, I was hoping for, if not actually expecting, cooler, fresher air. It was a futile hope. Today has been one of the hottest, muggiest days of the summer. It was dry, in the sense that there was no rain, but with the moisture-laden air, I felt like I was “swimming” without the refreshing benefit of being in a pool. So no trail walk today. Instead, after capturing the picture of a hummingbird in our back yard,  I “borrowed” my son-in-law’s Mike’s garden for a short photoshoot. Mike was at work, but my daughter was home today, and we had a little time to visit while I photographed flowers. So despite the heat and humidity,  it was a win-win situation.

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I don’t own a macro lens, but recently I have been inspired by another blogger to play around with the close up filters that have been buried in my drawer for several years. The images aren’t as good as a quality macro lens would produce, but the filters, attached to my nifty-fifty lens, do allow me to get within an inch or two of the flowers, and I had a good time playing around with them. That’s it for tonight. In my next post,  I will be back with more about my experiment with close up filters.

Thanks for stopping by today.
Trail Walker
Posted in backyard birding, bird photography, Memorable Moments, nature

A pileated surprise!

We had just finished Sunday evening supper when our daughter glanced out the dining room window and exclaimed, “What the heck is that?”  When I turned to look out the window, this is what I saw…

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He had flown down from the tree top without announcing his arrival, as he usually does, and there he sat on top of the bird feeder no more than four feet from our window. Obviously he had found a comfortable place to feast on the bark butter suet, and he was really pleased.

Jumping up from the table, I moved over to the kitchen window where I picked up my camera. Earlier I had cranked the window open about an inch, so I was able to wind it fully open without alarming our “guest.” He was completely engrossed in the suet cake and unaware of my presence, so I was able to capture many pictures. These are the best…

I’m betting he’ll be back, just as long as I keep the suet feeder filled with cakes of bark butter suet. He had his Sunday evening treat, and I had some real good closeups to share on my blog. It was a memorable moment!

See you soon!
Trail Walker
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Yard art photographed at Chautauqua Institution

If thou of fortune be bereft, 
and in thy store there be but left
two loaves, sell one, and with the
dole, buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

Walking through Chautauqua Institution one summer day, my attention was caught by this delightful piece of yard art, clutching a page of poetry by American Quaker poet, John Greenleaf Whittier. I love her and wish I knew the home owners who placed her there so I could thank them.

 

 

Yard art

Posted in Canopy Walk and Emergent Tower, Holden Arboretum, My trail walks, My trailwalks, nature

The Canopy Walk and Emergent Tower

The third, and last, post of my trail walk at the Arboretum with Michael.

Today’s trail walk starts in the rhododendron garden at the entrance to the Canopy Walk. Both the Canopy Walk and Emergent Tower were first opened to the public about a year ago, around the beginning of September, giving thousands of visitors the amazing opportunity to view the seasonal transformation from the top of the Tower. You can see one of my autumnal Tower visits here. As I did in that post, I am going to let the pictures do most of the talking today.

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The Canopy Walk begins (and ends) here in the Rhododendron Garden
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The incline is gradual.
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When filled with visitors, the walk sways, making it a challenge to take clear pictures.
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You can feel the sway, but it is solidly constructed.

The Canopy Walk is actually a loop.  When you start out, it is at ground level, but gradually climbs until you realize you are walking through the tree tops, looking down on Pierson (spelling?) Creek. When the Walk reaches its greatest distance from the entrance, it loops around to begin the return trip, but first, you must stop and look up because here you have a fantastic view of the Emergent Tower. It’s a great place for a photo opp.

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At this point on the Walk, you can see the nearby Emergent Tower.

Follow the Walk as it loops around, and soon you will find yourself back where you started in the Rhododendron Garden, facing a sign pointing down the trail to the Emergent Tower.

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From here it is only a short walk to the Emergent Tower. If you feel the need to rest before you make the 120 foot climb to the top of the Tower, you can stop at a bench along the trail to catch your breath. And I hope you brought some water. From personal experience, I will encourage you not to make the climb on an empty stomach and always be hydrated. I can tell the difference if I carry water or at least drink plenty before the climb. Maybe that’s just me, but the Tower is 12 stories or 120 feet tall, and that’s straight up! Fortunately there are places at each level to stop, take pictures, catch your breath, and even sit and rest for a few minutes.

Okay, here goes. More pictures:

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Entrance to Emergent Tower, taken in October 2015
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Entrance to the Tower, July 2016
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Looking up as you climb
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Looking down as you climb
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Almost to the top
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Michael near the top
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Taking pictures from the top of the Tower
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Lake Erie and miles of Lake County spread out below you
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Sky, Lake, and landscape

That’s it, Trail Walkers. You’ve reached the top of the Tower. You can take your time up here. Enjoy the view. Take as many pictures as you want. You can even take a “selfie” with Lake Erie in the background. But eventually you have to descend to make room for more people to enjoy the view.

When you reach the ground, you can follow the trail back to the visitor’s center or parking lot, but if you have time, there’s still plenty to see at the Arboretum. It’s a great place for trail walking, with or without a camera, but I guarantee you that you won’t forget your experience at the Canopy Walk and Emergent Tower. You’ll want to return…again and again. At least that was my experience…and Michael’s too. Here’s what he said to wrap up the experience…

“I really enjoyed the Canopy Walk and even wish that it was longer. The Tower was amazing. Despite the somewhat daunting walk up, the view was still worth it. I don’t think I could imagine a better day in the Arboretum.”

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Turtle on a log in the bog

That’s it for this trail walk. Thanks for coming along.

See you soon.
Trail Walker
Posted in Holden Arboretum, My trail walks, My trailwalks, nature, nature photography, Northeast Ohio, trailwalking

Walking the trails in Holden Arboretum

The second of three posts about last month’s trail walk with Michael

 

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Our grandson Michael, a student at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, has spent the summer working on campus. Because Muncie is about five hours from home, we haven’t seen much of him this summer, so when he came home for a week in July, he and I grabbed our cameras and took a long anticipated trail walk in the Arboretum.

First we took the trail past the wildflower garden, circling Lotus Pond where we paused to take a few pictures of my favorite tree. Then we headed out to the Rhododendron Garden.

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Trail into the wildflower garden

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The golden willow on Lotus Pond

Entering the Helen S. Layer Rhododendron Garden
The rhododendron garden is an amazing place, especially in June when the rhododendrons and azaleas are in full bloom, but whatever the season, it is a great place to wander with plenty of opportunities for photos. The entrance to the Canopy Walk is in this area, but I am saving that for the next post, so on this July morning we wandered in the garden for a while, where I captured these pictures.

Finally we headed back toward the visitors’ center for a visit to the butterfly garden. Apparently it was still too early in the summer for butterflies, but we saw other critters and some water lilies:

As I already said, I am saving the Canopy Walk and Emergent Tower for my third and last post from this trail walk, so there’s still more to come from the Arboretum, but for now I’m going to stop. If you would like, you can hang out here in the butterfly garden for a little while longer. There’s always something interesting to see, and maybe some more butterflies will appear. However, we will see you tomorrow for a visit to the Canopy Walk and Emergent Tower, so be sure to come back then.

Thanks for joining us today.
Trail Walker