The other day I had a perfect springtime photo in mind, and there was a bunting smack dab in the middle of it. That’s gonna be tough to beat, we’ll go with that one, I said to no one in particular. But when I typed the file number into my file manager, it was as if I had been slapped upside the head with a cold, wet herring! There’s two 7843’s? And they’re both a perfect representation of spring? What am I gonna do!?!? Once the confusion subsided, I set out to investigate this wonderful, mysterious wildflower photo, and what I found was a whole pile of ‘em! It’s all coming back to me now, after I finished with the birds on this particular day, I swapped out the big lens for a macro lens and flash. Then I went back around on the route I had just taken, stopping at all these wildflowers I had spotted during the first go around, the bird lap, if you will. Now, I’m no plantologist but just off the top of my head I’d say we’re looking at some rudbeckia, primrose, and violets here.
When I need a break from winter, I like to hop into the way back machine that is my archives. It’s not technically time travel, but when I find a photo like this I’m instantly transported back to a warm spring day from the past. The sound of buntings singing and the wind blowing through the grass. The smell of flowers blooming and the organic aroma of nature. The sun cascading downward and chiseling away at the last remnants of winter. Yeah, this is time travel in my book.
Now that is one cute little Red Squirrel!
I love it when I’m pacing the halls of my photo storage vault, patiently waiting for spring, when a long-lost and forgotten warbler photo falls off the shelf and settles at my feet! Here’s a pretty little Palm Warbler from a couple of years ago.
I really dig this duck, the Northern Shoveler. Every spring and fall they pass through here en masse but until recently they have avoided the fame and fortune associated with being seen through my lens, and by that of course I mean they always stayed on the far side of the bog. A bit smaller than a Mallard, what they lack in size they make up for in snoz? Shnoz? Schnoz? They got a big honkin’ bill!!!
Non-birders might look at the Common Grackle and go “Yuck, it’s a blackbird.” Even some birders might say “It’s just a plain old, boring grackle.” Me? What do I say about the Common Grackle, you ask? Well, first I’d say look at those big yellow eyes, beautiful! Then I’d say look at that awesome iridescence, all purple and blue. But the main thing for me about grackles is how dang smart they are, one of the smartest birds I’ve ever met. I’ve seen them pull worms out of the ground like a robin, and soften hard bread crumbs in the bird bath. I’ve seen them pluck fish out of the water, that’s pretty smart! I’m sure they could talk too if they wanted, but they probably just haven’t run into anyone smart enough to carry on a conversation with. Wait a minute, they run into me all the time!
I couldn’t help but think of an old man sitting on the front porch with his favorite knife in hand, just whittling away the day without a care in the world. Dozing off every once in a while, I’d be concerned about cutting myself, but not him, he’s been there a thousand times. On that front porch with his favorite knife.
It was a warm day, not a cloud in the sky and no wind to speak of, completely uncharacteristic of January. Well, everything was covered in snow, that part is fairly characteristic. As I made my way to the bog I was reminded of a similar day about a year ago, and by similar I mean virtually identical. On that day I photographed a possum, so I had to laugh because I know how things happen in my world. The question now wasn’t if, but when and where I’d see my possum. I walked past the spot where I saw him last year and looked around real good… nothing, no possums. It was getting pretty late in my adventure now, maybe I should have taken the other path. Could my instinct actually be wrong about this!?!? And there she was! I did a double take because it’s a pretty startling thing to see a big gray animal staring at you. And so here it is, more proof that possums at the celery bog are quite possibly the cutest in the world!
Ahhh… to be a Green Heron on a lazy summer afternoon, nothing but time on his hands to sit and watch the bog float by.
At some point in every winter you’ve just got to accept it for the cold, sloppy inconvenience that it is and move on. For me that point was today; it was too cold and windy to go to the bog, not that the birds would feel like cooperating anyway. As I looked out at the vast rolling hills behind Bog HQ all covered with a fresh layer of snow, it occurred to me: find a snow covered covered bridge. Wait a minute, that doesn’t sound right… find a snowy covered bridge? Yeah, find a snowy covered bridge-scape. That’s better. So I packed up my gear and headed to Carroll County and the Lancaster Covered Bridge. Built in 1872 by the Wheelock Bridge Co., this bridge spans 132.9 feet across the Wildcat Creek. And it photographs real good in the snow.
Spiderman, Spiderman, does whatever a spider can. Oh… hello camera guy. How, how long have you been standing there? Hee?
Carl says “Hi.” Probably more like “Gimme some food!” Or “Lemme in your dang house, it’s cold out here!”
I came across these Orange Milkweed photos this morning, took them last spring, and I’m not sure if they are helping or hurting my seasonal affective disorder, aka warbler withdrawal. Wait a minute… yup, definitely helping! I love that first shot, the one with the buds, it’s so clean and such a fantastic reminder of spring for me. The bog was plum full of warblers the day I shot these.
The White-breasted Nuthatch is fast becoming one of my favorite birds to watch. For starters, they’re really friendly; they’ll come right up to you and crawl around on the nearest tree. They’re really chatty; I don’t know what they’re saying half the time but I assume they’re talking to me. They’re highly active; constantly either searching for food or hiding food underneath loose bark. This particular little dude seemed to have a sneeze that wasn’t quite ready to come out, we’ve all been there, but it soon passed and he got back to searching for food. And chatting.
I had ducks on the brain today, specifically a couple of teal ones, the Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal. My eyes glazed over as I spaced out while staring at a photo of some Blue-wings and thinking, Which teal do I post today? When I came back from wherever it is I go during my creative process, I was fixated on a fuzzy, duck shaped stump in the background, and then I realized… they’re BOTH in this photo!!! I completely forgot about the day I simultaneously shot these teals, and so the decision has been made… both, it is! The tiny and lightning fast flying Blue-winged Teal with that distinctive white facial stripe, and the Green-winged Teal with that absolutely remarkable looking green mask. So… take THAT, every teacher I had in grade school, it is good to space out sometimes!
As I pulled into the garage, I looked out at the vast expanse of my back yard and spotted a half dozen squirrels frolicking. While they ran around the yard playing pattycakes or duck, duck goose, or whatever those crazy little fluffballs do, there was one squirrel who calmly made her way toward the back door. That’s my little squirrel pal, Sunday. I went inside and put my stuff down, then made my way across this palatial estate to the back of the house where, inevitably, that squirrel would be patiently waiting for me in her favorite spot.
Believe it or not, but I don’t always know what I’m looking at. Sometimes I’m so clueless about a bird, such as this Orange-crowned Warbler, that I’ll just set the photos aside and hope it eventually comes to me. It never does, but this morning I dusted off these old photos and got to work. I’d say it’s just being lazy, but between all my book signings and touring the talk show circuit, I don’t always have time to put forth a highly scientifical bird identification investigation.
Last spring I saw my first Osprey, he was fishing at the bog. I guess you could say he was… fly fishing! Get it? Come on, that’s funny stuff! Anyway, in thinking back to that fantastic day, I can’t believe that was my first Osprey. A world class wilderness explorer of my caliber had never seen an Osprey before then? That can’t be right. Well, it is and it ain’t. When I was a kid, one of my fellow wilderness explorers used to point at every large raptor-like bird flying by and say “Osprey!” Now, I can’t be 100% for certain that one of them Turkey Vultures wasn’t actually an Osprey, so who knows when I saw my first one. I saw this one though, I saw him real good.
This time of year I like to reflect about all the amazing photographs I’ve created since the start of spring warbler migration. I like to think about all the great wilderness adventures I’ve had in the past year. I like to think about all the best selling books I’ve written, and about the millions of people whose lives I’ve touched with my work. I also like to dig into my old bird books just for the sake of nostalgia. These old books are like time machines, they take me way back to when my range as a world-class wilderness explorer included the backyard. The Red-eyed Vireo is a bird I used to look at in these books and I couldn’t wait to get out there and spot one in the wild. These days I see them at the bog periodically and each time I do, I think back to a time all those years ago when I used to flip through my bird books dreaming about becoming a world-class wilderness explorer.
This dude seems to be in a remarkably good mood considering he recently had a disagreement with some sharp clawed bog creature.
Ducks are inherently funny creatures to begin with, but then the Ruddy Duck takes it a step further. A squatty little body with an enormous head, and that tail, that glorious tail, usually sticking straight up. Most ducks make me smile, because I’m a duck person, but the Ruddy Duck makes me LOL out loud!
I heard the most beautiful sound last winter. It was the morning after yet another major snowfall and I thought it would be fun to stomp around the bog in a foot of fresh snow. The bog is a lonely place in the winter but the cardinals, chickadees and woodpeckers are still around, and squirrels of course, but also the Song Sparrows. The bog was completely silent all morning, but for a frigid breeze whistling through the trees, and then I heard it. It sounded like a springtime bird song off in the distance, but that just can’t be, it’s the middle of winter and there’s a foot of snow on the ground! I followed the eerily wonderful sound through the woods until I finally came upon the culprit, a Song Sparrow singing his fool head off! In the middle of winter! I was shooting him one blistering hot summer day a few months later and I had to laugh thinking back about that amazing wintertime song.
Cardinals are a bird that I would consider very cooperative as far as photography is concerned, and yet, they rarely give me any good opportunities. Today was no different either, as soon as I was in range this fellow moved into a brushy area where it would be impossible even for a world class wilderness explorer such as myself to get a photo. But then he did something unexpected, he hopped up onto a perfectly photogenic branch and I shot him!
This pudgy little dude is just sittin’ on a log eating his favorite snack: fungus. Mmmm, finger lickin’ good!
It was a day not at all like today, that first perfect day of spring. The sun was shining and there wasn’t a breath of wind. An apple tree up ahead was completely covered in blossoms. As I drew nearer I could see… I could see… Yes! It’s a Baltimore Oriole and he’s in that apple tree slurping nectar from its blossoms. What a great day this is indeed! It would be better though if he let me approach and take some photos. And he did. No one else must have gotten the memo about the weather today because the bog was completely devoid of human activity, it was just me and this apple tree, and one friendly little oriole.