Sunday, February 27, 2011

Chickadee In A Tree

So, what did I find on that tree in my last post? Well, I guess you can already see that it was this black-capped chickadee. I love these little birds. They are the one kind of critter that has been here all winter. And they are such friendly and curious little things.

Black-capped chickadees will fly in very close. And they don't mind me getting close to them to get my pictures. They usually make sure there are some branches between us if they are resting, but they don't mind me one bit.

I had some more pictures of one of these birds a few weeks ago, but it was my first time getting back out in a while and my camera settings were wrong. So the pictures were bad and I couldn't show them to you. Pictures are funny like that. The new one above wasn't perfect so I had to sharpen it up a bit.

The animals don't always cooperate either. You can stand there begging and pleading with them to pose in just the right way, but they seem more restless than a bunch of little kids. Then your picture comes out clear, but your critter is distracted by something shiny in the other direction.

But what can you do? The only answer is to get as many pictures as you can. That's the great thing about digital cameras. You can get hundreds of pictures in one trip. And if you get out often you will probably end up with a few great shots. Check my last post for one of those.

Oh, before I go on I want to say hi to those of you who get my posts through email, especially who has sent me a few encouraging messages. Thanks, they are really appreciated. I won't mention names because email is generally a private thing. It's just nice to hear from people who appreciate these posts.

Now, even though it appears you can only see the wrong end of this little chickadee this is actually an interesting picture. Notice that you can see only one of the bird's legs. Take a close look at that little broken branch sticking straight up just left of the bird. There's his foot grabbing ahold of that branch! See? Interesting!

But the bird still isn't posing the way I want him to. Animals never seem to want to cooperate for some reason. But my subject for the next post is a little more agreeable. It stands there looking right at me. You'll never guess what it might be. You'll just have to come back to find out. It'll be fun.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature! Mine too!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Trees And Blue Skies

A little snow won't stop me any time soon! The day before my last post came out we had a huge snowstorm. I had been talking about spring coming ever closer, but then that happened. Was I wrong? No, I definitely was not wrong! These blue skies are my proof.

Yeah, yeah, I have to admit that I doctored the photos just a little bit. For shame! Really, all I did was enhance the color a tiny bit. I think they look a little more cheery this way. It was already a nice clear day with blue skies above, but snow can sometimes make things look more bleak than they actually are.

All of the snow you see in these pictures melted away to nothing in just a few days, only to be replaced a short time later with an equal amount. Winter still has a good grip on us, but it's beginning to loosen just a bit. Let's move on.

In the far background of the picture above are the trees I mentioned in my last post where birds like to hang around. Bill of Wildramblings asked a thought provoking question about my opinion of why the birds might like those trees so much. I explained in the comments section that I'm not very knowledgeable about trees yet, but I still have some thoughts on the subject.

The area there in the background is a small wetland. A vernal pond forms there in the spring which feeds a small creek that runs this way to the small footbridge that is almost concealed by the trees on the right. Many animals can be found from those far trees to the ones closer to the foreground. I think the far trees are attractive for being far away from human foot traffic.

Along with all of the water in the area are plenty of apple trees and some other trees and shrubs with berries that the birds like. I took this picture from the parking lot of the nature park. I was standing beside my truck at the time. You can see there are a lot of human tracks at this end of the park. Many birds that are near fly to the far trees when a human shows up.

This is another look at the robin from my last post. I think he was watching me as intensely as I was watching him. He seemed very uncomfortable when he noticed me, and kept leaping from tree to tree until he finally flew away.

The robins weren't nearly so shy last year. Back then I would routinely be surrounded by them as they gathered to eat berries from the trees that are closer to the nature trail. I don't think it was a lack of food last year that kept them close. There seemed to be more for them back then.

Here is another view of those same background trees from the other side of the footbridge. The parking lot is roughly off to the left. I keep taking pictures of all of these scenes, except the one with the bird of course. I just like the way these places look so much that I get a picture of each every time I'm here.

And lastly, you may have noticed that I've been trying to get back to a few things that have fallen by the wayside in the past. I've been answering your comments again for the last few posts. I've always thought the comments section is the best part of a blog. I've also begun writing my next story for my Rat Tales blog. And I have an article up at Nature Center Magazine today that actually began as a post for this site. It would have been good here, but I thought it fit there so well.

I'll be back next time with something I found in the tree that's barely sticking out on the left of this last picture above. See you then!

Nature Center Magazine - Winter's cold winds call me. They say, "Don't fly away..."

Monday, February 21, 2011

The First Sign Of Spring

I've been wondering if I could still get pictures of animals. I got lucky on my first real opportunity. Not only did I get a few decent pictures of this American robin, I was able to get him in mid-flight. It was actually my last picture of him, but I think you'll agree that it's best to lead off with this one.

There is a huge myth that says robins are the harbingers of spring. Take that, groundhogs! Anyway, I proved last winter with all of my wintertime robins that the myth just isn't true at all. But this year the robins seem to be following the stories quite a bit better. They disappeared around here until the weather warmed up a bit.

And who know, maybe this robin knows something the rest of us don't. For the past few days we have had unusually warm weather for this time of year. And spring will definitely begin showing a few true signs of its coming in only a month from now. I think the truest sign of spring here in the US is the beginning of spring training for baseball, and that started Friday.

There is a group of trees that sits at the side of the nature park where I went this last time. The birds really like those trees for some reason. When I get to the parking lot, I know to scan those trees for birds right away. This robin was there waiting for me this time.

The trees aren't really very close to the parking lot, so at one time I would never have been able to get pictures like these. But these days it's just a matter of holding my hands steady while I aim the camera. I miss the thrill of the chase trying to get close to animals with my old camera, but I love the better results with my current one.

You may be able to tell by my recent number of posts that I'm feeling a little bit better. I admit that I am, but I'm still far from fine. It's still difficult for me to walk even on shorter trips without some pain and extra effort. Part of that is because I haven't had enough exercise and I'm out of practice. That will hopefully change.

I actually met one of you while out on my latest trip, and he noticed right away that I was having a bit of a rough time of it. I gotta say that it's a bit embarrassing to brag about myself as The Everyday Adventurer, and then to be discovered to be laboring and pouring down sweat in the middle of winter after having gone only a short distance. My real excuse is that it gets hot in my rat suit, even in the winter.

And finally, this last picture shows my friend the robin just as he was about to lift off into the heavens. I know robins better than any other bird. I think of them as comfortable companions when I'm out on my little adventures. They are almost always with me. And now I think of this one as a first sign of spring.

Since this robin visited me our huge piles of snow have melted to almost nothing. The sun is now shining almost every day. And there seems to be spring in the air all around. Is spring here already? No, not really. But it is getting very close. A new spring has begun the fight against old man winter, and it is winning.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature! Ready... steady... Go!!!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Who's Tracks Are These?

Who do these tracks belong to? This is a question I can answer very well. Some are animal tracks, but most of these tracks belong to humans who have ventured off the walking trails. Just by looking at them for a second or two a good everyday adventure like me can figure out this little mystery with relative ease.

I can tell by their patterns that the people who left these tracks in the snow were playing a little treasure hunting game called geocaching. And almost all of them were unsuccessful finding their little treasure. You might wonder how I know they failed in their quest. I didn't see the people; only their tracks. Those tracks revealed it all to me.

You see, I know where the treasure is, and it's because I'm a better tracker than these others are. The people that hid the treasure did a good job hiding it, but there are little signs that reveal the location. I followed those signs, but none of these other people did. They'll never find it. None of their snowy tracks go near the prize, but I can see their search patterns. I'll never tell. Secrets are fun.

And what about these tracks above? More geocachers looking for their prize? Nope! This busy looking trail is actually a deer trail. Every one of those tracks belongs to a white-tailed deer. This park is full of these beautiful creatures, but they hide just as well as any hidden treasure. And finding them is every bit as fun.

I can find these treasures too, but I haven't in quite some time now. Deer mostly come out in the open at only certain times of the day. I haven't been able to come out at the right time. When I do, these deer will actually come and find me. Using the right body language helps make them more confident around me. That can be good, but also bad at times.

Most people think a deer would run away at the sight of a human, but they run towards me at times. Sometimes they even try to scare me away with an implied threat. A small adjustment in my posture usually stops them short. Check my archives for proof of my bragging. Do a search for "deer" above and to the right if you like. You'll find it all there.

This picture above is a closeup of one of the deer tracks from the above trail in the melty snow. Yup, I said "melty." You'll never find that one in the dictionary. Don't worry, I didn't either. I know many of you know a deer track when you see one, but for those of you who don't, go out and look for tracks that look like these. Now you know. Snow works best, but mud will do.

That's it for this very old-style post of mine. I used to write 'em like this back before anyone was reading. They just weren't quite so long winded. Next time I'll bring you my first animal of the year. Can you guess what it might be? I've told only one of you, a person who I met on the nature trail a few days ago.

I'll be back in a couple of days to bring you a wonderful sign of spring.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Somebody's Watching Me

I wasn't sure what would happen when I set out on this warm winter day that hinted of the coming spring. I hoped my recent bad luck would turn for the better, and I had a good feeling as soon as I reached the often used beginning section of the trail. But I had the strange feeling that someone was watching me.

I looked around for the spy, but never found this sneak who watched over my every move. I just had the feeling there were eyes on my back. I didn't think the watcher had bad intentions of any kind. He was just curious. Of course, there have been hidden watchers before. They usually turned out to be curious animals. So I made a decision.

I looked up! I had heard some birds singing in the trees, so I was sure one of those was the culprit. I stopped and kept very still so I wouldn't make the little spy nervous. I didn't want it to fly away. Maybe I could return the favor by watching it right back. And maybe I could get a picture or two.

But I found nothing on my initial scan of the branches. Where could he be? I knew the watcher was there. If only I could find him...

So I decided to take a little closer look. The trees have no leaves this time of year, so anything there would quickly be revealed to my searching eyes. But that's all I was able to see, the bare branches of the tree.

It's been so long since I'd seen anything wild that I wondered if I could still find anything. Would I still be able to take pictures without messing them up? There were definitely some doubts in my mind. But I still felt the love of nature, and that's all I really need. I knew the proper instincts would all come back when I needed them.

And that's when I saw it! I found the watcher that seemed to be hidden so well from my recently unpracticed sight. It had never really been hidden after all. It was waiting there right in the open for my instinct for nature to awake from its long slumber. It had always been there. All I had to do was open my mind to nature again. The watcher was the Moon. And there he was gazing down at me.

Nature is never far away, wherever you go. It's a friend that will never desert you. All you have to do is truly open up to it. You could be in a forest of trees or a forest of tall buildings. Sometimes all it takes to find nature is to look up. Remember that nature is always there waiting... and watching.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Back On The Trail

I'm here again with some better news this time! My health has taken a dramatic turn for the better! So maybe now I can begin writing a few normal posts here and there. It seems like after I made a big point of writing that obnoxious "ATTENTION" statement over on the right I've written almost nothing but things about my health. This will be another one, but hopefully that's about to change.

I left you last time after telling you of serious problems with chest pains I was having, and a related problem while I was on a nature trail trying to get back to my adventuring ways. I went to the doctor for many many tests where they couldn't find anything wrong, again. I routinely visit more than three different doctors since the car accident.

After the visit where I had the tests my chest was hurting more than ever. Then for some reason I was struck by a very odd thought. Maybe it was some of the medicine I was given. There is a particular pill they give me to help me sleep. The pain in my head makes sleeping difficult. I thought maybe it was the culprit. Sure enough, the next time I took one of those pills the chest pain increased again!

So I stopped taking them. These particular pills had been prescribed by my neurologist, so I called him to find a solution. I was given a rush appointment and prescribed a different medication. It turns out that a rare side effect for these pills is chest pain and trouble breathing. That was my exact problem. And now, after about a week of not taking those old pills, I feel much better.

Of course, the other problems are still there, and I'm still recovering from the accident. But it's much easier now that I can breath with ease and there are no intense chest pains to deal with. With my new found better health I was able to go back out for another short hike. The pictures today are from this newest trip.

The biggest improvement is that the joy I feel while in the middle of nature is back! It is a particular feeling that hits me when I realize I'm fully in the heart of nature and all alone. It's the good feeling that everyone should be able to know as often as possible. The feeling makes me think that everything is in its rightful place and any problems will be alright. Nothing better than that.

While taking those bad pills, all I felt was bad while I was out there and I just wanted to go back home. The most disappointing thing was the loss of that good feeling I already described. I thought maybe it would never return. I may experience similar thoughts in the future, but I hope they don't come anytime soon.

But like I said before, that wonderful feeling of joy is back, so now maybe I can slowly get back to telling a few better stories. I have exactly three blog type websites right now, and they have all suffered because of one car accident. Nature Center Magazine has been seeing steady updates because of other writers, but no improvement from me personally. That has now changed. Rat Tales was moving along okay until my chest pains brought it to an abrupt halt, so I hope to be able to begin writing the next episode of my current serial fiction story there now. And The Everyday Adventure has suffered the most because I can't go outside like I want to do. I hope that will get better as time goes on now.

I'll be back tomorrow with something more fun than this, but in the meantime go ahead and enjoy the pictures from today.

Nature Center Magazine - A seahorse giving birth? Yup, that's our video for this week. Quick and educational entertainment. And it's free too!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I'm Still Here

Well, it's been longer than I had hoped since my last post. My activity had to slow down just about everywhere for awhile because of a few problems. Let me explain by telling you what happened on my last short hike. This should be a lesson for anyone to watch your health closely before doing any outdoor activity.

Most of you already know that I've been struggling to get back to my old everyday self since a car accident some months ago. I was thinking exactly that when I was finally able to go hiking two days in a row. That first day felt a little tedious for some reason, but I didn't think much about it at the time. I was just happy that I had been out.

I was a little disappointed when I got home because my camera didn't cooperate that day, giving me some very bad pictures. It turned out that I had some of the settings wrong from some previous experimentation. If you think the pictures I have in this post look bleak, you should see the bad ones. So I decided that more pictures was good enough reason to go back out a second day.

I wasn't sure I wanted to go out again, but I felt okay before I left so off I went. But when I pulled my truck into the parking lot of the nature park I could sense there was something wrong. I felt tired and my heart just wasn't into the whole thing this time. That's when I wisely decided I'd make this trip a little short. I'd see how it went when I got out there.

You long time readers know that I was out at these places all winter long last year with no problem. But this time it just felt colder to me than I thought it should. I walked only about 2/3 of the way through the park and decided I should go ahead and turn back. I just couldn't shake that tired feeling.

Then about halfway out I began to feel strange. All of a sudden I couldn't catch my breath and I was beginning to get very dizzy. I decided to stop so I wouldn't fall over. So I leaned against a snow covered park bench for a few minutes. I began to feel a little better so I methodically, but quickly, made my way out of the park to the warmth of my truck. There were no further incidents that day.

I decided when I got home that I would wait at least a few more days before I went out again. I thought maybe it was from breathing in too much cold air though. But then that evening came another problem. Another dizzy spell, but this time I was in the house. Not good. This hasn't happened since right after the car accident.

That wasn't the end, or the worst. I woke up in the middle of that night feeling a pain in my chest. It felt full, like there was air trapped in there. This has happened to me in the past, long before I ever started really enjoying nature. It was just stress before, but this hurt worse than ever before. I thought this was probably the same, but it did hurt quite a bit more. I waited there in my bed for a few minutes, and the pain began to lessen. I went back to sleep.

The next day I still felt a little bit of pain. It now felt like those old days when I felt a similar pain from stress. I had another scheduled doctor's appointment in a few weeks so I decided to do something then. The pain stayed with me off and on the whole time. Even though I was lucky, I should have gone to the doctor much sooner.

Well, yesterday was finally my appointment. Upon hearing my story, the doctor ordered an immediate test on my heart to make sure things weren't worse. Luckily the test results came out fine. I have to say I was a little worried. The chest pain turned out to be stress caused by all the problems from the accident.

I let stress get to me very easily, which is why I began my love of nature. Nature soothes that stress for me. I used to have similar problems until I found places to go and be alone with nature. But I haven't been able to do much of that for awhile now. This has not been a fun time for me at all.

So that's my story. Even though I was lucky, and my health has been monitored very well recently, for the most part, this should remind everyone to be careful before doing any outdoor activity. Check with a doctor. I'm not that old, and I'm reasonably healthy other than a bump on the head, but I still have problems sometimes.

And now that I got that out of my system, I hope I can move onto more cheerful things for my next post. See you then.

Nature Center Magazine - Your starting place for nature!