We have been busy going through my parents’ things to prepare for my dad moving in with me. It truly is amazing what people accumulate through 57 years of marriage.
At any rate, we have had some more snow and I got out a couple times during my lunch hour to take a few photos last week. After a while, they all start to look alike. LOL. I just thought I’d pop on quickly and dump these new ones into the cache :)
I am taking a day this weekend for me and my sidekick for a little road trip, weather-permitting. I am going to try to go in search of the infamous Snowy Owl. Sightings have been popping up throughout Minnesota this winter. Not as many as last year, but a few nonetheless. This year it is considered a Boreal Owl irruption, however, this is way up north and I don’t have the time or means to get up there this season, so I have to live vicariously through my birding friends.
Also wanted to get a few barns in the snow. Forecast by the end of the week is for a major snow storm to come blowing through Thursday through Friday. Hopefully out of our hair by Sunday for a fun road trip.
I finally got out for a bit during my lunch hour on Thursday and it felt great. I didn’t have my long lens, so I didn’t get some shots I wanted. But I didn’t care. I also didn’t have a lot of time, but I still didn’t care. It just felt good to be out and about with my camera on a short photo walk taking photos again. It hit me that I really did miss this. Camera in hand. Dead of winter. Looking for signs of life.
We have been having another unusually warm winter, but this year we have a bit of snow. It was about 34 degrees and sunny. I grabbed my dusty binoculars out of the trunk of the old Mercury and headed for the river bank. There were about 25-30 Trumpeter Swans out a ways on the Mississippi, juvenile and adult. Also a bird or two singing on shore; however, I didn’t recognize the song. I frequent this park a lot in the spring, it is known for its Cedar Waxwing population. Sometimes they stick around in winter, other times not.
I came across tracks that are debatable as far as what species it is. I am not good at tracking. Yet. I also came across a lone Bald Eagle sitting out on a rock. Waiting for its lunch to swim by, perhaps? Too far out to tell or get a photo.
I took a few photos of the small stream running into the river and some odds and ends. Not really taking a picture of anything, just taking pictures.
Friday brought rain and about 35 degrees around the noon hour. Yes, rain in Minnesota in January. Very unusual. I had to stop by the funeral home and pick up my mom’s ashes, and lucky for me it is right on the river. I grabbed my protein shake and away I went. Unfortunately, I am no stranger to death. I have lost many in my family and also some close friends. Including my brother in 2005 at the age of 52, after a massive stroke. When my sister and I picked up my brother’s ashes years ago, we made a joke about seat-belting him in. Today it was just me. And no jokes. It was almost surreal. But I surprised myself and didn’t turn into a blubbering fool.
I headed down the hill to the river. I hung out in this area a lot last winter, this was my first time this season. Nothing much going down there, a couple of Trumpeter Swans swam through. I again forgot my 300mm and was disappointed. I still had 25 minutes to kill so I headed down to the boat landing again. I walked a little path to the river and took in the woods and the surroundings.
I walked through the woods, looking for critters and birds, and just took in nature. This was so much a part of me a year ago and I had come to love it. The drizzle was melting the snow a bit, there were leaves scattered, left from fall. I was searching for owls, but heard only the faint sound of some 40 or so Goldeneyes out on the river. I took some photos of random stuff, not really anything. I was alone at the park and it was a bit eery. But I felt so alive and at peace at that moment. More alive than I had felt in a long time. I knew that I was meant to do this. I headed back up the hill to the old car, stopped and got some Chinese and headed back to work.
As I sat eating my lunch at my desk, I opened my fortune cookie. I am not one to believe in any of that stuff, but my fortune read “the rubber bands are heading in the right direction”. I like to think it means something along the lines of my life is finally headed in the right direction, things are coming together, etc. It felt right.
As I was surfing the web the other night, I came across a saying that hit me like a ton of bricks.
“Today I close the door to the past, open the door to the future, take a deep breath, step on through and start a new chapter in my life”
Oh, and P.S. Sunday I went to the Swan Park. I have blogged about the swan park in the past. It was -2 F and there were at least a thousand Trumpeter Swans. I will save that for the next blog post!
Anyone who doesn’t like Fall has not seen an autumn in Minnesota. We had some beautiful color at the end of September/beginning of october. I FINALLY got a chance to get out and about and do what I love, taking photo walks. It was a long, hot summer and I really needed Fall to get here. Memorial Weekend we spent at my sister’s in Duluth. We stopped at the famous Canal Park and got some shots in of Lake Superior. We enjoyed great weather until a couple of weeks ago it turned cold and windy and BAM the fall color was gone. It is a short season for us, as soon the snow will fly. We were able to take some photo walks and attend the Wildlife Festival at the local refuge. Great fall color and raptors to photograph. We also had a fun trip to the apple orchard.
My sidekick and I have been busy with school, dance, work, etc. I even ended up selling my old beat-up blazer a few weeks ago and transferred to an old, beat up Ford Mercury until I can afford something else in the Spring. AFTER the orthodontist payments, lol. Fall has also been busy for me with family photo shoots, and I have had mini-sessions the last two weekends. We have a scheduled trip to Southeastern Minnesota for a “fall color tour” this weekend. However, the fall color is pretty much gone, and it is supposed to be cold, wet and windy. Good thing we have a pool and wi fi at the hotel. Hopefully soon, I will have time to blog hop like I used to and catch up with some of you I haven’t “seen” in a while.
My sidekick celebrated her 14th birthday earlier this month. Where has the time gone? Soon she will be dating, driving, graduating from high school and heading off to college. It goes by way too fast. I am sad to see the time that has past, but I am also looking forward to what is yet to come!
I have also been asked to donate to an upcoming silent auction for breast cancer. I decided to put a few framed prints, a calendar and some matted prints up for auction for this. My sidekick goes to school and has been friends with the woman’s daughter since kindergarten. It was kind of fun picking out a few of my best prints, and searching for the best frames and mattes. Hopefully, it will bring some money in for the family. It is just a little something that I can do for them.
My 52 Week Challenge, however, leaves a lot to be desired. I missed last week entirely. I am seriously considering another 365 challenge at the first of the year. I have to admit, some of my best work has come out of my Project 365. We will have to wait and see.
So that is “what’s up” in my neck of the woods. I hope you enjoy the slideshow!
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!
It has been a very busy week and just now getting to post about our hike last Sunday, sorry.
We woke up last Sunday planning to hit a park further away from us with hopes of seeing an Osprey nest, but we were getting a light freezing drizzle and the roads weren’t very good. It was supposed to turn to all snow later, so we opted for the closer park and our trails that we liked. The same park I was at on Friday by myself.
We bundled up, it was 21 degrees when we left. Nothing compared to what it had been for the last few days. We picked the same trail I took the Friday before, but were planning to explore it a bit further. Plus we had some snow mix going on, and I figured the snowshoers and cross-country skiiers would be out and about on their own trail.
It was a very pretty hike, and the drizzle changed over to snow. We ventured deeper into the woods. We saw deer tracks and bunny tracks. Came out to the golf course and turned back around. Walked over a little bridge with some wooden fence that I kinda liked. Lots of trees down, I love the look of the white birch trees with the snow falling on and around. I always think of critters making homes inside.
We also saw a little squirrel and a mole running across in front of us. The first thing I thought of was “owl food” LOL. We are still in pursuit of owls. We will probably have to wait until this weekend when we hit Winterfest at the refuge. We are looking forward to that. It was eerily quiet except for the squeaking of a squirrel, and once in a while a “hi” from a fellow hiker or two. I can’t wait until spring so I can see the beautiful migratory birds coming through these woods, and the snow and ice melting off.
We came across a quaint little bridge in the middle of the woods. What a treasure and why haven’t I seen this before? I wanted to venture further, but by that time my sidekick was getting tired and reminding me of real life laundry and homework. Plus she neglected to bring her camera, I hope the novelty isn’t wearing off. So we will save other angles of the bridge and more exploring for another day.
So we headed back through the woods to the parking lot. It was a pretty uneventful day, but still served to prove that nature is beautiful when you get out and enjoy it, even when it is 21 degrees out, which in January in Minnesota, is a treat. Tomorrow’s high is 41. That should about take care of any snow that is left :( This weekend is Winterfest on the refuge and one of the highlights I want to try is snowshoeing. But if we have no snow, that won’t be happening. At least we will see some owls and an American Kestrel, we are very excited. She also wants to make a pine-cone bird house!
Hope everyone stays warm this week, I’ll try not to be too absent!
Since we discovered we were “bird dorks” last spring, my daughter and I have some funny tales and adventures, inside jokes, and “hit and miss” stories to talk about. We may be the only ones who think they are funny, and they are probably better off in the “had to be there” category . I have talked about some, and not others.
There was the time when we first started checking the birds out last spring at the refuge, something was soaring above us. We were very wet behind the ears when it came to identifying birds. We still are. We were certain it was an eagle. We were so excited, I must’ve snapped 50 pictures of it. I got home and realized on my computer it was a Turkey Vulture. A dime a dozen around here.
There have been times we stopped and both have binoculars pointing at what looks like a bird, animal, etc. And we end up saying “it’s just a stick”. One of our inside jokes. We have seen an eagle soar 10 feet above us and me trying the whole time to get “the shot” only to realize a 300mm lens is not the one to have on your camera when there is an eagle soaring 10 feet above you. Then there was the time we got out to the refuge and I had forgotten my memory card. I could go on and on about our mis-adventures, but I have to save some for future blogs
Our most recent misadventures started this past Friday, and ended Sunday afternoon. We stopped at a local boat landing on the Mississippi looking for uncommon ducks, namely some sort of mergansers. We walked to the edge of the river. What a beautiful day it was. My iPhone said 43 degrees at 3:45 and it was January 6. There were some Trumpeters a little ways out, and a couple of woodpeckers in the tree above. My Project 365 photo that day was this shot of the Red-Bellied Woodpecker.
It was getting late, and we walked back to the car. Baylee was sitting in the passenger seat fixing her boot when I heard “EAGLE!” I turned and looked. Right where we were standing a beautiful bald eagle flew by low and we would’ve had a wonderful opportunity for a great photo. We scrambled for our cameras and by the time we got back to where we were standing, the eagle had flown to the other side of the river. It was sitting on a piece of ice waiting for it’s dinner. We laughed at our antics, and decided the eagle had been watching us perched in a not-so-distant tree waiting for us to walk away. As we were laughing, out of nowhere we saw another large bird soaring on the OTHER side of the river. After a “What IS that?” and looking through the binoculars, we determined it was a juvenile eagle. Of course I said owl at first, go figure. It stayed on the other side of the river, though, just out of good photo range. Oh, we snapped away to our little heart’s content, but when we got home and had them on the computer, there were no keepers. He/She landed in a tree over by mama/papa. When we got to the car, we turned back and of course just what we went there to see, a merganser, was flying by. Well out of shot. When we left, we said that they were all laughing at us and had definitely out-smarted us very dumb humans. Better luck next time. On Saturday, I did get a shot of some mergansers flying, not too close, though. And was able to take about 100 photos of a red-tailed hawk sitting quietly in a tree, and one of them was my 365 pic for that day. This is just a different pose. Patience does pay off I guess.
Sunday was a bit different. In previous weeks, a co-worker of mine has been telling me of a park close by in Monticello where hundreds and hundreds of Trumpeter Swans have gathered in the winter for many years. Really? It is 12 miles away and I never heard about this? Evidently a woman who they called the “Swan Lady” started feeding the geese and swans back in the 80’s. Back then, there were only a couple of pairs of Trumpeters. In recent years, they have had up to 1500 to 2,000 swans in the park. The Swan Lady and her husband feed the waterfowl corn every year. Sadly, the swan lady died last spring, but her husband has taken on the huge undertaking of feeding the swans. At any rate, I decided it was some place we must go. I got online and did a bit of research on Friday night about the place. Here is more about the Swan Lady. There are lots of photos and articles on the net on the Swan Lady I have found out. Evidently, because of the mild temperatures and lack of snow, the swans haven’t arrived at the park yet. The corn can still be had in the local farmers’ fields, so that is where they stay until the snow comes.
I had decided I also wanted to check out a local state park, about 20 miles away for hiking and birding. So we mapped out our route, planned to get up bright and early on Sunday morning, stop at the swan park and head to the state park. Sunday morning plans didn’t go so well. It was after noon by the time we left. Because my blazer has been hit and miss as far as starting goes (friends have diagnosed MAYBE a starter celanoid) the last couple weeks, I resorted to driving my parent’s old ’93 sable, complete with squeaky belt and exhaust problems of its own. I cannot afford to get mine fixed until tax rebate time, and my parents are in worse shape than I am financially. So it was the lesser of two evils. We got to the swan park, and it was as expected. No snow. No swans. But plenty of squacking mallards. We saw some honkers flying above and stood there snapping photos left and right of the noisy mallards. We were getting ready to head out when a couple of swans flew by and circled around, as if to find some friends. They decided not to stop, maybe because of the noisy mallards. Baylee’s autofocus wouldn’t zoom in on them, and she was getting very frustrated. She kept saying the mallards were laughing at her, and it did sound like they were. I did get a passable shot of them before they flew by without stopping.
We trudged on in our borrowed car that needs to be “Midas-sized” and squealed our way to Lake Maria State Park. We pulled into the park about 1:10, and started driving toward the lake. It didn’t take me long to realize that it was a mistake with this car. The gravel road and some snow on the roads was really doing a number on the catalytic converter on the bottom of my dad’s car. Not to mention the both of us in the front seat, it was bottoming out. The squealing alone scared any wildlife there was away, I’m sure. We were both a little edgy until we finally got down to the lake. There were several trails I wanted to start hiking, and we would just worry about the car and getting home later. The park was known to have Osprey and Eagle nests. We were excited, hoping to see one or the other. We walked out on the dock of frozen Lake Maria and immediately saw a couple of skater/skiiers. They had ice skates on with cross country ski poles. Looked like fun, except it hasn’t been all that cold here yet to be out on the ice, but apparently there is 6 inches which is appropriate for humans to walk on.
We spotted a big nest across the lake, but could not identify who it belonged to. It was quite big, but not as big as an eagle’s nest. We liked to think that it was the osprey nest. We walked a trail up to a pond for wildlife viewing. It was 40 degrees out on our walk. It was more like a Spring day than anything. However, it looked more like fall with all the fall leaves on the ground in the forest.
The only snow was on the lake and ponds, and some on the roads and trails. Very little. The trail we took was interpretive and one of the signs said to look for barred owls. One of our goals this year is to see an owl in the wild. Any owl. We didn’t see anything avian except a lone chickadee and a couple of white breasted nuthatches. We even “called” the barred owl through my Audubon Guide app on my iPhone. We do that often with the birds, but Baylee always says she feels bad because she feels like she’s “teasing” them, LOL! We came across a nest of some sort, didn’t know who it belonged to.
Before we knew it, it was almost 3:00. I had laundry to do and dinner to make. I really hate it when real life creeps into my photograpy and nature life with my daughter. But it does happen. We grudgingly walked to the car and promised ourselves we would be back in the spring, summer AND fall this year. We started driving and the same thing happened with us bottoming out. I drove very slow and felt sorry for other passersby as they had to listen to the bucket of bolts. We made it home fine, and they do have an appointment to “midas-size” their vehicle tomorrow. Hopefully this weekend if we have a vehicle we will be traveling to the refuge to walk the trail up there, a bit closer to home, weather-permitting.
I guess when it comes to nature, you gotta do what you gotta do, just like anything else in life :)
If you would’ve told me a year ago that I would be going for a walk in the middle of winter in the snow in 12 degree cold temperature, taking photographs no less, I would’ve told you you were crazy!
However, that’s what I was doing yesterday and I enjoyed it immensely!
I got the bug on Saturday when my daughter and I went on a little trek to the refuge. However, it was bitterly cold and winds were very high so we were cut short. Today I woke up and my iPhone said it was 4 degrees in my little town. By the time we got ready to go, it was about 12 degrees, give or take a degree. Which, by Minnesota standards, is pretty good for this time of the year. We bundled up in our long underwear, double layers, double gloves and double socks. Hats, gloves, hoods, boots. We were ready. We stopped down by the Mississippi first. A few weeks ago, it was full of snow and ice. The weather lately has been so mild that it was open today. I better hurry with my snow pics, as it is supposed to be 40 again by the weekend. Which is almost unheard of in January around these parts.
We stopped at our favorite park on the river, but not much was happening in the way of wildlife. A few Canada Geese, but that was it. I was looking for the swans I saw last week.
We then ventured to another park along the river that we like. We are very fortunate that we live on the Mighty Mississippi. Usually where there is water, there are photo ops. And today was no different.
Driftwood on the snowy beach – Minnesota style :)
When we left, we decided to hit one of our favorite walking trail parks before we headed home. We had bundled up so I wasn’t hearing any “cold complaints” just yet. On our way to the park, I snapped this one of a local barn that I drive by all the time and haven’t gotten a picture of yet.
We got to the park and noticed a lot of cross country skiiers. Lately I have been thinking about us taking classes. It is great exercise and this park has awesome trails. What a great way to get around and check out some scenery. Before we hit the trails, we hit the “biffy” ;) and took this cute shadow shot of us “eskimo girls”. I seriously felt like the michelin man.
As we started walking, my daughter pointed up to the sky to something soaring. It was a bald eagle :) However, too far away for any type of photography. We did see LOTS of deer tracks and little critter tracks too small to decipher.
Moon was out at 2:00pm.
She is my sanity and the light at the end of my tunnel.
As we walked, we chatted about nature, snow and heading back to work and school tomorrow. We took some goofy pictures as well as some nice ones. It’s times like these that I enjoy the most with her. Fun times without a care in the world. No worries about homework being done or bills to be paid. Just her and I and the great outdoors. I so hope that we have more days like these in the future. Before too long, high school will be here, then college and she will be gone :( I dread that day. We talked about how warm we were and actually almost too warm if you can believe it. I was also getting sore from walking, it is harder to walk in snow I am finding. Good exercise as well :)
Anyhoo, we headed home and had some grilled cheese and chicken noodle soup. My kind of meal on a cold winter’s day. As the sun set in the West, this was the beautiful view off our deck. Life is good on my end.