Wild Weekly Photo Challenge: Movement / Robin

Robins Bath 01
Robins Bath 01, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)

This is an American Robin who loves taking dips in the birdbath. He has established an almost daily bathing ritual, and is quite fun to watch.

Here he was this morning, back for his usual bath.  I hope you enjoy the photos!

Robins Bath 02
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Wild Weekly Photo Challenge: Overlooked

Almost Overlooked
Almost Overlooked, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)

hidden yet unconcealed
overlooked in plain view

This is a photo of a little crab spider camouflaging itself on a dried maple seed pod (or a “ballet slipper” as I call it).  This seed pod was only about 1.5 inches long (~4 cm).  At first I did not notice the spider, and my intent was to get some macro shots of the web of veins running through the seed pod.  I had recently gotten a new macro lens and was anxious to start learning how to use it.  Only when I got closer and picked it up did I noticed this little creature clinging to it.  So I decided to make it part of my photography subject.  During the whole photo session, it cooperated nicely, and held perfectly still for the camera.  I only wish I had a tripod at the time to hold the camera just as still.

Crab Spiders usually have short, wide, flat bodies with the first two pairs of legs being longer than the back legs.  They are typically colored to match their habitat, and some can even gradually change to match the color of the flowers on which they are hiding.  Crab spiders ambush their prey, sometimes holding still and relying on their camouflage to keep them from being seen by their prey.  Also, their main defense is this ability to camouflage and they will hide or drop away from predators if they can.

This image is for the Wild Weekly Photo Challenge theme of “Overlooked.”  The great outdoors is filled with things that are often overlooked by most people. People these days spend so much time hurrying through life, tied to their cell phones, that they often forget to look around and see the overlooked things in nature that make our world so special.”  This is a reminder that there is beauty everywhere — sometimes you just need to do a little searching for it.

This is also for the “Tagged” letter challenge (letter “O”) by Frizztext.

Spring Is Here!

Hungry!, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)
Launch!, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)

passionate wingsongs
carry loving nourishment
spring nesting

Happy Spring to those in the Northern Hemisphere!

Today is officially the first day of spring here, yet it is a gloomy, rainy day, which will turn into snow for the next few days.   Snow is still on the ground, and the deer are still sporting their heavy winter coats, however, yesterday was a nice sunny day and the American Robins arrived with their beautiful songs.  A sure sign of spring!

The Western Scrub Jays are gathering food more frantically lately and we hear the constant flapping of their wings as they visit the feeders and beg for peanuts continually through the day – breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.  We also see the male feeding the female, which we learned is a way for the female to get used to the male feeding her while she sits on the nest for about three weeks straight, incubating their eggs.  Nesting should begin soon!

The photos above were taken yesterday and are of the same male scrub jay.  The second image is a combination of two different photos.

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“F” Tagged: Flicker of a Flicker

Flicker Flicker
Flicker Flicker, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  Click on photo to enlarge.

a rare fiery flash
eager for a striking pic
hopefully next time

The camera is set and ready to capture a bird in flight.
I anticipate its takeoff and start continuous shooting,
hopeful and excited that, finally, I got the shot I wanted!
Darn!  I cut it’s head off!

(Has this ever happened to you?)

This bird is a male Red-shafted Northern Flicker, which resides in western North America.  It is a member of the woodpecker family.  Their outer coloring is mostly neutral, but they are red under their tail and underwings.  The males have a red moustache.  They are stunning when they take off, with their vibrant flashes and flickers of red from their underwings.  Although I have been able to get some good bird flight shots, I’m still working on getting some of the Flicker.  They are quite skittish compared to most of the other birds around here.  Practice, practice, practice!

This image is a combination of two photos taken in sequence using continuous shooting.  I thought that the trees in the background in the original photos were distracting so I used a texture to soften them.

After a long absence by me, this is for the “Tagged” letter challenge (Tagged “F” Challenge) by Frizztext, to share a short story or reflection, even an aphorism using a word tagged with each letter of the alphabet.
Texture used is Kim Klassen’s “Havana”

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“T” Challenge: Threat Display

Finch Threatened
Finch Threatened, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  Click on photo to enlarge.

why must one threaten
those who truly mean no harm

This is a photo I took this past summer of a female house finch receiving a defensive threat display from a female ruby throated hummingbird.

Hummingbirds are aggressive and defensive around the feeders.  They even hover right in front of hubby and me with their tail feathers fanned out, which is the sign of a threat display.  We provide the feeders for them, and the finches won’t steal their food, but we all still get threatened.  However, it is certainly amusing and makes for good photo opportunities!

This is for the letter “T” Story Challenge by Frizztext, to share a short story or reflection, even an aphorism using a word tagged with each letter of the alphabet.

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“S” Challenge: Survival

avian banquet
abruptly evacuated
predator shadow

Lately our birdseed feeders have been swarming with more feathered friends, moreso than this past summer.  There could be 30+ finches, chickadees, pine siskins and scrub jays monopolizing the four feeders at any one time, quickly depleting the food.  Then suddenly, it seems like one of the birds sounds an alarm and they disappear in a flash!  Yesterday, we saw why.  As the small birds evacuated, another larger bird flew across all the feeders and perched in a tree just outside our deck near those feeders…it was a stunning sight!

I believe this bird is a prairie falcon.  (Can anyone confirm its identification for me?)  With a length of up to 50 centimeters, their diet consists mainly of smaller birds caught in flight, and small mammals.  Recently, I found one of the feeders covered in fresh blood.  I thought some of the little birds got in a fight, but now I’m wondering if this hunter had anything to do with it.  Anyway, I would flee too, if I were in danger of being eaten!

(Although it has been snowing heavily these past two days, I was glad to be able to get some shots of this activity.)

This is for the letter “S” Story Challenge by Frizztext, to share a short story or reflection, even an aphorism using a word tagged with each letter of the alphabet.

 Linking up with:

“R” Challenge: Residence (nature), Residents

Haunted House
Haunted House, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  Click on photo to enlarge.

residence for spooks
sporting indelible costumes
haunted house

Does this look spooky to you, even without seeing any of its residents?

This nest is a residence for the Bald Faced Hornet and was in my mother’s yard in her large Asian Pear tree.  It was about 3-feet off the ground and larger than a football in diameter.  When she told me about it last week while I was visiting her, curiosity motivated me to have a quick look and snap a couple of photos.  However, fear of having a painfully potent encounter with lots of small black spooky-looking things drove me away very quickly.  I have been stung before by yellowjackets and bees, and I’ve stepped on a bumble bee nest by accident – big owwwwwie for several days!!  So I decided to use Wikipedia’s photo below so you can see what the little critter looks like up close.

Bald Faced Hornet – Source: Wikipedia

Here is some information about the Bald Faced Hornet:

  • It belongs to a genus of wasps in North America called yellowjackets, but called a hornet because it builds paper nests.  It is not a true hornet.
  • Are large (greater than 15mm) with black and ivory coloring
  • Are common tree-nesting wasps
  • Are more aggressive than yellowjackets and other hornets
  • A nest can contain 400 to 700 workers
  • Will aggressively attack with little provocation, and anyone or anything that invades their space
  • Have smooth stingers, and will sting repeatedly if their nest is disturbed
  • Are known for their football-shaped paper nests
  • Nests are abandoned by winter and are not reused
  • Old nests provide good winter shelter for other insects and spiders since they are insulated from heat and cold
  • It is not considered safe to approach the nest for observation purposes
  • Their scary costumes and face masks are permanent!


This is for the letter “R” Story Challenge by Frizztext, to share a short story or reflection, even an aphorism using a word tagged with each letter of the alphabet.
Kim Klassen texture used – Providence

 Linking up with:

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“Q” Challenge: Qigong

Scrub Jay Qigong
Scrub Jay Qigong, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  Click on photo to enlarge.

mastery of awareness
perfectly balanced

Qi (or chi – pronounced “chee”) is frequently translated as life energy, life force, or energy flow.  Qi is the central underlying principle in traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts.

Gong (or kung; gung – pronounced “gung”) is often translated as cultivation or work.

Qigong (pronounced “chee gung”) refers to the cultivation and balance of life energy, especially for health.  It focuses on breath, movement and awareness.

Qigong (and tai chi, with which you may be more familiar) is a traditional Chinese exercise.  It is a form of gentle exercise involving movements that are typically repeated, composed of strengthening and stretching the body, increasing fluid movement, enhancing balance and building awareness of how the body moves through space.  It is based on two ideas:

  • Qi flows through the body along “energy pathways” called meridians. If the flow of qi is blocked or unbalanced at any point along the pathway, it is thought that you may become ill. Doing qi gong (or tai chi) increases energy flow and improves health through gentle, graceful, repeated movements.
  • Nature, including the body, consists of opposing forces called yin and yang. Good health results when these forces are in balance. Qi gong (or tai chi) movements attempt to help restore the body’s balance of yin and yang.

Some believe that as a complement to Western medicine, qigong can help the body heal itself.

(Sources: WebMD and Wikipedia)

Notice the scrub jay in the photo above.  He is perfectly balanced at the top of a 35+ feet tall tree with his right leg, and is holding his left leg steady, as if he is doing a qigong movement!  He also has a deformed left foot, which doesn’t seem to hold him back much. (Click here to see another photo of this same bird.)

Also, seeing his pose reminded me of the original 1984 “Karate Kid” movie, when Daniel was learning an important life lesson about balance.  (See image at the Wikipedia link here.)  In reality, this bird was just waiting for me to put out some peanuts for his daily treat!


Examples of qigong health benefits:

Have you tried qigong (or tai chi)?  If so, what are your experiences?

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“O” Challenge: Okayama Fairytale

young and resolute
fighting forces of evil
Japanese fairytale

Okayama Prefecture Japan is located in the south western part of the country and is where some of my ancestors lived.  It is on the island of Honshu and located between the Seto Inland Sea to the south and the Chugoku Mountains to the north.  It’s nickname is “The Land of Sunshine” because the number of days with rainfall less than 1 millimeter is the highest in Japan.  The capital is Okayama city.

Rather than tell you much more about Okayama Prefecture, I thought I would do something different and introduce you to a popular and delightful Japanese fairytale strongly associated with Okayama, named “Momotaro” or “Peach Boy.”  Peaches, and other fruits, are famous products of Okayama, and a Momotaro Festival is held there annually.  The capital, Okayama City (population of over 700,000), named its main street Momotarō-Odōri in the Peach Boy’s honor, and you’ll find statues from the tale along the way.  I don’t have a photo to post, so I created the above doodle instead to represent the story.

“In the old days, the peach was a symbol of long life and was also believed to be effective in warding off devils.”  (japanese.about.com)

I remember hearing the story of Momotaro when I was a little girl, and I have a version of the story that is in both English and Japanese.  Here is a summary of the fairytale taken from Wikitravel:

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“N” Challenge: Nectar, Nourishment

Nectar, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  Click on photo to enlarge.

calm reflection
sustains mind and body
emotional nectar

We still have a few honeybees buzzing around drinking in the last few drops of nectar from our flowers before they are done for the season.

What nourishes you?  What is the nectar that feeds your mind, body, and/or spirit?

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“M” Challenge: Macro

Copper Apricot Daisy
Copper Apricot Daisy, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  Click on photo to enlarge.

blossoms reveal
bouquets within a bouquet
savor the beauty

Have you ever noticed that the inside of many flowers seem to have their own separate bouquets?  You can see a small part of this bouquet in the copper apricot daisy above.  That’s one of the beauties of a macro lens, it helps us stop and notice detail that we may not see because of their small size.

What have you noticed around you with your own internal macro lens?  How do you stop or slow down in these busy lives we have and savor details.  Do you “take time to smell the roses?”  There is beauty all around us.  Slow down, even for a few minutes, to notice it.

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“L” Challenge: Little Lola

Little Lola
Little Lola, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  Click on photo to enlarge.

we are all unique
beauty of diversity
is not to be judged

Meet Little Lola…

…that’s what we named this female house finch…no particular reason other than the name popped into hubby’s head and I liked it.  Her little tuft of feathers on top of her head seems permanent and distinguishes her from the rest of the female finches that visit.  Also, while the other finches were busy savoring sunflower seeds from one of the feeders, she was checking out the peanuts, and even seemed to be guarding them.  Perhaps she’s a free spirit.  Lola is different, but still lovely.  When we see this tuft, we know that it’s Lola visiting us.

Lola is my little representation of diversity…in that both beauty and strength exist with diversity.

 “Civilization is the encouragement of differences.”
~ Gandhi

“I think… if it is true that
there are as many minds as there
are heads, then there are as many
kinds of love as there are hearts.”
~ Leo Tolstoy

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“K” Challenge: Kick Up Your Heels!

Kick Up Your Heels!
Kick Up Your Heels!, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  Click on photo to enlarge.

you’ve conquered hurdles
and rejuvenated the day
celebration kick

Don’t forget to kick up your heels and celebrate the small successes, too!

(Kick up your heels:  to celebrate, to have a wonderful time, to enjoy yourself)

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“J” Challenge: Juvenile

A New Friend
A New Friend, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  Click on photo to enlarge.

“Are you my new friend?”

filled with trust, hope and
endless curiosity
youthful innocence

This is a female juvenile downy woodpecker just learning how to fly and trying to make a new friend at the birdbath.  She was curious about everything.  Adorably clumsy, Mama needed to feed her since she was having difficulty landing at the bird feeders and feeding herself.

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“I” Challenge: Impressive

Impressive Hummingbird
Impressive Hummingbird, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  Click on photo to enlarge.

petite and lovely
achieves the incredible
a hummingbird’s life

(This is my second posting today.  I’m trying to catch up on some blogging and visiting blogs.)

Here are other “I” words to describe hummingbirds.  Can you add more?

  • Wings flap in the shape of an infinity symbol
  • They achieve the seemingly impossible
  • They are independent and migrate alone
  • Even juveniles instinctively know when to migrate and they also migrate alone
  • They can move in all directions instantaneously
  • Impressive in beauty and talent
  • Inspiring…

This goes to show that incredible feats can come in small packages!

This is a photo of a male black-chinned hummingbird.  It took me a while to get a photo of this bird at the right angle and lighting to capture the rich purple color on its throat…while in flight.  For a few more hummingbird facts, see my previous posting here.

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“H” Challenge: Happiness Is…

Nature Comes To You
Nature Comes To You, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  Click on photo to enlarge.


Happiness is…

…when nature comes to you!


Have you ever experienced a welcome approach from nature’s critters when you’re not even trying to approach them?  Serendipity!

When the fawns were first making their appearance last month, which is the usual time they are born here, I selected a spot in our backyard where I could sit with my camera and zoom lens, and hopefully get some photos.  Unexpectedly, two sibling fawns that were only a few days old started walking towards me.  I didn’t try to approach them; I didn’t extend my hand out to them; I just stayed in my spot taking photos.

One fawn seemed very curious about this two-legged creature with a funny box in front of her face, and came in for a much closer look.  Inquisitive Bambi came so close to me that my camera couldn’t focus in for a photo!  Now how often does that happen!  (Usually my problem is that they are too far away to get a good photo.)  She/he was just over a meter (four feet) away from me.  The other sibling maintained more distance and came as close as about three meters away.

I find the same thing with some of the birds in our yard, especially the hummingbirds, chickadees and scrub jays.  When we don’t try to approach them, they come closer to us.  Some of the hummingbirds get close enough for me to capture a photo with a macro lens…and just a few days ago, hubby and I were on our back deck talking when a chickadee landed on his shoulder!  I wish I had my camera with me at that time!

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“G” Challenge: Graceful

Graceful Flight
Graceful Flight, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  Click on photo to enlarge.

astonishing feats
delivered with stylish poise
hummingbird flight

I’ve spent more time recently watching hummingbirds.  I’m amazed by the extent of power and stamina in such a small creature, and their constant, gracefulness.  Even the quick movements, fighting, and threat displays seem to maintain unbroken elegance.

Some basic information about hummingbirds:

  • They are the tiniest birds in the world
  • More than 300 types of hummingbirds exist
  • Their brains are proportionately the largest in the bird kingdom
  • Have an average heart rate above 1,200 beats per minute
  • Are one of most aggressive bird species
  • Are the only birds that can fly backwards and upside down
  • Can move instantaneously in any direction
  • Flap their wings in the shape of a figure eight (infinity symbol)
  • Are built for power – 30% of their weight consists of flight muscles
  • Flight speed can average 25-30 mph and can dive up to 60 mph
  • Have weak feet and do not walk or hop
  • May have to visit 1,000 flowers each day for fuel
  • Eat insects and spiders for protein
  • Need to consume about ½ its weight in sugar daily
  • Females are usually larger than the males
  • Males are not involved in raising young
  • Migrate alone rather in flocks
  • Some migrate impressive distances – up to 500 miles nonstop over the Gulf of Mexico, which would require almost doubling their weight before migration
  • Rufous hummingbirds have the longest migration of any hummingbird species, traveling over 3,000 miles from Mexico to Alaska

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“F” Challenge: Fossils

Dinosaur Skull Fossil
Dinosaur Skull Fossil, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)

This past weekend, Hubby and I took a short yet fascinating road trip to Dinosaur National Monument (DNM), located on the border between northeast Utah, USA and northwest Colorado, USA.  DNM is the only national park area set up to protect a historic dinosaur quarry.  It is one of the world’s best windows into the late Jurassic period and is home to an amazing display of fossils from this era.  The vast diversity of plant and animal fossils found there helps reveal its ancient environment.

The fossil beds in this area were discovered in 1909 by Paleontologist Earl Douglass, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania USA, when he found eight dinosaur tailbones protruding from a sandstone hill.  This find turned out to be part of the most complete Apatosaurus skeleton ever discovered.  Douglass was working for the Carnegie Museum at the time, and established a formal digsite here known as the Carnegie Quarry.

From 1909 to 1924, field crews excavated and shipped fossils to museums, including the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Utah.  The first skeleton, and first specimen found at the quarry, was sent to Pittsburgh (my previous home) and mounted at the Carnegie Museum.

In 1915, the quarry site was declared a national monument to protect and conserve its world-class fossil bones.  Originally 80-acres, the monument was expanded to over 200,000 acres in 1938 to protect the spectacular canyons and beauty of the Green and Yampa rivers.

This image below shows the original size of the Carnegie Quarry, and what now exists of the quarry, in red.  This red area is what you can view at DNM in the Quarry Exhibit Hall.

The initial quarry was formed as a result of a “log jam” of dinosaurs that were killed by long droughts and returning extensive rains and floods.  The resulting fast flowing river swept carcasses and bones downstream along the river bottom where they began to pile and be covered by sand and mud.

Fossils from the Carnegie Quarry have been collected from almost 400 different dinosaurs.  Visitors can view a wall at the Quarry Exhibit Hall of the remaining 1,500 (approx.) fossil bones from 100 individuals dating back about 149 million years.  Earl Douglass was one of the first to suggest leaving some of the bones in place for public viewing.  DNM was the first place to do this and other sites have followed.

We were told that the skull in the very first photo above is the most photographed fossil at the quarry.  The following is a photo of the quarry wall inside the exhibit hall.  In the upper middle part of the photo, I’ve drawn an arrow to show where this skull is located.  (You can see a small protrusion at the end of the arrow point.)

Quarry Exhibit Hall
Quarry Exhibit Hall, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)

Here is another skull with the spine directly to the left of it.  This is a camarasaurus, which is the most common dinosaur at the quarry:

Camarasaurus skull (circled) and spine

The original Quarry Exhibit Hall, built in 1958 to house the quarry was closed in July 2006 because it was at risk of collapsing due to the expanding and contracting of the soil it was built on.  The Quarry Exhibit Hall underwent a major rehabilitation and was reopened on October 4, 2011:

Quarry Exhibit Hall at Dinosaur National Monument

Allosaurus skeleton. Original skull is seen in the lower left side of the photo.

This large, original Allosaurus skull inside the exhibit hall is one of the best-preserved skulls ever discovered.  It is uncrushed and only minimally distorted:

Allosaurus skull fossil

Near the quarry, visitors can take a short hike along the Fossil Discovery Trail and see more fossils of bone fragments, 100 million year old fish scales, and small clams.  Further away from the quarry, visitors can go on other hiking trails and scenic drives, take a river rafting trip, see dramatic river canyons, look for petroglyphs, etc.

The 23 rock layers and unique rock formations in this monument area provide a geologic record of earth’s history spanning over one billion years.  Fossils were deposited in many different environments, which allow scientists to reconstruct how the area was 150 million years ago.  Evidence, including Native American rock art (petroglyphs) show that the area has been inhabited off and on for thousands of years.

According to information at the visitors center, the monument has the “most complete geological records of any National Park Service site…It’s rock layers preserve ecosystems from ancient seas, to dinosaurs roaming river plains, to Sahara-like deserts with tiny mammals.”  Fascinating!

Baseball cap placed next to a dinosaur fossil – to show perspective

I am glad for the preservation of such historical significance and scenic beauty for present and future generations.

This is for the letter “F” Story Challenge by Frizztext, to share a short story or reflection, even an aphorism using a word tagged with each letter of the alphabet.

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“E” Challenge: Egret, Endangered

Snowy Egret
Snowy Egret, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)
Linking up with Texture Tuesday,  Tuesday Tips and Pics, Our World TuesdayWild Bird Wednesday, Weekly Top ShotNature Notes, and Rural Thursday.

each species a thread
all woven into fine lace
web of life

I am using this photo I took of a Snowy Egret to represent the theme for this week and as an introduction to the topic of endangered species.  We saw this bird a few days ago on a return trip this year to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in northern Utah, USA.  Only two have been sighted recently at the refuge.  The Snowy Egret is a small heron, a wading bird with white plumage, a slim black bill, long black legs and yellow feet.  They are found throughout the Western Hemisphere and breed along the coasts and inland where suitable wetlands are found.

Between 1880 and 1910, the beautiful plumes of these birds were in great demand by market hunters for adornment on women’s hats, thus reducing the bird’s population to dangerously low levels.  This beautiful bird was hunted to near extinction!  With the 1918 passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in North America, plume hunting became illegal, and the Snowy Egret population recovered.  However, in some states (USA) the bird is classified as a “Species of Special Concern” or “threatened.” Continue reading