More to love at the Greenville Zoo

I took dozens of pictures at the Greenville Zoo last summer, and published a number of posts about my visits: one on apes, another on big cats, and a third on the zoo’s giraffes.

But there are a few other animals (and birds) that didn’t fit in any of those categories. They are worth a mention, too.

The giant anteater is fascinating to watch, and at first glance, due to its varied coloration and big, bushy tail, I found it hard to figure out what I was looking at!

giant anteater 2
This oddly put together animal is a giant anteater.

The rhea, a flightless bird related to the ostrich, is an outsized critter, too.

rhea and baby
Baby rhea kept close to its mama.

The zoo includes a small lagoon, a delightful find for bird lovers like me. I found some breathtaking black swans . . .

black swan couple
Love the curly feathers!
black swan
Well, hello there!

There was even a sweet pair of mallard ducks. I spied them nestling together when I heard the Mr quietly sharing sweet words with his lady.

mallard and mate
If Mr. Mallard hadn’t been talking so softly to his mate, I would’ve walked right past this couple.

 

 

 

 

 

January snow brings new faces

The snow started yesterday morning, but the birds knew about it before it came. The regulars (the titmice, nuthatches, chickadees and cardinals) all showed up, along with the dark-eyed juncos that found my stashes of black-oil sunflower seeds a few weeks back.

But the cold and the white stuff falling from the sky also lured a number of new visitors to our yard.

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All it took was a few flakes for this pine warbler to come looking for lunch.

I was startled when a large, handsome bird flew into the tree that shelters a few of the bird feeders. When I zoomed in with the camera, I discovered a brown thrasher. He wasn’t shy about eating from the feeder, either.

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I’m not sure who told this brown thrasher we had birdseed, but I was glad he came.
thrasher on feeder
Thrashers aren’t afraid of woodpeckers; this one scared my regular off while he had his fill.
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I love seeing the red-bellied woodpecker who hangs around several days a week.

I took a walk around the yard to see how things were faring as the flakes continued to fall. The nearby pines are pretty anyway, and they look very nice in the snow.

pines in snow
I don’t mind a few inches of snow here, as it’s usually gone in a few days.

It snowed through most of the night, and by morning the feeders were full of ice.  The birds were plenty hungry, so I set out some temporary feeders, and the neighborhood goldfinches seemed to like them.

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The male goldfinches are pretty even in their winter clothes.

I tried to spread the food around, but a few squabbles ensued, anyway.

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Even birds can forget their table manners.

The temperature will rise tomorrow, and what hasn’t melted will likely be gone by Saturday. Some nice, thick powder on the ground, an abundance of birds, and weather near the 60s by this weekend – that’s what I call a perfect snow.

 

 

You’re never too old to bathe in the forest

Two-thousand seventeen has been a busy year for us, with all the moving around. I relocated to West Virginia for five months to take care of Mom, while my husband worked on assignment in South Carolina. On weekends, we met in the middle to house hunt. Our old place wasn’t practical any more.

In between doctor and hospital visits, we found a new house. Bill moved onto a new job site, and in August, Mom and I and her cats moved into the new house, bought with her in mind. We’ve been learning to live with each other again, and working on settling in, ever since.

Some days we find a lot to laugh about, and on others, we move to our respective “corners,” but we try our best to make things work. Bill was home this week, and after I finished working on an online project, I went outside to try to talk Mom into taking a walk. Bill had beat me to it. I found him escorting her through the woods.

mom and the woods
Mom grew up running around in the woods, and she still enjoys it, at a somewhat slower pace.

She had a great time viewing the fall colors, being “back in the woods,” and managed the dips and hills in the uneven ground much better than I thought she would.

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Pines mingle with deciduous trees throughout the woods around our house.

I went back to the house to grab her walking stick my brother crafted for her, along with my camera. Some of the trees have lost their fall foliage, but others have just joined the show.

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I would name all these trees if I could, but we left Mom’s tree ID book back at her old house. One more thing to add to the list when we make a return visit.

We came in and ate some lunch, then Mom and I went out for another look. She sat and took a rest while I marveled at the color all around us.

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I do love the blues and greens of the ocean, but the colors of fall are beautiful, too.

I read this week that the Japanese use a term we loosely translate as “forest bathing” to describe a relaxing time in the woods. I think it’s a great term, as our souls were soaking up the beauty of all those colors today.

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Fall is my favorite season, and now that the most of the pollen has blown away, I can enjoy it.

Mom said she has had enough walking for a few days, but the trees are not far from the house. I bet I can talk her into another session of forest bathing over the weekend.

mom on well

 

The magical hum of summer

Sometimes, in the heat of a summer day, if you’re sitting still (and sometimes if you’re not), you may glimpse a tiny, winged thing not much bigger than a large moth, zip right by, emitting squeaks and beeps. In the northeast, it’s likely a ruby-throated hummingbird in search of a sugar water feeder or a suitable flower.

Before this year, I hadn’t been much on keeping up with feeding hummingbirds; I know you have to change the water often and make sure it doesn’t run out (hummingbirds are voracious sippers), and I just didn’t make the time.

But as I spent more time with Mom, feeding the regular feeder birds like cardinals, house finches, titmice and a few others, I figured we would both enjoy watching hummers through her big picture window. I found an inexpensive feeder, we boiled some water and let it cool, added the requisite sugar, and very shortly, welcomed our first visitor.

little male hummer
The males I find hardest to photograph; the light has to hit them just right to make their gorget shine.

Hummingbirds, perhaps because of their speed (or their insatiable appetite), are not as shy as other birds. After a few days, you can risk getting closer for pictures.

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Sometimes you have to keep snapping to get a good photo: these things are fast!

I am always amazed at how birds (and animals as well) can so easily blend into their backgrounds.

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One of my favorite hummingbird shots.

I recently relocated Mom to live with my husband and I in North Carolina. As we sat on the deck one evening, a hummingbird flew by. That was our signal; Mom set out the feeder. After about an hour, there was one. Now there are four, and they all think they own the feeding station.

hummer hover
I caught this little beauty mid-hover!

I forgot to look for a second feeder today when we were out shopping. I will have to remedy that soon; the males seem to have already left for the winter.

hummer tail
Hummingbirds look amazing from every angle.
hummer stretch
I joked when we saw the first hummer in North Carolina that they had followed us from Mom’s house, two states away.

Whether sitting still, or zooming by, hummingbirds can be a wonderful introduction to backyard birding.

hummer hello
Soon they’ll fly south, but I look forward to their return in the spring.

 

Holding on and catching up

It’s funny how life unfolds. One minute, I’m creating a blog because I’m bored and miss writing, and the next thing you know, I’m back to writing part-time for pay. On my off days, I sometimes travel to spend time with my husband, and I also drive out of state to care for my Mom.

Enter a couple of medical emergencies, and I’ve relocated to become a full-time caregiver, and the writing has just about stopped.

I haven’t quit taking pictures, however, although I’m away from my familiar photo-editing software. As things continue to improve, that should change soon, and in the meantime, I’m still learning — about my camera, digital photography, and life in general. I’ve had to give up my zoo trips for now, but I’m rediscovering birds. It’s amazing what a few seeds and a hummingbird feeder can bring to a deck or a yard! (See the young tufted titmouse, above.)

I have enough photos to write probably three or four posts, but it will be a few more weeks until I can starting blogging on a regular basis again. In the meantime, you can keep up with me @ddiljak on Instagram. Here are some of my recent pictures:

Monarch butterfly
This monarch butterfly (on milkweed) surprised me on a recent morning walk.
Ruby-throated hummingboard
Mom’s flowers, and the new hummingbird feeder, have attracted at least four of these fiesty beauties.
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An allium in Mom’s yard, opening earlier this summer.