The eastern bluebirds have really been hanging close to the house the last few days. Maybe it’s because of the warmth radiating from the house, the plentiful sunshine from the south, or perhaps because there are still a lot of sumac berries for snacking. (There’s plenty of competition for those berries from sparrows, juncos, chickadees, flickers and wrens.)

Eastern bluebird grabs breakfast in the sumac.
Eastern bluebird grabs breakfast in the sumac.


Wandering about looking for something to shoot, these strange shapes in the mulch caught my eye. These fungi look like little hatted octopi. (or with a little stretch of the imagination,  bacteriophage-sh or even lunar LEM-ish).

Not completely sure, but these may be earthstar mushrooms. They have an outer layer that  pops open, curls under and can jack the fruiting body up, lifting it above the leaf litter.

Fungi are weirdly fascinating in so many ways. Check out this site to see some of this kingdom’s odder oddballs:

12-29-SquidShroom7aA 12-29-SquidShroom2A

Weekly photo challenge: Joy

This week’s challenge prompt is joy! After a particularly hard-fought tournament, these three medalists – good sports all – show their joy.

11-16 Good Sports_Edit

And other images of joy from this week’s challenge:

On ice

Winter is a slow time here on the mountain. Not much is moving and wildlife is elusive. However, Nature does provide a little interest in the variety of strokes in which she uses her frosty paintbrush. There are leaves carefully rimmed with ice crystals. On the cliff sides,  bladelike crystals  arise from the earth, separating roots from soil and rocks from their beds. And  there are those those tiny, rimming crystals — flakes that stand on end in seeming defiance of gravity.

Frost-rimmed oak leaf amid frosted chickweed and dormant Bermuda grass blades.
Frost-rimmed oak leaf amid frosted chickweed and dormant Bermuda grass blades.
Ice blades
Tiny blades of ice, about one-eighth of an inch wide, span an inch-and-a-half gap in the cliffside.
Ice crystal flakes.
Ice flakes like raised hackles on the edge of this leaf.

A flock to show the passage of time

While I fiddle a lot with little digital cameras, I haven’t quite worked out how to do multiple exposures. So again I turn to Photoshop. This is a composite of three photos in an attempt to show the passing of time as  the morning’s flight of starlings flows from the left and ends in the little tree on the right. The earliest birds are in the lightest gray “screen,” the last ones are in black.

birds flying into tree branches.

Phun with Photoshop philters

I’m not big on using Photoshop to “rescue” a bad photo, but sometimes it’s just fun to see what the program can do. Our office has been trying out the cloud version for a couple of months now. It’s a bit of a step up from CS3 on my desktop and Elements 5 on my barely-hanging-on-PC laptop. A couple of photos whose elements I thought translated nicely into the flat “cutout” filter — making them almost like prints, or even stained glass.