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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. 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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2. 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.

IMG_4231

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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3. 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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4. 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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5. 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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6. 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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7. BOOK LAUNCH: Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest

Eagles nest__LaunchFlyer

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8. 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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9. 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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10. Loon Chick Update for 2014

The reason it took me so long to post, is that I didn’t want to write this one.  I kept hoping I was wrong.  But I’m not.

There will be no loon chicks again this year.

That makes two years in a row.

How did I know?

Well, one day I was seeing this . . .

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Two days later, I went out onto the lake to find this . . .

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and three adults swimming about, not too far from the nesting site.

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But still, it was hot and I thought, maybe she’s only gone in the water to cool off and the eggs will be fine. Maybe the third adult isn’t a threat.  Maybe one of the eggs had hatched and the fourth adult had taken it to a safe location.

But my gut told me the extra loon didn’t add up.  Normally, if a loon pair had a chick or unhatched eggs, they wouldn’t allow any other adults in their territory.

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Two days after that, I went out on the lake again. Still no loon on the nest.  I kayaked all the way to the end of the lake where I knew they took their chicks.  On the way, I saw three pair.  None of them had chicks in tow.

It is possible one or two of the eggs hatched and the eagle snatched the young one.  The eagle does fly low over them every now and again, causing the loons to cry out in distress.

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Oh, I was soooooo hoping for loon chicks to photograph this spring.

Sigh.

But three pair of loon on our lake is quite exciting too.

You can never have too many loon photos!

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11. Nesting Loons 2014

 

I snuck away from the camp office today and was basking in the glorious sunshine while kayaking the lake, when I found myself face to face with Steve Yenco, photographer!  We’ve chatted on-line over our wildlife photos, but had never met in person before.

We were talking about eagles, loons and our cameras, when suddenly, I saw a flash of white from the corner of my eye.  I raised the camera to snap a few quick photos.

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“Two eggs!” I called to Steve.  Two.

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Our chatting about the loon,  didn’t seem to bother her in the least.

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A few days before, I captured the photo above and the ones below, of the loon pair checking in with each other.  The one on the nest seemed very interested in the little rock beside it. She picked it up and moved it a few times as I watched.

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Only two more weeks to go before those chicks make an appearance.  I’m biting my nails, one by one, worried about the water level.  It’s gone up significantly since they first nested.  If you remember, last year they didn’t incubate the eggs successfully, in spite of the fact they tried twice; once with two eggs, and then again with one.

The year before that, one egg hatched, but the second was caught in the rising water of a rainy, rainy spring.   That one chick survived, though.  A very bright spot in the summer, indeed.

I will keep you all posted on my findings.  If that darned rain ever stops appearing in the forecast!

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12. Fox Kits Lost and Found

Okay, I admit it, I’ve been withholding information.

I was afraid to show you.

But you see, right around May 1st (not the date on the video) I was going through the videos, watching cute little fox kits tumbling all over the place, wondering which one I was going to show you on FB next,   when I saw a image that stopped my heart.

I gasped. “No!” I watched the video again.

Ben and David ran into the room to see what I saw.

Fox Den In Danger

I quickly watched the next video which showed an adult frantically sniffing the den opening.  So did the one after that. It wasn’t until four videos and two hours later (on the cam)  that I finally saw this.

Two Hours Later

But, five days later (still cam time), there was nothing.  No videos with kits.

Two weeks went by.  No kits.  Just adults.

I began to worry.

Obsessively.

Until an eighth grade neighbor found me between classes at school.  “Mrs. Wight, Mrs. Wight!” he called.  “Guess what I saw this weekend?  Me and my family, we were coming home and a fox crossed our driveway with a line of kits behind her!”

I just stared at him for a minute.  Then I grinned.  “Gabe!  You have my foxes! How many kits?”

“I think there were six,” he told me.

As it turns out, they moved to an abandoned den on his property. In my research I discovered that fox have a series of dens they use.  One by one, that mom took her kits across my property to his.  And I can tell you, it’s quite a hike.

But that’s what you do, to save your family when it’s in danger.

I couldn’t resist going to their den that very afternoon.  I was sitting on the grass taking photos of the kits through the brush, when my neighbor arrived on his bike.

As we talked in hushed tones about the fox behavior we’d seen on our trail cams , the fox kits watched us warily.

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“Are you really writing a book about them?” he asked.

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“I am!” I told him.  “Book 3. It’s just an idea right now, but I’m researching.”

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“Cool.  Anything I can do, Mrs. Wight, you let me know,” he said, as he rolled his bike back and forth.

“I’d love to know if you see anything  interesting through your trail cam that they do,” I told him.

He nodded.  “I can do that.”

I can’t wait to hear what he discovers.

 

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13. And The Loons?

When I went out on Mother’s Day to check on the eagle family, I also did a paddle-by of all the loon’s favorite nesting spots.  I can’t put into words how disappointed and surprised I was not to see one, or even the traces of one, being built.   The loons had arrived somewhere around April 20th.  Why weren’t they on a nest by now?  They were last year.  And the year before that.

Or had they nested and failed already?  It was a good possibility.  I hadn’t been able to get out in the kayak before now due to high winds and very cold temps.  It was anybody’s guess.

Later into the kayak ride, I watched the pair come down the lake, diving and preening together.

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Loon Nest Building 5-13 (11)

I admit, I really want chick pictures!  Cute, little, gray fluffball photos.  You know, to go along with Cooper and Packrat’s story, and to put on the big screen at school visits, which will make all the students say, “Awwwwww!”

It made me sad to think they might not nest, especially after having had no success with two nesting attempts last summer.

Then yesterday, as I was getting more eaglet photos, I heard their wail off the other side of our point.  Through my lens, I saw the pair floating slowly along their usual nesting area.  They were twice the distance away from me that the eagles were, and I knew from experience I wouldn’t capture clear photos. I wasn’t that good of a photographer. But using my lens like a pair of binoculars, I followed their progress.

They floated along together, separated, then came together again. They dove. They climbed up on land, and at first I thought they were adding to a nest site, but then I realized, they were mating.  Within minutes, they were back in the water, continuing on their way.

My heart soared at the thought of chicks!

After school the next day, I quickly checked in with my camp reservations clerk for any problems or messages, then grabbed my kayak key and paddle.   When I reached the shoreline, I stopped in my tracks.  White caps.  The wind was fiercer here than up by the office.  Waves rolled right to left in front of me without end.  The kayak would rock like crazy!  No optimal stabilizing whats-a-ma-jig in the camera was going to keep my images from blurring.

But through my lens, I saw a loon on the edge of the shoreline across the lake from me.

I took a deep breath, unlocked the kayak and muttered to myself the whole time I dragged it to the water’s edge.  So what if I didn’t get photos?  I’d still have visual confirmation they’d picked a nesting spot.  Or maybe I’d catch the pair mating again.

Oh heck. I’d just missed watching them over the last few cold winter months.  I *needed* to see them.

I dug the paddle deeply into the water on my left, then my right.  The kayak rocked back and forth just like I thought it would.  And not a gentle, baby-cradle-kind of rock either.  Good thing I wasn’t the seasick type.

When I reached the point where I knew the wind would push me past the loon, I rested my paddle in front of me to raise my lens.

Here was something I hadn’t witnessed before!

She was building her nest.

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Loon Nest Building 5-13 (28)

She dipped her head in the water to grab grasses with her beak, then tucked them into the banking behind her.

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And then, before my eyes, she climbed up on it.

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And so our journey of the loon family begins!  Fingers crossed that they’re successful this year.

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14. Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all my readers . . .

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Today, I got out in my kayak for the first time this season.

Oh . . . it felt wonderful.  The sun.  The breeze.  An eagle soaring overhead as a loon silently surfaces next to me.

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What’s not to like?  Or love?

The eaglets were vocal, chirping away.  The breeze brought me a little too close and I’m sorry to say the adult flew off the branch to a nearby tree.

Doesn’t this eaglet look like it’s saying, “Hey! Where ya goin’ Mom!?”

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As soon as I back paddled to a respectable distance, Mom returned.  I’m happy to report both eaglets are looking health and well.

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15. The Winner Is . . .

I felt like Pooh Bear today:  Think, think, think, think, think.  How could I choose a winner for my latest book giveaway?

Then a light bulb lit up . . . what would Cooper and Packrat do?

And I had it!

First I took each name, wrote it on a slip of paper and shook them up.

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Then I put one slip of paper into each pocket of the vest I use for my describing game at  school visits.

It reminds me of Packrat’s coat because it has sooooo very many pockets.  Some on the front, some on the back and even some inside . . .

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Then I picked a pocket . . .

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And pulled a name!

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Aaaaaaand the winner is . . . .

 

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Yay!!!  Deb, let me know who you’d like it signed to! Message me with you address and I’ll get it right out to you.

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16. How many fox kits?

fox den 2

I’ve only visited the fox den a handful of times, and recently I was lucky enough to catch either one or two kits peeking out from the den opening.  Last year there’d been five, so I admit to being a little sad at seeing only two.

And then I saw this clip from the trail cam.

Hold Still So I Can Count You!

Can you imagine feeding that many??   I have forty clips to wade through . . . and I’m enjoying every minute of it.

Here’s another of my favorites so far

Tumbling Kits

Mom and Kits

Each of these is research!  Glorious first hand, research!

Such a tough job, watching these cute little buggers over and over and over so I get all the details right on their behavior.  But somebody’s gotta do it.

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17. The Eaglets Are Here, The Eaglets Are Here!

A quick post today, as we’re frantically trying to get the campground ready to open on May 1st.  The late winter weather has put us behind schedule a little bit, which is kind of funny, because Cooper’s third adventure opens very similarly!

But you know me, I can’t resist a walk on a beautiful day.  Especially when a friend comes to visit.

Linda and I were lakeside watching the eagles when I saw one little gray fuzzball moving up and down.  Then a wing, then the head again.

I snapped picture after picture, not really sure if I was getting anything or not.

But I did!

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I hoped there were two, so I kept my camera lens trained on the nest.  But after 15 or 20 minutes I said to Linda, “I guess there’s only one.  Or only one strong enough to lift his head high enough.  Let’s -”

The eagle shifted in the nest.  And I saw it.

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Two gray fuzzballs.  Yet, how could I be sure the second one wasn’t a wing?

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Because she fed it!

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Year after year I monitor the eagles and watch their behavior.  I love watching them feed and care for their little ones.  This is the nest that inspired Mystery of the Eagles Nest.

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Isn’t it impressive?

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18. And The Fox Kit Research Begins

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I went to the fox den today, just thinking I’d be collecting the SD card from the trail cam.  But I didn’t get that far.  Once I saw these adorable kits outside the den entrance, I knew I had to keep my distance.

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I set up my camera and extended the lens. I itched to get closer, but resisted the urge. Two very young kits lay in the opening, curled around each other, soaking up a sunbeam.

I never *sneak* in to see them, quite the opposite in fact.  I let my hiking boots crunch and snap twigs so they know I’m coming and have the opportunity to hide.

These two didn’t scramble away though. They just peeked in my direction through sleepy lids . . .

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Stumbled around a bit on wobbly legs .  . .

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Curled up together again, and fell back asleep.

 

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I never did collect that SD card, as I would have had to take another seven giant steps in their direction.  Why disturb their nap in the sunshine?

The card can wait. I got what I needed for today.

 

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19. Our Eagle Pair

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This is the eagle’s nest from last fall.

The eagles have been busy.  And not six months busy.  This is how much the nest grew in the last TWO WEEKS!

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As I headed to the lake today, I hoped to see just one of the eagles.  Instead, at the half way point, I peeked through the trees to see two!

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I hurried to get a closer look.  Images of clear, flight photos ran through my head.  I walked on top the snow (which is quite rare nowadays, I don’t mind admitting) and I slipped a bit as I tried to get to to the lake’s edge.  Cradling the camera, I began to walk slower with one eye on the prize.

Then I hit the last fifty feet.  I crunched.  I cracked.

And the eagle’s flew away . . .

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I cannot wait to document our 2014 Eagle Adventure.  Especially with Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest being released in August . . .

Come back often for eagle updates!

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20. The Eagle’s Are Expecting!

 

You might miss it, if you didn’t know what you were looking for.  At first, even I thought no one was on the nest.

But there she was, just the top of her white head showing on this glorious day  . . .

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The Eagle’s are expecting!

The lake was crazy busy today with an ice fishing derby down by the state park.  The eagle stayed put on her eggs, even though four wheelers and snowmobiles circled her island.  And in spite of the ice fishermen who had set up directly under the nest. (I’m suspecting they didn’t know she was there, considering the side of the island they were on)

Her mate, roosting in a nearby tree, was a little more restless, however.

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It IS quite early for them to be sitting on their eggs.  Do they know something we don’t?  Can we hope that it means an early spring is on the way?

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21. Owl Sighting In My Own Backyard

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Right at dusk . . . with a pink sunset fading behind him, the owl swooped into our backyard.

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Unlike the other day, when I’d caught a sleepy owl around 3pm, this one was quite active.  He almost didn’t look real, as his head swiveled from side to side looking for an early supper.

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We watched until we couldn’t see him through the darkness any more.

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Oh, how I wished he’d shown up earlier so the pictures were clearer.  Still, I was honored by his visit.

Now I can’t stop looking out my back window, hoping for signs of his return.

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22. Soaring Eagles

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Watching an eagle soar is a most wondrous sight.

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They do it so effortlessly . . .

They look so free . . .

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Circling above the lake soundlessly, eying the fisherman’s catch, riding the wind,

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. . . watching them fills me with awe.

When these eagles take flight, all eyes on the lake turn upward.

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Today, I watched as she came in for a landing on the nest.  When I’d first gotten to the lake, I was worried to see no adult on it, as she’d been sitting there for hours just days before.

AND I’d told everyone on this blog.  And Facebook.  And the campground blog too.  And the Campground Facebook page.

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I held my breath as she walked along the tree branch  .  . . were there eggs or weren’t there?

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She stopped to look down into the nest several times. It gave me hope.

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After poking her beak into the nest once, twice, three times, she hopped into the nest and  settled back down onto her eggs.

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Whew!  We’re nesting. I didn’t fib.

These photos were taken before the big snow, wind, ice storm Wednesday night.  My relief over knowing they were definitely nesting was replaced with worry. The eggs were on my mind for most of the last few days.  After my meeting was done today, I trudged down to the lake to find her sitting on the them, only the tip of her head showing.

I shouldn’t have doubted her.  She IS the Queen of the skies, after all.

 

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23. What Can Clear Your Front Yard of Song Birds?

Last week, the bird seed ran low somewhere around Wednesday. It seemed that every time I went outside, I was getting scolded from chickadees, titmouse, finches, and squirrels.  “You expect us to all fit on one feeder?” they taunted.

So on Saturday, hubby and I stopped for the food and suet and even a special treat of safflower seeds.  I cleaned feeders, shoveled around them (hoping the squirrels would stop jumping up on them – it didn’t) and refilled.

“Here you go!” I called out. They were buzzing my head in seconds.

Back inside the house, I vacuumed, then did some research, peeking out the windows as I went. Suddenly, I realized there were no birds at my feeders.  There was no song.  No chirping.

But wait, clinging upside down to the thin side of the suet feeder was one, tiny nuthatch. He was stone still.  No movement.  I knew then what was going on . . .

I went window to window until I found it.

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I’ve had a Red-shouldered Hawk and a Barre Owl clear my front yard before.

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But never a Sharp-shinned Hawk!  I took a few photos through the window.  When he stayed, I snuck silently out the side door to take a few more.  Still he stayed.

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I noticed he was puffing up a bit, probably from the cold.  I went back inside to grab the tripod.  As quietly as I could, I set it up a little closer and snapped a few more photos using my remote control.

Snow began to fall.  He stayed.

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It took me awhile last night to figure out what he was.  Sharp-shinned Hawks are quite interesting!  They prefer to live in the forests.  Their long tail helps them maneuver around trees as they fly.  They chase song  birds and mice. For their meals.

So is it any wonder my front yard stayed quiet through sundown, even though the hawk left the front yard around 5pm?  I’m not sure I’d risk it for a few seeds either.

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24. Signs

 

This morning, as I gathered my things to go to school, I saw a flash of orange through my office window.  I looked again, and smiled to see the fox trotting down what we call Main Street in the campground.  Heading home from a night of hunting, I guessed.  Instead of passing by, he turned toward my front yard, and stepped a paw on it, I gasped.  He seemed to change his mind, backing off the lawn and continuing past our house on the other side of the hedge, toward our campground gate.

But where the hedge ended, he again turned onto the lawn.  I grabbed my camera, which still had the big lens on it, and  flew to the living room window.

And there he was, investigating under the bird feeders.

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I really didn’t need that large lens, but I didn’t want to take the time to switch it out.

Click, went the camera. He turned my way . . .

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What amazing hearing they have!  He stayed for a minute or two, even came next to the house to sniff around under the bird feeder in the window.  Again, when I snapped a photo, he seemed to look right at me.

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Write the story, he seemed to say.

I knew what story he meant.  His story.

But I shrugged it off.

Later today in class, the students were issued three writing prompts and told to choose one. Most dove right in.

Two did not.

I coaxed.  I gave my best helpful tips.

And yes, I threatened to make them work through our read-aloud.

“Buuuuut it’s soooo hard!”  One young man moaned.  He was quite angry with me as he lives for the read-aloud.

“Yes, the first words ARE hard,” I explained.  “Write anything, anything that comes to mind.  And once you start, the rest will come more easily.”

“It’ll just be junk though!”  He closed his ipad, crossed his arms and put his chin in his chest.

“You’re right,” I agreed, deciding honesty was best.  “But you can delete what you don’t want once you get going.  The important thing is to begin.  Don’t be afraid of the blank page-”

I stopped talking mid sentence.  All the students looked at me, waiting.  Finally, I sighed, shook my head and laughed.  I confessed to the young man how I’d been holding back from writing those first words too.

Then I thanked the class for teaching me something.  I needed to follow my own advice.

I haven’t started a brand new project since 2011.  Mystery on Pine Lake was complete when I sold it, and Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest was half done.  Starting from scratch IS scary!   And I’d been losing myself in fox research instead of taking a chance and writing those junky first words.

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Well, it’s time.

Consider Book 3 officially started.

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25. Mystery Of The Eagle’s Nest

 

MysteryoftheEaglesNestFinal

Well, it’s official!  Mystery of The Eagle’s Nest is off to the printers!

The release date?  August 17th!  We’ll be having another book launch here at Poland Spring Campground.  I’ll post more details as we get closer.  I couldn’t be more excited to share this story with all of you!

So what’s next?  I’ve begun research on Book 3, which will feature fox kits.  It’ll be set in late April, early May, so I’m doing my setting research now, taking notes about weather, foliage (or lack of!), what we’re doing to get the campground ready to open -

and what the fox family is doing.

I’m lucky enough to be able to do this research first hand, just like with the loons and the eagles.  Two years ago, I found a fox den on the property quite by accident.  You can read about it here.  Those little faces just melted my heart and I knew I had to put them in a story.  I have the trail cam on them now. Up until last week, I had only seen the adults coming and going and bringing furry mammals to the den.

But last Friday, after changing out the SD card from the cam, I walked a few yards away before stopping to safely tuck it into a zippered pocket.  Then I checked my phone.   I was putting it away in my back pocket when I heard a noise, like falling sand. I turned in time to see an adult fox exit the den and shake himself off.

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I froze.  How gorgeous, he was!   He sniffed the air, then turned back to the den.  A tiny reddish-brown fuzzball stumbled out.  The adult licked it across the head, then it’s back.  Gently it nudged it back toward the opening of the den.

I was so in awe, I forgot to take a picture of the moment.

But sometimes, it’s more rewarding just to watch. To soak it up into your memory.

I’ll wait a few more days before I collect the SD card from the trail cam again.

And if I’m lucky enough, I might get to see a kit as well.

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