Tag Archives: American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

Eating crow

I always pay attention to American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos).  Most people ignore them if my experience means anything, yet crows not only are beautiful, large birds with striking profiles and raucous ways, but they also are boisterous prognosticators of predatory proceedings.

The more crows I hear talking, the more interested I become.

So on a morning that couldn’t decide if it wanted to be sunny or cloudy or sunny again, I turned my rapt attention toward the sound of cawing as it rapidly approached from the north.

An American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) mobbing a juvenile red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) in flight (2008_12_25_003345)

Just as I expected, the crows were mobbing a hawk; in this case, a juvenile red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis).

An American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) mobbing a juvenile red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) in flight (2008_12_25_003349)

Five crows followed closely with three more bringing up the rear.  Each of the nearest crows took turns swooping in and bouncing off the raptor as it watched them closely and looked for safe harbor.

A juvenile red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) in flight(2008_12_25_003352)

Standing beneath a large, barren cottonwood tree, I began to realize the entire scene was heading right for me, something made all too clear when the hawk seemed to set its gaze in my direction.

It was looking at the tree, no doubt, but still…

An American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) mobbing a juvenile red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) in flight (2008_12_25_003357)

Zigging and zagging didn’t help.  Powerful though they might be, buteos lack the agility to shake marauding birds like crows, blue jays and mockingbirds.

And young hawks lack the experience and strength that help adults outwit and overpower such assaults.

A juvenile red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) landing in a tree (2008_12_25_003359)

So a sharp turn brings the young one in for an abrupt landing in the top of the tree underneath which I was standing.

What an opportunity!  It would have been better had there been a less obstructed place to stand where I could get a clear view, but the creek behind, the marsh to the left, the sun shining from behind me and more trees to my right forced me to view the goings on through a cloud of branches.

But that was better than not being able to see at all…

An American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) mobbing a juvenile red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) in a tree (2008_12_25_003376)

The poor hawk enjoyed all of two seconds of peace before the crows were on top of it.

And I mean that literally.

One of the crows landed on a branch right above the hawk, a position from which it screamed and agitated and made all manner of threatening noises and gestures.

Luckily for the juvenile predator, its perch kept it safe to some degree, although it didn’t shield it from a cacophony of challenges.

American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) mobbing a juvenile red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) in a tree (2008_12_25_003391)

All eight crows began taking up positions in and around the tree where the hawk rested.  Several came very close to the larger bird as others found comfort nearby.

An American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) mobbing a juvenile red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) in a tree (2008_12_25_003403)

So what is a young, inexperienced, exasperated hawk to do when surrounded by such mouthy and menacing miscreants?

Run for it.

An American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) mobbing a juvenile red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) in flight (2008_12_25_003407)

It happened so quickly that I had to zoom way out just to snap a photo as both the hawk and the murder of crows swept from the tree in an instant.  They flew over me so near and so fast that I stumbled back trying to keep it all in perspective.

American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) mobbing a juvenile red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) in flight (2008_12_25_003409)

Then the hawk turned toward the lake before arcing back over the dense woodlands behind me.

The crows stayed in hot pursuit.

American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) mobbing a juvenile red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) in flight (2008_12_25_003412)

As they moved further away, all but one of the crows joined in the chase.  You can see the hawk at the bottom of the image with five of the crows giving chase.  Two more were just out of the frame.

The remaining crow perched in the treetops and never budged.  Lazy bum…

It’s then this story ended.

Or so I thought.

The whole group swerved into the sun from my perspective and became difficult to watch, let alone photograph, so I turned the camera off, put the lens cap on, and began walking backwards so I could watch them while making some progress toward home.

And that’s when it happened.

The young red-tailed hawk swept in over the Sunset Bay confluence and sprang out over the field in which I stood.

The murder of crows remained within spitting distance as they beat upon the poor bird.

But another predator had been watching the scene, silently taking in the lay of the land from hidden cover in the thick treeline that shields the many creeks that converge in the bay.

As all seven crows passed over the leafless limbs and back into clear sky, a massive form burst into the air behind them.

I never knew it was there.  Neither did the crows.

Larger than the juvenile hawk and dwarfing the crows by leaps and bounds, an adult red-tailed hawk made like a bullet right for the rather unlordly train that followed the younger hawk.

No one ever saw it coming.

There is a sound a crow makes when it dies a violent and sudden death, a sound not unlike the screams of a tormented soul lamenting perpetual anguish.

I heard that sound a split-second after the adult hawk intercepted one of the crows.

A splash of a few feathers and that horrible sound acted like a grenade tossed in the midst of a crowd.

The crows exploded in escapes taking them in all directions.

I don’t know how long I stood there with my mouth hanging open, my eyes as wide as dinner plates, my mind reeling from what I had witnessed.

I do know it lasted a few seconds at most.

The crows got their collective act together and engaged both hawks as the whole group flew north.

Only later did I wonder if the adult was a parent to the juvenile, or if instead it was nothing more than a bystander who took advantage of an opportunity.

No matter.  The show was spectacular despite unanswered questions.

All in a day’s walk – December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve.  Warm weather and plenty of sunshine beckoned me to the lake for an afternoon walk following yet another day of laborious boredom in the office.  Someone has to pay the bills around here…

In the minute plus a few seconds it took me to walk down the private drive into the park, already I had to stop, had to take notice.

A tufted titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) clinging to the underside of a large branch (2008_12_24_002691)

Have I mentioned how enamored I am of the tufted titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)?

Something about such small bodies full of such attitude, full of such piss and vinegar.

They enthrall me.

This one clinging to the bottom of a large tree bellowed its opinions upon the still air as I stood beneath.

I love the attitude.  I love that they join in the mobbing of predators even when all other participants dwarf them by leaps and bounds.  I love that they scream their superiority upon the wind sans consideration for the size of all challengers.

I love their bigger-than-life personalities.

After watching this one pillage the trunk to which it clung, I moved on a bit, although I didn’t make it far before I came across a beautiful man who likewise yelled at me as I invaded his space.

A male red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) perched on the side of a tree (2008_12_24_002697)

A male red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) flitted from branch to branch prior to landing in the tree under which I stood.

I backed away from both plant and animal the moment I saw him so I could get a better view.

And he immediately complained about the encounter.

I’ve stood beneath this species as two of its kind tussled from high up until they fell to the ground with a thud.

A loud thud, one that worried me as I set my gaze upon the birds wrestling in winter grass.

Both took to wing as I tried to sneak closer, so no serious damage was done, although I feared for both of them with how far they fell and the rather abrupt stop that sounded like a bowling ball hitting the ground.

But on this day, this warm Christmas Eve, no challengers save me could be found, so no tussle ensued.

Yapping the whole way, he climbed further up the tree at which point I left him to his day.

A turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) soaring overhead (2008_12_24_002721)

While American black vultures usually play hard to find, turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) rarely miss an opportunity to be seen.  They’re rather conceited that way, thinking themselves awfully pretty and awfully worth looking at.

After leaving the woodpecker to his quest for lunch, I stopped near the confluence in Sunset Bay to watch some people feeding the waterfowl.  Sure, the city frowns on that practice and posts signs declaring as much, but people still do it.  All the time.

I knelt in the brittle winter grass and wallowed in the sound of it crunching beneath my knees.

Then a shadow passed over me, a large one sweeping across the ground like a paint brush dripping with darkness wielded by a true artist.

I looked up.

The vulture had just started its climb into the air.

Despite being mostly behind trees from my perspective, a tiny space between two ligneous leviathans gave me the room needed to take a photo.

Such beautiful creatures these vultures, these seekers of death who can inflict it as easily as they find it inflicted by others.

A male great-tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) foraging on the ground (2008_12_24_002733)

Then a brief sound arose from the hoard jockeying for a bit of bread from the old couple feeding the wildlife.  A raspy, throaty, scratching sound I know all too well.

A male great-tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) finished his declaration of supremacy with a downward sweep to inspect some shiny bauble that caught his attention.

Actually, it was a bit of bread tossed to him by the elderly man.  He seemed to appreciate grackles as much as I do, a feeling rare in these parts where most feel grackles are a nuisance only.

The female grackle who remained close to him made less of a photographic subject as she darted to and fro.

Too bad, too, as she was as lovely as he in very different ways.

A domestic greylag goose (Anser anser) swimming in the creek (2008_12_24_002737)

I think it’s unfortunate that people have released so many domestic swan geese and domestic greylag geese (Anser anser) at the lake.

Whether Chinese or African, these poor birds can hardly fly and have such a limited diet available that they require daily feedings from humans, something teaching other wildlife to depend on us for sustenance.

Yet would I wish them harm?  Clearly: No.

What I do wish is for people to be responsible, to understand the repercussions of their actions, to appreciate the delicate balance this lake requires for it to sustain the biological niche it serves: a full and vigorous wildlife refuge surrounded by some of Dallas’s most inner reaches.

If you can’t stop feeding the wildlife, at least stop feeding them processed foods like white bread.  It’s bad for them; it shortens their lives.

So when peripherally I saw this goose swimming by in the creek, I turned away from the grackle, shifted my knees on the ground, snapped this photo, and then wondered: How can you survive without people feeding you?  How much living will you miss because you need whatever humans provide in the way of sustenance?  How much sympathy can you expect from those who mindlessly tossed you here to eke out a living in a place that can’t support your kind?

Before welling up in tears, thankfully more swift movement from another direction helped me look away, helped me put those thoughts aside.

An American coot (Fulica americana) running by me (2008_12_24_002738)

This American coot (Fulica americana) dashed at full speed toward where I knelt.

But not so much at me as by me.

For I knelt in the brittle, dry grass only an arm’s length from where the elderly couple stood feeding the birds.

I regret that the coot was moving so fast and was so close that I couldn’t get a good photo.

I don’t regret that it was moving so fast and was so close that I captured this full gallop image as it raced headlong toward a free meal ticket.

Unlike the geese, coots do just fine on their own and survive here sans handouts.  But they’re thankful for the treats nonetheless.

It was then I tried gracefully to explain to the well-intentioned man and woman that feeding the animals doesn’t help, and I danced around and finally plunged headlong into saying the dinner rolls they offered made a terrible lunch for these animals, an unhealthy tidbit for humans and animals alike.

Blank stares mixed with offense drifted before me.

So I stood, my knees popping and cracking their complaints, and I turned away and walked to the pier.

An American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) flying above the lake's surface (2008_12_24_002784)

American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) created perpetual motion with their comings and goings.

Some flew back to the bay after feeding while others flew out of the bay searching for lunch.

Catching this one winging its way back to the sandbar for some preening and rest gave me an opportunity to memorialize the pre-breeding beak.

You’ll notice there is no “horn” on top of its beak.  That horn begins growing in January or February as breeding season approaches.

As each bird prepares to woo a mate and secure a chance at procreating, a growth forms on top of the bill that eventually becomes the pelican version of a rhinoceros horn.

I always know the pelicans will leave soon when all of them sport this neat little accoutrement.

For now I can see they’ll be here a while longer.

A double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) perched in a tree (2008_12_24_002790)

Although Sunset Bay is my favorite place at the lake, large crowds on a welcoming pre-holiday afternoon made it too busy for my tastes.

I headed south along the east shore.

The northern edge of Winfrey Point gave me a moment to stop and appreciate a perched double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus).

My approach caught its attention and it turned to watch me, its jewel-like blue eye capturing the sun with splendor.

But then I realized I was on the wrong end of the bird.

Immediately after I snapped that photo, it’s tail went up.

I pressed the button again.

Then the reason for the lifted tail become clear: This one was clearing its bowels.

I turned away at the last minute considering I was quite close and didn’t have much interest in seeing that from the business end of the bird.

Instead, I moved on.

A killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) standing in an open field of dry grass (2008_12_24_002801)

I rounded Winfrey Point and saw gobs of people lining the shore as far south as Garland Road.  Apparently visiting the lake had become a major draw.

Facing the horde totally stepped on my buzz; therefore, I circled around the point and moved uphill back toward Sunset Bay.

Walking through a winter field of dry grass around these parts can scare up some interesting creatures.

The most common field inhabitant is the killdeer (Charadrius vociferus).

I must have thrashed the afternoon nap of at least a dozen of these plovers.

When they’re resting in brown ground cover as they’re wont to do, they become marvelously invisible until they start moving.

And when they start moving, they put a sharp eye on the interloper—in this case, me!—and they make a ruckus to let the invader know a sacred territory has been breached.


I left them to their siesta and continued back toward the bay.

A European starling (Sturnus vulgaris) in nonbreeding plumage perched on a branch (2008_12_24_002837)

Feeling a bit like a lost child making loops through a store to find a parent only to keep seeing the same places over and over again, I passed boisterous crowds of people while trying to make my way through Sunset Bay and toward what I hoped to be quieter places near Stone Tables and places further north.

Along the way I couldn’t help but stop and appreciate some of the winter flora, like skeletal trees holding up the bones of the world for all to see.

And resting upon one such bone was this European starling (Sturnus vulgaris) in nonbreeding plumage.

I can agree with many that this species is invasive and that it has upset the natural order of North America.

I can also agree with many that this species makes life a lot more difficult for our native wildlife.

But I have to add this: We can’t undo what has been done.

Humans loosed the European starling onto this continent in an asinine attempt to introduce all the birds of Shakespeare upon the New World.

That didn’t go so well, at least for native birds who found a great deal of unhealthy competition suddenly set upon them by these aggressor species.

Nevertheless—and I repeat myself—we can’t undo what has been done, and we did it to ourselves.

So I accept the European starling as a disruptive element in our ecosystem.

I don’t like what it does and I don’t like the damage it inflicts, but I wouldn’t kill them all even if I could.  They can’t be blamed for our actions.

I left the starling to its lonely afternoon.

Two male lesser scaups (Aythya affinis) floating on calm water (2008_12_24_002868)

And where did I end up again?

Right back at the pier in Sunset Bay.

The thick mass of humanity had cleared a bit.  But only a bit.

I took the opportunity to crouch on the creaky wooden planks above calm water.

Lesser scaups (Aythya affinis) delight me to no end.  The Daffy Ducks of the world, they tickle me with their cartoonish looks.

Yet animated and childlike though they might seem, they’re also quite beautiful.

These two males floated carefree not too far from where I dangled myself over the lake trying to take photos.

Do they look concerned?


A juvenile ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis) flying by me (2008_12_24_002897)

Stand to leave.

Hear shrieking from the air.

Turn to look.

Busybodies fly all around ready to swoop from the sky and nab tasty goodies from anyone who offers—or who can’t withstand the assault.

This juvenile ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis) screamed its way by me.

I seriously doubt it had any clue why it was screeching or what it thought it might get in return for the yelling.

Well, truth be told, people expend a lot of effort feeding the wildlife here.

The gull probably thought it worth asking if I had a little something to share.

But I had nothing but the camera.

The bird swept easily through the air and circled the pier for a moment or two, then off it went in search of other trouble.

A white-winged dove (Zenaida asiatica) perched in a tree (2008_12_24_002951)

Still too crowded for my tastes, I again left the pier, only this time I headed east along the creek.  The riparian landscape heavy with trees and thickets always offers a different smorgasbord of creatures.

Where I had first photographed green herons and yellow-crowned night herons, only naked branches stood in the afternoon warmth.

But something else was there as well.

Tucked back in the many islands of the confluence perched this white-winged dove (Zenaida asiatica).

Okay, let’s be honest: I scared up a litany of animals.  And I was on the opposite side of the creek!

Foraging in the crunchy, leaf- and twig-filled barren wasteland that is the winter ground, this dove became startled as I approached.  It then flitted into a tree where it felt safe watching me.

In turn, I felt bad for bothering it and walked away as quietly as I could.

A Carolina chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) perched in a tree (2008_12_24_002963)

Which was about three steps before something else caught my eye.

Leaping from branch to branch as it nibbled at winter fruit and seeds, this Carolina chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) paused only briefly.

Its afternoon was full, you see, what with the whole chasing down lunch in winter thing that was going on.

Kinglets, titmice, woodpeckers, doves and other birds filled the area with the business of being busy, yet something about this little conspicuous critter held my attention.

It never moved closer to the edge of the creek where I might have had a clearer view.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed watching it through a barrier of naked limbs from where I perched on the opposite side of the waterway.

But then I had that feeling of being watched.

Strange how that works, how we somehow know when eyes are fixed upon us.

And I knew there were eyes resting all over me, intent and unflinching eyes.

So I turned.

A northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) perched in a tree (2008_12_24_002979)

I commented at Mary’s place recently about northern mockingbirds (Mimus polyglottos) being my always companions when I take walks.

No matter the weather, no matter the surroundings, no matter the time of day, it never fails that a member of this species will be nearby keeping close tabs on me.  Even when all other birds scatter and hide, a mockingbird will fly in close and land in a place where it can watch me.

It’s become a sort of game, at least on my part.  The challenge is to find the bird.

And I always find one.

This particular mockingbird chose a bright sunny branch dangling over the creek that gave it a clear view of my position.

To test its mettle, I walked intently back toward the lake.  It hopped a bit further out on the branch to keep me in sight.

So I turned and walked back the other way, back toward the floodplain and Dixon Branch.  Its eyes tracked me like a predator watching a meal.

I laughed and thanked it for keeping everyone safe from the dangerous man with the camera.

An eastern boxelder bug nymph (Boisea trivittata) on a common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) (2008_12_24_002990)

Walking at the creek’s edge toward the bridge that would let me cross to the floodplain, flashes of gold punctuated each step.  Common dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) stood upright and showy, some still flowers while others had gone to seed.

A bit of movement on one of them drew me in closer.

A nymph.  More specifically, a young eastern boxelder bug (Boisea trivittata).

With a telephoto zoom lens on the camera, macro photography was out of the question.  In fact, I had to back away a few steps to get the scene in focus.

Sometimes I wish I could carry the whole camera store with me when I go for walks.

A true bug and not just an insect, these little critters can form rather large colonies when food is abundant.  Just ask xocobra: He and his family had a massive group of them take up residence outside their front door.

I grinned as I left the child to its investigation of the dandelion.

A fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) in a tree holding a wad of black plastic in its mouth (2008_12_24_003001)

The sound of claws scampering on wood drew my eyes up to the treetops.

A fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) ran from limb to limb, jumping from tree to tree, then paused when it realized I was watching it.

From my perspective, I knew it carried something in its mouth and I wanted to know what it was.

A bit of zoom and a button click made it clear: a wad of black plastic.

Nesting material I bet.  Or at least hope.  Yet also a sign of our lack of care and management.  I’ve seen too much garbage harm too many creatures at this lake.

It always disappoints and angers me.

Seeing this little tree rat leaping about with this material made me hope it didn’t pose a threat later.

A fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) and an American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) foraging in winter grass (2008_12_24_003027)

I crossed the bridge and left the path as quickly as possible to escape the growing throng of people.  Who knew Christmas Eve was a major let’s-go-to-the-lake event?

Twigs and grass cracked and crackled beneath my feet as I walked onto the floodplain south of Dixon Branch.

Once I made it to the dry gulch that runs into the woods, I scared up a murder of crows perched in the trees above me.

Why crows are so skittish is beyond me.  They were so high up in the tree and I was still some distance from them, yet they panicked.

I followed their progress through the treetops and slowly turned until I saw another fox squirrel joining an American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) for a spot of afternoon foraging.

I was too far away for a good photo, so I walked slowly toward them with one eye looking through the viewfinder as I clicked and clicked.

As if I had leaped upon it from nearby, the crow suddenly took to the air and headed right for the trees.

I wasn’t even close enough to throw a stone at it, let alone pose a risk.

I tried capturing the escape even though I knew I was too far away.

What I captured was something else.

An American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) landing in a tree with a red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) hiding in the branches (2008_12_24_003034)

Telephoto lenses aren’t particularly good at wide landscape shots.  Still, this image tells a story.

In the upper-left corner is the crow landing in the trees.  That’s simple enough.

Let’s talk about perspective: The branch that runs from the crow’s position to the right side of the picture actually juts out quite some distance above the floodplain.  It’s a large, heavy branch.

Now follow that branch to the right side of the photo just about centered from top to bottom.

See a hint of red and brown perched amongst the branches?

A juvenile red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) sat in the tree in a place where it was perfectly camouflaged, a place that gave it a clear view of the birds and squirrels foraging in the open, a clear line of attack if only one of the animals would move far enough away from the thicket to give the hawk time.

I never realized the hawk was there as I walked toward the crows and squirrels.  In fact, it wasn’t until I was within about five yards/meters that the hawk finally saw me as a nuisance and left its perch.

It scared the heck out of me, took me completely by surprise.

The predator made a quick leap into the air and turned immediately into the dense woodlands.  Unlike its adult counterparts, it was still small enough to make a quick getaway through the branches, one replete with sharp turns and easy avoidance of the obstacles.

I wanted to kick myself for not seeing it sooner.

The plague year

It took little more than a few seconds after the new year began for many to realize 2008 had been a catastrophe of epic proportions.  A rather Grinch-like mood shuttled people through the holidays, an otherwise hectic and stressful time made worse by economic turmoil, emotional and psychological pressures, worries over what next horror would strike out from the shadows, and when the unrelenting gloom cloaking the world might peel back a corner and let in a wee bit of light.

Two eastern kingbirds (Tyrannus tyrannus) perched in a tree (20080426_04639)

Many with whom I’ve spoken or whose blogs I’ve read share a belief that 2009 represents hope, a hope rooted in a need for something different, a want for an outlook not mired in yet more bad news.  It glows with a demand-cum-expectation that 2009 be a year of change.  Whether that change manifests in reality seems to matter little.

A male gadwall (Anas strepera) floating on the still surface of White Rock Lake (20080223_02152)

I entered December with a growing dread.  My own battles with depression notwithstanding, I swirled around a chasm of darkness that pulled me in deeper and deeper.  Even as my birthday passed a few weeks ago marking my 38th anniversary on this planet, dimmed became the light in which I had lived for some time.  And I did not know then any more than I know now why I became entrapped in such a lightless place.

Two non-breeding male ruddy ducks (Oxyura jamaicensis) slowly swimming away from shore (20080223_02109)

Yet lightless it is and, although I felt it impossible, more lightless it has become.  Everyone has a different tale to tell as to why they enter this year with such a dim view of things.  I admitted in a comment at Annie’s place in mid-December that trials and tribulations lack a quantifiable sameness between people since “[e]very circumstance is different, every life a standalone event.”  It is for that reason alone that my own forlorn entanglement with this new year continues its relentless sinking no matter how much a collective hope now blankets whatever shared mentality we own.

A snow goose (Chen caerulescens) perusing dry winter grass (IMG_20080106_00980)

But I do not share a part of that collective hope.  Not now, anyway.  Part of what made 2008 so sinister for me was my job.  What makes 2009 less hopeful still comes again from my job.  It robs from me every bit of life and time I call spare, and this month it does so at an even more cataclysmic rate.  I work three of the next four weekends.  I suffer through our on-call hell every three to four days.  I lose the whole of what is dear to the monster of what I abhor most: living to work instead of working to live.

A double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) perched in a tree (IMG_20080106_00960)

Wiping away the employment Vaseline covering the lens of life clears the view only slightly.  I believe the fog of agony now taints the world far too much.  My first novel has languished beneath the guise of paying the bills and longs for the completing light of day; my second and third novels, both already in the works, wish for the first to move aside so they can grow and prosper.  The Kids deserve so much more than they receive from me, for they give me so much more than I can state.  Family and friends wallow in the wasteland of lost time that work consumes at an increasing rate.  I cannot quit, though, given the economic hardship befalling the world.  Finding another job proves more difficult with each passing moment.

An American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) perched in a tree (IMG_20080105_00852)

What fiendish demon of the night holds my soul in its grasp?  What vile, ghoulish, devilish monster eats away at the very heart of me?

I plunge headlong toward oblivion, my spirit lost to the vacuous depths of despair.  I’ve been here before, been on this terrible path far too many times to count…  And I despise the course now resting before me.

A new year proffers little for me, but instead it takes more than the previous year ever imagined.

Welcome to the plague year…

— — — — — — — — — —


[1] Two eastern kingbirds (Tyrannus tyrannus) perched in a tree.

[2] A male gadwall (Anas strepera) floating on the still surface of White Rock Lake.

[3] Two non-breeding male ruddy ducks (Oxyura jamaicensis) slowly swimming away from shore.

[4] A snow goose (Chen caerulescens) perusing dry winter grass.

[5] A double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) perched in a tree.

[6] An American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) perched in a tree.


The dappling of sunlight upon the stony ground beneath a small tributary, unnoticed designs writ upon the brow of the Earth by way of a magic no more complicated than water’s ability to focus and defocus light simultaneously.

Sunlight dapples upon the stone floor beneath water streaming through a small tributary (20080426_04782)

Does understanding the cause of such beauty somehow taint its loveliness?

The answer rests in your perspective.

The remnant of a bygone era dredged to the light of day by digging, the very act of bringing to the surface the secrets which lie buried beneath.  Rested upon sand and stone, my eyes lingered upon this relic for longer than anticipated, and certainly no other noticed it.

A pull-tab from a drink can resting atop the stony and sandy remnants of plumbing work (164_6421)

What intrigue explodes from nothing more complicated than workmen doing a job?

The answer rests in your perspective.

A man wanders to the edge of the creek and pauses, his mind a jumbled puzzle of thought and emotion, his whole world outlined by the belief that he is isolated and deserted.  Yet he is not abandoned even in his despair.  An American coot paddles close to share in that aloneness, to offer up the silent gift of understanding.

A man crouches on the bank of a creek at White Rock Lake, deep in lonely thoughts with only a single American coot (Fulica americana) to keep him company (20080202_01772)

Or is it that the bird hopes for a handout from the stranger, wishes for a bit of food to be tossed out as a treat?

The answer rests in your perspective.

Like a nightmare from a Hitchcock film, a gull demands attention, its mouth agape, its wings held just right to capture the wind, its body floating effortlessly atop the hidden tower of magic that allows it to do that thing we humans envy most: fly.  It brags in the resounding voice of those who can.

A juvenile ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis) in flight as it demands a meal (20080114_01228_p)

Could it be this display means more or less?  Could it be this bird has reasons unannounced for its profoundly eloquent display?

The answer rests in your perspective.

Upon a lonely mountaintop rests this small turtle, its form reduced against the backdrop of a titanic log that dwarfs the young reptile until it becomes minute, insignificant, barely noticeable.

A small red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) atop a proportionally massive log (20080405_02969)

How could such a diminutive creature rise to such heights?

The answer rests in your perspective.

What murder hid in suburbia’s grasp?  What demons lurked before picket fences within the confines of winter laid barren and dry for all the world to see?  And do such monsters still exist, still cry their raucous cries and beat their black wings to darken the sky?

An American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) searching through winter grass in front of a classic white picket fence (20080203_01879)

Or is it but a crow seeking a bit of nourishment from dry grass just across the street from me as I sat on the porch enjoying the warmth of a cold day?

The answer rests in your perspective.

I said this once:

The world through eyes other than our own becomes a different thing.  When seen from someplace else, we become alien, different, unrecognizable.

That’s because we see things as we are, not as they happen.

Want to know what your life is like?  Ask those who observe it, participate in it yet do not own it.

We are what we do, not what we feel, not what we believe, not what we think.

Tinted by my own sense of self, life as I know it becomes unfamiliar when viewed from a perspective not defined by me.

Perception is a reality to which I subscribe.  No greater truth has any person than this: The real world is as we see it, and we see things as we are, not as they truly exist.  No greater power has politics or religion than this nature of humanity.

Our perspective draws its lifeblood from our perception, perception draws its lifeblood from heart and mind, and heart and mind draw their lifeblood from the whole of who we are, from experience to attitude to belief to spirit to will, and to places deep and dark and dangerous, places magnificent and memorable and meaningful.

We miss the stars because we do not see them for all the harm we do to the night sky, yet we do not miss the night sky for we have gone so long without it that it no longer matters.  In our missing of the stars we admit our lack of appreciation for what has never been known, what has been absent for too long.

And therein rests our perception, our perspectives.

Would that we could grow beyond this encumbrance, beyond these shackles that bind reality to a place far away from where we live.

The first walk (Part II)

A month ago I began an informal series of posts showing some photographs I captured during the first walk I took with my new camera, a Canon S5 IS.

Now quite some time after that first post, I’m finally getting to the second part (and who knows how long it will take to get to subsequent installments…).

My lack of timeliness notwithstanding, however, I hope you enjoy seeing the fruit of my initial experience memorializing moments of time with this great piece of photographic equipment.  The more I use it, the better the results, yet I couldn’t have been happier with what it accomplished on our first walk together.

A simple view of the lake with the sun rising behind me (IMG_0188)

A simple view of the lake with the sun rising behind me.

A small covert of American coots (Fulica americana) foraging on shore (IMG_0234)

A small covert of American coots (Fulica americana) foraging on shore.

A beautiful, large male muscovy duck (Cairina moschata) keeping himself between me and his lady friend standing just behind and to the left of him (IMG_0209)

A beautiful, large male muscovy duck (Cairina moschata) keeping himself
between me and his lady friend standing just behind and to the left of him.

Four American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos), two preening and two beaking (which is how these large birds establish and maintain their pecking order) (IMG_0162)

Four American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos), two
preening and two beaking (which is how these large birds establish
and maintain their pecking order).

Two ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis) in flight (IMG_0342)

Two ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis) in flight.

An American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) hunting for breakfast on the wet floodplain (IMG_0364)

An American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) hunting for breakfast on
the wet floodplain.

I promise to get back to this set of photos soon so I can complete this series before 2015…

[Prev | To be continued…]