House Wren

“Shh.  Listen to the sounds that surround you.  Notice the pitches, the volumes, the timbre, the many lines of counterpoint.  As light taught Monet to paint, the earth may be teaching you music.”

~ Pete Seeger (1919-2014) American folksinger and social activist

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While the House Wren is rather small and plain in appearance, the song it sings is big, bright, and melodious.  I look forward to hearing it every spring!  If you have not heard this tuneful bird, please check out the following link and become acquainted:

http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/191265

Only One Hour Old!

“I had always planned to make a large painting of the early spring, when the first leaves are at the bottom of the trees, and they seem to float in space in a wonderful way.  But the arrival of spring can’t be done in one picture.”

~ David Hockney (1937- ) English painter, draughtsman, printmaker, stage designer and photographer

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The farmer told me that this sweet little calf was only one hour old!

I must agree with David Hockney.  There is no way that just one picture could ever hope to capture all of the amazing things that happen in the spring.

One Day at a Time

“The best thing about the future is that it only comes one day at a time.”
~Abraham Lincoln

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This is a male Goldfinch in his muted winter wardrobe.  When he starts to transition to his bright yellow and solid black plumage, one can be assured that spring and the mating season are just around the corner.

Guardian Donkey

“You can’t test courage cautiously.”

~ Anne Dillard (1945- ) American author and Pulitzer Prize winner

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Meet one of the defenders of this Minnesota cattle farm.  Donkeys are not fond of canines and this dislike extends to coyotes and wolves as well.  Western ranchers have used donkeys to guard herds and ward off predators for years, but this is a relatively new practice here in the midwest.  The Minnesota farmer who owns this handsome fellow has another donkey as well.  He shared that coyotes and wolves have become a greater problem for him in the last ten years and his pair of donkeys have been extremely beneficial to keeping his cows and calves safe.

When is Spring?

“When the groundhog casts his shadow

And the small birds sing

And the sun shines warm

And when the peepers peep

Then it is Spring.”

~Margaret Wise Brown (1910-1952)

(Margaret Wise Brown was an American writer of children’s books, including the picture books Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny.)

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Spring begins for me after my first yearly sighting of an American Robin.

Joe McNally

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Joe McNally (1952- ) is an American photographer who has been shooting for the National Geographic since 1987.  From 1994 until 1998, Joe McNally was LIFE magazine’s staff photographer – the first one in 23 years.  He may be most well-known for his series “Faces of Ground Zero – Portraits of the Heroes of September 11th.”  The series is a collection of 246 giant Polaroid portraits shot in the Moby C Studio near Ground Zero in a three-week period shortly after 9/11. (Sources: portfolio.joemcnally.com and Wikipedia)

Yoga Duck

“My point is, life is about balance. The good and the bad. The highs and the lows. The pina and the colada.”

~Ellen DeGeneres, Seriously…I’m Kidding

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Female Mallard duck balancing while she “rests.”  Amazing!  Animals model balance for us on a regular basis.  The struggle to survive certainly sets priorities for them.

 

Canada Goose

“Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.”
~ Isabelle Eberhardt, The Nomad: The Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt

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One of the first birds to return to Minnesota in the spring is the Canada Goose.  This common bird is one of the best known birds in North America. It is found in every contiguous U.S. state and Canadian province at one time of the year or another!

When Canada (not Canadian) geese migrate, they form impressive and aerodynamic “V-formations.” They can fly 1,500 miles in just 24 hours with a favorable wind, but generally travel at a more leisurely pace.  For me, a Canada Goose in the spring is similar to sighting the first American Robin.

eBird

“The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.”

~ Bill Gates (1955- ) Co-founder of Microsoft

AS4A9706-1(Red-tailed hawk gliding over cornfields on a day in spring.)

As a nature-lover I am interested in supporting efforts that are beneficial to our natural world.  Recently I have spent some time acquainting myself with a site called eBird.   Sponsored by groups such as the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, eBird is a real-time, online checklist program that has revolutionized the way that the birding community reports and accesses information about birds.

By joining the site you can:

  • Record the birds you see
  • Keep track of your bird lists
  • Explore dynamic maps and graphs
  • Share your sightings and join the eBird community
  • Contribute to science and conservation

The use of this global tool is absolutely free.  I’m having fun with it and encourage others with an interest in birds to explore this site as well.

Listen to the Ice

“Spring has never drummed up quite as effective a tranquilizing agent as a sunny spring day.”

~W. Earl Hall (1897-1969) Editor and publisher of the Mason City Globe Gazette

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This is a photo of the ice going out on a river in Minnesota.  If you quietly stand and watch such a site you will actually hear the ice cracking!

Bright Ice

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

~Desmond Tutu (1931- ) South African social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop

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Here are chunks of ice melting at the edge of a local pond.  I have often enjoyed the way the sunshine plays with both the water and the ice at the end of winter.  To me, the color and textures can be similar to the bright shine of diamonds.

Spring is almost here.  Yay!

Feed the Birds!

“Learning is not compulsory…neither is survival.”

~Dr. W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993) American scholar, statistician, and teacher

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(Pictured above are ducks migrating through my area: a male Ring-necked duck and four Hooded Mergansers.)

What is it about some birds that compel them to migrate?  Once they begin their journey, how do they know when it is time to stop?  How do they know when it is time to return?  Scientists continue to study and learn about this phenomenon!

Here are a few facts that I found interesting about bird migration:

  1.  At least 4,000 species of bird are regular migrants, which is about 40 percent of the total number of birds in the world. (Although this number will likely increase as we learn more about the habits of birds in tropical regions.)–Audubon.org.
  2. The Bar-tailed Godwit can fly for nearly 7,000 miles without stopping, making it the bird with the longest recorded non-stop flight.  During the eight-day journey, the bird doesn’t stop for food or rest–Audubon.org.
  3. Hawks, swifts, swallows and waterfowl migrate primarily during the day, while many songbirds migrate at night, in part to avoid the attention of migrating predators such as raptors. The cooler, calmer air at night also makes migration more efficient for many species, while those that migrate during the day most often take advantage of solar-heated thermal currents for easy soaring–birding.about.com.
  4. The ruby-throated hummingbird migrates from the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico to the southeastern United States every spring, a journey of 500-600 miles over the Caribbean Sea that takes 24 hours without a break–birding.about.com.
  5. Migrating birds face many threats along their journeys, including window collisions, confusing lights that disrupt navigation, hunting, habitat loss and predation. Juvenile birds are at greater risk because of their inexperience with migration – yet somehow, birds successfully migrate every year–birding.about.com.

So, consider putting out and keeping full a bird feeder and/or bird bath in the spring and the fall.  There are some tired and hungry birds traveling at these times of year!

Spring Bird Migration

“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,

To gain all while you give,

To roam the roads of lands remote,

To travel is to live.”

~Hans Christian Andersen, The Fairy Tale of My Life: An Autobiography

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We are in the midst of the bird migration season here in Minnesota.  Simply put, birds migrate to move from areas of low or decreasing resources to areas of high or increasing resources. The two primary resources being sought are food and nesting locations.  It can be an exciting time for birders and photographers alike as all hope to spot something new and/or different as the birds visit our area.

This is a shot of geese high above a birding “hotspot” near the Cannon River in southeastern Minnesota.  (To learn more about birding hotspots, please visit:  http://ebird.org/content/ebird/news/hotspot-explorer/ )

 

 

Culture and Words…

 

The Willow Cats

They call them pussy-willows,
But there’s no cat to see
Except the little furry toes
That stick out on the tree:
I think that very long ago,
When I was just born new,
There must have been whole pussy-cats
Where just the toes stick through–
And every Spring it worries me,
I cannot ever find
Those willow-cats that ran away
And left their toes behind!

~Margaret Widdemer

(published in 1928)

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The pussy willow plant is a fond memory from my childhood that I have always associated with Easter and spring.  I’m so disappointed that modern day language has turned this lovely plant into something to giggle about when mentioned. So, I’m going to take a risk and celebrate this sweet little poem and plant regardless of any snickering.

Happy spring!

Dancing with Light and the Weather

“Nature is so powerful, so strong. Capturing its essence is not easy – your work becomes a dance with light and the weather. It takes you to a place within yourself.”

~Annie Leibovitz (1949- ) American portrait photographer

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A juvenile Cooper’s hawk that visited my garden on a snowy day.