Photography · Writing

Back Yard Photographer – Dirt Feels Good

Northern Flicker

There is a small rectangle section of my yard that is nothing but dirt. Even though nothing is growing in this section, there is still plenty of activity. I’ve seen mourning doves rest in it, robins dig in it, ground squirrels roll in it and rabbits trying to hide in it. But this past weekend I saw something I hadn’t seen before – a Northern Flicker taking a dirt bath.

Northern Flickers have spent time digging in it, like the robins, looking for bugs and such. I’ve gotten a few photos of them digging with their beaks. The red spot on the back of their head (somewhat shaped like a heart), their spotted feathers and their yellow under feathers (in my part of the country the under feathers are yellow and in other parts they are red) are rather striking when you glance out a window. They typically don’t stay in one place too long, so I usually have to have my camera near by and prepared for the photo opportunity.

On this particular day, the Northern Flicker was resting in the dirt when it caught my eye. I saw it laying there as if it were on a nest. Usually, they are very busy digging with their beaks to get a nibble of food. So this all seemed odd. When he didn’t move right away, I decided to get my camera. I quickly got it of the shelf in my office and went to the window to take some photos. I couldn’t actually go outside for these photos, because our door out to the deck (best vantage point for the bird photos) is noisy and would have scared him off. He was still just resting in the dirt. Then he turned his head to a point where it looked like it would be painful. He had his beak open too. It almost looked like he was having some type of seizure.

He would straighten his head out and then it would twist again.

He then stretched out his wings:

I thought for sure he was dying. I was getting ready to call a friend who knows a lot about birds, when I him flap his wings. A cloud of dirt filled the air around the bird. Then as the dirt settled, he took off as if nothing had happened.

So, what on earth had I just seen? Google helped me find the answers 🙂

Birds will do what is called a dusting (dirt bath, dust bath or sand bathing). This is all part of a bird keeping it’s plumage in top condition. The dirt/dust is worked in to the feathers to absorb excess oil to keep the feathers from getting greasy or matted.

Wow – who knew? Ok – probably lots of people. 🙂 In retrospect, it was really interesting to watch.

Thank you for stopping by and checking out my blog! Hope you liked the little story and the photos!

All photos are originals by Kim Lawless

Photography · Writing

Back Yard Photographer – Baltimore Oriole

Baltimore Oriole

One of the best parts of Spring – is all of the various birds that come back. The Baltimore Oriole is definitely one of my favorites with the bright orange and beautiful black colors. Last year was the first year they came to my back yard. I was very happy to see them this year. The photos from last year were definitely practice photos. The Baltimore Oriole is not easy to capture. They swoop in to get their food and fly just as quickly back out. I don’t know how many shots I’ve missed because I’ve seen them only as the orange and black blur flying past. This year they do seem to be resting in the trees just a bit longer. I’m glad I got a different lens so I can stand further away and still get some decent photos. They don’t seem to notice me as much. 🙂

Baltimore Oriole on bird feeder

Here’s some interesting facts about the Baltimore Oriole from my favorite source about birds – http://www.allaboutbirds.org

  • Seek out ripe fruit. This is why hanging sliced oranges from branches or as part of a feeder attracts Baltimore Orioles to your yard.
  • They will go to trees and shrubs that are flowering and or flowering vines in search of nectar.
  • Also eat insects. What the chose to eat is dependent upon the season. In Summer they are more likely to eat insects as the protein is need more in these months due to breeding season and while feeding their young
  • Nesting site is chosen by the female
  • Young male Baltimore Orioles don’t molt into their orange colors until the fall of their second year.
Baltimore Oriole resting on a fence

There are my first photos of the Baltimore Orioles of the season. I’m sure I will have more! I hope to also learn more about these beautiful birds.

Thank you for stopping by and checking out my blog!!

All photos are originals by Kim Lawless

Photography · Short Stories

Back Yard Photographer – Meet Little Frank

Ground Squirrel – Little Frank

Yes, it is that time of the year again – the love/hate relationship with the ground squirrel continues. However, this year there is a new twist. I have a helper with the birds and my flower gardens – my grandson. He is two and a half and loves to be outside. He has a great time pointing out Little Frank when ever he sees a ground squirrel.

Why the name Little Frank? Well, naturally there is a story. 🙂

Ever since I have been feeding the birds, the squirrels have been enjoying more than their fair share of bird food. Many different tactics have been utilized to keep the squirrels out of the bird food. One of which is to open our deck door and yell at the squirrel. Probably the least effective of all, but it gets them away from the food for a little while. During all of this, I would take pictures of the squirrels – because they are just so darn cute! I named the squirrel I would photograph Frank (yes there were several different squirrels I’m sure, but they were all named Frank – I couldn’t tell them apart!).

Here’s Frank:

Squirrel – Frank

My toddler grandson loved to join in yelling at Frank to chase him out of the yard. It is rather cute to hear a little two year old yell, “Go away Frank!” So, this has become a thing. One of the first things my grandson does when he comes over is look out the window to see if Frank is in the back yard. The other day when he came over, it was the same thing – run to the window and look for Frank. He didn’t see Frank this time, but he did see the little ground squirrel.

Ryker (my grandson), squealed with delight as he ran to the deck door, giggling, “Little Frank!! Little Frank!!” I was right behind Ryker and asked him if he wanted to chase Little Frank away. His delighted response was jumping and saying, “Yes!!” I picked Ryker up and we went out onto the deck.

Little Frank had heard us and disappeared into the long grass of the yard.

Betch can’t see me!!

Ryker still saw him and screamed, “Go away Little Frank!”

The ground squirrel stopped in the grass. He then stealthily moved through the lawn trying not to be noticed.

It worked on me – I lost sight of him, but Ryker did not. Ryker kept pointing and saying, “Little Frank! Little Frank!” Yet the ground squirrel continued on his adventure through the yard.

Hiding in plain sight
Food time!
But first a prayer…
Take one more look

As the ground squirrel took one more look around the yard, Ryker yelled again, “Go away Little Frank!” The ground squirrel took off running. Ryker was delighted and excited to tell Grandpa how he had chased Little Frank away.

Yes, Little Frank does continue to come into the yard and nibble on the bird food on the ground as if Ryker hadn’t scared him away. But soon, Ryker will be back and trying to scare Little Frank away again. I have no doubt this cycle will continue all Summer.

Little Frank got his name because Ryker heard us say ground squirrel. He could tell it was smaller than Frank (the squirrel in the trees). Little Frank, simply means Little Squirrel to Ryker. 🙂

Hope you liked the story and the photos of Little Frank.

Thank you for stopping by and checking out my blog!!

All photos are originals by Kim Lawless

Photography · Writing

Back Yard Photographer – Iris – the Legend

Bearded Iris

Confession time – I started this post yesterday and have restarted it about 5 times since then. It started out as a celebration post for Mother’s Day in the United States. Then, as is typical for me, the post started moving in a different direction. And if the content wasn’t scattered enough, I have had multiple interruptions due to changes in plans. I am not complaining about these changes in schedule because the end result was getting to spend time with my grandson on Mother’s Day. Any time with my grandson is wonderful.

Irises are a favorite flower of mine to photography. They have so many curves, variations in color and wonderful detail. The irises in my flower beds are in the purple color palette. I’m using other flowers to bring in various colors. This allows for a variety of blooms and colors throughout Spring, Summer and Fall. The iris is a short bloomer, but a beauty while the bloom lasts.

While looking over the photos I took and working on some editing, I started to wonder if there was any legends associated with the iris or any spiritual symbolism. I tend to think about these things in regards to nature. Nature is my spiritual place – the place to find myself and just enjoy the beauty in all things. So, I started doing some researching.

According to https://www.ftd.com/blog/share/iris-meaning-and-symbolism, Greek mythology tells the story of the iris. In the story the goddess of the rainbow was Iris. She would carry messages to earth on the arc of the rainbow. The arc of the petals of the iris are reminiscent of a rainbow’s arc. Not only did Iris, the Greek god, carry messages to earth, she was a companion of women’s souls traveling to Heaven upon the same pathway.

Arc of the Iris

Wisdom, hope, trust and valor are common meanings for the iris. Additionally, in the Middle Ages, French Royalty used the symbol fleur-de-lis which is said to have been inspired by the iris. The three petals were believed to represent the three social orders of the time: Nobility, Clergy and Peasants.

No matter the legend, or the symbolism, I think these flowers are another inspiring beauty in nature. In my part of the United States, they bloom about a week before we celebrate Mother’s Day no matter what the weather conditions have been up to this point. We have had floods, drought, cold and heat over the years, yet the iris stands tall and blooms beautifully every year. She is an inspiration.

Purple Iris
Purple Iris pair

That’s the story of the Iris. Hope you liked it and the photos! 🙂

Thank you for stopping by and checking out my blog!

All photos are originals by Kim Lawless.

Photography · Writing

Back Yard Photographer – Here come the Goldfinch!

American Goldfinch

As an observer of nature and the many birds that frequent my back yard, I like to research not only the facts about the birds, but also any spiritual and/or mystical attributes of the birds. Learning the different aspects of the birds, helps to reinforce how humans and nature share the real world as well as the spiritual universe. It shows how we have an impact on one another – humans just need to be open to this so we can take care of one another.

American Goldfinch watching us

Maybe it is their bright color or maybe it is their beautiful song, but Goldfinches are symbolism for excitement, enthusiasm and liveliness. As a spirit animal, the Goldfinch is about finding joy in the present and ignoring negative, unproductive thoughts. Having a Goldfinch in dreams is an indication of being happily in love. Dreaming of hearing the Goldfinch song, can indicate it is time to share your passion with others. (resource: spirit-animals.com)

Beautiful Goldfinch

In Christianity, the Goldfinch is a symbol of the Resurrection. Legend has it that the goldfinch flew above Jesus as he staggered, carrying the cross with a crown of thorns upon his head. The little bird was distressed by this sight, so he tried to pluck the thorns from Jesus’ head. Some believe this is why the Goldfinches favorite food is thistle seed.

The European Goldfinch has red on his face. Legend states this color is from the blood of Jesus that fell upon the tiny bird as he removed the thorns from Jesus’ head. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen a European Goldfinch, so I don’t have a picture of one. 😦

(Resource: https://animalsmattertogod.com/2012/06/03/goldfinch-symbol-for-resurrection)

Goldfinch in the woods

Hope you have enjoyed the photos and learned a little about the goldfinch symbolism in religion and as a spirit guide.

Thank you for stopping by and checking out my blog!

All photos are originals by Kim Lawless