Over the past few months one bird has appeared very prominent in our backyard…the rascally bluejay. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the peanuts I put out to lure him in or the sunflower seeds placed strategically about. Whatever the reason, I’m glad he and his many cohorts are decorating the scenery with their beauty and are affording me many pictures of their antics.
I decided the blue beauty was worthy of his own post and looked through the many pictures I have of him to pair up with the following poem by Emily Dickinson. I hope you enjoy!
The Blue Jay – Poem by Emily Dickinson
No brigadier throughout the year
So civic as the jay.
A neighbor and a warrior too,
With shrill felicity
Pursuing winds that censure us
A February day,
The brother of the universe
Was never blown away.
The snow and he are intimate;
I’ve often seen them play
When heaven looked upon us all
With such severity,
I felt apology were due
To an insulted sky,
Whose pompous frown was nutriment
To their temerity.
The pillow of this daring head
Is pungent evergreens;
His larder — terse and militant —
Unknown, refreshing things;
His character a tonic,
His future a dispute;
Unfair an immortality
That leaves this neighbor out.
– Emily Dickinson
Until next time, if a jay’s in your corner of the world, buy some peanuts to welcome in this fun neighbor!
Those were the words that awakened me from my sound, cozy, oblivious to the -1 degree temperatures outside at 2 a.m. sleep. “What? Are you sure?” Yes, he was sure…and he was, unfortunately, right.
A little back-story on Gabby…
She showed up one hot, summer day at our old home about 6 years ago, emaciated and timid, lurking in a row of trees behind our above-ground pool. My older son was the first to spot her so he named her Gabby. Now, I know the rule about not feeding strays, but I just can’t look at an innocent animal, half-starved, and not offer them a bite to eat. Not sure of her temperament, we put the food down and stayed at a bit of a distance, though we soon found out, that was how she was going to keep us anyhow.
We continued putting food out for Gabby, and she continued to keep her distance. I noticed she would follow me, however, whenever I would go into a certain area of the yard and soon found out why. I was taking care of our pet chickens one afternoon when I felt eyes on me. Amazing how we can sense that, anyhow, I looked up and saw two pairs of the most adorable blue eyes staring back at me through the bushes to my left. Gabby was a mom!
And, what a devoted mom she was! I was ever so glad I ignored the well-intentioned advice to not feed a stray, and she immediately gained my “mom” respect for taking such good care of her kittens even in her half-starved state. As time went on, I continued to feed Gabby, and her kittens, now weaned, would come out to eat as well. Only one of the three would allow me to pet her, and she quickly became my favorite. She was so pretty we named her “Pretty Kitty” and her sister, the shy, feisty one, we named “Bittie.”
Fast forward many months… my precious “Pretty” sadly died and my sweet dog, Princess, was now an accomplice to murder. Gabby was just allowing me to barely touch her, and Bittie, a.k.a. “Miss Pris” or “Fussikins” was slowly warming up. I tried to find homes for the remaining two, as I am more accustomed to dogs, but quickly found out that cats are very hard to find homes for. I got them both neutered, up on their shots, and added them to our menagerie of two dogs, seven chickens, and one rabbit, oh my.
Bittie soon showed she had no street smarts, literally, so was held captive inside for her own good.
She has adjusted quite well…
Gabby would have none of it, so has remained an outside cat to this day.
She earned the nickname “Gladiator Gabby” after we moved into our present home. We have a circular stone area below our back porch, and Gabby soon took to bringing her found objects of prey into the “ring” where she commenced to perform her gladiator show. I and my sons have rescued what we could by a quick knock on the window, and I have to admit, I have secretly cheered as well when a battered mouse or mole escaped her clutches.
Though she is now trusting of us and sweet, her love of hunting and the feeling of freedom has kept her from wanting to ever be confined to a house. Last night, however, I gave her no choice. With temperatures predicted to dip to below zero, I lured her in, untrusting that even her heat lamp could keep her warm in that cold.
I have to wonder if those in the mid-west, or northern states laugh at our reactions to these temperatures and snow. It reminds me of a Texan friend I had while attending college in Missouri, where it snowed in November and the ground remained white until April. On our first snowfall as freshman, we, that is those of us not accustomed to such snow amounts, were sure that all college classes would be cancelled. Not so. Leaving the dorm, my Texas friend fussed and fumed as we carefully picked our steps down the sidewalk to our classes. This was not until after she had called her mother, reporting the un-Godly conditions, that she, her daughter, was forced to face. I’m not sure if she thought her mother could call the college and convince them to cancel classes or if she was just so overwrought she needed to vent…either way, we were soon on our way to face the elements. Now please don’t be offended if you’re from Texas. I love the grit and spunk of Texans, but my dear friend just happened to have a strong sense of fashion, and heels, not snow-shoes (though she didn’t own a pair, thus the dilemma) were more her style.
But, back to Gabby and her 2 a.m. escape. She was put into a large, portable fenced area with a cozy blanket, food, water, litter-box, and a cloth covering to surely keep her from thoughts of escaping to wander the house. She has, in the past, “claimed” a piece of furniture in a way that neither I nor the furniture appreciated, thus the enclosure. Unfortunately, the fence was no obstacle for Gabby, and in the wee hours of the morning she was off to find another couch.
After coaxing her back into her enclosure, my son and I were quite the early-morning team of “walking” the fence to the nearest bathroom, with Gabby following along inside. Despite her howls of protests, and a few more escapes, she, and I, eventually fell back into sleep. I, dreaming of warmer days, and she, I’m sure, of future outdoor adventures.
Today I woke to -4 degree windchill, but it warmed up to a big °15 by 2:00. School is cancelled for a third day tomorrow, and I’m off to get a much needed 2nd cup of coffee. Gabby got her way and made it out today to play in the snow and has refused all invitations to come back inside, sigh. She is a gladiator afterall.
Christmas decorations have been put away and the New Year has cheerfully been rung in around the world…now to mentally adjust to the new date of 2018. I can still remember back in high school when we had an assignment on what we thought the year 2000 would be like….back then, that was like trying to imagine living in outer space. Eighteen years into this millennium and it still sometimes feels surreal to me.
We had our first snowstorm of the season in early December which gave me some beautiful pictures to look back on. As I sit writing this, we are in the midst of our first blizzard, dubbed a “bomb cyclone.” Thankfully, we have not lost power, and I have been baking off and on for two days. Something about snowstorms puts me in the baking mood, which my family always appreciates.
I was out early the day after the December snowfall taking pictures before I even had my morning coffee….for me that’s saying a lot. I wanted to get some pics before Princess and the neighbor’s dogs started leaving their tracks.
Something about the morning after a freshly fallen snow is just magical.
The snow was the kind that clung to the branches, and the snow-laden limbs overhanging the creek were indeed picturesque.
I had plenty of bird food, with one area in particular resembling a southern smorgasbord, minus the grits, of course. Between the sunflower seed, peanuts, a variety of suet cakes and mealworms I was a shoo-in for birder of the neighborhood.
Unfortunately, it has also become a natural hunting ground for the neighbor’s cats and at least one hawk. I try to keep everything in as safe an area as possible for them, which can be a challenge… a place with no hiding spots for the furry intruders but with a covered brush area for the ground feeders, to hopefully hide from dastardly Mr. Hawk.
Whenever I see the little dark-eyed junco around the feeders, I know a snow is in the near future-he certainly lives up to his nick-name “snowbird.”
He was caught below doing his happy little “snow victory dance.”
This is a good article about how to welcome the little guy and other wintering birds that may come to your area.
The snow only lasted a few days before the weather warmed up, only to plunge us into a bitter cold streak a week later. The birds kept me entertained as the cold brought them to the feeders early each day.
The secret to keeping blue jays happy and continually coming back is found in the power of the peanut!
Though the male cardinal is known for his beauty, I find the female equally beautiful…
The little group of finches gathered together at the feeder one morning reminded me of little old men meeting up at a country store to gab over breakfast…
The wood thrush is a rarely seen visitor, but he makes his presence known by his hopping about and flinging through the leaves so violently with its beak it’s a wonder he doesn’t give himself whiplash.
Besides birds, the squirrels are always good for a show, and I really don’t mind them raiding the bird feeders or grabbing the jay’s peanuts.
He was not the only wild mammal to visit our yard…before I had barely opened my eyes one morning I spied a fox trotting off with something in its mouth. I was relieved to see it wasn’t my cat but a little sad to think one of my squirrels had just become his breakfast.
The geese didn’t seem to mind the frigid water temperatures and they delight me each morning as they honk their goodbyes when leaving the peninsula. They don’t wander into our section of the creek often, so I enjoy it when they do.
I end with a morning view from our anniversary getaway. The deck was obviously too cold to enjoy, but the scenery was well worth waking up to.
I hope my dear blogging friends going through the blizzard with me are staying warm and cozy and enjoying the beauty of the snow and the wildlife it highlights.
Until next time,
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love…Psalm 143:8
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.
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.
Woodpeckers like these are the reason I ask my husband to leave the smaller dead trees on our property standing.
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.
Taking a break from gymnastics….
The squirrels enjoyed raiding the peanuts and sunflower seeds from the bird-feeders…
Downy woodpecker is a frequent visitor to the bird feeder area, especially enjoying the suet…
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
Until next time, may you have many memorable nature moments as well.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love…Psalm 143:8
October – and the skies are cool and gray O’er stubbles emptied of their latest sheaf, Bare meadow, and the slowly falling leaf. The dignity of woods in rich decay Accords full well with this majestic grief That clothes our solemn purple hills to-day, Whose afternoon is hush’d, and wintry brief Only a robin sings from any spray.
And night sends up her pale cold moon, and spills White mist around the hollows of the hills, Phantoms of firth or lake; the peasant sees His cot and stockyard, with the homestead trees, Islanded; but no foolish terror thrills His perfect harvesting; he sleeps at ease.
I have enjoyed reading many Autumn poems this season, and it would be interesting to know, of the four seasons, just which one has inspired more poets.
While each season holds its own special enchantment, fall definitely has a magic of its own…the cool, misty mornings; later sunrises, earlier sunsets; trees bedecked in jeweled tones; leaves dancing on the breeze before floating gently to the ground, scents of smokey fireplaces drifting in the night air; outings to pumpkin patches and wandering through corn mazes, while pumpkins, gourds and mums decorate the landscape.
For this post, I simply wanted to share some of my favorite fall pictures, past and present. I hope you enjoy!
The above picture of the snail posed perfectly on the pumpkin greeted me as I stepped outside one crisp, fall morning.
Mature trees lining the streets make fall an especially favorite time for walks….
A pair of geese enjoyed a few hours on a fallen log one autumn afternoon…
and my buddy “Harold” remained longer than expected as we kayaked into view another fall day…
Fall colors through the window of a favorite reading spot…
Green makes way for fiery oranges, yellows and reds …
Geese honk their arrival in the evenings as they rest for the night on the peninsula, and at a favorite park during the day they glide over then land with a splash…
“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
– Albert Camus
How does a landscape go from beautiful to spectacularly beautiful…..it gets clothed in the magnificent colors of that breathtaking season we call fall.
In the summer, my son and I were able to enjoy some of the natural beauty the picturesque state of West Virginia has to offer… I shared a post with some of our highlights here. I was once again able to enjoy its beauty, but this time in its fall glory, on my yearly, girl’s-weekend getaway with a few treasured friends. In this post I’ve gathered some pictures from that trip and also a few from our past fall trips; I hope you enjoy!
Trails were marked with a kaleidoscope of colors and leaves decorated fern, moss and rocks like nature’s confetti.
They softened the path as we walked and the ones that didn’t make it to the ground graced the evergreens like natural Christmas ornaments.
The countryside was decked out in all its splendor…
while fields of gold nourished the lingering butterflies.
Dolly Sods was a mosaic of colors resembling nature’s quilt on one side…
while showing off its grandeur, tinged in autumnal hues, on the mountainside.
The many waterfalls and creeks in this state are only that much more scenic when fall is in the air…
Mountains, valleys, creeks and rolling pastures, Autumn in West Virginia is simply spectacular!
A special thanks to our husbands for, once again, manning the “home front” while your wives hiked the trails!
As in the last post, pictures of West Virginia wouldn’t seem complete without its most famous song…enjoy!!
An accumulation of a lifetime of memories does create a musical score that we can assess from an artistic if not scientific perspective. Each happy memory generates a beat of minor joy that when strung together form the musical notes demarking a person’s prosodic inner tune.”
― Kilroy J. Oldster, Dead Toad Scrolls
One of my favorite places to visit in our area is the local park. I have taken my sons there since before they could walk and have fond memories from my own visits there as a child. There were family picnics, outings with my mom and grandmom, racing around the top of the big, brick, circular wall-which is still there-and sledding down its big hill with a send-off from my dad in the wintertime. It has, of course, changed some over the years, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the gift of memories and nature it still provides.
When my sons were young, I made it a habit to turn necessary appointments in the area into fun outings by picking up lunch afterwards and heading to the park to picnic with the geese and ducks. I have many happy memories of my two little boys feeding bits of their lunches to the geese and then running along side them squealing and playing.
Those outings, like many things, have sadly ended as my sons have grown, but I managed to squeeze in one more just before school began this year with my youngest.
As usual, we were greeted by the ducks like long-lost friends. We know better than to be flattered as we are well aware they are excited about the scent of our curly fries and not so much us. We can no longer feed them, as it is now forbidden, but that doesn’t stop them from coming close to get a whiff and pose for pictures.
On this particular afternoon the birds seemed to be quite noticeable, so I was able to get many photographs of them as well as the waterfowl…I found this robin very agreeable to a photo session. I had no idea how different our American robin is from the European robin until I saw one posted on the blog 30daysofwildparenting. For the absolute cutest picture of a robin ever, check out his picture here. I actually thought it was fake at first glance….it is seriously adorable!
This cardinal was in a tree just over a path we took, and he was content to sit and preen while I took dozens of pictures. It’s obvious these birds are used to humans because the cardinals in my yard fly away at the slightest movement.
Cardinals are one of my favorite birds… besides being beautiful, they are very attentive parents sharing the duties of nest-building, feeding and training their young. They are also very docile at the feeders, unlike mockingbirds and feisty little hummingbirds.
We ate our lunch on a quiet bench in a shaded area with this tree directly in front of us. If I was in a fantasy world, I would swear this massive, barked image with leaf bangs was watching us…it did bear a striking resemblance to Treebeard!
After wandering the park for a bit, we ended our outing by the river and enjoyed one last look at the ducks before heading home.
Another beautiful day to add to the precious memory book of life….
August has passed, and yet summer continues by force to grow days. They sprout secretly between the chapters of the year, covertly included between its pages.
Jonathan Safran Foer
August seems very much to me like March in that it “comes in like a lion and out like a lamb.” The hot, humid days slowly turn to cooler mornings and evenings, and time to linger outside is welcoming once again. I have collected some of my morning time pictures to share from this last month of summer, sad to see the blooms prepare to leave but excited for the glorious season of fall that will soon be upon us.
As soon as the humidity that slapped me like a wet blanket disappeared, I once again ventured out for mornings on the porch and saw some old friends…
I enjoyed the flowering hostas, liriope, and marigolds as they put on their final show…
I also noticed this little guy come out of the shadows when he lunged for some creeping insect passing by-picture was taken while he was enjoying his meal…
My feathered friends were more visible after I refilled the bird feeders. I leave them empty for June and July so they can help control the insects and teach the young how to feed from nature, but… I hate doing it. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and was ever so glad to give in and fill them. Also, the migrating birds will need to have food stations along their travels, at least that’s what I tell myself.
The first to arrive were the chickadees and tufted titmice, with the cardinals and finches following soon after, the latter two still donning their bright courting colors…someone needs to break the news to them.
I also cleaned and refilled the hummingbird feeders one last time before they take off on their long migratory flight south, some travelling as far as 900 miles. One morning I was treated to observe this juvenile male sitting on a hydrangea branch preening himself outside my bedroom window. The red dot visible on his neck in the picture on the left is the indicator that it is a male juvenile ruby-throated hummer.
red dot on neck indicates juvenile male
This summer’s group has been a rather feisty and mischievous bunch….I actually noticed one chase a peacefully munching titmouse off of the bird feeder and into a nearby tree! Of course, they are constantly giving each other chase through the yard, and their aeronautical feats never cease to amaze me.
The squirrels have yet to notice the feeders have been filled or they are simply off hiding their store of winter nuts. I’m convinced the nut-hiding is just for show as they eat their fill of bird food each winter (and spring, summer, fall) instead. Either way, they are still entertaining me during my coffee time.
The bird pictured above in the grass is, I believe, a summer tanager. I just happened to notice his head pop up but was not able to get any good pictures of it when it flew off to a nearby tree.
I also noticed the head pop up of a chickadee having a good splash in the bird bath on the same morning…
With the cooler days, I have once again enjoyed my daily walks…crepe myrtles, wild daisies, and even tasseled grass make the walk that much more beautiful…
I even happened upon some “silver dollars” on one of my morning strolls…
My son shared the below picture he took one morning…a picture of days and morning memories long gone by…
Opening the blinds on another morning gave view to this unexpected and delightful sight….
These Beautyberry are my favorite fall bushes and I look so forward to them blooming each year. Besides being gorgeous, they are a wonderful feast for some species of birds.
I will end with the first glimpses of fall color I observed peeking through a sunlit tree by the creek…
and a tiny damselfly on a favorite hanging plant, the fiery orange begonia…
It’s been a summer filled with many kinds of beauty-now, onto my much longed for season…fall!
Until next time!
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love…Psalm 143:8
Younger than the mountains, Blowin’ like the breeze.”
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.
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.
Although Blackwater Falls (pictured above) is probably the biggest attraction, we preferred the idyllic views of:
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.
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:
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.
summer before senior year
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!
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.
Queen Annes Lace
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.
After a hike at dusk one evening, we saw this adorable woodland creature…
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.
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!
“Why not seize the pleasure at once? — How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation!”
― Jane Austen, Emma
It was 7:30 at night, the after-dinner mess was mostly cleaned up, and I was joining my younger son on the porch for conversation and relaxation. After that, my big plans for the night were pajamas and maybe an HGTV recording. Then, out of the blue he asks, “Want to go for a kayak ride?”
That was the last thing I expected to come out of his mouth, and truthfully one of the last things I wanted to do. It had been a busy day, and my pajamas were calling my name! I could think of other reasons as well….like dusk was smorgasbord time for mosquitos and, well, I had just downed about 10 ounces of vegetable juice, enough said.
It took me all of about three seconds, though, to dismiss those thoughts and head for the paddles! Many of my fondest memories have been spur-of-the-moment ideas with those I love…so many memories I would have missed had I reacted “logically” or dismissed because of not wanting to leave my momentary comfort.
With that in mind, I rounded up Princess-who does love a good paddleboard ride-grabbed the camera, fortified the mosquito spray with extra cedarwood and lavender, and off we went!
As someone once said, “Spontaneity is the best kind of adventure,” and I, for one, wholeheartedly agree!