Winter Birds: Woodpeckers, Foggy Cranes and Cardinals

Now that the leaves have dropped, I can see all the pretty winter birds that don’t migrate south for winter. I’m still learning how to use my telephoto lens and caught these woodpeckers and cardinals on a foggy day. Fog wasn’t my friend when taking these photos of the birds. Low light, fast-moving birds and low contrast makes it hard to get a good crisp shot of them. A more skilled photographer could use the fog to increase dramatic effect (plus they would probably have more sophisticated equipment with a faster shutter speed.)

 

There is a mating pair of cardinals that live somewhere in our alley. I try to keep my feeders full for them.

Cardinal pair. female on the left.

 

Cardinal male is on patrol. His mate is in the same tree but so very well hidden.

Cardinal: On guard.

 

 

I saw the red bellied woodpecker again but today’s bonus sighting is this downy woodpecker.

Downy woodpecker enjoying a feast on the insects in my slow-dying tree.

 

Downy woodpeckers look just like hairy woodpeckers, except for their shorter bill.

It’s possibly a hairy woodpecker but the guidebook lists the size of the bill as the only difference between these two species. In this shot it looks like a short bill.

 

And then there was this death-defying squirrel. he navigated all throughout the cable and rural electric infrastructure.

 

Then there were honking cranes circling for a landing. I could hear them long before I could see them (it was really foggy).

 

When the sun came out in the afternoon I tried to photograph the woodpecker again, but he’s just so darn fast. When I looked closer, I think it’s a third species—a golden fronted woodpecker. This means that the tree in our yard, that is dying a slow death, is also full of insects, which is feeding all these woodpeckers.

Golden fronted woodpecker.

 

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Significant Gifts are Transactions of the Heart

Every year my husband and I set a budget for spending on Christmas gifts and we try to stick to it. Throughout the year we’re thinking about what we can give each other and our family members that is both thoughtful and budget friendly. We keep notes on our phones and wish lists on Amazon for inspiration.

We have one child. He’s on the spoiled side, but he is loved, if anything. Our discussions about budgets and gifts sound like this:

“Let’s not overdo it this year with the kid gifts, ok? He has so much stuff already.”

“Yeah, last year was overboard. We need to focus more on the time with family, visit your grandma, go see my Pawpaw… not go crazy with Christmas gifts. You know, you don’t have to get me anything for Christmas.”

“I know, and stop saying that. I’m going to give you something for Christmas.”

“Seriously, you don’t have to, whatever you were going to spend on a gift to me, save it and spend it on our son.”

“Didn’t we just start this conversation about how we weren’t going to overdo it with the kid?”

Then somehow every year it looks like Toys R Us threw up in our living room. Everything is a piled-up mess with wrapping paper remnants, shredded bows and packaging shrapnel that could double as a prison shank.

I yearn for a less commercialized holiday, when the frenzy of Christmas decorating didn’t start before Halloween. Maybe it’s wistful to think that a genuine gift is a smoked ham from the fatted hog or a special bottle of wine that everyone gets to taste.

The art to truly giving a significant gift is not about how much it cost, but how well it captures the essence of the recipient. Sometimes this requires a lot of thought or not much at all. Some people in your life are hard to fin

d gifts for no matter the amount of meditation or money.

It’s about giving gifts with the most meaning, not the most expensive.

My young son is a better gift giver than I am and that’s embarrassing on Christmas morning. But he provid

es an example of what great gift giving is.

I am an avid gardener and plan continuously for each growing season.

My birthday is in February and on the cusp of spring planting. This year my son knew exactly what he wanted to give me and stated it clearly to his daddy that he wanted to give me “magic beans.”

At first my husband didn’t understand, thinking it was an absurd idea inspired from a Jack and the Beanstalk movie. But our son persisted, telling him it was easy to find at Walmart. So off they went … and there they were on the seed rack, a package of “magic beans” in an envelope containing 14 grams of hybrid green beans.

The perfect gift cost $1.28. When my son gave me the “magic beans” my soul smiled with the deepest appreciation because his gift was full of meaning.

His honest gift is one of my most treasured because it was a transaction of the heart, not the bank account.

PawPaw’s Barn

Handy husband’s grandfather is a gardener and a retired owner of a vacuum and sewing machine repair shop. He’s practical and industrious and a bit sentimental about barns and tractors. On our recent Thanksgiving visit we walked the fallow fields, prepped and waiting for its next crop. Right next to PawPaw’s new, double-decker barn is his very old, rickety barn. The day I took these photos it was windy and I wasn’t entirely sure the barn wasn’t going to topple over (on top of me.)

One day this barn will collapse and I hope we can salvage some of the wood for frames and other decorative items. But for now, it’s a great photography subject.