February’s flowers

Feels more like Florida than Arkansas in winter today. Daffodils have run amok everywhere, as have henbit, spring beauties, dandelions, quinces and even the tree buds are swelling, getting ready to birth the first leaves.

The lawn this afternoon was full of  tiny flowers that look like four-petaled forget-me-nots  and the mysterious sweet jasmine-like flowers that pull honeybees out of hiding.

STAR SPANGLED -- Blue flowers scattered across a field of green.
GROUND LEVEL - Tiny blue flowers hug the ground.
POLLEN-COVERED -- Honeybee is powdered with pollen as he makes his rounds on a warm, sunny February day.

The humpbacked cardinal

Cardinals have been a family favorite bird. In the northeastern U.S., they brighten up a winter landscape like no other.

UNWELCOME FINDING -- The cardinal has a large lump on his right shoulder.

This morning, our local cardinal and his mate were whooshing through the small pines at the back of the house. Himself decided to take a commanding spot in a leafless tree.

Grabbed the camera between fixing Sunday morning espresso and popovers and fired away through the kitchen window.

FROM BEHIND -- The hump was more visible when he turned north.

In unloading the shots to the laptop, noticed something alarming about the bird — he appears to have a hump of some sort on his right shoulder. At first it appeared that he was just balling up, as birds do, against the cold. But on closer examination, the hump is very distinct and stands out no matter how he carries himself. Fortunately, the growth doesn’t appear to impair his ability to fly or do other cardinal things.

On a somewhat lighter note, in going through the Peterson Field Guide to Birds, there was an interesting fellow included in the pages for “Cardinals, Buntings, and Allies,” called Pyrrhuloxia. What he looks like is a cardinal that’s gone through a bleach bath. It reminded me of a photo that colleague Donna shot back in the spring of 2010. Too grayish to be a female cardinal. What she did shoot appears to be this Pyrrhuloxia — quite a bit east of its normal range which appears to be SW Texas, New Mexico and Mexico, with the occasional wandering as far north as the Texas Panhandle.

Check out her photo.


Not feeling terribly creative this morning, but felt compelled to post these two photos. One of a goldfinch who stopped at the net bag holding the outside temperature sensor and the second with another sort of netting, chomped out by hungry larvae no doubt.

FINCH -- A goldfinch in his non-breeding-time livery makes a stop on a sunny winter's day.
NATURE'S LACEWORK -- A fallen oak leaf shows its caterpillar resistant parts.

Distractions at the office

The parade of wildlife outside the office window is amazing, and at times, distracting. Wouldn’t trade it for anything. [The photos aren’t great — hard to shoot through double-pane energy-efficient windows with a reflective coating. Still …]

FLICKER -- A yellow-shafted flicker takes a second's break while pecking around the "back yard" at the office.
UP A TREE -- Is exactly where you'd expected a red-bellied woodpecker.
DEFYING GRAVITY -- Red-bellied woodpecker goes nearly perpendicular just because he can.
SLEETY MORNING -- Cardinal struts in a landscape of sleet, dormant grass, broken pine twigs and old sweet gum balls.


Gilding the lily …

… or “icing the daffodil,” which is not nearly as poetic a phrase. Still, the flower doth speak for itself.

WHEN WINTER MEETS SPRING -- Although the wished-for snow day did not materialize, there was a short window between the first snowflakes and the obliterating rain where the sky's frozen lace clasped the petals of this daffodil. The flower was part of a cluster growing in a green space between the office and Coleman Creek.

The deck has a mohawk

The nano-climate of the deck holds all sorts of life. Its grout and cement have provided a foothold for a tenacious strip of moss, which today radiated a springlike green  in the wintry backlight.

AT ATTENTION -- Necks arise from the moss venters.
TIGHT -- Looking deep into the mass of moss venters.



One hot summer day, this garden snail decided the best course of action was to climb up the cool glass of the front door. This turned out to be a bad life choice.  So too was the laying of eggs somewhere on the front porch. The dozens of hatchlings with their dark spiral shells struggled a few feet before the hot concrete boiled the life from them.

It is a moment of pathos. We have not been able to bring ourselves to remove it.

INSIDE LOOKING OUT -- A sad end for a garden snail, 6 feet above the ground.
DOWNWARD SPIRAL -- Only the hard shell remains.

The accidental eagle

The continued quest to take decent bird pictures meant a stop by the pond on the way to work on Feb. 7.  The buffleheads were sailing around in the mist and the sunrise was glowing coral. Rolled down the roadster window to snap a couple of frames and then continued the morning commute. Not until this morning when the shots were downloaded did something else appear — white head and tail feathers at the far side of the lake. We’d seen the Ferndale eagle around New Year’s Day flying straight over the house, with no camera in hand, and wondered if we’d see him again.

WHITE FEATHERS -- Thinking this was just going to be a photo of a sunrise and waterbirds, it was delightful to see the white head and tail feathers of a bald eagle appear in the upper left of the image once downloaded into the laptop.

The crater in my keyboard

As noted in the previous post, we’re tough on our tools. Aside from cameras, our keyboards are relentlessly hammered. And not that we have anything against “e.” Quite the contrary, “e” gets used plenty (abusively?) during the the writing hundreds of news and feature stories and thousands of emails in the course of a year. Below are the craters in the Mac and the laptop keyboards. (A, I, O,S  and period seem to have gathered significant wear as well, at least on the laptop. R, F, and D are showing some wear below.)


It appears the math people at Cornell have determined that E is the most frequently used letter in English after analyzing some 40,000 words. Wikipedia has some interesting stuff too.

YOU CAN spell "cavity" without an "e', but it seems almost everything else in English requires at least one.
HARD HIT -- The laptop keyboard takes a pounding.

10,000 images

Reached a landmark this week … on Feb. 1, the shutter on the little Sony clicked off its 10,000th image. Since unwrapping it Christmas 2009, the little camera-that-could has withstood cold, rain, heat and dust to shoot family gatherings, professional development meetings, fencing tournaments, crops, horse shows, food, small wonders of nature and all manner of feature story illustrations.

No. 10,000 was this dreamlike frame below (read: handheld and out of focus), a sunset with fog in the valley below taking the color of the sky.

Sadly, this was the week we also discovered that time and use had taken its toll. The flash no longer works.

FEB. 1 -- February first ended with a watercolor sunset and fog in the valley below.
TAKE TWO -- The sharper image of the scene above. This was image No. 9,996.