Sunday, December 28, 2014

Love is in the Air

Waking in the morning to a couple of star-crossed owls in love is a thrill.  The hoo hoo-hoo hoo hoo of the great horned owl makes my heart skip a beat.

Looking out upon the gleaming snow blanketed in moon light, I search for the silhouette of a water melon-sized bird sitting in the top of a tree.  Oblivious to my presence, the owl calls to his mate that I can't see or hear.

Great horned owls begin nesting when it's freezing and there's still snow on the ground.  This guarantees plenty of baby critters to feed their owlets in the spring.

Nature is so efficient.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Trumpeter Swans Everywhere!

I just spent a week up north in the frigid weather.  On my way up, I spotted two places along the road where I could have pulled over to take pictures of Trumpeter Swans.  Since I wanted to get up north asap and I had my parrotlet in a cage behind me that needed to stay warm, I passed on a perfect opportunity.

Early in the week my husband and I stopped at our dock on our lake to check on the progress of a beaver lodge that had popped up near our boat landing and sure enough, while we were there a flock of a half dozen Trumpeter Swans flew across the lake away from us.

On the second to the last day, my husband's bad luck turned into good luck for me.  He stopped to talk to our neighbor and locked his keys in his car.  He came back home to look for his combination for his lock.  Luckily he found it.  He mentioned that at this very moment our neighbor had up to 26 Trumpeter Swans below his house on the lake.  I grabbed my camera and headed to the neighbor's yard and was able to click off about fifty shots.  My hands turned to ice, but it was well worth it.

A family of Trumpeters stands on the ice as they preen

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Crazy September

I didn't get a chance to post in September.  Things were a bit crazy.  That didn't stop me from getting out once in a while to see what birds were moving through.  One evening my trees were dripping with yellow-rumped warblers.

I did make several September submissions of my children's stories and entered a creative writing contest, so I do feel good about that.

Now that the weather is getting colder I don't feel so guilty about staying inside to write.  I'll continue to keep one eye on the window though.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Saying Goodbye

Even though there is still a little summer left for us, birds are beginning their journey south.

I am on a birding list serve and folks on the list are sending in posts with long lists of shorebirds and warblers they are seeing passing through.  I watched as waves of Common Nighthawks flowed overhead starting their journey south.  It was quite a spectacle.

Migration has begun.  It is just part of an inevitable uncontrollable cycle.

I appreciate living in the north because the seasons are noticeable and the migration contributes to the change.

I take comfort it knowing it will all happen again.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Better Late Than Ever

The breeding season is gearing up for a bird that is one of the latest nesters. American goldfinches don't start building their nests until late July into August. They use thistle down to build their cup nests and the thistles aren't ripe until late summer.

In the morning when I have the windows open, I can hear the males displaying rambunctiously with their "potato chip, potato chip, potato chip" calls. They fly up and down like a roller coaster trying to impress the females.

Male goldfinches wear cheery bright yellow plumage that is unmistakable as they visit gardens.  Some gardeners might not be pleased when they eat petals from flowers, but I have planted my prairie garden just for wildlife. They can eat as many coneflower and ox-eye petals as they please.  That guarantees a goldfinch visit to my yard.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Surprise Visitor

As a bird watcher it is always fun to see a new bird in your yard, but when you've been watching birds for many years it gets much harder.

This weekend up north we had a visiting family that I have not here seen before in the ten years that we have owned the place.  Our visitors were a family of turkeys -- an adult female with 10 poults.

This occasion called for a scramble for the camera and a lot of commotion from an excited dog and husband. Of course once the camera was secured, the turkey family was almost gone, but I was able to get a few shots off to document the occurrence.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Beautiful, But Brief

I have woodland wildflower gardens in both my backyard at home and at our lake place up north.  The blooms in these gardens are usually brief, so you need to enjoy them when you notice.  Some blooms, like Bloodroot, only last a few days while others may last a week or two.  Then they are gone.

I spent the last week at our lake place and timed it just right to observe the yellow ladyslippers pop open.  I could have easily missed them because they only remain open for about a week.

The Trilliums were about to bloom at home when I left, but when I returned home they were almost done. Thankfully, I enjoyed them along the roadsides as I returned from the northern climate.

Bird migration has mostly wrapped up in southern Minnesota, so my interest outdoors turns to other things like my woodland and prairie gardens.  The first flowers to bloom in my prairie garden are the Golden Alexanders.  They were surprisingly here to greet me in full splendor when I returned.

                                                         Yellow Ladyslipper

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Spring Distractions

This time of year it is hard to sit down and write with so many distractions -- distractions of not knowing which bird is going to show up in my yard next.

It doesn't help that I have a fountain in the backyard that is a bird magnet.  The fountain draws in songbirds from all around the neighborhood.

I have had six species of sparrows and the same number of warblers stop by and it’s not even peak migration.

The colors are flowing with a flock of sun-shiny goldfinches and orange-flavored orioles.

Excuse me while I check which bird just landed in my juniper….

                                                 white-crowned sparrow

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Spring Flocks

You know it's spring when flocks of birds appear.  As my previous post mentions, I always know my birthday is near when I look up to see and hear the long "V's" of tundra swans.

Other flocks that make me look up are snow geese, sandhill cranes and American white pelicans.

I live in a river valley, so spring flocks are common.  One morning when I was on my deck enjoying the sun warming the floor boards, I looked at the fast-moving fluff-ball clouds and noticed a large bird flock coming my way.

The flock caught a thermal over my head and I was treated to the salt-and-pepper pattern of the American white pelican.

What I mean by salt-and-pepper is that when the pelicans circle, they appear to change from light to dark -- alternating colors as they turn in the sun.  This is a diagnostic feature that helps to identify the flock.  It is well known that white pelicans circle on thermals.  I enjoyed the sight as I soaked in the sun.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Yearly Early April Birthday Gift

April is my birthday month.  I look forward to Mother Nature's gift to me in early April.  You will see me looking up into the drifting clouds to find my gift -- a white ghostly "V" of long-necked birds.  Often you hear their haunting voices before you see them.  I am referring to Tundra Swans.  They are a sure sign of spring. They follow the melting ice line as  they move north to the tundra where they nest.

I was fortunate to visit the arctic tundra one spring and photographed a pair and their nest, so now they even have more meaning to me.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Sliver for Fishing

I have a drainage pond one house down from me and I can see it from my deck.  There is a sliver of open water at the edge of the pond and a great blue heron is taking advantage of that little bit of water to fish.

It is hard to believe that there are actually fish in this pond.  It doesn't attach to other lakes, but I know there are at least bullheads in it.  There may be a frog or two too.

Ducks are also drawn to this pond when it is open.  I see mallards, wood ducks and hooded mergansers regularly.  Occasionally, I have seen scaup, blue-winged teal and a lone bufflehead.

It is amazing the kinds of wildlife this little bit of water can attract to my neighborhood.  I am so thankful.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Real Harbinger of Spring in My Backyard

Many think the American Robin is the first sign of spring, but since I have had them visit sporadically throughout the winter, this isn't the case for me.

My true spring harbinger is the Red-winged Blackbird.  This bird tends to be quite reliable in bringing excitement when it first wheels into my feeding area in March.

My husband and I look for it in its glory around St. Patrick's Day.  This year it was a bit late.  A few people around Minnesota spotted it sooner, but our quartet showed up at our neighbor's feeder on March 22.

The harsh winter has definitely thrown them off a bit, but we forgive them.  Let the spring procession begin!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Replacing Frustration with Action

Lately I've been feeling a little down.  Gee, do you think it might be the weather? Maybe, but it doesn't help when a colleague announces at a meeting that he has just published a book on a subject near and dear to my heart -- a photographic book on eagles.

Also dragging on me is that I submitted proposals to three work-for-hire publishers and haven't heard a peep. Seems that's the story of my life.

Then I read an article by John Green about the girl, Esther, that inspired his book The Fault in Our Stars.

The article kicked me in the butt and made me realize there are people out there with much bigger problems than my pity party topics.  My life goes on and I must keep trying and fighting like Esther and there's a chance some day my writing will be recognized.  I will continue write and submit.  Onward....

P.S. spring is finally coming and so are the birds!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Most Snow of the Season

We just had the most snow ever for the season here in Minnesota.  The roads haven't been this bad in 25 years.

The temperature is colder again and cabin fever continues to loom.  As the days lengthen though, the birds don't seem to care about the weather and continue to behave like spring is coming.

I had a flock of American robins at my heated bird bath and the Northern cardinals and black-capped chickadees are beginning to sing. The great horned owls are hooting and I suspect they are getting ready to hatch their eggs any day.

Speaking of eggs, we have a crazy bald eagle pair nesting somewhere in St. Paul that is sitting on two eggs. This is early for eagles with eggs in this neck-of-the-woods.  We know this because the MN DNR put a web cam on this nest.  They can be viewed at:

The poor female is up to her neck in snow. Yikes!

As the temperature continues to hover near freezing, March will arrive in Minnesota like a lion and we can only hope it will leave like a lamb.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Love is in the Air

When I stepped outside this morning I thought the temperature felt a little warmer.  A few birds were singing and the crows sounded like they were haranguing something.  Sure enough, I stepped sideways to get a better look and there sat a pair of red-tailed hawks side by side in a tree.

This is the time of year red-tailed hawks start their courtship and soon the females will lay eggs.

There is a power line right-of-away and a drainage pond a house away from me and I'll be delighted if the red-tailed hawks choose to nest there.

I tried to get a photo of the two love birds together, but a low-flying helicopter chased one off.  Oh well, they were a bit of a day brightener and a small break from cabin fever.

It's hard to believe it was actually a five degrees below zero morning when I looked at my thermometer.

Here is one of the red-tailed hawks that frequently sits on the power pole in that right-of-way.

Saturday, February 1, 2014


I admit it.  I am addicted to ebooks and audio books.  That is why I am remiss at blogging regularly.  Within the last three months or so I discovered my local libraries have a treasure trove of audio and ebooks.  This has allowed me to read some of the popular young adult novels out there.

I continue to hear as a writer you need to read, read, read, so that is what I have been doing.  I've had the perfect opportunity since the weather is so frigid lately.

I did drag myself out to an SCBWI mixer for a little inspiration last weekend, but it's been hard to pull my butt out of the reading groove and get it into the writing groove. 

My goal this year is to try to break into work-for-hire.  I have been thinking about it for the last few years, but I just can't get my intro letter right.  That might just be an excuse though.

Off to read an ebook about writing and publishing non-fiction ....

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Trickle of Spring?

I think a lot of people feel the same as I do.  Enough of the frigid weather already!

A little glimmer of spring is hearing the first spring-song of the Black-capped Chickadee.  You may have heard the sound, but weren't sure you were even hearing a bird.

The song has two notes.  It sounds like "sweet - ee, sweet - ee"  Both the male and the female sing this song and will sometimes sing a duet.

I heard this song the other day and it lifted my spirits.  We will also soon hear from the Northern Cardinal.

Now days we can't depend on the American Robin as the harbinger of spring, because many are remaining far north, even in this crazy weather.  Last week I saw one on my heated bird bath here in Minnesota.

Go figure....Keep warm!!!!

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Wonderful New Year to You!

We are in the deep freeze here in Minnesota.  The cold weather keeps the birds feeding constantly at my feeders.  I have had 12 or more northern cardinals, but that's not a record.  One year I counted 24 cardinals in my yard.  What a beautiful scene.

Keep warm!  I will snuggle under a blanket and try to write some new stories and think spring.