Category Archives: Project 365

The Eagle’s Nest

Not exaggerating, I pretty much see an eagle almost every day. If not, then every other day.  It is still breathtaking.  It is still beautiful.  Every day.  My sidekick and I are self-proclaimed bird nerds.  The Bald Eagle is my favorite of all.  Hers, the Sandhill Crane.

I have taken quite a few photos of eagles in the last few years.  Not all perfect, but all were real.  At the local wildlife refuge with the raptor center booth, as well as in the wild.  We have taken a trip down to the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota and viewed beautiful eagles, both at the center and in the wild, including our first Golden Eagle. I have posted several of these photos before and had my own posts on the Eagle Center and the refuge, but thought them appropriate for this post.

Eagles in Red Wing
Eagles in Red Wing
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Juvenile Bald Eagle flying over the refuge
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Angel, a Bald Eagle at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, Minnesota
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Eagle’s nest on the refuge drive
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Bald Eagles in Red Wing, Minnesota
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Bald Eagle at the refuge
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Sunset with my eagle friends on the refuge
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Looking over the Mississippi for lunch. This was a couple of years ago in the part of the river near the nest. This may be one of “the” eagles :)
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One-eyed Bald Eagle at a Raptor Center booth at the refuge.
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Bald Eagle at the Raptor Center booth at the refuge
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Columbia, a Bald Eagle at the National Eagle Center
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Our first (and only) Golden Eagle at the National Eagle Center
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Looking for lunch over the river
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Again, at the refuge. I think this is one of my first pictures on the refuge.

 

We fell in love with the Decorah eagles online just like everyone else.  We have watched them build their families (tensing up every time those little ones get to the edge just about falling when mom nudges them back in) and the eaglets leave their nests every year, and were heartbroken when they built a new nest last year and we couldn’t watch them.  I even got my mom addicted to watching them on her laptop, before she passed away. We are so excited and hopeful that we will be able to watch the new nest this year.

We also watched our own drama unfold right here in Minnesota when the little eaglet, Harmon, got his leg stuck in his nest and the Raptor Center and Minnesota DNR intervened to help him out.  When he was returned to the nest, we were so sad hearing him crying for his mom at night to come back and take care of him. We were glued to the computer, and just when it seemed like mom was never going to return, we again cried. Tears of joy this time, as mom returned to take care of little Harmon and continued to watch him grow and leave the nest. Technology, eh?

I do feel very fortunate that I live in an area where Bald Eagles are pretty common.  My little town butts up against the Mississippi, and the eagles take advantage. It is prime real estate for them as a nesting spot and food source.  But just because they are common, doesn’t mean I take them for granted.

I first saw the eagle’s nest a couple of years ago in the winter of 2011.  Purely by accident, I must say.  Driving around with my sidekick and her friend, I made a wrong turn and ended up at the end of a dead end along the river in a residential neighborhood.  Yes, I’ve lived in this town for 20 years.  Yes, I’m a woman driver.  Straight ahead was a huge eagle’s nest.  I was proud of my sidekick, who identified it right away.  She is a bird nerd, but only her close friends know it.  At 15, it’s just not cool, Mom.  We sat and wondered if it was active, how long it had been there, was it abandoned?  It sat on private property and we could only view it from the car.  After that day, I would check in from time to time, not very often and not ever seeing an eagle to go along with the nest.

Then last summer, the property owner donated a few acres to the city.  The city decided to turn the land into a nature preserve.  I remember thinking in the back of my head “I wonder if that is the area where the eagle’s nest is?”

After so much hype in our little town with a groundbreaking ceremony and the former property owners present, the nature preserve opened, and Bailey Point Nature Preserve was born. Those of you who know my sidekick will find that fitting, although she will say it is spelled wrong :) We were at the park the second night it  opened at the end of August..  Only because we had previous plans the first night (insert winky face here).

A lot of the area is inaccessible.  Just because it is the river and several islands.  Across one of the thru-ways is a WMA.  On the opposite side of the park is a residential neighborhood.  We pulled into the small parking lot (which was basically the dead end I previously mentioned) and had a hard time finding the eagle’s nest.  Of course, it was the end of summer and all the trees were full of green leaves and there was a lot of tall grass.  It had been a while and we really couldn’t remember where we had seen it.  The park consists of a few intertwining walking trails.  Period.  No play area.  No picnic tables.  No BBQ’s. Perfect.

Since it was summer, the bugs were also out.  We headed down the first walking trail and rounded the bend and saw the eagles nest just to the left in a tree.  No eagles, but it was summer and they don’t always “hang at home” once the kids leave the nest  :)  We followed a couple of trails, enjoyed the nest, other birds, the river and nature in general.   We were excited to go back.  I was looking forward to frequenting this park.

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Someone left this behind. Wonder who it was?
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Buzzing on wildflowers
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“The” Eagle’s Nest
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Pretty sun through the trees
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Wildflowers on the river
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Wildflowers
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Path at Bailey Point Park Reserve

 

 

 

 

Two days later, we were back and saw a juvenile eagle sitting near the nest.  A previous fledgling, perhaps?  I didn’t even know if the nest was active.

Juvenile Bald Eagle

Juvenile Bald Eagle

 After this visit and a few more photos, I wrote a review of the park that was published in the local paper, including the juvenile eagle photo.  I was hoping I could find that online but I can’t.  Now I wish I would’ve taken a photo.  After that, I returned here and there.  Fall turned out to be the busiest we have had in a long time with my portrait photography and her dance team, and we just couldn’t find the time to get back.

With the dance team season over, and not a lot of people wanting to get family photos in -30 below weather, we have now again hit a slow time.  A few weeks ago I pulled into the park’s parking lot after work.  It was late in the day, but I did grab this cell phone pic of the sunset.

Sunset at Bailey Point
Sunset at Bailey Point

I saw one lone eagle sitting in a branch along side the nest.  Wondering where it’s mate was?  Eagles mate for life, as a lot of wildlife do.  Humans should take note of wildlife habits.  Although the female Black Widow spider kills it’s mate so maybe that’s not the best advice.

I returned a few days later on my lunch break and was disappointed the trails were not set up for walking.  After all the snow we have gotten, I would’ve needed snowshoes.  So I sat in the parking lot, listening and watching the birds, and took photographs of the usual winter suspects.  Black-Capped Chickadees, Woodpeckers, Nuthatches and Blue Jays, with the occasional sound of a Northern Cardinal off in the distance.  No sign of the eagle.

Same thing a couple of days later, I again went after work, and again one lone eagle sat in the tree before sunset.  I started to think maybe the mate wouldn’t return.  Had it died?  I know that part of the river is still frozen. Unusually so, as it has been open there in the winter for several years. But it has not been this bitterly cold in a very long time.  I had heard that there were eagles that had to go far down river for open water and food.

A couple of weeks ago I pulled in and was delighted to find that the trails had been groomed for walking!  It was a balmy 3 degrees above and I said to myself, “Why not?”  I grabbed my outdoor gear and camera and went for a walk.  No eagles that day, but snow and scenery along the river.

Day 50
Downy Woodpecker
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Eagle’s nest off in the distance
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Sad, but I thought a beautiful place right on the river for a resting place?
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Frozen river on this day.
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A bench overlooking the river. Just a bench :)
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Red Bellied Woodpecker

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Last week, it was an awesome 18 degrees and I FINALLY saw two eagles.  One was on a branch, and the other was sitting in the nest.  I was thrilled!  For a minute, I wondered if there were eggs, as mid to late February is when they should start mating and laying eggs.  But then she flew out of the nest for a bit and came back with some sticks.  Tidying up the homestead, getting ready?  Then they both flew off talking to each other to find some lunch, I’m sure.  I realized then there were no eggs yet, as they would never have left them unattended.

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While my camera was trying to zoom in and get a flight shot of one of them, out of my peripheral vision I saw movement and heard scrambling.  I had just taken a photo of deer tracks on the trail shortly before I saw the eagles.  Low and behold there were two deer running across the trail in front of me.  Seriously?!  And my camera was set on flying eagles, not frolicking deer.  And I call myself a photographer?  LOL.  They stopped for a second and looked at me through the woods and went running off.

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My town’s water tower from the edge of the park. Nice view!

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On my way back to the car, I ran into a woman walking her dog and we exchanged the normal pleasantries.  I told her that I had seen a couple of deer and that there had been two eagles in the tree.  She told me that was great, that she hadn’t seen both lately because they must be going further down for food sources since the river was frozen.  I asked if she knew if it was an active nest and she said yes, it’s been active for the last 3 or 4 years :)

I was excited, but yet my mind started wandering to the “I wonder’s”. I wonder if the eagles flew off because they were afraid of me?  I wonder if the presence of people in the park will affect their ability to raise young, or even lay eggs?  If she does, I wonder if she will stay on the nest like she is supposed to, or fly off at the first sign of people?  Then I remembered the Decorah eagles had their nest on a farm.  There were several people and other animals on the farm.

The nest is at a great location, the eagles have a great resource in the river and on the land with rodents.  I can’t measure distance to save my soul, but it is a ways off of the walking trail.  In plain sight, but off.  I just hope stupid little boys won’t get curious and try climbing the tree (no offense to the stupid little boys or the ones who used to be ;)) Maybe a sign is in order.  STAY ON THE TRAIL or some such.  Hmmm…wheels are turning on that one.  Wait…one saved raptor at a time (inside joke which I will share with you all some day)!

At any rate, I have been back a couple of times since then.  Once over the weekend with my sidekick who had an assignment to finish for her photography class.  I can’t believe she brought home a Nikon!  Geesh, some people!  (again, friendly banter to the Nikon users, I am a Canon gal myself).

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A couple of Trumpeters on the river. Which is the same scene, by the way, from the frozen river above. 12 days difference.
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My sidekick. Obviously, dance is not too far away from her mind. Ever.

 

And then again today, where I again saw both eagles in the park.  Along with several Woodpeckers, a few Trumpeter Swans, Blue Jays galore, Black-Capped Chickadees, and a couple of Golden Eyes on the river.  The Cardinal is heard, but not seen, as usual.  My nemesis bird.  That, and the elusive Pileated Woodpecker.

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Another of the nest and one eagle. The other eagle was at the end of the path.
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Again, same view, same swans. Two days later at 39 degrees. What a difference a few days means.

 

So I finally blogged about the eagles.  To get my mind off of another bird for a while.

Hope you enjoy my photos, I am looking forward to sharing more eagle photos with you!

Have a great week and enjoy the warmup. For now!

Sheila

The Frozen North

It has been a long and cold January.  One of the coldest winters for us ever, and one for the record books.  The Governor closed schools on at the beginning of January for the first time since 1998, because of the cold.  The temperature was -28 below with a wind chill of -44 below when I woke up that morning.  Individual school districts closed the next day on their own, the temps not being much better.  Last week, districts were once again closed on Thursday.  This week, yesterday and today, which interfered with my sidekick’s final exams of the semester.  Temps have been in the upper teens below zero with wind chills in the 20’s and 30’s below.

This almost NEVER happens.  As a kid, I remember having snow days.  But I NEVER remember missing school because of the cold.  Yes, we get way below zero with an average of 24-25 below zero temps each winter.  You can see the statistics here in this article.  The article names the Twin Cities the coldest city/cities in the U.S.  I live about 30 miles NW of the Twin Cities.  About average, the temps are 5-10 degrees colder than what the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport reads.  And when it has warmed up the 1 or 2 days, it has snowed.  We have a lot of snow already this year.  It’s not even the snowiest month yet.

Don’t get me wrong.  I like winter.  I love the snow.  I like it more when it hovers between 20 and 30 ABOVE 0.  I go for winter photo walks all the time. We’ve hiked in 10 degree weather. We’ve bundled up and gone to the refuge Winterfest two years in a row, last year it was 5 above.  I drove for three years without heat in my Blazer.  I got my beautiful Snowy Owl pick in frigid temps.  I’m not a wimp by any means.  That being said, it’s cold.  Damn cold.  Except for having to go to work and to the gym, and the “necessary” grocery store runs and dance invitationals, we haven’t been out much.  And we’ve been drinking a lot of hot chocolate!

Cabin fever made me venture out beyond work today.  Just for a bit on my lunch hour.  It was a balmy -9 below with -22 below wind chill.  I drove around my town  (I will be doing a blog about my town all on its own soon) getting pics of this and that in the cold.  A few Golden Eyes and swans down by the river, but took off when they saw me approaching.  Even a bunch of robins puffed up in a tree.  Too far away to photograph.

But I got a few things, some I didn’t have to get out of my car for.  I have also added some of the photos that I have taken over the past couple weeks for my Project 365, mixed in with my Sunday Snippets that I have not posted.

Looking at 22 degrees ABOVE zero tomorrow!  I say we put the top down on the convertible!

Enjoy!

The river in the bitter cold
The river in the bitter cold

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Frigid Sunset
Frigid Sunset
Forever in peace may you wave
Forever in peace may you wave
Sunset on the water tower at just the right time.
Sunset on the water tower at just the right time.
Hi beautiful
Hi beautiful
Handke Pit getting ready for Hockey Day Minnesota
Handke Pit getting ready for Hockey Day Minnesota
My baby girl, Chloe.
My baby girl, Chloe.
This is what bottled water looks like when you leave it in the car and it's below zero.
This is what bottled water looks like when you leave it in the car and it’s below zero.
Apples to Apples
Apples to Apples
I wanted the moon, I got the snowkmobiler on the lake.
I wanted the moon, I got the snowkmobiler on the lake.
Frozen window, it was 12 below and 26 below wind chill.
Frozen window, it was 12 below and 26 below wind chill.
She's discovered a knitting loom, better than that dang phone
She’s discovered a knitting loom, better than that dang phone
Needs the snow to be cleared off the lake
Needs the snow to be cleared off the lake
My tracks in the snow
My tracks in the snow
Snow path
Snow path

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Frozen cat tail.
Frozen cat tail.
A snowy walk when the weather was warmer
A snowy walk when the weather was warmer
Out of place
Out of place
3rd Place Championships this day.
3rd Place Championships this day.
Perfect Timing
Perfect Timing
2nd place, not too shabby
2nd place, not too shabby
JV Jazz 2nd place in the JV Championship.
JV Jazz 2nd place in the JV Championship.

 

Sunday Snippets

On Monday!  LOL.  I wanted to post this yesterday, but time just got away from me!

Most days, I take a lot of pictures and pick from those for my daily Project 365 photo. Sometimes I have really good days and will have a lot of good ones, so it is a struggle to pick just one. During my last Project 365, I had a feature on my blog I called Monday Modge Podge. This is where I featured my photos that are not my Project 365. I thought this time I would use a different term and call it the “Sunday Snippets”. Sundays are a less busy day for me than Mondays, so Sundays work out better for me to pull this feature together.

Enjoy :)

Sheila

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Some trumpeters in the middle of a water vapor on the Mississippi River
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Tracks on the river bank. Any ideas as to what they are?
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My fave kids, my great nephews and my sidekick :)
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Trumpeters huddling together in the frigid cold last week on the Mississippi.
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Snow and Cold
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The frozen Mississippi last week. Today it is all open again.
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My beautiful Chloe girl.
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Hot cocoa. Always good on frigid days!
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Looking for a Snowy, ran out of time and snapped this. I have a fall photo of the same farm.
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Old timer….
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Saturday was conference championship day for my sidekick. 3rd place, not too shabby!
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Finally, another Snowy. Two Snowy’s in a week. Adrenaline was pumping!

 

Project 365 Week 1

I figured I would work on a weekly basis, as far as posting my Project 365 photos.  I try to post to my FB page daily, but we know how that goes.  And Twitter and Instagram?  I’m lucky those will be posted monthly, LOL.  Just never have time for all this social media :)  I have now appointed my sidekick as my Social Media Assistant.  The pay sucks, but the hours are great and there isn’t anything a teenage girl does better than social media, am I correct?  HA, oops, sorry sunshine, I guess there is Dance, and the fact that you are an honor roll student ;)

Anyhoo, I have already posted Day 1, but for good measure, here it is again.

Enjoy!

Sheila

Day 1
Day 1. Sunset at Henry’s Woods Park. On my way home from following a snowy owl around for about 90 minutes. Too far away to get a shot, but enjoyed seeing one for the first time anyway.
Day 2. Day 2 of 365. Ventured down to the river today in the bitter cold, it was about -11 below.
Day 3. The first anniversary of my mother’s death. This one was a no-brainer, we do miss her so much.
Day 4. Searching for something…I found this. A barn in the area that I haven’t photographed yet. In processing, I changed this to an old fashioned finish, Albumen, widely used from 1855-1890, this inexpensive photographic method produced paper-based photos. Negatives were captured on glass, and the print was then created on paper that used albumen from egg whites to bind the light-sensitive chemicals to the paper.
Day 5. I took this right before I rounded the bend and found the Snowy Owl.
Day 6. I didn’t think I was going to go out and about on this frigid day. I guess I don’t know myself very well. This is what -20 below with -44 below wind chill looks like on the Mississippi River. Noon today. With my iPhone.
Day 7. A far cry from the Snowy Owl I photographed on Sunday, but my mama always used to say, “It takes all kinds to make the world go ’round.” Pigeons gotta live too :)
Day 8. A different perspective on an old favorite
Day 9. This came about by accident. I didn’t like the others I took, and my camera wasn’t focusing. This was a practice shot. I do love my Equinox :)

Project 365 Day 1

A little about Project 365:  Project 365 came about by a man who decided to take a photo a day for 365 days. His popularity soared and since then others have followed suit.  I read his story a couple of years ago.  Right now I’m too lazy to look it up again to give details. But I will again, eventually!  There are a lot of people who put their photos into books, do blogs, post to Flickr, etc. I did my first Project 365 from April 2011 to April 2012.  I used my older Canon Rebel DSLR.  I learned a lot about my camera in that year, and learned that I can take a good shot when the stars are aligned.  I now have a Canon T2i DSLR and primarily use this camera with an occasional iPhone shot thrown in.

The great thing about Project 365 is there are no rules. Just take a photo a day for 365 days. That’s it. Most people do that with their phones, and don’t even realize it. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. It can be a photo of the weather, your pet, your big toe for that matter. Anything. Just one photo. I like nature, birds, other wildlife, etc. so mine tend to veer toward that.  But believe me, sometimes it gets to be a bit much. A long day at work, teenager activities, and it’s 10:00 at night and I’m looking for a photo.  You may just see my big toe :)

During my last project, I posted my photo pretty much daily to my FB page From Moments to Memories. I am very busy so I don’t know if I will be able to post daily; every few days or weekly will probably be more like it. I will also post to my photo blog here. I blog about my nature/photo walks and experiences throughout the week and will feature photo stories as well.  So if you’d care to follow, be my guest.

My first photo was taken during sunset tonight on our way home from Snowy Owl searching today.  My sidekick and I set out to see one of the 80 or so sightings in Minnesota this season.  We found one!  And had so much fun following it around from afar in my vehicle, weather was -10 below, with -15 below windchill.  It was too far away for any good photography.  I just don’t have the “heavy” equipment of the professionals.  Still, it was a lifer for both of us and it was exciting.

Time got away from us and I was determined to get a good pic for day 1.  I have passed this place so many times and never stopped.  They recently made it a park and I can’t wait to explore it.

Sunset at Henry's Woods Park
Sunset at Henry’s Woods Park

Hope you enjoy what you see, and if you do, let me know!

Brrrr

Happy New Year from bitterly cold Minnesota!  Along with the temperature being -15 below, the windchill is also -15 below, so the “feels like” weather is -30 below zero.  Yikes!  FROZEN was the perfect movie for us to see earlier this evening!  Which was cute, by the way :)

A bit nippy
A bit nippy

Right now I’m planning my strategy for Snowy Owl hunting tomorrow.  There have been over 80 sightings in Minnesota this winter and I am hoping to get lucky.  My sidekick and I will head out with hot chocolate and extra blankets tomorrow morning for the first day of my Project 365.

Wish us luck!

Sheila

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!  I’m baack……………….. !  Unfortunately, I went away for a while :(  Lots of struggles and it has been one hell of a year to say the least.  I have probably lost a lot of followers, and will have to gain a lot back.

I am going to be starting a new Project 365 on New Year’s Day to kick myself in the a** so to speak.  You are welcome to follow me.  I am not going to be posting every day but would like to post every week I hope.

Hope all of you have had a great 2013 and good luck to you in the coming new year!

Sheila

Reflections

I have been remiss in my blogging and photography duties, and I feel it. I took some time to reflect on my priorities last night, there are no photos, just thoughts, just words.

I have always had a love for taking pictures and photography. In May of 2011, I decided to start a Project 365 and surprised myself by finishing it in May of 2012. I faithfully took a picture every day, whether it was of my cat, or a landscape photo at the local refuge I frequent. In those 365 days, I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I have a knack for landscape photography and I love wildlife and the great outdoors. I learned that I would be even better with different equipment, if I ever have the money to buy it. I am not in a hurry in that aspect. I also learned a lot about my camera, and that I have a gift and can take a pretty mean picture if the stars are aligned.

During that time, on a personal level, I went through a difficult period and lost a good friend. Not by death, by choice. But it wasn’t my choice. I learned friendship means more to some than others. I learned addiction causes harm to those who have it, and those around it. I learned that I deserve to be treated with respect, and I learned that it was his loss. Dealing with that was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life. But I did it. I moved on. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I think I took some of my best photos during my healing process. Photography was huge for me, and I used it as therapy, and it worked. I brought my camera with me wherever I went. I spent lunch hours driving around looking for “the shot” or I would grab a sandwich and head down to the river to see what I could scare up.

Also during this time, my elderly mother’s health was ailing. She had been diagnosed with COPD and congestive heart failure many years ago. Homebound on oxygen and in a wheel chair, she did not have a good quality of life. After my brother passed away in 2005, I became one of her main caregivers along with my dad. They lived on the bottom floor of my apartment building, which was great. They were close and I could help them as needed. She always enjoyed looking at my photos. Her favorite were my eagles and flowers.

After my Project 365, I became busy with other things. I had a very unusually busy summer; fall came and I did a lot of portrait photography to make some extra money on the side. I tried a 52-week challenge, but barely made it 8 weeks. I was no longer bringing my camera everywhere. In fact, it grew dusty. I rarely made it to my peaceful place at the refuge, and in fact only made it there a ½ dozen times. In the previous year it was about a ½ dozen times in a month. Many times I would drive by a barn, see a tree or a “Kodak” moment in general, and want to pull over as I had in the past, but didn’t have my camera. I started to miss it. I got out a couple times to focus on photography, but it wasn’t the same.

The snow came and it was beautiful, but I just “didn’t have time”. The busy holidays came, and I spent a lot of weekends helping my mother do her holiday baking and shopping. On December 23, she developed a nasty cough. We “cancelled” Christmas dinner with family, as she was deteriorating. On December 29, I called the paramedics. By the time she got to the hospital she was barely breathing and borderline comatose. She was put on a respirator and there we sat. She would never have wanted to be kept alive by any machines so on Thursday, January 3, my sister and I made the decision to take her off the respirator, and see what happens. She passed away at 5:55 pm surrounded by all of us.

So now it becomes difficult for my dad, who is 82, has a bit of memory loss and has known nothing except taking care of her for the past 15 years. On top of everything else, he took a spill Friday night and dislocated his shoulder. We had her memorial service Monday, my sister went back home 2-1/2 hours away yesterday, my daughter and I went back to school and work today. Back to life. Back to normalcy. As normal as it is going to get.

I keep telling myself she isn’t suffering, she is at peace, she is in a better place. It doesn’t make it easier. Losing my mother has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I pride myself on being a strong person. I have loved and I have lost. Several times over, in fact. I am a single mom, working full time and raising a beautiful, wonderful teenaged daughter. It’s hard. It’s damn hard. But we keep on keepin’ on. I have a great support system with my family and friends. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And all those cliché’s you read. They all fit. I have put my life on hold for some time now. She lived her life. I have to move on with mine.

As I dropped my sidekick off at school yesterday morning, I noticed the sunrise. For the first time in a long time. A bright pink and orange haze, and the clouds around it looked like marshmallows melted together. It was beautiful. I didn’t have my phone on me to take a picture. But at that moment, I knew. I knew that I had to go on with my photography. Not sure if she was trying to tell me that, but I know she would’ve wanted me to. And I know just like my last hurdle, it will be my therapy and comfort.

I have to do something. Whether I do another Project 365, a 52-week challenge or just dust my camera off and get out more, I will be taking more photos.

When one life ends, another begins….

The Bird’s the Word

So the boss is out and I thought I would play today on my blog, LOL.  Seriously, I just thought I’d throw in a modge podge of photos I’ve taken since Saturday when I posted.  I won’t post until this evening when I get home to add the photos.

On Sunday my sidekick and I took my friend to the refuge to hike the Blue Hill Trail.  After a week of 60′s and 70′s, we woke up to sunny and 38.  Yikes!  We were going to do the 2.5 miles, instead of the 5.  Some day we’ll do the 5 I keep telling myself.  Some day we’ll do the Mahnomen Trail as well.  Maybe Saturday.

At any rate, the day started out chilly.  My friend is looking into places to take her son’s senior photos, so we stopped at one of my favorite red barns, this time a Spring shot.  Found out it is NOT a place for a senior photo shoot, as it is almost under water.  Which is very sad :(

We pulled into the refuge and there were a few cars parked on the trail.  It was a pretty uneventful hike.  I had been raving about the refuge and we didn’t see much.  It is really hit or miss.  We saw an eagle sitting in a tree close to the parking lot.  Several birds were seen on the trail, but too fast or too far away to take a nice photo.  A Downy Woodpecker, a Mallard couple.  A couple of Canada Geese.  I heard a Blue jay and several Black-Capped Chickadees.  We certainly saw more signs of spring.  Lots of muskrat “huts” have sprung up and Canada Geese have made their nests on them.  A very common occurrence at the refuge and everywhere else. 

We stopped on one of the bridges to take photos of the stream, and my sidekick moved on.  She called me (from about a 1/2 block away) on my cell and (what I thought she said) “mom, hurry and get over here, there are 6 sandhill cranes”.  So my friend and I walked silently, slowly to where she was.  Only to find out that she had said “there are 6 eagles soaring”.  UGH!  When we got to where she was they were gone!  I was creeping slowly so as not to scare off the sandhill cranes.  Go figure.  She is still laughing about it. 

Halfway through the trail, my sidekick felt the “urge” and we had to speed it up and get back out to the parking lot and the bathrooms.  Another UGH.  All in all, it was a good hike, a good day.   The sun came out and the temperature rose to the low 60′s.   I hadn’t seen my friend for quite some time and we promised to meet up when the Wildlife Drive opens on the refuge next month.

We had errands to run, and grabbed our bag of bread to feed the ducks at the local pond.  Much to my surprise, we ran into these Ring-Necked Ducks and one lone Redhead.  I’m sure the same one we ran across the other night when I didn’t have my memory card.   The photos aren’t as sharp as I’d like, but these all are firsts for me.  Had to look them up in my Audubon Guide.  They moved further away as she threw bread out.  The mallards came from across the pond looking for the handouts.

On Tuesday, I went for a walk during lunch at the Woodland Trails Park again, looking to find signs of spring hoping to catch some new species.  It was quite windy but fairly mild at about 55 degrees.  I came across a bridge that I discovered last winter and had taken a photo of.  I like to take seasonal photographs of the same thing, in order to show the changes.

I heard lots of birds, just didn’t actually SEE them.  Lots of chickadees, crows, robins.  Then a group of these little fellows.  My Audubon Guide tells me it is either a American Tree Sparrow or Chipping Sparrow?  Maybe my friend Bob Zeller can help me out here?  I know it is not a very good photo to ID with the branch in the way. 

I have about 33 days left in my Project 365 so I have been just driving around for something that catches my eye.  On Wednesday, this was it.  Another barn.  Big shocker.   I was pulled over to the side of the country road with my flashers on and the mail lady actually pulled over and asked me if I needed help.  I thought that was very nice, that doesn’t happen often.  My reply was “Nope, this is just what I do, take pictures of basically NOTHING.”  LOL. 

I had to throw this one in of my beautiful Chloe.  She was my day 330/365 because it was her 2nd birthday.  Full of mischief, this one.  But cuddly when she wants to be.  Which isn’t very often, but we love her nonetheless.

Now today was my favorite day.  I went for a walk at one of my local parks.  Turns out today it was my favorite park :)  LOTS of birds to be seen today.  I only wish I could’ve stayed, but I had to go back to work.  I was barely on the path when I noticed a Cedar Waxwing flying into a tree.  Then another, and another.  They were flitting about like crazy.  A bunch landed on a bush and I started snapping.  They are so cool, and look like the masked bandits or racoons of the bird world.  They mainly eat blossoms and flowers. 

I reluctantly left the Cedar Waxwings and meandered down the boardwalk path.  I heard the Red-Winged Blackbirds singing, and the Black-Capped Chickadees.  Also the Robins.  Then I heard them.  The call I had been listening for.  The Sandhill Cranes.  My sidekick was at a friend’s today, the start of Spring Break.  I texted her immediately and she wanted me to go pick her up, LOL.  However, I only had so much time.  So I promised we would go back after work tonight.  As I walked toward the sounds of the cranes, I pulled out my iPhone and found my Audubon Guide app and played the voice of the crane.  Sure enough they responded and started “croaking” again.  Finally, I saw them.  There were about 8 of them.  They are so hard to see, they blend in so well with the brown grass and cattails.  One flew over to the other side and they were all calling to each other.  I was so sad I had to leave.  And also sad I do not have a 400 or 500 mm lens!  LOL.

I turned to go, and a nice little Bluebird couple past in front of me way too fast.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw a red flash, and was so excited it was a cardinal and his lady friend.  I just couldn’t get a good shot, he was avoiding me like the plague.  But thought this was so cute, he’s looking right at me like, “HA, you’ll never catch me!”  His mate is to the left.

On my way back to the car, it was like it was crazy.  Birds galore, LOTS of woodpeckers, like these two.  The whole way back to the car, I was hearing the Sandhill Cranes calling back and forth to each other.  I couldn’t wait for work to get over with so we could go back.

After work, I picked my sidekick up and we headed over there.  No Cedar Waxwings, but a few of the woodpeckers and robins were there.  We walked down the path and played the Sandhill Crane call from my iPhone.  Sure enough we heard back from them.  However, we couldn’t spot them to save our soul.  Talk about disappointment.  We will definitely be headed back tomorrow, LOL.  We did see this Northern Flickr, not a great shot but I think they are cool looking, so wanted to share it.  Also liked the cattails with the sun behind.

We are anxiously planning our short trip to the National Eagle Center on Good Friday in Wabasha, MN.  It is a 2-1/2 hour drive so we are spending the night and coming home Saturday, just in time for coloring eggs and getting stuff ready for church and Easter dinner on Sunday.  We are excited for the trip, and I hope that I get some good photos.  It will be our first time there, and I hear there are several eagle nests along the river near, and lots of parks and photo ops.  We are just happy to be going out of town for some new scenery.

Thanks for stopping by, see ya soon!

Enjoying Spring!

WOWSA has it really been two weeks since I’ve posted?  Why, yes, yes it has!  We have been busy running here and there, and I have been taking photos of course!  We have definitely been enjoying Spring in Minnesota!  We last left off a couple weeks ago and I was getting antsy for the birds to arrive, and a few were arriving here and there.  We have had some outstanding weather here.  It has been in the 60′s and 70′s and we have total ice-out on the lakes and rivers.  We have buds on the trees and grass is greening fast.  Very, very unheard of in most Minnesota winters. It has been a very unbelievable winter, and so far, Spring.

The last couple weeks we have had walks at the park, fed the ducks, and I have hiked some trails.  Signs of Spring are all around!

Here are a few of my Project 365 photos and more, enjoy!

We took a walk at our local pond park one beautiful evening and this was one of the first Red Winged Black Birds we saw this season.

This male Mallard was totally flirting with me and posing, he was so dang cute :) 

Mallards are plenty at this park, as you will see shortly.  However, this night there were a couple of Buffleheads thrown into the mix as well.

Throughout the week, I walked different trails in the area and saw a few “FOS” (first of season) birds for me (the above Buffleheads are included in this category). 

I wasn’t sure what this was while I was taking the photo.  When I got home, my sidekick had to identify it for me :)  A Brown Creeper.  That’s my girl.

This Song Sparrow was singing me a wonderful tune, too bad the branch was in the way.  I hate branches!

This was my favorite that day, the Sandhill Cranes have returned!  My sidekick’s favorite, I wished she would’ve been with me.

And the cattails, I love them when they are in “full display” in the summer months, but I also like to take pictures of them while they are in different seasons!

There was the day we went to our local Dam park.  We had heard of the Osprey nest, but never found it.  However, I got a couple photos of the dam, and we came across this beauty.  A Great Blue Heron rookery.  However, the herons weren’t to be found until we got back into the car and started to drive away, go figure.  But would’ve been too far away to take photos.  It was pretty cool anyway.

Someone obviously was not a happy camper when they left that day, LOL. 

Then there were these hilarious Canada Geese.  There were others across the river and this guy/gal was yelling and running around like a chicken with his head cut off.  I think it was a mating display, but we were cracking up!  There were also a couple of beautiful Woodducks (FOS) across the river, but too far away to get a good shot.  Story of my life.

There was the night that we went for a walk after it had been a bit rainy, and I had gone during the day to the same walking trail.  Residents have been saying there are a couple of whooping cranes calling in the park.  I had heard a couple of squacks, but didn’t know what it was.  When my sidekick and I went back, we heard it again, but didn’t see it.  It would be fantastic, as they are very rare around here, around anywhere I think.  But we did see another set of Sandhill cranes fly over and came across this beauty.  I think it’s my favorite of the whole couple weeks.

We stopped back at the “mallard park” on our way hone and this time brought some bread.  Oh, my.  What fun she had.  At one point she had almost 20 mallards hanging out following her with that bread.  She called herself the “duck whisperer”.  It was hilarious!  We saw and heard a Bluebird couple (FOS) but I was too far away for a good shot.  Not worried, they are in abundance this time of year around here :)

Last but not least, these were taken yesterday.  Woke up yesterday morning to fog and had to stop by the river.  I was 8 minutes late for work :)  My boss laughed because the minute I got to work he said “let’s see the camera” LOL.  Then I walked for a bit at lunch, and this little guy was following me.  “chipmunk stalker”  hehehe…

And I suppose I should throw in a couple barns from the last couple weeks.

We went back to the mallard park today with bread in hand.  Not very many mallards, though.  Seagulls, geese and one lone Redhead (another FOS for me).  Wouldn’t you know, I grabbed my camera to find no memory card.  It was back at home still in my laptop from last night!  UGH.

At any rate, we are headed to my Peaceful Place hiking tomorrow, hoping to find some Sandhill Cranes or other furry or feathered-friends.  We are bringing along one of my old highschool girlfriends, we should have some fun! 

Thanks for stopping by, hope you enjoyed my photos.  I will try not to stay away too long this time :)

Sheila