photography


An Artistic Eye…….

We have been lucky enough to have a pair of American Kestrels hanging around our property.  Also called sparrow hawks, these beautiful little birds of prey are favored by falconers.

Their favorite perch is the electrical wires that run the length of our property, and the ornamental pear trees that form an alle’e along our 900 foot driveway.

They will fly away as soon as the car approaches, almost racing it down the driveway  to the house.

In mid January, I was very surprised to see one of the pair sitting on our deck bird feeder. They have never come this close! In fact, the whole time the kestrel was puffed up in the falling snow, a tiny junco was underneath, on the floor, literally not moving– and doing his best to remain invisible! The kestrel diet consists of mice, voles, other small rodents, larger insects, and the occasional small bird.  I could almost see the junco heave a giant sigh of relief when the kestrel left!!! The junco can be seen  in the photo below, in the lower pot hanging on the railing.

The kestrel sat, surveyed the scene, and called to its mate.   I was very glad to have been able to see it up close and relatively still.

About a month later, as we were leaving the house, my daughter went out first, then came back in telling me there was something outside that, in one way,  I was not going to be happy about, but in another way, I would!

I followed her outside, and there outside the garage door, between 2 vehicles, was one of the kestrels, dead.

She was right, I was very sad about this, but happy that I would be able to inspect one at close range.

Being a bird of prey, it is against the law to keep him, but since he was right in front of the garage door, he had to be removed. I did take this opportunity to photograph, measure, and weigh him (for a future watercolor) .

I should have been a naturalist, I am fascinated by all things in nature, dead or alive. Death allows closer inspection.

This (and future posts) will include these discoveries- so if you don’t like dead things – heed my warnings, and go no further!!!

This poor kestrel, appears to be a male – males have a  spotted breast, females, streaked- another thing you can’t really see as they go zooming by!!  His dead weight was 3.8 oz, and breast bone was not pronounced, so he did not seem to have been starving. His weight fell on the lighter side of their usual weight range of 80g-156g, but still within the parameters.

After watching a documentary on falconers, it was interesting to learn that the handlers weigh their birds before each hunt, because if their weight is a tad too high, it will affect their hunting abilities.  So, as in the wild, the falcons have to be careful not to overeat.

Upon closer inspection, I discovered the beak was split in half. At first glance, I thought maybe he had crashed into the truck or garage while diving for food, but the break appears to have been there quite a while. Despite this deformity, he seemed to have managed quite well, up until that day!

The claws were quite impressive – for clutching dinner on the fly!

He almost appeared to have a lower lid that would come up to cover the eye.

Not a large bird, the kestrel measured 10″ from head to tail, wingspread from shoulder to shoulder was 6″ , wing tip to tip about 14″. Shoulder to wing tip was about 7  1/2″.  He had about 8 or 9 tail feathers, his lower leg from elbow to toe was about 2″.

Except for the split on the top, his beak seemed fully functioning and in good shape.

It looks like a total of 7 primary flight feathers on each wing.

A beautiful little bird,  I would have loved to preserve him – but it is against the law to have one, dead or alive, without proper license.

Since his death, I have not seen his mate. Hopefully, if she survives, and finds another life partner, she will return with him to our property.

 

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All is well, and never dull, here at Mountain Meadows this bright, sunny March morning……………………..

Deer was here.......Deer was here………………………….

Dove was here......Dove was here…………………….

Hunter was here..................Hunter was here……………………..

Hunter is gone..............

Even the hardest "heart"..............Even the hardest “heart”……………………

 

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All is well at Mountain Meadows this Thanksgiving eve……………………

I just love these pictures – they would make a great pattern for fabric!!

Very early the other morning, I was sitting in my car, warming it up and defrosting the windows. I happened to look out the window at the sky – and this is what I saw………………………

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All is well, and not quite so frosty, at Mountain Meadows today……

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“Everybody has their own heartbreak, and only they can find the right glue….”    ———-PM

As I wander around the property, and do my chores, I try to remember to have my camera with me.  I should have stock in Duracell, because this camera eats up batteries- I am always taking pictures!!

Invariably, the time I forget the camera is when a perfect shot presents itself!!

I don’t claim to be a great photographer – but I love it, and probably delete at least as many pictures as I save!! My dream is a really good camera one day, but until then………..!

So here are a series of  photos I took yesterday, mostly around the barn. The horses were out grazing, and I was keeping an eye on them (really, I was!!!!!)

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tree bark patterns

tree bark camouflage

bark patterns

bark patterns

Can you find the woodpecker?

Can you find the woodpecker?

Poison ivy vine, I think.....

Poison ivy vine, I think.....

….but I will wait til spring to find out for sure!!!

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Our oak leaf carpet

Our oak leaf carpet

Winter flora

Winter flora

Solitary vulture

Solitary vulture

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It was a really gray day yesterday, and again today- but there is beauty in gray, I think…………..

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All is well at Mountain Meadows today, awaiting the ‘ice storm’!!!!!!


…..and a dream is all it is!!!! The past couple of days have been in the upper 60’s – warm, sunny and breezy!!

Yesterday, we were  out front planting bulbs, and I could feel the freckles popping out on my face from the warmth of the sun!!!

We took our annual family Christmas photo, sans snow, with the lot of us in shirtsleeves and squinting into the sun!

That said, we will probably be punished with a blast of frigid air for the rest of the winter!

The horses have shed their blankets for a few days, and are revelling in rolling in the mud. They were out grazing today, on the few remaining tufts of green grass, and I stood along side of each one, currying and brushing the mud out, and removing twigs and burrs from their tails and manes.  The ‘old man’  gave me a sidelong glance and kept trying to inch away from me.  He seems to prefer the disheveled and dirt clod look!!

I delivered some cookies and hot chocolate to the neighbor-as I drove over, one of the local radio stations was having a Flatts and Scruggs marathon (think The Beverly Hillbillies theme song!)- non stop Christmas carols are over with, thank goodness!!!

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The daughter, husband and I went to the river to finally cut down “my” hornets’ nest!!! Husband drove the tractor into the river, daughter and I were in the bucket – and we cut the nest down. Husband takes great delight in raising the bucket sky high, as I cower in the bottom- I hate heights!!! I got the nest just in time – it looks like birds have been pecking away at it- maybe hornet larvae(is that what they are called?) are tasty morsels for some birds.

The nest is quite an amazing piece of work – to think that tiny little insects can work together to make something so intricate, weatherproof, and huge!!! I would have left it there, but it was not in the best location- great for the hornets, apparently, but not for swimmers or passersby!

I have it enclosed in a trash bag, and thoroughly sprayed it. If there are any dormant insects, that will hopefully rid the nest of them – and I will have to figure out where to display the nest. I will wait til spring tho – to make sure  no hornets come to life inside!!!

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img_4746The view inside the hive is above!

amazing outer wall

amazing outer wall

Here are some more shots of life at Mountain Meadows during Christmas week:

oak leaf in the river

oak leaf in the river

Xmas Eve sky

Xmas Eve sky

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my church, my pew, my view

my church, my pew, my view

All is well at Mountain Meadows this Christmas week – Happy Holidays to all!!!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Please be sure to check out my Etsy shop- I’m adding new things every day!!!

Over the years, the kids have come to expect odd things showing up in the refrigerator or freezer. I do try to warn them tho – sometimes the unexpected can be a little shocking!!!

I must admit, a friend did have me beat one year. She was bottle feeding 2 baby goats, in her semi-suburban home. One of the babies, sadly, did not survive. The daughter was bound and determined that this little goat would be buried somewhere on their 9 acres of land. Unfortunately, it was winter and the ground was hard as a rock. Sooo, the little goat was tenderly wrapped, and marked, and put in the freezer until the ground thawed! He was then given a proper burial.

The husband was out collecting dogs’ tennis balls from the paddock, and came upon a tiny turtle, not quite the size of a half dollar,  lying on his back in the grass. The poor thing had obviously frozen to death in the previous weeks’  frigid temperatures. Yesterday, it was in the 60’s and here was this perfectly preserved little guy. The husband set him on a fence post til I came out later and presented him to me! He knows I love little discoveries like that!!! Finding an antler or a skeleton just sends me into a tizzy of excitement!!!! I am glad he found him tho – the thought of a horse stepping on him – and then that gruesome discovery when I picked out the horses’ hooves – EEEUUW!!!

Now, I recall turtles of my youth – the little ones you used to be able to buy in Woolworth’s or the pet store, that did not have the longest life span. It was always hard to tell if they were actually dead, at least , it was hard for me!!I hung on to them til their eyes sunk in, or the smell clarified that they had indeed died! Hey, I was a kid, what did I know??

I think it was pretty safe to say this guy was dead, not hibernating, or in a coma brought on by a deep freeze!!!

I emailed a friend at the local museum, to see if they had any interest in this little guy. While I await their reply, the turtle, of course, resides in a ziploc bag in the refrigerator. The scent of defrosting turtle, however tiny, is not one I wish to experience!

If the museum has no interest, the little turtle will be buried in the ‘family’ plot, along with several wild birds who have been laid to rest with our family pets!

I have to research this little guy – it might be a baby snapper, but looks kind of like a pond slider. The ridges on his shell and the tiny beak seem like a snapper. I have never seen a baby snapper, so don’t know if they start out this small.

Update – the museum is interested, and the li’l guy will be heading out in his little ziploc travel bag tomorrow!

Here are some pix of the turtle. If you don’t like dead things- don’t look!


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All is well at Mountain Meadows tonite – only 9 more days til Christmas!!!

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