Cycling Historic Oxford

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Frantically searching for yet one more mild-weathered day for cycling-as I typically do this time of year- only two days were left as possible options.  Of course when left with just two days to cycle before winter shuts it all down, you make sure you find just the right place to finish out the season…and hopefully the right person to join you as well!

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Robert Morris Inn

I was fortunate that one of my dearest friends, a newly-retired teacher of 32 years, was more than eager to go! After narrowing down the options of places, the clear winner was historic Oxford….Oxford Maryland that is.  Now, historic to we Americans is laughable I know compared to Oxfords I can think of elsewhere, but 1683, the date of our Oxford’s official founding, is pretty impressive to us yanks.

The first place my friend and I stopped was the Robert Morris Inn.

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room circa 1710, Robert Morris Inn

  Originally built as a shipping house in 1710, it began operations in 1800 as a full-time inn…the oldest full-service inn in America. Robert Morris, Sr., was an agent for a Liverpool shipping firm and greatly influenced the town’s growth. His son, Robert Morris, Jr., was known as “the financier of the Revolution.”

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original dining area 1710

Walking on the historic, wide-planked floors, and gazing at the oversized wooden mantels over the well-worn brick fireplaces, we fell into a reverent awe as we imagined the conversations held in these very rooms.  According to the brochure of the Inn…

Four of our 310 year old rooms were indeed slept in by Founding Father Robert Morris, George Washington and many other dignitaries of the day and since. Red brick fireplaces around which heated discussion on the arguments for independence from Britain took place and negotiations for sugar cane, tobacco and French wine worked out. Wood paneling, red brick fireplaces and oak timbers are all as they were 310 years ago, hand built by ships carpenters from locally acquired materials and the red bricks from England, used as ships ballast. One cannot get any more historic than this.

Other notable persons of the history of Oxford include: Jeremiah Banning, sea captain, war hero, and statesman; The Reverend Thomas Bacon, Anglican clergyman who wrote the first compilation of the laws of Maryland; Matthew Tilghman, known as the “patriarch of Maryland” and “father of statehood” and Colonel Tench Tilghman, assistant to George Washington and the man who carried the message of Cornwallis’ surrender to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

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Until the American Revolution, Oxford enjoyed prominence as an international shipping center. With the loss of British ships and their variety of imported goods and tobacco replaced by wheat as a cash crop, businesses went bankrupt, and the population of a once thriving Oxford dwindled.  It would be 100 years till the sleepy town awakened to prosperity again, this time due to the completion of the railroad in 1871 and improved methods of canning and packing, which made marketing the oysters from the bountiful Chesapeake Bay near tiny Oxford possible.

water view oxfordYet again, business was booming and houses were going up everywhere until the early part of the 20th century when the oyster beds were depleted, and the packing houses shut down. Businesses went bankrupt, and the railway and steamships eventually disappeared. Oxford became a sleepy little town once again, inhabited mainly by watermen who still worked the waters of the Tred Avon.

 

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Oxford remains a waterman’s town today, but is enjoying a new resurgence based on tourism and leisure and as a well-know cycling destination of the mid-atlantic.  The suggested cycling route usually includes a trip across the Tred Avon River aboard the Oxford Bellevue Ferry, believed to be the nation’s oldest privately-operated ferry service.

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Knowing this was a popular cycling destination, I assumed there must be trails going around the town.  It was with great pleasure that my friend and I discovered the town itself was the cycling trail. As we cycled through this quaint little town surrounded by historic, flag-bearing houses…upon narrow, cobble-stone streets…lined by trees ablaze with autumn leaves…on the banks of a river…

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there was no doubt we had picked the the perfect grand finale of our cycling season!

Until next time,

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∼Jen

 

Snapshots of Fall

“There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on
the feelings, as now in October.”
–  Nathaniel Hawthorne

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On the last day of October my youngest son, myself, and a beautiful family girlfriend headed to our local pumpkin patch and then to a nearby state park to immerse ourselves in the ever-fantastic beauty of fall.

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I have been navigating this maze since my youngest was a baby; the fun never gets old…

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Our beautiful model showcasing a white pumpkin…

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On to the park for a picnic on the banks of the tranquil pond…

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I nick-named the little cypress below the “Charlie Brown Cypress”

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Happy fall to one and all!

Until next time,

∼Jen

 

 

Unexpected Treats

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Yesterday while relaxing on the couch it occurred to me that the tide was up, the heat and humidity were down, and no storms were in the forecast.   As if catapulted from my seat with this revelation, I made a dash for my camera, life-jacket and paddle and down to the creek I went.  It is rare that I sail out on my own, but sometimes that’s the best way to observe nature and just enjoy the serenity of the creek.

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“Rivendell”

The first unexpected sight I came upon was of a beaver dam.  I’ve heard the beavers slap their tail before when entering their territory, but had still yet to see one.  Yesterday was my first sighting of any dam, so I was excited to be able to see it up close.  I heard the warning slap of the tail when I ventured back for more pictures later, but still never caught a glimpse of the owner of the slapping tail and decided to take his warning seriously, paddling away after a few pictures.  I had been hoping to get a picture of the beaver himself, but they are elusive little characters.

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beaver dam

Further down the creek I spied a squirrel grabbing a small branch to take away to its nesting spot.  He froze when he came up out of his hole and saw me, so I was able to capture some cute pictures of him peeking out.

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I watched as ospreys circled the creek looking for their next meal and observed a smaller bird giving chase to a large flying insect, catching up to it eventually and carrying it back to  its nest.  The butterflies were out flitting about the plant life on the banks, seeming to enjoy the day as much as I was, while numerous dragonflies skimmed the water in every direction in search of insects. Yes, the creek was full of life visually and audibly and I was ever so glad to be out there among it.

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magnolia tree gracing the creek bank

On my way back I caught a glimpse of a great blue heron perched atop a large, dead tree in the creek preening its feathers.  I’ve never been able to get that close to a heron without them noticing and immediately taking flight…screaming insults at me all the while, of course.  This heron broke all the rules and sat there after preening for at least five minutes while I let the boat simply drift around as I took pictures.  Finally he or she had enough of modeling and took flight across the creek, but the unexpected photography session was definitely a treat!

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Preening

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After getting back from my rewarding time on the creek, it was still too beautiful to go inside, so I decided to linger by the creek on a bench enjoying a cup of afternoon coffee. My husband joined me, and then we actually spotted him above the water-finally!

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beaver

My last unexpected treat was getting a close up glimpse of a green heron.  In our six years here I have only spotted it once, and that from very far away.  The pictures I got are blurry as I had to shoot as soon as I saw him, but I was very happy to finally see him nonetheless.

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For a much better visual of him and to read more about this particular heron and others check out this link .

Until next time, wishing you unexpected treats as you explore your own beautiful corner of the world!

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∼Jen

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∗ A very informative link on Great blue herons

 

First Kayak Ride of Spring

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Heaven reached down to kiss me yesterday with the convergence of my schedule, my son’s schedule, the tide schedule, and a gorgeous, mild-temperature spring day….all perfect for a mid-afternoon kayak outing.

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The sky was a cloudless blue, the perfect backdrop for the emergence of new leaves budding out next to the evergreens, which brave the winter months gracing us with their beauty  year round…

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My son wanted to head for the nearest little island in the creek, which he and his older brother have enjoyed exploring since we first moved here.  It is a perfect nesting spot for  geese, and evidence was spotted of that before we even disembarked….

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We were fortunate enough to spot the first egg of the clutch, and hopefully not the last.  We’ll come back to check the progress next week and maybe catch mama laying on them as we did a few years back.  The female goose lays eggs about 36 hours apart, and can lay anywhere from two-ten eggs per breeding season.  The incubation period is 28-30 days, so we should certainly get a glimpse of mama at some point during that time.

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The little island is carpeted with luscious, emerald moss decorated with newly fallen red maple buds-mama goose certainly has good taste in homes…

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On our return trip we were treated to “Harold” or perhaps “Henrietta.” Either way, it is always a surprising delight when he or she appears from nowhere, squawking its displeasure at us for daring to enter its domain.

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The houseboat, which appeared at Thanksgiving time two years ago, is still gracing the creek with its presence …

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I would love to get a peek inside this home, and can only imagine how peaceful it must be to live literally on the water.  I am blessed enough, though, to be able to live next to it and am always thankful to be a witness to the wonders of nature the creek brings in all of its seasons.

Until next time, happy spring to those of you in this hemisphere!

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∼Jen

 

A Seaside Winter Walk

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New Year’s Day promised to be a beautiful 60 degrees outside, so my husband, younger son and I decided to head to the beach for a winter’s walk.  We began at our favorite little cafe in Lewis, Olive and Oats, then fortified with a delicious lunch, which included the obligatory black-eyed peas, we headed to the Cape.

 

Below is the beautiful boardwalk towards the beginning of the trail…

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leading to the spectacular scenery just beyond and along the path.

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colorful marsh
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egrets
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gulls and egrets with WWII lookout tower in background

All along the path were the subdued and peaceful colors of winter, and many other friendly New Year’s Day walkers/cyclists as well.

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escaping the crowd

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Before exiting the park, we happened upon the white-tailed deer, always very plentiful here…

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white-tailed deer fawn
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grazing in playing field

One last look at the sea, then back home to a cozy fire and the promise of more winter walks ahead.

Until next time,

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∼ Jen

Tree-top Lunch

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Saturday was a beautiful, perfect-cycling-weather kind of day.  I was mindlessly pedaling along, smiling peacefully, taking in all the natural serenity surrounding me on one of the first gorgeous days of fall.

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Not far up ahead a group was pulled off to the side, looking up into a tree-top.  Oh, wow, was I ever glad I made a vow to never cycle without my camera again!  I pulled over to join them, and as quietly and quickly as I could, pulled the camera out with record speed.  I was so concerned he was going to fly before I could focus, and equally concerned I would send him flying with my movements.

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My concerns were unfounded as he was happily enjoying a feast fit for an eagle…no movement of mine or any other new-comers were apt to disturb him from finishing his lunch.

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I did get pictures of him eating, but I’ve spared you those, just sharing his post-lunch poses.

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Using tree branch as napkin after lunch

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We were able to enjoy him for at least five minutes. After he cleaned his beak and looked down at us a few times as if to ask, “Haven’t you guys ever seen an eagle eating before?” he took to the skies, leaving us all with a profound sense of awe and gratitude for the incredible display of nature we had just shared.

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Until next time, look up occasionally, you never know what spectacle may be perched above your head!

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∼ Jen

The Beauty of Stillness

dsc_0112.jpgIt is a quiet Sunday morning as I write this.  The air is cool enough to leave the door cracked just slightly, allowing the sounds of nature to flow inside.  The birds are singing their morning songs as they flit around in their busy springtime activities.  A tufted titmouse pair are continuing their gathering of nest-building material for the box just outside my window, while a hummingbird stops to sip at the nectar feeder just below the future titmouse abode.

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Tufted titmouse gathering nesting material

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Gabby cat is enjoying an early morning walk around, simultaneously keeping a lookout  for possible adventure with one eye and the approach of our neighbor’s dogs with the other…

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Gabby amid the jewel weed

 A squirrel enjoyed an early breakfast of sunflower seeds scattered beneath the feeders before attacking the feeders directly. In due time he was joined by two other squirrels that soon gave him chase before they all raced up a tree, resembling a reverse playing of firemen sliding down a pole.

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The male cardinal is visiting another feeder closer to our pond, and the sounds of the waterfall flowing fills the air with its soothing sounds, in perfect harmony to the music of the wildlife surrounding it.

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The creek is at high-tide and is still and deceptively quiet under a misty haze and overcast sky. In the surrounding trees, the birds and squirrels make up for its silence aided by honking geese in the distance, while cinnamon ferns, jewel-weed, and iris decorate its banks as they continue to spring more to life with each passing day.  Somewhere nearby a wood duck couple are certain to be enjoying its serenity, while playful otters and busy beavers are certain to be disturbing it.

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Wood duck pair 

 At any given moment an eagle is likely to do a fly-by low along the creek, or perch in one of the nearby trees watching for fish and other small creatures to fill its stomach and feed its young.

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Harold, our resident blue heron, has yet to my knowledge made his daily appearance, but that too could happen at any given moment and may even include a sighting of  Henrietta, seen accompanying him of late…tis the season!

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“Harold”

Peaches, the cat of unknown origins, who has unfortunately decided to adopt us, draws my eye away from the creek again as he takes up one of his favorite spots beside the pond…much to the dismay of Gabby, and Bitty as well, who is perched beside me now glaring at him from her window seat.

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The cardinal seen earlier is now perched closer to my window, almost hidden in the lush leaves, until roused by a blue-jay who was earlier hopping up and down on a branch above him and making a general ruckus.  For whatever reason, Mr. Jay felt the need to antagonize the cardinal until deciding to fly off towards the creek with the cardinal giving chase.

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In a break from nest-building duties, Mr. Titmouse flies over to give his wife a morsel on a nearby branch, and the lone squirrel is back posing for a picture.

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Our door is now shut and the fireplace is lit to chase off the chill-enticing kitty with its warmth-as my husband and I enjoy the quiet of early morning.  The wood ducks paddle into view, and all seems right with the world.

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I purposefully laid aside my camera for the most part this morning-deciding to add in older pictures later-and purposed instead to just sit still and enjoy all the sights and sounds outside the lens…

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…because sometimes in our single “focused-ness’ of life we miss the peripheral beauty going on around us, and that is a lesson in and of itself.

Until next time,

∼Jen

 Psalm 46:10  “Be still, and know that I am God…”

Welcome May!

My favorite spring month has finally dawned…and its opening show is as breathtaking  as always!

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Yesterday opened up the beauty with sunshine and wonderfully mild temperatures.  I had much to do-a shared vegetable garden to be planted at my sisters- so I was not planning to linger long over coffee and nature-gazing.  Then my eyes spotted this sun bather (below) in the creek…

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that ended any coffee time abruptly as I grabbed my camera and spent a sunny morning outside enjoying the peace of nature while gathering the following pictures…

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Last of the spring daffodils, pansies, and tulips…

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Beginning of the azaleas that we eagerly await each spring…

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Unfurling of my favorite foliage plant, the lovely fern…

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Bleeding hearts blending with azaleas…

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A favorite bird garden…

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Fading lenten rose…

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Beauty of new life in the form of a tiny pine tree, with kayaks in the background holding the promise of future adventures on the creek and more nature to be explored …

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Warm wishes for a beautiful month of May in your corner of the world.

Until next time!

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∼ Jen

Number Four is at the Door….

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…Be this an autumn or a spring

My wisdom loses way

One side of me the nuts are ripe

The other side is May

(from The Ones that Disappeared are Back by Emily Dickinson)

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With our fourth Nor’easter, it’s now apparent that March does indeed intend to go out with a roar!  I’m not complaining, getting to sleep in as school was cancelled, leisurely drink coffee while enjoying spelt-blueberry pancakes, in no rush to be anywhere, is fine with me.

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I’m not sure how the flowers and budding trees will feel about it, but it is what it is, so I decided to capture a few pictures and watch the progress as we have transitioned from morning sleet to now thick flakes, on this second day of spring.

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Above, one of our many squirrels enjoying his fair share of sunflower seeds before the rain turned to snow, and below “red” enjoying some seeds of his own in a different spot…

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red-bellied woodpecker

The picture of the cardinal and finches below is blurred by the window panes, but they are a such a cute trio I had to include them…

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The mourning doves are gathering seeds as the snow falls around them…

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A strange sight to see snow on such vibrant pink….

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Ferns, a fun hiding place for Gabby, seeing yet another snowfall…

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Maybe this will be the last snowfall, who knows….but it’s all beautiful nature just the same.  A very happy day to you all, whatever your weather may be!

Until next time!

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∼ Jen

Morning Memories…January-February

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male and female Eastern towhee

With three Nor’easters in the last several weeks, March has certainly come in like a lion. It still remains to be seen if this transitional month will exit like a lamb-one can only hope!  As I look out my widow, spring is literally budding forth…time for one last look back at this year’s winter memories.

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female Eastern towhee enjoying sunflower seed

American robin, below, enjoying morning sunlight on rocks before getting drink from waterfall…

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Geese oblivious to the icy waters…

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A variety of birds decorate the bare branches like natural ornaments…

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Tufted titmouse enjoying a sunny morning at the feeder…

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Sparrows breakfasting together…

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Grey squirrel gone rogue… enjoying an acorn instead of raiding my bird feeders…

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Male cardinal enjoying what’s left of beauty berries…

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…and posing beautifully on dried hydragenea blooms….

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Downed holly tree, one of a handful that fell in creek in past few months…lots of spring clean up awaits, but on the bright side, our main creek view has greatly increased….

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The hammock became a convenient platform feeder during the deep snows..

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And many other seeds were enjoyed under the protection of a sleeping vine…

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Blue jays continually beautified our landscape….

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The below adorable site I happened to catch one morning made me really glad I have not gotten around to fixing this bird home….

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I was so glad my husband came to get me one morning to watch a flock of robins enjoying the holly tree berries…

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Our bench sat vacant as a silent watcher over the frozen creek and snowy landscape…

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And so, another winter is almost past in our part of the world, and the beauty of spring now begins to bud forth, replacing one natural beauty with another.  Whichever natural tapestry God is weaving in your part of the world, I hope you enjoy the daily show!

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Until next time!

∼Jen

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love…Psalm 143:8