October 26th

Friday, October 26th, 2018

The swans are a-movin’!

Flocks of 20+ birds have been flying around all day. Paul and I were outside all day working on a super fun personal project (more on that tomorrow…), and they kept flying over.

While this image isn’t overly pretty or technically great, it was at least not taken on my phone 😉

Can’t wait to share about our project tomorrow!!

October 21st

Sunday, October 21st, 2018

The sun was just starting to peek through the thin layer of clouds this morning when I looked out and saw this.

The swans are on the move, and they’ve chosen our pond as one of their flocking up points. By the end of the day, we had over 40 swans on the pond.

It was quite noisy.

They trumpet and coo and playfully splash with one another, which is loud in itself, but the taking off the water is the truly noisy part. It rings through the air and sounds like it should – pairs of massive wings and webbed feet slapping the surface of the water as they run across the water trying to gain speed and altitude. But, in contrast, when they come in to land, it is a soft sound; their wings are cupped, and their big, webbed feet break the surface of the water and they gently glide over the top until they settle all the way into the water. It’s nearly silent.

Combined with the sounds of our fields getting harvested today, there wasn’t much quiet.

Those who came out to the patch today got quite the treat though – the swans were constantly landing and taking off, essentially buzzing the field as they do, and the combine was in the field for the majority of the afternoon, which we all don’t get much of an opportunity to simply stand and watch them work.

A busy day for all.

September 9th

Sunday, September 9th, 2018

What a day.

I had four images that I had a really hard time picking between for today. Many firsts for me, so none could really outrank any others in terms of that. The quality of the stories that go along with them are about all the same.

So I’m going chronologically.

So, we’re starting with our main image for today: the Sandhill Cranes.

Yesterday I had mentioned that Paul and I were getting up early to head back over  to the wildlife refuge, and we did indeed do that. We knew we were really a month early for large flocks, but we wanted to check out the viewing area and I wanted to check out the lighting possibilities. A dry run if you will.

The Sandhills stage inside the park – in a specific area closed to the public – but they have separate areas around the park to view them as they fly over.

We got there before sunrise, and the noise from the Sandhill Crane flocks were so loud! The park ranger we had talked to the other day told us we’d hear them before we saw them, and she wasn’t kidding!

We were the only two there, so we set up camp. Camera gear came out (Paul brought his too!), along with folding chairs, donuts, and our thermos of coffee.

It was so relaxing! We chatted, ate our breakfast, drank our coffee, and would get up to photograph when any flew over.

Today, most of the birds flew to the east, so we never really had any come close, but this flock of four flew over the treetops right as the sun began to peek through the trees.

We’ll definitely be going back again throughout September and October.

Then, after the sun came up and the flocks had flown, we cruised around the perimeter of the park. We came up over a hill to a turkey traffic jam!

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If you followed my blog last summer, you know that I had a little run in with a resident Turkey at the farm. I attempted to photograph her all summer; I’d see her and she’d be gone. It became a sort of game. But then one day she literally showed up on my front porch and stared in our window at me, and it surprised both of us I think, haha!

So this run in made me smile. Especially since we followed them for about 750 feet before they decided to finally take to the ditch. I’m the meantime, I hopped out of the truck to grab a quick picture. Too fun!

Most of the park is hiking, but they do have one 7 mile wildlife loop that you can drive through. So we decided to check that out.

Bald Eagles, ducks, swans, pelicans, Sandhill Cranes, deer, wildflowers, native grasses, the list goes on. Here are a couple that I got from that drive:

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I had never been this close to Pelicans, so I was SUPER pumped!

Guys, I’m telling you, this place is so great! If you want to waster a couple hours on a nice day and see some wildlife, go here.

May 2nd

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2018

Remember how I said the swans had been grounded for a couple of days?

Well, they seem to be here to stay. It’s to the point where I know their routine. They come into the field overnight, walk down to the pond for morning feeding, back into the field through the afternoon, back to pond for evening feeding, overnight in field, repeat.

Here, one of them is walking down to the pond for evening feeding.

March 17th

Saturday, March 17th, 2018

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! My day ended pretty miraculously with a pot of gold (sky) at the end of the rainbow. But more on that in a minute.

The weather was just miraculous today – 50 degrees, light wind, full sun. I was outside in just a sweatshirt today, and I didn’t realize how much my soul needed that. I was a rebel and even turned off the furnace and opened the windows this afternoon. The fresh air in the house was heavenly.

I planted the seeds for my garden today – just another sign of spring. Snap Dragons, Alyssum, peppers, jalapenos, tomatoes, just to name a few. They’re obviously being started inside, but watching them germinate and grow is such a delight for me.

I was so wrapped up in the beauty of the day that I hadn’t taken any pictures. So, it was a pleasant surprise when the swans started moving around tonight on my way back from the barn.

It started with a couple…and then they were everywhere.

The geese are starting to come back, and have been encroaching on the swan’s feeding grounds. So I guess tonight was the last straw, and the geese weren’t welcome anymore. Everyone was worked up – honking, trumpeting. It was like a tornado of large birds – and it was AWESOME.

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These are just a couple of my favorites. The sky just kept changing, and they all kept flying.

Once things had finally started to calm down a little, then I hear the distinct call of a Sandhill Crane. They’ve been around (six were in the field today), but this guy has been flying around alone all week. I don’t know if he lost his mate, or if he’s a juvenile just kicked out of the nest, looking for a mate, but boy is he loud.

Either way, it was so peaceful the way he flew over the trees. They aren’t overly graceful birds, however in the air they look so gentle and steady. I think this is because they have a very large wingspan, meaning they don’t flap their wings often in flight. If you don’t hear them coming (again, they’re loud – they sound like dinosaurs), they’re easy to spot in the sky.

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March 13th

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

Today has been a far better day than yesterday.

First, I wanted to follow up on how Burke’s doing – you all have been so thoughtful in reaching out this morning to check in on him. I treasure all of you!

Burke is back to his spunky, sassy self this morning – his hunger is insatiable, he’s steady on his feet, and he’s back to bossing the cats around. As I’m sitting at my desk, I turned around and took these just now:

Not pictured: Colt and Finn also snoozing in the sun. They’re just as happy to have him back as I am (…almost).

So again, thank you so much to those who reached out with love and prayers. Yesterday was, honestly, a really crappy day, and it meant so much to know that you all were thinking of us. Thank you!

So today, it’s like God wanted to make it up to me photographically. Either that, or all the critters are out and about, happy for the warmth and sunshine. It was really a day that it was so hard to pick one image, so you’re getting them all.

Let’s start with the one I did pick for the featured photo today.

Driving up the driveway to the farm today, there were two swans standing on the edge of the pond. So I stopped and photographed them for a few minutes until they flew away to join more that flew in overhead.

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So that caused me to leave my camera in the car when I took Henna for a walk in the woods. I thought oh, great I’ve gotten my picture for today, and it’s mid-day, full sun. The owls won’t be out today (I’ve only ever seen them in the middle of the day on overcast days). I’ll just enjoy the walk, I told myself.

Wrong, wrong, all wrong.

How many times have I said: ALWAYS HAVE YOUR CAMERA. Enough times that I should know better.

Henna runs into the woods, and sure enough there she (the owl) is. She spooked from the tree she was in and flew into AN OPEN AREA. INTO DECENT LIGHT. No trees to obstruct my view, I’m actually on the right side for decent light. COURTNEY RAE WHERE IS YOUR CAMERA.

At the farm in my car.

I’m not a runner (especially in the deeper snow), but I RAN back to the farm (probably about 1/3 mile). Henna thought it was glorious, but I was fueled by frustration: It takes no extra time or energy to bring your camera. ALWAYS BRING THE CAMERA, COURTNEY. ALWAYS. I kicked my own butt all the way back.

I closed Henna in the barn, grabbed my camera, and jogged back out to the woods.

“Please, please, please God. I’ll give you all the glory, all the credit if you just keep that beautiful owl in that tree. I’ll shout your name from the rooftops. Please, please, please.”

I got back into position, and she was gone. The disappointment was crushing, but there was nothing I could do. I missed my chance. The annual glance at her came and went; I missed it.

So I stood there, sulking, for a few minutes. Lecturing myself.

Well, I thought, maybe she was just out of range anyway. Maybe I wouldn’t have gotten my shot anyways. So I raise my camera and snap a picture, just to appease myself that it wouldn’t have worked anyway. Here is that image:

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Is anyone good at “I Spy”? She’s in this image. This is why I have so much love and respect for God’s creation. I stood there for minutes, and I was looking for her – I knew exactly where she had been and I still didn’t see her until the camera found her.

Hey, ya’ll – God is a pretty awesome guy. He makes beautiful things, and follows through on his promises. On top of the swans and the owl, he also sent these guys my way today:

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The squirrel may not seem like a challenge, but trust me, wild squirrels that are self sufficient and don’t rely on humans for food are extremely shy. They aren’t like college campus Squirrels. And this guy is a Fox Squirrel, which aren’t overly common – the result of a Gray Squirrel and Red Squirrel that mate. He plants himself there in front of our trail cam all day everyday, but I’ve never seen him while out there myself. He made me smile!

November 29th

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

I feel as if all of the animals have deserted us. All except the swans.

They are a steady presence here on the farm. While the geese, ducks, and many songbirds have fled for warner climates, the swans press on.

Water for roosting overnight, empty corn fields for feeding during the day.

These two cygnets weren’t very happy with me for slowing down to photograph them today. Lots of big displays of wing flapping and trumpeting. A couple weeks ago they would have flown in concern; now as they’ve gotten used to the vehicles they stand their ground.

November 13th

Monday, November 13th, 2017

We woke up to 98 swans in the stubble field next to our house.

NINETY EIGHT PEOPLE!

It’s that time of year – the lakes and ponds are starting to freeze, and the fields are harvested. The come in large numbers to feed on the remaining corn in the fields, finding safety in numbers.

It’s magical.

I could hear them trumpeting from inside the house. And they continually fly in and out in random heats, and their runway is over our house. So it sounds like the swans are dive-bombing our house.

Magical.

November 6th

Monday, November 6th, 2017

The pond on the farm was iced over this morning!

My mom and I stood in the backyard as we watched five swans (two parents, three cygnets) come in to land. There was no wind, the air was so still, and as they came in and their feet gracefully slid across the ice, the thin, delicate ice made made the most beautiful sound as it echoed through the air. If sparkling had a sound, that’s what it sounded like. It was magical.

They shook out their feathers and settled in quickly; the entire family relaxed into a nap on top of the ice.

As I drove back up the driveway to head home, I stopped to photograph them. It took them a couple of minutes before they realized I was there. I stood quietly for a while, as its not often that swans are caught with their guard down.

This pair and their cygnets have been on our pond on and off throughout the fall. I know it’s them, as many of the swans start the nesting season with 5-8 cygnets, but usually end up with only one, two if they’re lucky, by the end of the season. I’m not sure what exactly preys on young swans, but whatever it is it’s efficient.

So these five stand out because of the fact that three survived (way to go mom and dad!). In this image, these are two of the three – note the grey feathers on their head and back? Although they are the same size and mom and dad already, they won’t be completely white until they molt out next year.

Swans are fascinating to me. Did you know that swans mate for life? In fact, even though most swans aren’t sexually mature until age 4-7, most Swans find their mates before they are 2 years old! Due to this, young Swans will often play “house;” they test out different nesting habitats and build nests in preparation for parenting in future years.

October 31st

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

Happy Halloween!

I can tell I’m getting “older.” Each year Halloween drops farther and farther down my list of priorities.

The highlight of my day today was finding several swans in a recently harvested stubble field. Pathetic 😉

I suppose that’s attributed to the fact that we live in a rural area, so no trick-or-treaters came to our house, and with no kids of my own and no nieces or nephews, I’m just not connected to the trick-or-treating scene. I’m also not one for parties, so adult Halloween parties are out.

Not ashamed to say I spent the evening with the hubs and bun watching a movie 🙂

March 31st

Friday, March 31st, 2017

I think they’re starting to get used to me.

Every year, we have the same pair of swans that nest behind our house. Within the last few days they’ve been keeping other large waterfowl off of the pond, trumpeting and shaking out their wings when other Swan pairs fly over. When they start getting territorial like that, that usually means she’s getting ready to lay her eggs. They also aren’t as shy – I walked right up to them and they only looked at me curiously then went back to feeding. Here’s hoping they have a large brood this spring!