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I'm a children's book writer, a campground owner and a special education teacher's assistant. It makes for a very busy year with lots of writing inspiration.
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1. Fox Kit Research

The manuscript for Mystery of the Missing Fox might be in my editors hands for review, bu that doesn’t mean the research stops.  Especially when it involves fox kits.

There are five in all, from what I can tell.  I sit in the woods, 100 feet from the den.  And at first, they stare at me, trying to figure if I’m friend or foe.

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When I don’t move closer or make any noise, they relax a bit.  But they always know exactly where I am.

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Once they feel safe again, the research and fun starts, and I raise my camera.

At first, the kits approach their brothers and sisters very innocently.

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They might even give a friendly hey-you-sleeping tap of the paw.

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And the next thing you know, they’re nibbling each others ears!  Or feet. Or tail.

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They roll around on the ground, no noise, no squeaks or growls that I can hear.  Which is good, since their mother isn’t in the area to protect them from predators.  (She was either out hunting, or watching me, watch her kits)

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Just when one kit seems to be getting the best of their sibling, a third comes to the rescue!

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When the play has wound down, the kits curl up together. No hard feelings on either side. That’s my cue to go.

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I hope the best for this year’s litter.

Stay safe little ones.

 

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2. Hummingbird Obsession

Photographing Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds has become a bit of an obsession.  I sit on the front lawn by my honeysuckle bush for an hour here, and an hour there, hoping for the chance to snap a photo or two.

But they’re so darn quick!

At first I could only get photos of them sitting on a branch.

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But then I graduated to some flight photos.  They still aren’t as clear as I’d like, but I’m hoping to learn as I go.

 

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Did you know these delicate creatures weigh less than a penny??

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Their hearts beat 600+ times per minute!  The normal beat for an average bird is 200!  For a human it’s 72.

And they need to feed every ten minutes or so to keep their energy level stabilized.

The way they feed, is by licking nectar three times per second. Try that with your next ice cream cone!

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They’re fascinating in so many ways!

 

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3. Eaglet Update

 

 

I thought you might want an eaglet update.  They’re growing very quickly!

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And holler?  Oh my, can they holler when they’re hungry!

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The eagle parents are sticking closely to the nest these days. For some reason, the geese make them crazy; flapping their wings, throwing their heads back and giving the danger call until the geese move out of the area.

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When the adult eagles move from side to side in the nest, the eaglets pull themselves across the nest after them, by using their wings and beak.

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These two little ones are big and strong. We’re going to have fun watching them grow this summer!

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4. Contest Winners!

Sorry it took so long to post the winners, but the campground store was hopping busy today!  After the long, long winter, it felt awesome to have so many campers and readers in the building.

First, I’d like to say how much I loved reading all the camping memories you posted.  Each one was unique and from the heart. Thank you for posting and playing.

I took all the names, wrote them on scraps of paper and tucked them randomly into the pockets of my coat. It doesn’t have as many pockets as Packrat’s, but there were eight to choose from.

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Then I waited for just the right contest pickers to come into the office. Eventually, two young men arrived, one of them telling me how much he loved both my books, and how he’d bought one yesterday. “You did?” I exclaimed.  “I can sign it for you, if you do me a favor.”  I winked at him.

“Sure!” he said.

I explained the rules of the contest, and what I’d done with the names.  “I need you each to chose one,” I said.

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The first young man chose a pocket from the right side of my  coat.

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The second young man, chose one from the left side.

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Linda Gray and Kim Campbell, you’ve each one a set of Cooper and Packrat books!  I’ll need to get your addresses to mail them. My e-mail address is on the contact page.

Congratulations!!

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5. COOPER AND PACKRAT~ Teacher & Librarian Appreciation Giveaway!

So very many reasons to celebrate this week ~

First off, it’s Teacher Appreciation week!    I’ve met many amazing educators the last few years.  I’m blessed to work in RSU16, a district in which the staff is not only knowledgeable, but welcoming and inspiring, too.  They’re cheerleaders in and out of the brick and mortar buildings we work in. As a teacher, and a parent, I’ve seen first-hand how they go above and beyond to make sure students get the education, time and attention they need.

I’ve also been privileged to meet incredible teachers and librarians outside my district while promoting and teaching Cooper and Packrat.   They have so many creative ideas when it comes to teaching literacy, and I’ve learned so much through my visits to their schools and literacy events, from their tweets and Facebook posts.  Thank you all!

This also happens to be  Children’s Book Week; the annual celebration of children’s books and reading. I was a little surprised to see Children’s Book Week was instituted in 1919, and is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country. That’s 96 years, people! 96 years!!  BRAVO!

And, last but not least, my campground opened this week, too!

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We had a happy, energetic group of campers who raked our sites and roads in exchange for donuts and camping!  We couldn’t have had better weather for it, either. We’re off to a great start to the 2015 Season!!

For these reasons and more, I’ve decided it’s time for another Cooper and Packrat giveaway for teachers and librarians, in appreciation for all they do.

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I have two sets of Cooper and Packrat, Books 1 and 2, to give away.  Teachers and librarians, all you have to do is leave your name, school and favorite summer memory from your childhood in the comments below by midnight, Friday, May 8th. If it’s a camping memory, your name will be entered twice! (Please don’t post on FB or Twitter, even though I’ll promote it there, as I’m afraid of missing someone’s entry)

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And this Saturday, I’ll have my camp readers pull two names as winners.

Good luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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6. Uninvited Guest

As I walked to the lake yesterday (without boots!) I could hear the unmistakeable cry of an eagle.  I hurried, hoping to see the adults switch places on the nest.  Or maybe get a glimpse of them bringing food back.

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But when I got there, the nesting eagle was alone.  Every couple of minutes, it threw back its head to give the squeaky, danger-in-the-area call.

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I kept waiting for the mate to fly in, as they usually do, to holler in duet against the danger.  For twenty minutes, I waited, with one eye on the sky.

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The eagle continued to cry, even though I couldn’t see what had upset it so. The loons weren’t in the area.  Nor crows or seagulls.  The osprey didn’t appear to be hunting either.

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Suddenly, I heard the flapping of a large wingspan.  Looking straight up, I realized a juvenile eaglet had been over my head, hidden in the branches of a big pine the whole time!  It flew down the shoreline, only to circle around and come back again.

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I never did get a good picture of the juvenile, as he soared over the trees I was standing under. I would have kept camera-hunting him, but the black clouds had arrived to let loose a steady stream of big, fat raindrops.

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I still have no proof of the eggs hatching, but this eagle did seem to be sitting a little higher on the nest.  I’ll check again tomorrow to see what I can see!

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7. A Walk on the Eastern Prom

Today, my husband and I walked from the Eastern Prom (ME), to the Old Port along a bike/walk path.  Casco Bay was on one side of us, the Narrow Gauge Railway on the other. The sun shone down, the birds were singing, kids rode bikes, joggers passed by and the seagulls called out.

It was a glorious day!

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Mockingbird singing a happy song from a low branch as people passed by.

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Sailing school is in session!

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The Narrow Gauge Railway had quite a few passengers.

My husband geo-cached, but I could hear the call of the osprey.  So I searched high and low. Finally, I found them. They were quite a ways away, but I had my camera on me.

Check out this nest!  All the rope mixed in with the sticks.

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The one on the nest was hollering like crazy, and I soon figured out why.  Another osprey wanted the nest.

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They dove and danced in the air.

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Until one of them claimed the platform for themselves.

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Even so, the osprey who’d been kicked out, circled overhead for quite awhile, crying out to anyone who would listen.

 

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Lucky for me, it was almost over my head

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It looked to me, like he still wasn’t too happy about it.

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8. First Loon Sighting for 2015

 

Yesterday, as I walked the red-blazed trail through the campground and along the shoreline of Lower Range Pond, I looked out over the water and gasped!

My loons were back!

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The ice had only been out for a day!  Somehow, they always manage to time it perfectly.

 

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The pair called back and forth, location calls.  My eyes got teary hearing them, I hadn’t realized just how much I’d missed it.

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Whenever their call rings out, people stop what they’re doing to turn toward the sound.

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Hopefully, we’ll have a successful nesting season this year, as the last two years did not yield chicks. ( If you click on the Random Loon Tag on the right of this post, you’ll find the blog posts describing why.)

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I should be revising, channeling fox kits for book three, as the Mystery of the Missing Fox  is due to my editor next month.  But the sun has just poked its way through the clouds and I cannot resist going down to the lake to find these gorgeous birds and to hear their call again.

The manuscript will be there when I get back.

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9. Switching Places

Yesterday, the weather turned glorious! Warm breezes blew over the still frozen lake, as birds chirped from every corner of the forest.

I took a long walk along the shoreline, camera slung around my neck, ready to shoot.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

I was just in time to watch the eagles switch places sitting on the eggs.

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And this time, the departing eagle flew right over my head!

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Only two or three minutes passed before the eagle left on the nest hunkered down for their watch over the little ones.

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Lately, there’s been a pair of seagulls who soar high overhead the small patch of open water on the lake.  The eagles don’t like this, not at all!  The one on the nest will call out, and the mate flies in to help protect the family.

Such good parents!

April vacation arrives soon. And with it, my walks will increase.  My notes from 2014 tell me that the eaglets were born right around April 18th, so you can bet I’ll be down at the lake as often as I can!

And I’ll keep you posted too.

 

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10. Nesting Eagles 2015

 

Somewhere around March 24th, the eagle pair settled in on their eggs.

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Look at that smile!

Each egg was laid three days apart and thirty-five days from then, chicks will be born.  Both adults take turns sitting on the nest, and they’ll turn the eggs approximately every two hours.

After the eggs are laid and the eagles start their long sit-in, or as I like to call it, a snuggle-in, I will always see one on the nest. They won’t leave those eggs alone. They’ll keep them warm and dry and safe to predators in the air, such as ravens. Or predators from down below, like raccoons.

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When I trudge to the lake now, through the 6 inches of snow which lays over most of the campground, I can count on seeing the one on the beautiful nest they built.

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Eyes to the sky though, I’m looking for the mate not on the nest. And if I’m lucky, I’ll witness something amazing like this . . .

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One eagle bringing sticks to the nest, adding on to the castle, so to speak.

Or a juvenile, soaring overhead, but not daring to come near.

A hawk looking for its next meal.

But what I’m most anxious for, is eaglets.

It won’t be long now.

 

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11. Where Have I Been? Here, There and Everywhere!

I’ve been fortunate to visit a few schools full of readers and writers over the last couple months.  And every visit was so special!

In February, I was able to meet Librarian Lynn Howker and the 4th, 5th and 6th grade students of Monmouth Middle School.

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We talked about descriptive language, and how fun it can be to build a boring, short sentence into a long, interesting one.  And we practiced how to find those descriptive words with Packrat’s Pocket Game.

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One student wears a coat/vest like Packrat’s, and they choose one of the many pockets it holds. While they look away, I show their peers the item in the pocket.  The challenge is for the peers to describe the item without staying its name, and for the student to guess what it is. It’s harder than it sounds!

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On March 4th, I Skyped with two third grade classes in Buxton for World Read Aloud Day.

Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest was the book they chose.  One classroom asked for Chapter 1, as they were just about to start it.  The other had finished, and asked me to pick a favorite.  So of course, I had to choose a bathroom scene.  Afterward, I answered questions from the students. Always my favorite part!  And what fabulous questions they had!  I especially liked showing them the campground office, through my laptop, from my house office window.

I wish I had a photos, but alas, it’s hard to read, Skype and take a pic too.

Just last week, I visited with the 3rd, 4th and 5th graders from Mast Landing in Freeport.

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Mast Landing has such a pretty, two story library.  I could have spent a whole afternoon, lost in the stacks.

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My presentations were held under great art, of Maine treasures.

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It was such a special treat to have lunch with the Library Pages, a group of volunteer students who give their free time to help with the numerous Library tasks. They asked wonderful questions about writing, reading and what it felt like to be on the Maine Student Book Award list.

And there was ice cream!

Thank you to all the schools I’ve visited!  I hope you’re enjoying Cooper and Packrat’s adventures!

 

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12. The Eagles Are Twitterpated!

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December 2014

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March 2015

Can you see the diffference?  And today, there were even more branches on the nest!  Ice fisherman told me the eagles had added to it all morning long.

The eagles are getting ready to lay their eggs!

I’ve snowshoed down every day, hoping to see the tell-tale sign, of one eagle, nestled in the nest.  When she does, we’ll only see the very top of her white head. Last year, she was sitting on eggs March 8th.

Until then, the eagles continue to visit the nest and add to it.

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13. Escaping the Cold

Last week, I was fortunate enough to escape to Florida for a few days.  Some of that time, was spent taking my son on college campus tours.

But the rest of the time was spent walking Sanibel beaches and paths with my camera.

Soaking up sunshine.

In my bare feet.

Pelicans were the bird of the week for me.  Every time I turned around, they were there.

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But I also saw an Anhinga, drying its wings by the side of the road.  They dive like a cormorant, but their markings are more stunning.

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Quite to my surprise, I caught a great photo of a Pileated Woodpecker, who was skirting the woods near the beach.

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I took sunrise photos

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And sunset photos, all in the same day.

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But I think my very favorite photos, were those of a little Western Sandpiper, taking a salt water bath . . .

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Because he looked like he was enjoying it so . . .

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I haven’t even begun to wade through the hundreds of photos I’d taken while on Sanibel.  Stop back again, because I’m sure to have another batch to share . . .

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14. Fisher Mitchell’s One Book, One School Program

Cooper and Packrat  had the distinct honor of being the book chosen for Fisher Mitchell’s One Book, One School Project 2015.  Two hundred and sixty hardcover copies of Mystery of Pine Lake was distributed through the school, thanks to a generous grant from the Tabitha and Stephen King Foundation, and support from the Bath Elementary Schools PTA.

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260 copies!  Whoa!

Joan Newkirk (my contact at Fisher Mitchell), and the rest of the teachers and librarians, had many wonderful activities planned to go along with the event.  Dress like a loon day, dress like your favorite character day, two breakfasts with read-alouds from the book, my two-day visit and a Pot Luck evening event, just to name a few.

And look at this bulletin board!

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A poem by Mary Oliver – The Loon on Oak-Head Pond

 

I was very disappointed when after waiting months, my first day to visit was snowed out – but the second day was still a go!

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When I arrived, I was given a fabulous space in the library and told to “make it my own for the day”.  Heaven!

As I waited patiently for students to arrive, several students and teachers poked their heads in the library to ask, “Are you Tamra Wight?” When I said yes, they’d grin and continue on their way.  A few brought their books in to have me sign.

There were four sessions in all, spanning grades 3 and 4. We talked about ideas, the inspiration behind Cooper and Packrat, and how my photography is my way of researching and documenting wildlife notes.  But mostly we talked about descriptive language and how important it is.

Playing What's in Packrat's Coat?: Descriptive Language Game

Playing What’s in Packrat’s Coat?: Descriptive Language Game

The students had wonderful comments, connections and questions.  One young lady, when asked where ideas come from, responded, “Your heart.”

She stole mine, with that answer.

Next Thursday, I’ll return to meet the fifth graders.  The snow better stay away!

We managed to squeeze in the Pot Luck Dinner and Author Presentation that same evening before the big Friday storm. Rather than go home between the classroom presentations and the Pot Luck, Cindy Lord and Mona Pease agreed to meet me for latte’s and chai at Cafe Creme.

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The drinks were warm, and the conversation light.  I just love these two ladies and their readiness to keep me company, in spite of my last minute wanna-meet-up, shout out . Not only did they brave the cold to come see me, they returned to the school to watch my little presentation and take a few photos of it.

The line for the pot luck was long!  So many wonderful families came!  One young man told me it was “an amazing turn out. You never know how these things will go.”

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While everyone ate, it was time for me to read from Cooper and Packrat.  Since many of the students had already begun the book, I chose Chapter 10:  a chapter about meeting and greeting around the campfire, old friends and new, coming together.  It felt appropriate, considering the meeting and greeting that was happening at the Pot Luck.

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Being introduced by Principal Berkowitz

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My little thank you speech

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Reading Chapter 10

My favorite part, of course, was talking to parents, teachers, PTA members and of course the students themselves.

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I signed many books, and I will get the rest next Thursday for sure.

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Some students snuck a peek at Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest, while they had a chance.

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This young lady, had a hard time giving it back to me.  She left happy though, when I told her the library had gained an extra copy for loaning that day.

And the frosting on the cake, in an already amazing day, was having this cool cake presented for desert.

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None of the students would allow the servers to cut into Cooper and Packrat’s faces . . . so one Mom took Cooper home, and I took Packrat.

So glad those two are well loved!

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15. Photography and Revising

These are the months where I have the most time to play with my camera, but the subject matter is limited.  My loons have gone to the coast.  The eagles roam, not yet tied to a nest full of chicks, the heron has migrated, turtles are buried deep and the fox kits are just a gleam in their parent’s eyes  . . .

So I turn to my backyard chicks.  If they were my children, they’d roll their eyes at the number of times I stand in my little front yard with my biggest lens trained on their feeders.  You can almost hear them say, “Really?  Really?  Isn’t that a little bit of overkill there? Go find a snowy owl for goodness sake!”

But it’s more challenging than one would think.  Over the last couple of days, whenever I was stuck in my manuscript, I’d take the camera outside for a few minutes.  Then at night I’d pour through the photos to see what I’d caught.  From the five hundred I took over the last couple of days, perhaps twenty to twenty-five were salvaged.  Ten of those are sharp and crisp.  Some I wish I had do-overs for . . .

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Grand Central Station

Right before a storm is best.  The feeders are a hub-bub of activity, the birds almost don’t pay me any mind at all as they choose their seeds.

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Finches devour the seed, leaving a chickadee waiting in the wings

 

Emotions are high on these days . . . . everyone wants their turn at the feeder.

 

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Wait your turn!

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Downy Woodpecker

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Mourning Dove with snow for a hat

Focusing and shooting birds who are perched and chowing down is fun, but I longed for a bigger challenge.  Incredible photos.

Flight photos.

So I turned my camera on my newest feeder, a shiny glass ball, where the flight in and out was constant.

Well, almost constant.

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With a little guidance from my husband, the photos became sharper and more interesting.

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But there were still a lot of photos I had to cut, interesting photos, but not clear enough, crisp enough to save.  I had to take comfort in the knowledge that I could try again another day.

Last night it hit me, for me, revising a manuscript is a lot like revising my photos. For every 1,000 strings of words, perhaps two hundred make the cut. Some need a little sharpening and re-focusing from a editor.  Some are put aside as a maybe.  Some you never need to touch, perfect in their rawness, from the minute you first wrote the words. Some are junk and just have to go.

Add color and substance here.  Move a chapter there.  Try to find the very perfect combination of contrast, exposure and depth . . . .

And cheekiness . . . .

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16. More Eagle Activity

 

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As I approached our lakefront last week, I spied an adult eagle soaring overhead.  I ran, camera in hand, which isn’t easy to do!  And I made it just in time to point and shoot . . .

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praying the settings were good enough.

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Such a graceful landing!

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This adult appeared to be checking out the nest, looking down upon it several times before flying off again.

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Can you tell how excited I am that we’ll have eaglets to watch again this year!!

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17. Eyes Were Bigger Than His Talons

Loving Christmas break from school for many reasons, but mostly for the many long walks through the woods I’m allowed.

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Santa brought me a new trail camera, so I’ve put the old one down by the beaver hut, since they’re so elusive and it’s pretty obvious they’ve been working hard on the den lately.  Of course, once I put it there, I’m not content to just let it sit, I have to hike down every day to see what images it’s caught.

While I was there yesterday, I heard the call of the eagle.  The dead tree they like to sit in is very close to the beaver hut, but can’t be seen by line of sight.  Even if I hadn’t heard them, I would have known they were there, because I could see cars stopping on the causeway to get a look.

So I waited.  And waited. And after fifteen minutes, I got my wish.  I’m sure my gasp of surprise could be heard across the lake!

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This adult was headed toward the nest, quite a ways from the beaver hut!  They were adding to the nest!

I could see a speck of white on the nest, which told me the other adult was waiting patiently for this addition.  Or perhaps its an offering?  A sign they were agreeing to reconnect?

But alas, halfway to the nest, the eagle began to drift downward, the weight of the stick was too much.

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Once again, I gave thanks for my long lens.  Those of you who are familiar with Lower Range Pond, know how great the distance is from from the beaver hut to the golf course side.  I was able to watch as the eagle tried to keep a hold of its prize.

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But alas, he couldn’t do it.   I picked up a four foot stick that lay on top the beaver hut and felt the weight of it in my hand.  I was amazed the eagle carried a stick that large for as far as it did!

He bit it.  He moved it back and forth.

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He thought about it for quite a bit.

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When the second adult called from the nest, he decided to abandon it in favor of joining his mate.

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I hurried down the trail, hoping to catch them both on the nest with my camera, and managed to take this one shot.

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I know from experience that mating doesn’t happen until March.  But this is a sure sign the process has begun.  And even though I’ve seen, documented and reported the ritual many, many times, I still get teary when I realize they’re going to start another family in my backyard.

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18. Today’s Read-Aloud Warms My Heart

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Today.

Today was one of those wonderfully, perfect days where I was reminded why I write for children.

And why I’m a teaching assistant.

And why those two things fit together perfectly.

 

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A few weeks ago, I posted here about visiting the classroom of an author friend, who’d  created a campfire for her students to sit around, as they read Cooper and Packrat.  When I gushed about the experience to my reading/writing students and co-teacher Shannon Shanning, they insisted we try it too.

Shannon brought in the hot cocoa and  popcorn.  I found some leftover graham crackers and chocolate in my cupboard from the campground.  And together we scraped up the Fluff, yellow, red and white tissue paper, paper bags (to make logs) and lights to create an indoor campfire read aloud!

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Our students actually tried to warm their hands over the flames!

I can’t explain in mere words how rewarding it is to read aloud from the Cooper and Packrat books to my own students.   Their reactions; gasps, giggles, questions and shout-outs inspire me constantly.

When Gavin burps the alphabet aloud, and the boys started trying it too, as the girls and I rolled our eyes?  Priceless!

 

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I read two whole chapters, just because I love doing it, so!  But then we had the students take turns reading as well.  I especially enjoy letting them in on the little behind-the-scenes notes;  like the bathroom scene from book 2 where the goons take Oscar from Packrat and hold him . . . . well, . . .   anyway . . . and how that scene was inspired solely from my editor having asked for Oscar to make an appearance in book 2 – and my wanting to put Oscar in trouble.

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Days like today, really warm my heart.  And when I’m back at my home desk, alone,  fingers poised over the keyboard, wondering if all my ideas have been used up, if I’ll ever find the perfect combination of words to finish a scene, I remember those students.  I remember their questions, their praise, their groans from a cliff-hanger-chapter-ending.  And I press forward, trusting in myself to find the next exciting scene that’ll make them, and all my readers,  gasp out loud, turning the page, looking for more.

 

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19. Early Morning Great Blue Heron

Saturday morning, I rolled out of bed, and fumbled for my sweatpants and sneakers.  Running my fingers through my hair, I glanced out at the pre-dawn darkness, then at the  thermometer.  I chuckled.

Forty-four degrees.

I might have crawled right back into the warmth of the bed covers, but I had a kayak date.  When the first drips of coffee began plopping into the camp office coffee pot, I heard a gentle knock on the front door and looked to see Cindy Lord’s smiling face peeking through the window. I let her in to choose her favorite kayak paddle and life vest.

“The sky was awfully pretty as I drove over the hills of Rt. 26,” she said. So I hurried, screwing the lid on my stainless steel coffee cup and hoisting my camera bag over my shoulder. Checking one last time for my kayak key, we headed out the front door, locking it behind us.

We talked and walked.  Rounding the last corner before the lake front, my breath caught.  Cindy hadn’t exaggerated. The sky was glorious.  I wasn’t even a foot off shore with the kayak, when I lifted the camera from my bag and began shooting.

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Cindy led the way past the eagle’s island to our favorite sunrise viewing spot.

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I sipped my coffee and watched the new-day sun, slowly rise over the treetops.

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Basking in its glow, Cindy asked, “Where to next?”  We decided to continue on, down the shoreline until we glided into my favorite cove.  I was looking for deer, or the muskrat, or a loon.

What we spied through the fog and shoreline shadows, was a heron, wading through shallow water.

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It stood perfectly still for the longest time.  From a distance, it could be mistaken for a bare branch. But I knew what I was looking for.  They’re one of my favorite subjects to photograph.

Cindy and I took a few photos.  Silently paddled a little closer.  Took a few photos. Paddled a little closer.

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Suddenly, the heron lunged downward like a lightening strike.  He came back up with a fish!

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Oh, how I wished he wasn’t behind the fog and in the shadows!  Getting a feeding shot was on my bucket list of subjects . . . the photo above was okay, but not the bright, clear, striking photo I longed for.

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Then the heron spread his wings, and took flight to land on a nearby branch.

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He rubbed his beak on the tree branch, cleaning it off after breakfast.

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This branching pose was a first for me!  While he sunned himself, I took photo after photo after photo.

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Cindy and I were in awe.

Mornings like this are always so much more special when you have friends to share them with.

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Slowly we paddled back.  It was time for me to open the store and then we had a special event to attend; lunch with Patience Mason before her book signing at Books N Things in Norway.

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What an awesome day . . . Good friends, good weather and good food.

Couldn’t ask for more.

 

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20. Loons Preparing for Winter

Like most of you, I took advantage of the gorgeous sunshine and warm temps this weekend . . . .

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sneaking out of the office and out of my writing duties to get on the lake both mornings.  Sunday morning, I managed to push off shore at 6:30am and the view looked like this.

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Heavenly.

As I meandered through the cove next to our swimming area, I heard the soft hoot of a loon on the other side of the eagle’s island.  They were still here!

I paddled silently to find two of them, swimming around each other, hooting and fishing. Before I had a chance to raise my camera, one took off down the lake, circled above us, then flew off to another location.

The one remaining, looked at me curiously.

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I remember the first time I saw a fall loon, with its white face and neck.  I thought it was sick. Or old.

Of course, it’s neither.  They are simply  molting, getting rid of worn and frayed feathers so they can grow stronger, new feathers.

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This is why we see them preening so much in August.  These new feathers will keep them warm in the cold ocean waters, where they will spend the winter.

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Oh, how I’ll hate to see them go . ..

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But at least I have the thousand photos I took of them, while they were here, to help pass the time until they come back next May.

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21. Saying Goodbye to the Kingfisher

My elusive Kingfisher.

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After an entire summer of chasing him all over the lake, he finally came to me, flying across the top of the water, and landing in the branch above me.

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He posed for quite awhile, chattering at me twice.

 

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I’d like to think he was saying, “Have a nice winter. See you in the Spring.”

 

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22. Whittier’s Book Launch for Cooper

 

On Tuesday the 28th, I had a second book launch for Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest.  This time, it was hosted by my colleagues at Whittier Middle School.  I’m so fortunate to work with people who support what I’m most passionate about, outside of school.

We asked Hope from Wind Over Wings to bring her staff, her adorable owls, clever raven, and proud Eagle, Sky. I knew our students would absolutely adore them!

 

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Pippin, the Saw-Whet Owl

 

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And I was right, everyone was quite taken with them.

When it was time to begin, our principal Mr. Vincent, got the show rolling, by introducing me to the crowd,  numbering 65+.

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I talked and showed photos about the inspiration behind Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest; eagle behavior, our family geocaching adventures, and the canyon setting which inspired the opening and climactic scenes in the story. Then I read Chapter 1.  Halfway through, I noticed a young man, sprawled on the floor in front of me, following along in his own copy.  My hands itched to get a picture of him!

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After my little presentation it was time for the winged stars of the show!  Sue gave her presentation on ravens and how clever they can be.

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And then Hope brought out Skywalker, a golden eagle who’d been shot out of the sky.  He’d had one wing amputated, and after months of physical and emotional recuperation,  now educates the public on the awesomeness of raptors.

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Oh, how I love that eagle and his story!  So much so, I’ll be signing them to present at the campground next summer. I know my campers will love them!

As I went on to sign books by the makeshift campsite, Carole and Cathi sold books,

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while Shelley helped the kids make their own s’mores . . .

and Julie and Shannon instructed attendees on how to make eagles from hand and foot prints.

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These are two of my students who were quite proud of their crafts!  And I was quite proud to have them in the audience.

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A huge public thank you to everyone who helped make the evening a magical one!

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23. Beavers Foraging

It was late twilight, and I was walking the red-blazed trail that follows the shoreline, when  I saw two figures moving toward me from the middle of the lake.   I hid behind some brush thinking they were ducks, but wanting a closer look.

Mind you, I had no monopod. The camera lens was fully extended. Not the most ideal conditions for taking wildlife photos.

As they got closer I gasped in amazement.  The very creatures I’d been trying to capture on camera since late summer, in person and on the trail camera were moving toward me!

I snapped several photos and had to edit them heavily, but this is what I got!

 

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Oh, how I wish they’d come out to play in the daytime!

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24. S’more’s, Packrat’s Coat and Q & A fun!

Not too long ago, I was asked by one of my critique partners if I’d have time to Skype her third grade classroom. “We’ve read the first Cooper and Packrat,” she’d told me, “And started the second.  They’re loving them so much!”

“I could try to scoot over for a visit, you’re school day is longer than mine,” I suggested.

“Oh!  You could be our Mystery Reader!” she’d exclaimed.

I’d always wanted to be a mystery reader!

I counted the days until finally it was time.

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So, I knocked, once, twice, three times.  And smiled to hear the squeals on the other side of the door.  Questions flew around the room, then silence.

My friend’s voice.  “Are you a boy? Knock two times if you are. Once if not.”

One knock from me.

More chatter on the other side.

“Are you a grandmother?”

One knock.

“Are you a Mom?”

Ah-ha! Trick question.  I knocked twice. More squeals.

“Wait, wait,” I heard one girl say.  “Is it one of OUR moms?”

My friend repeated the question.  “Knock two times if not.”

I knocked once . . . then twice.  Lots of squeals.

“Is it the writer of Mystery of Pine LAKE!? Is it?” I heard from a student. “Oh I hope so!”

My friend asked the question.  “If so, knock twice.”

I knocked once.  Pause.  Twice.

Oh my goodness! What a welcome!

 

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They had a campfire going in the middle of the classroom floor!

Students pulled me this way and that, showing me the work they’d done with the first Mystery of Pine Lake, and now Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest.

They were very proud of Packrat’s coat.  Every time they read a scene in which he pulls something from it, they add it here.

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Yes, even the mouse and the forgotten tuna sandwich!

I didn’t know I’d put 29 things in his coat, since Chapter 1, Book 1!  Very cool!  (I may need to use this for my own research)

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When they were settled down, I spoke to them of inspiration.  Of my writing process.  Of  Book 3 – Mystery of the Missing Fox. I showed my wildlife and campground photos.   Soooo very many thoughtful and well thought out questions flew around the room.

And then . . . they made me a s’more.

Oh my goodness, but that tasted good!

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I had so much fun!  Thank you for inviting me Ms. Cooper!  I hope you all enjoy the last couple chapters of Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest as much as I enjoyed visiting your classroom!

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25. Chickadee’s Thanksgiving Dinner

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The campground is silent, blanketed in our first snowfall.  Today I walked my trail, the first human footprints made.  I say human, because I could see where the fox had trekked ahead of me.

It was a beautiful walk, although I didn’t see any wildlife to take photos of until I returned to my own front yard, where the birds were feasting on the sunflower seeds I’d put out before I left.  I caught these images of a chickadee digging into one . . .

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First he peeled the outer layer

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When my camera made its clicking sound, he looked right at me, as if to say, “Mine!”

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Then he went back to it, checking me out every so often to see if I was still there.

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Eventually he pulled the meat out.

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I thought he’d swallow it whole, but no, he put it back between his feet and proceeded to have his Thanksgiving dinner.

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And as he swallowed the last bite, he looked back up at the feeder, wondering he had room for seconds.

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I hope everyone had a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving.  May the weeks and days leading up to Christmas be joyful.

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