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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Today's Birds

Unfortunately our weather's been gray & rainy lately & today it cooled off again (40F & breezy,) so I haven't gotten out much to much more than work. Here are some shots of "our" birds from today. As always, click for larger views.

One of 7 Northern cardinals, a bunch of American goldfinches & a white throated & chipping sparrows.

There were at least 50 chipping sparrows here at once today, blowing away any previous counts here. There are over 30 in this picture, alone.

Out front, we were inundated by a mixed flock of American robins & red-winged blackbirds (about 60-70 in total.) They're known to pal around like this, but I wonder why...

Some of the goldfinches (not these,) are still unusually yellow & I even saw one that still had remnants of his black, Summer "cap."

Male red-bellied woodpecker. His mate was around, as well.

The male cardinals are getting more aggressive now, as mating season approaches.

The weather's not looking much better for the next few days, but I need to put in more time on my gyrfalcon painting & other art-work, anyway.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Recovery News & A Quick Jaunt

Today my physical therapist said she's amazed at my range of motion and that I might be the quickest healing patient she's ever had. I told her that I've been doing what I can at home, as well. When I said I was committed to recovering from my shoulder surgery, I meant it. It's good to hear that things are progressing so well.
Since I was halfway there anyway, after my PT appointment I went down to Fontainebleau State Park to catch the sunset.

This area is often full of deer around dawn & dusk.

I loved the way the sun slanted through the huge, old, Spanish-moss-draped live oaks.

The pier over Lake Pontchartrain.

About 30 miles across the lake (as the crow flies,) the sun glints off the city of New Orleans, home to the history-making, NFC Champion New Orleans Saints. I'm not one of the "Who Dats," necessarily, but I'm glad the team's done so well & am happy to see how excited people are about it.

Also, Happy Birthday to Nick Mason, who turns 66 on Wednesday!

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Lovely Day in Covington

Now that our temperatures have returned to normal (or even slightly above normal these days--today was 79F,) this past weekend Charles & I took the opportunity to enjoy a picnic at Bogue Falaya Wayside Park.

The grounds are grassy & clear of underbrush. Much of the "soil" is actually sand, which is unusual in marshy/swampy Southern Louisiana. For sand, the only area that rivals this one (that I've seen,) is Fontainebleau State Park.

The recent rising and falling of the river's level due to rains & freezing temperatures were recorded in the sand on the riverbank. This was the lowest I've ever seen this river (but it's rained since then.)

I liked the way the wavy tree reflections seemed to turn into wavy deposits in the river, itself (towards the bottom of the photo.) I'm often intrigued by water's transparency & reflectiveness at the same time. It's little wonder the Celts considered water a gateway to the Otherworld.

Our state tree, found all over the area; the baldcypress, shown here with many "knees" (the woody protuberances.) To date no one knows what the knees are for, but theories range from helping the tree "breathe" to stabilizing it in swampy areas.

Other trees at the park include sweet gum & the ever-invasive Chinese tallow. There's also a large wall of bamboo running along one side of the park.

Epiphytes & ferns thrive in our hot, humid climate. It's not unusual to see trees covered with their own gardens, a blatant, visual reminder of the concept of the "ecosystem." (Go back & click on my photo of the baldcypress if you need more proof.)

We saw some bluebirds, which seem to be permanent residents of the park. A red-headed woodpecker landed very close to our picnic, but beat a hasty retreat when it saw us. There were also some kind of heron or egret tracks in the sand by the river, which certainly does have fish (although I couldn't tell you what kinds.)

If you have kids, there's a large, jungle gym kind of structure on the grounds. If you don't have kids (like me,) there's enough space to get away from it & enjoy some peace & quiet. It's really quite a lovely spot for a picnic, regardless of the size or make up of one's "family."

Monday, January 18, 2010

Bird News

After a relatively quiet December, things are back to normal around our bird feeders. We have (roughly) 20 each of the chipping sparrows (seen at right,) & goldfinches. Although the cardinals had seemed to decrease in number for a while, their numbers are also back up (particularly at dusk.) Although we've typically spotted titmice, chickadees and white throated sparrows as individual birds over the years, it's becoming more normal to see 2 or 3 of them at a time.
On the unusual side of things, we had 3 crows yesterday. We don't typically see them in the yard before late February & they're only "regulars" when they bring fledglings in the Spring. They're the only birds that will stand up to (& scare off,) the squirrels, so they're always welcome. I also spotted a brown-headed nuthatch pecking at a dead pine near our shed the other day. They've nested out here before (& were "regulars" before Hurricane Gustav,) but they seem to have moved on, looking for another spot. We've also had red-headed woodpeckers from time to time. Like the crows, they're usually not here until they have chicks. I wonder if our recent cold snap might have killed off some of their regular food options.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Small but Good News (Updated)

I'm pleased to report that, although our nightly low temperatures are still below freezing for another couple of nights, our daytime highs have returned to normal (55-60F.) Soon I won't have to sleep with my socks on anymore.
I'm also pleased to report that my first physical therapy session went well. I felt sooooooo good after the electrical stimulation, heat & massage--like a whole new person! I was also told that my range of movement is already better than expected.
I also finished a painting today. (Update, 5/29/10; The painting has sold.)

(The picture is of a male red-bellied woodpecker at one of our feeding stumps the other day. He reminded me of a person at an all-you-can-eat buffet.)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

ABC; Award, Birds & C-C-Cold

Laurie at Laurie's Wild West gave me this award the other day. I appreciate her kindness, consideration & support. There are lots of interesting things to look at & read about over on her blog--she's currently having a contest--so why not click over there for a gander?

In other news, the goldfinches are finally finding their way back to our yard. Here are a couple having lunch with some chipping sparrows. The lower goldfinch is unusually yellow, still losing his Summer/breeding plumage. Normally they all look like the goldfinch on the feeder's roof; that drab, olive color.

I also saw a couple of white-throated sparrows out back (I was wondering where they've been,) both of the tan-striped variety. According to Wikipedia, these birds will almost always breed with the opposite color morph (they each occur in roughly equal numbers.) Interesting, if true!

It's hard to believe it was 72F on New Year's Eve. Temps have been dropping fairly steadily since then. Recent, local temperatures are the coldest they've been since the '80s. Here in Abita Springs, temperatures droped 10 degrees in an hour the other day. Right now it's 33F, but the wind makes it feel like 20F. I've been maintaining denial by staying indoors, working on a painting of a forest in Springtime. The forecast implies that today's the end of our cold snap. By Wednesday we should be better be back up to 55F.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Fontainebleau, Weather & Shoulder Update

Here are a few more photos from our New Year's Eve hike at Fontainebleau State Park in Mandeville, LA...

On the path to the marsh.

One of many American robins. Along the path we also saw tufted titmice, red-winged blackbirds, an American pipit & red-headed & red-bellied woodpeckers.

I really liked the shadows & reflections here.

At the marsh.

Marsh water.

Great egret in the marsh. There were also dozens upon dozens of American coots, some brown pelicans & at least one tricolored heron at the marsh.

On the boardwalk, a "poo bear."

Since that beautiful, 72F day it has since grown very cold here (relatively speaking.) Highs lately are in the mid-40s (farenheit,) with lows well below freezing. There's even been some talk in the forecast about sn*w...but that's enough of such blasphemy!

In other news, I got the stitches out of my shoulder the other day & the doctor showed me photos taken through the laproscope during the procedure (including him bolting my labrum back to the bone.) I still have to take it easy & can't raise my arm more than 90 degrees, but I'm able to paint again (so long as I'm careful.) I've also ret'd to work & start physical therapy soon, but I already feel so much better! A million thanks & blessings to Glenda Petroff, the nurse practitioner who actually listened to me & did something about it!

In other news, Syd Barrett's birthday is tomorrow. He would have been 64. R.I.P, Syd.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Sightings at Fontainebleau

Considering yesterday's sunny, 72F afternoon, we went to Fontainebleau State Park for a hike. We've had a lot of rain lately & as a result, getting out to the boardwalk over the marsh involved soaking our shoes & socks, but it was well worth it, as we saw quite a few birds that were unusual or even new (to me.) As always, click on images for larger views.

We've seen pileated woodpeckers before (even in our own yard,) but they're very shy & hard to photograph. This one didn't seem to mind us so far below, & raised its head enough for the sun to light up its crest just as I took the picture.

This hawk flew right over our heads before heading out to the distant tree line, where we watched it for quite a while. After some research at home later, I narrowed it down to a Northern harrier (my 1st sighting.)

Another 1st sighting for me; one of two pairs of blue-winged teals. Hanging out among dozens & dozens of American coots, it took us a little while to realize that these were different.

I've seen white pelicans before & know they're in the area, but this was my first sighting since moving to Louisiana over 6 years ago.

My 1st sighting of snowy egrets. Noticeably smaller than great egrets (one of which was nearby,) they can also be identified by their yellow feet.

A great horned owl hooted insistantly on our way back to the car. Although we've seen them here before, today they'd remain heard & not seen. We saw lots of the "usual" birds as well, but I'll save some photos for another post.
In home birding news, among some of the "usuals," I saw my first, definite goldfinch of the season & a large group of red-winged blackbirds out back today (thanks to Charles for pointing out the latter.)

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