52 Week Challenge – Week 2 – WINTER

I have to say this was a good week to have WINTER as the category in the 52 week challenge. In Minnesota, we had plenty of different weather (as usual) this week! I took a few photos of what winter means around here!

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Or as I fondly say, Winter From My Neck of the Woods!  I am a day late and a dollar short as usual on getting this one out!

I have to say this was a good week to have WINTER as the category in the 52 week challenge. In Minnesota, we had plenty of different weather (as usual) this week! I took a few photos of what winter means around here!

Earlier in the week, we were blessed with three days in a row of the white stuff. It made for difficult driving commutes. I am really lucky in that I leave later than most, and come home earlier. I am not stuck in traffic most days, lucky me!

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My drive in to work on Tuesday.
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Shoveling the sidewalk on Monday at work.
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HA my car buried at the end of my shift. Looks the same on the other side.
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After the snow cleared so did the sky, there was a sunset, off my deck.
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If I were to pick my favorite of the week, it would be this one. A male Northern Cardinal Wednesday morning before work. Again, off my deck.
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Yes, I know it’s corn.
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Again on Wednesday, it cleared up when I left work.

Then it got COLD. C – O – L – D. COLD. Thursday morning it was -9 below, with a -26 below windchill. Loved this one I grabbed on the Mississippi.

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This is what happens when the air temp is colder than the water temp.
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Friday night at the local ice skating rink, it was still pretty chilly. I am going to do another blog post about “the Pit”.

In Minnesota, winter to many of us means winter dance team competitions. My daughter doesn’t dance anymore, but we took in some dance team action on Saturday.

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If I had to pick my favorite of the week, it would definitely be the Northern Cardinal. HA, not a surprise.

Next week’s category is “Drink”. Should be interesting and fun!  Here is another glimpse of the categories!

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7…er…Hundred Swans-a-Swimming

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Since my new year’s resolution to myself is to get back out into nature again and update my nature blog more often, I thought I would start off by writing about the Swan Park in Monticello, Minnesota.  I have written about this park before on my previous blog in case it sounds familiar to you.

I haven’t been there for a couple of years, so I thought I would grab a friend and head out there on one of my days off. She had never been there, and just got a new camera for Christmas, so win-win. When we got there, it was about 17 degrees, but the wind chill made it feel more like 0. It was chilly, but not too bad by Minnesota standards.

Let me back up just a little bit. If you’re wondering, “what the heck is the Swan Park?” let me talk briefly about it. The swan park is host to as many as 2,700 Trumpeter Swans during the winter months, and is about 13 miles from my door. The banks of the Mississippi enjoy open waters during the winter, and provide the swans an ideal wintering vacation spot.

30 years ago there was a partnership for trying to restore the Trumpeter Swans in our area. There was a release of a pair from Hennepin Parks, and additional pairs followed. A local Monticello resident started feeding them in the winter. As the wintering population grew, she spend entire days hauling corn from a gravity wagon in her driveway down to the river bank for the swans. They later installed a custom-designed conveyor system. The “swan lady” passed away a few years ago, but her husband Jim has continued the winter feeding.  Once the snow melts, the swans return to the fields and find plenty to eat there. More information can be found at this link Visit Monticello Swans.

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At any rate, when we arrived I noticed the river was really high. We have had a lot of precipitation this year, including snow and rain in the last couple of weeks. I had not seen it that high since I started visiting the swans.  In the past, there was a lot more shore, so most of them were up on the rocks and shoreline.

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We were lucky enough to get there during feeding time.  Jim walked down to the shore and grabbed the buckets of corn and threw it out to the swans. He had to grab a rope and let himself down there because of the high water. There were also many Mallards and Canada Geese. The mallards were going crazy and WOW was it loud! I recorded it on my phone but would have to upgrade my account to post a video 😦

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All of the waterfowl were very aggressive! The swans were nipping at each other and I thought the ducks were going to drown, diving down to get the corn!  The swans and geese were just going right over the top of them. Jim was very friendly and came over to talk to us and give us some stats. He thought there were about 1,800 there that day, but I was thinking more like 1,000. What do I know?  I have seen more in colder, snowier winters. I have also been there when there have been none.  Obviously, it was during a year with not a lot of snow.

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We stayed a while watching them nip and peck at each other, taking photos. There were several other people there taking photos as well. It is a park, after all. The house on the other side of the park has a big dock, and they charge people to go over there and take pictures. Crazy!  They also used to hand out hot chocolate on the honor system but obviously something happened with that because they don’t do it anymore.

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Fun facts about Trumpeter Swans and the Swan Park:

  • Trumpeters weigh between 21 and 35 pounds and can live up to 25 years.
  • Trumpeters mate for life 🙂
  • Juvenile Trumpeters are called Cygnets and are gray in color for their first year.
  • Lead poisoning, illegal poaching, power lines and loss of habitat are their main threats
  • The swan park is the largest flock of Trumpeter Swans in North America.
  • The Trumpeter Swan’s wing span can be up to 10 feet, they are the largest waterfowl in North America.

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After our toes started to freeze, we decided to head home. I hope you enjoyed the swans as much as I do!

Sheila

 

A Thanksgiving Sign

For the last three years, I’ve been promising myself I would get back to going on photo walks, getting out into nature, blogging, etc. And for the last two years I have let myself down. I’m not going to be too hard on myself.  In the last three years, I have lost both of my parents and my full time job. I started school full time and my sidekick became ill. Chronically ill. Which is a story for another blog post. I have been working a REAL job part time while I go to school, and am depending on my portrait photography to pay some of my bills. So in the end, life has been consuming me.

I have had rare opportunities to get out into nature and take photos. While I like portrait photography and I get paid for it, my true passion lies in nature, landscapes, birds, still life or inanimate objects. I could sit for hours watching a Snowy Owl in freezing temps or capturing the beautiful color of fall. The last time I was at my favorite spot, the refuge, was in June. JUNE. I have been lost without it. I miss it. I miss blogging. I miss reading the blogs I loved to read on a daily basis. I miss walking in the snow and capturing the beauty.

I. Miss. Nature.

In the back of my mind I have been thinking about starting another Project 365. It’s the only way I know that will push me out the door to get back into it again. I finished one in 2010/2011 and did some of my best work during that time. I started another one in 2014, only to have my dad get sick half way though and I had to end it.

So when I looked out my sister’s window on Thanksgiving Day and saw this beautiful family, I knew it was a sign.  It was the first time in 14 years that my whole family had gotten together for Thanksgiving. Since then, we have lost my brother and both of my parents. Maybe it was a sign from my parents, to kick me in the butt to get me motivated again. I have been missing them so much, and always do when the holidays roll around.

At any rate, my sister’s backyard in Duluth has been the place for many a photo for me in the past few years. With eight acres of woods, it is easy to find SOMETHING to take a photo of and write a blog entry. At any given time in the winter, she can have up to 15 deer in her yard. She sometimes names them. This is “Bread Doe” and her family.

Thanks for stopping by and reading. If you are so inclined, stop back again. I can’t promise I will post all the time, but my goal is at least once a week.

Sheila