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As I headed to the trail cam last Wednesday, I heard a scurry-type sound in the bushes. Two of them actually. As I rounded a bush, I saw a fox kit crouching low.
I crouched too.
Then I backed up slowly, slowly, and sat high on a banking looking down.
The little fox kit surprised me. He didn’t run back for the den. He didn’t hide. He continued to root around the tall grasses and piles of dead branches that had been left behind after the landowner did some tree cutting.
Every now and then, the kit would look at me.
Right in the eye.
When I didn’t move, he’d go back to rooting around.
He ate grass and found little caterpillars . . .
And while I don’t have images of it, I suspect he ate them for lunch.
I never did make it to the trail cam. I didn’t want to upset his home . . . or his backyard, so to speak. I sure hope they stick around for a little bit though.
I like knowing they’re around.
After the second owlet branched from their nesting spot, we lost sight of them for awhile. My campers would stop by the office to ask, “Have you seen them? Are they okay?” To which I had no sure answer.
Until quite by accident, I stumbled across them in the most unlikely place – on a dead tree on the very edge of the lake!
Through tree branches, I watched and took photos.
They watched me, too.
Once, a large raptor flew overhead and I could tell the minute one of the owlets saw it.
I pointed my camera upward just in time to catch a glimpse of an osprey. For the thousandth time, I wondered why on earth these young owlets, who could barely fly, were in such an open, exposed area.
When the danger passed, they went back to taking turns napping again.
The next day, they were gone yet again. Deeper into the forest this time, one of my employees tells me. Thank goodness! I’m not too sure I like the look that osprey was giving them!
While hiding behind a bush with my 500mm camera lens, I captured video of this fox kit chewing on grass. I didn’t know they did that! What great research to show students when I do school visits.
The only chance I’d have all weekend to get out on the lake was early, early Saturday morning.
Sleep in an extra hour . . . get out on the lake . . . sleep in . . . get out on the lake . . .
Yeah. There was no contest.
My first stop was to check on the nesting loon, as many campers mentioned hearing them call Friday afternoon. Just seeing her on the nest, had me breathing a sigh of relief.
I snapped a couple photos, and just when I’d decided to move along, she rose back to push the grasses up against her egg.
I sure hope this one hatches!! It would be wonderful to have a loon chick on the lake again.
I dipped my paddle in the water and turned to head down by the state park area of the lake (there’s a cove down there that’s always humming with birds when the sun comes up) Suddenly, I noticed something splashing in the water on the shoreline. Using my camera like binoculars, I zoomed in just as it took off . . .
Sure wish I’d seen it sooner to get photos of it bathing!
I followed . . . at a respectful distance of course. The eagle landed on a branch and hung its wings to dry.
He preened for quite awhile. As I looked around, I realized the nest was in sight from his perch.
They are ever watchful of their little ones.
It was such a beautiful morning to be out on the lake, gliding along, listening to nature rising with the sun. I’m looking forward to many more mornings just like this one . . .
Sometimes I like play in the snow, when I’m stuck in writing my manuscript.
It helps me think.
And this winter, I’ve taken to making little snowman friends for my bird friends.
I think they get along famously.
The birds seem to like dinner anyway. Although they seem to think it’s take out.
But they always come back to visit.
And they bring new friends with them.
I’m sure I’ll be stuck more than once this winter. It happens to all writers, especially in first drafts. Feeding the birds, watching and waiting for them to show up, is another way I clear my mind so I can think clearly and work out all the kinks and dead ends in my story.
But I have new friends to help me get unstuck now. This is going to be a fun winter with the camera!
I had a chuckle today, when this nuthatch showed up at the Snowman’s photo shoot.
I thought he’d be great addition to the Snowman’s friends. But, alas, he pecked on the poor guy’s head.
He stomped his feet, kinda like, “Hellooooo? Anybody in there?”
Then he eyed Snowman’s little friend.
Eventually, he saw the seed.
But in his greediness, he slipped and fell!
It scared him so much, he took to flight . . .
and our poor friend, the snowman . . .
just fell apart.
That nuthatch was NOT a very nice friend!
I collected the SD cards from the trail cameras this past weekend. I had my fingers crossed the whole way down and back, hoping for some fox footage.
And I got lucky. There was only one video and this is it . .. .
As we have, for many, many years, my family and I went to visit my in-laws on Sanibel Island, Florida for our winter break. It’s a home away from home. I love the beaches. The restaurants. The kayaking.
And the wildlife.
This year, I got wind of a new place to hang out. Bunche Beach, just over the Sanibel flyway, in North Fort Myers.
The place didn’t disappoint. Pelicans dove for their food as pesky gulls tried to steal it.
A large Great Blue Heron basked on the beach.
While taking a day cruise to Cabbage Key, I was able to see dolphins! They follow the cruise boats daily, without the captain changing course at all. The louder we cheered and clapped, the higher they jumped and the more they rolled.
Even the little ones.
When our time came to an end on the beach, Dave and I folded up our chairs and picked up our bags. I turned to find this guy waddling out from the treeline behind us.
I dropped my chair and raised my camera to get that one shot above. He scurried away so fast, I never got another.
Dave and I laughed. I picked up my chair and we walked along the shoreline toward the entrance and parking lot. A few feet later, a gentleman called to us. “Hey!” he yelled. “Check your bag.”
I looked at my camera bag, but he was pointing to the bag Dave had. In it, we’d brought sunscreen, towels, and books.
The man came closer to show us pictures he’d taken on his phone. “When the two of you took a walk, it came out of the woods.” The picture he showed us, was the raccoon standing on its hind legs, looking into our bag! I wish I’d thought to ask him to e-mail me the picture. It was adorable.
That raccoon, has now inspired a subplot in Book 4.
You never know quite where inspiration will strike.
I think I may have witnessed our eagle laying an egg!!
The behavior was something I hadn’t seen before. When I arrived, the female was sitting on the back edge of the nest facing me.
As I watched, she turned. Her body straightened. Then she cried out sharply, once, twice.
She did this a couple of times. I was too far away to see what might be happening, even with my camera. But I didn’t spy any predators, or the mate.
Eventually, she turned back around to face me.
She began picking at the nest, before slowly making her way into it . . .
and sitting in the position I know so well. On the eggs!
I went back an hour later and she was still sitting low on the nest. The eggs are here!!
Our eagles seem to be doing well, in spite of the 50+ mph winds taking place today.
I sure hope she doesn’t get sea sick up there!
I was staring out my back window, sipping coffee, when an adult fox wandered through our campground maintenance area. I set my coffee cup down so hard, liquid sloshed over the sides onto the table.
“Quick! I need my camera! Where’d I put it?” I cried, running from the campground desk to my writing closet and back again.
“I didn’t have it last,” my husband teased. He never has it, actually.
Eventually I found the camera, and sighed with relief to find the fox still there. Which in itself was a little surprising, because we don’t see them often and when we do, they’re passing through.
Turns out, this one was doing more than passing through.
It was collecting a cache. Stored food – hidden days, weeks or even months before.
I slowly, slowly, slowly, opened my window, which was three stories up from the fox’s location. It looked up, but when I stilled, it went right back to searching.
Eventually, it found its prize and pulled it from the earth.
Then chomped on it for awhile.
I took photo after photo after photo! It was gorgeous. And a learning experience for me. I’d written about foxes and their caches in Mystery of the Missing Fox, but had never seen it first-hand.
More importantly, I believe its being so close to the house, is that perhaps the kits have been born. My trail camera should show me in mid-April, when the first kit emerges from the den into the sunlight.
Once the cache was eaten, this adult didn’t stay long.
It continued on its way, back toward the den.
I’m so glad I saw it, when I did.
Just a couple days ago, I was lakeside, when suddenly, the female eagle cried out several times. I looked up, down, and all around, but I couldn’t see anything more than a lone goose, swimming along in front of their island.
Then she stopped and looked up expectantly.
And I saw him, in the distance. He circled and circled and circled the nest, eventually coming in for a landing.
He stood watch while she ate and cared for the eaglets.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating . . . eagles are great parents!
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 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.
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.
Sue Morris @ KidLitReviews
Blog: Kid Lit Reviews
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My Wild Family Written and Illustrated by Laurent Moreau Chronicle Books 11/03/2015 978-1-4521-4423-8 32 pages Age 4—8 “Sometimes there is more to family than meets the eye . . . An older brother is strong and respected, just like an elephant. A mother is stately and beautiful, but she prefers not to …
I almost left this as a wordless post – and let the pictures do the talking . . .
But this author doesn’t always know how to “do” wordless, loving instead to give the background on what I’ve witnessed ‘in the field’.
While kayaking last August, I saw in the distance an eagle on the edge of the lake, in the shadows. It appeared to be bathing. The splashing water is actually what caught my attention at first. Well, that, and an eaglet up above on a branch hollering down to it, probably looking for its next meal.
Bathing pictures are on my bucket list, so I slowly paddled forward, hoping to get close enough, but alas, it took to the air.
In my direction.
Landing on a branch, almost directly above my head, it spread its wings, and left them there! In the back of my mind, I realized I’d read about this while doing research for Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest, but it was a first for me to see it.
I sat in my kayak, watching this photographic eagle for forty minutes! Mostly, it stayed in that one pose. Eventually though, it began to preen . . . .
Before hanging its wings again.
They’re so regal looking, aren’t they?
Right now, in October, November, the eagle pair do still hang around the lake. Just last week, I wandered to the shoreline for sunrise photos, to find them adding branches to their nest!
They will come and go for the next couple months, with me not seeing them for weeks at a time. But when I do, I’ll post photos here and on Facebook. In mid-January, I usually have to don my snowshoes to get to the edge of the lake to see them. In March, the pair stay closer together, near the nest, and I see them every time I trek down. If I’m lucky, I’ll even witness them mating, which is a sure sign we’ll be having chicks.
In April, we typically find one eagle sitting down in the nest, with just the tip of her white head showing. This means they’re on the eggs for the next 35 days.
During the very last week of April or first week of May, my campers and I point our cameras toward the nest, hoping for a sign of little gray chick heads bobbing up and down. They aren’t able to hold up their heads until they’re about two weeks old. At this stage we’re looking to snap pictures of two or possibly even three, gray heads up all at the same time as proof of how many chicks we’ll be following that summer.
Click on the Eagle tag on the right, and you’ll see previous years posts showing their nesting.
Come back often this winter and I’ll keep you posted on this years chicks! I love sharing my findings with all of you. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me.
By: Tamra Wight
Blog: RANDOM WRITING
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I will be selling my wildlife calendars and notebooks through the Holiday Season for as long as supplies last.
In the past, I’ve used them for hostess and teacher gifts. I’ve given the notebooks to kids with Storycubes or a writing prompt book. Here are some pictures of the items I test printed.
Notebooks with line pages $15.00
Desk Calendars 8″ x 3″ $12.00
Wall Calendars 8×5″ x 11″ $17.00
The photos in both style calendars are as follows:
I’m also ordering 5.5″ x 4″ notecards, blank inside, with the bear, hummingbird, fox, eagle, and loon with chick, photos. The price for 10 (2 of each image) will be $15.00. Envelopes included.
For shipping, add $3.50.
To place an order:
- Leave the Item(s), and number ordering in the comments below with your name only.
- Tally your total due, remember to include shipping. For more than 5 items shipping may be more.
- I will reply to your comment when I’ve received payment and mailed your items, so you can expect delivery. Let me know if you have any questions. And thank you for your orders!
Today, I found this Pileated Woodpecker flitting from tree to tree, looking for the carpenter ants it loves.
Watch closely to see how it flicks its tongue to snap up those ants.
By: Miranda Dobson,
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As the days get shorter, the Netherlands, a low lying waterlogged country, becomes a safe haven for approximately five million waders, gulls, ducks, and geese, which spend the winter here resting and foraging in fresh water lakes, wetlands, and along rivers. Many of these birds travel to the Netherlands from their breeding ranges in the Arctic.
The post New Year’s Eve fireworks cause a mass exodus of birds appeared first on OUPblog.
Last October, before the Gray Wildlife Park could close, I called and arranged for a Photographer’s Pass. This, they assured me, would allow me behind the scenes to see the black bears, up close and personal.
I wasn’t exactly prepared for how “up close and personal” it was!
And I was thrilled!
Red sniffing a piece of apple, one of his favorite treats
The Black Bears have an amazing habitat, where viewers stand up high to look down on them as they wander, sleep, or even take a swim. The bears, in fact all the animals at the park, were injured or were raised to be human dependent and can no longer be released back into the wild. Instead, the game wardens care for them, and in return, the animals help to educate the public on wildlife awareness and conservation.
When the apples are gone, he licks the hand of Jade.
By getting the behind the scenes pass, I hoped I’d really be able to see them, hear their footsteps and their snuffling . . . .
. . . or watch them try to open a gate, hoping for one more piece of apple!
Look at the size of that paw!
Jade was a fabulous guide, listening to my reasons for being in the park, letting me ask questions and even helping me brainstorm a scene in Book 4! Below, she’s trying to get Red to stand up, so I could “feel” the sheer size of him.
Here are Red (Left) and Susie (Right) together. They are both Black Bears, although Red’s fur does have a reddish tint to it. (Hence his name!)
Some might mistake him for a grizzly because of that tint to his fur, but Black Bears have a white muzzle. Which gives him away.
Both bears were “bulked up”, having gained weight for their hibernation. I’m looking forward to seeing them in the Spring when they wake up. I think a season pass might be in order this summer!
So imagine this – it’s a gray, gray Saturday. But I’m lucky enough to be sitting inside a warm, sunshiny colored room, writing away with friends, Cindy and Mona. Around three o’clock, we all sat back and commented on what a great session it was. I personally added about 2300 words to my first draft! I was satisfied. I’d done what I’d come to do, gaining momentum on the first draft of a new story . .. . aaaaand gotten some face-to-face time with two of my favorite writers.
Noticing that I’d brought my camera with the big lens with me (I never go anywhere without it), Cindy asked if I wanted to go find the Snowy Owl.
“Nah,” I replied, looking out the window. “It’s gray. It’s spitting rain. I’m not experienced enough to have had much luck with gray day photography -”
“Let’s go,” Mona said, jumping up. “I love gray day photography!” Her enthusiasm is always so catchy! The next thing I know, we’re all piling in the car and driving to the spot where Cindy and her daughter had spied the beautiful raptor a couple weeks before.
Now, I have a confession to make. Whenever I encounter wildlife, or a beautiful setting unexpectedly, I get teary. The first time I saw triplet eaglets . . . my first loon chick . .. fox kits . . . a gorgeous full moon rising up through a purple sunset sky . . . .
Very geeky of me, I know, but I do.
This time was no exception. As we neared the location, Mona gasped and said, “Look!”
My eyes filled, to see this magnificent creature fluffing up and preening at the top of a light post.
We slowly and quietly got out of the car and the Snowy Owl glanced our way with it’s yellow eyes.
Another photographer came to introduce himself to us and told us how he’d come and found this Snowy Owl perched in the middle of the field. Right before we’d arrived, it had flown toward him to perch on the light post in the middle of the parking lot.
I’d like to think it knew we were coming. Okay, that’s impossible, I know. But the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. We spent close to an hour standing there, ooohing and aaaahing. I snapped photo after photo, hoping I’d be able to capture it’s beauty.
I’m so glad I have friends who are willing to push me to try . . . not letting me listen to my own doubts. This Snowy Owl was a wonder to behold.
And as it turns out, I did get some pretty good photos. Gray day and all.
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Back on November 1st, I’d promised to keep you updated on our eagles as they got closer to nesting season.
Well, that time is here.
Yesterday, I donned my snowshoes to trek to the lake. The very first thing I do, is take a picture of the nest to compare.
Here’s the nest last April. The nesting eagle had been quite upset at a juvenile eagle who’d been flying around the lake that day.
Here is what I saw yesterday . . .
They’ve been adding a stick here and a branch there.
Every year I worry about the weight. The wildlife biologist who’d come to band the eagles a few years ago had said it weighed approximately 700 to 800 pounds! Can you imagine!?
I saw no sign of the eagles that day, but they’ve been here. These pictures prove it.
I’m looking forward to documenting our nesting pair this year! To give you a timeline, they were sitting on eggs March 24th last year. I happened to be at the lake during one of their mating attempts a few weeks before that. And the eaglets were born a week before we opened the campground May 1st. We still have a few weeks to go!
But it’s worth the wait.