Photography · Writing

Back Yard Photographer – Cuteness Overload!

Nom, Nom, Nom… love those seeds!!

During the dark days of winter or just when ever some happy thoughts are needed, it seems to help to look at pictures of little critters enjoying their day – at least it helps me! 🙂

Ground squirrels are just too darn cute – that is until the destructive side starts to reveal itself. But then, those eyes!! I just can’t stay mad at them too long. I spend quite a bit replanting flowers in my garden every year, but… those eyes! I’m preparing (emotionally) for these little guys to be back in the Spring. At least when the are back, it is warm enough to spend some time outside. 🙂

Since these guys spend so much time in my yard (maybe I shouldn’t feed them?), thought I should learn more about them. The ground squirrels in my yard are referred to as 13 stripe ground squirrel. Here’s some fun little facts about this particular ground squirrel:

  • Dig burrows of 15 to 20 feet long with more than one entrance.
  • Litters are usually 7- 10
  • Usually solitary, may congregate in groups of 10 in a prime habitat.
  • The are climbers, but prefer the ground (I saw one climb a tree in my yard so he could get to the bird food.)
  • They eat freshly planted seeds and/or immature plants

There are some benefits to having ground squirrels around:

  • feed on weeds, weed seeds and insects that can cause damage to crops -this may not be a true statement for my yard… 🙂
  • Their digging might actually improve the soil. (I should have the healthies flower garden around!)
  • They are cute and fun to watch!

Not convinced yet that these little guys are cute? Here’s a few more pictures that might just convince you! 🙂

I can see better now
Strawberries!
I see yummies!!
Shhhh… I’m hiding
Brave hunter has found seeds

The ground squirrels and I had lots of fun last Summer, so I have far more pictures than I realized!! Hope you liked these few I picked out. Some days it is fun to just smile about silly things.

Thank you for stopping by my blog!

All photos are originals by Kim Lawless

Photography · Writing

No Resolutions Just One Word

No resolutions this year. Most of mine barely make it to February before I think “eh. maybe next year”. Some of my friends and I were discussing our resolutions for 2021 when one of my friends mentioned that she doesn’t focus on resolutions. She prefers to chose one single word and practice it everyday. Her word for 2020 had been KIND. She said this year had tested the word and there were days that she didn’t live up to the definition. But overall she was able to turn some situations around and have a positive outcome.

That got me thinking about my past resolutions: lose weight, eat healthy, exercise more, be a better person. Pretty normal resolutions, but not any that express a true sense of self reflection and a true desire to make positive changes. These were so open ended. I mean, seriously, “be a better person” is not a clear resolution. How was I ever going to be successful without a concise definition? I had set myself up for failure and accepting of the “eh, maybe next year” attitude. Not anymore. It is time for true change.

After giving this a lot of thought and reflection, I have picked my word for 2021: Gratitude (the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness).

I am choosing to show gratitude by being thankful for what I have and for what I have experienced. Show more gratitude by lifting others up – applaud their successes and help when times are difficult. Be part of a world where there is more kindness than hatred, more caring than disinterest and where we think more about others and less about ourselves. I’m going to put my words into action and really practice my word – Gratitude – everyday. I have always told my children that actions speak louder than words. Now it is time to show them what this really means.

Yes, it is daunting. I don’t know if I will be able to show gratitude and appreciation everyday. But I do know I’m going to try, probably fall a time or two, and keep trying until GRATITUDE is a part of who I am.

To start this, I have mentally looked over the past year and found those things that I appreciate and that I am grateful to have experienced. Looking back, I have been fortunate enough to have had a pretty good year in my personal life. I got married in June, have a job that I enjoy, my family and I have stayed healthy (one person in my family did have COVID, but we were blessed that it was not a severe case) and I get to continue to grow in my photography hobby. Sure things have been different, but I feel blessed even in these unpredictable times. My hobby – photography – has been a good escape and I do enjoy sharing the photos and a story or two. I am very grateful and appreciative of the time when I get out and take photographs. It has been a wonderful way to see the beauty in nature. I’ve also been blessed with new friendships as we share photos and discuss the various subjects. I’ve been able to meet a variety of people while out on walks. It has been different with masks, and being socially distanced, but still we’ve been able to connect. So there’s my look back at the year.

I also took the opportunity to look at my photos and pick out a few of my favorites. These are photos from my walks and a few from my yard. I hope you like these too!

Thank you for joining me as I’ve become a bigger bird nerd, learned more about insects than I ever imagined, discovered nature’s beauty even in the weeds and learned more about photography every time I took a photo.

May you find your word, to help you through whatever 2021 has in store for all of us.

I hope you have a very happy New Year!

Thank you for stopping by my blog!

All photos are originals by Kim Lawless.

Photography · Writing

Back Yard Photographer – Trying out a new lens

Frank trying to be sneaky

So excited!! I recently got a new lens and I was able to give it a try. I now don’t have to be extremely close to the wildlife to get decent pictures or I don’t have to crop too much of the picture to get the exact image I was trying to get. Some cropping and editing are still required, but not to the extent that the picture is distorted. This lens should also help me capture the bald eagle photos I want. 🙂

This lens is heavier, so I need to practice stabilizing the camera when I am out and about taking photos. I do have a tri-pod that I will be working with more, but a tri-pod might not always be practical. I was joking around with friends and family that I will need to lift weights to build enough muscle to hold the lens. And in a year’s time I will have the best abs around as my core muscles will be developed to also help stabilize the lens and camera. 🙂 These comments are mostly exaggerations, of course, but handling the weight difference will take some practice. I am looking forward to the practice and the challenge!

The easiest way for me to practice is to go into my back yard and try to get some photos of the birds and Frank (the friendly squirrel). For these shots, I tried various ways to stabilize the camera: pure strength (required multiple shots and hope that at least one was good), sitting in a chair and using my knee as a brace for my elbow to minimize shaking and also, the deck railing to lean against and rest my elbow while holding the camera. I was surprised at how easy it seemed to be to just use my strength and get some decent shots. I didn’t have to take nearly as many photos as I thought I would need with this approach, however, it would reduce how much time I could spend shooting while on a walk or just at a particular subject. Using my knee while sitting in a chair worked, but it was awkward and had questionable results. Leaning/bracing using the deck rail, seemed to provide the best option for taking the photos, proving that I will need to use a tri-pod more and a little weight training won’t hurt. 🙂

All in all, I was happy with the overall results. I was able to get clearer pictures of the cardinals and other birds, since I didn’t spook them by getting too close. Here are the results (some cropping was still required):

Thank you for stopping by – hope you enjoyed the pictures and just a bit of a story. 🙂

All photos are originals by Kim Lawless

Photography

Back Yard Photographer – Nature in Action

Successful hunting

As more birds have found their way to the bird feeders in my back yard, we have had more sightings of hawks along our fence. Mostly they would observe. The birds by the feeders have been lucky – until now. I looked out my back window and saw this hawk on the fence with his lunch in his talons. I was both mesmerized and terrified. The photographer in me thought – Wow! Cool shot. Where as the bird watcher in me thought – That poor bird. The photographer won the battle of should I take more photos or not.

There were some photos, even as a photographer admiring nature, I thought were too graphic so I’m not posting those. I hope you will look at these photos and admire the beauty of this hawk.

With hawks visiting more frequently (yes, I know it is winter, they are hungry and I have bird feeders (hawk equivalent of a fast food restaurant)), I had to look into the spirituality of the hawk visiting. There are many different reasons for the visits, it really all depends upon your self assessment of your life – where it is at and where you are going. I found this reason to be the best interpretation of the hawks being here now at this point in my life: The hawk will help you to gain confidence and realize that you have great potential to take initiative and see your goals and dreams through to the end.

Here’s a few more photos of the hawk:

Thank you for stopping by and checking out my blog!

All photos are originals by Kim Lawless

Photography · Writing

Back Yard Photographer – White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

A favorite past-time is watching the birds that venture into my back yard, photographing them and then identifying the ones I haven’t seen before in the yard. One day, in early December I had put a new suet cake out. The downy woodpecker really likes it. Downy woodpeckers are fun to watch as they move all over the suet cake and will hang from the cage, where the suet is placed, at varying angles to get to the food.

Here’s a photo of a downy woodpecker, in case you don’t know what they are:

Downy Woodpecker

On this particular day after the downy woodpecker had had it’s fill of food, I noticed a different kind of bird on the suet. It seemed to be about the same size, maybe a little smaller with a shorter tail.

White-breasted Nuthatch playing King of the Suet

I took a few more pictures of this bird while watching it eat the suet. He was interesting to watch as well. He had a lot of the same maneuvers as the downy woodpecker. Once inside, I had to check to see what kind of bird this was. I like to visit http://www.allaboutbirds.org to help me identify the bird and to learn something new. This website has helped me to become the bird nerd that I am today. 🙂 This is where I found out that this bird is the white-breasted Nuthatch. A few things about this bird:

  • Stores seeds in furrows in the bark so they can eat the seeds later
  • Join flocks of foraging birds (chickadees and titmouse) during Winter not only to find food easier but also to watch for predators.
  • Move quickly and at angles while eating. (I’ve seen them in action – they are quick!)
  • They like sunflower seeds, peanuts and suet
  • One of the common back yard birds

A few more photos:

He does like the suet!!
Resting in the tree

In the above picture there is a house finch just above the white-breasted nuthatch. The house finch really blends in with it’s surroundings.

Thank you for stopping by and checking out my blog! Hope you like the photos!

All photos are originals by Kim Lawless