Category Archives: Bird Photos

Learning to Fly and Living in Community

A pair of robins built a nest on the drain pipe under the eve right outside the window of our “tea room,” where we always eat in the summer. It’s been a special delight to watch them rearing their broods of chicks. The first of this summer’s batch fledged
while my son Joel and I were eating breakfast last week,  but one chick fell so fast I feared for the his life, although he must have done fine because there was no sign of the chick dead or alive on the ground. Then, several nights later,  I dreamed that I saw a mother and baby robin together silhouetted in the sun, and I woke up with the distinct sense
that the last two robins would fledge that day. I’m one of those people who seem to carry on a continual conversation with God, and such premonitions are rare but not totally unusual, so I decided that I would keep a very close eye on the two babies all day.  Just as the sun was coming up, the first baby took flight,and I really believe the Lord gave me the dream so I wouldn’t miss the spectacle! The last chick wasn’t at all sure about taking off. He perched on the edge of the nest, surveying possible flight paths. It was definitely a long way to the ground from his secure nest!  On the other hand there were lots of trees and bushes not too far away…About then Mom came by with a big, fat, juicy worm and Dad stopped in to give junior a little pep talk. Dad hopped into the nest and gave junior a little push toward the edge.  Baby was feeling a little ambivalent but took a few tentative steps out of the nest. The world was looking bright and beautiful, but the nest was looking very comfy…In fact, he thought it looked safer to have one foot in the nest and one foot out.In fact, after due consideration, the nest looked definitely safer than the world, so the fledgling perched on the edge of the nest and started praying
(or sleeping, I couldn’t tell which).  🙂  In a while, Mother Robin returned to talk things over with her fledgling again just as it was time for Joel and me to eat breakfast, so I had to give up watching.We didn’t get to see the baby’s first flight, but while we were eating,  we caught sight of the fledgling in the tree just outside our window! He had made a successful first flight, and his parents hadn’t lost track of him.In moments one of them was by the chick’s side with a yummy snack! In no time at all, the fledgling would be following his parents,
winging his way through the woodland world.

It’s graduation time as well as spring time, and I know several couples who have refused to let their kids come back home after their graduation (except to vacation). Some of these kids are flying, but some are really struggling financially, emotionally, and/or spiritually. Personally, my parents never “kicked” me out; they let me feel like their home was also my home until I married, which I thought was just perfect. I’ve always wanted my own children to feel the same sense of love and security.

My mother’s youngest brother (70 years ago) brought his bride home to the farm, where the couple lived throughout their lives, eventually caring for Grandma until she died. Alan had two uncles who never married and lived on their home farm throughout their lives too, eventually caring for Alan’s grandma until she died. What is it it about current American cultural expectations that make us think adult offspring shouldn’t enjoy the fellowship and security of family until they personally feel a compelling reason to leave?

If you’re an unmarried young adult with parents who are still happy to have you at home, please feel perfect liberty to remain with them until you personally want to leave. Don’t let social pressure drive you away from family! In the Old Testament, everybody lived in family groups!

Also, if you have adult sons or daughters who would enjoy living with you, why not let them? Share the wealth, share the expenses, share the work load, and also share the warmth and community that God intends for all humans to enjoy! Let’s parent like our heavenly Father, who never leaves us nor forsakes us!

He led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: So the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him. He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock” (Deuteronomy 32:10-13).

A Few of My Favorite Birds (44): New Neighbors? Sandhill Cranes

Although I’ve seen these very large and impressive birds
roaming Kensington Park near Detroit and along Michigan highways —as well as sauntering through quiet parks in Florida— I’d never seen a pair of  sandhill cranes at Tanglewood Cottage until yesterday!

Having just parted with my son Jonathan’s family, who’d been visiting with us off and on for a couple of weeks, I was feeling a bit lonely, so having some new visitors come up my driveway was most welcome. (We have a whole flock of turkeys who are already a part of the neighborhood, but I wanted this photo to illustrate how much taller the cranes are.)  If you’ve not met any sandhill cranes yet, you’re in for a treat, because they’re very large, peaceable, and beautiful! For Michigan, I believe they are the biggest birds around, standing up to four feet tall,  weighing 9 (females) to 10 pounds (males) and enjoying a 5.5-7.5 foot wing span!  I think the pair who visited today may have claimed some water front property,  because they joined us while Alan and I were out for our nightly swim around the lake. (Photographer alert: Never go anywhere without a camera!  😦 ) From a distance, we thought they were a pair of swans, but up close, they are really brownish grey. They have very long, grey necks, red foreheads, white cheeks, long, black beaks and brownish bodies. Once you’ve seen one, they’re easy to remember and petty hard to forget! They don’t have webbed feet, but they have extremely long legs and toes, and we were surprised how fast they could swim…always away from us!  When they got close to our end of the lake, three families of geese came out with their little ones as a flotilla to “defend” their territory (our waterfront), but although the cranes were larger, they politely headed back to the far end of the lake, so they must not be very aggressive. Our swans used to intimidate the geese, but I think if the sandhill cranes stay, the other waterfowl will have nothing to fear.  I watched them happily as they meandered all over our property and sauntered down our lane. In fact, I was so pleased that I invited them to stay…and I hope they do! It wasn’t until I woke up this morning that I realized that I’m more charitable toward the cranes than I am my neighbors. Because we live in a fenced and gated property (built by order of the police because our German shepherd once bit a stranger), I don’t think I’d be “delighted” to have a strange couple walking all over our property as if deciding whether or not they wanted to take up residence with us. Could I possibly trust birds more than people…or am I just more selfish than I realize? I’m afraid, some of both. I need to work on loving my neighbors more!  “And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:29-31).

If Only I Could Fly Like a Bird!

While Alan attended the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatrists  meeting in Honolulu recently, I spent my days writing, and from our balcony, I could see three snowy white pigeons far below, roosting in the park just across from Waikiki Beach.  They rose and dived with grace and apparent ease, flitting and fluttering on the breezes.  I watched them soar joyously in the bright morning sunshine and thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to fly like a bird?!”  In Hawaii, it’s warm and humid, so people practically live outside. They also keep their doors open as much as possible, and we were no exception. The sliding glass doors on our balcony were open almost all the time, bringing in balmy air until our entire hotel room felt like a bit of private, outdoor paradise…literally 50° warmer than the freezing air had been in Michigan when we left!  Having a six-hour EST (Eastern Standard Time) advantage, we woke up well before sunrise every morning and sipped tea while enjoying leisurely devotional times together.  After prayer and Bible reading, we enjoyed breakfast. Most mornings it was granola and bananas, but this particular morning we had garnered some legendary malasadas (Portuguese, custard-filled donuts) from Honolulu’s most famous bakery: Leonard’s. We relished the rosy sunrise, and then Alan began washing up before leaving for his conference. I made a cup of Jasmine tea in preparation for settling down to write.   To my delight and surprise, I found that not only had I been admiring the birds, they had apparently been admiring us too…or at least our breakfasts!  Apparently a crumb or two had fallen under the table, which one pigeon quickly devoured,                           and another pigeon came inside to check us out!

I wonder, do pigeons watch humans and think about they way we sit down with apparent ease and feast on a lovely breakfast just the way I admire their ability to flutter on the breezes?  It’s all too natural to see and long for the advantages of others while not considering the difficulties of their lives.  The pigeons on Honolulu’s Waikiki Beach scavenge hard to find enough to eat, and they coo contentedly when they discover a few drops of fresh water in the cracks of sidewalks!  Is it possible they say to themselves, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to eat like a human?!”   It’s perfectly normal to notice and admire what others do well—great writers, artists, scientists, orators, doctors, lawyers…Indian chiefs. Do you find yourself admiring some wonderful ability that another person possesses? I certainly do. And yet, would I really like to be the person I admire?  My guess is that if I knew everything about that person, the difficulties in his life and the challenges he faces, I would be content to be myself. On the other hand, if we admire someone else enough, perhaps it will motivate us to work harder to become the best we can be!  What do you think? Ready to be content, or are you ready to make the sacrifices to be something more? I gather from the scripture that God wants us to be content with the outward circumstances which are beyond our control: “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content”  (Philippians 4:11), but I think He wants us never to be content with where we are spiritually: I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,  And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do,  forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus(Philippians 3:8-14, emphasis mine).

Has Spring Failed to Install in Michigan?

While my brothers are sending me photos of glorious spring weather
in California and New York City, I’m singing “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!” Because, here in Michigan there are still snowflakes sifting down from heaven! There were power outages over the weekend, and over 200 churches closed
(ours included) due to  dangerous, “almost impossible” driving conditions. In Williamston, MI, east of Grand Rapids, my friend, John Bjorlie, posted these three photos from the ice storm that hit their area, with the following caption: “Excellent crop yield this year from our Ice harvest.
The Ice plants were full and fruitful.”  🙂 Yes, if ice were a cash crop, he’d be in the money! Last week our lake was reflecting dreamy blue sky eyes, and our cherry tree was beginning to bud. This morning all our hopes for spring have been put on hold. Our lives are like this sometimes, too, aren’t they? Stormy, fragile, and uncertain. And yet, I believe God cares for us and will continue to provide for us. If you feel like your life is on hold because of unexpected storms—
Be patient and hang tough! Spring will come again!

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
(Romans 12:12)

 

P.S.—A big thank you to John to sharing his photos with me. By the way, if you’re looking for an idyllic, rural setting for an event in the Lansing area, John and his wife have a new venue that is open for business. They’ve christened it Rosrmål Barn, after the Norwegian painting style of Rosemåling, so if you’re looking for a place to celebrate, let me know, and I can put you in contact with them!

 

 

Offerings for NaPoMo (National Poetry Month)

Do you enjoy poetry? Write poems? Since 1996, April has been designated as National Poetry Month in America to celebrate and encourage the enjoyment of poetry. Usually I take the opportunity to write a few poems, but so far this spring I’ve not slowed down enough to allow literary creativity to send up any new shoots from my soul. Nevertheless, I’m a believer (in good poetry), so I’m going to share 10 quotes on poetry with 10 poetic photos from around my home in the hopes of inspiring us all to poetic endeavors, and if you write any lovely poems between now and then that you’d be willing to share, please add them in the comment box below or send them to me via email (or message me on FaceBook), and I’ll reserve April 30 for sharing what we create. Sound like a plan?

“Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks.” Plutarch   “Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.” Carl Sandburg   “Always be a poet, even in prose.” Charles Baudelaire   “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings:
it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” William Wordsworth  “Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought
and the thought has found words.” Robert Frost   “As to the pure mind all things are pure,
so to the poetic mind all things are poetical.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow   “A good poet is someone who manages, in a lifetime of standing out
in thunderstorms, to be struck by lightning five or six times;
a dozen or two dozen times and he is great.” Randall Jerrell   “Publishing a volume of verse is like dropping a rose-petal
down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo.”  Don Marquis   “Why should poetry have to make sense?” Charlie Chaplin   “If you cannot be a poet, be the poem.” David CarradineAnd so, I’ll await with great expectations for any expression of emotion
mixed with bits of wisdom or puzzlement that blossom from our hearts.
May we all find some quiet time for reflection and meditation this spring! “Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure” (Proverbs 4:26).

(As might be obvious, the last photo was not take around my home. 🙂  Rather, it’s from Meijer Garden, where “the butterflies are blooming” through April.)

A Few (Dozen) of My Favorite (African) Birds (42): A Pictorial Guide to Exotic African Birds

Last fall in Africa, I saw dozens of gorgeous birds. (Okay, some were really ugly too.) Many were familiar, but even more of them seemed exotic and strange. I took photos until I was dizzy from my head spinning ’round, and although our guide was an able ornithologist, after we returned home, I couldn’t remember the names for many of my new-found feathered friends. Worse yet, there’s no Complete Idiot’s Guide for Identifying African Birds, so it took me a long time (too long to admit) to figure out their names. For any of you who’d enjoy a birds’ eye view of African exotics, or for any of you who’ve been to Africa and are trying to figure out what you saw, I’ve catalogued 30+ birds alphabetically by name and where I saw them. Some of them have interesting stories, but that will have to wait for another day… Hope you enjoy!  🙂

African Fish Eagle (Choebe River, Botswana)

“The first law of success is concentration – to bend all the energies to one point, and to go directly to that point, looking neither to the right nor to the left.” ~William Mathews


African jacuna (Also known as “Jesus Bird.”Choebe River, Botswana)

“Perseverance is not a long race: It is many short races, one after another.”

~Walter Elliot   African openbill stork (Choebe River, Botswana)

“We must accept finite disappointment,
but never lose infinite hope.”~ Martin Luther King, Jr.  Black skimmers (Choebe River, Botswana)

“Who, being loved, is poor?”
~Oscar Wilde 
Red-winged starling (Cape of Good Hope, South Africa)

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

~Henry David Thoreau  Blacksmith lapwing (or “Plover.” Choebe River, Botswana)

“I am a leader by default, because nature abhors a vacuum.” ~Desmond TutuCape Glossy starling (Swaziland)

“I remind myself every morning: ‘Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.'” ~Larry KingCape Weaver (South Africa)

“Blessed are the flexible, for they shall never be bent out of shape.”  Egyptian Geese (South Africa)

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes,
but in having new eyes.”~Marcel Proust
Golden-breasted bunting (Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe)

“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.”
~Ralph Waldo EmersonGoliath heron  (Zambezi River, Zimbabwe)

“Beautiful light is born of darkness, so the faith that springs from conflict is often the strongest and best.”~R. Turnbull  Great heron (Zambezi River, Zimbabwe)

“Concentrate all your thoughts on the task at hand.
The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”~Alexander Graham Bell  Hadada Ibis  (aka/Threskiornithidae, Zambezi River, Zimbzbwe)

“The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid,
but he who conquers that fear.”~Nelson Mandela   Blue Helmeted guinea fowl  (Kruger National Park, S.A.) 

“Integrity is never being ashamed of our reflections.”~David Cottrell  Little bee eater (Very little! Choebe River, Botswana)

“Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” ~John Wooden  Marabou stork (Very big! Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe) 

“An optimist sees an opportunity in every calamity; a pessimist sees a calamity in every opportunity.” ~Winston Churchill  Ostrich (The biggest! Cape of Good Hope, South Africa)

“Humor is our way of defending ourselves from life’s absurdities by thinking absurdly about them.” ~Lewis Mumford   Spotted Eagle Owl and Owlet
(Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, Capetown, S.A.)

 “There is only one time when it is essential to awaken. That time is now.”
~Buddha  Yellow-billed oxpeckers on a warthog’s back
(hitchhikers! Chobe National Park, Botswana)

“He who assists someone up the hill cannot help but get to the top himself.”
~Chinese Proverb  Peacock (most beautiful…as if you didn’t know! South Africa)

“God is a prolific artist. His paintings are everywhere.”  Penguins  (Boulders Beach, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa)

“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s when you had everything to do, and you’ve done it.” ~Margaret Thatcher  Pied kingfisher (eating an insect along the Choebe River, Botswana)

“Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” ~William Jennings Bryan   Trumpeter hornbill (aka/Zuzu!  Chobe National Park, Botswana)

“You’re only given a little spark of madness.
You mustn’t lose it.”~Robin Williams 
Red-headed weaver bird (Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe)

“When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.”
~Chief Tecumseh 
Reddish egret (pair of them! Kruger National Park, South Africa)

“In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins… not through strength but by perseverance.”
~H. Jackson Brown  Saddle-billed stork (Mbabane, Swaziland)

“I’m far from perfect, but I’ll be perfect for
that imperfect person that’s perfect for me.”  ~Amanda Bynes  Southern masked weaver bird (Choebe River, Botswana) 

“If you want things to be different, perhaps the answer is to become different yourself.” ~Normal Vincent Peale  Trumpeter Hornbill (Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe)

“Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?”   White-backed Vultures (drinking water in Chobe National Park, Botswana)

 “We determine whether something will be a blessing or a curse
by the way we choose to see it.”~Kate Nowak  Whydah (Widow?) bird (Hluhluwe Imfolozi Game Reserve, South Africa)

“Life engenders life. Energy creates energy.
It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.” ~Sarah Bernhardt  Yellow-billed egrets with an openbill stork (Zambezi River, Zimbabwe)

“You can tell the value of a man by the way he treats his wife,
by the way he treats a subordinate,
and by the way he treats someone who can do nothing for him.”~Ken Babcock

Hope you enjoyed the “tour” of African birds. Africa is by far the most exotic place I’ve ever been, and I love being able to share with you a little bit of the blessing wherewith I’ve been blessed.

 “I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High” (Psalm 9:1-2).