Friday, April 28, 2006

10 Most Beautiful Birds Meme

Tagged by Somewhere in NJ who says she got this meme from John at A DC Birding Blog: John says, "A few days ago I posted a link about some ornithologists that created a list of the most beautiful birds in North America. Nuthatch commented that this had the makings of a meme, and I think that is a great idea. So now that migration is underway and most birds are appearing in their finest spring breeding plumage, what do you consider the most beautiful birds?Rules: Post a list of the 10 birds you consider most beautiful on your blog; you may limit the list to the ABA area (continental United States and Canada) or use a geographic area of your choice. Mark birds you have seen with an asterisk. Tag 3 bloggers to keep it going."

This is an unbelievably difficult task...
I went through my bird guide and made a v-e-r-y- l-o-n-g list of birds that I think are really beautiful. I sorted and sorted again and finally came up with:
  • Indigo Bunting *
  • Vermillion Flycatcher *
  • Painted Bunting *
  • Carolina Wren *
  • California Quail *
  • American Avocet *
  • Snowy Egret *
  • Scissor-tailed Flycatcher *
  • American Kestral *
  • American Goldfinch *

Well - that makes ten but there are at least another twenty birds on my list of "most beautiful birds" I was surprised to discover that none of the warblers made my list and the flycatchers came in with the most entries.

I am tagging:
Rexroth's Daughter
Cindy at Wood Song
Harmony in Line
and any others who wish to share their list of most beautiful birds.

[The birds in the graphic are not the ones on my list - I still hope to get a chance to capture photos of all of them before the end of the year... I have to say a special thanks to harmony for her help with Adobe - she keeps passing on the the things she is learning and I keep exploring to see what will happen.]

Thursday, April 27, 2006

To Be a Poet

To Be a Poet
Life taught me long ago
that music and poetry
are the most beautiful things on earth
that life can give us.
Except for love, of course.

In an old textbook
published by the Imperial Printing House
in the year Vrchlickys death
I looked up the section on poetics
and poetic ornament.

Then I placed a rose in a tumbler,
lit a candle
and started to write my first verses.

Flare up, flame of words,
and soar,
even if my fingers get burned!

A startling metaphor is worth more
than a ring on ones finger.
But not even Puchmajers Rhyming Dictionary
was any used to me.

In vain I snatched for ideas
and fiercely closed my eyes
in order to hear that first magic line.
But in the dark, instead of words,
I saw a woman's smile and
wind-blown hair.

That has been my destiny.
And I've been staggering towards it breathlessly
all my life.

Jaroslav Vrchlicky Czech poet of the nineteenth century --Translated by Ewald Osers

Sunday, April 23, 2006


“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is a symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of the birds, the ebb and flow of the tides, the folded bud ready for the spring. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature--the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter. The lasting pleasures of contact with the natural world...are available to anyone who will place himself under the influence of earth, sea and sky and their amazing life. “ --- Rachel Carson (1907-1964)
Rains have come – and with the rain the earth has opened up her heart. The colored haze that hangs over the deciduous trees has unfolded into fresh new leaves, the grasses have lost their winter brown and turned to verdant green. Blossoms are decorating the ground and skies. We needed to go into the library – a trip which has seemed dreary and dull all winter long. Today the streets are filled with forsythia and pear blossoms. Blossoms of tulips, daffodils, and dogwood fill the flower beds around the library. The dreary browns and gray have been swept away; now the library is offering a vision of beauty as well as nurture for the mind.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Eastern Chipmunk Tamias strictus

The scientific name, Tamias, means ‘steward’ in Latin.

I like this connection to the busy chipmunk who picks up after the messy birds and gleans the leavings of the other critters. Frequently, the chipmunks will come in early morning and clean the mess that was left on the deck from the birds feeding the day before. As you may have guessed the name “chipmunk” refers to the chipping “chip-chip” sound they make.

These bright-eyed little guys are a delight to watch – scurrying around the deck, diving in and out of rock piles where they have built passages. They are out on any day that has the slightest hint of spring warmth. Even when there is snow on the ground they will brave the cold if the sun is shinning. Two white stripes bordered by black run down each side of a central gray stripe decorating the middle of his reddish-brown fur coat.
Most of the eastern chipmunk's diet is made up of nuts, acorns, seeds, mushrooms, fruits, berries and corn. It also eats insects, bird eggs, snails and small mammals like young mice. The eastern chipmunk doesn't truly hibernate, but it does spend a lot of time sleeping. It may wake up every few weeks to eat the food it has stored. The books say that in winter, it stays in its den, however some of the chipmunks who live here, haven’t read the book. On every sunny day they are out gathering seeds left on plant stalks or filling their pouches till it looks like they must burst if they put in one more sunflower seed. The females give birth in spring or midsummer, producing litters of two to eight young. Like other members of the squirrel family, chipmunks are naked, blind, and helpless at birth.

When walking around the property we usually have one or two chipmunks eyeing us from under a rock pile or on occasion one will hide in a drainpipe. Chipmunks are ground-dwelling squirrels. They spend most of their lives at or below the surface, although they will also climb trees. Their extensive burrows are up to 12 feet long and may include a storage chamber, sleeping room, dump, and latrine, along with several concealed entrances. The pantry holds up to half a bushel of nuts and other food, all carried there in the chipmunk's outsized cheek pouches.

The Chipmunk
Ogden Nash
My friends all know that I am shy,
But the chipmunk is twice as shy as I.
He moves with flickering indecision
Like stripes across the television.
He's like the shadow of a cloud,
Or Emily Dickinson read aloud.

Thursday, April 20, 2006



And it was at that age...Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don't know how or when,
no, they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
that fire
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
and open,
palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated,
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
likeness, image of
I felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.
Pablo Neruda

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Song to the Morning

Sunlight streaming through my window makes me want to spread my wings and fly out to the clouds, circle the lake, check out all the fresh new leaves and bright flowers before returning to my tasks. I might take a few moments to find a quiet perch and join the bird choir in singing a song of joy to the spring.

And even the sun
in dawn chorus sings,
a celestial melody to the earth
below. ---

I cannot resist--- I open the skylight and find a junco sitting on the edge of the roof. The junco brings a message to me “winter is not yet over” - I believe this because the juncos are winter birds here. They come after the first fall chill and stay till nearly the last freeze in the springtime. We have enjoyed a large flock of Dark-eyed Juncos all winter. During February migrant visitors stopped by and have stayed on. Now there are dozens of juncos, nearly as many juncos as goldfinches visiting the feeders. The goldfinches drop bits of seed on the ground and the juncos clean up behind them.

When in the fresh mornings I go into
my garden before anyone is awake,
I go for the time being into perfect happiness.
- Cecilia Thaxter

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Canada goose Branta Canadensis

As a child, seeing the striking black and white of the Canada goose was a rare and exciting occurrence. As a special treat my father would bring home a bag of stale bread. I have no recollection of where he picked up the bread but the minute I saw the bag I knew we were going to go “feed the ducks.” Now regardless of the names I called them, these were usually not ducks but geese and swans that lived in the thickets near a large fountain. Even today I clearly recall the joy of the fountain and the “ducks. ” There I could contentedly splash in the water and feed or chase Canada geese or swans.

Now one of the first sounds of my morning is the calling of the Canada geese as they travel overhead to spend the day foraging at the dam. Again as evening begins to fall their calls drift into the loft and I listen for them as for the voice of a welcome friend. Already the Canadas are nesting; in many instances the goslings have already hatched and are following their parents through the grasses and out into the marsh or lakes. These birds are family oriented; the adult birds mate for life, once the offspring have hatched they will stay together as a family unit until the fledglings are full grown.
For many people the Canada goose is one of their most familiar birds; as ubiquitous as pidgins in some places. In the back of my mind I remember that geese can be a problem in the city yet here where there is room for them to roam, lakes and ponds, grasses and pond weeds, their beauty and elegance seem to belong and I love finding them sailing majestically across the lake.
Spring days invite a walk down leafy green corridors where warblers sing and the quiet trails open to vistas of the beautiful Bashakill marsh. Around each corner is some new delight: unfolding spring leaves, a glittering dew drop spider web, small rabbits, a turtle or a family of Canada geese

Go take a look at the "wonderful" goslings and reflections at Harmony in line
There are some fun stories and poems about Canada geese

Saturday, April 15, 2006

April Miracles

(click on photos for a large view)
“Certain miracles that I beheld there have haunted my memory ever since: a gray April morning of sirocco, when the almond blossoms, the flaming tulips, the young green of the vines, hung as if painted on the motionless air; a summer night when the roses had an unearthly pallor under a half-eaten moon, whose ghostliness was somehow one with their perfume and with the phosphorescence of dew tipping their petals; a day when the trees stood part submerged in fog, into which leaves dropped slowly, slowly, one after another, and sank out of sight.” - H. G. Dwight, Gardens and Gardening, Atlantic Monthly, 1912

These words linger in my thoughts and somehow they seem to describe this day… Ok, the moon is fuller and the blossoms are not almond blossoms… Yet there are similarities. Gray fog swirls all around me – when I open the skylight to look out at the trees, to my amazement the fog rolls into the room. The sun remains hidden behind the clouds and fog, yet it’s presence is felt and a glow of light touches the trees and touches the sky with promises of light and warmth to come. There are hints of miracles in the brilliant colors of the opening buds stretched high above my head..
Throughout the day and into the darkness the miracle of spring continues.Gazing in awe at the gilt rimmed clouds encircling the moon I find myself transported by the night into an ethereal realm. Ah – the promises of spring!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Art of Poetry

“If I knew where poems came from, I’d go there.” --- Michael Longley

Old Poets
If I should live in a forest
And sleep underneath a tree,
No grove of impudent saplings
Would make a home for me.

I'd go where the old oaks gather,
Serene and good and strong,
And they would not sigh and tremble
And vex me with a song.

The pleasantest sort of poet
Is the poet who's old and wise,
With an old white beard and wrinkles
About his kind old eyes.

For these young flippertigibbets
A-rhyming their hours away
They won't be still like honest men
And listen to what you say.

The young poet screams forever
About his sex and his soul;
But the old man listens, and smokes his pipe,
And polishes its bowl.

There should be a club for poets
Who have come to seventy year.
They should sit in a great hall drinking
Red wine and golden beer.

They would shuffle in of an evening,
Each one to his cushioned seat,
And there would be mellow talking
And silence rich and sweet.

There is no peace to be taken
With poets who are young,
For they worry about the wars to be fought
And the songs that must be sung.

But the old man knows that he's in his chair
And that God's on His throne in the sky.
So he sits by the fire in comfort
And he lets the world spin by.
--- Joyce Kilmer (For Robert Cortez Holliday)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Purple Finch Time

Purple Finch Carpodacus purpureus
I love waking in the morning to the song of the Purple Finch. These finches are only visitors in our neighborhood but they brighten our lives for a few weeks each spring and fall while they are here.
John James Audubon wrote and interesting account of purple finch behavior: “They fly compactly, with an undulating motion, similar to that of the Common Greenfinch of Europe. They alight all at once, and after a moment of rest, and as if frightened, all take to wing again, make a circuit of no great extent, and return to the tree from which they had thus started, or settle upon one near it. Immediately after this, every individual is seen making its way toward the extremities of the branches, husking the buds with great tact, and eating their internal portion. In doing this, they hang like so many Titmice, or stretch out their necks to reach the buds below. Although they are quite friendly among themselves during their flight, or while sitting without looking after food, yet, when they are feeding, the moment one goes near another, it is strenuously warned to keep off by certain unequivocal marks of displeasure, such as the erection of the feathers of the head and the opening of the mouth. Should this intimation be disregarded, the stronger or more daring, of the two drives off the other to a different part of the tree. They feed in this manner principally in the morning, and afterwards retire to the interior of the woods. Towards sunset they reappear, fly about the skirts of the fields and along the woods, until, having made choice of a tree, they alight, and, as soon as each bird has chosen a situation, stand still, look about them, plume themselves, and make short sallies after flies and other insects, but without interfering with each other. "
Edwin Way Teale in his book, The American Seasons, recounts the unknowing role that Purple Finches played in the life of another outstanding pioneer ornithologist: In the mid 1800’s young Robert Ridgway used a muzzle-loading shotgun that his father had salvaged and rebuilt from a sunken river steamer to collect specimens of beautiful birds he had never seen before. Not knowing anything about taxidermy, Robert preserved the images of his specimens by painting pictures of them. At the suggestion of a friend, he sent the pictures off to Washington seeking identification of the birds. This innocent inquiry and the remarkable skill his paintings of the purple finches displayed, ultimately led to a lifelong carrier at the Smithsonian Institution during which he published more than 13,000 pages of materials on birds.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

April ---

Temperatures today climbed to the mid-sixties –
A day for poets,
a day like those I have been dreaming of;
blue skies
soft warm breezes,
puffy white clouds,
trees swaying in the breeze,
bird songs filling my ears.

The ice is gone from the earth
green things are pushing their way
up from beneath the ground
overhead the cardinals trill to one another
the chipmunk chases his tail
Oh – the beauty of a spring day
the warmth of the sun!

Drawn by the warmth I wandered out the door to explore --- Almost immediately I smelled a fragrance that drew me to a moss covered shaded area at the back of the clearing. As I moved around the side of the house the fragrance was stronger. In the places where I watch for the deep olive-green of its leaves as they appear through the melting snow, I found the source of this enticing perfume.

Trailing-arbutus (Epigaea repens)
belongs to the cosmopolitan Heath Family, Ericaceae, The scientific name, Epigaea repens, coined by Linnaeus in 1753 from Greek and Latin, literally means "creeping (or running) on the earth."In New England and elsewhere, the common name is mayflower.
Stanwyn G. Shetler in the 2001 Virginia Wildflower of the Year brochure says, ”Trailing-arbutus is an unpretentious, little, evergreen shrub that trails on the forest floor. It is an early harbinger of spring, much beloved for braving late-winter’s cold to produce spicy, pinkish-white blooms among its leathery, veiny leaves. The frosty flowers seem to epitomize purity and virtue. Trailing-arbutus is a "belly" plant: one must lie on one’s stomach to catch a legitimate moment of putting eye and nose to the beauty and perfume.”

The trailing-arbutus is a tough, slightly woody plant with light brown creeping stems and glossy olive-green leaves. It lies nearly flat on the ground in small patches that often seem to be hanging on by a thread. The waxy, exquisitely sweet scented white to pale pink flowers are borne in clusters at the axils of the leaves and at the tips of the stems.

Even though they look more or less alike, the flowers of some plants are functionally staminate (male) while those of other plants are functionally pistillate (female). The plants often spread by ants carrying away the seeds. Sadly many states report that this beautiful plant is endangered in their area.
John Greenleaf Whittier wrote a poem, "The Mayflowers," that captures the timeless lure of this wildflower.

The Mayflowers
Sad Mayflower! watched by winter stars,
And nursed by winter gales,
With petals of the sleeted spars,
And leaves of frozen sails

What had she in those dreary hours,
Within her ice-rimmed bay,
In common with the wild-wood flowers,
The first sweet smiles of May?

Yet, "God be praised!" the Pilgrim said,
Who saw the blossoms peer
Above the brown leaves, dry anal dead
"Behold our Mayflower here!"

"God wills it: here our rest shall be
Our years of wandering o'er;
For us the Mayflower of the sea,
Shall spread her sails no more."

O sacred flowers of faith and hope,
As sweetly now as then
Ye bloom on many a birchen slope,
In many a pine-dark glen.

Behind the sea-wall's rugged length,
Unchanged, your, leaves unfold
Like love behind the manly strength
Of the brave hearts of old.

So live the fathers in their sons,
Their sturdy faith be ours,
And ours the love that overruns
Its rocky strength with flowers.

The Pilgrim's wild and wintry day
Its shadow round us draws;
The Mayflower of his stormy bay,
Our Freedom's struggling cause.

But warmer suns erelong shall bring
To life the frozen sod;
And, through dead leaves of hope, shall spring
Afresh the flowers of God!

--- John Greenleaf Whittier

Monday, April 10, 2006

Yearning for Spring

I have had such a yearning for spring –
For the warm breezes
Blue skies and billowing clouds
Green leaves covering the trees
And a carpet of green under my feet

my husband brought me a basket filled with spring

"The longer I live the more my mind dwells upon the beauty and wonder of the world… I have loved the feel of the grass under my feet, and the sound of the running streams by my side. The hum of the wind in the treetops has always been good music to me, and the face of the fields has often comforted me more than the faces of men.

I am in love with this world...I have tilled its soil, I have gathered its harvest, I have waited upon its seasons, and always have I reaped what I have sown.

I have climbed its mountains, roamed its forests, sailed its waters, crossed its deserts, felt the sting of its frosts, the oppression of its heats, the drench of its rains, the fury of its winds, and always have beauty and joy waited upon my goings and comings."---
John Burroughs

Sunday, April 09, 2006


Early in the morning I could hear the call fee-bree, fee-bree. I searched and searched but could not find the bird anywhere, and then the call rang out from the other side of the clearing. Had the bird flown right past me without me seeing it? The call came again, slightly to the east from where I was first searching. Turning my head, I spotted movement and was nearly certain I had spotted the first phoebe of the year. The return of the Eastern Phoebe is one of the things that tell me spring is really on its way. Again the call came from the other side of the clearing; there were two birds - great view of one on the power line just next to the deck.

This afternoon, I heard the calls again but couldn’t find the birds until I spotted one on a bare branch of a Chestnut Oak – he gave his location away by slowly and incessantly wagging his tail.

Eastern Phoebe Sayornis phoebe
Tyrant Flycatcher Family

The favorite perch of the Phoebes is our phone and power lines. They will swoop off the lines, catch a moth or bug in mid-flight, execute a smooth u-turn and return to their perch to finish their meal. The lines stretch out over clear areas, which seem to attract a lot of insects. The plantings below the power lines also attract numerous bees and wasps, which are a good part of the phoebe’s diet.

Fascinating fact: In 1804, the Eastern Phoebe became the first banded bird in North America. John James Audubon attached silvered thread to an Eastern Phoebe's leg to track its return in successive years
Eastern Phoebes are medium-sized flycatchers. They are brownish gray above, darkest on the wings, tail, and head, and have dark bills. Underparts are whitish with an olive wash on the breast and flanks. They lack the eye rings and wing bars of the Empidonax flycatchers; they are similar in appearance to Eastern Wood Pewees (Contopus virens), but they lack wing bars and orangish lower mandible

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Early Bird

While I was talking on the phone I glanced out the window at a feeder filled with goldfinches and purple finches. I noticed a bird that seemed different. I quickly excused myself from the phone call, grabbed the binoculars and my camera and edged into a position where I had a clear view of the bird. The beak was too slender for a goldfinch; white wing bars, yellow-green head, yellow throat…

Pine Warbler Dendroica pinus

The Pine Warbler is one of the first warblers to return to the North in spring, arriving as early as February in areas just north of the wintering range. It is one of the earliest breeding warblers too, starting in late April or May in the northern part of the range.

They are aptly named, for they prefer to nest and forage in pine woods and tend to stay near the tops of the pine trees. This is the only warbler that eats large quantities of seeds, primarily those of pines. This interest in seeds often brings them to bird feeders where they supplement their diet of insects and spiders by eating suet and frequently picking out a seed here and there. This particular bird was enjoying suet and sunflower seeds.

A helpful bit of information is that no other bright yellow-breasted warbler (lacking other conspicuous field marks) has white wing bars.

The term warbler is a misnomer for many in the family but the musical trill of the Pine Warbler is a delight. Pine Warblers are generous with their songs; in the summer they will sing into the heat of the day and on warm days in the winter they will brighten woods and your heart with the sweetness of their music.

I think it is easy to confuse the Pine Warbler, the American Goldfinch and the Yellow-throated Vireo. The resemblance between the Pine Warble and the winter plumage of the American Goldfinch is superficial but I may often miss the warbler in the midst of the Goldfinches that flock to our feeders. Much more confusing is the difference between the Pine Warbler and the Yellow-throated Vireo that also nests on our property. Both have yellow spectacles The Yellow-throated Vireo prefers the canopy of the broadleaf woodland. Since we have heavily mixed pines and deciduous broadleaf woods, the property attracts both species. Their songs are probably the most useful way to differentiate between the two species as they work through our woods. The song of the Yellow-throated Vireo is described as a harsh repetitive two or three note phrase. de-ar-ie come-here or burry tweoo twowee three-eight while the call of the Pine Warbler is a slow musical and somewhat melancholy trill on one pitch, a soft sweet version of the trill of the Chipping Sparrow

Friday, April 07, 2006


As first color begins to chase away shadows and illuminate the hills signs of life can be seen emerging from the darkness wherever I turn.

“Spring would not be spring without bird songs.” - Francis M. Chapman

Bird songs swell from every tree and shrub.

The temperature and weather as well as the season have some influence on the morning’s first songsters. Although the past few days have caused us to think about packing away our winter clothing and the night has been comparatively warm - a low of forty degrees - it is overcast and cloudy this morning. Rain is expected by mid-morning and there is a bite to the damp air.

“The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
a cloud come over the sunlit arch,
And wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March.”

- Robert Frost

This is a transitional time when winter is hanging on yet spring is rushing forward. Today the early calls come from high overhead as Canada Geese head for the dam to spend their day. String after string of the geese pass by, their silhouettes scarcely standing out against the layers of clouds they are passing through. Nearby a Pileated Woodpecker begins beating tattoo against the huge stump of a broken White Pine and the Crows sound their morning wake-up calls. I stand at the window gazing at the same trees that meet my view nearly every day. These same trees yet they are not quite the same. Light, clouds, shadows, snow, rain each adds a new dimension to the view.

“The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month.” --- Henry Van Dyke

I experience triste in full measure. The calendar may say that it is spring but I have the winter doldrums. I want to walk in the sunshine under a canopy of green, to sit under a comfortable old tree and watch the river rush past. Instead I am sitting in gloom that no electric light can erase. Drizzle … yes, drizzle.

How I am longing to turn off the heat, to pick fresh lettuce and new peas. Oh yes, I am longing for spring.

“Science has never drummed up quite as effective
a tranquilizing agent as a sunny spring day.”-
W. Earl Hall

Thursday, April 06, 2006



Looking into the sunset I can't help but notice
that despite her beauty,
a sense of struggle and hopelessness surround the sky.
Deep inside you realize that this day is gone
and everything that it had brought is lost forever.
Every thought, every action, every dream, every hope,
every sight, every sound is gone.
There is no chance of every being returned the same,
exactly the same.
For every moment has a limit to what it can capture,
Even memory has a limit to what it can retrieve.

And the colours in the sky try to entertain us.
One last act with painted smiles,
for they too know that nothing can be done to save the day.
So futile their attempt to comfort our fear of the night,
our horror as we try to find our way,
like children who wander into a forest and never return.
I am ingratiated by the sunset because of her sensitivity
as she tries to push the darkness back for just a moment more.
But like so many times before....To no avail!
--- David J. Ebner

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Endment asked me to post that her internet is out, it is being worked on but does not known when it will be back.. harmonyinline

Monday, April 03, 2006


Every morning we hear the geese high overhead; many times they are hidden as they fly through the dark storm clouds yet their calls ring through the stillness. We have a few geese throughout the year but during the fall and the spring migration we enjoy the larger and more frequent flocks passing by. Even when I cannot see them I can follow their progress along the river; their continual calling becomes fainter and fainter as they move over the hills. I am nearly always drawn to the window, hoping for a glimpse (and perhaps a chance at a photo) as the strings of birds stream past. One of the closest places for me to actually see them on the water is at the dam.
We regularly drive past Rio Dam and have been watching the water levels. I think I mentioned that the water is being kept very low while repairs are being made upstream at Swinging Bridge Reservoir. There have not been as many birds or animals around the dam this winter and I assume it is because of the low water level. Very few Bald Eagles nested in the refuge this winter, most of them went back down along the Delaware River or over to the Lakawaxian River.
A few days ago we passed the dam at a moment when the sun was shining, the wind was nearly calm and there were lovely clear reflections. As I was snapping pictures, I noticed a group of Canada Geese moving out of the deep shadows where they had been feeding along the shore.
There is something majestic about the Canada Geese as they glide across the water. They look so graceful to me sailing into the quiet water with the wake streaming out behind them.

Canada Geese Branta Canadensis
Waterfowl Family

“They knew where they were going, for they didn’t circle even once. They came right in, big wings cupped, long necks outstretched, webbed feet splayed, and struck the water with a rush of spray. There were more than a hundred of them. Canadas, with white chin-straps gleaming and heads and necks jet black. We watched as they spread out and set their sentinels, two big old ganders, and we listened to their chatter, for it was chatter, not the gabbling flight talk you can hear a mile away. Maybe they were talking about the lake, old ones telling youngsters that it is off-limits for hunters, so they could relax. Or maybe they were swapping gossip with the dark little bob-tailed grebes --- we cal them hell-divers --- that had put an end to our perch fishing. Whatever they were saying, they settled down as though they had a three-months lease.” - Hal Borland, Homeland p.109

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Changing Gears

Have finished the last of the Artist's Way exercises and am ready to change gears. I close my notebook on this aspect of my world with a sigh of relief and a little bit of regret. There is a real sense of urgency to move forward on other things – including other approaches to creativity. This means a bit of exploration with watercolor, writing, photography and learning more about photo editing.

"All there is to writing is having ideas. To learn to write is to learn to have ideas." Robert Frost

Thanks to a lead from Lisa In Otter Space I purchased “Spinning Words into Gold” and am planning to work through the exercises in this book as my next project. I actually think I may find these exercises more helpful than “Artist's Way”.

The first exercise - in abbreviated form suggests, “…If you are the choices you make, who are you? Try writing for ten minutes, beginning with the phrase ‘I am…’ Keep coming back to this phrase whenever you get stuck….”

I am a writer
I write for myself
Yet I long to write words
that reach out
and touch
the hearts
and minds
of others.

I am a writer
I have stories to tell
and words waiting
to pour
out of my pen.

I am an observer
who writes of sun and sky
of wind, rain and snow
of fog and moonlight
the squirrel chasing his tail
the feel of the feathers
on the goldfinch’s head.

I am a dreamer.
I dream of words
that fall into matching rows
covering the page
with life and hope
with pain and tears
with joy and laughter.

I am a searcher
who looks for ways
to see my dreams

Maureen Ryan Griffin has a web site that is stimulating: the page I found really interesting is called “Word Play” I think you will enjoy checking out her “exercises.”

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Around the Rock Pile

On a rocky slope outside our bedroom window we have set up a birdbath with a dripper. This small water-feature has proved to be very attractive to all sorts of animals. Nearly any time we look out the window we see a number of birds or animals awaiting their turn to drink or bathe in the small pool.

A short way below the birdbath is a pile of rock… When I sit very quietly and patiently I am frequently rewarded with a view of a small chestnut brown creature who seems to race from one rock pile to another in the blink of an eye. I am told that these guys are most active at night although I frequently see them in the daytime and it is too dark for me to see them most nights.
Southern Red-backed Vole Clethrionomys gapperi
If you look closely - you may be able to spot one of the entrances to his tunnel directly behind his tail.
The Southern Red-backed Vole is quite small, only about five inches long. His back is bright chestnut brown and his tummy and feet are gray. They seem to strip a lot of our bulbs out of our garden as well as pick up sunflower seeds dropped from the birdfeeders.