The Secretive Sora

Sora10

A secretive bird of the fresh water marsh, the Sora is seldom seen, but often heard, its whistles and whinnies making its presence known.

Sora11

Spending most of its time hidden deep within the cattails and rushes of the marsh, it is an opportunistic feeder, eating seeds, insects, snails and other aquatic invertebrates.

M02A6456

Jenney and I were lucky to spot this one in the open at Whitewater Draw in McNeal, AZ. We have caught glimpses of the shy birds before as they stepped from the edges of  cover, only to quickly return to the reeds and disappear.  But even out in the open the perfection of their feather design keeps them beautifully concealed.

M02A6409

A City on a Hill

20170726_165718

You know, as Christians, Matthew 5 tells us that we are like a city on a hill. In other words, our lives should be so full of light that we shine for all to see, just like a city on a hill whose lights can be seen for miles around.

We have a dear friend who absolutely embodies this principle. No matter what she’s dealing with, her love for others shines forth. She truly wants the best for each person she meets, and is willing to do whatever she can to help.

I hope each of our readers has at least one “city on a hill” in their lives. I am exceedingly grateful for ours.

 

Life…from a different point of view

What if?

What if you were called to do something so outside-of-the-box, so unexpected, that sometimes you wondered what in the world was going on?

Tufted Titmouse

What if your inner being, your spirit, your very core, gradually became absolutely certain that you were to go, to a far-away place that you’ve only visited once?  That you were to leave your very comfortable, safe life and go?

What if someone you know quit their secure jobs, sold many of their possessions, and went on the road pursuing their convictions — because they were just supposed to…go? No jobs lined up, no home at the other end, but with the complete certainty that faith is rewarded?

What would you say to those people?

Well then…what do you have to say to us?

 

 

 

Habitat for Humanity

Dragonfly6

With the marsh approaching two years old in October, we thought we would share some pics of the wildlife which now calls it home.

20170617_132040

The cattails we planted are spreading nicely, and we had a pair of red-winged blackbirds nest.  It has been amazing to hear the male singing as he has patrolled his territory.

Redwing

 

M02A3525 (2)

We watched this mated pair of cedar waxwings softly exchange a mulberry some 16 times.  She finally accepted his gift by eating the mulberry…he then proceeded to find another which he presented her for another round of exchange.  I’ll bet we watched them for 15 minutes.White-tailed2

Letting the fields grow up around the marsh has been such a rewarding decision.  Such dramatic increases in wildlife have been the result.  So many rabbits, turkeys, birds, fox, hawks, owls.

Indego Bunting2

We have been amazed at the amount of indigo buntings and seed-eating birds, which enjoy the grasses.

M02A1751

As a sportsman, I have done my best to practice leave no trace, and fishing catch and release, and teach the youth within my sphere of influence to do the same.  We want future generations to be blessed with the wildlife we have enjoyed.

M02A2053

When I consider the difference we made in our area by adding our marsh and letting some mowed areas become prairie…I feel like we need to teach our youth one more rule. Wildlife requires habitat.  When it exists, whole ecosystems are established.  Where there was once sterile mowed grass, there is now life in abundance!!

If we all could carve out just a slice…the corner behind a shed where not even neighbors can see…it can become habitat for birds, rabbits, squirrels… and thereby… habitat for humanity.

 

Parental Instinct

BGG3

The tiny blue-gray gnat-catcher landed on the branch above me.  Such a small bird I thought, just a little bigger than a humming bird.  It worked its way up in the tree, its tail flitting as it went.  The small caterpillar in its beak must be for young, I thought.  Within moments the tiny bird sang a note of greeting, and I saw the nest with 3 young chicks poking heads toward the incoming meal.

Blue Gray Knatcatcher at nest

For the next hour I stood somewhat out of sight and watched as 1st one parent, then another would bring back some small insect for the hungry mouths.  Each time the parent would land below the nest, check for predators in the area, kind of hop from branch to branch in a upward spiral around an adjacent tree before softly singing a note of greeting to its young just before arrival.  The chicks would tweet their hungry greetings in return, the meal would be offered, and the parent would spiral back down one of several adjacent trees singing to its young a series of 4 notes which soon sounded to me like “I’ll be back soon”  Sometimes both parents would arrive back  simultaneously, and one would wait on the other to carry out its duties and sing its four note farewell, before it too would go through the routine.   I believe, even at this early age, the parents are teaching their young the sound of their voice.

BGG2

It took the parents, working together almost two weeks to build 3″ nest.  Using spider web they wove layers of progressively finer materials together, finishing with the inner  cup measuring just 1-1/2″.  Cleverly disguised with bits of liken and bark, the nest most resembles a tree knot.  The eggs hatch in 11-15 days, and for 10 -15 days the parents will spend their entire daylight hours bringing their young food.  They work non-stop.

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher1

Crows, squirrels, snakes and other predators search out the gnat-catcher’s nests, so the parents must be cautious not to reveal the nest’s location.  While I was watching, a murder of crows flew overhead.  Two individuals slowed to a hover over the woods – obviously looking for a meal.

With luck, in about two weeks the baby will be flying on their own., and next year they will return to continue the cycle.BGG4

How a bird can even build a nest, let alone one just like every other Blue-Gray gnat-catcher is an amazing thing.  That the parent knows to sit on the eggs…and that they somehow know to work non-stop to feed their young.  We call this instinct…seems like there is so much going on here that it should require more than one word.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lake Erie Estuary

Connection

No matter how busy and pressure-filled our lives are, I find that I must make time to connect each day – for my own well-being. For me, that is easiest when Jeff and I are outside, seeing the majesty. There are some places we find in our wanderings that overwhelm me, filling me with awe, that I can “pack away” in my heart to sustain me in the midst of everyday life.

Lake Erie Estuary

I challenge each of you to find those places, those occurrences…take the time, make the effort, to find your connection.

Lake Erie

Spring Blush

The fact that daffodils know to start growing through the snow has always been fascinating to me.  Buried beneath the snow, the ground frozen, life begins right on schedule.

Swamp Milkweed2

The seed pods which waited through the cold winter burst open…their perfect planting season at hand.

Sycamore Seeds

Sycamore seed balls open in anticipation.  The winter freeze having expanded the soil -they and the other spring seeds are provided just the right little furrows to be blown into, just before the spring rains water them in.

Budding Tree 2

I wonder how the tree sap knows just when to leave the safety of the tree’s roots, and bring the tree back to life.

Budding Tree

It seems to me the sap literally pushes the buds into the spring air.

Winter Pool

I find it amazing how our planet goes from winter one week…to spring blush the next.

Spring Blush

 

 

Leopard frog

Leopard Frog on the path

LOOK AT THIS GUY!

There we were, walking along a very wet trail along the back of the lake,

Marshy path

when Jeff startled this guy directly into my path.

He was quite cooperative as I fumbled with my camera.

Leopard frog

When he was ready to move on, he looked at me as if to say, “Do you mind?

Leopard frog

I did mind, as I was still ooh-ing and aah-ing over his toes, but he still decided to move on.

I always thought frogs caught insects with their sticky tongues, but it turns out that the “trick” is in their spit! Their saliva is uniquely designed to change properties – it starts out thick, and then when their tongue hits prey, it turns watery so that it can immerse the unlucky bug (or whatever else it is eating). Then the saliva thickens again, to keep the prey stuck while the bungee-tongue carries it back to the mouth. As if that’s not cool enough, it turns out that the frog moves the prey OFF the tongue using its eyeballs! There’s a great article about this here.

The creative design apparent all around us never ceases to amaze me.