an everyday photo, every day | photography • art • poetry

wildlife

Ducks in Diamonds

mallard ducks on water
mallard ducks on water

Ducks in Diamonds

Brilliant sun for once, and somewhat mild temperatures brought out all the wildlife on my walk to Main Street. The mallard ducks who live on the creek came out to have a little swim. The sunlight was so bright on the water but it also brought out all the colors reflected on the water from the sky to buildings and even vehicles.

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The Christmas Moon copyright ©2011 Bernadette E. Kazmarski. All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.


‘Tis A Puzzlement

female cardinal in tree
female cardinal in tree

‘Tis A Puzzlement

Cardinals can be such intellectuals.

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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.


Bright Spot in a Dark Day

male northern cardinal
male northern cardinal

Bright color

It was so dark today that even this male Northern Cardinal’s brilliant feathers were dulled down instead of his typical flaming red. He’s tucked into the bare branches inside the spruce while ice pellets are falling, not a nice weather for anyone out there.

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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.


Camouflage

photo of sparrows on branch
photo of sparrows on branch

Camouflaged

There really is a subject, or subjects, to this photo.

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For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.


Heartwood

split tree
split tree

Heartwood

This tree trunk was 20″ in diameter one-third of its height from the top above where the lightning struck it. It’s a wild black cherry, so the cherry wood is beautiful, but for a tree with such dense grain it splintered with the force of the lightning, and shards of bark are all over the streets. This is part of what fell in my neighbor’s yard, which was essentially half the top of the tree; the trunk had split years ago and the tree had two tops.

tree branches

The top of the tree, just a pile of branches.

Even the doe looks shocked at the scene. Either that or she’s following me. Or she wants to be a model and likes to have her picture taken.

doe with tree branches

Even the doe is surprised.

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For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.

All images in this post are copyright © Bernadette E. Kazmarski and may not be used without prior written permission.


Please Don’t Eat the Geraniums

doe with flowers
doe with flowers

Please don’t eat the geraniums…

She did anyway.

This was taken through the screen on my basement door.

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For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.

All images in this post are copyright © Bernadette E. Kazmarski and may not be used without prior written permission.


A Good Traveler

black and white, lao tzu
black and white, lao tzu

“A Good Traveler”

“A good traveler has no fixed plans,
and is not intent on arriving.”

~Lao-Tzu in Chapter 27 of the Tao te Ching, tr. Stephen Mitchell

It doesn’t mean you make no plans, just that you allow them to change.

These geese look like a bunch of tourists ambling along, and yet on that day, July 10, 2013, we had had heavy rains and our creek, their home, had nearly topped its banks. They had fled the water and the banks and were up in the parking lot and on the streets for safety, yet they were being calm and collected, for a bunch of geese, while the humans were racing around predicting a flood that was not likely to arrive, though it looked imminent.

But aside from that lesson, I’ve always liked the photo of the geese.

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For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.

All images in this post are copyright © Bernadette E. Kazmarski and may not be used without prior written permission.


An Unexpected Visitor

deer in wildflowers
deer in wildflowers

An Unexpected Visitor

Some people may be laughing very hard right now that I was surprised to find a deer in my back yard, considering they seem to be everywhere as we’ve taken over their habitat and they find our landscaping more than edible. But in the 25 years I’ve been here I’ve never even seen a deer in my neighborhood let alone in my yard. I’ve been kind of glad for my garden, though the groundhog does as much damage as a herd of deer. But I couldn’t even figure out how the deer got in my yard. It’s not entirely fenced, only on two sides, but there are brush piles and dense shrubs on the other sides so the back yard is pretty protected, and not easy for a deer to break into…unless he walked through the spot Mimi and I had walked through the other day.

I returned from errands today and prepared to step out to the back yard for a bit with Mimi—she had been waiting all day and was letting me know about that. I had my container of things for the compost and my cameras and just went to the sink to fill the watering can when I looked out the window and saw…

A buck sleeping in my back yard.

A buck sleeping in my back yard.

Of course I raced around with my cameras photographing out the windows and into the back yard with my zoom lens. I wasn’t interested in getting caught in my yard with a deer who might feel he was trapped. He didn’t pay me much attention, though, just layed around here and there, got up and had a snack on wild grape leaves and goldenrod stems, which is fine with me.

A buck sleeping in my back yard.

Standing up–he looks a little shaggy still.

It looks like he’s still shedding out his winter coat, and the velvet is still on his antlers, so he’s looking far and wide for food. At this point there is nothing actively growing in my garden. The early things are done and the weather was too wet and cold to work the soil so I decided to wait before planting again.

A buck sleeping in my back yard.

“I hear a human.”

Interestingly, while I was photographing at my garden gate, from where I got most of these photos, I heard a familiar avian voice and heard a humming, and turned to see a humming bird hovering near me. It left, then came back and perched on a branch in the lilac, but didn’t seem to be upset with me being there, if there was a nest near, for instance. They can be quite aggressive but this female just seemed to be spending time with me. I see them at the feeder in front, and soon the geraniums and scarlet runner beans will be blooming to their great delight.

The buck left the yard while I was inside for just a moment and I didn’t see how he’d gone. I went up the street to look into other backyards and talk to my neighbor who has cats and a dog and kids to see if they’d ever seen a deer in the yard or the neighborhood and they had not. We all went down to my yard so I could show the kids some cardinal nests in my spruce and give them some doggy goodies from Saturday, when another neighbor came up the street from a block away to show me a photo he’d taken of the deer in my back yard. Apparently it was the talk of some of the neighborhood this afternoon! He told me he’d seen them come down the alley from the top of the hill a few times, but today his father had told him, “That girl has a buck in her yard,” so he came up to photograph the buck. He’ll be sending it to me, and when I get it I’ll add it—it was a very nice photo, and I’m so glad he told me he’d seen the buck before.

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For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.

All images in this post are copyright © Bernadette E. Kazmarski and may not be used without prior written permission.


Family Outing

Canada Geese on the creek
Canada Geese on the creek

Family Outing

Mom and dad and the kids out for a little practice swim on the creek.

This would have been so nice if I’d had my DSLR, but I’m glad to have seen them nonetheless. They are paddling upstream, and a little farther down was another two adults with a whole bundle of little fuzzballs floating on the water. I couldn’t even count them, way more than two geese typically have, but that explained why the first two only had two.

It’s rare that I don’t have the good camera with me, but when I forget it or leave the house too fast I’m sure to see something like this shot of the great blue heron that would have been fantastic with my good lens.

great blue heron

Great Blue Heron

 

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For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.

All images in this post are copyright © Bernadette E. Kazmarski and may not be used without prior written permission.


Baltimore is Back!

Baltimore Oriole in maple tree
Baltimore Oriole in maple tree

Baltimore Oriole

I’ve heard his chatter and song off an on for a week or so and I finally spotted him. The Baltimore Oriole is back in the back yard, leaping from branch to branch high in the maples, looking for a good meal of bugs and other good stuff. I first spotted one in my yard nearly 15 years ago and it seemed to be lured to the wild black cherry. Since then I’ve let a few extra mulberries grow because orioles do like their fruit and will nest near a good food source. I had found the hanging way at the end of a branch in the maple in the front yard, then a few years later in the maple in the back yard; somewhere I have a photo of it, but I’ll be darned if I can find it.

Wild Black Cherries

Wild Black Cherries

Mulberries

Mulberries

The leaves are just big enough now that birds are obscured, and the females are about the color of new maple leaves, so though I scanned the trees top to bottom with binoculars I did not spot the female. I’ll keep a lookout for this year’s nest, and keep my hummingbird feeders full and add the oriole feeder this year as well as put out some orange slices and other tasty fruits. The mulberry tree directly under this maple has the biggest, darkest, juiciest mulberries on any of the trees in my yard, in fact, they look more like big blackberries. The wild black cherries are small and turn a deep black-purple. This seems to be the fruit varieties and colors the orioles like best, although both trees are often considered “pest” or “weed” trees because from blossoms to fruits to leaves to branches they are “messy” trees. I’ve no doubt, though, they are two of the reasons I have so many bird species in my yard.

They’re not named for the city of Baltimore, but both the city and the bird were named for the British Baltimore family whose colors are orange and black.

These were the best photos I could get from the ground and from the deck. The maple trees are 70 to 80 feet tall and this guy was happily hopping along the tops of all the branches. If I can get a shot from the second-floor window I’ll be so happy! And I may have to seriously consider fitting a converter onto my 70-300 lens, or getting a lens up to 500mm.

Baltimore Oriole in maple tree

Baltimore Oriole

 

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For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.

All images in this post are copyright © Bernadette E. Kazmarski and may not be used without prior written permission.

 


Backyard Bunny, original pastel sketch

“Backyard Bunny”, soft pastels on pastello paper, 11″ x 8″ © Bernadette E. Kazmarski
“Backyard Bunny”, soft pastels on pastello paper, 11″ x 8″ © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

“Backyard Bunny”, soft pastels on pastello paper, 11″ x 8″ © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

I’ve been photographing plenty, but all this new color and sunlight makes it prime time for artwork too.

I’d been watching the bunnies in the back yards since early morning in my yard and the neighbor’s and decided I’d eventually do a sketch of them. I spent a good part of yesterday working in my garden and I did take my drawing materials outside but I only got a start out there; I finished it inside and bunnies have many of the same habits as it bears a resemblance to a photo I’d taken of a bunny in the back yard a few years ago. I’m sure as I finished the sketch, unfortunately without having taken a reference photo, I had that image in mind since I’ve used it for a number of articles here as well as in designs for customers. I’m glad I finally got around to sketching our backyard bunny, it’s one of the sketches and paintings I’ve been planning for years. Maybe I’ll even sketch that pesky squirrel too…

This is done in pastel on pastello paper with just my limited outdoor set of pastels.

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For the original or a print of this sketch, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.

This was first posted on The Creative Cat where I post original daily sketches of my cats each day.


Everything Matters

frog in pond
frog in pond

Everything Matters

Including a homely little frog who found a home in a reclaimed golf course pond, taken on Earth Day 2006 in a conservation area. Happy Earth Day.

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For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.


Two Ducks on a Date

two mallards
two mallards in water

Two Ducks on a Date

These two mallards were incredibly sweet, down stream from the rest of the group and slowly circling an area of the creek as if they were graceful ice-skaters skating arm in arm and just getting to know each other. Later they were really funny in their little mallard mating dance, he bobbing his head up and down and she lowering her head to the water level in approval—I wish I’d had the chance to get a little video but I was too far away. Then after that was finished they kissed under water, or is this the equivalent of one soda and two straws? On Chartiers Creek in Carnegie, PA.

two mallards

Mating Dances

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For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms. For photos of lots of black cats and other cats—and even some birds as I first published this post there—visit The Creative Cat.


The Belted Kingfisher

belted kingfisher
kingfisher watching water

Fishing for dinner.

This bird has been teasing me for two years as I walk along this section of the creek on my way to and from Main Street. He blends in with just about any backdrop and waits until I just about stumble over him, makes his chittering little noise and flies off before I have a chance to even get my camera in position!

kingfisher

Closeup of kingfisher.

Of course, he’s protecting his territory, holding fast until the last moment, then leading me away. He’s still been impossible to photograph as I either haven’t had my good camera with me or changing lenses took too long, but in the process I’ve had a chance to observe more of his habits, which saplings he flies to, when he skims down to the water, and even dives in. And he is a male; the female has a band of copper on her chest below the gray band that both sexes wear.

belted kingfisher

View of the kingfisher from the side.

So today I followed this bird along one bank of the creek, then back, across a bridge and down the other bank for a ways, and across a second bridge. To explain, two bridges span the creek maybe 100 yards apart, and the creek itself is about 40 feet wide though the banks are high. The light can be tricky, but I finally got the photo I wanted along with a few extras, and two I didn’t expect to get!

kingfisher

Taking flight.

The temperature was about 20 degrees, about 4:30 pm, and this kingfisher was looking for a dinner of fresh fish, really remarkable for our creek which had once been so polluted algae wouldn’t even grow in it. I didn’t want to bother him too much, but I really couldn’t imagine voluntarily diving into that frigid water for my dinner, but this time he wasn’t concerned about me—and I think he got his dinner!

kingfisher lands in water

Splash!

Perhaps the kingfisher is a more accurate predictor than Phil the groundhog. Kingfishers symbolize sunshine, warmth, love and prosperity and presage new adventures.

belted kingfisher

Kingfisher on a branch watching the water for fish.

All this while two mallards were floating around on a date. More about the two of them and their shenanigans another time. Ah, spring.

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For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms. For photos of lots of black cats and other cats—and even some birds as I first published this post there—visit The Creative Cat.


Red-breasted Mergansers

merganser on creek
merganser on creek

Which way?

Even from a distance as I took my shortcut from Main Street under the bridge along the creek I knew these three water fowl were neither the common mallards I’m accustomed to nor the geese I’d seen earlier. Being able to look through a telephoto lens is almost as good as having binoculars sometimes—the crunchy snow and ice on the ground made quite a bit of noise and the birds, whatever they were, might easily be startled and take off before I was close enough to get a good photo.

merganser on creek

Cruising along.

These are taken at 300mm, and from a distance of about 50 yards, but I knew those mohawks were something special! And the long thin beaks and red eyes. I took as many photos as I could and looked them up in my bird guide as soon as I got home and found they looked like the entry for red-breasted mergansers. A cross-check with a wildlife biologist confirmed it.

mergansers on the creek

Through the rapids

They are far more common on larger or deeper bodies of water like lakes and rivers, not 18″ deep Chartiers Creek, but I was glad to welcome them here and actually get photos of their visit.

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For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms. For photos of lots of black cats and other cats—and even some birds as I first published this post there—visit The Creative Cat.


Valentine’s Day, a Photo and Poem

two cardinals
two cardinals

Two cardinals on Valentine’s Day.

What bird matches the colors of Valentine’s Day more than the American Cardinal, especially that bright red male cardinal? The female is a browner shade and it might seem unfair that the male gets to be so showy while she is somewhat drab, but the female sits on the eggs while the male flies around as a distraction to predators, literally risking his life to make sure his lady and the next generation are safe.

This morning the male cardinal let the female eat first after what seemed some courteous encouragement on his part, then before I could photograph all birds disappeared as the Cooper’s Hawk landed in the maple tree. So much for the annual Valentine’s Day cardinal photo. The photo above is from 2012; I let PhotoShop combine the two photos I had taken of the cardinals because I couldn’t fit them into one shot. I’m not sure what it did with the missing tree branches, but at least the cardinals are where they should be!

two cardinals

Valentine’s Day Breakfast for the Lovers

All birds are pairing off already, as this couple of cardinals to the right demonstrate. This usually begins soon after February 2, that magic day when winter changes over to spring and all the creatures feel the stirring of the cycle, including the groundhog. The young cardinals have been showing off with spectacular aeronautics through the trees and all over the backyard, which is lower than my house so I get to see them from the top with the sun shining full on their feathers.

On several different occasions in the spring I had seen a male cardinal run off to the feeder to get a sunflower seed and bring it back to his lady, offering it with a bow. One of these occasions happened to be Valentine’s Day a few years ago. Honestly, I’m not anthropomorphizing (interpreting animal activity by human traits), because I later read in an article about birds that this is a ritual that cardinal couples undertake during courting. Perhaps the two below are on a honeymoon since this was taken in summer.

two cardinals feeding each other

The Kissing Cardinals

I wrote a poem about it after reading the explanation. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day

He doesn’t have to give this gift to her
and she doesn’t have to receive it
as she could easily feed herself
but she perches on a branch
while he flies to the feeder
grasps a sunflower seed
and flies back to perch next to her;
they tilt their heads as if to kiss
as she accepts this seed of his love,
the bright red cardinal’s first act of courtship
to his dark red mate
on Valentine’s Day.

“Valentine’s Day” © 2008 Bernadette E. Kazmarski

I read this poem as part of my 2008 annual poetry reading and art exhibit, “Winter Twilight”.

Read more poetry here on Today or visit my poetry page to see more about my poetry and other writing, and to purchase Paths I Have Walked.


poetry book

Paths I Have Walked, collected poems.

I’m proud to offer a folio of my poetry

Paths I Have Walked: the poetry and art of Bernadette E. Kazmarski

FROM FOUR ANNUAL POETRY READINGS AT ANDREW CARNEGIE FREE LIBRARY & MUSIC HALL IN CARNEGIE, PA

People who attended one or more of my poetry readings encouraged me to publish some of my poetry in a book from the beginning.

Once I completed my 2010 poetry reading, my fourth featuring the final piece of artwork in the “Art of the Watershed” series, I decided it was time to publish something and it should be those four poetry readings.

Poetry books are not best-sellers; it’s difficult to convince a publisher to risk effort on a beginning poet, and while self-publishing is the best option it’s not inexpensive and once you’ve got the book, someone’s got to market it. Plus, I’m a graphic designer and I designed books for years, and I want things my way.

All of this is a recipe for a little bit of trouble, but I decided the book was well worth the effort so I designed the book myself and had a set printed—no ISBN or anything formal, but it’s a start! I’m really excited to offer it.

Books are 4.25″ x 11″, 40 pages of information and poetry, with glossy covers featuring “Dusk in the Woods” and little thumbnails of all four pieces in “Art of the Watershed”.

$8.00 each plus $2.50 shipping (they are oversized for mailing first class).

You can order one on my poetry page, or in my Marketplace.

About the books and the poetry readings

My biggest inspiration for poetry, prose and artwork is the world right around me, and I enjoy the opportunity to share it from the perspective of one who walks and hikes and bikes and carries a camera, art materials and journal everywhere—even around the house—so the inspirations are fresh.

In December, 2006, two of my poems were chosen to be published on a section of the Prairie Home Companion website entitled “Stories From Home/First Person” for submissions of writing about the place we feel most familiar. I’m a long-time listener to PHC and reader of Garrison Keillor’s books as well as a daily listener to The Writer’s Almanac featuring news about writers and writing and of interest to writers as well as a poem, all compiled and read by Keillor himself. I was astonished to find my poems were among the first chosen from apparently thousands, and so happy to be able to share them with a potential audience of so many similarly inclined writers and readers.

My poetry readings and art exhibits were the vision of Maggie Forbes, executive director of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, after learning of my publishing of those two
poems. I owe her many thanks for encouraging me to present this combination of my visual and literary art, a first for me. I love that building, every inch of it, and the opportunity to bring people in to visit is an honor.


Geese and Ripples

canada geese on water
canada geese on water

Geese

A sunny winter day with big clouds can offer interesting lighting; in this case a huge cloud traveled over the geese and me, while all around the sky was bright and the hills were lit by winter sun. All the light in this image is comes in at an angle and reflects onto the geese and water, cool winter light enhancing all the shades of blue as the geese calmly paddle along on Chartiers Creek in Carnegie.

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For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms. For photos of lots of black cats and other cats—and even some birds as I first published this post there—visit The Creative Cat.


Birds in Air

two sparrows
two sparrows

Birds in Air

I was happy for a sunny morning too!

The light was just right to be able to catch the birds with a fast shutter speed, so for once I could capture the details of their activity. Some of them look as if they are suspended in air! I absently took photos hoping for the best. The photo above was cropped out of a larger one because these two look as if they are celebrating—although, knowing sparrows, they are probably bickering.

The two photos below show the sparrows taking over the birdbath from the cardinal, and just the press of birds in and around the feeder. It’s like watching waves as they fly in and out, and they have such energy.

sparrows at bird feeder.

With the cardinal.

sparrows at feeder

Lots of sparrows.

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For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms. For photos of lots of black cats and other cats—and even some birds as I first published this post there—visit The Creative Cat.


Turn Up the Heat on That

bird nest in branches, saturated
bird nest in branches, saturated

Turn Up the Heat

I decided to play around a little more with “Holding Pattern”. Now it looks like a summer bird’s nest with an egg in it.

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For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms. For photos of lots of black cats and other cats—and even some birds as I first published this post there—visit The Creative Cat.


Holding Pattern

Holding Pattern

Holding Pattern

A songbird nest, filled only with cold snow, is snugly held not only in the reaching twigs of Japanese knotweed along the creek but also in the overall crisscross pattern the branches make from a certain angle.

Right on both sides of the solstice, the days seem uniformly short and the nights long, and often the weather, however it chooses to express itself, is incessant as we take on a holding pattern as well.

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For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms. For photos of lots of black cats and other cats—and even some birds as I first published this post there—visit The Creative Cat.


Safe Camouflage

wild rabbit under tree
wild rabbit under tree

Safe Camouflage

“Is it safe to come out?”

Each year around this time a juvenile bunny moves into our yard, pretty well grown up now and ready to winter over to be ready for spring. They nestle into the brush piles I have round the fence, judging by where I see their tracks leading to and fro in the snow. They visit areas in the front and back yards near the bird feeders. I know they eat bird seed sometimes, and they also clean up all the little sprouts around the bird feeders, even those that happen to sprout in mid winter.

Though I am close to the street, the area is well-protected for little critters. That spruce is taller than my house and blocks the wind, and I leave the branches dense on the south-facing side of the tree. The bare branches on the shaded sides of the tree are great cover for little birds, and along with the shrubs along my property line down the side of the house it’s pretty snug.

We won’t see too much of the bunny during the day as the weather gets colder, but I always see both the front yard and back yard bunny out at night in winter, and find lots of tracks in the snow. For now our front yard bunny tucked neatly in under the edge of the spruce and the burning bush.

See another view of our bunny on The Creative Cat.

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For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms. For photos of lots of black cats and other cats—and even some birds as I first published this post there—visit The Creative Cat.


A Little Fawn

white-tailed deer fawn
white-tailed deer fawn

Fawn looking at me.

Driving home this evening I saw a fawn in tall grass in an abandoned yard along a back road. The dusk was deep enough that I didn’t have enough natural light for a good photo using my telephoto lens, even when I turned my engine off and balanced my camera on the door of my car with the window open. I was only pulled right off the side of the road, and I knew if I got out to get my tripod the fawn would run–it already had when I stopped the car the first time, gone past, turned around, stopped, then gone ahead and circled back again, the fawn must have though I was nuts. But it was the whole composition, the trees on the left and right, grasses, wildflowers, the way the fawn was standing, all so nice. Then mom showed up, stomped her feet and off they went–along with another fawn! But here, at least, are the remnants of a photo that would have been very nice under different conditions.

white-tailed deer fawn

Second photo of fawn.


Gray Catbird

gray catbird
gray catbird

A gray catbird was really giving orders.

No, they don’t need to be rescued, and these weren’t even the ones in my back yard who sit quietly hidden in the branches and softly say, “Meow. Meow.” They are so convincing I’ve actually gone out to look for a cat a few times though I’m fairly certain it’s a bird I’m looking for!

These birds were on the bank of the creek where I walk to Main Street. As I approached the area where they were I heard more of a “chip! chip! chip!”, which I typically associate with cardinals as a warning sound. But seeing no red I looked for movement and immediately saw this small gray catbird clutching a rock and obviously giving orders.

Then I heard another catbird, farther down the bank very near the water. I looked closer and saw him clutching a fallen wingstem plant.

gray catbird
The other catbird called to lure Junior in that direction.

In the meantime the first cat bird was really working itself up!

gray catbird
This bird was really working itself up!

I had an idea what was going on, and yes—there! Junior catbird hadn’t yet earned his pilot’s license and he was hopping about on the rocks. I had put my telephoto lens on my camera so I didn’t need to get too close and cause them all to fly away, but the mom and dad catbird were still pretty upset by this human hanging around and looking at them.

gray catbird
Junior.

Junior moved to a more protected place and the first catbird observed the change.

gray catbird
There he goes.

The catbird that had been by the water moved up to protect Junior from the persistent one-eyed human talking nonsense. It’s also a good photo of a catbird if you need to identify one.

gray catbird
Dad catbird sits on a sapling stump observing.

Catbirds are related to mockingbirds and thrashers and all are called “mimic thrushes”, and while they do imitate other birds and sounds in their environment, they are not quite as famous as mockingbirds for this charming habit. (Really, when the mockingbirds start up it makes me laugh—it’s as if you’ve turned them to “play” and they just keep methodically repeating from one sound after another until you’re really done listening.) Catbirds aren’t imitating cats, they simply make a sound that resembles a cat, though there are other features about them that I have always found very catlike and I’m pretty sure the other characteristics helped this bird be named for another species.

Catbirds are fairly small, smaller than an American Robin and more slender than an American Cardinal, which doesn’t help you at all if you are not from North America, but other countries have similar or related species for comparison. They are quite a lovely slate gray, actually a very catlike gray with silvery highlights. But they also have a black cap and their wings and tail are darker…kind of like Siamese points? I’m pushing it there, but those are distinguishing characteristics. Under the tail you’ll see a chestnut patch, as in the second photo.

They are about 9″ long, but more than the average length of that is their tail, and they use their tails to advantage, one of the things I really do find similar to cats. In most of the photos here you’ll see they have their tails tilted upward, and it can often go to a nearly 90 degree angle like a wren, and they also tend to flip that tail as they talk and hop around.

Aside from these two parents setting up a racket they are generally very quiet birds and tend to stay in hidden and protected areas such as dense trees and shrubs, grapevines and brambles—in fact, I’ve been trying to get a photo of one in the daylight for so long I was happy to see this threesome out in the daylight. But taken from all my years of rescuing cats, I’ve also found cats to keep to the same sorts of places. The one time they do display themselves is when they perch at the top of a tree and sing their little hearts out…kind of like a kitty who wants some attention.

So there’s today’s lesson on a bird! As you walk around, keep a lookout for whatever is there. You never know what you might find, even in the middle of a city.

Learn more about catbirds at Cornell University’s All About Birds page for the catbird.

The phrase “the catbird seat” means to find one’s self in a very advantageous circumstance, literally in a good seat to enjoy something, or in a good position where things are going well, “sitting pretty”; here is a pretty clear explanation of how the phrase was first used and what it’s come to mean.  Here is James Thurber’s short story entitled The Catbird Seat

The catbird as a totem teaches you about communication, to communicate clearly, to learn other languages both metaphorically and literally, and also to be mindful of what you say and how you say it, as the catbird stays in the shadows and speaks sparingly until she finds the best spot from which to sing her message.

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For a print of any photo, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms. For photos of lots of black cats and other cats—and even some birds as I first published this post there—visit The Creative Cat.


Fledgling Blue Jay

blue jay
blue jay

Fledgling blue jay

A fledgling blue jay hopped onto the deck rail, not sure what to do, so he talked about it. The bird water bowl is right there and no doubt it’s a regular stop for the bird’s parents, but he didn’t seem to get the idea, instead flying off.

I photographed this through the screen on my back door which softened the focus and added a little refraction to the highlights, and I kind of like the effect.