Karma's When I Feel Like It Blog

February 18, 2014

A Breath of Spring in the Snow

It is snowing once again here in Massachusetts. We are getting snow-weary and cabin-fevery. This morning as I wandered the house looking for possible objects as the subjects of my photo hunt, fluttering movement caught my eye out in the back yard.

With the snow gently drifting all around them, (the morning after the Great Backyard Bird Count was completed!) I spotted flashes of red in the trees near the back of my yard.

Robins

About a dozen robins were happily singing and cavorting in the snow. The sound of their cheery song in the middle of February brought thoughts that maybe spring isn’t so very far away.

This mourning dove, however, seemed to have other thoughts, all puffed up against the cold.
Mourning dove

February 15, 2014

Three Little Birds

It is time once again for the Great Backyard Bird Count.  It isn’t too late to get involved if you are interested.  Click here for more information. I’m participating again this year. So far I’ve identified 12 different species at my front yard feeder. I managed to get a few photos of some of the birds I’ve seen so far, and I experimented with editing them in my new Lightroom program. I’ve only managed to do some very basic edits, but I’m pleased with the quality of the color and light. I think I was able to keep a very natural look to the photos.

carolina wren
Carolina Wren (of “Jimmy and Judy” fame)

northern cardinal
Northern Cardinal

American goldfinch 1
American Goldfinch

May 22, 2013

A Plethora of Photographic Passion

Contrary to how it may seem, I really have been thinking about Scott Thomas’s current photography assignment “Your Photography Passion”. Scott posted some interesting articles concerning the subject and mentioned that there are really two ways interpret this idea: what you are passionate about photographing or representing your passions with photography. Two really different ideas, that I think could also overlap. Hmmm, a challenge if I ever heard one.

I believe the first interpretation of the idea is the simpler one for me. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you have probably noticed that I love photographing the details of nature. Flowers are usually a very congenial photography subject, and I love taking their pictures, and if at all possible, taking the pictures to a different level either literally or figuratively. Let me try to show you what I mean with some of my favorite photos from the past.
Fuschia
crazy poppy
sunny sunflowers (2)
IMG_8033

More recently, I’ve become more passionate about improving my bird photography. Last year, I started attempting to keep a “life list” of the birds I’ve seen, and I’m always trying to identify the birds I may not know or get a picture of one I’ve never photographed before. I’ve been especially passionate about getting pictures of the tiniest and largest birds in my area: hummingbirds and hawks.
hummingbird edit
hawk1
And I sure spend a lot of time taking bird photos on vacation too:
Blue Heron 4
snowy plover
But what if “passion” is defined as those things that we choose to find or make the time in our lives for? Of course I am passionate about my family, but I believe that is natural and not necessarily definable as a “passion” in this instance. So what else do I make the time for in my life because it is important to me?
In this sense of the word, I think dance would qualify.
Picture Fall, Day 12
I make the time for those few hours a week of exercise and socialization and learning and fun.
My garden would qualify too, I think, since it certainly isn’t a necessity in today’s world and why the heck would we gardeners go to all this trouble if we weren’t passionate about it?
P5292323
I am perhaps most passionate about one of the more elusive facets of my life:
Hills Beach Mosiac
The beach and the ocean are the place where I find myself most at peace. Breathing the air and feeling the sand and the salt and the sun bring me to a special place within myself, in all likelihood, the closest I will ever find myself to a zen-like place if I am using that term correctly.

Thank you, Scott, for a very thought-provoking photo assignment!

March 16, 2013

What a strange sight

Filed under: For the Birds — Karma @ 9:40 am
Tags: , , ,

It was one of those days when I really wished I had my “real” camera with me, but only had my cell phone (Blackberry). I was driving home from work, along the same path I always take, when something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. I glimpsed a strangely shaped, darkly colored bird. Only the week before, when Meghan and I were coming home from a doctor’s appointment along the same road, we saw a vulture eating a dead skunk on the side of the road. Two very unphotogenic creatures, yet a little fascinating in a morbid sort of way.

So when I glimpsed the large, dark bird this time, my eyes were drawn over to that side of the road. As I came closer, I realized it was not just one strange, large bird – there were two and a magnificent hawk!
Big Birds

I pulled over to the side of the road and got out of my car to have a closer look.  I was so surprised by the sight of these birds in someone’s backyard!
I was truly stunned by the size of the hawk. I have never actually seen one on the ground. Birds of prey of various types regularly soar through the skies above my head and occasionally I have been lucky enough to capture a couple on tree branches. Something about seeing this amazing bird standing on the ground was a real moment for me. I estimated the bird to be approximately up to my knee in height. I stepped as near as I dared and took the picture you see above. The turkey vultures continued to walk in circles around the hawk and his catch, waiting for their turn to pick at the remains.

When I came home, I measured the length of my leg up to my knee and found it to be 20 inches. I then consulted my favorite birding site, Cornell’s All About Birds, and looked into the “length” of certain types of hawks. The male red-tail is approximately 18 to 22 inches – so I am thinking that is probably the correct identification of the bird above.

What do you think about these large birds?  Do you see them fairly regularly?  Have you ever encountered a large bird of prey standing on the ground?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

February 20, 2013

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda

I had big photography and blogging plans for this week, my winter break from school.  Here it is Wednesday, mid-week already, and do you think I’ve followed through?  You can probably guess the answer from the title of this blog post!

I fully intended to participate in the Great Backyard Count like I did last year, and I even had a list of the birds that I saw this past Saturday afternoon. I looked for it Sunday morning and >>POOF<< it was gone! Don’t you hate it when that happens? With the loss of the list, I decided not to participate, but I did still take a few bird pictures.
downy woodpecker and carolina wren

downy woodpecker and carolina wren (2)

The little downy woodpecker (the bird on the left) has been a very regular visit to the suet cake. Now that I’ve identified the carolina wren, I seem to notice them all the time. Does that ever happen to you? You identify something new that you are interested in and then you see it all the time? Best example I can think of for this phenomenon is when you are thinking about buying a new car. You start researching the possibilities that are in your price range and decide what you think you are going to buy, then all of a sudden you see that type of car everywhere. Or is that just me?

One of my other so-called excuses for not getting out there to take pictures is getting ready for my daughter’s 18th birthday party this coming Saturday. I’m finding it difficult to believe that I will be the parent of a legal adult! Did I ever show you any of her senior portraits?

Image (2)

We are also awaiting workmen in the house this week. I have a double gas wall oven that I have loved for a long time.
Goodbye old oven!
We actually re-did the kitchen when I was pregnant for Meghan so many appliances in the kitchen are also 18 years old. You probably remember my dishwasher woes from Christmastime, right? Well, the top oven stopped working last summer. To make a very long story short, it made horrible high pitched beeping noises and the control panel has been melted in our efforts to muddle through. We’ve been using the bottom oven only for months now. Replacing this oven has been quite the ordeal because apparently double gas wall ovens are now a rarity. To find one comparable in size to the one we have would cost somewhere in the ballpark of $6000! No, that’s not a typo on the number of zeroes there. So, we’ve had to purchase an electric double wall oven instead.

Of course you can’t just shove an electric oven in where a gas one used to be. We’ve been jumping through hoops to find an electrician who would run the line for us at a reasonable price and finding installers who would cap the gas line and coordinate with the electrician for a time to pull the old oven out. We had an appointment at 8:30 this morning for workmen to arrive. It is 10:00 while I’m typing this post – we’re still waiting.

The sun is out today and I’m hoping perhaps the wind will be less brutal than it has been over the last few days. I’m still hoping to get out photo-hunting. If I do, I’ll be back with another post before I head back to school on Monday.

February 3, 2013

Just Winging It!

Hey there! It’s been a while! My last post was almost 2 weeks ago now, and the blogging muse in my mind has had enough silence. So what’s been going on you may ask? Life, the universe and everything has sent me on a bit of a roller-coaster ride.

Meghan actually did get to go on several rollercoaster rides! Last Saturday morning I dropped dear daughter at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, CT for a school computer and technology department field trip to Disney World! She was gone for three nights and came home Tuesday. They got to stay at the Disney Port Orleans Resorts

participate in two Disney Y.E.S. programs

and visit all four of the major parks.

While she was in Florida, the temperatures were in the mid-70′s. Around here we were in the middle of that nasty cold snap when the daytime temps struggled to get out of the teens. Needless to say I was just a tiny bit envious!

After I dropped Meghan at the airport that morning, I travelled north on Interstate 91 back into Massachusetts and stopped to visit with my sister for a while. The previous day she had pretty much the same surgery that A-Rod, reviled NYY player, had recently. She’s been couch bound for over a week now, and this, I believe, is a rather regular daily view for her:

That’s Ozzie, her faithful cavachon, which is a mixture of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Bichon Frise.

While Meghan had a wonderful time in Disney World, life continued here. I made some more progress on Sarah’s birthday quilt:
quilt progress
Um, yeah, Sarah’s birthday is in August, and, uh, yes, that was supposed to be a 15th birthday gift for her. So far I’m only 6 months behind schedule…got something to say about that? ;-)

When Meghan got home from Florida, New England weather was showing its weird side again. We went from bitter cold to strangely warm temperatures, had rain and thunder and wind, and even lost the power in the middle of the night during the windstorm. I got up and went to work the next morning, hairdryer in tow! It hadn’t come back on by the time I had to leave so I went to work with a wet head. Thank goodness the bitter cold hadn’t returned just yet.

I don’t think all the wild swings in weather did Meghan much good. She had been fighting a cold before she left, but seemed to be getting better. Upon her return she didn’t sound good to me. Off to the doctor’s office: upper respiratory infection. I felt bad for her one evening and on a whim made her a cup of hot peppermint tea. We’re not really tea-drinkers in this house, but on this occasion it seemed like the thing to do. And what do you know? She gratefully took the cup and seems to have taken a liking to it.
daughter's discovery

The cold has returned, and so have the birds to my feeders. I’ve been practicing some more with my heavy new lens, and I’ve been doing okay. I have to shoot in manual focus on this lens because autofocus doesn’t allow the focus ring to be manually adjusted – one definite downside to this lens – and that adds a bit to the challenge of quick moving birds!
dark-eyed junco
Dark-eyed junco

white-breasted nuthatch
White-breasted nuthatch

sparrows
Sparrows

A birdy conversation?
Male house finch and sparrow

Male House Finch
Male house finch
That finch looks like a friendly chap, doesn’t he? It almost seems like he could strike up a conversation. How about you? Strike up a conversation in the comments section if you’d like!

January 21, 2013

What does winter mean to me? (and a little mystery too!)

Filed under: For the Birds,Photo assignments — Karma @ 10:14 am
Tags: , , , ,


If you ask me how I feel about winter in general, “Grumpy Cat” does a good job of expressing my feelings! (You’ve all seen Grumpy Cat around the internetz by now, right?)

I generally don’t like being cold, dealing with poor driving conditions, having the wind whip across my face or feeling like my nose has frozen shut when I step outside. I am a summer girl at heart, as I have expressed many times here on the blog. So when Scott proposed this month’s assignment on winter, I felt a bit like Grumpy Cat up there.

However, having lived in Massachusetts my entire life, even I can appreciate some of the simple beauties and offerings of wintertime.

My backyard does have a tendency to look a bit like a Currier and Ives painting after a fresh snow fall:
snowy backyard

Although I’ve pictured them many times here on the blog, a blog about winter has to include my two goofball dogs loving the snow:
golden retriever loves snow!

collie face full of snow

Winter time sometimes also means an afternoon hot coffee break. Curling up on a cold afternoon with a cup fresh from the Keurig and a biscotti for dipping can be a nice way to warm up:
coffee break
(like my cute teacher-cat mug?)

I enjoy bird watching all year round, but I have a tendency to fill the feeders and watch and enjoy the birds more in the winter (especially since there are no flowers to take pictures of!):
chickadee at birdfeeder

Birdwatching on this particular day brought me the answer to a mystery I’ve been trying to solve for years now. I took this picture of this adorable little brown bird sitting in the rhododendron right outside my window:
carolina wren
and set out to identify it afterwards. It was about the size of a sparrow but didn’t look exactly like most of the sparrows around here. I went to my go-to birding site, Cornell’s All About Birds and started searching. I found what I believe to be a match, a Carolina Wren. Now here’s the mystery part. For years, my husband and I have been joking about a bird call. One day he said to me, “I wish that bird’s girlfriend would answer him! Can you hear him calling ‘JudyJudyJudy’?” Then the call seemed to change slightly and I said, “Hey, I think she’s finally answering – it sounds like she’s saying ‘JimmyJimmyJimmy’!” And hence began the saga of Jimmy and Judy. One of us would often say “I think Jimmy and Judy are having a fight!” or “I wonder where Jimmy and Judy are today?”

Throughout all this bird-calling, I was never able to identify Jimmy or Judy. I’d see a little flit of a brown bird pass through the yard, but could never quite make out exactly what the bird looked like. Now the Cornell website includes typical bird calls for help in bird identification. While identifying the Carolina Wren the other day, I clicked on the bird call and guess what? “JudyJudyJudy,JimmyJimmyJimmy” played out from my computer speakers! Mystery solved!

Thanks again for the photo assignment Scott!

January 19, 2013

A New Toy

Thanks to a couple of B&H Photo gift certificates I’d received as Christmas gifts, I recently purchased a new lens for my Rebel. It is a Sigma 70-300mm zoom with a macro switch. It is heavier than I am used to using – my longest lens up til now was my 55-250mm – and there is no image stabilization, so it will take a little getting used to, but so far I’m pleased.

I stood in the sunshine coming through the sliding glass door to my deck this afternoon and waited in the warmth for birds attracted to the suet cake I hung on one of my planter hooks for the winter. These shots were taken from about 15 feet away with my new lens (SOOC, no cropping or editing):
chickadee and cardinal

male cardinal

approach to suet
I was quite surprised to find this shot of the little downy woodpecker approaching the suet feeder; I hadn’t realized I was shooting at that time.

downy woodpecker 1

downy woodpecker 2

I’ll be looking forward to spending some more time getting to know my new lens!

December 31, 2012

My Favorite Photos of 2012

Since I started blogging in 2010, I’ve done a wrap-up of my favorite photos of the year.  They aren’t always my more “technically” good photos, but photos I’ve come to enjoy for one reason or another.  I believe these photos have all appeared on the blog already this year, but that is because I am always anxious to share my favorites with you!  The photos that follow are in chronological order approximately one for each month of the year, but in one case I didn’t find anything I liked all that much in a month (February) and for April and July I couldn’t make up my mind between two shots, so you get them both for a baker’s dozen total.

In January, I was finally able to get a close-up shot of a Mr. Cardinal that made me happy:
mrcardinal3

In March, I felt lucky to grab this shot of a soaring hawk, with feathers strongly defined:
hawk1

In April, I went on and on about one of my favorite vacations of all time, the cruise we took. Meghan and Sarah, first day on the ship and taken with my Blackberry, remains a favorite:
IMG-20120416-00079
There were so many beautiful sights from the cruise, but I wanted to share a shot that I love for its simplicity:
IMG_7695
The warm, turquoise Carribbean water brings me back to those precious days when there was little to worry about and happy memories were being made.

May brought me a picture of one of my favorite types of flowers, a bearded iris, that I was very pleased with how it came out. It was the header picture here on the blog until very recently:
IMG_8033

Ah, June! The end of the school year, the start of my favorite season. Yummy raspberries are a nice representation of the many good parts of summer.
fresh raspberries

July is the month when my butterfly bushes start going wild and bring many winged visitors. This monarch was one of my best butterfly shots this year:
King of butterflies

I just love this photo of Sarah from her birthday party. Her braces had been removed and her smile was big and genuine:
Sarah1

As part of a photo hunt that everyone really seemed to enjoy, the “Ends of the Earth”, I took this photo in August from our little mountain here in town:
mountain2

In September, my summer dreams faded away with the weather. This dahlia reminds me of the warmth of the afternoons that I continued to enjoy as long as I could:
Dahlias #2

October brought a blog-along walk over at Robin’s Life in the Bogs. I found myself doing some quiet contemplation while watching birds appear before my lens. I loved this sweet little chickadee:
chickadee

I was happily surprised to have the opportunity to photograph an eastern bluebird for the first time in November. It isn’t a wonderful photo, but I was thrilled with the chance to get this picture:
Eastern bluebird

How ironic that I spent December wishing for a gentle blanket of snow to take pretty pictures in and then ended up sharing this adventure with you just yesterday! (If you haven’t read it yet, go ahead, have a peek!) I still really like this picture of my new snowman ornaments, even if I could now do without the sentiment:
"Let it Snow" 2

Happy New Year everyone. I hope that 2013 brings you good health, and paraphrasing the words of a fellow blogger, enough of what you need most.

October 20, 2012

Accidental Birding

Don’t you love it when you end up with some photos you weren’t expecting to take that you really like?  That happened recently for me and I was able to add some new shots to my bird collection.

I mentioned in my  last post that I actually took two walks for Robin’s blog-along walk, but that I wasn’t overly happy with my photos from the first walk.  Near the end of that walk, I stopped and paused on a little bridge over a creek.

IMG_8977

I tried to just relax and take in the quiet sounds around me: the burbling of the brook, rustling of leaves in the wind, and bird song.  While I leaned on the fence of the bridge, something changed.  My eyes suddenly were able to see birds flitting everywhere right in front of me.  I’m not sure if they appeared there after I stilled my body or if the stilling of my body is what allowed me to see what was already there.

catbird and robin

Catbird and Robin.  (Too bad it wasn’t a “batbird”, huh? ;-)  )  These two are birds that I see in my backyard constantly, but I liked having the two of them together in one shot.  The pink leaves and red berries made a nice backdrop too.

Gentle shaking of nearby pine branches caught the corner of my eye.  I refocused my eyes to try to find the cause of the motion and saw one of my favorite little birds, our Massachusetts state bird, the chickadee.
chickadee

Just beyond the chickadee, rustling the dry leaves, no doubt searching for tasty insects, I saw a bird that I’ve seen plenty of times, but of which I’d never managed a photo, a northern flicker.

northern flicker

Later that week while I was lazily staring into my backyard, I spotted a little bird that I couldn’t identify.  It wasn’t an overly distinctive bird, but I thought it was rather sweet looking.

phoebe1

My photos of it aren’t spectacular, as I quickly ran to grab the camera before it flitted away, but I believe this is an Eastern Phoebe, a small species of flycatcher.  That seemed to be about right as I watched it perch in various places around my yard and then suddenly dart into flight – I’m guessing to snag a fly out of the air.  These next two photos are very blurry, but I thought they were still kind of neat.

phoebe2
I see you tasty fly!”

phoebe3
“Coming to get ya!”

I don’t think I’ve ever taken a picture of a bird in flight with its wings closed before.  It struck me kind of funny, like someone had picked the bird up and tossed it into the air.

Nice what you can find sometimes when you aren’t really looking!

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