Think Green

Thinking green today–green heron! Prior to May, I had never heard of a green heron. Now, I am quite taken with them! They are pretty plentiful around lakes and marshy areas.

Green Heron, Great Falls Park, MD

We spotted this beauty in a swampy area beside the C&O Canal Towpath at Great Falls Park, Maryland side (The Potomac River runs between Maryland and Virginia). The lighting was just perfect to catch all the iridescence of the bird’s feathers.

We saw a total of three green heron this day. The one below appears to be a young/juvenile green heron, just a few feet away from the one pictured above.

Juvenile Green Heron, Great Falls Park, Maryland

This juvenile green heron has more prominent striping down it’s neck and chest, as well as spotted wings. Also, notice his black cap.

These birds are pretty small compared with some other heron. I’d describe them as about the size of a crow, but with longer legs. They spend their time in shallow wetland areas and also climbing/perching on vegetation surrounding the water.

They are usually spotted wading for fish, staring intently into the water. In fact, they are one of the few tool-using bird species. They often create fish lures out of crusts of bread, insects & feathers, dropping them on the water’s surface to lure small fish. Occasionally, they may dive into deeper water for prey.

Have you ever seen a green heron? If not, look for them next time you are close to a lake or wetlands. You just might spot one!

From Bridge at Olmstead Island, Great Falls Park, Maryland

Psalm 42:7 “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.”

My Mother’s Legacy

Photo By My Mother, Bonnie, Rockport, ME

The above photo was taken by my mom, whom I lost to breast cancer eight years ago today. She was an artistic person who loved all animals and nature. When she retired and moved from Virginia to Maine, she began taking photos of what she saw, whether it was the lupines in her yard, a pond glistening in the sunlight or the above photo of a hummingbird. The thing is, I believe (but am not certain) that this photo was taken using film. I love digital photography. One can take thousands of frames, delete the bad pics, save the good ones. Do you remember film cameras? You never knew how your pictures would turn out until they came back from development. When I see a beautiful photo taken with film, I see it as much more of an accomplishment! I am really proud of my mom’s picture and it makes me feel happy every time I see it.

I’ve been following in my mother’s footsteps by seeking to record nature’s beauty in photographs. Last week, I have focused on capturing the movements of hummingbird wings when they fly.

Hummingbirds flap their wings 80 times per SECOND! Also, they have a ball-and-socket joint at the shoulder which allows them to rotate their wings 180 degrees in all directions. Because of their special ability, they can hover and even backwards! Thankfully, film photography is a thing of the past for most of us. Digital photography allows a novice like me to experiment and improve skill with practice and immediate gratification.

I’m thankful every day for the influence of my mother. She shared her love of nature with me and now, in my fifties, I’m finally beginning to share her passion. Apparently, I am a slow learner. If she can see me now, I’m confident she is glad I finally caught on!

If you have someone in your life who shared a special part of themself with you, thank them while you can. If you have a talent, passion, interest or hobby, please share it with another person. If you think you have nothing to give to another, show them care and love–that’s the BEST gift you could ever give. THANKS MOM!

Female ruby throated hummingbird, beak open with tongue

Strut Your Stuff

Great Blue Heron, Blue Mash Nature Trail, Gaithersburg, MD

As a birding newbie & very beginner bird photographer, great blue heron (GBH) are a lot of fun to watch and photograph. They are large, easy to find, exotic looking, and can put on quite a good show!

Some rules have been broken here… If you want to be a good bird photographer, you don’t really want to take a bunch of pictures of the back of a bird. But in this case, I wanted to show you this GBH strutting his stuff, showing off his great size and plumage. I think he wanted everyone to notice him and take lots of photos of his awesomeness and that’s exactly what I did!

He just went on, and on, and on, strutting around and showing off. Do you know any humans like this GBH? Ever seen someone who loves to show off, craves attention and glory? It somehow seems more acceptable for a wild bird to be an attention hog than it is for a person. It takes all the different personalities to make the world interesting, though, doesn’t it? Next time I see a person flapping their “wings,” working hard to get everybody’s attention, wanting all the glory for themself, I will resist annoyance, step back and try to enjoy the show.

Great Blue Heron, Blue Mash Nature Trail, Gaithersburg, MD

Hope You Like Hummingbirds

Young Hummingbird

I hope you like hummingbirds, because I sure do…AND I have lots of photos to prove it! I’ve been working on my camera skills by stalking the birds in my backyard all last week. Above is my current fav hummer shot. Pretty sure it is a young one because it’s all fluffed up & not scared off by me & my camera.

The hummingbirds are literally juicing up for their migration which will occur very soon. Since they’re hanging around my feeder so much, practicing on them seemed to make sense.

If you don’t yet have a hummingbird feeder, hurry and get one to attract hummers to your yard before they disappear until next spring. It’s not too late, but will be soon! Maybe they’ll remember your delicious nectar and decide to live in your yard next year. Hummingbirds are known to return to the same place year after year, ya know.

Above is the lone male in my yard. He is a little smaller, faster and a lot more nervous around me and my camera than the females and the young. But I managed to get a few shots…

Hummingbird Hanging Eight!

Above is a little lady who decided to stand on a flower bud! She is so light, she didn’t even cause the bud to droop while standing on it. Trivia question: How many toes does a hummingbird have? Answer: Four on each foot/eight total toes. I am in awe of how teensy tiny their feet are.

I could just watch these little birds all day long. In fact, thanks to COVID-19, I get to see a lot more of them than I would any other time in my life!

Did you know that hummingbirds cannot step or hop? They can only perch or fly, so if they want to move three inches to the left, they need to fly there.

I think people who spend time observing and appreciating wildlife may have an edge over others when trying to understand our place in the universe, how very small we are, and how capable God is of seeing us individually and loving us affectionately.

“I know every bird in the mountains, and the insects in the fields are mine.” Psalm 50:11

Wood Duck Wednesday

Female Wood Duck, Lake Hallowell

Well, look at this pretty lady! What is it about wood ducks? Is it their dramatic eyes? Their crest? The pretty blue feathers mixed in with the soft browns? While I haven’t spotted the extravagantly colored male, I’ve really learned to appreciate the females this season!

I hope you are having a good week focused on what is good in your life and in the world around you. Pause and take a look around and you WILL see something beautiful.

No Such Thing as an Ugly Baby

Fledgling Red-Winged Blackbird, Lake Hallowell

Do you believe there’s such a thing as an ugly baby? Today, I was with someone who chose another elevator because there was a baby on the first one & she “doesn’t like babies.” Waaa? I am just the opposite–I love ’em! Big, little, fat, scrawny, long, short, quiet or loud… If I could get paid to hold, cuddle and play with babies all day, I’d gladly make a career change.

Well, I kinda feel the same about baby birds. They start out quite funny looking with their translucent skin & closed eyes. Then they start growing downy feathers, but are still prehistoric in appearance. Finally, their real feathers grow in, but still may be awhile before some birds take on their adult appearance.

Male Red-winged Blackbird, Lake Hallowell

If the fledgling is female, it’s coloring will stay similar to what it is in the top photo. But if it’s a male, he will look like the photo above, with black feathers and striking red/yellow bars on his wings.

I keep trying to learn better camera techniques to capture nature’s beauty. It is a fun challenge for me to be creative in this way. But no photo can really capture the full depth of beauty around us, can it? What a photo can do is inspire the viewer to look differently at something, more closely than they would or could otherwise. What may look like an ugly baby could also be seen as a unique being, the apple of someone’s eye, or a masterpiece in progress. Every life is beautiful.

From the Bridge (part two)

Juvenile Green Heron, Lake Needwood, Rockville, MD

Continuing with the baby series, although now we are really getting into juvenile birds. These birds are on their own, but not quite fully with their adult plumage. Last time, I highlighted a juvenile black capped night heron we spotted from a bridge that crosses a marshy part of a lake. At the same time, off the other side of the bridge, was this lovely creature! My friend immediately said she thought it was a green heron. I said, “naaa, it is too small; it must be something else.” It was a little farther away than the night heron, so it was pretty easy to snap a few photos without disturbing him or her.

Later, once home, I began my online search to narrow down what this bird could be. Don’t you know, it turned out to be a green heron after all! Amy knew all along and it would have saved some time if I’d just trusted her. I’m glad she’s a good friend and doesn’t take it personally when I don’t always agree. Once in awhile, I am the one who is right, but at least when it comes to birds, she is usually the one who knows and I’m good with that!

Juvenile Green Heron, Lake Needwood, Rockville, MD

In this crazy world, we need to surround ourselves with good people we can trust. It is high time for us to show kindness and acceptance of others, human or otherwise, even when it is hard. Isn’t that what we want from others? This is my goal, with God’s help: To show love and kindness to others regardless of how “deserving” they are. I fail miserably in this area quite a lot, but commit to persist in trying to do the right thing.

“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. But whoever lives by the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” John 3:19 & 21

Have a blessed day!!!

Bring the Camera Every Time!

Juvenile Black Crowned Night Heron, Lake Needwood, Rockville, MD

When I started to do a series of “baby” posts, I didn’t know how many baby bird photos I had taken and would take! Last week, my walking/hiking/birding buddies and I were on an EXERCISE walk, NOT a birding walk. Recently, I decided to carry my camera on EVERY walk & hike, not just birding walks, and it paid off! Last Friday, we were crossing the same foot bridge we cross once or twice a week, and here was this strange creature just sitting there staring at us… and staring… and staring. After regaining our composure, I took a couple quick shots to be sure I came away with SOMETHING to refer to later. Then, I clicked and clicked and clicked, inching closer and closer and closer. This bird didn’t budge.

Juvenile Black Capped Night Heron, Lake Needwood, Rockville, MD

New to birding, the differences between males, females, young and mature are quite a challenge at times. This lovely bird turned out to be a juvenile black crowned night heron. Huh! Never would have guessed THAT. It’s hard to believe that this young bird, stunning in it’s own right, will transform into something that looks completely different. Eventually, this juvenile will grow to have a black cap and back with gray wings. Knowing now that they are around, I’ll be on the lookout for the parents! Lesson learned: bring the camera every time!!

The next installment will be another young bird that stumped us on the same day, while walking across the same foot bridge. See ya then!

Sweet Swallows

Baby tree swallows, Lake Hallowell, 5/26/20

Can you stand the cuteness?!? These adorable little tree swallows appear to be getting their courage up to fledge their nest. On the day this photo was taken, there were several bird houses, all bursting with baby bird preciousness–tree swallows and bluebirds.

Tree swallows, Lake Hallowell. 5/26/20

Above, proud parents tending their young. Below, this brave almost-fledgling working on it’s pros & cons list of why or why not to leave the security of the nest. Pros: freedom, more space to stretch it’s wings and more independence. Cons: losing out on free meals from mom and dad, giving up the shelter of this cozy house. Freedom and independence always win out over the rest!

Baby tree swallow, Lake Hallowell. 5/26/20

Here, on the same walk, bluebird parents caring for their hatchlings. Wish I’d caught the young this time. Maybe next spring!

Proud bluebird parents, Lake Hallowell 5/26/20
Bluebirds, Lake Hallowell. 5/26/20

What do these images make you ponder? They make me feel calmer and more hopeful for the future. Birds live the life I wish I could. They are so free to be exactly who they were made to be!

These birds’ lives are beautiful and precious to our creator, and so is yours!