I found them at the rotunda nestled in a large stand of pine trees (Ella Sharp Park in Jackson, Michigan). They were at the top of the trees where the cones were. The female has a dirty yellow color.
A lot of things are coming together in my life – seem like coincidences but maybe not. As I was thinking about the Lens-Artist Photo Challenge: Wildlife Close to Home, I thought about going back into files and finding wildlife photos from my drives through the Florida Everglades (close to my home there), or maybe looking for those wildlife photos I took in my Michigan back yard. Obviously I wasn’t enthused enough to do it.
Jim and I were watching the birds at the birdfeeders one day and he started talking about Crossbills and wondered if they ever come to feeders. He didn’t do any research because he knew who to ask – our card playing buddy Fia Chan who is a bird photographer extraordinaire. We played cards with Fia this week and Jim asked him about the bird and Fia had a photo on his cell phone along with an interesting story about how he took the photograph. He said they are very small birds and he needed his really, really, really long lens. He indicated that they are three or four inches long and the pine trees were huge 50 years ago when I took our kids sledding at the rotunda.
Several time over the many years that we have known the Chans I have suggested that he start a blog focused primarily on birding and bird photography. Every time he said no, he didn’t have the time and was concerned about his writing. This week when we were playing cards and Fia was my partner I suggested it again and told him I would edit his writing or even be a ghost writer. He smiled big and took me up on the offer. His writing is good, he can do it and he is smart – with lots of information to share about technique, bird characteristics and environment. He sent me an e-mail with more photos of the White-winged Crossbill and wrote this paragraph:
I thank you for offering to help me create and maintain a blog of bird pictures. After 12 years, I am slowly losing interest in taking bird pictures. Maybe I am getting lazy as I grow older. I somehow have to rekindle my earlier enthusiasm and Jean (his wife) is going to help me. We are thinking of going to the Sault to look for overwintering snowy owls, pine grosbeaks, etc., boreal birds earlier next year. We also are planning to go to Iowa to shoot bald eagles in mid-February. Fai Chan, November, 2022
I seem to be in the same spot as Fai. I just don’t seem to have the energy to go out and take photos even though I’ve seen hundreds of interesting potentials to explore with a camera as we traveled around our dot on the map. I also haven’t had to energy or enthusiasm to do many posts during the past year or so – and it seems to be getting worst. Maybe Fia and I can help each other regain our excitement and passion for going out to find new subjects to capture with our lenses. And I decided this morning that introducing you to Fia Chan and his wonderful bird photographs would be a good entry for this week’s challenge.
Fai and his wife have traveled long distances to find birds he would like to photograph for his massive collection. He has enough outstanding photographs to last him a lifetime, but I am sure once he starts he will want some new ones to show you and they will be out in the field again.
Thank you, Fai, for introducing us to the wildlife that is so high up in the pine trees that we would never have found them. When Fai starts posting I will make sure to provide a link so you can welcome him into our blogging community.
We had strolled around the Botanical Garden, walking out to the birding tower where wading birds were having breakfast in the shallow waters of the natural landscape. It was a good morning, and Jim had been very good-natured as I had taken lots of photos. Exercising this patience must have built up quite a hunger because he stated he was heading for the cafe for his coffee, scone and newspaper. More precisely, a chocolate chip scone. It has been eaten with no photographic evidence so you will just have to image picking up a slightly warm scone and biting into a tender biscuit with lots and lots of slightly soft rich dark chocolate. I’ll give you a minute to savor this moment.
We were savoring every bite, every crumb that we could retrieve from our shirt fronts, when we were joined by this little fellow who took a seat just to my left. It was a new bird to me but he seemed to know us or didn’t care who we were – he just wanted to let us know what he was expecting as our guest. Someone must have used the table before us because he very quickly swooped in, grabbed a crumb and flew away. But he returned and continued to communicate to us.
Jim is a very kind-hearted person and also loves feeding birds. Even though I reminded him that we aren’t suppose to feed wildlife in the garden, he put out an ever so tiny crumb of his half of the scone. This time the bird hopped onto the table, took a nibble and sat and looked at us. Could he be thinking that here were a couple of real suckers?
My Smithsonian Birds of Florida book says that this bird, “Often cocks tail upward and flicks from side to side.” Could we speculate what this behavior was communicating in this circumstance? In any case I’m thinking he is a “bright” little bird.
There was a lot of activity at the bird feeders on Sunday, as the snow fell gently all day. It was a beautiful day and each of us spent some time at the dining room table watching our guests squabble, flutter, and sometimes partake of the seeds provided for them. It was a buffet with sunflower seeds, mixed bird seed, and suet cake available for their feasting delight. But still they squabbled and fluttered their wings to keep others at a distance. Normally we have guest who are better behaved when at the table.
Indoor dining at our home for this year’s U.S. Thanksgiving celebration will be much smaller and hopefully with less territorial fighting. I jest because I am confident we will find joy in being together around our table, the three of us – Jim, our daughter who is living with us during the pandemic, and me. The three of us agreed not to have guests this year as the virus cases and deaths are increasing rapidly across our country and here in Michigan. In our brains and guts we felt that even a small risk of having another safety-conscious couple for dinner was too big a risk. It seems we have opted for safety over the joy of sharing the indoor space of our home and table with people we love and care about. Everyone is making this risk/benefit analysis.
My quiet moments of contemplation recently have centered around the question of whether I am being too cautious, letting the experts on TV increase my fear to an unnecessary level. I have always been a big-picture thinker, able to take multiple viewpoints and analyze them down to the bottom-line truth (at least for me). This has been a hard topic for me because it pits taking care of our household members against hurting family and friends by refusing their invitations or our traditional gatherings. The end thought of my contemplations was that each one of the more than 12.5 million people in the U.S. that have been confirmed to have the virus plus the possible millions who developed symptoms without getting tested happened because of contact with another human being. That is how this virus spreads. The best way to avoid being a part of that statistic is to not have unnecessary contact with people.
We are all feeling the impact of this pandemic year (stacked on top of political, environmental, racial, and economic stresses) as we grapple with isolation fatigue. However, when we think of the totality of a lifetime, all the gatherings we have experienced in the past and all the gatherings we can look forward to in the future (if we keep ourselves safe and alive) I think we can find the strength and courage to do what we need to do for the next few months.
I find I am drawing my strength from remembering those times when we were missing family members because of travel or illness. It was sad but we made the best of it. I am drawing my courage from remembering those wonderful gatherings, big gatherings, where there was laughter and joy, children giggling and running around (and parents yelling “slow down”) and people speaking different languages. I can hear the echoes of those gatherings within my home as I prepare for our small gathering that will be full of joy and thankfulness that no one in our family has died from the virus. I will also be holding all of you who have lost a loved one in my heart, knowing that my heartbeat can carry comfort to others.
A month ago our son left for a walk but returned to say there were a pair of Bald Eagles in a Norfolk Pine. We had seen him on top of another Norfolk Pine a couple of weeks prior to this sighting. Norfolk Pines are the tallest perches in our neighborhood in southwest Florida and this majestic bird seems to think they are for him alone. Seems like a very special Christmas tree topper.
We pulled into the parking lot of the Visitors’ Center at the Summit of Roger’s Pass in the Glacier National Park where I encountered an unfamiliar bird. A Steller Jay up close and personal – on my rear view mirror.
There were two, flitting around but with no weariness of me and my camera. The one above seems to be an adult and the other was maybe her little one and they were practicing independence.
The young one still had down that she had all fluffed up at one point and her coloring was gorgeous.