Morning Time…October-November

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Well, Thanksgiving is behind us, and though it is not officially the end of fall,  winter doesn’t seem too far off.  I love living in a place where I can enjoy each of the four seasons, and quiet mornings, sipping coffee, seem a wonderful way to savor them.

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Once again, I have gathered those pictures from my morning photo shoots to relive the moments. With fall being very hectic I missed October’s post so am combining the two months…I hope you enjoy.

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Red-bellied woodpecker

Woodpeckers like these are the reason I ask my husband to leave the smaller dead trees on our property standing.

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The pileated woodpecker, below, is quite the character, and also quite loud, competing only with “Harold” in volume.

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The net was put on the pond in October, and the frogs put on quite the show as they bounced on it like a trampoline.  There is a large opening allowing them access into and out of the pond, and one was actually observed bouncing, then doing a backflip into this exposed area…Nadia Comăneci would have been impressed.

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Taking a break from gymnastics….

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The squirrels enjoyed raiding the peanuts and sunflower seeds from the bird-feeders…

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Downy woodpecker is a frequent visitor to the bird feeder area, especially enjoying the suet…

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Downy Woodpecker 

Another favorite at the feeder is the tufted titmouse, such a friendly little guy…he flys off to nearby branches to bang open the sunflower seeds.

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Tufted Titmouse

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Sparrows and chickadees were also in abundance, however, the chickadee was not very photogenic;) Though I think the below sparrow is a white-throated one, I am not confident of that-feel free to educate me!

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Of all the birds I enjoyed watching in the last two months, I was more than thrilled when the typically seen cardinal reappeared after more than a months absence.  His presence one morning in the tree below made my day!

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I tried to convince myself the cardinals were not around the feeders because of the abundance of fall seeds, but after seeing red feathers on the ground, and the character below on at least three occasions near the feeders, I was beginning to worry.

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I’ll be the first to admit, though I admire nature more than most, I am not at all a fan of hawks!!!  If I saw them flying with a snake dangling from their mouth I may feel differently, however, I have only ever seen them zooming by with poor, helpless songbirds in their clutches.

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Morning sunlight on the creek

Lastly on my trip down photo memory-lane… I was able to photograph the raccoon below as he neared the creek at low tide, then nimbly walked across a newly-fallen tree to the peninsula on the other side.  I wish I could have gotten his front, but he is still a beaut from behind.

It was an adventurous two months of coffee-time scenery, and I enjoyed many other nature moments and firsts not captured on film. Though it’s hard, sometimes I resist the dash for the camera and force myself to simply sit still and treasure the moment.

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Until next time, may you have many memorable nature moments as well.

∼Jen

A Friend’s Thanksgiving

Oh! Think Not My Spirits Are Always As Light

…The thread of our life would be dark, Heaven knows
If it were not with friendship and love intertwined;
And I care not how soon I may sink to repose,
When these blessing shall cease to be dear to my mind.

 by Thomas Moore

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Of all the holidays and gatherings, I think Thanksgiving has to be my favorite.  It is a time  set aside to remember all we have been blessed with, giving thanks to God for all the bountiful gifts and blessings He bestows on us in so many different ways.  It is simple, unpretentious, not bogged down in commercialism…just a beautiful season of gratitude, because, in each season of life, we always have things to be thankful for.

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A few year ago I decided I would like to have a “Friends Thanksgiving” to celebrate the wonderful friendships in my life.  I am so grateful to be surrounded by family, and we have our day of celebration on the actual holiday, but during this season I am also reminded of the absolute blessing that real friends bring to our lives.

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Over the weekend we had a gathering of our closest and dearest friends along with their kids who are now treasured friends of our kids…double blessing!  It was a night filled with much laughter, good food, and just plain fun.  Among my dearest friends is one I have known since first grade.  We could spend hours laughing till we cry reminiscing over past memories.  She is my fellow nature lover, photographer, and incredible artist who hasn’t met an artistic medium she can’t conquer.  She is a teacher any parent would love to have for their child because of her caring heart and common-sense approach.  Long ago school days, ice-skating on frozen ponds, hiking through woods, cycling nature trails and kayaking all while solving the world’s problems then laughing hysterically are all cherished memories with this incredible friend.  Knowing my love for plants, she brought me the beautiful rosemary plant pictured below, which Kitty has adopted.

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Another treasured friendship is from my  single, college days.  This is my very practical friend, also a nature/animal lover and the one who taught me all a dog owner ever needed to know about cats.  We call her the cat whisperer as she is the one who first dared hold the wild cats that showed up in our yard that we have since adopted and love…yes the one above was “wild.”  I have so many fun memories of silly things single girls do and then the memories continued as we both went on to get married and have kids within the same few years.  As our kids grew up together we shared play-dates in the park, baseball games, basketball games as the crazy moms on the top bleacher, family cycling days, campfires, beach days, and more recently, hikes through West Virginia.  She gave us all a scare this year with a cancer, but thankfully she is well, and it was another reason to set aside a day and give thanks for her friendship.

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Last, but not least, is a more recent friend made when our kids were older elementary-aged.  She is also practical, but fun-loving and a loyal, trusted friend.  We, too, have shared cycling trips, field trips with our kids, coffee time on our porches, pool days, Easter egg hunts and tears and laughter as we tried to figure out the crazy teen years together!  She is an incredible mom, as are my other dear friends, and I have been blessed with her wisdom and understanding as I navigate through the stages of motherhood.

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As I look at the fading beauty of the mums on my porch, I am reminded that the beauty of true friendships never fade. As I tell my sons, if you have even just one true friend in life, you are blessed- someone you can laugh with, cry with, be yourself with and be loved through the good times and bad…in essence, “family.”

May you treasure the beautiful friendships in your life!

Until next time

∼ Jen

Autumnal Frog Contemplations

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Frog Autumn

Summer grows old, cold-blooded mother.
The insects are scant, skinny.
In these palustral homes we only
Croak and wither.
Mornings dissipate in somnolence.
The sun brightens tardily
Among the pithless reeds.
 Flies fail us.
he fen sickens.
Frost drops even the spider.
 Clearly
The genius of  plenitude
Houses himself elsewhere
 Our folk thin
Lamentably.


 I came upon this poem while reading some fall poems earlier. It reminded me of a recent picture I took of a frog by our pond surrounded by fallen leaves and acorns. I can only imagine his thoughts may be something close to what the poet penned.

∼Jen

Morning Time – September

Lo! a ripe sheaf of many golden days
Gleaned by the year in autumn’s harvest ways,
With here and there, blood-tinted as an ember,
Some crimson poppy of a late delight
Atoning in its splendor for the flight
Of summer blooms and joys­
This is September.

Hilaire Belloc

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Third or fourth generation Monarch butterfly

Ah, beautiful September…how did you pass so quickly?

October is my favorite fall month, but September begins the beauty of it all.  Now that it is behind us I feel like I somehow missed it…like I blinked and it was over. I have spent many hours inside with my nose buried in math and Spanish curriculum, but on the bright side, I’m sure it’s a wonderful Alzheimer’s preventative.

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Frog basking in morning sun

I have given myself permission to take the day off from curriculum and enjoyed a walk with my dog Princess earlier this morning.  I have missed writing so much I decided I would also take the time to enjoy doing just that when I returned from the walk.  Already six days into October, it was past time to pull up my September morning-time pictures.

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Praying Mantis I discovered one morning because of kitty’s growls:)
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Another morning frog, I believe the Southern Leopard frog
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Argiope aurantia beside porch

Thinking about writing a new blog post I asked myself, like probably many bloggers do….why on earth do I think people really want to see pictures of my flowers, birds, dog, Harold….or read the ramblings and memories of a mom going through beginning empty- nest stages?

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Mother cardinal bringing sunflower seed to young
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Juvenile female cardinal
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…obviously the awkward looking stage

And yet, I continue to write, because like other bloggers I enjoy the creativity it allows and the connections formed with other bloggers along the way.  The latter was something I was told would happen by a friend of mine, whose blog I have admired for years, but I really had no idea what she meant until I started blogging myself.

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Ferns getting their fall color
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Gabby, a visual reminder to cut back ferns for sake of the birds….

I find myself thinking of the people whose writing I have connected with….the elderly widow who writes of her granddaughter and grown sons and her transition to a smaller home, leaving the place where memories were made as she raised them; the writer who has written her first book and has found a purpose to enjoy in her newfound retirement as she plans another book; the man who so artfully writes of the beauty of childhood memories and an almost forgotten time of past societal innocence; the teacher who brings nature into the lives of his young students, reminding me of my own former joy of teaching little ones; the many gifted artists in photography and drawing, who bring beauty to my world and others by sharing their talents…all these people and many more have enriched me in many ways.

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Autumn Sedum

 

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I call this my “hello-goodbye” plant…blooming when I got it and not again till September, its final show

Though I will most likely never meet any of them, I am grateful for their presence…

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My morning buddy, Harold

They have enlightened me, inspired me, entertained me, and like the nature I am surrounded by, have added beauty to my life in many different ways.

For that, I am grateful.

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Until next time,

∼ Jen

Sunset on the Delaware Bay

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Sometimes the best things in life are found right in your own backyard…not literally my backyard in this case, but close enough!

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We have recently discovered that it isn’t always necessary to get in the car and drive to a destination two days away, or hop a flight for a trip half-way across the country, or even out of the country for that matter, we are surrounded by incredible beauty in our own little corner of the world…and for that, we are very thankful.

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One of our favorite places to visit lately has been the Delaware seashore and the quaint little town of Lewes. Founded by Dutch settlers in June of 1631, and named Zwaanendael, which means “swan valley,” it was the first European settlement in what would later become the first state, Delaware.

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On our last trip we arrived shortly before sunset, and walked out on the long pier just inside Cape Henlopen State Park. The park is one of my favorite cycling destinations, and is also where my husband and I had our first date:)

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The lighthouse is visible from the pier, and I can’t look at it without remembering a kayak ride I took there with a dear friend.  She had a tandem kayak and on her last trip out she was surrounded by a pod of dolphins and wanted me to enjoy the same experience.  I was all for it, until we got close to the lighthouse and I started to realize kayaking on a bay is a whole different story than kayaking on a creek.  The waves (I tend to get seasick-that’s an understatement), lack of dolphins, and visions of getting swept out to sea made me wimp out and our trip was cut a bit short. DSC_0160

From where we stood, we were able to see a Cape May-Lewes ferry coming back from its 17 mile journey across the bay to Cape May, New Jersey.  We made a few trips on the ferry when our children were younger to visit the Cape May zoo.  It is a fun trip for kids and adults alike.  It is also a top spot in the fall for bird migration, and I hope to be able to experience that for myself someday soon.  DSC_0081

It is very hard to walk away from a beautiful sunset…

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But eventually we pulled ourselves away and enjoyed strolling the streets of Lewes.  We talked with an exceptionally nice man who worked at The Inn at Canal Square, and he gave us the grand tour.  He also told us about a few movie stars who stayed there, or rather one…the other refused (she shall remain nameless) because she did not think that Delaware was up to her standards.  I really don’t care about movie stars or their opinions, but I did find it ironic when walking through town later, we happened upon this beautiful sight…DSC_0197

and then read the sign just beside this view…..DSC_0201

We also discovered a cafe on a side street that warrants another trip back…

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Just before we headed home I found one more thing to make the night just that much more special…
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It was on a bench where we sat overlooking the canal, but I didn’t know until we got home that I was supposed to re-hide it to bring a smile to another person.  I guess that just makes one more reason we’ll have to go back very soon!

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Until next time, I hope you enjoy all the beautiful treasures in your little corner of the world!

∼ Jen

Kindness, Courage, Love

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” -Mark Twain

In the aftermath of a storm like “Harvey” that my fellow Americans in Texas have recently experienced….the losses, the grief, the pain, one could easily ask, where is the beauty in this?  As with all natural disasters, there is beauty to be found in the kindness, courage, and the love of strangers reaching out to help those in need. That kind of beauty takes precedent over any nature photos I may share this week. I hope you are inspired by the images, reminded to pray for the families affected, and continue to spread kindness and love in your own little corner of the world.♥

 

Love helps the young…

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Man rescues mom with baby

Love helps the elderly, weak and frail….

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Neighbors helping elderly man to safety, photo credit Fox News
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Lady in wheelchair helped to safety

 

Love sees no color…
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Love sees neither male nor female….

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Man rescues lady from home, photo credit CBS News

Love rescues the helpless, human or beast….

And sadly, sometimes love gives the ultimate, one’s own life…

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Police Sgt. Steve Perez 

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Cor. 13:13

∼ Jen

“Almost Heaven, West Virginia….

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Dolly Sods

Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River…

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Blackwater River trail

Life is old there, older than the trees,

Younger than the mountains, Blowin’ like the breeze.”

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Lindy Point

The above lyrics are from the song “Country Roads” by John Denver, and if ever a state deserved to have a song written about it for its beauty, West Virginia is certainly deserving of that honor.

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Blackwater Falls

My younger son and I were blessed to have a week to explore some of its beautiful trails, gorgeous in their own right, and leading to breathtaking views at the end. Pictures will never do it justice, but I will attempt to share bits of the beauty we enjoyed.

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Picturesque trail leading to Blackwater falls

Although Blackwater Falls (pictured above) is probably the biggest attraction, we preferred the idyllic views of:

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Not far into the hike, it felt as if we had stepped onto the set of a magical Disney film or a Lord of the Rings set.  From the moss-covered rocks and trees to the abundance of ferns, blooming rhododendrons, mushrooms, and the babbling brook leading to the waterfalls, it was truly like stepping into another world.

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Rhododendron blooms above the falls

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Large rock-island serves as a “planter” to trees, ferns, and rhododendron bushes
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Elakala Falls

Lindy Point was another place we explored. Hiking this trail was like taking a stroll through the jungle….rhododendrons hugged the path as we made our way to the top where we were met with this view:

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In the Monogahela National Forest we hiked part of the Dolly Sods Wilderness.  It boasts incredible views from the top and has terrain of bog and heath ecotypes more commonly found in southern Canada.

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The rocks are extremely fun to navigate, and the scenery is simply spectacular.  While resting on a large rock formation taking in the views, I looked to a nearby evergreen and was delighted with a sighting of one of my favorite birds, the Cedar waxwing.

It was the first time I had ever been on equal altitude with this beauty!

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The red markings on the wing tips look like melted wax, thus the name, Cedar waxwing

The drive up to Dolly Sods is quite long, but the beauty along the way makes the journey as enjoyable as the destination.  A variety of wildflowers, butterflies, and a scenic creek adorn the trek, making a non-stop drive all but impossible to a camera-wielding, nature enthusiast.

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Bristle Thistle Carduus nutans

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And, of course, what drive in the country would be complete without a good ol’ barn-sighting…or a house that looks like a barn, not sure, but charming, nonetheless.

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After a hike at dusk one evening, we saw this adorable woodland creature…

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Fawn with mother near Blackwater Falls

Growing up near the shore I will always be a fan of the ocean, but I am always grateful for a trip to the mountains where I can hike and relish a different kind of beauty…all a part of this glorious gift we have been given called nature.

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Elakala Falls

This post is dedicated to our dear friends Ed and Denise….thank you for introducing us to the beauty of this often overlooked state, but mostly for your gift of friendship!

 

For your listening pleasure, the song behind the post:

I hope you find your own country road to explore and take in the wonders around!

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∼ Jen

Morning Time…July

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At the moment, I am sitting on a deck in West Virginia watching and listening to a thunderstorm roll in and thankful that it waited until after our morning hike.  I love a good thunderstorm, especially when they are so conveniently timed.  Since our hiking is on hold, I thought it would be a great time to pull out my morning-time memories from July.

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First blooming water lily of the summer
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Lacecap hydrangea bloomed in July
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Stargazer lilies graced July with a quick show…Lacecap hydrangea in background

I know some people are not very keen on spiders, but they don’t bother me if I know they aren’t poisonous and they don’t get in my way.  We even had a beautiful argiope build a nest on the porch at our old home and we liked her so much we named her “Miss Nelly.” When the powerwasher came to clean the house, he thought I was crazy when I gave him strict instructions not to dare harm Miss Nelly!

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“Miss Nelly”

Back to July….and a web I saw the morning sunlight shining through-they can be a real work of art.

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Spider web stretched between coral bells’ stems

The home-wrecking wrens abandoned the nest they ousted the black-capped chickadees from…apparently the male wren may build several nests before the pair choose the nest to use.  Below, mama wren is waiting for me to leave the porch so she can take the moth in her mouth to her waiting babies. She took over my hanging Fuschia plant, and I don’t know how long I was watering the poor eggs before I saw the wren and discovered the nest.  All is well, I didn’t drown the fledglings, and I will post pictures of them soon.

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Carolina wren

I was very pleased this dragonfly stayed perched on a Tiger lily bud long enough for me to get a picture…

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The autumn sedum is gearing up for its fall show with emerging buds…

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Black-eyed Susans, Russian sage, and hosta blooms really come into their own in July…

A mourning dove looking rather coy, or regal, not sure which….

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One of my favorite little creatures enjoying some greens…

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And finally, what would I do without my morning, or anytime, Harold sightings! He really showed me some new stuff this month.

First I caught him looking rather, for lack of a better description, bizarre

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I was actually worried about him when I first observed this strange wing “arrangement.” I watched him for a while until to my great relief, he flew away, allaying my fears that he was somehow hurt.  When I googled this spread-wing posture, I learned that this can be done to dry their wings, keep their balance when perching, regulate body temperature and several other reasons.

Next, if I hadn’t known herons build their nest up high, I would have thought he was building a nest on one of his favorite perches during another morning observation of him.  I watched him for a while as he grabbed different sticks off the fallen log and put them down into a pile before he finally found one he liked and flew off with it!  I don’t know if he was adding it to a nest already in the making or if it was the stick he planned to use to woo a passing female with. Since nesting season is pretty much over, however, and herons stick with the same mate all season, I’m really not sure what Harold was up to… maybe the nest just needed some repair.

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Harold with chosen stick in mouth before taking flight

So, that wraps up my morning time from July in pictures! The rain stopped here in West Virginia, and my son and I were able to get in an after-dinner hike and take in some more scenery of this beautiful state.  I look forward to sharing some of those pictures with you!

Until next time!

∼ Jen

Where the Wild Ponies Roam

Nobody could capture the Phantom. She was the wildest mare on Assateague Island. They said she was like the wind, that the white “map” on her shoulders was her mark of freedom.  

Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry

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Saturday was a wonderful day here on the Delmarva Peninsula to escape the 90+ degree heat and head to one of our glorious beaches.  The escape was real…I was actually cool with my beach chair pulled just close enough to the ocean for my feet to catch the refreshing waves.  The ponies evidently had the same idea and provided the show most tourists come to see and one I never get bored with.

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There are two theories about how the wild horses came to be on Assateague Island, which spans 48,000 acres of Virginia and Maryland’s eastern shore. One theory is that they arrived with the early colonial settlers and the other is that they swam to shore after escaping a Spanish galleon cargo shipwreck, of which they were the cargo. I think the latter is a much more exciting theory, and with the discovery of a sunken Spanish ship off the coast in 1997, it is the more credible one as well.

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Sweet family picture…a young foal nursing, stallion in background.

The ponies, officially named “Chincoteague Ponies” for the nearby island off of Assateague, VA, survive eating the wild grasses, bayberry twigs, rosehips and persimmons.  They drink fresh or brackish water found in the lower lying areas of the island. They became famous largely because of the book Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry.

 Though there are signs posted everywhere to stay at least 100 ft. away from the ponies, the ponies, and most people, don’t quite adhere to that warning.  They have been known to bite and kick, so I have a respectful fear of them as I do the ocean.  Apparently, they have also been fed “people” food over the years, also despite the signs, and have developed quite the taste for it. It is common to see them come up to the belongings of beachgoers and rummage through their bags in search of tasty treats…we have been among those beachgoers! They have become quite adept at stomping bags of chips to get to the forbidden contents inside.

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As the afternoon grew late, the ponies started heading down the beach…

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Fires began to be built….

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And by nightfall the campfires burned all around, illuminating the fun gatherings of families and friends, while the ponies slept nearby under the spectacular starry sky.

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∼ Jen

 

‹My apologies to the ponies, as cell phone pictures don’t do their beauty  justice.›

Morning Time – June

“No price is set on the lavish summer;
June may be had by the poorest comer.”
–  James Russell Lowell, The Vision of Sir Launfal

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Early morning drink

Dust from the fireworks has settled, Princess survived yet another year of booms and bangs, sure “they” were after her, and once again, like every year, I wonder how it’s possible that so much of summer has already gone by.

As I enjoyed looking back on my morning pictures from May once June arrived, I have done the same for my morning times in June. I love looking back at photos taken and relive some of the moments and memories of my early, quiet times on the porch and beyond.

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Comfy seating upon a lily pad
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June daylilies greet the morning sun

The turtles were out in full force this month. I like them a little more when they stay in the creek, if they happen to be snapping turtles that is. I have not seen our pond visitor again up close as I did in May, but I spotted it’s relative sunning on this log with a friend….DSC_0595

and another duo with the same idea further out…DSC_0765

I always love the way the early morning sun highlights the ferns and glistens on the waterfall…and the moss on the rocks, well, that’s just the icing on the cake.DSC_0964

The American bullfrog in our pond that we have dubbed “cave-frog” still occupies his cave and was seen peeking out beyond the water grass one morning between croaks.

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“cave-frog”

He is loud, but I had no idea just how loud till my neighbor across the street told me she could hear him! She is a nature enthusiast herself, so it was an appreciation not a complaint:)

As for flying creatures, our little hummingbirds have been enjoying their new feeders……..

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Ruby-throated hummingbird

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And “Harold” was observed on several breakfast hunts…

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Upon arising one morning I was greeted with our first hydrangea bloom of the summer, and by evening the same bush boasted several more blooms.

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Replenishing my morning cup of coffee on another morning, I heard scratching on our porch, screen door. I looked to see a real cutie, who upon seeing me quickly ran off.  I captured him resting his very visibly pounding heart before ascending the tree. The poor guy was beyond shaken.

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Eastern gray squirrel

I have no idea why he was intent on entering the house….I would say he was drawn by the aroma of coffee, but it was more likely that he was running from our cat, “Gladiator Gabby.”

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The large trees in our back yard are a wonderful habitat for birds, especially the woodpeckers, but it was the sunlight streaming through the hole in the above tree that caught my eye on this particular morning.

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Blooming Fuchsia, a hummingbird favorite

Leaving a hotel one morning after a weekend trip, my son pointed out some adorable ducklings enjoying a morning swim.  It was the mother with one of the ducklings near a blooming lily, that, of course, captured my attention the most…

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And lastly, I have  Princess to thank for the following picture taken at the end of June.  Her morning vigil by the front door resulted in a sight I am ever so glad to have seen…

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White-Tailed deer 

and kudos to the deer for allowing me to photograph her in front of such a lovely, blooming backdrop. She seemed to enjoy her morning stroll through the neighborhood, so I may see her again in the future.

Until next time!

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∼ Jen