Weekly Photo Challenge: Habit

Scrub Jay Visit
Scrub Jay Visit, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)
Chickadee Feast
Chickadee Feast, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)

>>:::<<
powerfully alluring
nature is my meditation
a nourishing addiction
>>:::<<

How can one resist the daily solicitations of treats from visitors like these?  The bird in the first image is a scrub jay that has been coming quite regularly for the last three years, begging for peanuts.  A definite routine.  He has a charming personality.  Some days he will boldly let you know if you haven’t noticed his arrival yet or are ignoring him.  Other times, he will wait patiently.  When I took this image, he had been waiting for me to finish snapping photos of other wildlife around the yard, but perched himself in a very conspicuous area for me to see him.  Perhaps he knew I was aware of his presence and was confident I would not forget his treats.

The chickadees, as with the scrub jays, are year-round residents in our area.  They also come everyday, seeking their treats from the various bird feeders.  Occasionally they will take off with a peanut half their size, as one is attempting to do in the second image.  Their flight is wobbly with that heavy load, but they usually manage to get their feast to it’s destination.

Nature is definitely addictive.  But that’s a good thing.

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That Dreadful Word No One Wants to Hear

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

This post is different from what I normally post.  Over the last several weeks, I’ve felt like I’ve been in a constant spin cycle, increasing in speed and turbulence due to escalating health problems and other issues.  Constant shaking, rapid and forceful heart palpitations, passing out, and intense stomach pains landed me in the emergency room the first week in June, hooked up to several wires and an IV.  Eventually the doctor determined the main issue was “extreme stress.”  Some of these symptoms still continue.

In my last post, I talked about spending several days in the hospital with my Mother because of an unexpected surgery.  That occurred in the middle of June after my own ER visit.  Last week, after recuperating with us, she had what we thought would be a routine follow-up with the doctor, where we would be told she was progressing as expected.  We spent a few minutes talking with the nurse and telling him how my Mom was doing since her surgery.  We had no inkling what was to happen next.  He handed us some papers and said, “I have your pathology results here…there is cancer present…”   What!?!?  The chance of cancer, we were told after surgery, was remote.  But now, that “remote” chance was smacking us right in the face!

We were both shocked.  My Mom’s eyes were welling with tears and her voice was shaking.  I held her hand.  I saw the nurse’s mouth still moving, seemingly in slow motion, but I didn’t hear the next few words.  I was shaking uncontrollably.  My stomach was knotted and churning so violently I thought it was about to explode out of me.  The room was spinning and I felt like we had been yanked right into a vortex.  It is a very rare cancer.  “I’m so sorry to have to give you this news,” he said to us.  The doctor came in next.  We asked him several questions, then he gave us the next steps.  We would be continuing her care with a surgical oncologist.

A few days later (last Friday), we met with this oncologist.  More tests and scans, another surgery, and more cutting and removing to determine the extent of the cancer and further treatments, if necessary.

We are still in shock with this new challenge and we’ll have to take it one step at a time.  Yes, it’s scary, and yes, we have cried.  This is my Mom’s second battle with cancer.  Both cancers are rare and both are unrelated to each other.  This second cancer is even more rare than the first, and because it is so rare, its treatments have not undergone clinical trials.  There is also no known cause.  However, she will receive care at a good cancer hospital just 40 minutes away from our house.  My Mom is strong and healthy for her age, and a truly wonderful, genuine, generous and compassionate person anyone would feel privileged to know.  She has been there for us consistently to help out, provide support, and pull us out of the deepest, darkest holes.

This is not just her battle, it’s our battle, and I will be with my precious mother every step of the way supporting her the best I can.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Escape

Majestic #2
Majestic #2, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)

>>:::<<
trying to flee my lens
little do they realize
nature is my escape
>>:::<<

There are two forms of escape represented in this photo.  The Great Blue Heron is escaping me, and I escaped to nature.

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This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge encourages us to
share a picture that means escape to you.

Linking up with:
CAMERA CRITTERS
THE BIRD D’POT
WEEKLY TOP SHOT

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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Love is in the Air at the Bird Refuge

Grebe Courtship 1
Grebe Courtship 1, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)

>>:::<<
dramatic performance

like a choreographed dance
instinctive courtship
>>:::<<

In my last posting, I mentioned that we had seen far fewer migratory birds at the local Bear River Bird Refuge than the same time last year.  We went for another visit this past Easter Sunday and I’m happy to report that the birds are gradually arriving, although, still not at the level we saw a year ago on March 24, 2012.  The birds that have arrived since our last visit (at least that we saw) were a few American Pelicans, about 10 to 15 cliff swallows and LOTS of Western Grebes.  The refuge is large, so I’m sure there are many more recent arrivals hiding in the marshes.

The focus of this post is the Western Grebe, which you see in the photos.  They are the largest of the North American grebes and are fish-eating water birds that winter along the west coast of North America and breed on inland lakes during the summer.  The bird is a common breeder in northern Utah, USA, where the refuge is located.  Their preferred habitats are lakes, marshes and coasts.  They are graceful with long flexible necks, and dive into the water, rather than fly away when approached.  They spend most of the time in water.  They are awkward walking on land as their feet are placed far back on the body.

What’s so unusual about the grebes is their courtship display, which is among the most elaborate breeding rituals of North American wildlife.  Their mating display is among the most complicated of all.  A long pair bond is formed and strengthened by elaborate courtship displays including neck-bobbing, flexing their necks backwards toward the water, ritualized preening, head shaking, diving, weed carrying, caressing each other with aquatic vegetation, etc.  The bond is reinforced by a dance, or “rushing” phase.  Each bird glances at one another before exploding into a synchronous sprint, side by side, across the water’s surface, with their bodies completely out of the water, like hydroplaning.  They stand high, their wings held back and their cobra-like head and neck rigid and curved gracefully forward until the race ends with a headfirst dive!!  Wow!  (This dance was the reason for my haiku above.)

If that doesn’t sound cute enough, when the young hatch, the babies ride on the backs of their parents, sometimes as many as four chicks at a time, while the other parent dives for fish and brings food to them.  (Click here to see photos.)

Grebes build floating nests on the water, constructed of reeds, weeds and other floating vegetation.  Both parents take turns sitting on a nest of two to six eggs that hatch in about 23 days.  After the chicks hatch, the nests are deserted and gradually dissolve into the lake.  This is a perfect example of “green” recycling.

Our last visit to the refuge must have been too early for us to see the “dance finale” of this fascinating courtship routine.  There were several pairs, and we only saw the head bobbing and preening, but that’s ok.  It was still fun to see.  Here are a few photos of the beginnings of a courtship:

Grebe Courtship 2
Grebe Courtship 2, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)
Grebe Courtship 3
Grebe Courtship 3, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)
Grebe Courtship 4
Grebe Courtship 4, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)
Grebe Courtship 5
Grebe Courtship 5, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)
Grebe Courtship 6
Grebe Courtship 6, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)
Grebe Courtship 7
Grebe Courtship 7, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.  (click on photo to enlarge)

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