Fall Into Winter

Winter has been slow to arrive in my neck of the woods. The snowfall from two nights ago blanketed my mud-patch lawn with fresh powder that serves my dogs as a yard-wide toy. Our three Belgians race gleeful loops and arcs, sometimes chasing each other, sometimes flying alone for the mere joy of unimpeded movement. Grace on four paws. They halt to scoop up a mouthful of snow, or drop to the cold earth panting, not waiting long before they are up and off again.

Since June, my workdays have nearly consumed my existence. But for a small break around Christmas (not one I selected, but one that came through default as clients were distracted), I remain too busy to grab my camera as much as I’d like. (Okay, hardly ever.) I manage to get out and about for walks, but grabbing photos is nearly impossible when strapped to a dog.

I spotted my summer bluebirds a month or so ago, to my surprise and delight. The bird feeders are frequented by dumb doves, sweet chickadees, rude bluejays, beloved cardinals, crows (I’ve seen one particular crow with a white patch on its wing for years now), sparrows, woodpeckers and more. I finally heard a barred owl a few nights ago – and a pack of coyotes. Deer tracks crisscross the woods, punctuated by piles of chocolate covered almonds. (Okay, it’s deer poop. And my dog loves to eat it.)

I don’t have any new bird (or other animal photos) from this winter. What I do have is the following:

This picture is leaf litter from this fall. I snapped this photo while my dog was surveying the kingdom of our weedy waterfront with her most impressive superpower – her sense of smell. Oh how I envy what she knows with her nose that I’ll never know.

Winter sunlight cutting through the mist of an unusually warm morning.

Ice on fallen birch.

Drip edge caught in frozen repose

Same ice edge, different editing choices. (The picture was snapped on my iphone while on the move with a dog so it wasn’t very quality to begin with. I tried to over come this by playing with editing options. Curious which image appeals to you more.

Penobscot River Valley

Went looking for moose and found an American Bittern, a small heron that can be quite hard to spot. (Top picture has color enhanced.)

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Bittern/overview

House Wren

The folks on Maine Birds (a Facebook birding page) seem split between thinking this is a “Carolina Wren” and “House Wren.” Based on what I’m seeing in birding books, I’m going with house wren. Perhaps a molting juvenile, which explains why photos do not look quite like those shown in the birding books.

Common Sandpiper

I was able to spot this juvenile common sandpiper because it hops and flits quite a bit as it feeds.

Female Merganser

Painted Turtles

Out on the lake early this morning, searching for invasive milfoil. (Our lake has been one of the winners of the invasive weed contest since 2013. We discovered this fun fact when we bought our house in 2014. Our luck at finding a foreclosure with lake front was the poor fortune of a family whose children inked their names on the back of a garage stair case at some point before departing. Defiant gesture, perhaps, made my children with no control over the whims and weaknesses of the adults trying to raise them. To this day – literally this day – we find golf balls embedded in the back yard and the woods – smashed into the air by the father who couldn’t hold it together for his family.)

But back to the milfoil: A small team of volunteers scours our lake for several months each summer to help the professionals to help us. Searching for milfoil in a weedy cove from the seat of a kayak is slow work. I bring my camera and have it at the ready to add something for me to the task. At the front of my short, non-tippy (sit-on) kayak I have several milfoil buoys attached to anchors. These are ready to be tossed if I find what I don’t want to find. Then between my knees I have a bag with my camera, sunscreen, and other odds and ends. Coffee mug is busy wobbling around in a cup holder that is much too wide and insufficiently deep. (Maybe it is meant to hold a burger?) And all this only after I have managed to get myself into the kayak without tipping over into the lake. (Seriously, how does one do this gracefully?)

Then off I paddle, looking for milfoil and scanning for my animal friends. This morning I watched the osprey snag weeds for the nest (pictures coming soon). Watched small birds chase a great blue heron for a few quick moments of brave flapping wings. Heard my red-winged blackbirds. Didn’t mind when a small pale spider with a pot belly crawled across my leg and damselflies landed on my head, arms, feet. Watched my muskrat buddy munching on lake weeds in his usual spot. And my loons. Always my loons. No chicks this year, from what the loon count and my observations tell us.

And oh, the turtles! Turtles on logs. Turtles on rocks. Turtles lazy-paddling through lake weeds; turtles wriggled into lake bottom mud. Snappers that may be closing in on 40 years old. Painted turtles new to the world, or tired from three decades of enduring. Along the way I found this darling baby painted turtle. About twenty feet away I spotted an adult painted sunning on a rock. Turtles startle easily, so I was thrilled to get a handful of pictures of this little fella. (Hooray for my zoom lens!)