Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Beauty of November's Berries

Covered with berries and leaves earlier in the month, the Dogwoods in my yard are now bare of both. (Click images to enlarge.)All that remains are their upreaching limbs and tiny white buds, reminders of the crowd of birds, especially the robins, that covered their branches one morning and boldly announced their arrival.

But there are plenty of other berries still around, among them this native American Beautyberry (below) that I found at Ijams Nature Park. Expecting to find very little in the way of color when I stopped by, it took me by surprise. I even double checked to make sure the brilliant orange leaves were attached to the same limbs as the berries!

Who but Nature would pair these luscious colors together in such a grand display?!

October is most definitely a glorious month for leaves. But as November begins to fade, I think it steals the show, hands down, for its bountiful display of berries. Just ask the birds and squirrels who are busy harvesting them!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tufted Titmouse--Singing in the Rain

If someone were to ask me, why do you love birds so much? I might have to answer, have you ever met a Tufted Titmouse?

Today is a cold, rainy November day, the kind of day we expect to have this time of year in east Tennessee. But after yesterday's brilliant sunshine, who can complain. And this one was brightened for me by the colorful Tufted Titmouse family, one of whom landed on the empty feeding table outside my door and scolded loudly. (click on images to enlarge)

After I put the suet out, I noticed him happily singing on the holly. I stepped out with my camera hoping he would continue and let me get a few images. As you can see, he didn't seem to mind. Even when a couple of chickadees flew in, attempting to dethrone him, he just turned and sang some more.
A colorful part of every season, these little birds are so much fun to have around. If you haven't met one, introduce yourself!

Linked to Bird Photography Weekly #65 at to promote the conservation of our world's birds.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Impressed with a Red-bellied Woodpecker's Tongue!

On the day that the crowd of robins visited, a parade of other birds joined them in the dogwood tree. Among them, this Red-bellied Woodpecker male. (Click images to enlarge.)

It's always a treat when he visits the dogwood tree, and this time was no exception. He flew into the dogwood limbs, hung upside down to pluck a berry, then flew to a nearby trunk to reposition it before swallowing.

It was this that surprised me. He used the trunk's surface to reposition the berry, so that he then held it at the tip of his bill.

With his long tongue extended, he used it in a lever-like fashion to move the berry into swallowing position.

Once the berry was gone, he scooted around the tree to forage some more. But then, paused, looked back at another dogwood berry, hung upside down and stretched his tongue out to pick up something from its surface.

A fun and intimate encounter. I hated to see him fly away. The good news--he's my neighbor!
Linked to Bird Photography Weekly #63 at, to promote the conservation of our world's birds.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Whooping Crane Activity Book--A Fun Peek Inside!

While the ultralight-led Whooping Crane Class of 2009 is making its way south, children can read all about how imagination and innovation have helped us help our endangered Whooping cranes.As the author and illustrator, the complimentary distribution of this book gives me great satisfaction. After introducing children to our magnificent Whooping Crane and the reasons for its population decline, the book takes them through the magical story of how a young chick learns to follow costumed handlers and ultralight aircraft 'parents' in preparation for its first migration journey south. (Click on the page images to see enlarged views.)
The 32-page book is packed with fun facts, illustrations to color and activities designed to stimulate young imaginations of all ages and get readers excited about taking care of our Whooping cranes and their habitat.
Teachers may click here to fill out a complimentary order for their students ($10.00 shipping). Individuals interested in buying copies for the children in their family may purchase them for $3.00 plus shipping on Operation Migration's Merchandise Page or by calling 1-800-675-2618.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Crowd of Robins and A Dogwood Tree

A cold front welcomed in our first day of November, so I set feeders out for the birds. Titmice, chickadees and cardinals gathered but it soon became apparent there were many more birds in the yard than usual.

When I walked over to the Dogwood to investigate, I found a crowd of American Robins in the tree eating the ripened dogwood berries.

Not a bit shy about their new surroundings, the robins, mixed with a few Cedar Waxwings, were hungrily picking berries in as many different ways as you and I might invent. Some hung upside down, others grabbed berries in a fly-by fashion, still others found a convenient spot and picked and swallowed them one by one. Sometimes as many as half-a-dozen gathered on a branch at a time. And all around, on nearby limbs, more birds waited their turn.

It was heavenly. They were so close, so busy, so accessible. As you might guess, I took a ton of photographs. And while I enjoyed the party, others came to dine--a male Red-bellied woodpecker (I will show you more about how he uses his tongue in a later post), two male Yellow-bellied sapsuckers, a Hermit thrush, an Eastern Phoebe, a White-throated sparrow, three Northern Flickers and a Northern Mockingbird.

Need I say what a fine party this was for me? (Last image, Northern Mockingbird).

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For the Love of It...

...the sage sees heaven reflected in Nature as in a mirror, and he pursues this Art, not for the sake of gold or silver, but for the love of the knowledge which it reveals.
Sendivogius (1750)

Your Uncapped Creativity...

Your Uncapped Creativity...
"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action; and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. You must keep that channel open. It is not for you to determine how good it is, nor how valuable. Nor how it compares with other expressions. It is for you to keep it yours, clearly and directly." ----the great dancer, Martha Graham