Winter Gales, Snow Squall & Bird Trails

My goodness … what a month October turned out to be!  One I will never forget.  The last few months have been filled with incredible winds – all trying to be mightier than the others.  Maybe I’m just getting old, but it has felt like this year has set a record for the assault of strong winds.

I think here in my neck of the woods we had a few days of Autumn, before it seemed to jump right into Winter – with a vengeance.  Wicked winds on Lake Superior gave Minnesota’s North Shore more gales for the record books, not to mention volumes of truly fantastic photo opportunities for the die-hard camera people risking their welfare to record it for the rest of us!  Please google it to see the outstanding stills and videos that documented the storm.

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They were all superb – here is my favorite, captured by @tonecoughlinphotography.  Please visit their Facebook page and their website at tonecoughlin.com to better appreciate the quality of their work and maybe even purchase an outstanding piece to hang on your wall!

A couple days after the gales, I had to drive to the town of Virginia (50 miles away) and it felt like the fury from Lake Superior was still here, merely shifted fifty to one hundred miles inland.  Three particular images of the many from that day will stay with me for a long time.  The first one made me glad I wasn’t any closer or in the line of fire, so to speak.  The other two were the opposite and made me wish I could have been much closer to fully appreciate them.

The first was glancing down a side road as I passed it on the highway at just the right moment to see the wind tear a stop sign from it’s post, sending it flying down the road like an errant missile.  Second was a visitor from the North, sitting quietly on a tree stump … an Arctic Gyrfalcon appeared quite content in watching the world fly by.  The third was also a rarely seen visitor in these parts – a Golden Eagle who was being mobbed by Crows.  Each of the three were awesome sights I felt privileged to view.  Oh, I almost forgot to mention this was the same day I drove through a snow squall!  It was no more than a little over a mile wide, although it did stretch as far South to North as I could see and was almost white-out conditions in the center of it.

Last, but not least, was a quite unexpected delight I will always remember.  It was time to have more work done on my land, clearing all the dead Balsam trees from the front approach.  A definite requirement to cut down on the risk of forest fire fuel standing around.  It isn’t easy for an avowed tree-hugger to willingly have a mass amount of trees cut and removed.  However, it is a necessity at times for safe forest management.

Sitting there, watching as the work was being done, it slowly began to dawn on me I had some bird visitors that I have never seen on my land before.  Most notably were Common American Redstarts (both males and females), an absolutely adorable little bird!  More so even than the new species to my land’s bird list, was the THRONG of feathered friends there.  They descended in huge numbers out of nowhere.  They followed behind the forestry mulcher as it cut back and forth across the land, doing its job.  I swear it was as though all those birds knew this was where they had to be.  The dead trees had to have been packed with untold numbers of bugs and the birds kept flooding in, feasting on the bugs as the mulcher chewed up the trees.  As usual, I did not have a camera with me to catch it happening, but it is forever on my personal hard drive!   😉

You never know what is going to be out in Nature for you to observe.  So, get yourself outdoors and see whatever you can!     Thanks for reading!­­

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NIGHT SKY: Dark Sky-Light Sky-or???

WOW – Did September come and go as fast for any of you, as it felt like to me?  Not only did September just ZIPPP  past, but here in my neck of the woods we are also getting signs of an EARLY and hard winter surging on like a race car.  I would love to hear any observations of the seasons changing from where any of you are located.

A topic of environmental concern more & more on my mind lately is light pollution.  If right now you are scoffing or at least asking yourself ‘what is light pollution’, the quick easy response is when our outdoor lighting inhibits or completely blocks being able to see the true night sky.  Depending on the level of light pollution where you live it could have an effect on viewing things like the Northern Lights, Southern Lights, the Milky Way or other stars, comets, etc.  If you do not see a problem in that, you probably are not reading this blog anyway.  If I have your attention and you would like to learn more, there are a few websites I have for you to check out.

If you live in a more populated area of the world or just want to experience (what even for me was) a shocker, got to http://darksitefinder.com/maps/world.html#3/30.07/-32.52  and see by this global map just how lit up our little planet truly is.  There are other such maps available and apps too, but this seems a good one for starters.

If you still are wanting a thorough answer to What Is Light Pollution – Dark Skies Awareness breaks it down in very concise steps.  http://www.darkskiesawareness.org/faq-what-is-lp.php  The people at DelMar Fans and Lighting go further, besides also offering an array of other lighting options for private individuals.  https://www.delmarfans.com/educate/basics/lighting-pollution/

Once again, I understand how it could seem with all we are currently facing around the globe, that light pollution may not strike some as all that serious, but it is a gargantuan problem.  Are we going to come together as one human race to do our best to save the little blue space ship we live on…or try to keep it from getting much worse at any rate?  International Dark-Sky Association is a tremendous organization, attempting to bring people together in combating light pollution.  http://darksky.org/light-pollution/   They have local chapters all over the world, so please do a little homework to see if there is one located near you.  If not, then maybe you’d like to consider starting one yourself.  All it takes is caring about Mother Earth and all life upon Her.

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May you be gazing upward at glorious night skies wherever you may be!

Seeds of Empathy

This should be required reading by every single citizen of the United States … just as a beginning! Thank you, Swati!

Beyond... A Journey Within

Originally published in New York Spirit

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“Noooo!”

I saw him in a shabby shop. All tied up. Even his mouth. Some men were torturing him. Deliberately hurting him. He was scared and in immense pain. I wanted to know how to save this poor soul from these butchers. Before I could understand who to call in this strange land, I saw blood bludgeoned all over. I felt the pain tearing me apart as I sat up. The dog’s face was haunting me. It took me a while to understand that it was a nightmare.

Was it?

Seeing news of gruesome murders of stray dogs for no reason other than hatred had probably instigated the dream. Hitting them mercilessly, feeding them poison, attacking people who feed strays, lighting up their skins, celebrating festivals killing them, shooting innocents and boasting it as a trophy sport! What is the world coming to?

Mahatma…

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Lift Your Spirit

What a busy BUSY month … something I never expected.  Between working hard with physical therapy and my improving health (yes, it does take work!), writing and the start of new work besides that . . . I am finding myself exhausted most of the time.  It is great!  An honest work and though exhaustion can be a pain and feel like crap, it is inspiring to find myself in this situation . . . I love it!

Maybe sometime this month or next I will have the time for a day trip to the North Shore – that’s Lake Superior, by the way.  Sharing pictures from stops along the way might be a nice change of pace.  Of course, one person’s treasured spots in nature may not mean a thing to others, and I would welcome you sharing a treasured spot of your own.  The celebration of being out in nature, away from the city or even just a break from your usual daily pace can make an awesome difference on how you tackle each day.  Let’s face it, in the world day, that is an ever-growing challenge.  Sharing brings us together and can provide benefits that often can’t even be imagined.

As I sit here writing this I have elements of nature all around me, even though looking out my window only gives me a dark screen (it’s 3 a.m., Peeps).  The resonance of the nature I bring into my office, or you bring into your own space, can make all the difference in your daily ways.  I am listening to a wonderful nature video as I write … we’ll see if I can share that with you.  If it doesn’t work – my apologies. 

Even the birds have been busy this month!  A few of the neighborhood Ravens, guaranteed to be ruled by their stomachs, attraction to bright things & just their typical curious nature, have learned to come have meals at a couple of spots in my back yard.  When they’re lucky, there’s even between-meals snacks.  Thus, they have also learned to watch the back door and know when food is being offered.  Other birds are learning from observing the Ravens, although they wait their turns until the big birds are done.

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I won an online auction a few weeks ago that I am thrilled with (you never know for sure from just pictures) … a combination bird bath and sun dial, with a sailboat gnomon.  It was listed as being cast iron and even though that was fine, seemed like it would be odd for that type of item.  I had my suspicions and fingers crossed when I went to pick it up.  YES!  As I hoped, it turned out to be bronze and despite its diminutive size, I couldn’t be happier with it.  As proof in the pudding, so to speak, the other day I looked out the window and there was a Chickadee sitting on the edge of it.  Not in the tiny puddle (relative for the size of the bird), but never-the-less looking every bit as though it was content in surveying its world from a long-time post.  Perhaps I’ll lay some black oil sunflower seeds out on the railing to further enhance the quality of its being there. 

It has been said before, and I will continue to advise you of such . . . bring nature inside with you.  Have it close at hand right outside your door.  It can make you smile. Brighten your day. And lift your spirit!    

Hot August Nights

Normally the hottest month of the year here in the great Northwoods tends to be August.  July was a beast!  I am ready to move to Antarctica at times, so c’mon climate change…let up on us for a little while.  Super PLLEEEEAASSSSSE!      How has your summer heat been where you are?

The latest in BIRD NOTES FROM MY YARD are two absolute delights.  I only get special feathered visitors like this when I don’t have a camera of any kind available, thus I must borrow shots from the internet.  When a camera of any sort is close at hand?  Forget it.  Ain’t happening. 

Visitor #1 happened along early one morning right in front of my window, while I was still sitting right on the edge of my bed.  I didn’t have my blinds all the way up since I was in a naked state, but open just enough that I caught a flash of feathers zip right past.  So, I leaned over slightly to peek under the edge and surprised to find a Catbird on the top of the clothesline post…looking back at me.            

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The more I leaned over to get a better look, this vigilant little warrior of the yard leaned over too – with it’s head almost upside down and it just about ready to fall off the pole!  After a while he or she decided patrol duties were in order and went back to their normal routine, which first meant the porch railing.  I never saw them on the railing before, but that has been it’s added to it’s daily route ever since.

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The second visitor was here just the other day and was the only one of the season so far (for me) and was such an awesome sight. 

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I had been out doing errands and had just pulled in the driveway and turned off the car.  Truly, I have no clue what caught my eye, but perched overhead on the telephone line that stretches from my roof to the alley, was a beautiful lady Ruby-throated Hummingbird. 

She was in the process of doing her version of calisthenic exercises, stretches in half a dozen different positions.  That was followed up with some judicious preening.  I was grinning from ear to ear as she then went back to some more stretches.  After all Hummers can never be too limber!

She tasted the air a couple times, before she decided it was time to visit the neighbor’s nasturtiums.  That was it, I didn’t see her after that, but I was honored to have the chance to witness what I did get to see.

You never know what you might get to see right in your own back yard … you just have to be observant and careful not to disturb them.  I hope you have a most splendid August!

Raven and Cedar Medicine

July has arrived and as usual (for me) is the most chaotic month of the year.  Spending the entire month of June being sick, certainly didn’t help me prepare for crazy busy July.  Things are vastly improved, however.  Even though this will be a short issue, I do have a humorous Raven’s tale and a brief healing anecdote for you.

Somewhere in the first half of June a Raven stopped by in the back yard to provide some delightful entertainment.  It was frustrating to have plans for making potato salad foisted, due to the eggs having spoiled … floating is a sure sign of them having gone bad.  It was decided rather than tossing them in the garbage and possibly stink up the whole house, to toss them out in the yard for any critters who might like them.  It was quite a surprise to see some of the eggs take several lively bounces across the yard.  That garnered a few laughs right there, before I had to go sit to rest.

About fifteen minutes later I went back to the kitchen to get something to drink and noticed that a couple of the eggs were missing.  Maybe I just wasn’t remembering correctly the final landing position of each one.  It took a couple more trips of looking out the kitchen window before discovering that the culprit was, of course, Raven.

I watched with glee as I finally spotted Raven out there, going through an elaborate process of carefully approaching an egg, lest it spring up and attack or something.  Once it was decided the egg had nothing nefarious in store, Raven went through a somewhat shorter process of managing to pick it up and be able to keep hold of it.  Thinking the show was over, I was ready to go back and relax in front of the television but was amazed to see Raven skip across the yard toward the neighbor’s greenhouse.

It took several pokes and prods of Raven’s beak to create a satisfactory hole in the straw, for her or him to stuff the white treasure into.  Once it was tucked safely under the straw, Raven took off for several minutes, before returning to repeat the whole thing with another egg.  —  Who knows what the neighbors will think if they ever stumble across the mysterious eggs!

While I was in the hospital being aggressively treated for my pneumonia with antibiotics via I.V., my window view consisted of a very old Northern White Cedar tree.  Now Cedars are known for their healing, spiritual attributes, but this huge specimen was amazing.  Easily the largest one I have ever seen for a tree that is normally considered fairly small.  This tree was wider than my hospital room and who knows how tall it is.  It is anybody’s guess exactly how old it might be.  Its branches are so intricately woven back and forth with each other, that it has formed a basket-like growth over the ages.  It is the LARGEST basket I have ever seen!  It is an awesome thing to behold and my imagination has gone overboard on how wonderful it must smell.

Happy July to all of you and I hope your summer brings you many astounding delights.

Variety Is The Spice

As I sit here ready to write this month’s blog issue, I realize I’ve got nothing to say.  April Fools!  Oh, wait a minute … it’s June, not April.  No matter, I have a small collection of matters to write about, in fact.  This way you can pick and choose, since variety is always good.  With any luck, you might just enjoy all of it … fingers crossed!

Seriously now, as I was getting ready to start writing this morning, my daughter updated me with local news about a gas leak in our small town of roughly three thousand people.  At first it was thought a spill occurred when a tanker was delivering gasoline to the station in question.  The story going around was that the driver climbed back in his cab to do paperwork and did not notice the hose detaching from the truck…at that time it was reputed to be around 1,500 gallons.

Today that has taken on an entirely new spin, that to me says there has been something wrong for some time … in that the station’s storage tank/s have evidently been leaking.  Whatever the truth is or how it came to be, it seems the actual figure is almost FIVE thousand gallons … spilled/leaked or otherwise where it doesn’t belong.  In the storm drains, in one of our lakes, permeating the ground…. It is bad enough that City crews are putting warning flags at storm drains and sewer drains.  I hope a more serious approach for long term clean-up and recovery is taken with this problem than it seems has been adapted elsewhere in the country for water problems.

When did people start taking such an ambivalence toward the quality of our water and land?  I have never understood it.  I never will.

New thought……

It was about twenty years ago that I started taking a very serious interest in how to adapt my approach to the great outdoors to accommodate people with disabilities.  There are not many places around the country that are geared towards guests or clients who aren’t perfectly healthy.  If you are not perfectly able-bodied, there just isn’t much that exists to help you enjoy the great outdoors.

I may have written about this before, but sometimes a subject can stand repeating.  Twenty years ago, when I first started thinking about the topic, my body could still take any punishment I dished out for it.  So, the subject now gets hashed over in my brain from the added perspective of my own physical limitations, which are now considerable.

Creating a new model for my naturalist services that caters to those with physical challenges is very important to me.  If you know of someone yearning for a chance to spend time out in Nature, please share my blog with them.  Encourage them to contact me, so perhaps we can start a conversation about their time out in Mother Nature.

Last thought for this issue……

If you have an interest in gardening  — & a green thumb to boot, doesn’t hurt – consider growing little plants you can craft cute containers for, that you might turn around and sell for a modest fee in your local farmers market or some such place.  It does get you outside.  Conversations you can strike up with people at different venues can establish long terms friendships that values can’t be placed on.  It may not be the type of outdoors I normally discuss here, but if it gets you out of the house and provides some fun … how can you beat that?!  Put your own spin on the idea and see what you can come up with that may spark something for you.

Spice up any ideas with details that will really appeal to your individual tastes.  Variety can be wonderful!