“There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks.
Most of the time we are simply not patient enough,
quiet enough, to pay attention to the story."
~~ Linda Hogan
I often get to know my animals on such a human level, and they get to know me so well, that I forget to photograph them in their natural habitat. Between rain storms yesterday, I was entertained by one of my little chipmunks foraging, digging and climbing. If I get too close they come running to me and crawl all over me. I have to shoot incognito.
Click image for cool facts
He was looking for the perfect one to climb...
...and climb and ...
.... climb ...
...and then uh oh... hold on...!
...and then he landed!
Chipmunks are native to North America and Asia and are of the genus Tamias, which is the Greek word for "storer". This aptly describes their habit of collecting and storing (I call it stashing) food for the winter. Want to know more about these cute little rodents? Click on the first image above for cool facts.
They've also been called 'striped squirrels', 'chippers', and 'timber tigers',
Foraging in the forest later that same afternoon
Looks like I caught this little guy at his nap time....
My granddaughter's been visiting again. She now loves going "birding", which I'm glad to see because it's a great way to get outside and exercise while sharing with her all the wonderful experiences in nature. We don't focus on just the birds. It's really become the name for our walks and hikes. It gives us time to just talk about life... her life, my life, and life in general...
She's learning to carefully walk through thick forests, a task that strengthens 'being present' and works on improving physical balance. I'm teaching her to find deer trails to make crossing the forest easier. She notices the different bird calls and plant life and often can read the sky for impending rain. She squealed with delight today noticing how the clouds were moving.
This evening just before dark she asked to go "birding". I was glad she was asking to go! We only had time for a short outing and it was too dark for my camera without a tripod, so we basically went on an evening stroll. She fed Scaredy Cat aka Gentle One (the gray jay from CHIPPY's blog) just as we were starting down the road. Scaredy Cat ended up finding us on the trail about five minutes later. She got another nut from us. Toward the end of our walk, I pointed to the red sky and just as I did, Scaredy Cat flew out of the forest and landed on my finger! Neither of us realized she had followed us the whole way!
On the last stretch of our "birding" walk, my granddaughter slipped on the sloping road and took quite a fall. I was silently startled and helped her up and we were both dusting her off. I asked if she were okay. She just started walking again and said, "I'm tougher than that!" (This is a 4 year old!) It sounds like I'm making that up, but that's exactly what happened. I laughed out loud and she giggled too. She reminded me of her mom... It warmed my heart.
“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” Thomas Merton
It's one of those Colorado days that lives up to the saying "...if you don't like the weather, just wait a few minutes." The sun comes out; the sun disappears. Cloudless blue skies turn gray and thunderstorms roll in and then it all clears up. It's been crazy!
Soooo... since it's raining at the moment and I can't get out with my camera to go birding or cut wood just yet, I decided to browse through some photos from my travels through Asia and came acrosss this picture of a pair of ducks from the 17th C. I was antique shopping in Bangkok looking for chess pieces to assemble for an artistic chess set. I couldn't afford these ($300 or so), but I took a picture of them. If memory serves, they were children's toys...
While I wait for the weather to clear, I just stoked up the wood stove and read one of my favorite quotes that hangs on my log wall:
"The profoundest of all sensualities is the sense of truth and the next deepest sensual experience is the sense of justice."
Between the rain .. Another female Pine Grosbeak ( I think ).
Hmm... haven't figured out what this little one is...
What I love about the camera is that it captures what my own eyes can fail to see when I'm taking the picture. Birds in particular move so fast, sometimes it's hard to see the details. Look at these little orange feet!
“Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the
beauties and mysteries of the earth are never
alone or weary of life.”
photos by Betsy Seeton
I got my birding book out to ID these mustard headed birds. It appears they are female Pine Grosbeaks, but I'm not positive.
These were the first birds I saw in the forest between the pond and the cabin today. They were with or near the red headed guys below. This is so much fun. I've never noticed them before. How strange and wonderful to have my eyes opened up... or my mind or whatever it is that is helping me to begin seeing what was always already there. How did I go so long missing out?
I took my 4 year old granddaughter with me and tried teaching her the first principles of my birding style. First, "quiet walking" and, second, whispering instead of talking and total silence (no talking) whenever possible. These are not natural concepts for a child to grasp! But overall, she did well and we didn't butt heads too many times.
Male Pine Grosbeak?
If I'm right, and these are Pine Grosbeaks, they're from the Finch family...
click on image for cool facts
According to Cornell University it is the largest and rarest of the "winter finches."
This little guy wanted to hang upside down! Hmmm....
Don't know what this one is.... Anyone? I know it's not a clear photo. I'm working on improving...
by Betsy Seeton
One last shot of the female Pine Grosbeak...
For more photos and stories go to the "previous" button.
Thank you Joy for showing me this quote:
"... It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err..."
“Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning, and under every deep a lower deep opens.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
We hear a lot about the importance of "living in the moment" and "being present" and we tend to nod and readily agree to the merits of the concepts, yet I'm guessing most of us don't really know what it means or quite how to experience either one. I've been giving it a huge try this summer. My motivation has partly been as a remedy for stress. I've been thinking I was having some success. And maybe I was. But on my long drive from the city to the mountains today, a trip that I make semi frequently due to work, I realized that I'm usually focused on getting from A to B and not on experiencing the pure journey of it all. (Excuse how cliche sounding it is to say 'journey'.) My point is that I'm not very present at all. Today's trip was much different.
Mule Deer - Click image for cool facts
I drove the same route and yet it was new in many ways. I was driving more slowly, feeling less stressed and was lapping up the scenery much more. I noticed the clouds, the lighting, the changing colors, and the dips and curves of the road. I took in the beauty the way someone would who had never seen it before. I noticed gorgeous black birds with huge wing spans having fun with flight. It reminded me of one of my favorite books from when I was a teenager -- Jonathan Livingston Seagull. (The "cool facts" page isn't working at the moment...sorry.)
Between meetings today, ('m back at my cabin tonight) I dropped into a book store and bought my first ever birding book. It's opening a brand new world to me. But I'm not talking about just the birds, it was everything today. I was noticing everything... more. It was quite incredible.
I thought about how much life we actually let pass us by when we're going to and from all the places we go because we're so intent on arriving or leaving or anything but being. Hmmm... interesting, don't you think?
Thanks Jake for the email identifying my birds! Am still in the city with meetings all day long.....
“Study nature, love nature, stay close to
nature. It will never fail you.”
Frank Lloyd Wright
I love quietly walking through the forest "camera hunting" for wildlife. I continually scan the territory around me looking for the slightest movement in grass, or willows or branches, and listen for any sounds of life. It has a sweet aniticipation that comes with the unknown. Each forest has a different sound. I love an aspen forest yet it's more challenging to walk quietly through than some pine forests. Just staying still is sometimes the best thing...
I was headed camera hunting this evening to photograph shades of fall and whatever birds and critters I might see along the way. The first animal I saw was this deer. He stood curiously watching me. It was nice....
I took a lot of photos while he studied me.
I whistled every now and then to get him to move or give me an expression. He didn't know what to think but he just kept looking.
I saw 7 deer total this evening..
He finally decided to go ...
After the first two deer, I spotted this pair of woodpeckers.
Fall is in the air and starting to color the hillsides. I wish summer would last longer. Does an early fall mean an early winter?? I guess time will tell.
I love these rust colors...
“To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug.” Helen Keller
Gray Headed Junco
I was out on my first birding expedition this morning. I followed about a half dozen of these birds throughout the forest. They were mostly walking or hopping and kept a good distance away from me.
Gray Headed Junco
I'm new to birding -- brand new. I'm not even sure what I'm doing is actually birding. I walk with a camera and try to capture every type of bird I see. I also look for any signs of animals and hope to capture whatever lives in my neck of the woods.
I don't know what breed these birds are. I googled them, but still didn't come up with a name. Then my friend, Jake, emailed me after seeing this post to let me know these are called Gray Headed Junco. I used my telephoto lens for some shots and then went back to my regular lens. It was hard to get close enough to get a really clear shot.
Another Gray Headed Junco
Check out how camouflaged this Junco is!! From Chippers Wood Bird Observatory they write, "The Gray-headed race of the Dark-eyed Junco is one of the least known birds of the coniferous forests of the southern Rocky Mountains and the Great Basin Ranges (Terres, 1995)."
Please tell me what breed this is...
These birds traveled together in twos or small packs grazing quickly off the forest floor. They were always in motion. They flew only when they felt I was getting too close. Other than that they hopped along and sometimes seem to float along.
I know this is just a blurry picture with a yellow blob, but it was an all yellow bird, smaller than a robin -- maybe about the same size as the birds above. It flew fast from willows to trees and I couldn't get a good shot of it before I lost sight of it. Any ideas what kind it was? I've never noticed a bird like that around here before. It was totally eye catching. Again, my friend is guessing Wilson's Warbler...
Click on image for cool facts
I have a lot to learn about birds. My friend Jake (thank you!) let me know this is a Loggerhead Shrike. It's a predatory bird.... Click on image for cool facts.
I've been "blogging" through my page called CHIPPY. The following is part of what you'll find if you click on that page. I'm now going to continue my blogging here. Enjoy the pictures of chipmunks, ground squirrels, a porcupine, birds and a few squirrels.
It's July 4th. Each summer, I live in a remote area in the mountains where the elevation is 10,000 feet. (For a picture of my cabin click on the ARTIST link.) The roads aren't paved and the closest commercial enterprise (a small cafe) is three miles away while the nearest grocery store is an hour's drive. Undeveloped Forest Service land surrounds my property on three sides and an undeveloped privately owned piece of land borders me on the east. There's not a neighbor in sight. In the winter, roads aren't plowed and the average amount of snow on the ground is easily four to six feet with temps dipping to 30 and 40 below zero for long periods of time. It's a tough environment, but equally beautiful and serene. It's quiet in a way that takes you back in time.
I've become part of the eco system around me with the animals and birds that live here year round. Pictured are some baby golden mantel ground squirrels -- they're the ones without stripes running up their head. Chippy is their mom. This is my 4th summer with her. You might notice a small 'chip' out of her left ear that she got a couple of years ago from a scuffle defending her territory. She also has half a tail from that little rumble.
Chippy comes to her name and lets me pet her while I feed her nuts. She climbs all over me with ease.I first met Chippy's babies yesterday (July 4th) and I was able to pet them and feed them within minutes of approaching them. I've never experienced that with a wild baby animal! I don't know if Chippy has communicated with them and given me the thumbs up or what! I gave one baby a dandelion and played a gentle game of tug of war like you would with a puppy.
The chipmunks have stripes all the way up their face to their little pointed noses. They also feed from my hand and come when I call. There are three of them and this is my first summer where they've come to me so freely. They are such gentle, sweet creatures. They'll climb all over me waiting for a nut. I've taught one to come to my second story window in the evenings. They stay up later than the ground squirrels and the rise earlier in the morning. They can climb right up the side of the cabin like they have a little bit of magic. One of the baby ground squirrels tried (unsuccessfully) to emulate the way they climb. It was comical!
The baby ground squirrels are about the size of a chipmunk right now. When full grown they'll be twice their size. Also pictured above are a few shots of Punky, Chippy's year-old daughter. A couple of photos show Chippy and Punky together. Punky gave birth recently, but I haven't seen her babies yet. Both she and Chippy appear to still be nursing.
July 5th - The changes in the babies in just one day are remarkable. They are exploring everything and trying to figure out what's edible. They chew on anything they come into contact with from bark, rocks, sticks, dirt, to left over stuff in the outdoor fire pit, which they are playing in like children in a sandbox. I gave one baby a pecan and another one a peanut for their first time. Yesterday they weren't interested in the nuts at all.
I LOVE the quiet and the slower pace I take with life here in the mountains. There is no cell service. No texting. No having the TV on in the background. No traffic sounds. It is also my temporary salvation away from all things crazy and unjust. I often listen to the natural world: the stream flowing, the trees creaking, all kinds of birds whistling, the wind blowing and take notice of the insect world (did you know there are an estimated 10 quintillion insects?) and how all life around me from the plants, animals, insects, and birds is interwoven and connected with one another.
It's all about perspective. When a fly is buzzing around inside my home or landing on me I want to shoo it away. When it's in its own habitat minding its own business, it's quite interesting.
When my granddaughter visits, I make an extra batch of pancakes so we have plenty left over for the birds..
Click on CHIPPY to continue with the story and see more pictures... it will take you through July and up to August 25th...
I'm an artist, writer, photographer, private investigator and an activist in small ways.
"Turning indifference into making a difference."
A labor of love website devoted to animal and human rights, and better living. A place to be inspired ...
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I visited the Tiger Temple in Thailand & later found out it is under investigation for tiger trafficking and animal abuse. Read full story. In 2015 it was raided. More than 100 tigers and protected bird species in Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua, popularly known as the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province were impounded by authorities following complaints that the temple was alleged to engage in illegal wildlife trading.
"The moment one gives close attention to anything,
even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious,
awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself."
~ Henry Miller
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Read about life in the woods with Chippy & the crew...