Why is the familiar different now
The river by the bend
The trees, the rocks, the birds, the sky
A thousand steps walked alone
In solitude, nature was my friend

And yet today, even as the bird sang its welcoming song
As the winds of winter give way to the blossoms of spring
As the water lapped gently on the rock strewn shore
I heard my heart speak

In winter’s depth a flower bloomed
Joy came forth, the soul consumed
A life, thought dead, was vital still

And so it was this winter day
That the steps familiar had a different strain
There is beauty everywhere
And time enough for us to share


Grand Teton National Park

Words are inadequate.  Schwabacker Landing in the Morning.  And this is just the beginning.


Dark colors, bland rocks, a river and two birds

Somehow, an eagle with a fish, being chased by another eagle, makes dull colors really interesting.  Or not.  These two juvenile bald eagles seem unaware of the bland coloration around them.  There are (a lot of) fish in the water, meals to eat.  Action.  Lots of it.  In bursts.  Sometimes, you can wait for hours and see nothing but the bland brown color of rocks in a river.  Then suddenly, an eagle dives for a fish, sometimes almost in front of you.  Conowingo, in late November and December certainly is a place not lacking in excitement.  If you wait.


Mid November Birds in Northern Virginia

I haven’t been to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge since spring.  I’d almost forgotten what a great place this suburban refuge is for spotting birds.  Perhaps it is the massive amount of flies that are very adept at finding places to bite you during the summer time.

As I walked the trails at the refuge, a large buck with a large set of antlers jumped about fifteen feet beyond me.  I have never seen anything that big so close before (at least not in the Northern Virginia suburbs) and I was stunned.  I almost forgot that I had a camera with me as I struggle to see where it went.  I saw it again, but instead of taking a picture, I just soaked in the experience of seeing something new.  It scampered away quickly.  Darn.

Fortunately, the bluebirds still sang.  The woodpeckers still pecked.  And a few birds that I’ve never spotted before were, surprisingly, within my camera’s view.  I’ve been telling myself that even though a bird looks grey or brown, it may be something unfamiliar.  When you are learning how to spot birds, one of the worst things to do is assume that if a bird looks like something you’ve seen before, you just ignore it.  I am not very good at spotting birds, so imagine my surprise when I looked at the pictures of the small birds and saw a hermit thrush (above) and what I believe is a yellow rumped warbler.


And a white throated sparrow hiding behind leaves.


Of course, why not take pictures of a woodpecker and an Eastern Bluebird?

And fortunately, with the tide low, this ring billed gull was standing in the sand.



Ah, Wilderness!

Living in the suburbs of a major city has a lot of advantages.  There are almost too many things that you can do.  Museums in the city offer new opportunities for discovery.  There are restaurants to go to, with a sampling of cuisine from all corners of the earth.  Traveling bands of musicians fill indoor and outdoor venues with music.  The local sports teams give the city an identity.  A wide variety of neighborhoods to explore and live in.  Places stay open late into the night.  The health care system is fairly robust.

The urban landscape, with its wide and narrow streets, with the movement of people going about their daily lives, the buildings tall and short, old and new.  Sounds and smell that give each city its individual flavor.  Photographic subjects galore.  Cityscapes, abstractions, street photography – images created by the boundless imaginations of denizens and visitors alike.

And here in the Washington D.C. area, a scant few miles from Washington itself, on the road that leads to Washington’s Mount Vernon, lies a small wildlife preserve that gives pause to the routine of suburban living.  Parking near the marina, a short walk on the sidewalk leads to a dirt trail marked with a solitary sign.  Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve.

The trail runs close to the banks of the Potomac River.  The trail is an incomplete semi circle that leads to a boardwalk and then it ends with a view of a small island, separated from the abutment of land by a channel in the river.  In the early morning, walking the trail towards this island, you pass by several glades where the sandy shores meet the waters of the great river.  Can the city be only a few miles away?


Blue sky, clear water, trees and river grasses.  An oasis that seems so far away until you hear the airplanes overhead, getting ready to land in nearby Reagan National Airport.   A turn to another direction and you almost run into a swamp.


You can see a solitary heron in the water nearby.  Further down the river, you see a tree laden with egrets.  The percussive sound of woodpeckers hammering away in the woods, the eagles and ospreys soaring overhead in search of prey, the terns and gulls in majestic glides.  Ah, Wilderness!