Banning State Park

banning colors

A couple weeks ago I took a day off from work to go to Banning State Park. I was informed there was a nice little water fall there and it was only 45 minutes from my home.  Unfortunately, the day I took off to head up there, the forecast called for rain all day.

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It didn’t rain at my home but was cloudy and looked like rain.  I checked Sandstone, MN weather and it showed 79% precipitation.  I really wasn’t going to drive 45 minutes to be rained out.  Since it was raining at my home, I went out and enjoyed by brand new deck and caught up on my cross stitching and reading.  I never get time for either of these anymore.

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I was a little disappointed I wouldn’t make it on my waterfall quest but hey, gives an excuse for another day off work to try again.  I enjoyed my day on my deck, couple times I thought it was getting pretty dark and my day would be washed out but the rain never arrived at my home. 

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I put in for another vacation day for last Wednesday, try this waterfall quest once again.

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The weekend before I was to head up, the weather man says…. rain all day Wednesday. Really……again.  I just want a camera day.

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Wednesday morning came, the weather man changed his forecast, the rain would come only overnight that night. The day would be clear and perfect, mid 60′s with sunshine.

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I hopped in my little old vehicle and hit the road.  Arrived in Sandstone around 10:30 and thought I would find something to eat before my day of hiking, not a fast food place or gas station for food anywhere.  Oh well, I had a bowl of cereal around 6:00 am, I would be fine.

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Besides, I was told the waterfall was only about a mile hike in, not far at all. Hike in and take photos for an hour or two and head home for a late lunch.

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I pulled into the park and the fall colors were amazing.  I was told by my informant, go to the last parking lot and follow the trail in.  The last parking lot was by the boat landing and the rapids just below, made sense to me.

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I followed the trail in, taking photos of the colors and the rapids on the way.

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There were little squirrels everywhere along the hike, chattering away at me.

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This one was enjoying a snack he found.

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An hour or so later, I had hiked quite a ways and still no sign of the end of the trail or the waterfalls.  Figured maybe I better take a few less photo stops and start hiking to find this waterfall.

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I found the rapids, how much farther can these falls be…. have to be getting near.

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I stopped and spent a good 45 minutes at the rapids, such a pretty blue sky and perfect day.

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Time to head on to the falls.  Um…. the trail is done, it ended.  No falls. 

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I found a side trail after backtracking some, took many loops, the map kept showing the final loop would have a trail to the falls.  I am on my way.

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Loop after loop, no falls trail.  But another trail to Hells Rapids this time, this must be getting near.

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Again, a dead end.

This little squirrel was making fun of me for not finding my trail, he yelled and chattered at me for quite a while.  I think he wanted me to go away.

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If he is going to sit and laugh at me, I am going to take his photo.  Two can play that game right?

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Headed back from my last dead end, I found a side trail that had a do not enter sign. I had seen this on the way in so I followed the other trail.  Coming this direction I realized the sign was do no enter for cross country skiers only, couldn’t see that going the other way.  This was my falls trail, at last.  However by this time it is almost 2:00, I am really hungry.  According to my fitbit I had walked 24,537 steps, over 10 miles and 47 flights of stairs (hills).  I was foot sore, hot, hungry and tired.  This long hike with 50 pounds of camera equipment on your back.  I looked at the trail, started down it, turned back, stopped and debated.  I really wanted my waterfalls but it was another .3 mile loop with a .4 trail at the end to get to the falls.  Enough, they would be there another day.  Hiked back to my car to find out the falls trail is off the SECOND to last parking lot, not the last.  Now I know, I can return.  Headed home about 2:30, stopped for a burger on the way.  At least it wasn’t a wasted trip, I still got my fall colors.

Mushrooms, so many mushrooms…


Have you ever noticed how many varieties of mushrooms you can find in one yard?


After dinner yesterday, there was really nothing going on so I took the camera out into the yard to see what I could see.


I headed down to the pond hoping for some birds of one variety or another.  Nobody around.


I was wandering around the yard when I looked up into the trees and spotted a mushroom growing out of the tree.  After finding one, I started looking at all the trees and finding many more.  I think mushrooms are really cool looking and come in so many shapes and sizes.


This little one was growing in a hole in the tree, something had been eating it too.


I have no idea which mushrooms are poisonous and which are edible, frankly I don’t really care as I don’t eat mushrooms.  Never much cared for the taste of them. 




After I found all these mushrooms up in the tree tops, it was time to start looking down at the tree stumps.  I love the green in these.





These two photos I took a while back, I still haven’t figured out what they are for certain. The best I can come up with is some variety of Stinkhorn Mushroom. 


While walking my dog around the yard today, I noticed a whole new crop of mushrooms that weren’t there yesterday.  It stormed pretty good all morning and it is funny how quickly a mushroom seems to just appear.




I had to head back out with the camera and capture some of these new ones. 




It amazes me how many types of mushrooms there can be in one small yard, how many varieties there must be out there in the world. 





There were actually some in my garden that I didn’t photograph but they looked like the honeycomb from the inside of a bee hive.  Very unusual looking.


This one above was just a box shaped mushroom about the size of a Rubik’s Cube.  My dog stopped to sniff this one and called my attention to it.


Then there were these, very tiny and delicate looking.




We had this little flower looking one in another area, again pretty small and delicate.


These next were some of my favorites, they looked like little sombrero’s or something. 





They were such a rich reddish brown.  They got these cracks in the top that reminded me of a cookie when it bakes.  I doubt they taste as good as a cookie though.



Deep molasses cookie brown.



The floppy sun hat mushroom…


I was swapping out lenses on the front stoop when I found this lizard that had crawled into the garden and died, must have been eating the mushroom that was in the tree, poisonous….. :)

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Just a shot of some berries I found while wandering…


Then there are the frogs, these little guys are cool.  They are only about an inch to an inch and half long.  They will be all over the deck and sliding glass door. 


Especially in the early morning or evening after dark.  The poor cat, she sits in the house watching them hopping all over and wants to get to them in the worse way. 


This one was on the grill.  The cat will actually attack and jump at the glass door trying to catch them.  Gets her exercise but has to be frustrating for her. :)

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They have such cool eyeballs, look at the details in that eye….



They will sit on my mums all day as well, I love the green against the pink…



This next little bugger I found on the garden hose, they just sit and watch me photograph them.



My little pal that was sitting down in the grasses by the pond.

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And just finished off the day taking a picture of a white flower in the garden.  It was brutally hot out there the last couple days, the humidity is high and I just don’t stay out there long.



Sunflower Day


It was a pretty nice day out today, as I headed out for my morning walks with the dogs, I saw this unusual mushroom in my garden.  I haven’t been able to figure out what kind it is. 


It has this odd eyeball on top, very unique.  These things seem to arrive over night, no mushrooms one day and there they are the next.  Very strange.


I went in to my salon for my haircut yesterday.  As usual, we end up talking photography as we are both hobby photographers.  She told me that she had been informed of a place to take sunflower photos in Rush City and made the drive up there to find they were drooping and close to done.


She still had fun shooting but after she returned home she saw a post on Facebook of a photo taken in East Bethel, even closer to home for me.  She pulled up the photo and address after finishing my hair.


She said the photo was only a week old so hopefully these aren’t spent like the Rush City crop.


As soon as I got the dogs walked, I loaded up my gear and headed out to find the field of Sunflowers.


They were in their prime and beautiful. I could see the field from quite a ways off yet.  They went on and on as far as the eyes could see.


I experimented with all my lenses and with colors and exposures and spent a good hour and half there.


I felt like I could play all day.  It was fun to get out with the camera after a summer with a dog with restrictions. 


I worried a little about stopping and trespassing, wasn’t sure if I could just stop and take photos like this.


It was posted on Facebook as okay to shoot there so I chanced it.  There was a perfect parking spot and definite signs that others had been there and admired this field before me.


Shortly after I started shooting, a mother and daughter in white wedding type gowns showed up with a chair and a photographer and started doing a shoot, made me feel better about it being okay to shoot there.


Others started arriving behind them.  Very popular place, for good reason.  It was beautiful.




I made sure to be careful where I walked and not trample any plants at all.  Walked only in the rows and in the open weedy area that was left in the middle.



I thought they were really neat looking from behind as well, had to do some shooting of the backs of the field.  Get all angles in and try and be a little different/creative.



I would lay on the ground up close to the stalk with the wide angle lens and get some different perspectives, these turned into some of my favorites.


I found it really interesting the amount of pollen they dropped off on the leaves, didn’t realize the pollen in them as I always think just of the seeds they produce.  The bees and monarchs were plentiful on the flowers.



Thought I would try one in Black and White, just to see what they would look like.


You can really see the pollen in the one above, it was just think on the leaves.




I really had a lot of fun with these beauties today.  I think it would be fun to shoot them once they have their seeds and start to droop over.  Get some more creative shots when they are in the droop and drying stages.  I will have to head back over the next weeks and get the various stages of development.

To top off my fun and relaxing day, my friend JoJo posted a photo of a rifle on Facebook, they were doing a raffle for the funeral of her uncle.  I never win anything and didn’t do it to win, I wanted to support a friend.  My husband and I told her to get us two tickets.  Not more than a couple hours later the phone rang, I won the rifle….. really…. me??? I don’t win. 


I have to drive back to my old home area in Wisconsin to pick it up but it was the perfect ending to a wonderful day….. :)


Murphy’s Law…

Yesterday I headed out for my morning walk, halfway down the driveway I remembered the camera I meant to bring along with me.  I thought about going back for it but I just didn’t want to disturb my buddy, he is having a tough time understanding why he can’t go for walks these days.  Better to just continue on my walk without the camera this time. 

Of course we all know what that means.  I get around the corner and there are two little fawns on the shoulder of the road.  They stood there and watched as I approached.  As I got near to them, they moved into the ditch a ways, maybe only 20 feet from me.  I felt like I could reach out and pet them.  Two thoughts were running rampant in my head, why aren’t they running and why, oh why didn’t I go back for the camera. 

I noticed a movement to my right, there on the opposite side of the road, maybe 40-50 feet from me, was a nice buck.  He was just standing watching me and the fawns.  I noticed a few feet behind him, a nice doe.  That explained the reason for the fawns not running away, I was between the fawns and momma.  Didn’t explain why, oh why I didn’t have my camera along.  :(

My dog took this time to do her business, delaying me to stand and watch all the deer and kick myself for not disturbing my other dog to get my camera.  Murphy’s Law, the one day….

Murphy stepped in on my drive to work last Friday as well, I don’t take my camera when I am going to work as the majority of the drive is interstate and I can’t use it anyway.  Driving down my dirt road, there were two deer laying down resting next to the neighbors pond, with the rustic bridge over the pond and at their backs.  Perfect scenic shot that wouldn’t last for me to run home, get the camera and get back.  Murphy has been out to get me this weekend. :)

On a plus note, Ares is healing and doing better every day. 


He is being more patient about things than I  ever expected him to be but he just doesn’t understand and there is no way to explain it to him.  This is the day he returned home from his surgery.  Below is  today, a month later.  Looks much better.


However he is now feeling like he can run and jump and play and wants out.  He has 3 more weeks before they xray and make sure the bone has healed.  Only then will he be allowed back out.  He is putting on weight in his idleness, not sure who is going more insane right now.  Him with his confinement or us listening to him cry and want out.  Soon, buddy, soon.

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This morning I headed out for  my walk and this time I did take the camera.  There were about 4 -5 fawns playing in our yard this morning when I started to get ready and they reminded me to grab the camera.  I missed them in the yard as I was trying to get the camera set up while going down the stairs.  Forgot how many steps we have and fell down the last couple steps and landed on my knees on the floor below.  All the ruckus with the dogs barking at me falling chased the deer out of the yard. 

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I missed the play time in the yard but I caught up to two of the fawns around the corner where they had been the day previous.  They were farther away and harder to get photos of but it made up for the day before a little bit at least.

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When I first saw the deer on the left here, I thought it was just a doe, once I zoomed in with the camera I realized first, it was a fawn,  second, that there is a second fawn hiding behind him/her.

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They kept a close eye on me but didn’t seem too concerned.  No sign of momma the whole time I watched.

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They started to wander away and graze, getting too far away to really get a good photo anymore. 

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Too far for the photo above to be clear but they were too cute in this position that I photographed them and posted it anyway.  They shortly after decided it was time to go find momma.

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I continued on with my walk.  I am happy to see there are quite a few monarch butterflies this year.  Normally I see maybe one all summer if lucky, they just aren’t around like they used to be.  There were 3 of them flying around me along this stretch of road.  They are becoming endangered and it was fun to see 3 at once this year.  They follow me on this stretch every morning. 



I have purposefully left the milkweed plants in my yard for them as they say that the decline of the monarch is from the destruction of milkweed plants that they need.

I was almost home when I saw the biggest woodpecker I have ever seen.  I am guessing by the size and the red head it was most likely a  Pileated, although they are doing a recovery project of the Red Headed in my area and they are around and spotted near here.  It was   very red and white, maybe….. I know there were two as I could hear one tapping away quite loudly above me but couldn’t spot him/her.  This other one flew onto a tree about chest level with me but unfortunately on the far side of the tree from me.  Good old Murphy again, wouldn’t let me get a  photo of this huge bird.  I was just thinking, do I walk up this persons driveway with a camera and try to capture a shot or will they get upset with me for coming on the property.  She is a really nice lady and I talk to her a lot, she won’t mind…. thought about it too long,  he flew into a heavy treed area near me.  I looked and looked but couldn’t spot him for a photo.  I hear them almost every walk, they are very loud in their pecking and distinctive as to their size from the sound.  One day I will find one again…..


I finished off the walk with a few of the day lilies in the same ladies yard, I was there so I might as well photograph something, right?



Tomorrow is another day, just have to remember to keep bringing the camera.  Who knows what I might see…

Perfect timing….

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Every morning when I am leaving for work I see these in full bloom.  By the time I get home they are closed up.  Yesterday morning I was getting ready to walk my dog when I noticed them open.  I decided to try for a couple quick pictures before my walk, get them while I could.  I walked out and started clicking, after just a couple shots I heard a noise behind me.  I turned around to find this little fellar…..



I am thinking he is one of the twins I have been seeing in the yard.  He kept looking back for momma and sibling to follow, seemed confused as to where to go.



Unfortunately since I was taking flowers, I didn’t have my zoom lens on the camera, took advantage of his visit and did what I could though.  If I had gone for my walk instead of delaying for the flowers, I would have missed this cute little visitor for sure.


Momma finally convinced him to go back into the woods with her.  Since I had the camera out, I decided to take it along on my walk.  I haven’t had much chance to get out with the camera since my other dog had his surgery. 

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I took this shot of my neighbors pond and boat, did a little playing around with colors for effect. Always fun to experiment and do something a little different.


These mushrooms were in my yard, they are pretty large mushrooms.  I don’t know anything about them, not sure what kind they are or if they are edible or not.  They are neat looking though. 




I think mushrooms are cool looking but I am not a fan of the taste, these can stay in the yard for photos.


Coming back to home, I found this little guy resting in a window sill.  Did a little playing with colors on him too. The top photo is as taken, the bottom is after a little fun play with black and white and color combined.

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Another perfectly timed opportunity, heading up from doing laundry I found this visitor standing in the front yard.


I was actually able to put the laundry down, get the camera, open the door and go right outside.  I was watched closely but this deer didn’t seem to care too much.




I think it stuck its tongue out at me though, not very polite of her considering I was letting her eat lunch in my yard. 



I thought I had scared her off, she turned and headed into the bushes here.  I took a few more shots and headed back into the house to finish my laundry.


I looked back out a minute later and she had returned to finish lunch I guess, went over to visit the apple tree.




I want to know one thing, why is it when I try to go out in the yard and do anything there are about 50 deer fly buzzing my head, flying into my eyes, nose and mouth and I want a net around my head.  Yet here is this deer and there aren’t any deer flies around her head.  My poor dogs go out and don’t want to stay longer than to do their business and get back in they are biting so bad.  



Although in a couple photos, it does look like there are some on her head, just not the swarms the dogs and I seem to attract.  Lunch time is over, she wandered on her merry way.  Guess I have to finish that laundry finally.



Up close and personal with a dragon fly

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I wanted to spend the day getting some yard work done, got out the wood chipper and worked away on the pile of brush out front.  Managed to get quite a bit chipped before running out of gas.  Once it runs out of gas and dies, it is too hot to get started again, needs some time to itself for a cool down.  Seemed like that was a good time to quit myself and get out the camera.  I had been seeing the hummingbird on my Weigala so thought I would go sit out there and try and get some photos.  After a 45 minute sitting session with no sightings, I decided to explore the gardens.  My first rose opened for the year.

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Well I was taking a few photos of the rose, I saw something off to the side.  It was a hummingbird moth. This is only the second time I have ever seen one of these in my life. 

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I didn’t have the correct lens on for this but had to try.  Took a few shots and realized he was sticking around.  Ran in the house and swapped out my lens for a better one.


He didn’t stick around long after I got the other lens, I had to move in closer and I don’t think he liked that.



He flew off, I waited around a good half hour hoping he would come back.  He didn’t.  At least not while I was out there.  The little bugger was taunting and laughing at me, I swear he was.  I came in the house to order dinner as it was getting to be that time.  As I was putting on my shoes to run to Joy Garden for our food, I looked up and this little bugger was at the window, looking in at me and laughing.  I think he was proud of himself having chased me away.  He had to come back and rub it in.

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While I was waiting around for him to come back, this friendly feller posed nicely for me at least.

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I think the faces on these guys is really cool up close.  So many facets to the face of a dragonfly.

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Had to try it in black and white to see how it would turn out.

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I kept inching in closer to see how close he would let me get.  He let me up close and personal, just sat and watched me.

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Now isn’t that just the coolest face? He is smiling…. :) You can pet him, so soft and cuddly. :) I don’t know why but I think bugs are the coolest and dragonflies are one of my favorite, probably my favorite actually.  They are all over on my walk, all different colors and varieties. 





Neighbor’s yard



My neighbor has the coolest yard, I would give anything to be able to walk around it and take photos for a day.  I took this bridge from the road walking by, just one of two bridges in this fun yard.  They feed the geese, turkeys, deer and whatever other wildlife will eat what they put out.  As soon as the geese on my pond hatch their young and they can swim, they go to this pond where they have more room to swim and free food. 


It is a very pretty, peaceful yard.  They have a tree that blossoms bright pink in the spring and reflects off the pond, just gorgeous.


This beautiful egret was taken from the road walking by as well, not a very good photo as he was too far away and after zooming in… just doesn’t work.

It was a perfect day to be out today. woodpecker8

I wandered down to the pond before starting on my yard work, had to see if anyone was around.  On my way back to the house, there was a humming bird on my Wiegala, she flew off before I could react and try for a photo.  I pulled up a chair and sat for a while hoping she would return.  While I was sitting, I heard…tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap…. looked behind me to see this guy in my weeping willow tree.


Snapped a few shots of him before he flew off at least.  There is a much larger, louder woodpecker that I keep hearing in the area, sounds like a machine gun above my head.. not quite but very loud. haha  I haven’t been able to spot him yet.  When we first moved here we had a Pileated woodpecker in the front trees.  I haven’t seen him since but I wonder if that is what this larger, loud woodpecker I am hearing is.  I really want to find him….. I also keep hearing a loud Who, who, who every morning, want to find this owl too.  You can hear him while in the house with the windows only open a crack, another very loud sounding feller.  I need more time in the day to just sit quietly in the yard with my camera, a whole world of critters waiting to be found yet….

Day off relaxing…

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Took a few days off from work to do some things around the yard.  I had hoped to make it to the park with the camera but was too tired after all the yard work.  After relaxing a while I decided to at least go on down to the pond and see who might be visiting.  Papa goose was resting in my yard. Hmmmm…. do I walk to the pond which would put me between resting papa goose and nesting mama goose?  Didn’t sound like a wise place to put myself.  I decided to try again later.

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Papa finally decided to venture off to his pond, I followed at a distance to check things out.

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Once papa reached the pond, he let me know he didn’t care for me following him there.  I received quite the scolding.  My dog saw the wings go up and heard the scolding and he scolded the goose right back by barking up a ferocious storm at him.  Wasn’t quite how I planned my quiet pond visit to surprise the wildlife and maybe get a photo or two.

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Papa did finally relax and so did my dog, papa is drinking water and swimming quietly.  He would take a drink and stretch out the neck, tip the head and swallow it on down. 

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I decided to sit at the shore and watch for a while, see what else might happen along.  Too nice of a day to sit indoors and relax when I can be out on the dock relaxing and listening to the birds.  The redwing blackbirds sing back and forth to each other all day by the pond. 

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They usually stay on the far side of the pond but while I was sitting there, this guy came and sat right by me.  He stayed quite a while singing to his female pal on the other side.

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They always seem to pick the weakest branch to perch on and wobble around. 

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After a bit, he moved on to perch on the deck post.  Next thing I know, I was hearing a tap, tap, tap, tap, in fast pace above my head.  I looked up to find a woodpecker right above me.



That head of his would bob and peck so fast there was no getting a steady picture of it.  He moved allover in rapid pace.


He finally moved on and I headed on back to the house for the evening. 

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I noticed the rhubarb was already gone to seed, seemed early for this to happen.  I thought the seed pod was pretty cool though and took a few shots. 


I stopped to check out some other shrubs and plants as I was passing the gardens.  I came across my first caterpillar of the year. 


They really have quite the ugly face don’t they? 

Blanding Painted Duo

The other day while I was at the pond I had found the Blandings Turtle again, I don’t see them that often yet this year and when I do they are across the pond.  This one was just coming out of the water to take a rest and I saw the sun reflect off his shell. 

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I caught this painted turtle giving a piggy back ride to the little guy.  Thought this was pretty cool, she walked quite the distance with him up top.

multi turtle pile up

They had started out as a part of this whole multi turtle pile up.  It makes me wonder how many turtles are in our little pond.  I can go down to the dock at any given time and hear plop, plop, splash as tons of multi sized turtles are diving off the dock into the water to hide.  You will then see heads popping up out of the water checking on me.  They are everywhere.

Well, that is about my ventures for the week.  So much to watch in one little yard. 



Definitely Spring…


Spring is here for certain I believe…. the Rhododendron is starting to bloom.  This is the first actual open flower on it so far.  My deep cranberry Rhodo isn’t yet started but it took a pretty hard hid over the winter and seems to have been grazed some by critters.  I am hopeful it will come back in time.



A few other flowers starting out in the gardens.  Everything is leafing out nicely and new growth coming up from the ground. 


The sparrows have started visiting and singing their songs.

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The last few mornings I have gone out with the dogs, around 3:00 am.  There has been an owl out there hoot hoot hooting away.  Drives the dogs insane, very close and loud.  I would love to find and photograph him.

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The Red Wing Blackbirds are back at the pond, they are always trying to balance on these flimsy reeds along the shores. 


The mallards have been making their presence known down by the pond again as well. I haven’t noticed any signs of them nesting as of yet.

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Momma goose is nesting though, papa stands a close guard of her too.

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I watched him stay very alert to every sound and movement, he would travel back and forth toward whatever he heard to make sure all was safe.

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Here he was taking a nap on the dock, what is left of the dock.  He got a little worried by my appearance and moved closer to momma.

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grazing deer

The deer have also returned to grazing in the yard.  They look very thin and are shaggy with their winter coats as of yet.

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As long as they leave my flower gardens and roses alone, they can graze in the yard all they want.  

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They let me come right outside with them but they keep a very close watch on my movements.  As long as I open the door slowly and move cautiously they let me come out and shoot away.

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Of course my dogs aren’t too happy that I get to go out and they can’t come along, they would love to give chase. 

So there are more than enough signs that spring is here to stay, no more snow for a couple months at least. :)



Nice day for play…

reed reflections

It was such a perfect day to be out today.  I had hoped to have time to go to a park for photos but didn’t make it.  I did manage to spend a little time relaxing with a book and the camera down by the pond at home.  I am hoping that if I sit out there on a lawn chair in the same spot, the critters will get used to me and come around more.  This shot of the reeds reflecting on the water struck me as kind of cool. 


My dogs weren’t exactly happy they couldn’t come join me.

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This wood duck kept coming out from around the reeds to pose for me.  I think he wanted to get to where his wife is nesting but he would see me and turn around and go back to his hiding spot. 

wood duck3

wood duck2

The colors on these guys is so amazingly vibrant. 

wood duck swim

My turtles came out to visit me as well. 

peekaboo turtle

This little feller was playing peek a boo with me.

turtle dock2

turtle nails

Somebody seriously needs to trim these guys toenails, any volunteers? 

turtle dock reflection

turtle dock

I didn’t have a lot of time but I had a lot of visitors and really enjoyed the time I did have with them…. I like turtles… :)