Thursday, June 29, 2017

In Flight

Watching birds as Baloo and I take our daily walks is always a treat, especially when I have the chance to catch them on the wing.

A seagull in flight over a moored sailboat caught my eye, and I managed to catch a photo. 

Another seagull wheeled around and over the trees, giving me time enough to get focused on it for a much closer picture than I usually manage.

A pair of mallards flew out from shore as we passed by. Do you think they might have been alarmed by a large black dog? 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Not so Plain Brown Birds

They don't usually garner as much attention as the Baltimore orioles, cardinals or goldfinches, but some of the less obviously colorful birds have their own charms.

The yellow-shafted flicker (I frequently call them My Friend, Flicker - I know, I'm strange...) has just a little splash of red on the back of the neck, but when it takes flight, the underside of its wings flash brilliant yellow-gold. I also love the heavily spotted breast - I'll try to get more pictures as the season progresses. I'm just glad that they seem to be nesting nearby.

The song sparrow doesn't seem very impressive, either, until it starts to sing. In the big field where Baloo and I walk frequently, they perch in the tops of small trees, bushes or wild grape vines and serenade. That's how I usually find them - I follow the sound of the song until I see the little rascals and try to snap a picture before they decide to move to another sound stage.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Nosegays and Nectar

Well, they're pretty well finished now, but I always love the lilacs, so I thought I would post them anyway! 

There are beautiful lilac bushes peppered all along a number of our favorite walks. I always have to stop and stick my nose into the fragrant blossoms as we pass (Baloo noses underneath, hoping for a whiff of bunny or ground squirrel).

When I was a very small, we had a big lilac growing in our back yard and it had a lovely little open area underneath that an imaginative child could turn into a fragrant drawing room for teas, or a secret cave to hide in. I also remember sipping the nectar from the base of the flowers. It was so sweet!

Speaking of sticking one's nose into blossoms and sipping nectar... This bumble bee is taking full advantage of a red buckeye flower.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

By the Beautiful (Inland) Sea

Baloo and I took a walk along the shore near the lighthouse and I was enchanted by the many flowers blooming in the sand right at the water's edge (Baloo, on the other hand, was enchanted by fishy smells and who knows what else!).

False Solomon's Seal always reminds me of palm fronds until it opens completely and becomes less rigid.  This specimen is halfway between the stiff, palm-like quality and the softer arching look it takes on when fully mature.

This beach dweller was new to me and I had to look it up (I always like to be formally introduced to any new plants or creatures that I meet, so that I can call them by their proper names). This pretty little plant is a silverweed. They seemed to grow in colonies, spreading by sending out roots and sprouting new plants from them.

Along the edge of the beach, as we were reentering the forest, we found a lovely patch of wood betony, which is a revered herbal remedy that is recorded back at least as far as the middle ages, where an old Italian proverb advises one to, "Sell your coat and buy betony,", since it was widely considered a magic cure for many ailments.

I often find that if I'm not very careful, I learn something new every day!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Battle of the Oranges

Baloo and I have witnessed some altercations between various birds as we meander along our way.

Robin (left), Baltimore Oriole (right) 

I have observed that robins can be pretty territorial birds, but the Baltimore oriole can be just as fierce, as it turns out. In fact, the oriole was aggressively rousting the robin out of the trees and chasing it around the field relentlessly, even though he was the smaller bird.

Of course, those dads have a good reason to protect their territories, since they're in the middle of raising their little families. This nest full of baby robins is carefully tucked up into the corner of a play structure at Old Mission Congregational Church. The children discovered the nestlings while playing before services started. They wondered why they were getting scolded by the unhappy parents and found the reason (they made a sign to warn people that the birds were there, so they could grow up and fledge in peace - and the parents could relax a little, too)!

Happy Father's Day!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Goosey, Goosey, Gander

Where shall I wander? 


As Baloo and I took our wander down the road beside the bay one day, we sort of majored in goose watching. Some flew in together to find a spot to land in the water.

But mostly, there were proud parents parading their young along the shores. Don't you just love the neat little line of babies with parental bookends?

Here's a closer look at the little ones.

A short way down the shore, we found a much larger family, but they're still lining up in the babies with bookends protective promenade formation.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Faces in the Forest

There are watchers in the woods. 

I saw this eye drawn on a piece of birch bark that was impaled on a couple small branches. It looked over a trail Baloo and I take through a favorite hemlock forest.

A little later on our walk, we were surprised by this face on a pine tree right at the edge of the trail. Someone had drawn eyes on the two upper trimmed branches and had even put pine needle eyelashes on them (look closely and you may be able to see them). They put two shelf fungus on a stick leaning up against the trunk to make the mouth, just below the nose branch (complete with nostrils drawn in). 

Of course, by that time, I was seeing faces everywhere - even ones that weren't aided by human hands. I sort of liked this craggy character.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Not Such Ugly Ducklings

There's a large, shallow pond (lake?) on the way to one of Baloo's favorite walking trails where we sometimes peek through the trees to see who might be out on the water. 

On this occasion, a pair of swans were grazing lazily with their brood of cygnets. They weren't too perturbed by our approach - they simply swam to the edge of the water where they felt safe with the distance and the cover. That made it tough to get good pictures, of course, but I tried!

The little ones stayed in the middle, flanked by their parents.

I took advantage of the photographic opportunity when one finally turned around to face us. Not ugly at all, right? Pretty cute, really. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

A Whiter Shade

A couple days ago, I shared two of my mother's favorite flowers and I warned that there were other blossoms along the way that, although they were neither pink nor my mother's favorites, I would post another day.  Here are two that were showing their stuff that same evening.

The Canada Mayflower looks a bit like a tiny fireworks display with its cluster of starburst shaped blooms.

The starflower comes by its name honestly.  The petals form little six-pointed star shapes against a background of much larger leaf whorls that set off the white of the flower very dramatically.

Small flowers seem to keep capturing my attention as I wander around with Baloo. Their different shapes and growth habits are a continuing source of wonder. Yes, I know, I am easily entertained - this is not necessarily a bad thing....

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Foggy, Foggy Brew

Imagine, if you will, a beautiful late Spring day with a few puffy thunderheads piling up along the horizon, but otherwise sunny skies.

A perfect day for sailing (or hiking with Baloo, in my case).

Oddly, as we were walking along, the forest suddenly filled with a grayish smokiness. I couldn't smell any fire and the temperature was dropping, so I didn't worry about it - just enjoyed the odd effect of the trees getting all soft in the misty air.

When we emerged from the woods and wound our way back toward home, there was a cloud rolling right down the middle of the road. Cars were suddenly appearing out of a dense fog and outrunning the cloud that finally enveloped us as it blew south.

As I drove along with the mist, I could see another strip of fog over the bay. So, I drove to the scenic overlook to see what it might look like from there.

It is hard to describe the effect and the pictures don't begin to do it justice, but you can see that the sky is a lovely expanse of blue and the only cloud runs right down the middle of the bay with clear sailing on either side. The island was partially shrouded in mist, too, but not completely. Very eerie and beautiful.

Lots of other people stopped at the overlook to admire the view, too!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Happy Anniversary Celebration!

As amazing as it is to imagine, Baloo and I are celebrating our fourth anniversary together. It was on this day, just after I got off work on a Friday afternoon, when the folks from Second Chance called me with an emergency request to foster a dog that would otherwise be 15 minutes from its final walk down the hall at the Humane Society. I could not possibly refuse. 

Enter Baloo! I wasn't sure I would be able to handle him when he arrived at my house an hour or so later, having taken three people, forty minutes, a cup of peanut butter and a muzzle to get him into the car to transport him.

By the time he got over heartworms, neutering, near starvation, fear of getting into cars and a few other issues, we'd become bonded and he'd completely wiggled his little way into my heart. So, he became my "foster failure" - I adopted him, myself.

There have been a few health scares with him since the early days, too, but he's doing so well now (quick! where's some wood to knock on??).

I took these pictures of him yesterday afternoon toward the end of our afternoon outing. There were some lovely spirea blooms and iris to set off his furry little self. He caught a sniff of something interesting just as I snapped this picture - there's a little blur on the muzzle, but that's just who he is. He sees the world through his nose! I enrolled him in Darwin's Dogs and they think he'd be a good tracking dog and I totally agree.

So, we're celebrating our anniversary all day today. He's getting a bone that I filled with turkey and rice and put into the freezer so that it will provide both treat and entertainment. We'll find nice walks to take and games to play (so, yep, pretty much like most other days...). See? We're a perfect match - I'm just as silly as he is!

Monday, June 5, 2017

In the Pink

On that same evening walk Baloo and I took the other day, I found myself thinking about my mother. Two of her favorite wildflowers were blooming and she would have been delighted to meander along the trails to admire them.

The pink lady's slipper is very fussy about where it grows, so anywhere that it can flourish is automatically pretty special in my book. I probably should have gotten a close up of the flower, itself.  Hmmm...  Maybe we will have to go back and remedy that oversight.  Oh, darn!  Another nature walk to take - poor me.

The fringed polygala may be a tiny little flower, but it is so unusual it doesn't need size to stand out as the beauty it is.

More lovely spring flowers were blooming along the trails and I took some pictures of them, too, but they weren't pink. I'll just have to save them for another day.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Red Wings

Baloo and I took an evening walk to a spot where we could stop and look out over a protected wetland area and watch for movement in the bushes and trees around us (more pictures from the outing to come...).

There was a pair of red winged blackbirds feeding and preening in the sunset light.  You can easily see the red patch on the male's shoulder, even though it is partly obscured by the foliage.

His mate is not quite as colorful, but she's quite as striking in her own more subtle style. She prefers the neutral shades to the showier ones.

So, why did I choose to highlight these not so terribly exotic birds with pictures that were taken at dusk, so they're not as clear as they could be? Because, I got lucky and happened to capture an image of the male as he took flight toward his lady love. Isn't he magnificent?

The whole walk and evening's observation topped off a lovely day - Baloo thought so, too, as he sat quietly and listened to the sounds of singing frogs and other interesting creatures.   

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Madness of the Month of May

What on earth do I disappear into the woods for weeks on end to hunt? 

The deliciously difficult to find (but easy to enjoy) morel mushroom, that's what.

There's a trick to pattern recognition, especially when they're hidden in thatched grasses that are virtually the same color as the mushrooms.

They can be hard to see, even when you know they are there and I have gotten down among them with the camera, right? 

As we frequently quip, "They can hide, but they cannot run." - and they do it so very well!

So, now you know at least a big chunk of what my family and I are up to during the merry month of May. 

Of course, the eating comes after the finding...