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

Is it vacant now? A bluebird catastrophe

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A story I didn’t have the heart to tell until now.

Mr. Bluebird has just peeked into the nesting box. Perched on top, Mrs. B. is wondering if the box is available. “Have the sparrows left?” she queries. “Can we move in?” (That’s my guess at their conversation based on their actions and the expressions on their tiny faces.)

 

A few months earlier, when summer was at its peak, Mrs. B, with a little help from her mate, had diligently built a nest in this very same box. When the nest was ready, the time had come. She laid three tiny eggs in her carefully constructed nest, and both parents went to work keeping watch over their brood. Day after day, she tended the nest, making occasional quick trips outside to pick up more twigs and a grub or two, carrying them back to the nest in her beak. Sometimes Mr. Bluebird would bring her a grub or a worm, although he mostly patrolled the neighborhood, doing his best to keep the house sparrows and blue jays away from the little family.

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Sadly, his best wasn’t good enough. One morning, when Momma and Poppa were both briefly out of the nest, an intruder got inside. How do I know that? I know because I had been keeping a close eye on the nest from my nearby kitchen window. Seeing the pair of beautiful blue birds, tending the nest so carefully, brought me great joy.

I checked on them every time I passed by the window, and then, one morning, tragedy struck. I glanced out the window and was horrified to see a house sparrow sitting on top of the nesting box, and the bluebirds were nowhere to be seen. I checked the nest often for the next few days. Occasionally I spotted Mr. Bluebird, perched on a nearby branch or on one of the feeders, his eyes scanning the neighborhood, but the momma was nowhere in sight. The house sparrows were around though, entering and leaving the nesting box they had quickly claimed as their own.

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Finally, after a few days, we opened the box and discovered three tiny eggs, with a hole pecked in each one. We sadly cleaned out the box, hoping an empty box would discourage the sparrows. It did, but except for a very rare visit to the neighborhood, the bluebirds were gone. They didn’t return to the nest.

Then one day, months later, at the end of October, I was excited to see a bluebird, not just one, but a pair of bluebirds, in the backyard. I began to keep a close eye on the nest, as I had months earlier, and eventually, as I watched, Mr. Bluebird entered the nest, not once, but several times. And one of those times, a house sparrow flew up and tried to enter the nesting box when the bluebird was already inside. With a flurry of feathers and much beating of wings, the brave bluebird repelled the invader, as I stood at the window and cheered.

 

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Mr. Bluebird defending the nest!

What will happen next? I don’t know. I’m rooting for Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird, but the sparrows are persistent. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

Please keep your fingers crossed too.
I’ll let you know what happens!
Trail Walker

Back to birding in the back yard

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It wasn’t a fabulous day for photography, so I decided to take some shots through the kitchen window.  This stump and several others are what remains of a large oak tree we had to cut down last year.  I decided to take advantage of them to create tables, just for the wildlife. The little birds (and the squirrels and chipmunks) loved the idea, and this is the result.  They are also popular with the deer that roam around our neighborhood at night, but for some reason, today it was just birds. To my surprise, there wasn’t a hoof print in sight. Near this stump is another on which I place a water bowl and handfuls of black oil sunflower seeds. Occasionally, as you can see here, there is some quarreling between the visitors. It looks to me like the sparrow is complaining because the house finch is just a little greedy. Look at that mouth full of seed! Definitely more than her share, according to the sparrow.

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The breakfast and lunch hours are the most popular times for visitors. Sometimes I can almost liken them to the regulars at the neighborhood deli…except for the greed factor that is. Here are a few more visitors that showed up yesterday when I was watching out the window:

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Junco, or snowbird as they are commonly called

 

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Another junco with a full beak!
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An especially greedy house finch
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And a bossy blue jay

That’s it for today. I did spot a red-bellied woodpecker, but couldn’t capture her picture. Maybe next time!  Did you notice what a monotone day this was? I’m thankful for visits from the blue jays and the little house finches with their rosy breasts. Otherwise winter weather can be a little dull.

Hope to see you again at the back yard buffet!
Trail Walker

Trees

Part one of a three-part series from Holden Arboretum
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Gingko tree

When I was a young girl, the home I lived in, the big white house my grandparents built in 1907, was framed by sycamore trees. These trees were one of the dominant features of that property and the focus of many of my lasting memories of those years. Falling out of the tree; swinging on a rope swing; raking huge piles of leaves just so we could jump in them; or sitting at my bedroom window, drawing pencil sketches of the winter skeletons of the tall sycamore trees…These are some of the special images that create the keystone for my childhood memories.

Is it any wonder that Holden Arboretum is one of my favorite go-to places for trail walking? When the sun came out this morning, I took my camera and headed to Holden for a walk along its trails. Two hours later, I returned home  with many digital images on my memory card. I don’t have time or space in this blog post to share them all, so this will be the first of a series of posts based on those pictures. Here are the trees I’ve selected for today’s post:

If you’ve followed along this far, I am guessing trees may also hold a special place in your memory bank. I have to run now. It’s time to prepare supper and go to choir practice, but I hope you will return to check out my next post from the Holden Arboretum.

See you soon!
Trail Walker

A Fabulous Friday

Consider yourself warned: Today’s post is a long one because this has been a very full week with an amazing number of photo opps. Before I could say “Jack Robinson,” the week has flown by, and my camera card is filled with memories. However,  it’s Friday again and time for an end of the week post, and the blog won’t be complete unless I at least try to give the flavor of this fabulous week that flew by so fast, so hang on, here goes!

Note: I have no recollection of the origin of that phrase “Before I could say Jack Robinson.” It just popped into my head as something my mother used to say. I can’t tell you if it is an accurate memory (and there is no one to ask), but it was a fleeting memory, appropriate for this fleeting week, so I’m using it!

So…What makes THIS a fabulous Friday?

First: I captured Two Fabulous Friday Faces to add to my F.F.F. gallery.

As you know, if you follow my posts, I like to take pictures of people I meet on my trail walks. I don’t snap a picture of every person I pass, but sometimes I enjoy a brief conversation with someone I’ve met for the first time, and I just want to have a record of that encounter. Over the past few years, that record has grown into a gallery of Fabulous Friday Faces that you can see HERE, and this week I added two “Faces” to the gallery: Bob and Morgan.

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Bob in Chagrin River Park, February 16, 2016

Bob and I were both enjoying the fresh snowfall when we met along the trail. He noticed my camera and remarked that he expected to see some photographers taking advantage of the photo opportunities in the park. In the few minutes we chatted, I learned that his wife died some years ago and he really misses her, but he has lots of kids and grandkids in the area that he is thankful for. He was in the park that morning because one of his daughters had called to tell him how beautiful it is with a fresh blanket of snow, which motivated him to go out and enjoy the snow. He and I were in complete agreement that it is much better to get out and take advantage of what the park has to offer, including the beautiful landscape, the river, the wildlife, kids having fun on the sledding hill, and the people you meet along the trail. I’m glad I met Bob that snowy morning. Hopefully I will see him again.

A little farther along the trail I met Morgan and her son on their way back from the sledding hill. I commented on her great hat and asked if I could take her picture.

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Morgan in Chagrin River Park, February 16, 2016

While we talked and I snapped her picture, the little guy was having fun in the snow. There were lots of families in the park because the surprise snow had created a “snow day” for all the area schools, and it was fun to see all the activity on the sledding hill. Take a look:

Now you’ve seen what makes this a Fabulous Friday and part of a truly fabulous week of photography. I’ve taken so many pictures, I can’t keep up with the processing and posting, and there’s still…

One more thing to include in the blog today!

The weather today is warmer (above 50 degrees) and very windy, so I have been wondering where I could go for some good photo opps after my hair cut appointment, and then an idea struck. My hairdresser is located near Lake Front Park,  a small, “pocket park,” that I hadn’t visited for many months, so that’s where I headed when I left the hair salon. The wind at the lake front totally messed up my hair, so it’s a good thing we don’t have any plans to go out this evening, but I got some beautiful photos at the park, and that is what helped to make this a truly fabulous Friday.

At the park

When I started down the trail, I was surprised to discover a wonderful new deck overlooking the lake.

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Here’s the deck.

I have no idea when it was constructed, but I am thankful for the foresight of Lake Metroparks in providing a such a great place for us to enjoy the beauty of Lake Erie. Here are a few photos I snapped on and around the deck:

That’s all from today’s trail walk and the end of this very long post. While I have been sitting at my computer, the wind and warmer temperatures have been at work, and when I finally looked outside, I was shocked to discover that in the past two hours most of the snow has vanished. I wonder where I will find the fuel for my blog next week?

If you’ve read this far, thanks for sticking with me.
I’ll try to make my next post a short one!
Trail Walker

I can’t believe this week flew by already!

Have you  ever had a week fly by so fast you didn’t know where it went? Or what you accomplished? That’s what happened to me this week. Seven busy days gone with the wind (and several of those days were very windy!). Here are the high points of my “week that was:”

  • Upgraded my iMac to the latest operating system (El Capitan).
  • Learned how to use some of the new features (Good ones in my opinion).
  • Upgraded my iPad to IOS 9. Lots of good stuff there too.
  • Took a 13 hour trip across state to visit a friend.
  • Baked cookies and put together “care packages” to send to Michael and Emmy to give them a change of pace from eating meals on campus.
  • …and a bunch of other stuff  that apparently gobbled up at least four days of the week.
  • And as of today, we are no longer on daylight saving time, which means it got dark at about 5 pm. Whose idea was that anyway? Not mine, I can promise you!

As a result of all the busyness, I didn’t get out for any trail walks this week and didn’t have any pictures to post on my blog or Facebook. That brings me to today, which was a beautiful day. So after church I headed out to the Arboretum to finally get some pictures to share on my blog.

First I want to show you this totally bare maple tree. If you scroll back to my post from October 22  (titled TRANSFORMATION), you would see the same tree in full technicolor glory, but to save you the trouble of scrolling back, I’m going to post it again, right below the first picture. Take a look, and you will see why I am glad I made it to the Arboretum a week ago to capture that picture.

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Isn’t it amazing how quickly the seasons change? It’s also a little unsettling and even a little sad. How soon do you think I will be posting that same tree covered with snow? Any guesses? We could have snow before December, but heavy snow isn’t likely until after Christmas…hopefully! We’ve had two very snowy, cold (frigid even) winters in a row here in northeast Ohio. Maybe we’ll get lucky this year and miss all the bad weather. I’m hoping to get out for trail walks all through the winter, so I would rather have a mild one. Ice and snow make for difficult (and sometimes even dangerous) trail walks. So cross your fingers please!

Before I sign off tonight, I want to share the other pictures I took at the Arboretum today. It was truly an especially lovely day for the first of November. Take a look at this gallery:


That’s it for today, but I will try to get back to the Arboretum at least once this week to get some more pictures before the glorious color is totally gone. Thanks for joining me on the trail today. I’ll be back soon for another Autumn trail walk.

Trail Walker

Fabulous Friday Face: Bob

Bob: A fabulous Friday Face
Bob: October 22, 2015

I encountered this week’s Fabulous Friday Face when I made my fourth climb to the top of the Emergent Tower at Holden Arboretum on Thursday. I should have posted it on Friday, so I am a day late. Where does the time go anyway? There’s always a volunteer on duty at the top of the Tower, and that’s where Bob was stationed this week. In our very short conversation, he listed four or five states where he has lived. Didn’t like Florida, not at all, but apparently would move back to Colorado at the drop of a pin. He would move there, if he only could, with his deceased wife. Then he would be living in his favorite place with the love of his life. Meanwhile, he is living in Ohio and  doing a terrific job of volunteering at the Arboretum, chatting up the visitors and taking photos of people who hand over their cameras to record the memorable moment. Well done, Bob. And thanks for being my Fabulous Friday Face.

Rainy day blues

Have you ever thought about how inaccurate that phrase is? The rainy day grays would be a better description in my opinion. Sitting at my computer this afternoon, I glance out the window above me, and what I see is gray, not blue. Gray is the color of rainy days, and a very accurate description for today. Two days ago, we celebrated a perfect, sunny-blue-sky day with the temperature topping out at 80 degrees Fahrenheit…our highest so far this spring. It seemed almost like summer, and a marvelous antidote to our long, snowy, and record-breaking frigid winter. A mere 48 hours later, we have plunged back into mid-March. That is to say: wet, chilly, overcast, and basically gray.

However, and this is my point here, despite the grayness of the weather and sky, I’m feeling sunny-blue-sky joyful. Although that may seem contradictory, my mood isn’t determined by the weather. Four things happened today that have me feeling sunny-blue-sky joyful:

  1. A good friend needed a ride to a doctor appointment. Taking her there got me out of the house, and we thankfully escaped the worst of the wet weather…driving between the cloudbursts. While I waited for her to finish her appointment, I encountered another patient who was waiting for a ride home. My conversation with this amazing 94-year-young stranger warmed my heart. That’s a story for another day, but I just hope our conversation blessed her as much as it did me.
  2. Out of the blue (a much better description for today), another good friend called with the news that she had made a big pot of chicken rice soup and wanted to give me some…my second mood brightener of the day, and a very tasty lunch when I arrived back home.
  3. The third source of my joy was the birds that visited my back yard “bird buffet,” 10 different species in all, and I got decent pictures of eight of them. They seemed positively energized and delighted by the falling rain and new bird seed waiting for them at the buffet.
  4. And to top it all, a hummingbird stopped by to sip fresh sugar water. It’s our first hummer of the summer (forgive me for being a little silly, but hummingbirds have that effect on me). Here he is. Doesn’t he look happy? These are far from the sharpest hummingbird photos I’ve ever taken, but capturing tiny, quick-moving birds is one thing cloudy gray skies don’t do well.

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So that’s my day.  For the record:
  • Exercise: No walk today. Too much rain and too little time!
  • Weather: In a word, wet. Another word: cool.
  • It has been a day full of blessings for which I am thankful.
  • If you want to see the other bird buffet visitors, click here. They are posted on my nature blog.

Thanks for stopping by!

Skip aka Carolyn

Trail walking

Trail walking with my camera is my hobby…one that can take up many hours each day if I let it, and it is a hobby that has many advantages.

  • It motivates me to take a walk in a park five or six days each week.
  • It’s a great way to get exercise.
  • I’ve met many wonderful people by striking up a conversation and asking if I can take their picture.
  • I also get to pet other people’s dogs because that’s a great way to get the conversational ball rolling (and I love dogs).
  • It’s a wonderful way to enjoy God’s beautiful creation.
  • I’m learning how to take better pictures (although I still have a lot to learn).
  • It keeps me active and learning new things, mostly about nature and photography.

However, there are a few  disadvantages as well. The major disadvantage is the amount of time it takes every day. In addition to the daily walk (a definite advantage), there is the time it takes to…

  • download the pictures to my computer.
  • process the pictures, i.e. cropping them, and all the rest.
  • upload the keepers to this blog and to Flickr, Facebook, Blipfoto, and SmugMug. On any given day I will probably post pictures on a least two of those sites.
  • add captions to the pictures.
  • write the descriptions needed on some of those websites.
  • write this blog!

So there you have it! Numerically speaking, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages (but not by much), and it is a huge time-consumer. So will I give it up and go back to reading mystery books in my free time? Nope, nada, never, absolutely NOT! As long as I can get out of bed in the morning and go for that daily walk, I will keep on walking. It gives me so much JOY!

On today’s walk I captured two bird pictures that I cannot identify with any confidence. I think the first one is a juvenile American robin.

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The second one may be a song sparrow, but it is missing the dark spot in the middle of its breast. Maybe it is a juvenile too.

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What do you think, fellow bloggers? If you have a definitive ID for either of these two beauties, please leave a comment. I had a great walk in the park this morning and made it home (before the crackles and booms began) with several keepers besides these two. I posted all of them here in my SmugMug gallery. I hope you have time to take a look.

That’s it for today. I’ve run out of time (She says with a smile on her face).

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