Because I didn’t blog for months, and barely posted a photo in 2014 because of reasons I wrote in my last post, I felt compelled to just do a short blog with my best of 2014. I didn’t get out much, but I have a few favorites.
My foot is getting looked at finally on Monday, so that maybe I can start getting out on photo walks again soon!
It has been a long time since I have posted and a lot has happened to me over the last year. I have gone to the top, and I’ve gone to the bottom. Right now, I’m in between.
Busy-ness took me away from my blog and the photography that I love. I started off the new year doing well. Getting out here and there while on my lunch break taking photos of the eagles, winter, spring, and then it hit. My teenaged daughter’s dance team functions. Lots to do. Plus I do portrait photography on the side, and my seniors needed their photos done.
After my mom passed away early in 2013, my 83 year old dad moved in with me and my daughter. Things were going well, although I know he missed my mom. They were married 57 years before she died, and the last 20 he spent taking care of her. I know he believed his purpose in life was gone. At the end of June this year, he took a fall and was diagnosed with Cauda Equina Syndrome. Paralyzed from the waist down, he had to have emergency surgery. After surgery he was sent to a nursing home for rehabilitation and had to learn how to walk, move, get up, basically everything, all over again. We had hopes that he would be coming home by the new year.
But that didn’t happen. He developed this A-fib, got pneumonia, COPD, and MRSA. UGH. On November 14, I got the call from the nursing home. He had collapsed in a transfer, and became unresponsive. I hadn’t made it to my bedroom to change to head out the door, when I got another call. He was gone. We believe a stroke, caused from a blood clot from the A-fib. Here we go again. Mom in 2013. Dad in 2014. But we do find comfort in knowing that they are together again.
Oh, did I mention I was also laid off from my full-time job at the end of July? My company was sold to another company who moved all operations to Mexico. Great. So between running around with dance team activities, being an event coordinator for a dance show, looking for a job, and WOW was I busy with portrait photography this fall! I also developed Plantar Faschiitis in my left foot in June from some horrible, uncomfortable sandals. So much for walking. But I am seeing a doctor next week, and hoping that will get taken care of.
So I have decided to go back to school starting in January and hopefully, will have a little extra time to do my photo walks and exploring. The snowy’s have been spotted again near here, and really want to see and photograph one :) and really hoping to hop on and blog every couple of weeks! I have missed all the blogs I used to read!
Let’s hope 2015 is a better year than the last two!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
Only in a spirit of complete attentiveness and wonder can we be freely receptive to Nature’s inspiration – Joseph Cornell.
If anyone would have told me three years ago I would be spending two hours driving around in -9 below temps with -29 below wind chill looking for a bird, I would’ve laughed in their face and told them they were crazy!
During my first Project 365 I fell in love with birds and nature. I discovered the refuge that I hold dear to my heart and spent a lot of time there. Lots of birding, and my sidekick also enjoys it almost as much as me. Sometimes, like yesterday, she is almost as excited as I am.
Two years ago, there was a Snowy Owl “eruption”. Sometimes Snowy’s come down from the Arctic Tundra in the winter, when they have a good breeding season, or when the lemmings (their main meal) do not have a good breeding season. They come down looking for a food source. Mostly the heavily barred juveniles and females. There were a few spotted here and there. Closest to me at that time was about an hour away, and I just didn’t think about heading out to find it.
Fast forward a couple of years and here we go again. Scientists say it is normally an “every four year” kinda thing. So it is very surprising the amount of Snowy’s that are being spotted. One was even seen as far south as Florida. One would speculate whether they get back home safely. Some people have the misconception that all owls are nocturnal. Not so with the Snowy. They hunt during the day, in fields. They sit on top of telephone poles, lamp posts, street signs, store signs, rooftops, close to farms and fields. Not in the woods, as most owls. They live on lemmings, rodents such as mice, voles, rats, etc. By no means am I an expert at birding, photography, or anything else I do. It’s a hobby. Yes, I make a little money on the side, but not enough to call home about and I like it that way. I don’t want this to turn into work, where I grow to hate it.
I just thought I would lead up to the “crescendo” :) Up to yesterday, there had been 118 Snowy Owl sightings in Minnesota. WOW. We certainly have the weather for them this year. It has been downright frigid in most of the country, so I hear. A Snowy Owl was spotted by some birders close by in Maple Grove a while back. With my sidekick’s high school dance team schedule, then Christmas, we really haven’t had the time to chase. A week ago before we headed back to work and school, we did. It was a balmy 5 degrees outside. What I would give for it to be 5 degrees now. We didn’t head out until afternoon and after a little while searching, we found a darkly barred juvenile Snowy Owl sitting on a lamp post near some gravel pits. We were excited, this was a lifer for both of us. We watched it fly away and followed it around, lost it, followed it again. We did this for about 90 minutes. We sat and watched it on a building for about 10 minutes. I took some shots but I do not have the heavy equipment as some others do. The photos were a blurr and too far away for anything to turn out. However, we were excited nonetheless.
Enter the deep freeze. On Friday, the Governor of Minnesota ordered all public schools closed today, Monday, because of the bitter temps. This has not happened in 17 years. Saturday morning, I headed to the grocery store and ran errands to prepare for what was supposed to be the coldest we have seen in 20 years. I wasn’t going anywhere after that! Saturday night as I fired up my computer to work on some editing, I checked out my birding group photos. WHAT???!! A Snowy was seen that day in a neighboring city, Ramsey, roughly 8 miles away. My sidekick said “OMG MOM, we HAVE to go tomorrow.” I said, “Seriously, do you know how cold it’s going to be?! No way!” Sunday (yesterday) morning I woke up to -18 below regular temp, with a wind chill of -26 below. This confirmed I was not going anywhere. At about 10:30 I received an updated email the bird was indeed spotted that morning, and by 12:15 another birder had also reported it. I checked my phone. It had warmed up to -6 below with the same wind chill. Pshaw, I’m not a pansy. “Grab your coat, bundle up, we’re headed out.” I texted a friend and asked, “Am I crazy?”. I loved his reply, “Not at all, you’re just VERY passionate about what you do. Good for you!”
By the time we got to our destination, it was -9 below and -29 below wind chill. The temp was falling. We drove around for almost two hours. Back and forth within a about a ½ mile square radius. Saw a couple of other hearty birders slowly driving around. Stopped and talked to one woman. Nothing. I took a couple of photos of other things, just in case I didn’t see the owl, which was looking pretty good about then. We rounded the bend of a side road and spotted a van pulled over. We had been down this road about 4 times already. The closer we got, I saw the passenger of the van had a lens longer than my arm poking out the window. My sidekick (who is the eyes of this operation) spotted a Snowy sitting on a rock less than 25 yards from the road. I almost peed my pants I was so excited.
First rule of thumb. Do not disturb the birds. It you are close enough to flush it, you are too close. They waste too much energy having to fly here and there, away from people. This guy was pulled over right in front of that bird. Too close. I parked across the street away from the bird. I had gotten my camera ready “hours” ago, LOL. I took a couple of hundred photos of this beautiful creature. All while he/she barely moved, lol. I thought it was a she, just because it wasn’t as heavily barred as a male juvenile. But I have no clue. It was magnificent. My sidekick took a few shots for her photography class. Then Mr. Arrogant moved the van and thought he would pull a little closer. Jinx. The beautiful Snowy Owl flew off before I could change the settings on my camera. It was surreal.
My shots aren’t what a professional wildlife photographer would take. But like I said, I’m not a professional. And I don’t care. I love them and they are mine. I am happy. One in the record books for me, just like this bitter cold weather.
As a side note, this morning when I woke up it was -22 below, with a wind chill of -44 below. And as I write this now, Monday evening, it is a balmy -17 below with a -36 below wind chill.