While we’re not watching

The backyard drops away from where our house sits on the hill. Because of that, our view from our windows is at, if not treetop level, certainly a tree-house level. From the bay windows around our kitchen table, I can watch birds while I eat. Since I spend a fair amount of time doing that on a daily basis, I witness things in the woods I might miss were I not watching.

Like this little hummingbird, for example.

The little humming bird is perched on the sycamore tree in the center of this photo.

“That little bird really likes to land at that spot,” I said to Mark. “I’ve seen it in that same exact spot several times in the past couple of days.”


I wanted to get it’s picture so I zoomed in with my camera, but the little lady wasn’t there.


I didn’t realize it immediately, but you may have guessed. She was making a nest.


It looks more like a nest when she is sitting on it.


She doesn’t rest there long.

Hummingbird with cottonwood seed fluff.

She’s busy scavenging building materials like cottonwood seeds,

Hummingbird with spider web

or spider webs, that you can just barely see if you look below her beak.

Hummingbird building nest

Then she has to tuck everything into the nest she’s building.


By the end of the day, she had made the nest cozy and comfortable with the soft white cottonseeds.


I don’t know if she spent the night there or not.

According to rubythroat.org, after the hummingbirds mate, the male and female have little or nothing to do with each other. She will be a single parent. A day or two after her nest is complete, she will lay two pea-sized eggs. Occasionally there may be only one, but she knows better than to try to manage feeding three on on her own—so usually only two.

Incubation lasts about two weeks. I should be able to tell because during this time period she will be on the nest 50 to 55 minutes every hour.

When the chicks hatch they are about 2 cm in length and not able to keep their bodies warm. The mother still stays with them, but leaves the nest for quick trips to find food which may be nectar, pollen, and tiny insects.

The chicks will stay in the nest about three weeks.

I’m really hoping to shoot a photo of the mother feeding the babies.

After dinner, Mark and I sat on our screened in porch, also at tree-house level. We saw a young doe, and then later a young buck, wander along the creek just inside the woods at the bottom of our yard. We listened to bird calls, occasionally hearing one we didn’t recognize. And watched an occasional flash of red in the trees as a cardinal found its perch for the night.

I feel fortunate to witness some of the wildlife here that shares this woods and this planet with us, and I wonder at all that I miss while I’m not watching.





Often I use my writing to inspire my photography. I’ll have a topic I want to write about and I’ll go find a picture. My editing post is a good example. I knew what I wanted to write about and I went in search of a photo. Granted, the clock photo is a bit of a stretch.


Sometimes I use my photography to inspire my writing. And as I’m participating in the 365 Project where you take a photo everyday, I should be able to generate a lot of inspiration. Yesterday’s brilliant puzzling post is a good example. As is today’s post.

Now, you might expect I’m going to write about home and hearth, warmth, passion, or any other number of things a burning flame brings to mind, but no.

The fire inspired me to write about that illusive quality we call inspiration. Writing from my photographs can be just one more tool in my limited toolbox.

How do you find inspiration? Care to share your secrets?


25th Annual Fort Ancient Celebration: A Gathering of Four Directions

Fort Ancient Pow Wow, was informative and soul-stirring.

Last Saturday, June 13, Mark and I attended the 25th Annual Fort Ancient Celebration: A Gathering of Four Directions, sometimes referred to as the Fort Ancient Pow Wow, with our photo group—Scoot and Shoot.


It was a two-day event filled with activities and demonstrations like talks about Herbs, a Dream Catcher Workshop, and Women’s Drum Demonstration:Struck by Lightning.

Vendors sold handmade crafts.

I bought a little pouch, like those hanging in the background, to carry my cell around when I am without pockets.

Two food trucks sold some traditional food, and not-so-traditional, food.

Frybread was a big item on the menu. I tried some with cinnamon and sugar and it reminded me a little of a thick, soft, cinnamon funnel cake. It was tasty, and no doubt fattening, which brings me to my next point.

I was given a short history lesson about frybread by the owner of the food truck I visited. When the US government forced the Indians to relocate to New Mexico, where their traditional crops of vegetables and beans wouldn’t grow, they gave them canned goods and the ingredients to make frybread: white flour, processed sugar and lard. By today’s standards, we all know how poorly this serves as nutrition.

“Frybread is revered by some as a symbol of Native pride and unity,” but it is also “ blamed for contributing to high levels of diabetes and obesity on reservations,” (Fry Bread, Inc). The Fry Bread link is interesting and worth a quick visit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGenerally, I like to take candid photos, following the implicit rule that if you are in a public place, you are fair game to be photographed. If I want to sell a photo I’ve taken of someone, however, I have to have signed permission. As a sign of respect, at this event, we were requested to ask permission before taking a photograph. We were granted permission to take photos of the Grand Entry with exception of a few particular times that included the veterans’ flag and honor songs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis dancer is waiting for the festivities to begin.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Grand Entry was largely a parade of participants who entered the arena accompanied by live music. I found it to be meditative and soul-stirring.

I spoke with the woman in front, in this photo, who told me she is 50% Native, but when she is not attending special events, she lives as the rest of us do. She is the mother of the young man with the long head dress in the above picture. The head dress was a gift from her. She is proud and happy that her son chooses to participate and honor his native heritage.

 This tiny dancer captured my heart. I also photographed another young girl, a little older than this one, who I overheard was participating for the first time. I snapped a shot of her as she was lining up for the Grand Entry. She was standing, very attentive and solemn, beside a woman who was teaching her what to do. I neglected to ask for permission before I captured that moment, so I am not sharing it here.


Fort Ancient, the site of the gathering is located in Warren County, Ohio, on a plateau above the Little Miami River. It is a prehistoric site built during the Hopewell Culture from 100 BC to 500 AD and consists of earthen walls and mounds built and used by prehistoric people to mark the movements of the sun and moon. Fort Ancient was primarily used for ceremonial and social gatherings on certain days of the year, as identified by solar and lunar movements.

“Today the structure is considered to be the largest and best preserved prehistoric Indian enclosure in North America,” (Ohio.com, Celebration a Gathering of the Four Directions).

The people who built Fort Ancient mounds were of the Hopewell Culture, not a specific tribe. Beginning around 200 B.C. archaeaologists noted a new Native American culture developing and spreading throughout the Midwest. They named the culture Hopewell. Tribes that identified as being part of the Hopewell culture had an agricultural lifestyle and complex trading system and tended to reside near major waterways. In Ohio, the Hopewell culture in strong in the Ohio Valley, the Scioto Valley, and the Miami Valley, (Ohio History Central, Hopewell Culture).

According to Indian Country Today, The Native earthworks in Ohio: in Newark; Serpent Mound, in Peebles; Fort Ancient, in Lebanon; and Hopewell Culture National Historical Park/Mound City, in Chillicothe—are being considered for UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites,”  (Indian Country Today, Ohio’s Magnificent Earthworks – an Ancient Astronomical Wonder).

You can read more about how the earthworks were made and function here: Ohio Earthworks.

Roller Girls – a Scoot and Shoot event

On the evening of May 10th, Scoot and Shoot visited the Roller Derby at Cincinnati Gardens. This was a particularly challenging photographing venue. There was low light and high action. I used a high ISO from 1600 to 3200, and had my lens wide open at an f-stop of 5.4. In some cases I tried to pan with the jammer. Mostly, I wanted to share with you the excitement of the Cincinnati Roller Girls.

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _01

The names alone will make you wonder—Cherry Choke, Cincy Psycho, Candy Kickass, or Hannah Barbaric. Rough and tough names for a rough and tough sport.

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _02Some of them come dressed to kill in flashy colors,

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _03sparkly shorts,

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _04tiger prints in florescent green,

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _05or stripes.

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _06Many are decorated with tattoos.

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _07Their clothes sometimes take a beating.

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _10 I’d never been to a roller derby before. I always thought of it as a rough race. But now I know more. The woman above is a jammer for the Cincinnati JV or Varsity “B” team, the Violent Lambs. The jammer for each team is the only person who can score points, and she does it by passing opposing team members.

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _12The rest of the skaters make up the pack. They try to block the opposing jammer. The game is played in 2-minute jams started by a whistle.

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _13The jammers start each jam behind the pack. The first jammer to get through the blockers is awarded the lead jammer. The lead jammer can decide to end the jam before the 2 minutes are up if it is to her team’s advantage to do so.Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _14Once the jammers have made it through the pack, they skate quickly around the rink and then they each begin to score a point for every opposing skater they pass in a lap, including the opposing jammer and penalized skaters who are sitting on the bench. (I’m not sure what actions result in penalties, or time-outs, but they happen quite regularly.) The refs skate around in the middle of the rink, call out  penalties, and keep track of the points each jammer earns.Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _15The jammer’s teammates not only try to block the opposing jammer from passing, but also set up blocking to help their own jammer get through.

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _16Because of all the blocking and pushing, the game gets a little rough at times.

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _17Blockers often try to push the jammer out of bounds. When that happens the jammer has to go to the back of the group and try again. Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _18Unlike my previous, uneducated impression, roller derbies are not just rough free-for-alls. The young women care about the game and how their team is doing.

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _19Here two jammers are going against each other. If the lead jammer falls behind, she can stop the jam so that her opponent does not score any more points.

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _20Here a blocker is trying to prevent the jammer from passing.

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _21This jammer has decided to end the jam. Her signal to the refs is raising her bent arms up and down. The ref blows the whistle; the skaters stop. And a new jam begins. Usually, (perhaps always) a new team of skaters takes over each time the jam ends.

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _23This jammer has broken through the blockers who turn to try to help their own jammer through.Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _24Often the jammers are the smallest skaters. If they can’t push their way through, they can sometimes squeeze through small openings and at times jump over obstructions. Maneuverability is important in a jammer.

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _25It’s an intense sport.

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _26The women play hard.

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _27A group of blockers tries to hold the line.

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _28An individual blocker tries to obstruct the jammer.

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _29Players get knocked down.

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _30

Players get hurt.

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _32The action is fast.

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _33Hearts and souls are in the game.

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _34They give it all they’ve got.

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _35They want to win.

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _36They push ahead.

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _37They stand their ground.

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _38They plan their strategies, play their hardest, and strive to win. They are competitors.

Roller Derby 2014-05-10- _39They are women.

The power of laughter

Our relationships with individuals are unique and take on their own, color, flavor, and song. My sister Carol, who is little more than one year older than me, has the unequaled ability to transport me back to a simpler time and place when days were long, responsibilities few, and laughter contagious.


Photograph compliments of my talented niece Kathryn Flowers
at Krystal Beauty in Sarasota, Florida.

I treasure the moments we’ve had, continue to have, and will have in the future. And I’d just like to say, “Thank you sister, for helping me free my joy now.”

Is there someone in your life who makes you feel the joy of childhood again?

The 365 project — a self-portrait

06-In the rear view
Self portrait—in the rear view mirror, August 6, 2013

Just when I need another project, I started taking part in the 365Project. One of my photographer friends who I met last year at the Balloon Glow, and who invited me to join the West Chester Photo Club, told me about the 365project. The idea is to take a photo a day and post it on your page there. You don’t have to post every day, but the photo should be taken each day.

Like many of the other social sites, you can make friends and comment on others’ photos. I think I will be able to learn a lot about photography this way.

You can find my photos here.

If you decide to join me there, make sure and let me know. You can tell me here or friend me there. I hope you will.

Traveling with Arthur — to Cedar Falls


The trail to Cedar Falls in Hocking Hills State Park was another easy one to travel although there were more steps than the Ash Cave lower trail. And we were actually walking on a dirt path instead of a concrete one for most of the way.


Interestingly enough, we were informed that there are actually no cedar trees in this park, although there are a lot of evergreens that I think were primarily hemlocks. Not sure where the name for Cedar Falls came from. An amateur botanist or two, no doubt.

03-Cedar_Falls-2013-04-22 _09

But there is a nice trail of water creating reflective still pools and gurgling along the trail to or, I suppose more technically correct, from Cedar Falls.

04-Cedar_Falls-2013-04-22 _13

Arthur was trying to figure out how to get a cool drink from his perch above the stream.

05-Cedar_Falls-2013-04-22 _13

It’s a beautiful and serene place to walk.

06-Cedar_Falls-2013-04-22 _26

Because of all the spring rain the falls were fully cascading. Mark remembered there was only a trickle here during our last visit several years ago.

07-Cedar_Falls-2013-04-22 _38

Cedar Falls is a popular attraction at Hocking Hills, and even on a Monday in April we found several people there. New friends for Arthur.

08-Cedar_Falls-2013-04-22 _47

I tried to get pictures of the water flowing smoothly, which you do by setting a slow shutter speed, which also creates blurred photos if you don’t have a tripod. Mine was in the car where it did me absolutely no good.

09-Cedar_Falls-2013-04-22 _52

So I did the best I could. This is something I will work on later, with my tripod.

10-Cedar_Falls-2013-04-22 _71

On the way back the trail ended at a crevice in stone. The children of a family of five who had already passed through were happy to tell us we could get through if we squeezed through the crevice, climbed down some boulders, and hopped across some stones in the creek.

11-Cedar_Falls-2013-04-22 _73

Arthur missed the part about skipping across the stones, as evidenced by the lower half of each leg.

13-Cedar_Falls-2013-04-22 _76

We saw this sign on the other side of the creek as we continued on our way.
You can see the remnants of what might have been a bridge in the rubble in the background.

No harm, no fowl.
Just two grown adults and a little white dog.

Audubon BirdCam – Take-1

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.

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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.

Just when I thought I’d seen it all

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.

Or this.

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.

A hawk haunts the feeding grounds

The hawk watches the birdfeeder.

Since we put our bird feeders back up a few weeks ago, we have had a constant parade of small birds like finches, chickadees, sparrows, and wrens, and larger birds like red-bellied wood-peckers, cardinals, red-winged blackbirds, and blue jays enjoying our hospitality.

But sometimes the absence of birds is notable and I look to the trees for a predator.

The hawk watches me as I photograph him from inside our house.

I know the hawks need to eat too. I just find it horrifying to contemplate one darting down, capturing me with its sharp claws, and flying off with me in its grasp, if I were, say, a small bird, or a chipmunk that frequents the ground below our feeder. How horrifying to end your short life as a predator’s meal.

I saw this happen a week or two ago.

It happens everywhere all the time.

Survival of the fittest.

We first noticed this hawk at 12:46 p.m. I don’t know what time it had arrived.

Nearly two hours later at 2:38, the hawk has slightly changed his position in the tree, but still waits. And watches.

I thought it might be a Cooper’s Hawk, but my good friend and naturalist tells me in the comments below that it’s a Sharp-shinned Hawk.

It’s a beautiful bird.

And it needs to eat too.


Posts and photos about other hawks I’ve seen:

The Red-Tailed Hawk or Arthur’s narrow escape – January 2012
Hunting in the daytime – The Great Horned Owl – January 2012
The Cooper’s Hawk shines golden – March 2012
The big birds were out today – Birds of prey at the VOA – September 2012

Read more about the Cooper’s Hawk at Cornell Lab’s All About Birds.