Sunday, December 30, 2007

Wanting What You've Got


An hour north on I-77 I drove – for new scenery.

Lake Norman in Catawba County, North Carolina is the largest man-made lake in the Carolinas. It’s 34 miles long and 8 miles across at its widest point. Its surface area of 32,500 acres has 520 miles of shoreline, created from dams of the hydroelectric powered Catawba River. In the early 1960’s it took Duke Power two years to fill Lake Norman, covering homes, farms, and entire towns. I find that fascinating. Whenever I drive across the lake on the interstate, my mind wanders off to the history of the beautiful lake and I wonder what remains at the bottom… It’s the primary water source for the city of Charlotte and surrounding counties and seeing the effects of the drought causes more than mild concerns. As I write this, we are having real, soaking rain. We’ve had a dark, drenching, soaking week and I’m smiling about it!


At Lake Norman State Park, I was dreaming of waterfowl and birds. Other than seeing a flock of American Robins and many Juncos, it was waterfowl-less and quiet.


The trail I was planning to walk… Hmmm. I was beginning to feel way too uninvited. The weather turned on me also - to cold, wet, and dark.


I had my favorite Christmas gift with me - Eagle Optics Ranger binoculars (awesome!). They’ve opened up a delicious, clear, and sharp focus on things I would otherwise miss.

As soon as I was back on the interstate the sun broke through the clouds. Julie’s recent post contains a great message that directly relates to how I was feeling on my way home. In Sheryl Crow’s “Soak Up the Sun”, these two lines having a lot of meaning.

It’s not having what you want,
It’s wanting what you’ve got.

Back at home, all I wanted is what I already had. Julie calls it a little secret to happiness. Yep.



Back at my favorite strip mall pond and spending a little time with my backyard birds.

Carolina Wrens are trying to shack up in my garage.

Pishing is productive after a little practice.



The chickadees, goldies and house finches appear within a minute.

If you frighten a flock of hiding Mourning Doves, you have instant failure.


Cardinals won’t show. I wouldn’t call them skittish. Very reserved.


This one is neither skittish nor reserved. It’s just a loud pain in the a-- that gets on my last nerve, enough to make me momentarily dream of throwing my camera against the fence. And I like wanting that little bird. Imagine that.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas was JUST DUCKY


Christmas Eve 2007

No matter how tired I might be, I stay awake very late at night on Christmas Eve and walk around the house. I take photos while everyone else is sound asleep. I’ve done this since Gina was born.

Our memory tree stands in the dining room window at the front of the house. It’s loaded with ornaments we all cherish.


Michael, Chloe, and Bella were already sleeping on this magical night and the quiet, music to my ears, began to make me yawn while I touched each ornament and remembered. The macaroni bell Gina made in the second grade is probably my favorite.

Our Christmas Eve at Gina and Billy’s house was sweet. Her ham was delicious and her house is decorated so nicely in a Christmas contemporary style. Michael began to seriously wheeze due to his cat allergy, tripped and fell onto his hands and knees right in the middle of a vicious dog fight between Mr. Biggins and Bam-Bam over a Santa plush toy and I’m happy to say that no one was hurt. We all collapsed in laughter afterwards, grateful that Michael was still able to walk and breathe… What a grand time we had!

Thanks, Bam-Bam. He had a hankerin' for cardboard.

Christmas was wonderful. Too much food – and I’m still feeling the effects. Gina had the day off today so we met at the mall before 9am. Both of us ran out of steam by noon, looked at each other and said, “Let’s get the H out of here.”

Billy, the former Marine, got a helicopter from Michael. What is it with boys and their toys? He had it hovering all around the foyer ceiling and I admit it was pretty cool!

On Christmas Eve morning, the sun was rising beautifully in a clear blue sky and I found the Hooded Merganser again. She’s a social duck and shows her free spirit in punk rocker style.

Showing off her pretty self.


My eye caught another lifer on the far side of the pond. I so wanted to bust a move about it!

A Ring-Necked Duck kept his distance and seemed somewhat demure. I can’t see the ring around his neck but the ring on his bill is obvious. Who named this bird?

He didn’t follow the others. A very shy duck.


A man and his twelve-year-old Schnauzer met me on my way to the car. With wide eyes, he told me about the beaver he has seen at the pond and described it as being the size of a fully-grown Labrador Retriever. Yeah, right! He was probably hitting the egg nog already. I'm glad he enjoys his pond view.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Peace at the Pond and my wish for you...


I just had to go back for three consecutive days, leaving all of the holiday prep behind. Free time dictates, you know.


The Great Blue Heron delights me.
Patient and vigilant with its powerful sight,
slow and deliberate walking motion beneath the calm waves…ahhh.
It found lunch and devoured it, hidden behind a tree.


I coasted to park the car and turned off the ignition. To my left sat the Belted Kingfisher, perched in a tree about twenty feet away. Heart rate up. The windows were closed (damn!) and I powered the camera quickly to get a fine portrait of her, only to realize the lens cap was in the way and I cursed. She was gone.


With a full and blurry zoom, I can see the gleam in her eye, at least.

It was a surprise to see a lifer in the bottom of a photo I had downloaded two days prior. Not the usual Canadian Goose or Mallard… I had to go back!

The skies were dark and the winds were biting but I didn’t mind my numbing fingers or watery eyes. I waited for her.

There she was, a female Hooded Merganser (Click to enlarge all photos). Much smaller and busier than the rest,

she spent more of her time under water than above it.

Could this be one of the many large Comets or Shubunkins I set free in this very same pond? I doubt it. If so, I consider them my gifts.

Gaining control.

‘Twas worth the struggle. Bravo.

Rested and full.

I don’t know how long I was there, taking in the beauty of the pond and the life it sustains. There, I felt peace.

It was my time to think. I wondered how many people stop to look or even notice this pond on their way in to the food store, the bank, the pizza joint, or the nail salon. They only need to glance to their right…


For a few moments, I turned my focus behind me and saw the hustle and bustle. There were cars racing towards the strip mall and I saw the Mexican construction workers laughing on the jobsite. I heard the Latino music blaring from their trailer.


Funny, I didn’t hear or notice any of that until I turned around to look behind me.

At home, I faced another challenge - one that I welcome. You know – my desire for a portrait of a Tufted Titmouse that will make me proud. There’s still time…

Time and a disconnect from all the pressure. This is what I wish for you. In large or small doses – whatever you can manage during the holiday season, I wish you peace.


Merry Christmas! With love.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I and the Great Blue Heron: Stinkers.


This is my first Blue Jay photo. I was wishing for a better one but a few irritating things got in the way. The mighty Blue Jay! A common bird, but never seen at my house.

The campus Dean and I hung six feeders on our small Wildlife Habitat yesterday. Water sources will come soon. Planting will be postponed until spring and that is if we have some measurable rainfall.


When you see a woman standing motionless, looking upward in a treed area with a camera around her neck, what would you think is going on?

I realize it’s the season of happiness and good will but I don’t want to be bothered while I’m watching birds. There were six or seven Blue Jays, a few Chickadees and Titmice, Eastern Bluebirds, Dark-eyed Juncos, and a male Red-Bellied Woodpecker in the trees this morning. None of them had found the feeders yet.

Mr. Cheery Face waddles on by - an older gentleman who gives his time, free of charge, to tutor students in language and math. Bless his heart.

“What are ya doing?” he inquires.

For a moment, my eyes met his and I whispered, “Watching lots of birds”. I raised the camera to my face.

He’s hard of hearing and yells, “WHERE?”

I'm thinking: In the freaking trees! Just chill, moron, and scram! Stop moving and jumping around, too.

He inquires, “Are they exotic?” (Oh, my God.)

I'm thinking: Read my lips and Shut UP, will ya?

I didn’t get any action, except for the Blue Jay.

Outwardly, I was nice but impatient and nasty inside. A genuine Stinker, I was.


This is exactly why we are moving the seating area to another location. She obviously didn’t realize cigarette smoking is not what birds need and she was screwing up my photo opportunities.


What else could cause more commotion! Before noon I went inside, cleaned up my office, watered the lobby plants, and hit the road to enjoy Day One of my Christmas break.


I had time to run errands and to make a few stops along the way. Belted Kingfishers are crazy. There is no effective way to sneak up on them. Believe me, I’ve tried. If you can't see the blue spot in the middle of this photo, click to enlarge. Enlarge the next one, too.


Darting straight away, across the pond, tree to tree. I am a very skilled stalker and this bird is really on to me… Getting a good shot of a bird in flight is my goal but it’s very difficult with a slow focusing camera. I’ll be using this camera for a while, so I’ll adjust and practice.


It’s been several months since I’ve seen a Great Blue Heron and a good look at the Stinker made my day. For those who don’t understand the nickname “Stinker”: A GBH made regular lunch hour visits at my house in Maryland and Delaware because of its insatiable appetite for goldfish and Koi. It loved them TO DEATH.


Noticing me now,

and getting annoyed and frightened…

My time to honor and gaze at this majestic bird only lasted about two minutes. Dang! What a thrill.

You can fly but you can’t hide from me, STINKER.