You might wonder by the time you finish reading this post, why I still like, in fact insist on, going on beach vacations.
“I can’t remember ever going to the beach and not having a problem with my skin,” I told Mark just this morning.
I have always burned fairly easily in the sun, and although sunscreen has been a fact of life for me as long as I can remember, I still inevitably end up with a burn somewhere on my body, often on my chest, upper back, and almost always on my face.
I stopped using sun lotion on my face several years ago after I was unable to find one that didn’t make my face feel like someone had sprayed gasoline on it and lit a match.
Now I trust only my faithful Oil of Olay daily lotion with broad spectrum SPF for my face. It only has a rating of 15, but I reapply it obsessively.
This year on our beach trip to the southern North Carolina shore I came well-armed. I bought Coppertone Sport high performance, broad spectrum, 30spf that “stays on when you sweat” lotion and spray. And I used both liberally in the first two days.
The third day I began to develop a red, bumpy, itchy rash. At first I blamed it on sun poising which I had self-diagnosed several years back.
If it hadn’t been for Mark, who liberally applied the lotion to my back at my request, I might not have figured it out yet. But Mark took his job seriously and put that lotion all over my entire back, most of which never saw the light of day under my suit.
The rash eventually covered all my exposed body except my face, thanks to the Oil of Olay. It also developed on my back.
The rash, I believe, is from the lotion I was using to protect myself. I revised my self-diagnosis.
Now I’m on a quest for sun lotion that I can tolerate, perhaps a combination of zinc oxide and titanium oxide that work to reflect the sun off of the skin. The other lotions somehow modify the rays to render them harmless.
I came to the beach also well-armed with light-weight long-sleeved shirts, and other various cover-ups.
Yesterday, I wore long sleeves, my hat and sunglasses and went to the beach sans lotion except for the Oil of Olay on my face. I sat under our umbrella the entire time, covering the bottom of my legs with a second cover-up, and taking an indoor break during peak sun hours.
At the end of the day I had a sunburn from mid-thigh to mid-calf where my legs had remained bare under the umbrella.
“What’s your next act?” Mark asked me this morning.
Today I look like a spy out of a low-budget movie—broad hat, sunglasses, long-sleeved shirt, and capris. A second cover-up protects the bottom of my legs and feet once I’m seated in the shade. Only my hands are exposed.
I still love the beach.
Tips, advice, and general commiseration are all welcome.
The other day I showed you this picture of what I called a groundhog. Some of my readers thought it was a juvenile beaver. So I’ll pose the question, what do you think?
Meanwhile I went looking for clues.
I took my ferocious wildlife tracking canine and my human body guard with me.
As we walked along the creek bed, we saw the big tree where I’ve photographed groundhogs in the past.
We saw quite a few tracks in the mud, but they were mostly white-tailed deer tracks. No big surprise.
I did see a couple of tracks like these. I don’t know whether they are just messed up deer tracks or something else.
When I looked online I couldn’t identify them.
We also saw this pile of tree branches across the creek bed. One of the dead ash trees in the woods had fallen across the creek, and Mark thinks that it served as a barrier to block other sticks that got washed down the creek. I don’t know what to think. In the pools visible at the bottom of the photo, Mark noticed a couple of small gold fish swimming around with many minnows.
Where do these guys come from? We believe our creek is part of the Mill Creek Water Shed, but mostly it carries runoff from the rain.
I tried to capture a photo of the many minnows that swim about and are easy to see by the naked eye due to their motion, but apparently are not so easy to capture as a digital image. I got a lot of reflection of the trees and skies.
I think you can see one minnow in the middle of this photo. I’ll have to admit; I just wasn’t expecting there to be fish living down in the creek.
We had the bonus of a couple of hawks landing above our heads. I only got one in the picture. This might be a Cooper’s hawk, but I’m not sure.
The final piece of evidence came from one of the plastic chairs we use at the bottom of our yard. Can you see the teeth marks? Somebody was gnawing on this. What do you think, beaver, groundhog, or maybe just a squirrel?
Here’s a site that might help.
I hope somebody can clear this up for me.
I’ve been snapping photos here and there the last few weeks. I’m taking this opportunity to share them with you now.
This little hummer was making daily visits for a while. I haven’t seen him lately. He liked some of the potted plants on our deck.
I call this one “House wren in bird house.”
This hillside across the drive from our house used to be thick with honeysuckle. Mark has cleared a large section of it out. The little fawn decided to take a bit of a rest here.
I didn’t see the mother nearby. Perhaps she told this little guy to wait for her here.
Not bad for a few volunteers. I’m enjoying the height and color they’ve added to my garden.
I call this one “Elevensies” after a tradition brought to me by a good friend and once-coworker, Cathy, who needed that morning snack to get through to lunch.
I’m not sure why this buck only has one antler. I googled it and nosed around a bit, but there was too much reading involved for the amount of time I wanted to spend. Perhaps you know and can tell me.
I call this one “Yellow.”
Let’s not forget the female. She clearly wanted her portrait taken as well.
I was sitting at my computer desk, minding my own business, when this little guy started hopping back and forth on the two porch rockers sitting outside our large study window. He was there for quite a while before he flew up into the tree. And he was giving me the what-for. I’m not sure what he was carrying on about.
I suppose that’s just one more thing I’ll never know.
I’ve been noticing a couple of tiny birds in the two locust trees outside my study window. I think they may have an nest in our birdhouse that’s hanging there.
Heeding the advise of my bird-watching blogging friend, Patti, at A New Day Dawns, I tried to identify distinguishing characteristics. The small relatively nondescript birds always confound me. But today I was successful at identifying the blue-gray gnatcatcher, even if I didn’t get a good, clear, up close and personal shot. The little birds would not sit still for a moment.
The first thing I noticed other than its small size, was the white-striped tail. At first I wondered if it could be a baby mockingbird because of its size and its tail. Peterson’s Field Guide to the Birds East of the Rockies describes the blue-gray gnatcathcer as suggesting “a miniature Mockingbird.” Although I didn’t recognize it until I read it in Peterson’s, this little bird also has a distinctive white ring around its eye that you can see in this photo.
Peterson goes on to say that the its tail is “often cocked like a wren’s tail and flipped about.” Although Peterson doesn’t mention it, I thought that the beak was particularly long and slender.
Here is an action shot of the blue-gray gnatcatcher giving me the what-for. It had a worm in its mouth and I think it was trying to intimidate me away from its nest by making what could only have been considered a threatening noise and flapping its wings.
That wasn’t particularly effective coming from such a tiny mite. But I moved on anyway not wanting to intrude on a mother’s work of feeding her young.
This bird’s size makes it irresistible. It definitely has found a place near the top of my favorite birds list.
I was sitting at the kitchen table this morning watching a robin enjoy the hanging planter full of garden refuse that I left for the birds as a kind of discount store or bonanza.
We had already cleaned all the old dried leaves and winter garden refuse from the ground, and Mark covered it all with a rich, crisp layer of mulch, leaving slim pickins’ for nest-building birds.
I patted myself on the back. If I wouldn’t have created this hanging basket for them, what would the robins have done?
As I watched out the window, I noticed a rustling in the leaves near the top of a tree. A little squirrel emerged with a leaf-laden twig in its mouth and scampered across a few limbs, then up the trunk of a dead tree where I saw she was happily building a nest. It’s a dead ash tree, technically on our neighbor’s property. They plan to have their dead ash trees removed this year. I don’t believe there is anything I can do to save the squirrel, the nest, and any babies that arrive, beyond hoping that the tree-cutters won’t come too soon.
Yesterday I walked out into our garage and was startled by a small bird in there. I think it was a juvenile wren. One of the two garage doors was open, but the little guy couldn’t seem to find his way out. I spent the next hour or so trying to help him leave. I adjusted both garage doors to try to give him space above and below the door to leave. I moved the car out of the garage so it wouldn’t get in the way. I talked and chirped to the bird, showed him the way out, chased him around the garage with a broom to try to direct him out, and tried to catch him in a sheet.
At one point after I had gone back inside for a few minutes, I found two other wrens in the garage. They left immediately upon my return and my hopes that one of them was the little guy were soon dashed when I heard him chirping. But I was encouraged that I was not the only one trying to rescue the baby.
Eventually I was able to lower the window blind behind him, reach in and catch the little guy in my sheet-covered hand. I patted myself on the back for returning him to the wild.
What would he have done if I wasn’t here? I wondered.
If I wasn’t here at all, then maybe my house and garage wouldn’t be here either. And the natural progression of that kind of thinking led me to the question, What if all the humans left?
The birds would still be here. The robin would find nature-provided nesting materials all around.
The squirrels’ new home would not be in jeopardy.
And the little bird would never have found its way into a place it couldn’t leave.
When we were driving to Hocking Hills a few weeks ago, we passed an abandoned property on a country road. I first noticed the rusted, decaying car near the road. Then I saw the decrepit house further back in what was becoming woods. The rectangular property lines were clearly discernible where the neighboring properties, still being tended, ended and this abandoned property began, as if a surveyor had pounded in stakes at the corners and strung a wire around. The grass was long, trees and bushes were sprouting up throughout. The semi-hidden car and the house were falling apart in pieces on the ground. The earth was reclaiming its own.
I don’t know how long the abandoned property has stood there, but my guess is that it hasn’t been all that long in the whole scheme of things.
If the humans left, the earth would reclaim its own in short order most likely. And the birds, the squirrels, the deer and all the creatures would have their paradise without us.
Wednesday morning I was stumbling around the kitchen before I managed to ingest my daily dose of caffeine in the form of hot tea which isn’t nearly as potent as the caffeine I used to get in a day’s worth of coffee. Alas, another compromise as I have grown older.
I looked outside and saw a big bird in the trees. Over time I’ve gotten used to finding them amidst the camoflage of the tree branches. They look like a big blob interrupting the natural flow of the branches.
It was a red-tailed hawk.
Our bird feeders have been frequented this winter by a rather bold sharp-shinned hawk who likes to hunt there, but the larger red-tailed hawks don’t come around as much, and when they do, like some of the other more skittish birds, they tend to stay back and within the protection of the woods .
I recently read about the benefits of green smoothies from my blogging friend Marion at Figments of a Dutchess and have been trying them out all week. I poured my green smoothie made with an apple, pear, banana, and spinach, into a large glass and sat down at the table beside Mark. It was an April morning and for some reason the wood ducks we saw last year came to mind. “Do you think the wood ducks will be back this year?” I asked Mark. “I haven’t seen them yet.”
“I saw them yesterday,” Mark replied. Unlike me, Mark doesn’t rush to announce his nature observations to me or the world at large.
“I hope they come back again.”
From my lips to the universe. I looked outside and spotted the female wood duck perched on a sycamore branch.
She and I were both looking all around. I was looking for her mate. I didn’t know at first what she was looking for, but I found out later.
There he was. Just a few trees away, perched on the limb of another sycamore.
You’ll have to take my word for the next part because I wasn’t quick enough to catch a photo. This is not as easy as it looks.
The female duck went into the hole in the sycamore tree. I circled it for you. I was stunned to say the least and not certain. But then I saw a cascade of dried brown leaves shoot out of the hole and flutter down. Then again. I became hopeful. Like the chickadee I told you about earlier, the wood duck was apartment-hunting.
She poked her head out to check out the view from her front porch.
Meanwhile, her mate was waiting patiently.
And then not so patiently as he quacked at her, “Well, make up your mind, Mabel. Do you like it or not. I’m not going to stand here all day.”
She took one more good look around and then darted out of the hole and flew right past her mate who immediately took off and followed behind. Again, you’ll just have to take my word for it.
But that wasn’t the best part. Later in the day a movement through the woods caught my eye. It was a large black bird with striking white stripes on its wings sweeping through the trees. It landed on the trunk of a tall tree near the top and I saw the tell-tale red plummage on the top of its head. I enjoy all the birds I see from the smallest wren to the largest owl or blue-heron, but some birds really thrill me because of the rarity of their visits. And the pileated woodpecker is one. It moves quickly through the trees with a flash of white, landing here and then there. A true wonder to see.
Yet again, you’ll just have to take my word for it.
|Deluxe chalet with garden view||Cozy cottage at wood’s edge||Fun and funky outhouse motif||Nature lovers’ retreat|
We have four apartments for rent in or near the St. Francis Garden. Yesterday a little chickadee was taking advantage of the nice weather and was out doing some apartment hunting.
I think we’re going to have a new tenant soon.
I was excited when Mark surprised me with an Audubon BirdCam for Christmas. Now I could see what was going on outside when I wasn’t watching.
As you may know, beginning December 2, the months of December and January were difficult months for me as I tried to help manage our parents’ illnesses and moves to other living facilities. I was gone a lot, stopping home for brief pit stops, a change of clothes, a good night’s sleep. Under normal circumstances, given an exciting gift like the BirdCam, I would have immediately rushed outside and set it up. But these weren’t normal circumstances, so you’ll understand that I didn’t get my BirdCam set up outside until January 3rd.
Under normal circumstances, I would have been checking the BirdCam for new photos daily. As it was, I left it up outside and didn’t give it a second thought until February 11th, when I went out to retrieve the stunning photos of birds that I was sure my new BirdCam had recorded in my absence.
I thought I’d share my first results using the BirdCam with you in the slide show below.
One thing you will notice right away is that the BirdCam did an excellent job of recording Mark, in various states of dress, filling the bird feeders throughout the weeks. You might also notice he was accompanied by Arthur at times who kept watch. You can see other wildlife, even an occasional bird or two, the best shots being of the squirrel that attempted to sneak its way up the pole. And you undoubtedly noticed the fine up close shot the BirdCam got of my red purse when I retrieved the photos.
Here is a cropped and enlarged photo of what may be a hawk in flight—the pride and joy of my first attempt with the BirdCam.
Clearly, the BirdCam is not idiot-proof and I suspect I could profit from taking a close look at the instruction manual.
However, if I ever need to see what Mark is up to outside, I have the equipment to do it.
I thought I had probably seen all the varieties of interesting birds that I would see here in our woods. After all, in addition to the smaller more common species, I had seen a red-tailed hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Great Horned Owl, Wood Ducks, and a Great Blue Heron. What more could I hope to see?
And then there was a flash of red in the trees and a “Tat, tat, tat, tat.” Woody Woodpecker, a pileated woodpecker, was paying us visits.
Unfortunately, unlike the owl, hawks, ducks, and heron, the pileated woodpecker was not content to calmly perch or stand for his photograph. He was too busy moving from tree to tree, climbing up trees, and looking around. His jackhammer head was in constant motion.
I determined to try to get a photo anyway. I really wanted one for my “Birds” page. So I grabbed my Nikon with its 300mm lens and went out on the deck in my pjs, robe, and slippers and shot away trying to catch a photograph from a distance, through tree branches.
I thought that this might be the best I could do.
Here’s where my patience paid off. After five or ten minutes of this, perhaps even longer, Woody flew closer.
I got lucky.
And I see now that Woody may actually be Wanda.
As you know if you’ve read many of my blogs, I enjoy watching nature, especially the little birds that frequent our feeders. Surrounded by this small woods, we get the opportunity to observe nature up close and personal.
Sometimes it feels more up close than I might prefer.
Last week I wrote about the hawk haunting our feeders. On Saturday, while I was sipping a cup of tea at the breakfast table, a movement caught my eye out of the window and I saw what I believe was a large hawk take off from the ground beside our deck and fly low away through the woods with something in its grasp.
I told Mark, who was oblivious to the whole small drama. “Where did it go?” he asked.
“Just went a short way in that direction. It’s probably stopped to eat whatever it had,” I answered. “Do hawks leave behind the bones? I’ve never seen that here anywhere.”
“Owls eat everything,” Mark said.
I know. I have seen an owl pellet here.
“There’s a lot of chipmunks out there,” Mark said.
That didn’t make me feel a lot better, because I actually like the chipmunks.
“If we had mice, the hawks would be helpful,” I said. And even though I actually think mice are cute too, I don’t care for them so much if they get in the house.
Then Mark stepped out on the deck and looked down. “Oh no,” he said. “There’s a bunch of feathers out here.”
When our senses get involved, everything has more impact. Knowing that hawks eat small critters is one thing. Seeing the carnage is another.
This is true for everything. Reading or being told about something affects our intellect. But seeing, hearing, or smelling, a traumatic or tragic event or its aftermath affects our emotions. That’s why authors are encouraged to provide sensory information to make a scene as real as possible.
I think the link between our intellect and emotion is an interesting one to explore. I think the opposite of what writers attempt to do, and using our intellect to distance ourselves from the emotional overload of sensory information, may also be possible and helpful in some circumstances.
Is that something you are able to do?