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Every year, I look forward to hosting my writer’s group to a working weekend here at Poland Spring Campground. Fall is the time when I transition from primarily working on campground “stuff” to digging into writing projects. So meeting with other writers, sharing in their celebrations, hearing their struggles, brainstorming ideas and projects . . . it helps to motivate and inspire me. Spur me forward.
This year, I’m especially excited to share photos of the weekend with my students, because the critique circle, and its rules, are something Shannon and I have used in the classroom with great success. Knowing “real writers” use this method to give feedback on their work, makes the students more willing to share and trust in the classroom circle, too.
Bottom of the circle, clockwise: Jeanne Bracken, Denise Ortakales, Mary Morton Cowan, Anna Jordan, Joyce Johnson, Nancy Cooper, Mona Pease, Meg Frazer Blakemore, Val Giogas, Andrea Tompa, Laura Hamor.
The authors and I worked hard, beginning at 8:30 with a “What’s New With You” whip around. Joining us this Fall, was our visiting editor Andrea Tompa from Candlewick Press. Each author has 20 minutes of time and everyone contributes to the feedback. Once again, I’m humbled and grateful for the in-person comments, support and loving-nudging that flew around the circle.
We have writers and illustrators, non-fiction and fiction, with picture book, middle grade, historical fiction, and Young Adult manuscripts in various stages. Some of us are published, some are very close. The projects read this year were absolutely fascinating!
I’m most excited to bring back to the classroom, a picture book dummy from Laura. It’ll be a great tool, when we start our graphic novel unit.
We worked hard, breaking every so often for movement. And of course, lunch. By 2:30 we were onto a Q & A with Andrea about the industry. And by 4:00, it was time to take a walk, kayak or read under the trees, before gathering again for supper.
Top: Laura, Anna, Denise, Nancy Middle: Mary, Val, Joyce Bottom: Meg, Mona, Me, Andrea, Jeanne
And this morning, those of us who stayed the night, met for coffee in the office and decided to go for a quick early morning kayak ride . . .
In the rain, of course.
The rain passed. Loons flew directly overhead, so close we heard their wings cutting through the air. Still other loons called back and forth from area lakes, chorus style. And eagle flew down the shoreline. The sun came out. The wind picked up. We headed back.
Now six of us are left here at the campground, working, writing, revising. Inspired by each other to keep doing what we love. Driven to put the perfect words, in the perfect order, to write the story we were meant to write.
And tomorrow, I’ll share all this with my students.
Then ask them to do the same.
I swear, I’ve taken over 800 pictures of Hummingbirds this summer.
There isn’t a lot of days off, when you run a campground, but I do find an hour here and there. Not usually enough time to head out in the kayak to see the loons, eagles or heron. But time to sit in my little corner of the front yard.
From there, I have a front row seat to the Honeysuckle bush. And Hummingbirds love Honeysuckle.
It’s fascinating to watch them flit here and there, to and fro. Not a sound is made, but the branches of the bush dance below them from the sheer force of their flapping wings.
Sometimes, sitting quiet on the front lawn yields the best photos of all.
Sometimes, when I go out in the kayak, I’m intent on finding photo opportunities. Sometimes, I’m looking for time to to let my mind wander in the quiet around me.
Sometimes I need to “be” one with nature, to clear my head and fill my soul. No thinking allowed – only observing all the marvelous sights and sounds around us. How green the leaves are, the sound the water makes as it laps at the shoreline, the shapes of the clouds as they float past, the beads of water on a spider web built between two Water Bulrush.
It was on one of those days that I decided to snuggle my kayak up to the shoreline, and just be. I put my paddle down, raised my camera and waited. I saw little bugs dance across the water. A fish jumped up out to catch one, as birds flitted over to get one, too. And then I heard a commotion in the bushes a short way away. I turned my camera on it and saw a female red-winged blackbird rise from between the leaves, a dragonfly in her mouth.
She hovered there, and at first I wasn’t sure why.
But I understood as soon as a chick rose up to follow her.
She led it on a merry chase to a nearby branch.
The chick hollered and hollered. But Mama bird didn’t go any closer.
Instead she showed off that dragonfly, then turned her head, almost as if to say, “How badly do you want it?”
The little one wouldn’t budge, so she eventually scooted down the branch to give it the dragonfly, it so desperately craved.
I know, that with its mother’s patient teaching, it won’t be long before the little one is grabbing dragonflies of its own.
And perhaps on my next moment of “being”, the bird I see snatching dragonflies from the air, will be this little one.
I’ve often seen birds harass the eagles, driving them from trees and even away from their own eaglets.
But on Friday, I managed to catch a series of photos of it!
I was watching the eaglets , and talking with one of our campers when the eagle swooped into view. It was being chased by small birds who were screaming their frustration.
By the time I’d unpacked my camera, the eagle landed with its eaglets. I’m not sure if it had something for them to eat or not. Regardless, the little, tenacious birds kept swooping and pecking like pesky mosquitoes until the eagle took to the skies again, its tiny bullies in hot pursuit.
I was quite a ways from all the action, but when I zoom in on my photos, it almost looks as if the smaller bird has landed on the poor eagle’s head!
And then pecks at it!
A second bird took to the chase and this one, I’m pretty sure, is a Downy or Hairy Woodpecker.
That poor eagle! It swooped. It dove. It did every move it could to shake the pesky, determined pair.
This is the last shot I caught, before the three of them went around the corner and out of sight. I’m sure that eagle ended up with quite a headache!
Yesterday, the weather turned glorious! Warm breezes blew over the still frozen lake, as birds chirped from every corner of the forest.
I took a long walk along the shoreline, camera slung around my neck, ready to shoot.
And I wasn’t disappointed.
I was just in time to watch the eagles switch places sitting on the eggs.
And this time, the departing eagle flew right over my head!
Only two or three minutes passed before the eagle left on the nest hunkered down for their watch over the little ones.
Lately, there’s been a pair of seagulls who soar high overhead the small patch of open water on the lake. The eagles don’t like this, not at all! The one on the nest will call out, and the mate flies in to help protect the family.
Such good parents!
April vacation arrives soon. And with it, my walks will increase. My notes from 2014 tell me that the eaglets were born right around April 18th, so you can bet I’ll be down at the lake as often as I can!
And I’ll keep you posted too.
Yesterday, as I walked the red-blazed trail through the campground and along the shoreline of Lower Range Pond, I looked out over the water and gasped!
My loons were back!
The ice had only been out for a day! Somehow, they always manage to time it perfectly.
The pair called back and forth, location calls. My eyes got teary hearing them, I hadn’t realized just how much I’d missed it.
Whenever their call rings out, people stop what they’re doing to turn toward the sound.
Hopefully, we’ll have a successful nesting season this year, as the last two years did not yield chicks. ( If you click on the Random Loon Tag on the right of this post, you’ll find the blog posts describing why.)
I should be revising, channeling fox kits for book three, as the Mystery of the Missing Fox is due to my editor next month. But the sun has just poked its way through the clouds and I cannot resist going down to the lake to find these gorgeous birds and to hear their call again.
The manuscript will be there when I get back.
Today, my husband and I walked from the Eastern Prom (ME), to the Old Port along a bike/walk path. Casco Bay was on one side of us, the Narrow Gauge Railway on the other. The sun shone down, the birds were singing, kids rode bikes, joggers passed by and the seagulls called out.
It was a glorious day!
Mockingbird singing a happy song from a low branch as people passed by.
Sailing school is in session!
The Narrow Gauge Railway had quite a few passengers.
My husband geo-cached, but I could hear the call of the osprey. So I searched high and low. Finally, I found them. They were quite a ways away, but I had my camera on me.
Check out this nest! All the rope mixed in with the sticks.
The one on the nest was hollering like crazy, and I soon figured out why. Another osprey wanted the nest.
They dove and danced in the air.
Until one of them claimed the platform for themselves.
Even so, the osprey who’d been kicked out, circled overhead for quite awhile, crying out to anyone who would listen.
Lucky for me, it was almost over my head
It looked to me, like he still wasn’t too happy about it.
As I walked to the lake yesterday (without boots!) I could hear the unmistakeable cry of an eagle. I hurried, hoping to see the adults switch places on the nest. Or maybe get a glimpse of them bringing food back.
But when I got there, the nesting eagle was alone. Every couple of minutes, it threw back its head to give the squeaky, danger-in-the-area call.
I kept waiting for the mate to fly in, as they usually do, to holler in duet against the danger. For twenty minutes, I waited, with one eye on the sky.
The eagle continued to cry, even though I couldn’t see what had upset it so. The loons weren’t in the area. Nor crows or seagulls. The osprey didn’t appear to be hunting either.
Suddenly, I heard the flapping of a large wingspan. Looking straight up, I realized a juvenile eaglet had been over my head, hidden in the branches of a big pine the whole time! It flew down the shoreline, only to circle around and come back again.
I never did get a good picture of the juvenile, as he soared over the trees I was standing under. I would have kept camera-hunting him, but the black clouds had arrived to let loose a steady stream of big, fat raindrops.
I still have no proof of the eggs hatching, but this eagle did seem to be sitting a little higher on the nest. I’ll check again tomorrow to see what I can see!
I thought you might want an eaglet update. They’re growing very quickly!
And holler? Oh my, can they holler when they’re hungry!
The eagle parents are sticking closely to the nest these days. For some reason, the geese make them crazy; flapping their wings, throwing their heads back and giving the danger call until the geese move out of the area.
When the adult eagles move from side to side in the nest, the eaglets pull themselves across the nest after them, by using their wings and beak.
These two little ones are big and strong. We’re going to have fun watching them grow this summer!
Photographing Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds has become a bit of an obsession. I sit on the front lawn by my honeysuckle bush for an hour here, and an hour there, hoping for the chance to snap a photo or two.
But they’re so darn quick!
At first I could only get photos of them sitting on a branch.
But then I graduated to some flight photos. They still aren’t as clear as I’d like, but I’m hoping to learn as I go.
Did you know these delicate creatures weigh less than a penny??
Their hearts beat 600+ times per minute! The normal beat for an average bird is 200! For a human it’s 72.
And they need to feed every ten minutes or so to keep their energy level stabilized.
The way they feed, is by licking nectar three times per second. Try that with your next ice cream cone!
They’re fascinating in so many ways!
The manuscript for Mystery of the Missing Fox might be in my editors hands for review, bu that doesn’t mean the research stops. Especially when it involves fox kits.
There are five in all, from what I can tell. I sit in the woods, 100 feet from the den. And at first, they stare at me, trying to figure if I’m friend or foe.
When I don’t move closer or make any noise, they relax a bit. But they always know exactly where I am.
Once they feel safe again, the research and fun starts, and I raise my camera.
At first, the kits approach their brothers and sisters very innocently.
They might even give a friendly hey-you-sleeping tap of the paw.
And the next thing you know, they’re nibbling each others ears! Or feet. Or tail.
They roll around on the ground, no noise, no squeaks or growls that I can hear. Which is good, since their mother isn’t in the area to protect them from predators. (She was either out hunting, or watching me, watch her kits)
Just when one kit seems to be getting the best of their sibling, a third comes to the rescue!
When the play has wound down, the kits curl up together. No hard feelings on either side. That’s my cue to go.
I hope the best for this year’s litter.
Stay safe little ones.
Today, after teaching, and after starting a large order for the campground store, I grabbed my camera and headed to the lake. No sooner had I pushed off shore, I spied a loon fishing halfway across the lake.
I drifted toward it, as I fiddled with my camera to get just the right settings for a slightly cloudy, slightly sunny day. Suddenly, it popped up beside the kayak.
It stretched, and dove and stretched again.
And I must say, this is how I feel to finally feel the sun on my shoulders and the warm breezes on my face.
It took quite awhile, but I spied the nest, too. Our loons have chosen a new nesting spot, and I must admit to being a bit relieved.
They haven’t had chicks in two years, and my fingers are crossed that this new nesting site will be a good one for them.
Only time will tell.
The adult eagles are on and off the nest, bringing food to their two eaglets. They’re never very far away, keeping watch, keeping their little ones safe.
Look at the difference in the talons in these next two pictures. Aren’t they amazing?
So how do they manage to keep from harming their own chicks. By curling them, when they walk on the nest themselves.
Feeding the eaglets is a full time job right now!
Every time I go lakeside, I can hear them crying for attention.
I bet the poor parents are tired!
The view from the back side of the nest isn’t as clear as from the front.
Especially since the eagles have done some rearranging and seem to be moving large sticks to that side as the eaglets get bigger.
Even after all these years, I still manage to record a new-to-me behavior! They’re amazing creatures! Graceful in flight. Great parents. Strong builders.
I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to study them year round, and to use that research in Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest, as well as sharing my nature adventures with campers and readers all over New England.
I can’t wait to see what eagle adventures I witness this coming summer!
For the last two years, the loons on our lake have lost their eggs after sitting on them for weeks. This year, they picked an amazing nesting spot, in the shadows and under a fallen branch.
I’ve had my fingers crossed for weeks now! Four to be exact. And this weekend I got to witness the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. A loon chick!
One of my lake neighbors told me the loons were off the nest, and had one chick in tow. I think I was afraid to believe it until I saw it with my own eyes.
Now I’m crossing my fingers again for this little one to grow up. Chicks can be prey to pike, snapping turtles, foxes and eagles.
This pair was very protective, as they should be. Whenever a boater came too close, they called out loud and long. They do the same when the eagle flies overhead, too. Giving them plenty of room, ensures they won’t panic and swim too far from their little one, leaving it unprotected.
The adult loons have only twelve weeks to teach the chicks all they know, before heading to the coast ahead of their little ones. Chicks from the surrounding area will gather together before following a few weeks later.
The chicks blackish-brownish coloring really make them blend into the colors of the water. Boaters should take caution on the lakes, giving loons a wide berth in case they have a chick in tow.
I have tons more photos to go through, I’ll post some more very soon! I’m hopeful my shots of them feeding are crisp and clear enough to catch the chick gobbling tiny fish.
Loving Christmas break from school for many reasons, but mostly for the many long walks through the woods I’m allowed.
Santa brought me a new trail camera, so I’ve put the old one down by the beaver hut, since they’re so elusive and it’s pretty obvious they’ve been working hard on the den lately. Of course, once I put it there, I’m not content to just let it sit, I have to hike down every day to see what images it’s caught.
While I was there yesterday, I heard the call of the eagle. The dead tree they like to sit in is very close to the beaver hut, but can’t be seen by line of sight. Even if I hadn’t heard them, I would have known they were there, because I could see cars stopping on the causeway to get a look.
So I waited. And waited. And after fifteen minutes, I got my wish. I’m sure my gasp of surprise could be heard across the lake!
This adult was headed toward the nest, quite a ways from the beaver hut! They were adding to the nest!
I could see a speck of white on the nest, which told me the other adult was waiting patiently for this addition. Or perhaps its an offering? A sign they were agreeing to reconnect?
But alas, halfway to the nest, the eagle began to drift downward, the weight of the stick was too much.
Once again, I gave thanks for my long lens. Those of you who are familiar with Lower Range Pond, know how great the distance is from from the beaver hut to the golf course side. I was able to watch as the eagle tried to keep a hold of its prize.
But alas, he couldn’t do it. I picked up a four foot stick that lay on top the beaver hut and felt the weight of it in my hand. I was amazed the eagle carried a stick that large for as far as it did!
He bit it. He moved it back and forth.
He thought about it for quite a bit.
When the second adult called from the nest, he decided to abandon it in favor of joining his mate.
I hurried down the trail, hoping to catch them both on the nest with my camera, and managed to take this one shot.
I know from experience that mating doesn’t happen until March. But this is a sure sign the process has begun. And even though I’ve seen, documented and reported the ritual many, many times, I still get teary when I realize they’re going to start another family in my backyard.
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A local newspaper based out of Manchester, Indiana has written an article profiling Neil Wollman and Abigail Fuller, the co-authors of the recently published What Animal Needs a Wig?
! The article (which can be expanded above) highlights both the lives of the co-authors, as well as the background on their hilarious new book.
In contrast to the research-based academic reports and activism publications that both Neil Wollman, a former psychology professor, and wife Abigail fuller, a current sociology professor, are accustomed to working on, What Animal Needs a Wig?
came about much more casually. During long trips to visit Fuller's family in Massachusetts,
Wollman would make jokes and puns with his family regarding animals. Curious to see if anything could come of it, Wollman decided to team up with Fuller and her sister, illustrator Frances Baldwin, to construct a compilation of well-researched, interesting, and funny factoids and puns about nature.
Everyone at Star Bright Books would like to extend congratulate Neil Wollman and Abigail Fuller for writing such an amazing book, and our warmest thanks to writer Eric Seaman for writing this article. For more information regarding What Animal Needs a Wig?,
please visit our website, starbrightbooks.com
As I approached our lakefront last week, I spied an adult eagle soaring overhead. I ran, camera in hand, which isn’t easy to do! And I made it just in time to point and shoot . . .
praying the settings were good enough.
Such a graceful landing!
This adult appeared to be checking out the nest, looking down upon it several times before flying off again.
Can you tell how excited I am that we’ll have eaglets to watch again this year!!
These are the months where I have the most time to play with my camera, but the subject matter is limited. My loons have gone to the coast. The eagles roam, not yet tied to a nest full of chicks, the heron has migrated, turtles are buried deep and the fox kits are just a gleam in their parent’s eyes . . .
So I turn to my backyard chicks. If they were my children, they’d roll their eyes at the number of times I stand in my little front yard with my biggest lens trained on their feeders. You can almost hear them say, “Really? Really? Isn’t that a little bit of overkill there? Go find a snowy owl for goodness sake!”
But it’s more challenging than one would think. Over the last couple of days, whenever I was stuck in my manuscript, I’d take the camera outside for a few minutes. Then at night I’d pour through the photos to see what I’d caught. From the five hundred I took over the last couple of days, perhaps twenty to twenty-five were salvaged. Ten of those are sharp and crisp. Some I wish I had do-overs for . . .
Grand Central Station
Right before a storm is best. The feeders are a hub-bub of activity, the birds almost don’t pay me any mind at all as they choose their seeds.
Finches devour the seed, leaving a chickadee waiting in the wings
Emotions are high on these days . . . . everyone wants their turn at the feeder.
Wait your turn!
Mourning Dove with snow for a hat
Focusing and shooting birds who are perched and chowing down is fun, but I longed for a bigger challenge. Incredible photos.
So I turned my camera on my newest feeder, a shiny glass ball, where the flight in and out was constant.
Well, almost constant.
With a little guidance from my husband, the photos became sharper and more interesting.
But there were still a lot of photos I had to cut, interesting photos, but not clear enough, crisp enough to save. I had to take comfort in the knowledge that I could try again another day.
Last night it hit me, for me, revising a manuscript is a lot like revising my photos. For every 1,000 strings of words, perhaps two hundred make the cut. Some need a little sharpening and re-focusing from a editor. Some are put aside as a maybe. Some you never need to touch, perfect in their rawness, from the minute you first wrote the words. Some are junk and just have to go.
Add color and substance here. Move a chapter there. Try to find the very perfect combination of contrast, exposure and depth . . . .
And cheekiness . . . .
Last week, I was fortunate enough to escape to Florida for a few days. Some of that time, was spent taking my son on college campus tours.
But the rest of the time was spent walking Sanibel beaches and paths with my camera.
Soaking up sunshine.
In my bare feet.
Pelicans were the bird of the week for me. Every time I turned around, they were there.
But I also saw an Anhinga, drying its wings by the side of the road. They dive like a cormorant, but their markings are more stunning.
Quite to my surprise, I caught a great photo of a Pileated Woodpecker, who was skirting the woods near the beach.
I took sunrise photos
And sunset photos, all in the same day.
But I think my very favorite photos, were those of a little Western Sandpiper, taking a salt water bath . . .
Because he looked like he was enjoying it so . . .
I haven’t even begun to wade through the hundreds of photos I’d taken while on Sanibel. Stop back again, because I’m sure to have another batch to share . . .
Can you see the diffference? And today, there were even more branches on the nest! Ice fisherman told me the eagles had added to it all morning long.
The eagles are getting ready to lay their eggs!
I’ve snowshoed down every day, hoping to see the tell-tale sign, of one eagle, nestled in the nest. When she does, we’ll only see the very top of her white head. Last year, she was sitting on eggs March 8th.
Until then, the eagles continue to visit the nest and add to it.
Author: Fiona Wood
Publication Date: September 16, 2014
ARC provided by publisher
Wildlife is Australian author Fiona Wood's US debut, and my love for Australian YA grows.
Wildlife is a dual narration novel, with Sibylla telling one story and Lou telling another. Both live in the same dorm during a wilderness semester at
Somewhere around March 24th, the eagle pair settled in on their eggs.
Look at that smile!
Each egg was laid three days apart and thirty-five days from then, chicks will be born. Both adults take turns sitting on the nest, and they’ll turn the eggs approximately every two hours.
After the eggs are laid and the eagles start their long sit-in, or as I like to call it, a snuggle-in, I will always see one on the nest. They won’t leave those eggs alone. They’ll keep them warm and dry and safe to predators in the air, such as ravens. Or predators from down below, like raccoons.
When I trudge to the lake now, through the 6 inches of snow which lays over most of the campground, I can count on seeing the one on the beautiful nest they built.
Eyes to the sky though, I’m looking for the mate not on the nest. And if I’m lucky, I’ll witness something amazing like this . . .
One eagle bringing sticks to the nest, adding on to the castle, so to speak.
Or a juvenile, soaring overhead, but not daring to come near.
A hawk looking for its next meal.
But what I’m most anxious for, is eaglets.
It won’t be long now.
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|John the Lion, the handsome fellow I have sketched several times at the Cincinnati Zoo|
I have a sketch for sale of John the Lion that will benefit The Wild Animal Sanctuary
in Colorado to build funds in order for them to bring in and care for 33 lions and 1 Andean bear just being rescued from circuses.
Spread the word; Share and enjoy!http://us.ebid.net/for-sale/john-the-lion-by-christina-wald-138219609.htm
|From a trip last summer...|
You can see all the art and prints available here:http://us.ebid.net/perl/main.cgi?mo=user-store&title=wildlife-art-for-the-wild-animal-sanctuary
Also for sale is a signed copy of my book Big Cats