A funny thing happened on the way to find my Project 365 photo today. However, the story will have to wait for another post, as I don’t think I can continue blogging until I tell
the story of how most of this all came about.
In early spring of this year, I was introduced to the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge by a friend. I had just begun to be interested in nature photography. I would go to his house and take pictures of the birds at his feeder and started exploring the woods and pond out in his back yard. Then he told me about the Wildlife Drive on the refuge. 20 years living in this county and I had never been to it. 30,000+ acres of nature and wildlife right under my nose. I drove past it hundreds, if not thousands of times. This same friend is the one who urged me months ago to write a nature/photography blog. Things happen for a reason, but it’s kinda funny how some things work out.
The Wildlife Drive is approximately 7.5 miles of dirt road winding through wetlands, prairie, and woodlands on a small parcel of land on the refuge. It opens in April and closes at the end of October. They close the drive in winter so the eagles can build their nests, mate, and lay their eggs in peace and quiet. The rest of the refuge is open all year round, with areas restricted to the DNR. They also have a couple of hiking trails that I am hoping to make use of this fall and winter.
The first time my 13 year old daughter and I went on the drive was the first day it opened in April. The weather was crappy, cold, and wet. Eagles nests, muskrat huts, Trumpeter Swans, Canada Geese, spring was arriving on the refuge. We were hooked. There are two eagles’ nests
on the drive. I am told 13 on the entire refuge. We watched the eagles soar and watched the female feeding her young through the telescope. Ever since then, we have been on the drive, weather permitting, at least once a week (and sometimes twice). We
went on the Migratory Bird Tour and walked the Blue Hill Trail. We watched the fledglings grow and continue to watch them now.
That is when we proclaimed ourselves “bird dorks”. I had never heard of a Sandhill Crane or a Double-crested Cormorant. We learned all about them on the Wildlife Drive. Beavers, otters and muskrats. We now know the difference between them. You laugh, but it is hard to tell them apart when they are swimming in the water. American Coots and Hooded Morgansers. What are they? Well, they are waterfowl. I actually paid for and downloaded the Audubon Bird/Mammal Guide onto my iPhone. I borrowed some binoculars from people at work. I started using my old 300mm lens and I came
to find out that it IS old. I was not great, and didn’t think I was all that good. But it was practice. I am still practicing. Once in a while I get a great shot. Again, that is the nice
thing about digital. The DELETE button.
When all the babies were born, we had so much fun watching the families. The Trumpeter babies were born in June. They were a bunch of fuzzy gray ducklings. We watched them grow into the beautiful swans they are today. One day we watched an eagle soar above us, coming within 10 feet of my lens. Of course I had the wrong lens on the camera at the time and couldn’t get the shot. However, it was the moment that
counted. It took our breath away. A friend of Baylee’s was with us and said, “What’s all the excitement? It’s just a bird”. And Baylee said, “do you see an Eagle soaring 10 feet from your head every day? I don’ t think so.” The rest of the “outside world” just doesn’t understand.
One of my favorite moments was about a month ago. We were on the drive and I saw an unfamiliar duck-like bird. I asked Baylee what she thought it was. She said “I think that’s a Pied-bellied Grebe”. I turned to her with a very perplexed look on my face and said, “You’re scaring me.” LOL. I mean, a Pied-bellied Grebe? Had I even heard of that? Sure enough, she looked in the guide and that is exactly what it was. She is a bird dork. But don’t tell anyone. “It’s just not cool, Mom”.
I discovered the sunsets on the refuge are beautiful. I discovered I love to go there by myself. I discovered I could sit for hours watching the Trumpeter Swans or even the Canada Geese, and taking in the serenity of nature. I discovered my peaceful place.
And I discovered myself again.