backyard visitors, dogs, fences, friends, home, home improvements, live and learn, neighbors, on closer examination, photography, squirrels, unintended consequences

Good fences…

If good fences make good neighbors then how is it that I just love my neighbors on both sides, one on the side without a fence, and the other with whom I shared a length of fence that my uncle remarked was more holes than fence?  He was right, it was pretty hole-y.  But my neighbor’s entire yard was surrounded by fence that was long past it’s prime, and so when some used fencing came her way she started patching the worst areas.  Which gave me an idea, a true light bulb moment.  Since they were putting up fencing anyhow, how about I buy new fencing for the section that we share, and they put it up.  I really am a genius sometimes, ask Ozzie if you don’t believe me.

I wish I had thought to take a picture when it was nice and clean.  Already it has acquired a coating of sand where the grass hasn’t filled in.  Or the chickens flung sand at it, they’ve been visiting lately.  I certainly admired it… at first.  But I’m over the novelty of it and now it just looks… boring.  There used to be more to look at.2-10fencetextureI went looking through my photos to see if the fence showed up in any of them.  I took this picture because I was trying to take photos of the wood texture.  You see it was a bit see-through.  Zoe liked that aspect of it because she could keep an eye on what was going on over there in case she was missing something.2-10fencesquirrelThe squirrels took to the top of the fence whenever Zoe came zooming out the back door.  Chasing them is her favorite thing to do.  Ozzie, not so much.2-10fencesquirrel2I was able to capture this image because that squirrel likes having his picture taken.  I’d see birds sitting there also, but they weren’t as cooperative so I don’t have a photo of them.  Not that I didn’t try.2-10fencedieselThen there is Diesel.  He has a girlfriend a few blocks away, and he discovered that those boards didn’t really offer much resistance, so every so often he’d make a break for it and they’d have to hunt him down.  Now they know where to look for him however.

So, a new fence.  A home improvement.  Charley was a coin collector, old, rare coins, and patients would bring their old coins in for him to see in hopes they would have a rare one worth lots of money.  He’d tell them whatever they did, don’t clean them.  The color that develops on the old coins is called toning, and the coins are more valuable if the toning isn’t disturbed.  It didn’t matter, they always cleaned the coins.  One did it with a pencil eraser.  Maybe he thought Charley wouldn’t notice.  I never understood the value of the toning, I just took Charley’s word for it.  But it has occurred to me that that’s what is missing from the new fence.  Toning!  A little something extra to look at…

birds, Florida wildlife, natural wonders, nature, Nature's beautiful creatures, nesting, on closer examination, Owls, perseverance, photography

Whoo is that???

Photographers are a friendly bunch.  They freely share information on where to go to see whatever birds you may wish to see.  Upon losing the eaglets my attention turned to the Great Horned Owl nest I’ve been hearing about.  One of my new acquaintances posts info on the current conditions in the various parks around, so I was well aware that Phillipe Park was the place to go to find an owl-ette (?).  I had never been there before, but I was hopeful that I would find the nest.  I asked directions once I was there and was told to go through the 4-way stop and look for the paparazzi, LOL, and it worked.  Well, it got me to the area, but the other photographers had to point out the nest.  One even moved over to give me a better view, and finally I spotted the Mom up above the nest in a tree.  Some of them had been there for three hours when I got there, but I was just in time, they said, because they expected her to move to the nest any minute.  Then it would be feeding time.3-7owls1The Spanish moss that you see was a challenge to shoot through.  It was hanging from limbs between the owls and where we were standing, and it was blowing back and forth.  I had to switch to manual focus because auto focus kept refocusing as the moss came into the viewer.  Then someone yelled that she was in flight…3-7owlsfeatureOnce she landed all you could see was the baby, sort of…3-7owls2And we all scrambled across the way, hoping for a better angle.3-7owls33-7owls73-7owls43-7owls63-7owls53-7owls8And oh by the way, I wasn’t far off with my made up owl-ette.  Siri says it’s actually owlet.  Such a cute face, and quite the wing spread from the glimpse I got of that.  I have no idea what I used to think about before I became a bird-brain…

birds, eagles, Florida wildlife, life, natural wonders, nature, Nature's beautiful creatures, nesting, on closer examination, photography

Eaglets…

I asked Siri what baby eagles are called, and eaglets was the answer.  I was afraid I’d made that word up when I considered using it.  One of my fellow stalkers of the nest, and I say that with all respect, happened to speak with an official from Pasco County yesterday.  When asked if he would like to receive photos from the photographers who have been concentrating on the nest the official said yes.  And that is what made me go back to my last visit and look, really look, at my photos from that day.  Sometimes after being out for quite a while taking the photos, and then coming home and writing a blog post, I tend to narrow my vision to what fits the subject I’m writing about.  Telling the story of the day as it happened, and not posting a ridiculous number of photos.  In looking back at the photos for Pasco County I realized that what I’d most like to see is the eaglets, as clearly as possible.  And when you consider the distance involved, the size of the eaglets, and the angle from which you are forced to take the photos, it is amazing that these photos are even possible.  That’s technology for you, not necessarily the photographer.  So the post for the 3rd of February is probably outdated since those little guys change so rapidly.  All the more reason to post them now, because the next time I manage to make it to the nest they’ll probably look entirely different.1-29onthenest11-29onthenest21-29onthenest31-29onthenest41-29onthenest51-29onthenest61-29onthenest7The images of them being fed are the most frustrating to get.  In person you can see what’s going on.  The parent shreds a morsel from whatever unfortunate creature has found itself as dinner, and then turns it’s head and the eaglet takes the morsel from it’s beak.  I’m not sure I’d have imagined that activity from a still photograph.  And I’m finding myself making the same assumptions that I did last year over the Sandhill cranes.  One baby seemed more adventurous and the other more quiet and subdued.  That’s how I’m seeing the eaglets, one is easy to spot, but the other doesn’t seem to lift it’s head up to check out the world nearly as often.  Patience is a virtue, especially for a nature photographer, or so it seems to me…

I wrote this this morning (Friday), and then my plans for the day changed so I went to the nest.  I was surprised that I saw no eagles, babies or parents.  After a while I took my phone out of my pocket and was dismayed to see a message from a friend that it is suspected that the babies have died.  Heartbreaking news, I felt guilty just walking away. I drove to a nearby park, and on my way home I saw photographer friends all set up at the nest.  They were aware of the possible problem, but they were planning to stay anyhow.  The eagles were in the area, but not on the nest…

connections, grief, growing old, life, life goes on, live and learn, loneliness, marriage, memories, old dogs new tricks, on closer examination, photography, the big picture

It’s just a number…

Nothing fits anymore. Not my clothes, although I’m not really complaining about that. I’ve taken tons of clothes to donate, and now I need to find out where I can donate all this extra skin. But that’s really not what I’m talking about either. ‘I’ don’t fit. All my life I seemed to know where I stood in relationship to the rest of the people around me. But now that I’m really, seriously, old, I can’t see it. Older yes, wiser no. Is it because Charley is gone? When I was going through life with him and I saw him getting older, is that what made me recognize my own age? Because he isn’t here anymore to provide that link, and I seem to be stumbling around a bit.

It started with a chance encounter with a man when I was photographing the sunset one night. He said that I ought to be dating, that there are a lot of lonely men out there. I responded, “I’m not”, lonely I meant. I told him that I have nice conversations with people every day, and then I go home, and that I like my privacy. And I meant that 100%. What I didn’t expect was that after few more conversations with him over the next several days that wasn’t altogether true anymore. He left to go back home and took my 100% conviction that I was 100% happy with him, and I haven’t been able to resurrect it. So now my chance encounters with people have a different sort of edge to them. The last time I was a single adult I was 20 years old, and I see now that I wasn’t as much of an adult as I thought I was at the time. In a lot of ways I have reverted back to that person, in my own mind anyhow. Maybe this explains something that Charley said about working at Publix at age 63, after having worked at the A&P right after high school and all through college. He said that he felt like he was 18 again, which might have been a good thing, but the problem was that he acted it too. He kept getting sent to the office, in trouble for a remark made to another employee, never to a customer. Not reported by the person he was talking to, but reported by a busy-body employee who overheard him. I told Charley that he wasn’t hired for the comic effect, but he couldn’t seem to resist making a wise-aleck remark when the opportunity presented itself. But you know what? I think I get it now, I get that he would momentarily actually be that 18 year old again.

So you happen to have a nice conversation with the guy who sits next to you in a photography class. Nice class, nice company, feels good. In the moment you are just yourself, a generic ‘self’, just enjoying the conversation. Later on you figure out that he is 13 years younger than you are, and get taken aback. Why couldn’t I ‘see’ that when I looked at him? That he was closer to my kids’s ages than he is to mine I mean. ‘Act your age’, they say. How exactly do I do that? Will I wake up one day and not be able to resist sticking a tissue up my sleeve? Or maybe I’ll buy support hose and start rolling them into little donuts around my ankles. Probably not the best look with capri pants and flip flops. I don’t recognize myself anymore. I’ve lost my place. Age is just a number, or so I’ve been told. Step on the scale why don’t you, then tell me that ‘just a number’ doesn’t matter. I’m going to have to try not to embarrass myself while I figure this all out…

PS… I wrote this a while ago as an ’emergency’ post in case I’m stuck.  And since I was hanging onto the post it gave me a chance to retake the photo if I saw a lower number on the scale.  This is at least the 4th incarnation of the photo.  So there I was at the pool the other day and an 80-something year old guy told me, “Just making it back and forth across the pool is a good thing for people our age.”  Evidently I’m the only one having trouble realizing how old I am…

birds, Florida wildlife, live and learn, nature, on closer examination, photography, pond creatures, unintended images

Duck, duck… coot!

There is no such thing as a duck. This may not come as a surprise to anyone but me, but there is no bird who’s name is just ‘duck’. Kind of like no bird is actually named ‘seagull’. I was out back with the new lens on the camera, the big, awkward lens, trying to become more used to handling it so that it becomes second nature. But there wasn’t much going on out there, or in the trees either, until I noticed a duck dive under the water and disappear completely.  The featured photos shows you this duck as he disappeared.  This diving seemed unusual to me and I focused the lens on the area, and when he popped up I realized that I had never seen a duck that looked like this one before. That black and white beak was definitely different. Merlin says that this a Ring Necked Duck, a male sporting breeding plumage.

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Hmm, so I started looking for a female, and thought I had found one, but Merlin says this is a Pied-Billed Grebe.

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This was now a challenge, so I put this photo through Merlin expecting it to be a Coot. But no, it’s a Common Gallinule, with it’s thick, yellow feet.

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No, this one is an American Coot!  Another diving duck.  And there can be no doubt why the hour around sunset is the ‘golden hour’.

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While I was sitting out there I kept trying to take a photo of the vultures flying overhead. But it proved very difficult to get one into focus with that lens. This was the only one of my attempted shots that turned out, and it turned out to be the one bird I’d seen that wasn’t a black vulture. They have white on the underside of their wing tips only. Nope, this is a turkey vulture, having white all along the outside edge of their wings.

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I stand corrected. And befuddled. How could you possibly learn all this stuff? And besides, this is a snapshot of one moment in time.  Other varieties of birds come and go throughout the year.  My point is to take better pictures than I thought I could, but despite myself I’m learning a thing or two while I’m at it…

birds, Cranes, Florida wildlife, nature, nesting, on closer examination, photography

Good news…

The fact that the sunrise came to me this morning wasn’t the only good news of the day.  Or, more correctly, it ought to be good news. I think I have observed that there is a pair of Sand Hill cranes who have chosen a place to nest out on my lake. That’s what I hoped would happen, but I assumed that if it happened they would choose the same area that the nest was on last year. It was out in the middle of the lake, but still located so that I had a good line of vision to them. But I’m not thrilled with the spot they seem to have chosen this year. It is a small island, or seemed to be until I took pictures of it this morning and it looks to be more underwater than it appeared yesterday.

1215nest

They’ve been spending a lot of time there, so I had my suspicions. But this morning I observed a behavior that I witnessed last year. They were working together and dredging up hunks of vegetation from under water and dumping them onto a pile. I saw them build a mound in a day last year, but they gave up and moved off the lake before I could see how they were planning to use it.

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The real problem with the area is that last year that area was a peninsula, not an island. And I’ve seen my dogs wander over to that area before. Ozzie in particular likes to drink out of the lake every chance he gets, which puts him plenty close enough to bother them.  Neither dog would harm them, but Zoe would love to run over to make them fly.  And these cranes start sounding off the second I let the dogs out at all. Last year the cranes ignored my dogs so I never thought that being outside disturbed them. I see lots more dog walks in my future, after all, I wouldn’t want them to give up on nesting out there just because of my dainty dogs.

1215soundingoff

Here they aren’t sounding off because of the dogs.  They are responding to the calls of another Sand Hill crane that I couldn’t see, but I could hear just fine.  I read that the length of their necks is what causes their very unusual call.  And call they do, every chance they get…