Monday, 19 May 2008

The Girl Can't Help it!

I lied! I can't help it! Look what showed up on the pole in our back yard. How could I not post that?

Not only that, but my all-time favorite Warbler also did a fly by and stopped to check out an orange slice that some other bird had hoisted up into the tree. (I left that orange slice on a plate near the ground and still can't figure out who dragged it up to that branch! This is a Cape May Warbler.

And then this little Sweetie showed up and got me all confused. After much pondering, and looking at several different pictures, I decided it was a Vireo.

He was bright, bright yellow under the throat and on the chest.

Next post will be on the new afghan knitting project, I promise!!

Friday, 16 May 2008

Goodbye Birds

I hope I'll see you next year. As the warblers prepare to head north, I am packing to leave my retreat space at Koinonia. It has been a very productive time and I am primed and ready to continue working now that my creative juices have started to flow.

Goodbye, yellow warbler! Find a nice home in Canada!

I guess, you'll be sticking around, Catbird, so I'll keep my eye out for you.

Here are a few more of my friends that I saw in the last parts of my stay here.

A little clay colored sparrow from the meadow:

Another of those Kinglets?

Here is what I think is a song sparrow (although there is a branch right across the chest where the black spot is supposed to be that allows one to identify it!)

Here are some wood ducks that I startled in the lake. I wish I could have gotten closer - they are truly dramatic birds!!

Take good care everyone!! Say goodbye to birds - my next posts will probably be about something completely different!!

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Thursday Morning Walk - Koinonia

During the birding retreat a week or so ago we had gone in search of the Clay colored sparrow without much success. Today I found her. Not immediately of course. I had to do a little looking. First I went through the meadow where the swallows live.

They are accompanied by chipping sparrows...

...and even a few bluebirds

There were some new warblers to be seen:

A myrtle warbler for example

I saw a magnolia warbler too and a redstart, but wasn't fast enough to catch them on flash. The clay colored Sparrow looked a little dowdy after all those other birds, but it was what I had come to see, so was happy to hear its raspy voice and see it flitting around wildly.

I saw this goldfinch....

and also managed to get this blurry image of a golden crowned kinglet.

I had also seen wood ducks a red shouldered hawk and some dusky white eye-ringed bush bird. Of course this isn't a bird at all, but if you look carefully you can see one of those pretty striped garter snakes.

This is a white throated sparrow.

And here is one more view where you can see the stripes on the head.

It was a morning well-spent - now it is time to get to work writing!

Back to Retreat

Now I'm at Koinonia for the writer's retreat. How could I resist taking a few bird pictures?

I haven't had a chance to identify this warbler yet but it looks like a Magnolia warbler maybe.

And I'm pretty proud to have caught this image of a wren.

Here is another couple of shots of the same wren:

Monday, 12 May 2008

New Knitting Project and a Few More Birds

I've been real busy trying to wrap up the semester. Grading, grading, grading, so in my exhausted evening hours when I can't stand to look at another paper -I do what I call nervous knitting. This is mindless knitting just to be active. I won't touch my lace knitting when I'm tired, so I dug out a bunch of old acrylic yarn that I won't care if I ruin and started knitting squares. I'm on about my fourth one now and about a third of the way through my grading. When I get five squares in a row I'll start another row of squares. It might be a bit more interesting then.

I've also had a chance to shoot (photographically) a few new birds. The warblers are passing through, but we only seem to have the same old yellow rump warblers.

I did however see a redstart today (even though he was so nervous he wouldn't sit still to be photographed!

I caught a few in flight pictures today. They are blurry, but perhaps interesting.

Here's the redstart again:

Here is a nice shot of a cardinal.

And here is a sparrow. I always thought we didn't have any of these around and now that I look I see them all over. Of course I have no idea what kind of sparrow this is, but it is a lovely bird.

I'm thinking this is a plain old Song Sparrow getting a drink.

Monday, 5 May 2008

The Birders of Koinonia

I was pretty tired when I was uploading photos this weekend, so I thought I would add some thoughts about Koinonia and the birding experience there.

Koinonia is a retreat area founded by the Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church. It is an asylum out in the wilds of rural Minnesota between Minneapolis and Saint Cloud. A sanctuary in the woods, it has a wildlife preserve of around 100 acres and is a wonderfully hospitable resting place for those in need of spiritual and emotional nourishment. You can find more information about it here .

(By the way, for anyone interested, my blog entry for last years birding weekend can be found here. and here. ).

In looking back at those blogs, I am amazed at how much farther along Spring was last year. Thank goodness I have a better camera now and can get closer to the birds!!)

I have been to Koinonia several times for writing retreats and have always returned home content and invigorated. The time alone in the peacefulness of nature where one has space to think and return to mindfulness is one of the most fulfilling experiences that I know, but this is only a small part of the experience.

Another important aspect for me has been the people. Last year when I was at the retreat center working on a monstrous report for work, I encountered the Birders of HAUMC. They are a socially concerned, compassionate and caring group of people - and they are also a whole lot of fun.

I quickly deserted work on my report to go out traipsing in the woods with this fascinating, bubbly and extremely welcoming group of people. As I have gotten to know them I have discovered that their concern for the environment, for the homeless in their area and the well being of individuals in general is inspirational.

Here in no particular order are pictures of some of the people I have met at the Birding weekend. I am so sad that some of the people I have spent the most time conversing with were not well represented in my photos. Karen and Barbara, Kelly and Lee, Harlan, Kevin, Bob, Tom, Verda and everyone else (I can not remember everyone's names nor spell them), but you have left such important influences on me. I'm sorry I don't have pictures of everyone (at least not good ones) but here is a hint of a few of the people I got to meet this weekend.

This glowing woman is 93 years old and the author of at least three books including a novel she started in her 80s! What an inspiration - perhaps there is still time for me to finish that novel after all! Check out her novel Phoenix which involves the Chicago Fire of 1871 (The author's name is Vera Wright Aegerter).

Here are Kevin and Bob Janssen. Kevin has been instrumental in setting up the birding weekends and keeping things running smoothly. I only know Bob's name because he is a noted and notable author on the birds of Minnesota. He is one of several experts we have been fortunate enough to have along for the experience.

The meals by the way are amazing and the company exquisite - Tom (another expert birder) and Kelly having a serious discussion about birds? I wonder what he is saying?

Hmmm, maybe not....

Doesn't this look like a determined group of birders? (They ARE serious - it was cold and an ungodly hour in the morning. Okay, I'm sure they feel that it was a very godly hour and that there are no ungodly hours - but it was really, really early (for me anyway!)

Thank you everyone for your kindness, congeniality, inclusiveness and stimulation. Still, I have to end with the birds. These amazing creatures help us get out of our tiny little selves and open to the wonders of what is around us.

Here is one more shot of a white throated sparrow.

This phoebe lives near the retreat center and keeps a close eye on the goings-on.

And this is one of the most amazing little animals I have ever seen. Tiny, full of energy and curiosity. We could all learn a lot from the Ruby Crowned Kinglet:

Bye little friends and big friends - I can't wait to see you again soon.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Sunday Bird Walk

I was most excited about the warblers. We saw quite a few, but they are very jittery birds so I didn't get too many good shots of them on film. This is a black and white warbler - a bit on the blurry side, but clear enough to identify.

I think I was told this was a loon - its another really blurry shot - the sun was already headed down, but I thought I'd try anyway.

Here is Rose breasted Grosbeak.

And another shot of the same bird:

I'm sad that I couldn't get a better shot of this hawk(I tried and tried - but it was late dusk and there simply wasn't enough light:

This is a white throated sparrow that we saw while eating lunch.

This is a hooded Merganser and although it was really far away and we didn't get a good look, I took a picture anyway.

Another Ruby Crowned Kinglet

A nuthatch feeding its young in a tree hollow:

A yellow-bellied sapsucker:

Another chipping sparrow. They were quite common and easy prey for the camera!

There are four different birds in this picture. Can you see them?

Here is the image again with the birds circled in pink: You'll probably have to click on the image to see it larger, but you'll see a woodpecker, a nuthatch, a chickadee and a phoebe (I think).

Thanks for looking!!