Whenever I go birding, I inevitably discover many other curiosities to photograph. Such is the life of a retired senior citizen.
On my most recent outing, I came upon this wild cherry tree that had been struck by lightning sometime last year. I hated to see the stately tree destroyed since it was one of only a few in this small state park. All kinds of wildlife depended on its flowers and berries for sustenance.
Since the tree is about halfway around the lake, pictured in the background, I usually pause my hiking for a rest here, admiring the beauty of the tree’s bark and splintered wood. This time, however, I noted something fascinating. Tender shoots of new branches were growing from the tree trunk, as seen in the foreground of the determined hardwood.
Such is nature’s way of producing life, where we humans see only demise. There is a lesson to remember here: No matter your situation, never give up.
On a recent birding expedition to a local lake, I spotted these spent heads of last summer’s crop of Black-eyed Susans. The buttery petals had fallen off or been eaten by birds or insects, and several hungry bird species had devoured the nutritious burnished seeds in the center of the wildflowers.
The morning sun kissed the bulbous cones, creating a two-toned effect. It was a fun find.
Every year since 1970, April 22 has been observed as Earth Day. It’s a day to recognize humankind’s responsibility to respect the planet on which we all live.
The marking of this day found 20 million Americans striving for cleaner air, water and conservation of the land and its natural resources. The movement eventually led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of several U.S. environmental laws.
In 1990, Earth Day went global, with 200 million people in 141 countries coordinating to improve the environment in their various locales. It lifted environmental issues onto the world stage.
So, here we are 53 years later, still striving to care for our precious planet. What plans do you have to commemorate Earth Day?
Redbud trees are in full bloom in the Shenandoah Valley and across the entire Appalachian region. The mountain drives are gorgeous right now.
Redbuds are one of the earliest blooming trees, and they grow in all sorts of conditions. They are one of my favorite trees, especially in bloom.
That’s because there is more to their beauty than meets the eye. The unique way the individual blossoms form is the secret. Clumped together, it’s not easy to see. Get up close, and focus carefully. You can see that each separate flower closely resembles a hummingbird.
Not convinced? Perhaps the photo below can help you see the pink little hummingbirds. I hope you have a chance to check out this phenomenon in person.
My wife and I recently celebrated our 52nd anniversary. We did so quietly.
Initially, we considered driving to Washington, D.C., to view the cherry blossoms at their peak. We had never done that, and living only two hours away, we could easily view the iconic flowers and be home before dark. We weighed our options and decided instead to stay close to home, which was my wife’s preference.
That decision paid dividends we didn’t expect. First, we slept in, which is not our routine. We usually awaken at first light. It felt good to start our big day well-rested.
After a quiet, light breakfast, we continued with a habit we started during the pandemic. We played cards and drank our morning decaf coffee. With the temperature hovering slightly above freezing, we were in no hurry to head outside for a few local adventures.
Traffic was light for the 10-minute drive downtown for an early lunch at a favorite restaurant. Since it was a Monday and not yet noon, there was no wait. We enjoyed our meals and the quiet atmosphere. They even had gluten-free bread for my brisket sandwich. It was nice to sit in the serenity of the ordinarily bustling restaurant. Our waitress even took her time bringing the check.
After lunch, we drove to a local arboretum and strolled around the artificial pond. Both buttery yellow and white daffodils colored the forested hillside surrounding the murky pond. Some flowers were already fading, while others were beginning to bud.
The aptly named star magnolias were also losing their luster. We admired some snappy-looking white and orange daffodils and various wildflowers beginning to grace the forest floor.
A young man approached us as we sniffed the blooms. He was the new marketing person for the arboretum, and we enjoyed an extended conversation with him about photography. My constant snapping of the shutter gave me away.
By then, the sun had taken the chill out of the air. That meant one thing: ice cream. We drove to a local ice cream parlor in a neighboring town. A kid’s cup is suitable for us now. My wife was more adventurous and ordered a caramel salted chocolate chunk while I stuck with my tried and true chocolate. We chose a table outside where my wife sat in the shade while I preferred the sun on my back.
On the way home, we stopped at another smaller arboretum at the north end of the small town. The place is more park than a botanical garden. A small, tree-lined stream called Cooks Creek winds lazily through a green space. Cooks Creek Arboretum is sandwiched between a hillside condo complex and a farmer’s still-fallow field stretching up to a big red barn.
Once the flock of pesky common grackles flew off, we heard a barred owl calling softly from inside an owl box fastened to a giant sycamore on the creek’s bank. The harmony of the owl’s twittering and the silvery gurgling of the stream brought a smile to both of us.
Please click on the photos to enlarge them.
With the return of the noisy grackles, we detoured to Silver Lake to check for migrating waterfowl. A quartet of ring-necked ducks floated and dived, floated and dived on the shallow lake’s surface. The lake’s Civil War-era mill attracts people far and wide.
Shortly after we arrived back home, the doorbell rang. A young woman handed my wife a bouquet from her sister and her husband, who live in Ohio. We appreciated their kind and loving gesture.
We snacked for supper, and after sunset, I drove to a high point in the countryside to take photos of three planets. Venus shown bright in the night sky, but I couldn’t find the conjunction of Saturn and Mars near the horizon. An invisible haze hung over the Allegheny Mountains, obscuring any starry beauty.
When I returned home, another kind of darkness fell. We learned of the horrific mass shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville. The sad news snapped us out of our anniversary bliss into the reality of today’s life in the United States. Our peaceful, quiet, and enjoyable anniversary day with my loving wife ended with a tearful thud.
I don’t know about you, but the Common Grackles have taken over my birdfeeders and birdbaths. If you are interested, I’d gladly sell you a few or all of them.
Of course, you know I’m kidding. I couldn’t resist since April 1 is better known in the U.S. as April Fools Day. When I was a principal, the students loved to fool me on April 1 with all means of shenanigans. I was always glad when April 1 came on the weekend, like today.
So, April Fools Day! And in case you are interested in the grackles, please contact me a.s.a.p.
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