I sure do like having a great camera in my pocket all the time!
For some reason last winter, my first as a full time resident, I did not feed the birds. Of course I watched them as I do all year but winter feeding of birds is always a treat because it seems to bring so many in. This year I noticed that they noticed the chicken scratch everywhere and were coming in as though I was purposely feeding them. Since then I’ve made it a point to put out bit extra and have added black sunflower seeds. The number of birds has been amazing. I’m not used to seeing six male cardinals at once! One or two is not unusual but six is not something I’ve seen. Not as many females. I’m seeing the usual number of other winter birds: Titmice, Black-capped Chickadees, Juncos, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and Downy Woodpecker. I’ve not seen any Pileated Woodpeckers here though I have heard them a few times. I’ve not seen any Gold or Purple Finches recently. One new bird I’ve seen is the White Throated Sparrow which is a very pretty bird similar in look and behavior to the Fox Sparrow.
I’ve not been taking any new bird photos largely because I’ve already got so many shots of these particular species. It’s been awhile since I posted any of my nature images so thought I’d pull a few from my flickr archives. For anyone interested in birds, frogs, insects, flowers, moss, fungi and other nature related photography please visit my flickr archives. Most of my nature images were posted in 2007 and early 2008 so it’s easiest to browse them via one of the sets.
We had a very nice surprise a couple days ago: snow. A light but steady snowfall that began midmorning. Not alot, but just enough to cover the paths and the frozen lake. After enjoying it through the window most of the afternoon I stopped resisting the urge and took Talula out for a short walk. I wanted to go half way around the lake so that I could take a picture looking back across the lake at the cabin.
The birds were, of course, very busy as they often are during snow fall. The usual cast of characters could be seen or heard as they went about their business of food gathering. While I love and appreciate them all, it is always the plain and simple Juncos that seem to bring the biggest smile to my face. I’m not sure why. Just a few hundred feet from the cabin we came across five or six deer that were just a few feet into the woods.
At fifteen degrees it is cold enough that my thin work gloves only seem to keep my fingers warm for a brief few minutes so by the time I’d gotten my photos I was starting to really feel the chill in my hands. I was eager to head back to the warmth of the wood warmed cabin and yesterday’s leftover vegetable soup that I left heating up on the stove. My pace was quick.
I’m not sure what prompted it, but as I walked back I slowed, then stopped under a cluster of cedar trees. I stood still. I looked into the woods and then up into the sky. Time seemed to slow. I was suddenly very aware of each breath. I had the sense that my vision had both widened and narrowed at the same time. I was aware of the larger sky but also of a field of focus just inches above my face in which the crystal structure of each passing snowflake became unbelievably clear. What came next was an amazing sense of calm and my body relaxed. I was warm. I then became aware of this heightened sense of awareness which was comforting and strange.
This is the pure and simple beauty that comes from a life lived in deliberate connection with nature. I’ve had many such moments of awareness before and consider them the most beautiful moments of my life. All of them have happened while I was “outside” in the natural world. I’ve come to believe that these moments can happen every day and with practice that they can become anchor points that deepen our connection, our relation with the living force of the planet all around us.
I suppose such moments are similar to or the same as the daily mindfulness that Buddhists such as Thich Nat Han advocate as a form of moment-to-moment, breath-meditation that leads to an over-all increase in awareness and thus, peacefulness. Based on my own experience I tend to agree with the approach and the result. But a general sense of well being and peacefulness is not the end. It is far more meaningful if combined with the active cultivation of ecologically sustainable human community.
I can’t help but think that the deliberate, cultivated sense of being in the moment, of being connected and aware of the life around us when combined with the meaningful and needed work of social ecological activism can only lead to a more realized and evolved humanity.
This Sharp-shinned Hawk landed on one of the perches in my feeding area… maybe 15 feet away. Beautiful bird and my first chance to photograph a bird of prey. After landing he just calmly looked around for some dinner, maybe 40 seconds and then flew away. I must say, he is welcome back anytime!! I was stunned by his presence and keep replaying the moment in my mind because it did not seem real. I think this visit made my year!!
More at: Enchanted Planet Images