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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. 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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2. 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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3. 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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4. 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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5. 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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6. 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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7. 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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8. 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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9. 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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10. 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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11. 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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12. 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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13. 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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14. 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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15. BOOK LAUNCH: Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest

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16. 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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17. 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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18. 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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19. 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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20. How many fox kits?

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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

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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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21. 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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22. 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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23. 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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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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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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24. 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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25. 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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