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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. 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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Monmouth 1

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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2. 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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3. 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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4. 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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5. 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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6. 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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7. 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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8. 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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9. 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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10. 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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11. 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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12. 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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Tansy, a Screech Owl

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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13. 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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14. 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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15. 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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16. August Was A Wild Month

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So much has happened in the month since I last posted.   The campground was super busy with our themed weekends, especially our Halloween ones!

And mid-month, Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest launched!  Over 200 people came to the campground, and sat on my front lawn to celebrate with me, my family and Islandport Press.  For a special treat, we invited Hope from Wind Over Wings to give a presentation on raptors and ravens.

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Teddy – A Northern Saw-whet Owl

 

The crowd was enchanted with each and bird, and their hearts were touched by their stories and how they came to stay with Wind Over Wings.

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Zachariah – Common Raven

 

Hope and Skywalker have a special bond, it was easy to see.  Sky sang to Hope, as Hope told Sky’s story on how he was shot out of the sky. He came close to death, but pulled through, only to find one wing had to be amputated.  Can you imagine being an eagle, only to find yourself grounded?

Angry, Sky turned his back on his caregivers. Literally.  It was only after much patience, love and special care on the part of Hope and her staff,  that Sky turned back to the world.

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Hope with Sky – a golden eagle

 

Now he stars in many presentations each year to educate humans on the life and adventures of being an eagle.

The photo below shows Sky saluting me for my work on Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest.  I was very honored.

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While my staff helped children make s’mores, and Maxwell Moose wandered around showing everyone who would listen about how he was a character in Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest, I signed books for my readers and campers and friends.

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The campground was still in full swing, but I did find time for a few kayaking trips to see the loons

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They are preening . . .

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and gathering in preparation for their journey to the coast for the winter.

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And I even caught the heron, who frequents the marshy area every Fall . . .

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School has started as well, and it feels good to be back in the classroom, talking up books, and writing and helping students make the most of each and every day.  We are planning an event at the school which will include Hope, and Wind Over Wings.

Going through my photos tonight, I realized I’ve taken many, but posted few.  This is mainly due to the time involved in editing them.  But now that the campground is slowing down, I can start going through them and will be be able to post summer-time photos well into the winter months!

And you’re going to have to hear all about my research and writing ups and downs, while I tackle book 3:  Mystery of the Missing Fox!

 

 

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17. Soaring Eagles

 

Cindy Lord met me on the porch of my campground office at 5am last Friday morning.  After I made a pot of coffee and filled my stainless steel cup with the hot, dark liquid I craved at that time of day, we trekked to the lake to put our kayaks in the lake.

We were in time to witness the dancing mist on the water and the rising sun over the trees.

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I looked for muskrats, herons and wood ducks.  But as is often the case with Cindy and I, it was a loon we saw first.  I can’t remember the last time we were together and we didn’t see one.

A second loon flew overhead a few moments later. We watched as they two of them  greeted each other for a few minutes before swimming off down the lake.

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Cindy and I traveled the same path as the pair, talking, sharing author-ly stories and just plain catching up on life.

Until we were rendered speechless by the sight of an adult eagle in the distance.

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At first, he appeared to be sitting in peace.  But the caw of a crow told a different story.

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It didn’t take long to see the eagle was being harassed.  The crow called and buzzed him until eventually, the poor eagle took flight to escape.

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He landed in another tree, closer to us.  The crow wasn’t giving up that easily though.

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A second crow joined the first.  The eagle looked out over the lake regally, appearing to ignore them as best as he could .

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But even the mighty eagle can only take so much.  The crow buzzed the eagle one too many times . . .

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until the eagle spread his wings and fell off the branch,

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It was the most beautiful thing to see . . .

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his wings filling with air and the eagle lifting up to the sky . . .

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soaring . . .

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down along the lake toward the campground.

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Cindy and I looked at each other and grinned, before picking up our paddles to follow its path.

 

 

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18. Soaring Eagles

 

Cindy Lord met me on the porch of my campground office at 5am last Friday morning.  After I made a pot of coffee and filled my stainless steel cup with the hot, dark liquid I craved at that time of day, we trekked to the lake to put our kayaks in the lake.

We were in time to witness the dancing mist on the water and the rising sun over the trees.

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I looked for muskrats, herons and wood ducks.  But as is often the case with Cindy and I, it was a loon we saw first.  I can’t remember the last time we were together and we didn’t see one.

A second loon flew overhead a few moments later. We watched as they two of them  greeted each other for a few minutes before swimming off down the lake.

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Cindy and I traveled the same path as the pair, talking, sharing author-ly stories and just plain catching up on life. Every now and then, we’d run into the loons again . . .

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We’d snap a few more photos and chat again until we were rendered speechless by the sight of an adult eagle in the distance.

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At first, he appeared to be sitting in peace.  But the caw of a crow told a different story.

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It didn’t take long to see the eagle was being harassed.  The crow called and buzzed him, until eventually, the poor eagle took flight to escape all the noise and hubbub.

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He landed in another tree, closer to us.  The crow wasn’t giving up that easily though.

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A second crow joined the first in making the eagle’s life as miserable as possible.

All the while, the eagle looked out over the lake regally, appearing to ignore them as best as he could .

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But even the mighty eagle can only take so much.  The crow buzzed the eagle one too many times . . .

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until the eagle spread his wings and fell off the branch,

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It was the most beautiful thing to see . . .

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his wings filling with air before lifting up into the sky . . .

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soaring . . .

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over hour heads . . .

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then down along the lake toward the campground.

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Cindy and I smiled at each other, much as I imagined Cooper and Packrat do, before we  pickied up our paddles to follow the eagle home, to the campground.

 

 

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19. Eagle Mania

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Our eaglets are getting quite big!  They’re spreading and flapping their wings.  Before you know it, they’ll be catching the wind with them too.

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The adults still bring food, but they’re ripping and tearing dinner apart on their own.  One day, an adult and an eaglet played tug a war with a hunk of meat.  The adult won, before flying to a branch above the eaglets. (I took thirty pictures of that scene, but not one came out . . . see?  Not all my pictures are . . . well . . . picture perfect)

I see the adult eagles quite often when I kayak, but never know where I’m going to find them these days. Especially now that the eaglets can be left alone for longer periods of time.

My favorite sighting so far this year happened one gorgeous, quiet spring morning. I was paddling along when I rounded a corner to an adult eagle resting on a log which lay just  below the surface of the water.  It almost looked like he could stand on water.

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I wish I’d witnessed this scene before finishing the edits to Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest.  I stilled, almost forgetting to take photos of this grand creature  It took a sip of water, then stared across the water, its reflection mirrored below.  A fisherman slowly meandered up the shoreline from the other direction, toward us, and the eagle turned to look at him.

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Then silently spread his wings, lifted off and flew off along the log . . .

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out over open water . . .

 

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to a quieter spot on the lake.

The fisherman never looked up.  Never heard, and so, never saw that graceful exit.

That vision stays with me still.

 

 

 

 

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20. Front Yard Images

Sometimes, the best photos and wildlife inspiration comes from my front yard . . .

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This yellow-ish woodpecker has been at my feeder all spring and summer.  It has recently found a mate (not yellow) and has been feeding her at the feeder.  It’s so cute.  I’m hoping to catch them on camera together.

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Then of course there’s my orioles, who are still hanging around, even though they no longer seem interested in the oranges.  I hear their distinctive call when I’m down by the lake, or on the front lawn.

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Talk about posing pretty! This Rose-Breasted Grosbeak has been to the feeder only a handful of times, but I really enjoy watching him when he does. I didn’t realize they sing day and night, even while sitting on their eggs!

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One of my campers gave inside info on where to find this nesting Nuthatch pair!

Look what was brought for dinner!  *shudder*

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And today, at first glance, I thought the cardinal was back. But no, it’s a purple finch!

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Such a colorful selection of birds on my front lawn this year.  More species than I think I’ve had in the past.  The difference?  I moved the feeders from hanging in the windows against the house, to posting them on the front lawn.

Now, I must get back to my Cooper and Packrat’s third adventure!   I think I’d better close the curtains though – the feeders are such a distraction!

 

 

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21. BOOK LAUNCH: Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest

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22. Loon Yawn

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Have you ever seen a loon yawn??

I have!

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The loon didn’t make a sound, as he gave the long, slow yawn, that ended with his closing his eyes and drifting away from me.

I kayaked away, as quietly as I could.

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23. Cooper and Packrat Video

When Islandport asked me to meet with a videographer, to talk about the inspiration behind Cooper and Packrat, I said, “Sure!”

But as the date got closer and closer,  I became more and more nervous. What should I say?  How would I stand?  Where would we film it?  And more importantly,

What would I wear!?

The morning of, I still hadn’t finalized all I wanted to say.  What hadn’t been said or blogged about already?  I found myself awake at 5am, so I headed out in my kayak, determined to find some inspiration.

And there, in the middle of the lake, it all came together.

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I remembered why I’d written Cooper’s story.  I remembered the reader’s letters I’d received so far, and some of the questions they’d asked me along the way.

Looking back, I need not have worried so.  The videographer, John McCain, put me right at ease by asking about all my favorite things.  The books, the campground and the wildlife.   We took a walk around the campground first and of course, he wanted to film on the lake’s edge.

After we were done taping my talk, Dave and I took John on a tour of the lake to find the loons and eagles.  It happened to be a glorious day, and we spent quite awhile out there, enjoying the views.

After I’d said goodbye to John, and he assured me the video would be wonderful, I looked at David and said, “Whew!  That wasn’t so bad.  But I’m glad it’s done.”

Little did I know, right at that moment, there was an e-mail in my in-box from Melissa, telling me they were sending a photographer in a couple weeks to get “a few photos”.

Ack!

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24. Maine’s Loon Count

Thanks to the reminder from a friend on Middle Range Pond, I finally remembered to join in on Maine’s Loon Count.  I’d always wanted to . . . planned to . . .  then the date would come and go and I’d  miss it.

Not this year!

As I dragged my kayak into knee-deep water,  6:35ish Saturday morning, I smiled to think of all the other Maine volunteers.   Some would take to boats and kayaks like me. Some would stand on the shoreline with binoculars.  But all would be watching, counting and documenting their findings from 7 – 7:30am on this day.

It felt kind of awesome to be a part of something that big.

Because I had to be back at the campground office to open it up at 8am, my plan was to kayak down to the state park end of the lake, and then slowly paddle back during the recording time, because I knew I couldn’t cover the whole lake in half an hour, but the loons seem to hang out on this end more than the firestation-end.

I’d barely dipped my paddle half a dozen times, when I saw a loon through the early morning fog.

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I looked at the time on my phone.  6:40am.  Way too early to count.

But not too early to snap photos.

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I stuck to my plan and headed toward the State Park.  To my surprise, the loon kept time with me.  I paddled slightly left to give some space between us, and it went left with me.  I slowed down, and it slowed down too.

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“I guess you want to be counted,” I said, making conversation.

The loon just looked at me.

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6:50am.

I couldn’t resist.  I snapped a few more pictures

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and then the loon looked upward.

 

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A second loon flew in and landed, before I could turn the lens on him.

I looked at the time . . .

7:01am.

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“Well, who told you about the party?” I asked out loud.

The two loons didn’t pay me any mind.  They greeted each other, swimming in circles, hooting and dipping their bills into the water (not their heads, just the bills).  It looked to me as if one had been waiting for the other.

Not even five minutes later, one of the two looked toward the end of the lake and hooted softly.  A third loon had appeared!  I had just scanned that area with my long camera lens and hadn’t seen him. Perhaps he’d been under water.  Perhaps he flew in too.

But here he was.

7:08am

 

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I watched for just a couple minutes more while sipping coffee.  The loons parted ways; the two staying together on the right side of the lake, while the last to arrive went off on his own to the left.

I dipped my paddle to begin the trek back to the campground.  Even though I poked into every little inlet and scanned the middle of the lake in front of the campground, no other loons appeared.

So ‘three’, was my answer on the paperwork.

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Three adult loons on Lower Range Pond.

 

 

 

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25. Eagle Family Feud

 

 

I witnessed the most incredible wildlife-happening Saturday while paddling in from the loon count.

As I made my way past the eagle island, I heard a ton of commotion.  The eaglets were both on the nest, screeching at one another.  Wings flapped as they moved around the nest and to the branches just above it.  I lifted my camera to get a better look.  One of the eaglets lifted off the nest, and flew rather clumsily to land on a branch of a nearby tree.

I could tell there was something in his talons . . .

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Above and to his right, the sibling eaglet screamed in frustration from the nest.

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It took a minute, but this one finally won the battle of the fish.  I’m guessing that what I missed, was an adult swooping in to drop off breakfast.

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Obviously, this one didn’t want to share.

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I looked at my watch, and realized I had fifteen minutes to get to shore, lock up my kayak, trudge uphill, and open the store for business.  I’d lowered my camera to do just that, when WHOOSH -

a blur of brown and white buzzed by the eaglet with the fish, causing him to drop his prize.

An osprey?  The adult?

Again, I lifted my camera, using it like binoculars and gasped to see this juvenile had landed on the branch next to the eaglet.

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Since it takes almost 5 years for a juvenile to gain their white head and yellow beak, I’m thinking this one is 3 – 4 years old.    Dare I suggest it’s one of the triplets from a couple years ago?  There was that one eaglet who just didn’t seem to want to leave the nest . . . not even after it had collapsed.  We called him “the baby”.

Anyway, all the hullabaloo started all over again.  The eaglet that lost the fish, screamed at the juvenile.  The eaglet in the nest, shrieked down at both of them, while the juvenile let them both have it.

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Oh, it was loud!!

But it was about to get louder.

The adult arrived, buzzing the juvenile, who promptly jumped further into the branches of its tree.

Meanwhile, the adult landed on top the highest point of the island, and hollered down at the juvenile.  More than hollered, she meant business.  It was a call I’d only heard when the osprey buzzed the nest or the heron flew too closely.

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She was not pleased with this newcomer.

Neither were the eaglets who were still making noise of their own.

I just sat in my kayak and chuckled at the whole thing.

Finally, the adult had enough.  She took to the sky.

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. . . and  buzzed the juvenile until he was on the run.

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Behind me, the eaglets had gone silent. All I could hear was the two of them screeching, as the adult chased  the juvenile to the other side of the lake . ..

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Ooooooo, she was relentless.

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The last of my photos have these two as brown dots in the sky.  She chased this one away, across the lake, over the golf course and well over Middle Range Pond, before I lost sight of them.

This was an experience I’ll never forget.  Awe-inspiring.  Nature at its finest.

And after all that, I still managed to open the store on time. Although the first hundred customers of the day had to patiently listen to me tell my story over, and over and over again.

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