Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Kingfisher Madness

Getting to know a female Belted Kingfisher has been an ongoing challenge for almost two years. She’s slick.


Gasp! There she was, waiting for me to fail. From the driver seat, through the passenger open window, I clicked away. This photo is not good enough. I always want more, especially when this bird is concerned.


My zooming effort resulted in a 3-second delay option. Wrong button. This stuff happens when I hyperventilate and shake the camera.

She sat there laughing at my folly and waited for my next move. There I slithered from the car, using it as a large black blind. My head rose slowly with camera attached above the roof, ready for the perfect, all-out digital zoom shot.


She rattled all the way to the other side of the pond, skimming the water surface. I could have broken a pencil in half with my teeth.

Never get out of your car when photographing a Belted Kingfisher. The bird knows. If you meet the bird during a walk, never look at it. The bird knows.


She watched traffic in and out of the parking lot but with eyes in the back of her little conniving head, saw me get back in the car and drive around to her side. I needed to get on a main road to get there where she recognized my black Honda approaching.


You can roll in neutral and put the car in park very close to her and in an instant, before you can even think of opening the car door, she rattles to the other side of the pond.

Nanny-nanny-boo-boo to you, too!

Fuming and laughing at the same time, I drove again. This time through a residential community and I knew she’d be waiting for me.

She was winning. Again. But I’m always up for a game.


Through the windshield. One click. Gone.


Once again, drove to the other side of the pond.

She allowed me this. What a lovely background. Pffft.

I’ll never give up on her.
She’s so clever and has a very funny sense of humor, for a bird.


In 2009, I wish you good health, peace, lots of laughter, and love.

Happy New Year!


Koi Christmas 2008


Monday, December 29, 2008

Bless the Birds of Prey


Red-shouldered was wary of me. It’s my favorite hawk. I can identify it by sound as a strong and talented screamer.

We’ve been living under clouds, rain, fog, and mist for most of the last three weeks. I never thought I’d say, “No More!” after living through a severe dry spell in North Carolina for three years. Snow would be nice...

When the sun shines, I hit the road. Freedom from the office is delicious.


Song Sparrow perched dangerously close to the Red-shouldered but was saved as I watched the hawk exit the scene, soaring across the pond to plant itself on a rooftop about an eighth mile away. Dang hawk needed a chill pill.

Back in the car,


we met again.

My camera was aimed towards a townhouse second-floor rooftop. There’s not much front yard for a condo-type home so I was quite close to a homeowner's front door, standing on the easement.

What would you think if you saw someone photographing your bedroom story? Curious? Invaded? Annoyed? Yes, sir.


The second floor blinds flew open and a young woman watched me…

What did I do? Instead of shouting from below, you have a gorgeous hawk on your roof!,

I offered a wide smile and waved, Hello, (no harm intended.)

Gulp... exited slowly back to the car, hoping she wouldn't run my tag…
Good-bye hawk, hello feline.


Through the windshield,

cat found a toy/meal

when a Sun Drop delivery truck pulled up behind. I got out of my car and waved him on.


You know what happened next.
The dang cat took a flying leap into the brush. I saw it happen.
Camera reflex score: 0.

Backs to hawks again.

Have you ever heard?

Last week, and again today, I witnessed a very special sight and sound at my house. Stunning. A raptor overhead, soaring from behind, and oh, so close to my head.

I heard and saw the flash of a Coopers Hawk attack low in the brush where the House Sparrows congregate. Its sound is amazing…hair raising…lasting only for one point five seconds. During the first attack, I believe I felt its wind thrust. Delighted, I e-mailed a good friend who described the sound perfectly: Fabric ripping, a quick zipper zip. Very loud. Yeah. That’s it.

For your viewing pleasure, enjoy Thomas at Walk the Wilderness, India. Check out his hawk photographs on this post and scroll to the Egyptian Vulture from Ramnagara, India. It’s a nightmare :o)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Brown-headed Nuthatch or Eastern Bluebird?


A Downy Woodpecker drummed away on this partially dead Black Willow last winter. Dead trees are so full of life... it lives by a pond I visit often. Four days before Christmas, Black Willow was loaded with Eastern Bluebirds. I put the car in park.


A group of blue ladies flew away on other business, leaving her to investigate alone. They always take my breath away.

No need to leave the car. I sat and watched her from my driver seat for a while, wondering how she’d pack herself into such a small cavity. A very nice one, with an awning.

There are times when the camera must take a back seat. Birds do everything for a reason and during times like this I settle myself and wonder if there will be a story to tell.

Who claims this spiffy, small cavity today?


Ah ha! Ms. Bluebird wasn’t alone


and she became spooked when


two Brown-headed Nuthatches seemed to claim their territory. Tiny and brave, they went about their business,



doing what nuthatches do, scaling the bark and scooting in and out of a small, one-room apartment, perfectly sized for them.

Oh, why not. Risk it. Get out of the car, Mary and power up the camera. Unbelievably, I don’t think they noticed me or heard my camera’s digital tones. Opportunities like this are rare for someone who loves to photograph birds. Have you ever raced to your computer to view images you think might be very good? The disappointment is too familiar.

I recently read a remark from a blogger in New England, “…photographing birds is hard work.” I never thought of it that way. However, truth be told, a few days, weeks, or months pass and maybe several hundred photos get dumped before I nail a glorious, unedited series of shots. Yes, it’s hard work, struggling to maintain the virtue of patience and practicin' cussin' skills.


A few minutes later, she returned.

Hmmm. Tight squeeze?


Do you realize how lovely you are?


Come on, let's see more of you.


Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, sweet nutty.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Bird Nerd Christmas Greeting

When everyone is posting their snow events and making me squirm for my own, I offer this.


My new ornament from a friend at the office. Tina thought of me immediately when she saw it and purchased the last one. Does that mean Bird Nerds are HOT? Thanks, Tina. I’m proud to own it. It’s hanging on our hodge-podge Memory Tree which lights up the dining room and one of the front windows in the house.

Memory Tree is loaded with ornaments that make me laugh or tear up a little when I’m in a soft mood.


Gina came home from school, dug deep inside her book bag, and placed it on the kitchen table. From her second grade, it’s my favorite ornament. Macaroni. Beautiful.


My first grade inferior and struggling self offered this pink, plastic, sparkly ornament to hang on the live tree inside a four-room Catholic school house back in 1961. From my seat, one of the front desks in the third row (yes, I do remember), I admired my sparkling ball often as I used crayons and fat pencils without erasers. I believe this one ornament from my first grade Christmas season raised my confidence level for years... Specially when I got a singing part in the dopey Christmas play :o)


Mom made me take her 1950’s glass ornaments about ten years ago when she downsized and bought a smaller tree and new ornaments. I didn’t want them. Now, I gently hold them in my hands for a few minutes, feel them, and smell them before I hang them…

A tall, formal tree lights up the family room.


It sparkles with crystal, silver and gold.


When I lived in Delaware, I found the best nursery-turned-Christmas shops I've ever visited on Route 1 in Smyrna, Felton, and Rehoboth Beach. There came my Silver and Gold tree.


Michael brings home bird ornaments often. That Stinker.



Since 1996, we've lost about a dozen ornaments each year.
A spiteful pup was responsible.

Young Chloe, very annoyed with me on Christmas morning.

She spent her first and second Christmases behind baby gates. Does she look like a piece of work eleven years ago? Yes, she was. Oh, she was!

My old Chloe ate and destroyed about 120 Memory Tree ornaments during her witchy years and I’m grateful she didn’t devour the Macaroni Bell. For the last two years, all is calm. Sigh…


Chloe, Christmas 1997, Bel Air, Maryland.

Have a Blessed, Peaceful, Merry Christmas.
I wish you many wide grins.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Rush


When sunny, North Carolina blue skies turn to gray misty rain for five days in a row, it’s time to learn to take photos in the fog. Ugh.

And when the temps range from teens and twenties to near seventy within a week, I shrug and go. I’d rather have winter weather stay than to have a mix of weather suitable for either beach volleyball or hibernating indoors in front of a fire.


During the darkest day, a Goldfinch flew in.


A sweet sight, one that I took for granted for a long time.

On the first day of my Christmas break, I put the pedal to the metal to purchase one special gift. By 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, it was wrapped tenderly with merry sparkles and tucked into a taped box ready to go on its way to Maryland.

The one-stop postal shop was entertaining enough to raise my blood pressure a bit. A wealthy elderly couple chatted on how to use that dang electric screw driver to secure their seven foot by three foot by three foot wooden crate. There were screws flying across the floor that customers kindly retrieved for them. Why not purchase a power screw driver and do that at home?

A merry gentleman about my age followed his wife’s orders and hauled in two large gift bags ready to place under the Christmas tree. For packing and shipping. Yes. And he reminded the young woman behind the counter about the glass ornament that needs special treatment. I mean, how lazy can you get? If I were tending to his business behind the counter, I would have completed his transaction and said, “Ok. Here’s your complimentary calendar. Now, do you want me to go pick up your lunch and eat it for you, too?”

After my brief, two-minute transaction, I was compelled to applaud that wonderful, patient, young woman behind the counter, “By the way, I admire your patience and professionalism. Merry Christmas.” Behind me, a line of customers mumbled, “Amen.”.

For the next few days, I’ll catch up with life away from the office and that inevitable holiday rush. I’ll hope for the sun I saw almost a week ago


while I puttered around the pond.



I’ll look for the sparkle in a Chickadee’s eye


and watch those darn Carolina Wrens I always find too close to the house. Again, I rescued this one who flew into the sunroom.

Napping with the Licker Sisters will have high priority.


Chloe, the queen of NAP.

Bella, the snoring Licker.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Small Circus

My imagination can be wild. I lost my mind on a recent afternoon and since debated about withholding this post to save myself from embarrassment and storing it as a draft to remember how I laughed. I take the risk. Here it is. After all, I’m in my fifties – a time to blow caution to the wind. If feathery and furry critters could talk…

A circus came to town on a wet, gray day.

Two clowns arrived and the birds found seats in the stands with a good view, not far away.

The Doves were amused but Mrs. Cardinal seemed bored. Perhaps she was PMSing, feeling out of sorts.

Feeding stopped while they all watched

the brave one soar seven feet through space, with the greatest of ease, to land on the tube feeder full of seeds.

It swung high, back and forth, for what seemed like a full minute. The brave one hung by a fingernail then lost its squirrelly grip.


the timid one found the nuts

but didn’t quite know what to do next. I have the nuts! What shall I do? Where’s the safety net?

I moved closer to interview the brave one.

Hello, brave one. You’re quite a clown.

Dang. I’m busted and I fell down.

I can still see you, ya know. Come out. Don't be shy.

May I visit?

I’d like to stay here and enjoy just a few of your delicious sunflower seeds. I promise to clean up before I leave.

Oh, aren’t you so brave!

Life is good in your yard, lady.

But your timid friend is waiting and calling you from down the hill…

Come with me, please? She might eat you!

I say GO! SCRAM, you circus clown!

You talkin’ to me? Are you sure you’re talkin’ to me? You must be kidding.

No, I’m not kidding. You are arrogant. Farewell. The show is over. It’s raining.
My camera is getting wet.

Whatever. I’ll be baaaaack! You bet!

See? I’m so ready for a Christmas break, meds, or twelve straight hours of sleep. :o)