June 12, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
The great blue heron babies are practically grown now! Grown but not gone yet, they create such a cacophony of noisy excitement all through the day, reminding us they are still there. The heronry is quite possibly the loudest nursery around.
It is amazing how quickly they have transformed from the barely visible balls of downy fluff into these full-size, long-legged, awkward birds. Mostly brown with streaks of white here and there, they are tall and gangly, and their unique beauty hasn't been revealed yet, as they are still nest-bound. The nests are full now, and how they are all fitting in the mostly-flat stick platforms is a great mystery.
The youngsters are also fighting with each other, just like growing siblings, and what a noise they make. They stand and beat their long wings against each other, using their long beaks to snap while their throaty voices squawk so loudly. One parent today stood serenely in the nest with its head raised high and its presence giving the assurance that such behavior is perfectly normal and to be expected. It seems that all sorts of important heron life details are being negotiated in these days.
The parents are still feeding the young and spend more time now away from the nest, fishing in the shallow lake waters or flying over the ridge, presumably to the river that feeds Leesville Lake. The babies get racuously excited when they leave and when they return, but for the most part the hatchlings wait quietly with short outbursts of sibling disagreements.The babies should be taken their maiden flight soon. Then they will be fledglings, not hatchlings. These young birds are already so massive in size it seems strange to refer to them with these words that suggest tiny wings and small voices. Nevertheless, the heron babies are just hatchlings still in the nest, soon to be fledglings with the ability to fly.
It has been our joy to watch this awe-inspiring process. From the nest building months ago to now with a constant anticipation that today could be flight day, we have been honored to get to observe, sometimes from the trail, sometimes through the front windows. This has been our gift, and we appreciate the opportunity to be the silent audience. That is a part of nature's beauty, the silent observation that in turn gives such peace to the soul.
June 11, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Goldie has departed from the dam pier, leaving behind three open eggs and one unhatched. Our hope is all is well and the family of five is now swimming placidly in the cove of shallow water on the lake's upper end.
Last week Goldie and Galahad took an extended swim in Wednesday's afternoon light, spending at least three hours together in the cool waters. Goldie seemed quite content splashing around, but there was a change in the amount of time spent away from the eggs. We noted then that maybe hatching time was drawing near.
The time frame does suggest that the eggs reached their eruption time, so we hold to this hope. The other bit of evidence is that one egg is still there on the pier, unopened and untouched. If something had raided the nest and eaten the others, then this one shouldn't have been left behind. It was probably just a bad egg that didn't mature properly for an unknown reason.
Now we watch the cove through the binoculars, searching for some sign of the goose family. The goslings cannot fly right after birth, and the parents have or soon will molt their feathers, making them land-bound for a while too, so they haven't flown away. We watch and we wait with anticipation for a sight of Goldie and Galahad's perseverance, for a glimpse of the joy of the gray goslings and their promise of life.
June 10, 2018 Floyd
The blueberries are ripening, their luscious blue fruit hanging from the slender branches of these perennial bushes! Delicious and nutritious, these delightful berries are now popular and so are relatively easy to purchase, if you don't have your own trees.
Blueberries have a sweet-tart flavor. They are tasty eaten raw, and they taste about the same whether fresh or frozen. They make excellent toppings to a variety of dishes-pancakes, jello with cool whip, and salads, to name a few. Delicious muffins and cobblers and cakes are made the better by adding blueberries to the mixture before cooking. Their uniquely pleasant zest enhances the taste buds regardless of how these tiny fruits are eaten.
Hands-down, there is no other common fruit that passes the blueberry in containing antioxidants. The powerful antioxidants protect the body against free radicals, substances that attack the body's cells and that contribute to cancer. Eating blueberries on a regular basis is an easy way to fight against these harmful substances.
There are many other health benefits to blueberries. They make the perfect snack because they are mostly water and are low in calories. The fiber in blueberries contributes to a healthier digestive system. The eyes benefit from the nutrients found in blueberries, as do the heart and the urinary tract. Blueberries lower both high blood pressure and the effects of diabetes. There is also strong evidence that these powerful tiny fruits can heighten cognitive brain functions, specifically in relation to Alzheimer's. The vitamins and minerals, along with the antioxidants, make the blueberry a must-have for a healthy diet.
Note: Blueberries are not recommended for anyone taking a blood thinner medication.
The goodness of blueberries cannot be overly stated. There is too much to declare here in this short blog, so please research this magnificently powerful fruit for yourself. A few starting points for the research are given below.
May 24, 2018 Floyd
The flame azaleas are such a burst of fiery orange. All azaleas are beautiful, but there's just a specialness in the sight of the rich orange color amidst the darker greens and browns of the forest.
Azaleas are small bushes that produce fragrant blooms in the late spring. There are thousands of varieties of azaleas, and they grow on several other continents besides just North America. Some are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves in the fall, while others are evergreen. Deciduous azaleas are found in the United States in different plant hardiness zones, but the evergreens are found almost exclusively in in the Atlantic region of Zone 6.
Growing in cultivated settings like gardens and yards and also wild in the woods, azaleas add color and charm to any place. Songbirds find safe nesting places within the small branches of these attractive bushes, and bees and hummingbirds enjoy sipping nectar from the blooms.
Related to rhododendrons and blueberries, azaleas are a hardy, attractive shrub that requires very little maintenance once they are established. Popular among gardeners and landscapers, nature herself also seems to have a fondness for these lovely small trees that give their explosions of color to the cool forest scenery.
For more information about azaleas and rhododendrons, check out these web pages:
May 23, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
I find birds in flight to be a tremendous fascination, not as fascinating as the Wright brothers found them maybe, but still it is a great wonder to me. Large like the condor or tiny like the hummingbird, these air-borne creatures are the masters of wind speed and overcomers of the gravitational force that keeps the rest of us tied to the earth.
Bird anatomy contributes to their successful defiance of the gravitational pull. Varying in number from species to species, birds have a certain amount of hollow bones, bones that give the needed support to the skeletal system but that are more lightweight than those of other vertebrates. The shape of the wings and the shape of the feathers also help each bird with the necessary upward thrust for air travel, as do the muscles, especially those in the chest.
These are the basic physical attributes that make it possible, but there's more than just the being able. What a joy there must be in having a superior view of all that lies below! What a different perspective the birds have as they swoop and soar, looking down on the rest of us, the mere earthbound creatures.
Today, while we were on the lake in the boat, Goldie and Galahad flew right by us, coming so close before they made a beautiful arc right above the water. Their perfectly synchronized turn illustrated how in tune with each other they are, how devoted they are in their life partnership. Each day we watch the determination of both of them in their valiant effort to bring these eggs to the hatching point, to have their goslings released from their current egg-shell nursery, another contribution to the evidence of the life force. We watched in silent tribute as Goldie and Galahad flew by, so close that we could see the individual feathers, seeming to say that they have accepted our presence here.
May 22, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
In nature's choir the bullfrog sings bass. The resounding call of this amphibian carries loudly across the lake, and often there are bass voices coming from all directions. One here, one there, one over yonder, they all contribute to the harmonious orchestra of the waterfront.Bullfrogs are fascinating creatures.
Members of the amphibian class, they are the largest frogs in North America. They are found naturally in the eastern United States but have been successfully introduced in the western states, all the way to California. They have also been released into other parts of the world, and this sometimes wreaks havoc with the native frogs in these places.
They sing their deep-voiced song during the day and the night but are generally more active at night. Feeding on insects, fish, small birds, and snakes, they are carnivores, or meat eaters. Bullfrogs, being amphibians, must live near water and are typically found right at the edge of a pond or lake.
Bullfrogs, like all frogs, lay their eggs in the water, and after a few days, these eggs hatch into tadpoles with gills and a tail. Over time the tadpoles grow into froglets-the gills disappear as the lungs develop, and the tail is absorbed into the body for the nutrients as the legs grow. Then the froglet becomes an adult. These are the three stages of metamorphosis in the life cycle of a frog: egg, tadpole, adult. Because they must lay their eggs in water and because their skin must stay moist, frogs always live in or near water.
Bullfrogs may grow to be eight inches in length. They are quite large compared to other frogs. To sit and listen to their song, though, I would declare that their voices are much larger than this. Their melodies fill the night air, louder than all the other sounds, suggesting a powerful presence in the lake world.
Want to know more about fascinating bullfrogs? Check out these web sites.
May 21, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
The rain came down in a pour, water descending from above. The wind blew fiercely, moving the rain sideways in a visible sheet across the lake, snapping tree limbs in the mighty force of the air current.
And there she sat, Goldie the epitomy of motherhood, protecting her four unborn children with all she had to give.
Goldie is a wonder. She sits on her nest atop the dam pier, hour after hour. She sits there through sweltering heat and torrential rain and high winds.
She is alone in her world, yet she doesn't seem lonely. There is an aura about her of knowledge, a knowing of what she is doing. She doesn't feel compelled to be with the other geese but instead is quite content to devote herself to the hatching of these eggs.
There is still some time left in this stage before her eggs will erupt with the goslings. I hold my breath in anticipation for her. With admiration I watch from afar with the field glasses, anxiously awaiting the day when her dedicated vigil is past, and she can swim the placid lake once more, teaching her babies in all she knows.
There is so much humans can learn from nature. There are so many ways in which the animals surpass people in proper behavior.
May 20, 2018 Floyd
I often reflect on how nature meets our needs, both physically and emotionally. From nature we receive food, clothing, shelter, and water; we can also find solace for the soul.
Art and music are two inborn desires that humans need. Granted some people are more talented in one or the other or both, but there is a basic need to have art and music in our lives. An absence of either of these affects the development of children and also creates levels of depression in adults.
Nature is the supreme artist, splashing buckets of color across the landscape. Pristine snow, sparkling indigo buntings, blaze orange flame azaleas, midnight black cats, earth tones galore-the color spectrum is limitless and always perfectly coordinated. Sculpture is found in the shapes of trees and rock formations, in animal body forms and the shape of the land. The Creator paints the skies with sunrises and sunsets, and the diverse textures in the earth and sky and waters appeal to our senses of touch and sight.
The presence of music is equally powerful. The sounds of our world enrich our lives and lift our spirits. The quiet babble of the gentle brook, the trilling aria of the small bird, the clap of thunder as it shakes the earth, and the many versions of the wind's song all quench our souls' need for melody. Insects call, frogs peep, bears growl, and turkeys gobble as they all raise their voices in the eternal chorus. Even the stars and planets emit music in the celestial realm. Rarely is silence found in the great outdoors, and our spirits respond to the call, a meeting of our inner selves with the music of the land and sea.
We only have to open our eyes and ears to see and hear. The beauty of the sights and sounds are ours for the taking, free to all who wish to partake. The artistry of nature has been given to us. Opening the gift is up to us.
May 19, 2018 Floyd
One of the simple pleasures of country living is watching rabbits. They are mostly gentle creatures that exhibit endearing behaviors, and these furry mammals can provide real entertainment for the nature lover.
Rabbits inhabit fields, gardens, parks, and backyards. Clover is one of the favorite foods, but these herbivores will munch on many other types of greenery. More cute than obnoxious, these grass bounders are quite adorable with their twitching noses and alert bright eyes. Big back feet and strong back leg muscles enable them to jump away with ease. It's difficult to feel anything but a smile when watching a white puffball bunny tail bouncing away, even when said owner has been in the garden.
This is an interesting, but somewhat disgusting to the human mind, bit of information about rabbits. According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, rabbits produce two types of feces, the hard round pellets and a softer form. The softer form is eaten immediately and then redigested. The reason for this is so the body can absorb even more nutrients from the eaten food. Nature has provided a way for the rabbits to obtain the levels of necessary nutrients for their high-energy lifestyle. Gross, but true!
These backyard cutie pies are common in so many places, and watching rabbits play is one of nature's antidepressants. Yes, Mr. McGregor has lots of trouble from the mischeivous Peter Rabbit in the beloved Beatrix Potter children's story The Tale of Peter Rabbit, published in 1902, but the joys of rabbit watching far outweigh the aggravations.
Want to know more about rabbits, including the common cottontails? Check out this great research site.
May 18, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Oftentimes the sunshine and the rain coexistent in the same day, both actually and metaphorically. This is one of the joys of summer, the sudden changes in the weather.
Last night was a time of torrential rain, as the morning's evidence indicated. Soggy heat marked the beginning of the day. The sun shone brightly and hotly, good for allowing outside work but miserable in terms of the humidity. And then the skies changed, and the heavy black clouds rolled in. Soon there was a sheet of water falling all around. The weather was not picnic perfect.
Then what a sight we saw. The parent wood ducks so proudly cruised around the lake, shepherding their nine baby ducks along. Yes, nine energetic ducklings have now joined the lake population, and their speedy swimming is a pleasure to watch.
Such is life so much of the time, the sunshine with the rain. It seems amazing to me that these tiny, fragile lives emerged victoriously from their egg shell homes, braving an entrance into the harsh downpour. But, this is exactly what they did, and now they are fulfilling their roles here, adding a new zest to our world.
May 17, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
The persistent desire to reproduce offspring abounds in nature because animals and even plants have the instinctive drive to maintain their species. Most animals and some plants also have the parenting skills needed to ensure the survival of their young.
Here at Grist Mill Lake Goldie is once again enthroned on the dam pier, an isolated place for her nest but very exposed to the elements. Last week we verified the nest occupancy, four beautiful, oval, cream-colored goose eggs. Goldie is taking her mother role seriously and seems dedicated to protecting her second clutch for the season.
There is a desperate hope that these eggs will incubate safely and with time will hatch into healthy goslings. Why she has chosen the same nesting location, fatal to her first clutch, is beyond human understanding, but we trust she knows what she is doing.
Galahad patrols the water, silently making his presence known from the pier to the lagoon. He is ever vigilant, and he seems sincere in his efforts to protect Goldie and the babies.
There is a spirit of eager anticipation over these eggs. When we found the remains of the last nest of eggs, broken and scattered, our hearts broke too, for our disappointment and for Goldie. Now we so much want this bunch to emerge healthy and full of life, the golden products of Goldie and Galahad's devotion.
May 16, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Wow! The babies are here! The baby herons, that is.The total for six nests is about twenty, give or take one or two. Their little fuzzy heads have been sticking up above the edge of the nests, and what a refreshing sight this has been. For the past several days we have heard a tinny squawking floating across the lake from the heronry, quite likely these newly hatched regal water stalkers announcing their presence to the world.
These birds are solitary hunters, but they come together in colonies to breed and raise their young. Sometimes sixty feet in the air, platform-like nests are built from sticks. Both parents incubate the three to seven eggs, and then both care for the offspring.
After several months of watching the stages, from courting to nest building to nesting, now the hatchlings are here!
This is exciting for sure, the joy of being able to watch the herons with the binoculars, having front row seats for this grand show! How many people have the opportunity of this magnificent nature observation right from the convenience of the living room window? A rare gift indeed!
If you want to learn more about herons or to see pictures, check out the web sites below. These are not our pictures, of course, but they do nicely show these grandiose birds in all their elegance.
May 15, 2018 Floyd
There are many wonders of nature that our ancestors knew and lived by that have slipped away, lost in the pages of time. In our rush of modern life with all its modern conveniences and advancements, much of what really matters to the human spirit has been sadly overridden by progress.
Let's just think in terms of the last 300 years or so, within the timeline of our nation's existence. The colonists and early explorers brought some wisdom with them and some they learned from the Native Americans. Basically everything was homemade, from preserved foods to woven cloth to handcrafted tools that were used to build all needed structures. Survival depended on being able to provide for oneself, and if you couldn't perform the task or trade with someone who could, then you did without.
There was a knowledge of plants that was passed from generation to generation. Plants that could be eaten were grown and preserved, a safeguard against the barren winters. Herbs, wildflowers, roots, and tree barks that had medicinal powers were gathered and used, oftentimes the only available cures. Each community usually had at least one person wise in nature's ways of curing powers.
Even within the last generation there seems to have been a regression of basic survival wisdom. Most humans have become so dependent on technology and even dangerously addicted to the social media connections. We are consumed by so many social obligations and pasttimes that we don't have time to take a walk with nature or to study a herb book. Mostly this hasn't been a conscious thought; it's just the way we have become, swallowed in the tide of progress.
The instincts and the wisdom of the hunters and gatherers don't have to be lost for all eternity. Small steps lead to great journeys. Let's challenge ourselves to learn something new about nature each and every day. Let's determine that we will know the difference between a phoebe and a robin, the difference between a bloodroot and a wintergreen. By taking baby steps, each day will become a learning adventure!
May 14, 2018 Floyd
This is one of my favorite poems by Robert Frost, the great American poet. He wrote of nature, the simple joys and lessons that come from being in tune with the wild outdoors. There is a powerful life lesson for each of us in this poem.
"A Minor Bird"
I have wished a bird would fly away
And not sing by my house all day,
Have clapped my hands at him from the door
When it seemed as if I could bear no more.
The fault must partly have been in me.
The bird was not to blame for his key.
And of course there must be something wrong
In wanting to silence any song.
~ Robert Frost (1874-1963)
May 13, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
The perseverance of nature is a truly amazing phenomenon. Time and again, in spite of every imaginable natural catastrophe, the earth's life force asserts itself, determined to continue on.
Forests do this after devastating fires with new grasses and trees growing, slowly but steadily, from the burnt ground. Floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes wreak havoc and death. Volcanic lava can sweep over the land with quickness and destruction in a matter of seconds. Yet, what emerges time and time again? Sprouts of nature reclaim their places and begin again the cycle of life.
Here at Grist Mill Lake there are smaller examples of life continuing on. Beautiful irises, once on the shore but now growing in the shallow waters of the expanded lake, are flourishing and blooming, their cheery yellow blossoms brightening each day. Other flowers, cultivated and wild, are waving their green foliage and colorful petals in the breeze. The heron eggs should be close to hatching point, and Goldie and Galahad Geese are exhibiting signs of a new egg clutch somewhere. Songbirds are flitting about, filling the air with their happy songs.
Rabbits are bounding around, no doubt doing what rabbits do best. Turtles are lounging on the logs, and a few have been seen in the upper bottomland, obviously creating nests for their eggs. Fish are jumping from the water, obviously replenishing their energy supply by feasting on yummy insects.
Spring and early summer are our days of merry reminder that life does continue on, that the oppressive forces that seek to destroy are not victorious. The wild creatures of flora and fauna are chirpy and chipper, determined and dauntless. Life and peace prevail here at Grist Mill Lake, and hopefully, they do too wherever you are.
May 12, 2018 Floyd
Have you ever thought about the diet of birds, specifically the smaller songbirds? So much of their lives, like that of most wild creatures, consists of searching for food.
Many birds are meat eaters, meaning they dine primarily on insects. Yes, this is quite different from our normal mental image of meat eaters, including ourselves who so often partake of hamburgers and steaks. Birds, on the other hand, devour bugs by the thousands. (Before you feel too sorry for the insect world, consider this. If all the insects in the world were placed on one side of a seesaw, and ALL the other animals in the world were placed on the other side, the insects would greatly outweigh the others. Thank goodness for birds!)
Being an avian meat eater, though, includes more than just insects. Many songbirds also eat spiders, snails, and earthworms. Robins especially favor earthworms, and this is what they are doing while hopping around our yards. If you watch a robin carefully, you can see it cock its head from side to side. It is listening to the earthworms crawling under the soil, hearing the path the worm is making so the robin will know exactly where to pounce.
Berries are another bird fine dining favorite, especially in the winter. These fruits of trees and bushes are their mainstays during the cold, barren months. In the summer songbirds will eat ripened crop fruits too. Cherries, peaches, apples, blueberries and other fruits all fall victim to birds' beaks. Cedar waxwings travel in large flocks most of the time, settling into orchards to eat as much fruit as they can. These birds are often seen as tremendous pests by farmers, but they do have an interesting characteristic that humans could learn from. Cedar waxwings like to sit in a line on a branch, passing the fruit from bird to bird, all the way down the line, making sure each one gets to eat.
I think of all the pleasure I get from watching birds and listening to their lovely melodies. In spite of their continual struggle to stay alive, they still have a song for the day, creating a bright spot for me. Filling the bird feeders to make their daily quests a little easier seems like a small price to pay to help these songsters a bit.
May 11, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
At a glance, roses are delicate flower blooms, soft petals of rich colors with a lovely fragrance. Yet, they are strong bushes that survive being exposed to brutal winter weather and that then burst forth with new life and beauty at the early touches of spring.
Like so many topics, a discussion of roses can become complicated, which is not the intent of this writing. The focus here will be more about the grandiose nature of this lovely flower. Roses, in a general sense, are either wild or cultivated. The wild ones have been around for thousands of years and still flourish in their original form. These usually have five petals per bloom. Hybrid tea roses are the other major group, and they include the majority of the modern roses, bred specifically for their hardiness and outstanding blooms which have multiple petals. A third group, heirloom roses, according to the Farmer's Almanac, are those that were introduced prior to 1867.Roses, regardless of their past, are delightful flowers.
Perennials, they spring to life year after year, filling our yards and woodlands with their alluring fragrances and their gentle beauty. Their petals are striking in aroma and elegance, and their greenery is emphasized by the vibrant bloom colors.
Speaking of days gone by, roses captivate our interest, prompting us to grow them, give them as gifts, breathe in their loveliness. Called the language of the roses, there are different meanings attributed to the different colors of roses. But, we don't have to know these meanings to simply enjoy the rare grandeur of roses. Roses represent nature's artistry at its finest, and they have a charm that softens the hardest of hearts.
If you want to know more about these noble flowers, check out these web sites.
May 10, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Life continues to reinstate itself over and over again. The heronry seems to have new energy, Goldie and Galahad Geese are extra vigilant, and the nighttime frog choir and beaver patrol are doing well.
The heron babies may be here! The trouble with nests sixty feet high in the sycamores is that it's difficult to be absolutely sure what is going on up there. I am fairly certain I saw one nest with little heads poking up often, and one bird seemed to be feeding babies. More observations will strengthen or weaken these conclusions. It should be about time, though, for the newborns to be here.
Today Goldie and Galahad intermixed with the other pair of geese for most of the day, but in late afternoon Goldie went back to the pier on the dam where she had made her fatal nest several weeks ago. Galahad faithfully patroled the waters nearby. They didn't stay here and later went back to the upper part of the lake. I so hope she isn't going to nest there on the pier again.
Another evening was spent around the fire pit, this time with steaks. It was a delightful time, the perfect ending to a long day of vigorous outside work. The frog choir kept us company. The frogs are quite comical, although I am sure that's what they say about us too. One beaver swam close to shore, quite content to ignore us, although I am sure he was aware of our presence. Like the frogs, he probably found us as amusing as we found him.
There is such a specialness to being so close to the wildlife, knowing they are fine with sharing the lake with us. All is well.
May 9, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Sitting by a fire beside a lake is truly a gift that I hope everyone gets to enjoy at least once, but hopefully many times, in his or her life. Such a place is a world of its own, and all the rest of life disappears, even if only for a while.
Tonight was both work and play. We needed to burn some of the limbs and twigs recently piled up, debris from the winter weather. A small fire in the fire pit, situated in the Rock Garden and made from massive rocks found here, was steadily maintained, providing a way to get rid of the wood and an opportunity to sit back and be still.
An outside fire isn't complete without marshmallows, and we certainly enjoyed some tonight. A few other snacks completed our not-so-nutritious meal, which we certainly savored.
The background music was perfect. A quartet of bullfrogs was most entertaining, a wonderful four-part harmony that filled the evening sky. Peep frogs chimed in with a softer melody, and several unidentifiable noises rounded out the performance.
It was a wonderful time. Nature by day is fascinating, but nature by night takes on an entirely different persona. Certainly a person's life cannot be considered complete until he or she has been able to partake of this simple, yet enriching, experience.
May 8, 2018 Floyd
The cardinal is such a striking bird, in appearance and in song and in mannerisms. They brighten any place they choose to be, and to see a cardinal is a joy beyond compare.
Both the male and the female cardinal are beautiful with a plumage rich in color and a sweet little tuft on top of their heads. The female is a soft brown with highlights of red along the edges of her wings and head, a quiet beauty. The male, of course, is the one who is so outstanding in his cardinal coat. He is easily seen, nearby or far away. His warm color doesn't change throughout the year, so he is quite prominent amongst the fall's panorama of colors, the snowy landscape of winter, the vibrant displays of spring, and the greenery of summer
.A cardinal's song is one of joy. It seems he is saying "What cheer, what cheer!,"as he sings for anyone who wants to listen. The female also has a lovely voice, and she is an accomplished songster in her own right.
Cardinals may migrate, but oftentimes in the warmer locations, they are year-round residents. Mates for life, they are often seen together. Aggressive defenders of their territory, they are, on the other hand, usually somewhat tame towards humans. Watching them is a joy, a simple, priceless gift.
One of the most outstanding birds in the eastern United States, the cardinal is a treasure, a feathered gem. Some say the presence of a cardinal is the spirit of a loved one who has passed over to the next life, and this adds even more value to these magnificent birds. Seven states claim it as their state bird: Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. It's no wonder, as the beauty and the charm of this amazing friendly flyer are unsurpassed by any.
May 7, 2018 Floyd
In the early evening light, there was a magnificent display of color, not from wildflowers or showy birds, but across the southeast sky. The most radiant rainbow was showcased against dark grayish purple storm clouds.
The colors of the rainbow were vibrantly crisp, so outstanding in their spectacular clarity. On the outermost edge the red and orange were warm like a sunrise. The yellow and then the green were also clear. Moving to the left, the blue, indigo, and violet gradually faded into the backdrop of storm clouds, but then there was a wide band of glowing light.
The optimal conditions lasted for a brief time, just long enough for us to stand in amazement, enjoying this beautiful gift. We felt so blessed to experience this glorious sight.
Rainbows represent hope and promise. The one today certainly emphasized the value of both uplifting forces. May each day, with or without a rainbow, be sustained by our firm belief in hope and in promise. And may we be extra thankful when we are gifted with a rainbow, a remarkable reminder of our dreams.
May 6, 2018 Floyd
I have been seeing quite a few indigo buntings lately. These perching birds are uniquely beautiful, and sighting one always fills me with a smile.
Male indigo buntings are actually birds with black feathers. The shape of the feathers, however, catches the sunlight in such a way that these songbirds appear to be a rich turquoise color. A dark turquoise, they are sometimes mistakenly called bluebirds. (Bluebirds are blue, red, and white.)
Female indigo buntings are a dull brown with a lighter underside. Her plainness means she is rarely observed.
Indigo buntings live in overgrown fields and at the edges of forests. They also can be found in the shrubs on the sides of country roads, especially if a field is nearby. Their leaves and grass nest is usually in thick vegetation, close to the ground.
Since their diet is primarily insects and wildflower seeds, they are especially beneficial to farmers. And to the bird watcher, they bring joy with their brilliant splash of blue.
May 5, 2018 Floyd
There's something exceptionally nice about being able to sleep with the windows open. To awake during the night and hear the wind blowing through the backyard oak tree gives such a sense of all-is-well with the world. To greet the day, even before my eyes are open, by hearing a bird singing a happy song is a gift, one of the simple joys of life.
To work with the door open, yes letting in a few bees but also admitting the sounds of outside, is another fine thing. The open door policy works well toward making the forced time inside more bearable.
Being able to plant a garden, knowing that in the days to come gathering the evening meal will be simple. Watching the fruit trees bloom is the reminder of the sweet days ahead.
The wildlife critters drop by for visits more often than the human neighbors. The animals quietly come and go, living their own lives, paying little attention to me. The raccoons, deer, turkeys, skunks, and the hawk fulfill their roles. The squirrels race through the pines, and the rabbits nibble in the yard.
Living in the mountains is a pleasure for which there are no words. Peace prevails, even in the midst of the storms, and the quietness nourishes the soul.
May 4, 2018 Floyd
I stood beside a small stream today and watched the water flow over the rounded stones. Two truths became evident. Each drop of water was there in that particular place at that particular time for just a nanosecond, touching those stones so briefly. The stones, on the other hand, were firmly established, possibly having lain in that spot for eons of time, having felt the caresses of an uncountable number of water droplets.
Here in the Blue Ridge Mountains there is the same sense of establishment. These mountains too have been here for an eon of time, standing tall and strong, sheltering and providing for the inhabitants, wild and tame. Sometimes called the gentle mountains, the Blue Ridge is unique in many ways, creating an oasis of place that is self-sustaining, peaceful, and real.
The Blue Ridge, which extends from Pennsylvania to northern Georgia, is a part of the larger Appalachian mountain range. The Appalachians are among the oldest mountains on earth and have existed longer than the North American continent itself. The eastern counterpart of the Rocky Mountains in the west, the Appalachians are rich in history, both cultural and economical. They also have a present-day importance, another option for those not interested in the metropolitan jungle
.I am blessed to live here. I hope you are too. If you aren't but would like to, the great news is there is still plenty of room.If you would like to know more, check out these Web sites.
May 3, 2018 Floyd
Wildflowers are natural floral arrangements that are often overlooked, yet their beauty often surpasses that of the greenhouse world. Usually hardy perennials, the wild posies are rich in color, yellows and blues and reds and whites and all their combinations.
The first flower of spring is usually the dandelion, bright with its yellow bloom and so imporant to foraging honey bees and other hungry insects. Another glowing blossom is the common buttercup, five waxy yellow petals that adorn yards and fields. Wild mustard also blooms yellow, as do goldenrod, tansy, and the yellow lady's slipper.
The blues and purples are not outdone by the yellows. Wild purple violets, sometimes called dog violets, stay close to the ground, their tiny blooms cool visions on a warm day. Periwinkle is another blue blossom that hugs the ground, making an attractive ground cover, often where other plants won't grow. Asters, blue salvia, heal-all, ironweed, and morning glories also display the lovely color blue.
In the woods it's more difficult to find reds and oranges, but there are some. Fire pink and bee balm are beautiful bursts of sunrise color, and Indian paintbrush and Indian blanket also bloom in warm red shades. Hummingbirds thrive on the red cardinal flower and trumpet honeysuckle, both having long, slender blooms that are perfect for the tiny flyers' beaks.
Against the greens of nature, nothing makes a more stunning statement than a pure white bloom. Queen Anne's lace is one of my favorites, but there is also a calm elegance to the pure white blossoms of the bloodroot plant. Trillium and chickweed have gorgeous white flowers, and nothing compares to the petite white violet. Spotted wintergreen only grows in the forest, but the members of the daisy family are found almost everywhere.
The list of wildflowers is an endless one. Often undervalued and mowed over, these delicate yet hardy plants are nature's way of brightening our landscapes and our days, refreshing our spirits with their, the flowers', persistent quest for life.
May 2, 2018 Floyd
Colors are such a part of our world, and nature herself creates the prettiest ones. Reds and blues and yellows, purples and greens and oranges, they energize us and remind us of simple pleasures.
In the spring everything seems so much more vibrant, probably because winter is gray and dreary. Then, like a breath of fresh air, the colors appear, sometimes slowly but sometimes like a bursting rainbow. Suddenly, we look around, and color is everywhere. Some displays are tremendous, like a tall tree full of so many blooms it looks like a huge pom pom. Other bits of color are tiny, a wild purple violet hidden in a crevice or a delightful dandelion hugging the ground.
Male birds don their most spectacular plumage. Goldfinches become an intense yellow, almost glowing in their handsomeness. I have seen two male indigo buntings this week, in different places, both of them wearing their dazzling turquoise suits. And turkeys! There is no comparison to these rascals showing off all their fine feathers in magnificent displays.
Yes, spring is the season for a rich eruption of colors, the primaries and the secondaries and all the possible tints and hues between. Spring is a time of new life and new hopes, and the colors show up to add emphasis to the promise.
May 1, 2018 Floyd
Nature has so many different ways that her creatures grow and develop. Each species is special, but some seem more outstanding than others.
Take frogs, for example, that progress through three stages of metamorphosis. The eggs are encased in a slimy coating. If they are fortunate, not eaten by predators or damaged by extreme weather, they hatch into tadpoles, which most of us are familiar with. There's a pond that I walk by most days, and it has been fun watching the life cycle.
In the past few weeks the tiny bullfrog tadpoles in the pond grew fat and jolly, and now their back legs have appeared. It's quite interesting to see them jumping from the pond banks into the water, their bodies still encumbered by the long tail but with their back legs propelling them through the cool water.
The tail will be absorbed by the froglets' bodies in the next few weeks, while the shorter front legs will grow. Their lungs will also finish developing, at the same time as their gills disappear. Then they will be full-fledged frogs, adapted for life on land but with a need to be near water.
Frogs are relatively simple creatures, at least at first glance. Their life cycle, however, is rather complex. The baby looks nothing like the adult it will hopefully someday become. Frogs definitely play important roles in the ecosystem, one of which is to fill the summer evening air with their croaking for me to enjoy.
April 30, 2018 Floyd
Taking a walk through the woods in the spring is one of the most refreshing ways to spend time. New life emerging brings a quickening to both the spirit and the step.
The sight of ferns always gives me a sense of calmness. Ferns grow, typically, where the land is shaded and water is nearby. The coolness of their environment, along with the ever-present melody of a flowing creek, is the perfect setting for peace and quiet reflection. It's easy to forget about the rushes of life when surrounded in the land of ferns.
In the spring as ferns begin to grow, they have a most unique shape. Before the fronds open, they are curled in a tight spiral, called a fiddlehead. As time passes, the fiddlehead will uncurl, revealing the fern's fronds. This stage of the growth is usually a short span of time, so taking those spring walks takes on a greater urgency. Spying fiddleheads is a special treat, one of many reasons to get outside as often as possible.
April 29, 2018 Floyd
Nature is a combination of chaos and order. The two blend themselves perfectly, creating the natural wonders that we observe and appreciate.
Consider the colors. Be it field of flowers or wind-tossed seas or distant horizon, the tints and hues are always an assorted array. Nature has her own idea of mixing and matching, and her combination of shades often defies the human fashion world's concept of acceptable. Nature's way is much more creative and visually pleasing
.Often we need to take the time to stop our busy selves and simply listen to the sounds of the wild around us. We may be surprised by what we hear-a whispering breeze, a fanfare of bird song, a cacophony of peep frogs, a chattering squirrel. Most of the time there will be a combination of many sounds, a riotous assortment of noises reminding us that we are not alone.
On the other hand, there is a fascinating order to nature, a series of patterns that repeat themselves over and over in many ways. In the early 1200's an Italian mathematician named Leonardo Pisano made many observations, including the way that certain numbers follow the same pattern in many aspects of nature. Referred to as the Fibonacci Sequence and also known as the Golden Ratio, the pattern is this: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, .... The rule is that each number is the sum of the two numbers that precede it. That is 0+1=1, 1+1=2, 1+2=3, and so forth.
The pattern, or a slightly varied version of it reveals itself over and over again in nature. For example, usually a lily bloom has three petals, a buttercup has five, and a daisy has thirty-four, all Fibonacci numbers. The seeds of a sunflower are arranged in a Golden Spiral, as are the seed pods of a pine cone. A starfish has five legs radiating from a center, and some spider webs are constructed in a Fibonacci pattern. Hurricanes, galaxies, and some sea mollusks, like the nautilus, are shaped in the Golden Spiral. There is an endless list of examples in nature that follows the Fibonacci Sequence.
Nature is both orderly and wild, a representative of definite mathematical patterns and carefree creativity. What a joy it is to explore all the many facets!
For more information on Fibonacci's Sequence, check out these Web sites:
April 28, 2018 Floyd
There is nothing quite like mountain water. A tumbling stream, a flowing river, a bubbling spring, it's all pure delight, appealing to the senses.
The sound of moving water moves the soul. It creates a sense of reverence, a feeling of greatness beyond ourselves. To actually stand beside a clear brook, listening to this voice of the earth, the harmony created by the flow over the rocks, is to experience one of Nature's free gifts.
The sunlight loves to catch the droplets as they roll along, forming a sheen of brightness. Dark days also play with the water, making a different scene, different but magical. In the moonlight water takes on another look, one that is treasured by the beholder even if it cannot be captured with a camera. The beauty is such that the eye imprints it on the brain, to be savored later.
Pure water has a taste like nothing else, immediately identifiable as a life force-essential, refreshing, energizing. The smell is undetectable, an invisible fragrance, so flawless that it is nonexistent. Cool, fluid, rippling power, the touch of mountain water hints at the primal connection between present-day humanity and our ancestors now resigned to history's pages. To touch is to feel, to feel more than the immediate contact but also the spiritual alliance with our past.
Water is a wonder, a mystical strength, life-necessary. Water, like fire, demands respect.
April 27, 2018 Floyd
The special gift for today actually came at twilight. I took a bit of time to simply sit on the deck in the swing and to just be still. In the distance a whippoorwill's song gave an elegance to the quiet country night, and the unhurried flow of the creek was the perfect accompanying melody.
The almost-full moon and the twinkling stars illuminated the darkness with an intensity that made the fluffy clouds white. Beholding the sky in all its pure majesty became the most beneficial part of the day.
The passing clouds were both white and purple dark, a unique combination in a sky lit by the brightly shining moon. For a moment one particular cloud became a perfect silhouette of a polar bear kissing a seal. The forces of nature were emphasizing the need for peace, the normal desire for unity instead of strife.
How often do we shun, mostly unintentionally, the tranquility that we could gather from a brief span of time spent in the presence of nature? How often do the rushes of life steal our joy that is so freely extended our way? How often do we lose what our inner selves seek so naturally? As spring enters our days with all its bursts of refreshing life, let us daily seek to capture at least one ray of nature's beauty, great or small.
April 26, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
The sun always seems to shine more brightly after the storm. The treasure of today was being able to sit at the picnic table beside the lake, soaking in the tranquility, hearing the songbirds softly sing.
Goldie and Galahad Geese were observed ahead on the trail leading to the upper bottom. They were quite peaceful, resting and nibbling in the grass. Hopefully, they are nesting. We may find our activities limited in the upper bottom for a while. It's not worth the risk of disturbing their second clutch of eggs.
The beavers are still industrious, and there is evidence of new willow selections being made. Their work starts as dusk approaches each evening and obviously continues on through the night. Each day it's always interesting to see the new additions to the lodge. The large limbs they are able to pile high on their house are quite impressive, showing how strong and wise these creatures are. Watching them swim through the water is entertaining, and they are becoming more familiar with our presence.
I saw a few honey bees today, such a special sight. They were working the deadnettle (a beautiful purple wildflower that smells like dirt). The bumblebees were happily sipping from the yellow wild creesy flowers, mostly ignoring me. These early blooming wildflowers are so important to the insects seeking nectar after the long winter. Spring is here with its refreshing reminder that life goes on.
April 25, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
This morning the rain continued its downpour, and the lake was still wrapped in its sheet of mist and moisture. Creatures of land and water maintained their seclusion, staying tucked into their places of rest.
The heavy rains of yesterday, last night, and this morning created an overabundance of water, and the boundaries of the lake expanded throughout the day. Caramel-colored lake water poured over the dam with such power that the falling waterfall actually generated a wind that swayed the branches of the trees on the backside of the dam. Tons of sheer force roared over the stone and concrete barrier with a mighty thunder. There are no words to capture what this was like-the power, the loudness, the volume magnitude.
Then the rain ceased, and the blue sky and sunlight peaked through the fluffy gray clouds. The birds sang once more, and the butterflies rode the easy breeze. The currents in the lake continued their journey toward the dam, but gradually it all slowed. The constant peace of this place soon prevailed again.
This evening the beavers cut through the calm waters, searching for the perfect trees to gnaw. The two pairs of geese, Goldie and Galahad and friends, meandered slowly from the shore banks down to the creek channel, where they soundlessly set sail. A pair of mallards floated serenely in the upper cove, and the peep frogs resumed their happy chorus. The cascading rush of tears from heaven and onward had already receded to the distant memories of this morning.
April 24, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Falling rain changes the surface of the lake, creating a cocoon of privacy with its sheet of cascading moisture. The mist rises from the water, and the inhabitants are tucked away in their places of refuge.
A few ducks were out and about today, but then rainy weather is ideal for ducks. They still were shy and elusive, moving away from the shore when we came near.
The chorus of peep frogs sang joyfully, its melody serenading the lake with a persistent song. The rain-clad day seemed to heighten the voices of these unique amphibians, so tiny individually but so powerful in their multitude.
A beaver, impressive in size, cut quickly through the water. It was so large that at first we could hardly believe it was a beaver. Nonetheless, it was the master craftscritter, serious about its business, paying us little attention.
Daily, the personality of the lake changes, some days warm and welcoming, some days frozen and icy. And then there are days like today, rainy and mysterious, unobtrusively filled with its continual life force.
April 23, 2018 Floyd
Songbirds are such fascinating creatures, and this time of the year they seem to be especially lively. Their songs fill the air all through the day, while their busy little selves are constantly searching for food and nest building materials.
I saw a phoebe this morning, perched on the edge of the roof. Phoebes are delightful little brown and white birds, modest in appearance but outstanding in personality. A quick way to identify a phoebe is to look for tail twitching. As it sits on a branch or fence line, it will twitch its tail up and down, up and down. They can usually be found with a water source, like a small creek, nearby.
Another bright, cheerful bird that often makes an appearance here, including today, is the American goldfinch. This morning a flock of them was busy in the yard, searching the recently mowed grass for seeds or insects. Their yellow bodies look like bursts of sunshine fallen to the earth. In the winter the females are much duller than the males, but this time of the year the transition is occurring, and before long the two genders will be very similar in coloration.
We are so blessed to have so many species of songbirds right in our yards. Add lawn observations with what can be seen on walks along park trails or through the native woods and you will have a fine collection of small bird sightings, complete with sweet melodies and vibrant displays of color. They are so small but so complex with noteworthy survival characteristics, ready to add moments of joy to our days.
April 22, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
The nursery in the heronry, high in the sycamores, continues to incubate. All seven nests were occupied today with a parent in each. Typical nests have three to seven eggs, so soon there should be an abundance of baby herons on Grist Mill Lake. Here's hoping!
Some great blue herons were seen swooping in. There's nothing quite like watching these long, gangly, yet stream-lined, bodies approach the nests. Somehow each feathered flyer knows exactly how to control wind speed and wind direction, along with body speed and body position, to correctly approach and land in the chosen nest. It truly is amazing to observe each bird arrive home to its own stick platform, sixty feet in the air in the midst of other heron dwellings.
The mallards were on the lake today, at least two pairs. A bittern was also seen in Taz' flooded field at the edge of the cove. Songbirds filled the warm air with their melodies, and in the distance, probably deep in the cove, the geese were honking. A turkey gobbled in the woods on the far shore. Grist Mill Lake was the happy habitat for various and sundry avian citizens today.
A tiger swallowtail flitted about the late-blooming daffodils, adding color to color. The vibrant colors of spring are so evident now, offering such a beautiful visual pallette to the eyes that are hungry to see. After the long, gray winter, the energizing array of tints and hues offers nourishment to the soul.
April 21, 2018 Floyd
The shrill call of the male whippoorwill easily caught my ear right at dusk this evening. Only the male makes the namesake call, while both the male and female have a softer clucking voice they use to communicate with one another. These mottled gray and brown birds spend their days sleeping and their nights hunting insects.
Members of the nightjar family, whippoorwills are almost never seen during the day. During the daylight hours, they sleep on the forest floor, blending in with the dead leaves. They do not make nests, not even for their one or two eggs, which are laid in a small indentation in the leaves. Both parents incubate the eggs and care for the young.
Whippoorwills are strictly meat eaters. They dine on moths and other flying insects, caught in flight during the night. These birds are rarely seen, and the most common observations are not the birds themselves but the glow of their ruby red eyes reflected in headlights.
These robin-sized birds are captivating with their aura of mystery and solitude. The calls of the males are so distinct that they give the hearer of the persistent song the sense of being allowed into the exclusive whippoorwill club, permitted to partake, at least auditorially, in the world of this plain, but majestic, night cryer. The warm summer nights are heralded by the clear song of this extraordinary feathered friend.
For more information, visit www.audubon.org and www.allaboutbirds.org. The whippoorwill is such a fun study!
April 19, 2018 Floyd
The wind is a major character in the grand picture of the natural world, its own entity in the forces that move and shake us. Warm, cold, gentle, ferocious, it is found in every environment on every continent and across all bodies of water, large and small.
Recent storms have revealed the mightiness of the wind. Large limbs and even trees themselves have been snapped in half, mere matchsticks in the presence of the wind. Human structures prove to be so fragile, surrendering to the mammoth gusts of air. As humans standing in the wildness of the wind, we are easily moved, swayed, brought to our knees, quickly reminded that we aren't all that we think ourselves to be.
Yet, the wind can also be the gentlest of breezes, barely forceful enough to ruffle a baby's curls. These tender puffs of air caress our faces and give cooling relief to our sun-heated skin. Swaying dandelions and gliding butterflies give testimony to the docile push of the wind.
Sometimes the wind comes with welcoming warmth, and sometimes it comes like a cold, cutting knife, dividing body from soul. Gales and breezes and typhoons, the wind marches across the land and the seas in its own style. Hats off to you, dear zephyr, windy friend; let us give you the respect you deserve.
April 18, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
The summer-like warmth of today brought an even greater serenity to the lake. The turtles were content on their basking logs, soaking in the revitalizing sunshine. Their cold weeks of winter submersion under the mud were surely forgotten today as the sun beamed on them. They always crowd onto the logs, sometimes as many as ten on a timber. From a distance a drifting log takes on the shape of an alligator.
The herons added to the turtle excitement by flying in and out of the colony. The incubators didn't sit as tightly as yesterday, possibly because of the warm air. These birds exhibit royalty in their own way. Their impressively long legs and slim, stream-lined bodies add to their stateliness. It is such a joy to be able to watch them constantly, from the front window and from the trail and from the Rock Garden.
The butterflies abounded in the warm breezes. There are enough wildflowers blooming that the butterflies and other insects are busy feeding, providing visual beauty to the rest of us as they do so.
The glories of Nature are so strong here, seen in the bright colors and the endless evidences that life in its natural forms flourishes here. What a rare privilege it is to be able to observe and contemplate, to be inspired by these wonders.
April 17, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Life in the heron colony continues happily along. There are at lest six, maybe seven, heron nests actively occupied now. The parent sitting on the eggs, which can be either the mother or the father, sits low in the nest, while the other parent stands guard on the nest's edge or flies in and out with food. It is quite a busy production all through the day.
Goldie and Galahad were on the lake this morning, and Gally had a lot to say. Then they disappeared for a while. Now they are on back. It is interesting to speculate where they go and what is pulling them here. Research does reveal that the female goose returns to the place where she was born, so it is likely this is Goldie's birth place.
I so hope they have their second clutch of eggs and that they hatch successfully. Today when we were working on the backside of the dam we found a part of one of the first eggs. It was lying so white and broken in the grass at the edge of the dam. The shell had an amazing thickness to it, and there was a definite sadness in holding the shell that had once held Goldie's baby. Nature is not always kind.
The beavers have been especially busy this evening. It is amusing to watch them, each on a definite mission. There were three swimming industriously across the lake and up the channel. They never seemed to acknowledge one another with each just going on his or her own way. They acted like complete strangers, and there was no indication that they live in the same house. These master craftscritters do demonstrate human characteristics at times!
April 16, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
After yesterday's heavy rains the lake water is a muddy brown, the natural result of a downpour. Goldie and Galahad were not to be seen today, and I so hope they are doing well in their new nest somewhere, preferably here on the shores of the lake.
We did observe the herons today, high in their lofty nests in the sycamores. There are at least six, maybe seven, that are definitely nesting. They are sitting low in their large nests with mostly only their heads showing. The coldness of today's air requires them to settle in, cozy on their eggs, providing the needed body heat and protection to the babies in their eggs. Interestingly, the incubation is done by both parents, and once the eggs hatch both parents will feed and care for the babies.
A group of wood ducks were also observed here today. They too are in pairs and hopefully are in one of the nesting stages. They are quite shy and will fly at the slightest motion, such as raising the camera to capture their image. Watching them from afar with the binoculars is always rewarding, as they display their own regal presence here.
The peep frogs sang their melodioous chorus in the late afternoon and continued on, serenading in the evening light. Another lovely voice that fills the night air is the whippoorwill, a most unique bird. Only the male makes the distinguished call, filling the warm night air. The female's voice is much more subdued but important nevertheless. Further reflections on this member of the nightjar family will be forthcoming.
April 15, 2018 Floyd
Nature really showed herself today with her fierce winds whipping all around and her heavy rains pouring down! So often we talk of Nature in the language of sunshine and rainbows and butterflies. But, like all of us, she has a tempestuous side too, and days like today remind us of her power.
During such storms, I always wonder where the wild creatures are. I am sure they are wiser than I would be if I was the one out in the fury, that they have snug and dry spaces where they have sought and found refuge. Such weather can be overwhelming to us humans with our mortal weaknesses, but to the critters it is probably not so bad.
Here's a toast then to the wild ones out in the raging winds and the soaking rains. Here's a note of respect for them in their wisdom of survival. Here's to hoping that if we are ever out with the forces of nature in our faces, then we too will have the forebearance to survive. Here's to encouraging one another, human and wild creature alike, to stay strong during life's storms, to press on with determination, and to soak up the sunshine when it abounds.
April 14, 2018 Floyd
One of the most versatile creatures in our part of the world is the crow. Often shunned and rarely appreciated, these birds do have their own unique personalities.
Their black sheen in the bright sunlight is unparallelled in terms of ebony beauty. Their glistening eyes usually glimmer with mischief and understanding, demonstrated by their knack for discovering and taking shiny objects
.The broad range of their vocal calls varies from comical to eerie. Once I heard the strangest sound, a cross between mournful and vicious. As it turned out, it was a group of crows, perched high in the tree, making an awful racket. The noise was so surreal and disturbing. Yet, sometimes the laughter in their voices is uplifting, reminding me to see the lighter side of life.
Yes, crows are more than what they are automatically assumed to be. Wise and funny and cunning, they may live to be fifty years old. They are adaptable to many living environments, and often they display human-like characteristics. A group of crows is called a murder, but their true nature suggests they need a more aristocratic name. The least we can do is gaze upon them with the admiration they deserve.
April 13, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Goldie Goose and Sir Galahad floated serenely on the lake this morning, although there were times of quite a bit of honking. This was mostly when they were out of sight.
This afternoon one of them, probably Galahad, was taking quite the bath in the creek channel right above the lake. Over and over he dipped his head and wings into the water, splashing so merrily. Yesterday's research revealed that this is a pre-mating ritual done by the male-taking a bath, either in water or dust. There are high hopes that Goldie will soon be incubating her new clutch of eggs, nature's second chance.
Activity in the heron colony, also called a heronry, across the lake is also promisingly pointing to new hatchlings. At least four herons are nestled deep in the large, lofty nests, and males are continually flying in and out. This is their routine during nesting; she nests on the eggs and he feeds her.
Today I saw the first tiger swallowtail of the season. Seeing the state butterfly with its unique beauty always brings joy. A tiny black butterfly of some sort fluttered by yesterday, but I couldn't make an identification. Today I also saw a sight I have never observed before, a tiny baby ladybug! It was exquisitely colored with dots of black on its orange wings, so perfect and so small. The wonders of nature are endless.
April 12, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
The beauty of this day was reflected in the animal behavior at the lake today. Life abounds here, and each day is a new revelation.The geese are in two pairs, definitely mating two-somes. They have been close to the shore today and have even been traveling somewhat together. Silently, their regal forms glide through the water, adding such elegance to the lake.
Both pairs have been quite vocal today, probably sounds of their mating behavior. Earlier in the day both sets were in the upper part of the lake, and their loud sounds filled the air. Later, they made their way to the lower end of the lake, sailing along with the evening light reflected on the water. Such beauty and such promise reigns, that in spite of the predators, goslings will still soon be a part of the lake population. Such joy in this hope!
The beavers were active this evening. We saw at least three swimming quickly though the water, even coming so close to us on the shore. The mischievious critters would dive into hiding as soon as the cameras came out, emerging again immediately once the cameras were put away. Their laughter was probably heard by all the lake animals.
The serenity of this place gives comfort and creativity to the soul. It is such a special opportunity.
April 11, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Tragedy has descended on Grist Mill Lake. But, the uplifting news is that in all her cruelty, Nature does provide a healing element.
Today, in my eager observation of Goldie on her goose nest, I was greatly distressed. The abandoned pile of down feathers fluttered sadly in the gentle breeze. A quick walk to the dam gave a clearer view, and sure enough, the evidence of shattered white egg shells silently told the tale.
But. now for the cheerful news! Research today has verified that if the nest or the eggs are destroyed, then the pair of Canada geese will nest again, usually near the original nesting site. I am fairly certain I saw this pair today in the upper bottom near the rain pond. They both were making communication calls with one another, so there is hope the new round of mating and egg tending is underway.
Predators for Canada geese eggs include raccoons, coyotes, and eagles. Interestingly, we did see the eagle last Friday, so it is very possible that he is the culprit. The location of the nest in the center of the dam would allow access only through flying or swimming. Hopefully, the new nest will be in a better protected area. Regrettably, it probably won't be as easy to observe, but all that mattters is that the goslings hatch and thrive.
April 6, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Goldie Goose continued her nesting today. The top of the dam doesn't seem like the ideal place for this, but I am sure she knows what she is doing. She is definitely safe from predators, and the greatest danger is probably from the weather.
Galahad Goose is taking his responsibilities as her protector very seriously. He glides along placidly on the water, sometimes close to her, sometimes a distance away. Often he seems to be taking the attention on himself, away from where she is. Yet, he swims close to where Goldie is at times. I am unsure if Gally is checking on her or if he is moving closer in response to a perceived danger. It is amazing how quickly he can sail through the water with his quiet stately presence.
It is a treat to be able to observe all this from the front windows of the cottage. A pair of binoculars enables us to easily keep an eye on the goose nursery developments, either from inside the cottage or from the trail. We so appreciate the gift that we have here, the being able to witness first-hand so many amazing facets of nature, such as the new goose nursery.
April 5, 2018 Grist Mill Lake
Sometimes gifts are not immediately recognized. The gift for this day was such a present, which thankfully turned into the opposite of what it first appeared.
During the morning walk, we saw a goose on the largest pier of the dam. It seemed to be dead, lying stretched out with its head flat on the pier top. There were a few loose feathers around the majestic bird. The automatic thought was that it had died where it lay.
Later in the day we observed that it was still there, but it had turned and was now facing in the opposite direction! What a surprise this was.
As we worked on the backside of the dam clearing brush, the goose stood and then rested with her head in an upraised position. She was definitely alive and alert. Further investigation through the binoculars revealed that the quantity of loose down feathers was much larger than it had been in the morning, and now she was resting in this feather nest. She had also laid two, maybe three, perfectly oval white eggs!What a joy this is! What we had at first thought was a dead goose has turned out to be a mother bird, striving to bring new life into being!
This has been our gift for this day, a reminder that first perceptions are not always accurate and sometimes are even the exact opposite of what we think! And what a treat for us-to be able to observe this uplifting event in the life cycle of these regal birds!