NatureLog - My Nature & Nature Travel Blog
Animals Through My Traveling Lens
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…
For the last few weeks, I’ve enjoyed the transiting Allen’s Hummingbirds as they migrate through the area on their way south. I always look forward to their arrival. The males arrive much earlier than the females and this year, we saw very few males. The males typically only visit ~3 to 4 July every year. But this year we saw a shift in the date of arrivals of all migrating hummingbirds, so we presumed they, too, would be late. Unfortunately for us, the only opportune time for a family vacation overlapped the typical male Allens’ arrivals, so regardless of when they did transit, we seemed to miss them.
However, the volume of female and possibly young juvenile male Allen's transiting through this year are helping make up for my disappointment. Interestingly, for the better part of a week, I thought the same female was frequenting our backyard. However later review of my photos revealed it was indeed 2 different females. So who knows just how many we’ve been seeing over the last few weeks. Regardless, it has been a joy to watch them and be entertained. One female stayed for only ~24-48 hours and ruthlessly chased every single hummingbird away – from BOTH large feeders. Another stationed herself in a tree above one feeder and chased all hummers away from just the one feeder. Another positioned herself under the pergola on the draped lights – again darting after every hungry hummer at that feeder. Through it all, we’re reminded of those striking differences between Allens and the other hummingbirds: the shorter beaks, the constant view of their tongues, and of course their vocalizations. I don’t ever recall Allen's migrating through as late as September but, as long as it still means a safe migration for them, I’m thrilled to see the constant flow of new little visitors.
Meanwhile, we’re still enjoying all of the quite young new Black-chinned and Annas arrivals of the season. The feeders and the backyard sage and other flowers are ablaze with little fast-moving wings. There are so many that at dusk it’s like a hummingbird highway – we look out above and around us as we happen upon the back patio at this critical time. We know this stage, too, is temporary – soon our little Black-chinned friends will migrate south, and the Annas will disperse to establish their own territories and we’ll see fewer at the feeders and across the backyard. So for now, I relish this time with them – taking in their beauty, their antics, and just their mere presence that cheers me even on my most stressful day of work. I have tremendous gratitude - thank you, tiny ones, for making our lives so much richer, vibrant, and joyful…..and Godspeed for the migration ahead.
Please remember to phone your nearest wildlife rehabilitator if you find any bird or other animal in distress, injured, or otherwise in need of care. And may you discover and relish the many treasures that nature bestows on you in your own backyards - regardless of season.....
Pamela, Eyes4Nature's proprietor, enjoying life out in the field among the animals and the peacefulness of nature.