How About a Snow Day?

This is going to be a quick post.  More pics than conversation.  As well it should be.  We finally got a winter storm.  First of the season and for us in Minnesota, that is almost unheard of by the end of February.  It started out yesterday afternoon as a freezing drizzle/sleet.  By nightfall it was all snow.  Big, heavy snowflakes.  Perfect wet stuff to make snowballs and snowmen.  And to down powerlines and cause heart attacks shoveling :(  But we’ll make this a happy post.

My sidekick woke up to a snow day home from school.  In the Twin Cities, we received anywhere from 3 to 15 inches.  My town in the northern suburbs received about 8 or 9.  Almost more snow than we’ve received all season.  I wanted to jump for joy, grab my camera and head out!  Unfortunately, I still had to go to work.  I didn’t get a snow day like her.  I did, however, grab my camera and take some shots before work, at work, and on my lunch hour.  The lighting wasn’t exactly the best, but hell it was still snowing!

The last photo of the trees was submitted to the local news station and it was seen on the air.  However, I missed it :(  Oh well, next time, LOL!

Enjoy!

 

 

To Everything There is a Season…….

“To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under Heaven.”    The Byrds, 1965.  Until I looked up the lyrics of this song, I didn’t know that it was a passage in the bible.   Ecclesiastes 3:1.   Funny the Byrds sang it, LOL.

On my walk today, I thought of the song as I was searching for signs of Spring.  It is only February 17.  Yet I find myself  with Spring Fever.  It wasn’t long ago I was searching for signs of winter.  A different season to photograph.  We have had a very mild winter for Minnesota as I have stated before.  The high was 39, and tomorrow it should be 41.  However, I am not that naïve that I think winter is over.  On the contrary.  February and March are the snowiest months around here.  In a normal winter.  My birthday is at the end of February and I have seen a few snow storms on that day.  Two that I remember ruining my plans, including my 40th Birthday party five years ago, LOL.  We are supposed to get some accumulation on Monday and Tuesday.  Don’t get me wrong, I would really like to get some more snow photos yet this year.  Not to mention, we are so dry. We really need some precipitation.

As I walked the trail, I saw a bit of irony.  Winter hiking trails and cross-country ski signs.  No snow.   The sky was a beautiful blue, finally.

This was my 365 photo for today.  Yeah, I know, I have to post my 365 pics for the last several days.  Tomorrow :)

 

I was looking for the Spring birds to arrive a month early.  Wishful thinking, I know.  I know there has been movement across the counties, some blue birds and other migratory creatures spotted here and there.  But at my favorite park on my favorite trails, the only species I saw today were the Common Crow and Black-Capped Chickadees.  Empty birdhouses waiting for tenant.

The crows were too far off to photograph.  The chickadees, however, seemed to be following me with their sing-song voices, chuckling at me trying to photograph them.  If they would just sit still.  LOL.  Black-Capped Chickadees are residents here all year round.  Scientific name Poecile atricapilius.  I always wonder how something so small can survive winters here.   But they are too cute.  And friendly when they want to be.  They hang out at my sister’s feeders all the time.  They even once landed on my nephew.  I wish I would’ve gotten a shot of that!

 Black Capped Chickadee, on today’s walk.

 A Black Capped Chickadee a couple weeks ago at the refuge

My walk brought me back to last April when I first started my “birding” journey and my Project 365.  At my old job I would walk across the street and sit by the local pond on my lunch hour and watch the birds and ducks sitting on their nests.  I thought I would post a few shots I took back then in honor of the Great American Backyard Bird Count this weekend.  It was prime Spring migrating season and I saw a ton of birds.  I think that is why I’m getting Spring fever.  I want my birds back, and I want them back now!  I was just getting into it.

The Common Grackle.   Like the crow, I don’t think they get enough respect.  Kinda like the Rodney Dangerfields of the bird world.  In Minnesota we pretty much see these all year round.  I think the blueness is pretty.

Red Winged Black Bird.  These guys are loud and obnoxious, but quite pretty.  We see these in the spring, summer and fall.  Mainly, in the spring and summer.  They are always giving us an earful on the refuge.  This is one of the species where the female is so much more different-looking than the male.  See below.  She doesn’t even have red on her wings, LOL.

 Female Red Winged Blackbird

  

Yellow-rumped warbler.  I think these guys look like the “batman” of the bird world.  Or a raccoon.  Love the mask.  Unfortunately, we only see these guys in the spring and fall during migration.  I like the different little warblers.  Cute little guy :)

American Redstart.  This little guy seemed like he was following us around that day.  And I love their singing voice.  Such a beautiful tune!  We only see these in the spring, summer and fall as well.

 Canada Goose and her little goslings.  LOTS of those around here!  All year around, except of course the goslings.  I can’t wait to see babies again! They grow way too fast!  Just like my own, LOL.  A lot of people don’t like the “honkers”, but I do.  I thing they are regal-like.

And last but definitely not least, is a Mallard butt, LOL.  I was in the right place at the right time.  Mallards are plentiful all year round here, there, and mostly everywhere!

Hope you enjoyed my trip down the hiking path today AND down memory lane from last spring.  Hopefully, on Sunday we will be able to partake in the backyard bird count.  My sidekick and I are going to try a new park close to home, following the river, with nice hiking trails, so I am told.  Eagles, perhaps?  Won’t know what is around the bend for us.

Have a great weekend, all!

Regret

I have to warn you this post is not about nature or photography for that matter.  Well, in a sense I guess it is.  I thought today would be the perfect day for the regret challenge, as I loathe the “holiday” and all that goes with it.  Am I bitter?  Probably.

A week and a half before my 45th birthday I have regrets.  Not as many as alot of other 45 year olds.  But a few.  I regret the day I was married, isn’t that horrible?  But I do not regret anything about my beautiful “sidekick” being born.  He gave her to me and I will forever be grateful to him for my best blessing.  The best day of my life was the day she was born, and I continue to enjoy her, even if she is a 13 year old two-headed teenaged monster now.  I also regret not spending more time with my Grandma and other relatives before they died suddenly.

I am definitely feeling  regret today.  If only Valentine’s Day had a “bah humbug” I’d be voicing it.  My latest regret involves a recent friendship that I cherished and have had to let go.  I can’t take back what happened, what was said or what was felt.  If I knew then what I know now, I might’ve done or said things differently but in the end, the outcome would’ve been the same.  Both hiding from our pasts.   Neither wanting nothing from the other but friendship.   Neither wanting to bend.   Both deathly afraid of the opposite sex for obvious reasons.  Both needing someone to hold on to, but not wanting to hold on to our friendship.

I know he stays away because he thinks he’s being noble.  Doesn’t want anything to do with me he says.  And that’s okay.  That tells me he does have a conscience.  He told me I deserved better, and yes I do deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, and definitely honesty.  I have come to realize that.  And I also figured out no one can help him but himself.  He is his own worst enemy and will realize it some day.  However, he is the one who urged me to start this blog, funny I started it much too late.  He also introduced me to the refuge and was always supportive of me and my photograpy.  And I do and have thanked him for that.  I feel a void in that regard.

I have pretty much moved on.  It’s days like today that bring it back, though.  I have to admit I feel an emptiness in my heart, but it gets better every day.  You can’t just throw away the camaraderie, laughter, conversation and fun.  Well, I can’t anyway.  Trying to forget someone you have known and cared about for 20 years is like trying to remember someone you never knew.  It just doesn’t happen.  Forgiving is the easy part.  Forgetting, not so much.   We had grown closer the last 2-1/2 years, but apparently not close enough to salvage the friendship.  I pray for strength and I know I am getting stronger every day.  And when I write about it, it makes me feel so much better.  That is why I decided to use this regret for the challenge.  Therapy.

I often wonder if he sees my eagle pictures or ever thinks about me, but I know deep down in my heart that he doesn’t.  And I can’t think of that.  You do what you do and you pay for your sins and there’s no such thing as what might have been, it’s a waist of time.  Drive you out of your mind.  Tim McGraw, very smart man, LOL.

The regrets I have about this particular friendship are just a couple.  How it ended, and why it had to end at all.  I am sure I will never know, barring some type of miracle. LOL.  When you get to be my age, true friends are few and far between.  It’s sad what it came to, and in the end, is it really for the best?   I saw him from a distance a couple weeks ago.  My sidekick and I saw him at the same time and I hid before he could see me.  She wanted to go up to him and give him a piece of her mind.  But I wouldn’t let her.  She’s wanted to give him a piece of her mind for months.  I told her she has to be the bigger person and just walk away.  I also told her if she ever ran into him she had better be polite, LOL.  I am hoping that there’s not a next time, my heart dropped to my stomach.  However, I am also aware that this world is too small for it not to happen again, we have mutual friends and have a bit of a history.  But I know I am stronger and can take it.  “Bring it” is what I say.

I heard an old James Taylor song the other day.  You know how it is, when a song or poem, quote, etc., takes us back to a certain person, place or time.  “Oh, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain.  I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end.  I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend.  But I always thought that I’d see you again.”

God doesn’t give you the people you want, he gives you the people you need.  To help you, to hurt you, to leave you, to love you and to make you the person you were meant to be.

Winterfest

Finally, a little time to post our day at Winterfest.  Every year the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge hosts Fall Festival and Winterfest.  This was our first year at winterfest.  A month ago, it advertised snowshoeing nature hikes, horse-drawn sleigh rides, learning about quinzhee huts, winter survival and more.  The National Audobon Society local chapter was to have four birds, three owls and the American Kestrel.  I was looking forward to hiking, snowshoeing and the kestrel, along with the barred owl.  Things didn’t go as planned that day.  However, we made the most of it and it turned out to be a good time.

That day we woke up to hoarfrost.  I have been waiting all winter for it.  Any snow we had melted about a week before Winterfest.  We knew the snowshoeing would be cancelled, but they still would have hiking.  However, just getting out the door was a chore that morning.  Everything went wrong.  Plus, we had to pick up a friend on the way.

I stopped and got a couple pics of the hoarfrost on the way as well.  Not as good as I wanted and places I wanted, but had to get to the “show” LOL.   I figure if I am taking pictures of nature,  I should start explaining a bit more of what it is I am taking.   I know a lot of people do not get to see the hoarfrost in the regions they live in.  It only really happens once or twice a season when the weather conditions in the air allow.  The definition that I Googled of hoarfrost:

The deposit of ice crystals on objects exposed to the free air, such as grass blades, tree branches, or leaves. It is formed by direct condensation of water vapour to ice at temperatures below freezing and occurs when air is brought to its frost point by cooling. Hoarfrost is formed by a process analogous to that by which dew is formed on similar objects, except that, in the case of dew, the saturation point of the air mass is above freezing. The occurrence of temperatures below 0 C (32 F) is not enough to guarantee the formation of hoarfrost. Additionally, the air must be initially damp enough so that when cooled it reaches saturation, and any additional cooling will cause condensation to occur.

In my words, just plain beautiful.  However, it only lasts through the morning and as the sun shines down upon us, melts the frost so that by noon it is almost gone.  We didn’t get out of the house that morning until around 11:00am.  I should’ve gotten up earlier, but I didn’t.  And that’s the way it goes, LOL.  I had a couple people calling me and leaving me voice mails “did you get the hoarfrost this morning?”

When we arrived at the refuge, we headed for the bird tent right away.  The Barred Owl and the Eastern Screech Owl were in attendance at that time.   Evidently, they were going to change them out hourly with the Great Horned Owl and American Kestrel.  The barred owl is one of my favorites and one of the reasons I wanted to attend Winterfest.  I have never seen one in the wild.  In fact, this is the first one I’ve seen.  I thought it would be bigger to be honest.  These creatures are found all over Canada, south to Northern California and the Midwest/Eastern United States.  Their habitat is low, wet woods and swampy forests.  It is most often seen by those who seek it out in its dark retreat.   They are about 20″ tall and with a wingspan can get to over 3 feet wide..  Kinda funny, ask anyone who has heard one and they will say they sound like they are saying “Who cooks for you..Who cooks for you now” LOL.  This particular one had had a broken wing and was found by the Audubon Society, fixed up and was not able to be released back into the wild.

Barred Owl

The Eastern Screech Owl was another new one for me.  So cute.  This one had a “mental” problem. Although I don’t know how they know that, LOL.  He was so cute.  Just a tiny bit of a thing.  Eastern Screech Owls are found mostly in the Eastern/Middle United States from Canada to Texas, in open deciduous woods, wooddlots, suburban areas, lakeshores and old orchards.  They are almost always nocturnal, so getting a chance to see them during the day is a real treat.  They are only about 10″ tall.  They will often strike unsuspecting humans on the head as they pass nearby at night.  Yikes!

Eastern Screech Owl

We left the birds with a promise to return to see the Great Horned Owl and the American Kestrel in an hour.  We then headed to the nature booths.  First stop was a bird feeder information booth, what to feed the birds when, what type of birdhouses work best, etc.  We learned how to make a thistle feeder out of a plastic soda pop bottle.  Future craft item for my sidekick, LOL.

Then it was on to making tracks in the sand.  They had a small sand box set up, with stamps of foot prints of mammals and birds that live on the refuge.  The girls stamped foot prints of eagles, coyote, and other animals.  There was also a booth we stopped at with different types of fur skins.  Fox, coyote, otter, etc.  The kids could feel the different textures and see the sizes of the animals.  My sidekick thoroughly enjoyed herself that day.  I’m so fortunate that she is interested in nature and animals.  I like to find (free) stuff for us to do that is nature-related.  Whether it be hikes, bird tours, etc.  The refuge has so much to offer and so close to home.

We headed to the food tent next, they were offering hot chocolate, coffee, hot dogs, soda, and cake.  The girls didn’t really want to eat, but spotted a craft table where the kids were making pinecone bird feeders.  Score.   The girls grabbed a pinecone, spread peanut butter all over it, and rolled it in bird seed.  Wala.  A pinecone bird feeder.

Since there was no snow on the ground, the horse-drawn sleigh ride had turned into a horse-drawn wagon ride.  Same one we went on for Fall Festival.  However, these were different horses.  A lot of the snow-related activities were cancelled, so that left the wagon ride as the major event.  We stood in line for over an hour.  But it was well worth it.  Kinda funny, these photos I took of another wagon ride while waiting in line.  A co-worker of mine ended up being on this ride with his family.  I was “stalking” him, LOL.  We also saw two bald eagles and a hawk flying overhead while standing in line, but much too far away to take a photo.

Two Percheron horses pulled the wagon.  Major and Monty.  Beautiful horses.  On the ride, a refuge friend told us about the refuge and what it’s all about.  He told me I looked familiar, and I told him I had seen him on many refuge excursions.  He said “Are you Sheila?”  I answered, “Why, yes, yes I am.”  He then proceeded to tell me how he and the other volunteers enjoy my photos that I occasionally upload to the Friends of SNWR Facebook page, and to “keep them coming”.  That really made me swell with pride.

Once the ride was over, we headed back to the bird tent.  I was very disappointed to find out that they had already switched the Great Horned Owl and American Kestrel back to the owls L  and it would be another hour before the were to switch them back again.  We had to take our friend home so we would not be seeing the other birds.   However, a fellow photographer friend of mine, Christopher Franklin, did happen to catch some beautiful photos of these birds and has allowed me to share them with you.  To see his Flicker photostream, click here.

On our way to drop our friend off, we stopped at the refuge headquarters to check out who was at the feeders.  There were some chickadees sharing the feeders with a couple of woodpeckers.  I always get the Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers mixed up.  They are so much alike except really the size.  So Bob Zeller, if you could help me out here, that would be great.  I discovered Bob’s blog, Texas Tweeties,  a couple months ago and LOVE it.  Check it out if you haven’t already.  Some GREAT bird photography on his blog.    I was also saw a Red-Bellied Woodpecker following the other one around and was fortunate enough to get a photo of them together.  The Red-Bellied name cracks me up because the belly isn’t even red.  The head is, LOL.  Still a beautiful bird.

Hoarfrost starting to melt
Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Downy/Hairy Woodpecker and Black-Capped Chickadee
Downy/Hairy Woodpecker and Red-Bellied Woodpecker

All in all, it was a great day at the refuge as usual.  I am getting cabin fever and antsy to see my birds migrating back through.  Hopefully, it will be soon J  We are planning a hike on the Blue Hill Trail again for some time this weekend, weather and time permitting.

Thanks for stopping by, I hope you enjoyed my day as much as we did!