Animals Through My Traveling Lens
Enjoy the Travel & Birdwatcher Series, Species Spotlights and more observations from nature
Enjoy the Travel & Birdwatcher Series, Species Spotlights and more observations from nature
As I noted in the first Cannon Beach blog, I had traveled to this little coastal town to see the object of my affection: the puffins. Birdwatching in Cannon Beach had been a high priority for me.
Look up: Wow - Oh No!!!!
While admiring all of the birds nesting on the massive rock, I was (at least momentarily) happy to see a Bald Eagle fly over to the Rock as well….until I realized why. Yes, as you may have guessed, it was raiding the Rock for food. I’m not a "Nat Geo" or "Nature" channel kind of girl - I don’t opt for a front seat for harsh fights for survival. So you will appreciate that seeing an innocent chick being swept away from its parents as a meal for someone else isn’t high on my list of “must sees”. And then there were four more Bald Eagles who decided to do the same. What I was entertained to see were the brave seagulls trying to defend the colony against the raiders. Small seagull vs. big Bald Eagle with very long talons. As you can see, at one point the Eagle was literally rolled over to defend itself against one of the many seagulls giving chase. I was impressed at their bravery, even if for naught.
So if you plan to do some Birdwatching in Cannon Beach this time of year, just be aware of *all* of the possible birdwatching "opportunities" awaiting you.
Look out: Harlequin Ducks
Arriving at the Rock early in the morning had a great payoff. I was delighted to discover a group of gorgeous Harlequin ducks bobbing on the water’s surface. I’ve only seen them one other time – out on the islands in some pretty rough water near the San Juan Islands of WA. To see them here, and so close to shore, was thrilling. I sat and watched these gorgeous ducks for quite some time. I was so great grateful for such a special opportunity.
Look down: Tidepools
Not far from where I watched the Harlequins, I joined others to walk through the tidepools formed at low tide across the beach side of the Rock. As I do with all tidepools, I enjoyed watching the little life crawling and swimming amongst them. It’s another great way to get your kids close to nature – and a great way to appreciate just how tiny our world can be as you watch the smallest of fish swim, crabs crawl, and sea urchins survive in the tiny “pools” of water left behind.
Wastewater Treatment Pond – really? Yes!!!
Elsewhere in town, and not very well known, is a lovely birding area around the sewage treatment plant. You may laugh at the thought of birding here (no, it doesn’t have an odor) but it is rich with birdlife. Many years ago, some thoughtful town citizens had placards erected around the ponds, reflecting on the variety of wildlife and birds calling the area home. I was pleasantly surprised to see a rich variety of birds around the ponds – and met many friendly locals who stopped to chat and find out what birds I had discovered. I spent quite some time at the ponds watching the birds and chatting with the locals. It was another highlight of my trip. In addition to the Canada Geese and Mallards, there were several varieties of Swallows raising their young, as well as Cedar Waxwings, Robins, and a few other species. I did add a new bird to my life list here: the Northern Rough-winged Swallow. And a few rabbits added to the enjoyable mix of life in this area.
Roosevelt Elk? Maybe ….
Much to my dismay, I didn’t actually find any of the local Roosevelt Elk this visit. But with all of the summer visitors, I wasn’t sure that I would. To be fair, I didn’t spend any time at Ecola State Park, one of the likelier places to see them in the area. But I did start my day very early and drive around at dusk as well, just in case. Better luck next trip!
Bird-friendly locals and wildlife rescue-friendly shopping
I also wanted to point out the town locals, Erik and Hannah, host a regular Birding podcast series called “Hannah & Erik Go Birding”. I met Erik over at the ponds and enjoyed chatting with him for quite some time about the birds of the area. And one of my now favorite shops, The Good Life, is kind enough to give a portion of their profits to help local wildlife rescue. Those of you who read my blog know how important wildlife rescue is to me. I was elated to discover this shop’s efforts to support them and really appreciated the opportunity to seek the visiting public’s help in rescue.
All in all, a great birdwatching trip to Cannon Beach, Oregon - an area rich in birds and other wildlife. If you’re planning a trip and are interested in more insights, here are some great resources:
And please remember, if you discover an animal in need, please call the closest Wildlife rehabilitator.
I hope my collections, from Oregon and beyond, inspire you with nature’s beauty:
Part 1: Tufted Puffins on Haystack Rock
Starting with Atlantic Puffins...
I'm sure I'm not the only birdwatcher who loves to travel and see new birds. RSPB Bempton Cliffs – braving the icy cold winds on the northern England Coast two years ago, I had visited this lovely RSPB site to see the gorgeous little Atlantic Puffin. Except that I didn’t realize that all of the other coastal, rock-loving birds would be much closer to the trail than the object of my affection, the little Puffins. Skomer Island, Wales – apparently one of the closest places to see the Atlantic Puffin: all sold out almost a year in advance when I started my vacation planning. The coast of Maine and eastern Canada: several viewing spots, the closest of which was also all sold out for the summer season. This was my experience going into my summer vacation planning. Clearly these precious, almost comical-looking birds are the object of affection for many people. Completely befuddled about how to see puffins this year, I recalled that the Tufted Puffins nest on Haystack Rock in this little coastal Oregon town. With a dear friend of mine nearby in Eugene, I soon decided to plan my trip to visit her with a side visit to see these famous Tufted Puffins.
In search of Tufted Puffins...
Getting to town, I soon discovered I had some serious learning to do if I was to see plenty of Puffins. I’ll share it with you here, in case you’re planning your own visit.
And so the “dance” of Tufted Puffin spotting and photography can be interesting. I can’t claim to have figured it out. So rather than get frustrated, I just delighted in the opportunity to finally see this slightly larger cousin of the Atlantic Puffin with its precious “blonde” tufts of “hair” along both sides of its head. So cute!
Some other tips for visiting Haystack Rock and Cannon Beach in general in the summer months:
c. Near the Information Center on 1st Street, on 2nd Street and on Spruce Street.
3. Arrive early for every meal out. The restaurants fill up quickly and if you’re quite hungry, you may end up with a long line – and “hangry” – LOL - if you don’t plan ahead.
Cannon Beach information for birdwatchers traveling there is a bit hard to find online for some reason. Even the Portland Audubon Society skips Cannon Beach and its birds, other than to mention sea colony monitoring. So here are some direct links to save you time:
Until next time, remember to fully enjoy nature and all of the goodness it holds for you, and please call a local wildlife rehabilitator if you find a bird or other animal in need.
“ Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” – Jennifer Lee
I just recently responded on Instagram to a number of public posts from people depressed about the state of our natural world. Many nature lovers wrote expressing the sadness they feel when trying to save our planet and do the right thing to bring about change. They are people living Gandhi’s motto, “Be the change you want to be in the world” and they’re working hard to make it so. Yet they were feeling a bit down and overwhelmed. This got me thinking about how we approach problems – especially ones that can seem so large as to overwhelm us and make our potential for impact seem almost impossible.
Change *is* possible if we can approach it with thoughts of what is possible, rather than what is not. This approach can help us overcome any of our feelings of inadequacy, frustration and fear. I know it sounds counterintuitive – you’re down and sad but you need to be upbeat about the position of our planet (or anything that saddens you)? Yes!! Recall the point of view about seeing a glass half empty or half full? Now you’re on the right track ….
So nature lovers: Let’s shift the energy to that of the possibilities and act ‘as if’. This can have a profound impact, especially the more of us who participate in this ‘shift’. Here are some things we can all do right now for our planet, the people and the animals that inhabit it:
1 – Start your day thanking the Universe that the planet, and all of its inhabitants, are healthy. And call in anything else for their health that you’d like. Remember, focus on what you want (i.e. keep the message positive) and act as if is is already so.
2 – Reinforce it by writing it down. You can do this with a list of your “mantras” above and/or create a vision board of a beautifully, healthy planet with pictures of goodness. Examples include animals and places on our planet who are healthy and treated with the respect and reverence they deserve
3 – Surround yourself with positive people who are also making a difference in the world. The above is not forgetting what we need to change. It’s about bringing a more positive energy to the problems where real change can happen.
If you want to learn more on this subject, you can listen to part of an Oprah interview with Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith, and/or learn more from the likes of Dr. Wayne Dyer, Gregg Braden, Mike Dooley, and many others on the power of this approach to the goodness we want to bring to our world.
Let’s do this!!!!
“The universe corresponds to the nature of your song.” – Michael Bernard Beckwith
As a natural-born birdwatcher traveler, I’m so very grateful to have a job that allows me to travel the world. When I do, I try to take a few extra days to explore the natural area locally before returning home. Experiencing the native flora and fauna always proves rewarding. The UK is one of those places I so enjoy. On the last trip, I ventured south to Devon. This time, I’ve chosen to go north of London for a few days - but more on that later.
How do I choose where I go to explore? The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a big part of my planning process. Those who live in the UK are quite fortunate to have such a lovely organization. The RSPB has parks all over the UK for exploring birds and other wildlife. To me, their tag line, “Give Nature a Home”, couldn’t get any better. Check out their website and explore for yourself. Many of the parks have visitor centers with helpful volunteers who answer questions and share more about the local wildlife. Some even have little cafe’s for tea, coffee, sometimes even full meals. On one particularly dreadful cold and drab day, I stopped at RSPB Bempton Cliffs in North Yorkshire to see those adorable Atlantic Puffins, beautiful Razorbills and many other birds along the north coast. I was quite happy to discover their lovely visitor center and café. I was able to have my (at the time) 79-year-old mother enjoy the warmth there as I fought the cold winds down the trail out to the ocean where I could spot my colorful little friends. She, on the other hand, was able to spot those same little colorful friends on the live feed on the big screen in the visitor center. We were both delighted that she could spend her time learning from the educational displays and enjoying tea in the warmth of the visitor center.
On this trip, I chose 3 RSPB sites in close proximity to one another. My key goal for this trip: see the gorgeous Common Kingfisher. Since this was winter, the chances were obviously diminished for seeing the Kingfishers, but I wasn’t daunted. I hired a car and planted myself in a convenient lodge between them. Several locals had told me there was a fair chance of spotting the Kingfishers at RSPB Rye Meads, just north of London. The winter had been mild and birds around the English countryside had shown signs of some early spring behaviors.
Lucky for me, and the animals, many RSPB sites provide birding blinds. Blinds of course allow you to witness the many glorious birds without ever disturbing them. Once I arrived at Rye Meads, I walked the trail to the bird blind closest to the location most likely to see them – and see them I did! Not only one, but two, were busily flying in and out of the sandbank nest cavity – likely trying to determine if it was suitable for their nesting. I was in heaven! I spent the morning enthralled by the Kingfishers, then exploring some of the many other spots. I also caught a glimpse of a handsome fox meandering through the park just beyond the Kingfisher activity. I was also able to see - and experience the unforgettable sound of - a Mute Swan at takeoff. I couldn't help but think, to other birds, this must be to them like the difference between a 787 and a turboprop to us!) Also along the way I discovered the Tufted Duck, Gadwalls, Greylag geese and more.
I stopped so many times just to take in the beauty of the green everywhere – it was a sight for sore eyes. I stopped to listen to the stream and recorded a video of the water rushing over rising foliage underneath. I spotted an unsuspecting male pheasant and got a quick glimpse at a few other birds including a little Treecreeper. But otherwise, neither people nor birds shared my quiet morning meander along the 2 mile trail. It was just perfect to focus on the beauty and other lovely sounds of nature that I may miss while focused on the singing birds. It reminded me to take time to admire the trees, the gorgeous colors of the season, and the simple but soothing sounds of a babbling brook.
Three RSPB parks, three different personalities and experiences, it’s all here for us birdwatcher travelers or locals. Many thanks to the RSPB for bringing it to us. I’m now a card-carrying member of the RSPB, and armed with my Member’s guide, I can look forward to the many new parks I will explore. And, whether you’re a foreigner like me or from the UK, I do hope that you get the chance to experience the UK’s beauty, wildlife and these lovely parks for yourself. I've featured some of this beauty in my photo products here and on my Zazzle storefront.
Please remember to support your local wildlife carer/rehabilitator and reach out to them for any wildlife in need of care. Blessings …
Ok – so you’ve read about some Valentine gifts for your nature lover (blog 1) and you’re ready to marry it up with some Valentine personal time (blog 2). But you’re feeling adventurous and want to plan something BIGGER around this holiday. No problem. I’ve created this list – the final of my Valentine’s blog series - from my own “adventures” as a nature-aholic. All of them except #6 are ones that I’ve personally experienced (and #6 is on my to-do list) so I am happy to share from my own personal experience. There are plenty of other ideas that others will have experienced so this list certainly is not exhaustive for you “‘Go-Big’ers” out there. May it inspire you for whatever you plan!
Big Idea #1: Go on a donkey walk. Yep – I really mean a donkey walk. While they’re not prevalent globally, I can tell you they are around the UK and I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at Stokewater Meadows. Chris, the owner, is a delightful man who loves his donkeys, and his donkeys are playful, cheeky and fun. Not to mention you get to enjoy that quintessential charming English countryside along the way. There are plenty of options so go googling to find a donkey walk.
Big Idea #2: Go out for a Badger watch. I know – you really think I’m making these up now. Actually, this is another one from my trip to the Devon countryside in the UK. If you go in the fall or winter like I did, just make sure you pack the right number of layers. And yes, you DO see these cute black and white guys romping across the meadow in front of the hide. Just read this great article in The Guardian for some insights.
Big Idea #3: Visit a donkey sanctuary – it’s sure to be one of the most entertaining things your beloved can do. You’ll see the many pictures featured on my products to prove just how entertaining. My favorite is The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth, UK for the beautiful trails, beauty, friendliness of the staff, museum and oh so many donkeys!
Big Idea #4: Plan a trip to Costa Rica. (https://www.visitcostarica.com/en) If your Valentine is a nature lover, this is bound to be on their bucket list. From the preserves where one can spot that famous and adorable sloth, to the famous colorful birds (remember the Toucan from the Fruit Loops box?), not to mention the broadest variety of Hummingbirds you’ll probably see anywhere, to the amazing beauty of the countryside, and seeing some of the largest turtles in the world lay eggs under the moonlight, to the tiny hatchlings heading to sea, it’s hard to top Costa Rica for natural diversity.
Big Idea #5: Go visit one of the U.S. National Parks. No matter which park you choose, there is something that nature lovers will love. Grizzlies, elk, moose, bison and mule deer at Yosemite and Grand Tetons, gorgeous red topography in the Utah parks, Mountain goats and edge-of-the-earth beauty in Glacier National Park. As many as I've visited, I still have more on my list to experience!
Big Idea #6: Alaska. Yes it’s a category unto itself. Whether it’s heading to the national park, taking a cruise focused on whales, glaciers, or other themes, or joining the bears to catch their salmon (just kidding – please just watch them from a distance), get researching because there is a LOT to plan! Because it can be overwhelming, you can follow this link to Nature and Wildlife experiences on Trip Advisor for some ideas.
Big Idea #7: Swim (respectfully only) with Spinner dolphins and Giant Manta Rays on the Big Island of Hawaii. Yes, just off Kona, you can have these lovely experiences. Please do your research and always be respectful of these gentle creatures. This company is one that I use because my experience is that they are highly respectful of all of the animals. There are other operators as well so do your research. You should be comfortable snorkeling – don’t learn while you’re doing this experience - you will spend too much time gulping sea water to enjoy yourself and miss the beautiful experience altogether. I've seen it happy so many times. Not to mention your stomach will *not* be happy processing that salt water. Trust me.
Big Idea #8: Swim with an Australia sea lion (ASL). Notice I didn’t say California sea lion (CSL). There’s no swimming with CSL’s in the U.S. and they are a bit unpredictable (not that any wild animal isn’t). I’ve had them leap over my kayak while originally quite some distance away.
There are 1 or 2 places elsewhere that allow it, but I prefer to exercise caution. I worked in marine mammal rehab with CSL’s and I know what they’re capable of. Enjoy watching these beautiful pinnipeds from the shore. If you fancy it, there are operators in Australia who will take you out safely to swim with the ASLs. But as with any wild animal, again always exercise caution. I swam with them in fairly shallow water and found that the one fellow passenger on my boat most comfortable swimming underwater was the most popular one with the ASLs. All of the them were following him - I think they thought they’d found a new playmate. I LOVED watching the underwater fun!
Big Idea #9: Swim with a whale shark. Yes, they *are* the largest shark. However, they’re docile and in fact usually are quite afraid of us. (Picture us humans frightened of a tiny bee and you can appreciate their perspective). They in fact don’t even have teeth to eat fish – they have tiny teeth and instead eat plankton. I found operators in Exmouth, Western Australia who treat them with the greatest respect. Please be sure to find an operator who is highly respectful of these gorgeous big fish.
Big Idea #10: GO BIG. Yep – I do mean big. Whale big. Plan a trip to meet the Baja Gray whales, kayak with the Humpbacks in Maui, or swim with the whales! There are very few places in the world you can do these activities, and only certain times of the year, so plan early and well. Our friend Jeff Pantukhoff of the Whaleman Foundation leads trips to meet the Gray whales in Baja and there are several good tour operators to kayak with Humpbacks in Maui. Here’s a link to our friends at Conscious Breath Adventures where we swim with the Humpbacks (over the U.S. winter), and Eye to Eye Marine Encounters for John Rumney and his lovely family to swim with the Dwarf Minke Whales (over the U.S. summer) out on the Australia Great Barrier Reef. I’ve saved these trips for last because they are truly the most treasured experiences of my life. And I hope to keep returning for many years to come!
While I’ll leave the “experience” gifts to you, you’ll certainly see their inspiration in some of my products and photographs in my Collections and storefronts.
Whatever you do, wherever you go, here’s wishing you and your special Nature Lover someone a wonderful Valentine’s Day….
Whether you are a nature lover or not, you can probably relate. Do you ever get caught up in your mind’s obsessions about work, an argument you had with your significant other, a family issue, etc.? The impact these ruminations have on our psyche is not good. That’s where mindfulness comes in. As you open yourself up to be in the present moment, esp outside in nature – notice the fragrance in the air, the bird in the tree, the sensation of your foot steps on a pebble or the dirt. Doing so, you begin to separate from the drama, the “stuck” feeling, frustration or other negative emotion of your thoughts. You broaden your perspective and open up to the newfound energy from your immediate experience here and now - the awareness of just “what is” all around you. Just like you’ve been missing out on what’s in nature, you’re probably missing out on what’s happening to the loved ones in your life. Your nephew or niece, son or daughter, or grandchild has a new toy they want to share with you. Your loved one wants to seek your advice on a work issue. Your friend needs your shoulder ….. The more we open to the present moment, the more we experience what’s truly important. When you come back to your earlier rumination, it feels a lot less “dense” or heavy, less significant, or of less importance overall. In fact, you may have discovered an entirely new approach to the problem you hadn’t had the “room” to discover before.
Yesterday, I was out walking my dogs between rainstorms. I committed to being present for them– knowing they would enjoy this time after being cooped up in the house during the storms. Rather than rushing their joy because I had another agenda, I just let them be dogs – taking in every scent they could along the way. As we walked, enjoying the present moment, I began to get a “feeling” that something was about to happen in nature. As I walked, I could hear Cedar Waxwings nearby. We circled the block and on the sidewalk before me, in front of house after house, was berry “debris”. Still listening for the Waxwings, I wondered “Do Robins and Waxwings eat the same berries? Do they ever forage together?” And nature responded. One or two houses down, amidst the quiet of this day, I could hear the fluttering that could only be birds – LOTS of them - softly flying among leaves around the tree. I looked up to see an entire flock of Robins flying in and out, grabbing berries, arguing between themselves. I stood for the longest while, enjoying this moment with nature – Robins doing what they need to do to survive, eating as many berries as possible until they were satiated and grew quiet and still. And there among them? Cedar Waxwings of course! I was elated! I decided to take advantage of their current “food coma” pause after the big meal to run the dogs home, grab the camera and get back to the scene. And when I returned, there they still sat – looking plump and content. What beautiful birds….
Had I been ruminating, had I not been in the present moment with the dogs, I likely wouldn’t have noticed these beautiful birds. Lifted by their beauty and these precious moments with them, I felt ‘lighter’, grateful for nature’s beauty and the opportunity to experience it. The rain may be coming back but the dogs and I had had our moments in the fresh air – and returned home refreshed.
What might you be missing in your life? Take a moment to be in the present moment - wherever you are. Breath in the fresh air. Listen for birdsong. Walk the dogs. Do whatever it is that lifts your heart. Whether you are already a nature lover or are starting to see the many benefits nature can bring to you, you can learn more about mindfulness and the benefits of the present moment from Oprah and Jon Kabat-Zinn here.
And if you should see a Cedar Waxwing or Robin in distress this time of year, please call your local wildlife rehabilitator or facility. Often these birds ingest fermented berries and as you can appreciate, “drinking and flying” don’t mix well. Working in wildlife rehab, I have encountered “drunk” Cedar Waxwings who just needed some time to ‘sober up’ and safely fly again. As always, thank you for caring for your local wildlife …. and enjoy the beauty of the winter season and all of its surprises!
As I mentioned in part 1 of this blog series, I’m a big fan of the gift of time together. So whether you take one of these ideas or simply use them to inspire your own, the important thing is to just go have fun together! And don’t forget, it’s always lovely to give the gift of a donation to one of the causes that your Valentine supports. The non-profit can always use your support, and it’s a wonderful feeling.
Here are my TOP 10 ideas of the perfect day spent with your nature-, bird-, or animal-loving Valentine. There’s likely so much to explore together in your local area.
Idea #1: Plan a picnic in a local park or at the beach. You can even create a picnic theme – maybe it’s a typical lunch, or perhaps it’s just dessert. Either way, YUM!! (Too cold? Grab some blankets, hot cocoa and picnic in your car in a nice setting!)
Idea #2: Are you near a rocky shoreline? Tidepooling is a fun activity that gives you the benefit of that salt air, and satisfies the need for new experiences – no two tidepools are alike. Explore the creatures you find within...
Idea #3: Fancy a hike? There are typically ample parks around your area. Ground covered in snow? How about bundling up and snowshoeing (rent them if you don't have them already) out amidst nature...
Idea #4: Enjoy being out on the water? How about a guided kayak tour, a sailboat excursion, a whale watch, or even Stand-up Paddleboarding (SUP) lessons
Idea #5: Plan a trip to the local Botanical Gardens – explore what’s in bloom, what birds are visiting, and just generally enjoy being together among the beauty
Too cold for outdoor activities where you live? No problem! Here are a few for indoors:
Idea #6: Take a walk through an Arboretum enjoying what's growing inside
Idea #7: Find an IMAX, library, local Audubon Society or related gathering or MeetUp of birdwatchers, nature lovers, and others to enjoy a special program on nature
Idea #8: Visit a museum celebrating some aspect of nature, or rent a movie (Netflix, Redbox, or elsewhere) to explore a nature topic of interest together.
Idea #9: Visit a winery in which you can look out onto gardens even during winter, while snuggling over a nice glass of wine
Idea #10: If all else fails, plan for a drive in nature, complete with snacks for the ride(!), exploring a new location and enjoying the scenery. The important thing is that you’re together doing it. So make the most of this special time -
Other things to notice when planning your activity:
Are there migrating birds, whales, seals, or other animals in your area this time of year? You will see different birds in your area, depending upon the season. Some are there only a short time, others year-round. Are any of the animals changing in some way this time of year?
Now, some of you are bound to be thinking, “I want to go bigger”. Good for you! You’re definitely into planning and if you’re going to plan it by this Valentine’s Day, I would suggest you need to start working on it ASAP. Otherwise, certainly a “promise note” of surprise this Valentine’s Day for a future trip is just as exciting – and allows the two of you to plan it together. See part 3 of my Valentine’s blog for some "big" ideas based on my own personal experiences.
Meanwhile, if you’re sticking closer to home, enjoy planning your day! Relax and unwind in nature together. And enjoy the inspiration from my own nature experiences featured in my Valentine’s cards, products, and photographs for this and many other occasions.
Whatever you do, wherever you go, here’s wishing you and your special 'nature lover' someone a wonderful Valentine’s Day…
I’ve created some special products this year just for Valentine’s Day, but I’ll come back to that in a second. For every special occasion, I’m a big fan of giving the gift of time. Valentine’s Day is no exception. We get so busy in our lives that it’s easy just to go to dinner somewhere and call it a night. What takes more time is to plan something unique for your loved one – something that is specific to their interests and involves quality time together. I’ve put together a Gifts list of just such “experience” ideas. You can be a thoughtful partner this Valentine’s Day and every day - planning out special days or outings for the nature/animal/bird lover in your life. I’ll cover an example list of such activities in part 2 of this Valentine’s Day blog.
So back to the new products this Valentine’s Day….
I’ve created part 1 of this blog with a Valentine Gifts list of ideas for your nature, bird, or animal-loving Valentine. If you fancy a physical gift reflective of their interests, there are a variety of subjects across landscapes, animals, and birds. So while I have a pillow that features a zebra, you can also create a pillow of a garden, a particular bird, or many other animals.
Herein a list of gifts to get you started:
Idea #1 – A heart-shaped ceramic ornament they can hang anywhere and all year long
Idea #2 – A custom luggage tag or nature-themed neck tie to remind them of you wherever they go
Idea #3 – For the ladies, a beautiful scarf to enwrap her in a picture from nature.
Idea #4 – To give them a different kind of ‘warm’, a flask to carry their favorite libation
Idea #5 - To protect your beloved’s treasured electronics while taking along a bit of nature: a cellphone, ipad, laptop cover or sleeve
Idea #6 – To keep the treasured jewelry you’ve already gotten them: a wooden jewelry box
Idea #7 – To light up their world: a candle or lamp – hanging, lamp shade or table/desk lamp
Idea #8 – A custom wine-carrying box to surround their favorite bottle of wine
Idea #9 – A big floor pillow you both can use to snuggle up together and watch your favorite videos
Idea #10 – The “coziest” gift of all: a nice warm blanket for snuggling up together – this Valentine’s day and many more to come!
You can get Valentine cards and more ideas, such as shot glasses, BBQ aprons and teapots, in my Collections and Storefronts, below:The next step is to add to your physical gift an actual ticket or a customized handwritten or printed “representation” of an escape or nature activity/experience you’ll gift them with for Valentine’s Day. I’ll hook you up with those ideas in part 2 of this Valentine’s Day blog. Until then, remember:
"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul." - John Muir
Happy shopping and Happy Valentine's Day!
Continuing on the theme of exploring winter’s migrating avian visitors, this Christmas week we drove up to the Cosumnes River Preserve and environs near Sacramento to see the Sandhill Cranes. If you’re a birdwatching traveler in or heading to the Sacramento area, this is a helpful guide to great places to see them. We had most luck right across from the visitor center at dawn. But believe it or not, you can observe hundreds of thousands of them in the central parts of the U.S. The Audubon Society calls their spring gathering along Nebraska’s Platte River, “among the greatest wildlife spectacles on the continent”. At one time, you can see “over a quarter of a million birds”.
If you haven’t seen a Sandhill Crane, they’re definitely a site to behold. Standing at almost 4 feet high, their wingspans can reach ~7 feet! As part of their mating rituals, they’re known to “dance”, lifting into the air - as if jumping - and prance around to attract a prospective mate. Not expecting to see this behavior outside of the mating season, I was delighted to see them do something similar. I’m not sure if this was fighting or exasperated communications of another sort, but I thoroughly enjoyed the show. ;-)
I didn’t realize, until researching the best places to see them, that actually 2 different Sandhill Crane subspecies visit California during winter: Lesser and Greater Sandhill Cranes. If you don’t know much about Cranes, here are a few fun facts from @AudubonCA about Greater Sandhill Cranes who overwinter in our central farmlands:
At the same time, I’ve always loved the Cinnamon Teal. There’s something about their hues of deep crimson that make them another object of my affection. It was this very duck that opened my eyes many years ago to the realization that there are in fact many more duck species than the Mallard. One day walking my dogs in Virginia, I noticed this “odd-looking” duck in my backyard waterway. Why was this Mallard a deep crimson color? And so it began my education about Teals (Cinnamon, Blue-winged, Green-winged), Northern Pintails, Northern Shovelers, Ruddies, Wood, and oh so many more beautiful ducks to discover. So imagine my excitement this week to realize that, while closely studying and enjoying the fascinating Cranes, that all the while the Cinnamons were right in front of me! Sure enough, maneuvering around the Cranes’ feet were none other than …. Cinnamon Teals. I have searched far and wide during previous winters to find the Cinnamons only to be disappointed to see a mere one or two here and there. Right here, right now, were an entire flock foraging in the shallows of the flooded farm fields!
While, as a traveling birdwatcher, you may not get as excited as I do to stand out in the cold, blood draining from your hands, nose so cold you can no longer feel it (ok, I actually don’t either), I do hope you get the chance to get out and explore nature this winter. Maybe it’s not birds that are the objects of your own fascination but the changing of the trees across seasons, the beauty of frost on a leaf glistening in the sun, or a moonlit walk on a snow-covered field. Whatever brings you joy, get out and do it! I leave you with these words from famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who was himself assuredly inspired by nature:
Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.
Enjoy – and don’t forget your hat and gloves!! ;-)
This time of year is so exciting to me. Many winter migrants have arrived and I’m always eager to set out early mornings to see who has arrived overnight or over the last week. Do you know which birds come through your own area this time of year? If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, you will see birds who have flown south to warmer climates. They are either stopping through or staying through the winter. The benefit of stepping out or looking out of your window for these birds is multi-fold. Realizing there is a whole ecosystem of life outside our own helps draw us into the present moment – dissolving our troubling or stressful thoughts.
The birds that you see have risked their lives, skipped many meals, flown many hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles, to arrive. Spending your morning with a loved one, exploring – either through the window or at a local park – is a nice way to enjoy your day. My mother regularly peaks out her window and shows her great-grandchildren the many birds that come through. She’s thrilled that her great-granddaughter, Alaina, proudly ensures other people know about the birds she encounters now, too. What a blessing - a gift - to a young child who can enjoy the wonders of nature.
I love being a traveling birdwatcher but I still avidly watch my own yard every day. In my own backyard this winter I’ve discovered at least 2 new species I’ve not seen here before. We’ve lived in the same house over 10 years, so seeing new birds this winter was amazing! It’s likely due to a slight change in habitat these new species seek. Our garden has more growth from new low shrubs and purple sage this year and a clearing from trees that we had to cut down due to disease. We’ve seen Golden-crowned Sparrows and Orange-crowned Warblers, the latter of which I never even knew existed.
I’ve also been heading out along the San Francisco Bay’s many parks and to Monterey Bay, never disappointed. Right now on San Francisco Bay, we’re seeing Northern Shovelers, Gadwalls, Green-winged Teals, Blue-winged Teals, Avocets, Black-necked Stilts, Ruddy Ducks, and the latest arrivals, Lesser Scaup. The irony: I’ve seen SO MANY Northern Shovelers over the years at Palo Alto Baylands that I almost ignore them now. But this year, as they took to the skies or rose up on their haunches, I discovered even more colors on their plumage. They are even more captivating when their wings are open! Now my new obsession: being in the right spot, in the right light, at the right time, and the right angle with their back towards me, to catch this same beauty aflight. So far, only blurry pictures.... Luckily, I have the whole winter to keep trying! ;-)
Where will you go this winter to explore? Whether you are a traveling birdwatcher or stick close to home, will you take your grandkids, your sons and daughters, your husband or wife, your mother or father, your best friend and go explore? As John Muir once said....
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
Pamela, Eyes4Nature's proprietor, enjoying life out in the field among the animals and the peacefulness of nature.