The Spring’s Flame & The Return Of The Hummingbirds

Hello Friends! Tonight’s feature image is titled “The Flame Of Spring” and is available for purchase by following the instructions at the bottom of the article.

The rain fades away under the cover of darkness. As the new dawn drives away the mists the honeysuckle burns brightly in defiance of the cold rain. The orange flowers open slowly at first, just a few at a time in the early stage. However, the rest all seem to open at once overnight. It’s as if the dawn sun has set the bushes ablaze. It’s normally about this time of year that I begin to hear the buzzing of tiny wings all throughout the different types of honeysuckle on my land. The bees have been working the wildflowers for a few weeks now but another set of wings will soon be joining the rest.

Small and agile, a living dart zips in and around the sweet smelling blooms testing each one to see if it contains the ambrosia detected. His energy is sustained by the nectar found within the base of the flowers. He has flown thousands of miles to get here in time for the bloom. The Ruby Throated Hummingbird as arrived at long last.

I have yet to actually spot one this year but I am expecting them soon. I have plenty of photos of the hummingbird’s favorite foods but catching a good photo of one has been as challenging as catching up with the eagles on the Kanawha River. Maybe even more so because they never really seem to rest for more than a few seconds. However because they do favor my honeysuckle bush and azaleas I have set a goal for myself to get a good shot of one eventually.

They say that the brightest flame burns quickly and that’s certainly true for my orange honeysuckle. The bush is at full bloom now and I’ve gotten several photos of this year’s flowers but I am still waiting for hummingbirds to make their appearances.

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The Discovery

A couple of years ago when I visiting my dad, my mom came into the room and with a hushed voice announced that the twins were here. She then lead me to the window and pointed out at the two baby deer asleep in the back yard. I had just taken my T-5 out the box a few days prior and I decided that this would be my best opportunity to try it out. Being familiar with the behavior of the local deer population I opted to “trust stalk” them. I snuck out the other side of the house with my T-5 in hand and slowly walked along the side of the house. Even though they were only a few weeks old their keen instincts and finely tuned senses told them that they were no longer alone. Fortunately for me their natural reaction was to freeze in place and try to be as invisible as possible. I made a point to not look at them and sat down in the grass nearby. I would occasionally speak in a soft tone and purposefully let the know I where I was. The idea is not to act like a predator. A predator would try to sneak in on them so by not sneaking I was avoiding the flight or flight response. Eventually I just laid back in grass and pretended to be napping myself. I could see them out of the corner of my eye. They would perk up their ears and zone right in on me. The flick of a tail would let me know that they had relaxed again and would work my way a little closer. Eventually I got in range for framing I wanted and slowly rolled over on my stomach. I raised the viewfinder to my eye and engaged some of the marksmanship skills that I had developed as a hunter. I turned my camera on and the click from the power switch was all it took to bring them to full alert. They got up but didn’t run. Instead they they separated from each other a little and waited to see if I would chase them. When I didn’t they hesitated. The one in the feature image decided that if he stomped his foot that I just might be intimidated enough to leave. When I didn’t they decided to move into the shadows under a thick hemlock tree. They never did get close enough for me to say that I fully gained their trust but they did eventually come back into grass after I left them alone.

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The Providers

The cold December air bites my face as I approach the tree growing in the middle of Muddelty Creek. I’m not sure if it’s technically a delta but I’ve always thought of it that way. It’s almost impossible to see all of the little fingers of water that stretch out in this spot where the ducks and geese rule. I’ve come here on this wintery day to check out the scenery and seek new images and new thoughts to feed my passions. My ever active imagination wonders and in my mind’s eye I can see pre-columbian hunters riding a canoe silently through the water. With them an elder sits in silence occupying the center of the vessel. As they patrol the waters edge they stop occasionally and he mumbles a few words of prayer and gathers medicine growing in mud. A few twigs of willow here and some dried berries there. From the muddy banks they gather a few roots from the arrowleaf plant. These “duck potatoes” will help sustain them during the winter. As they paddle in a little farther they check the fish traps set out the on the prior evening. The traps are empty. They are moving towards the next set of traps when a large ripple breaks the surface of the water. The hunter in the front of the canoe takes notice and cautiously rises to his feet as the man in back of the craft attempts to bring them to halt. With a subtle thrust he sends his Atlatl dart into a spot just beyond the swirl. The stone bladed spear finds its mark and the swirl of water morphs into slashing. The huge alligator gar fish is pinned to the muddy bed of the creek by the shaft of the spear. The large fish barely fits in the little dugout canoe with the three men. The elder grins as heart swells with pride. His grandsons have learned their lessons well and fed the family with their skills.

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Suspended In The Mists

What a difference a few days make! Tonight’s feature image is the same tree that I featured in Letting Your Light Show except the two shots are about two weeks apart. The little Bradford Pear has lost almost all its leaves. A heavy mist hangs in the mountains and gives an ethereal quality to the landscape. In the distance I hear the rattling of antlers as two big Whitetail bucks struggle for dominance of the reclaimed strip mine. We’ve spotted the biggest one just beyond the end of the lot in the background. He’s bound to be a 10 or twelve point this year. The rattling doesn’t last long. The forest echoes the report of loser retreating to the lowland. I turn my attention back to the tree. It’s losing more leaves as I prepare to release the shutter and preserve the experience in my lens. With one last click I halt the sands of time from eroding the moment and lock up the big blue truck so that I can enter my day job. It seems that I cannot bring the hourglass to a complete halt after all.

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Tonight’s Feature Image is titled “Suspended In The Mists” and is available for purchase by using the Contact Form on my website. (Note, I do not share or sale contactinformation. EVER)

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The Hunter (part 2)

Hello Friends, before I continue my prehistoric fiction story inspired by the rocks at Beartown State Park in West Virginia I wanted to invite you to make sure that you read Part one first. The Hunter (part 1)

The hair on the back of the hunter’s neck stood up . He strained his eyes trying to penetrate the shadows as he prayed for strength. The thumping of his his heart was so loud it was drowning out the growling and hissing from the back of the cave. His voice cracked as his prayers grow more audible. He moved slowly as he leaned to the right and groped the dark cavern floor for the shaft of his spear. He could not break the lock that the beast had with his eyes. Instinct told him that if he looked away that the creature would pounce. He kept his movements subtle and deliberate. Finally he felt the bite of the spears stone tip against the palm of his hand. He drew the shaft forward projecting that razor sharp obsidian blade towards the danger. With his main tool now in place he braced the butt of shaft with his foot and waited for the terror in the shadows to make its move. His eyes widened as a shrieking howl burst forth. The noise sounded almost like the screaming of a woman. The eyes moved lower as something slinked his direction and paused. Another scream shattered the cavern air and the hunter tightened his grip on the spear. As the firelight fell on his opponent his worst fears were confirmed. The jet black cave lion drew it’s hind legs in tight and sprang forward. The hunter gasped as the cat became airborne and for a split second it seemed to hover in mid air. The hunter felt the full impact of the cat’s weight as it fell motionless across his body. His spear had found it’s mark at the last second. The cat was nearly as large as he was. His muscles strained as he pushed the animal off of himself. He he quickly scanned the cave to make sure that there was no mate to avenge the first cat. Satisfied that he was once again alone he picked up his discarded flute and renewed his song of thankfulness to the creator.

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The Hunter (part one)

The crisp breeze gently shakes the trees. Brightly coloured leaves rain softly from the canopy. The rustic boardwalk welcomed me foreword and with the first step the outside world disappeared. The rock cap ferns form a thick mat in the leaf litter atop each crag. The rocks at Beartown State Park form a Labyrinth with tunnels and canyons that wind their way through the forest. I imagine that Millenia ago this was a large cave system. Perhaps some prehistoric hunters took shelter here while tracking a primeval beast. In my mind’s eye I can see him unroll a bundle pelts with all of his treasures tucked away safely inside. Wrapped up in the leather pouch at center is the dried meats and wild roots that sustained him on this journey. His fire kit is bound in a separate pouch. Not just any dry sticks will start the fire. The twigs were selected with great care. This was magic and must be treated with the utmost respect. With ritual precision he places a stick in the notch and begins to sing the fire song and spin the evening fire. Soon the smell of smoke rises up from the joining of the wood. He knows not to quit yet and keeps his efforts in time with the fire song. Once the last verse has ended he shakes free the ember from notch and places on a dry mushroom. He remembered the words of his father when the magic was passed down to him. “The fire is a living thing and like all living things it must breath”. The hunter kindles the ember by passing on the breath of life. Again his father’s wisdom speaks to his memories, “living things must be fed slowly so that they do not choke “. The hunter starts to feed the fire fluffed leaves and then small twigs. He progresses from step to step when the fire was strong enough he began to cook his meal. He doesn’t require much. Just a thin stew from his provisions. After the meal he thanked the creator by playing his flute. He had a lot to be thankful for. Good shelter, a warm meal and a rich heritage to keep him strong. As he played something stirs in the back of the cave. Something that is not happy about the noisy music in the cave. The hunter whirls around and comes to one knee. Deep within the shadows of cave the greenishglow of eyes in the firefight glare back at him.

To be continued…

The Hunter (part 2)

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Chasing Eagles Part 2

I just wanted give you a quick update on my quest for the eagles of the Kanawha River. This image was taken a couple of weeks ago near the Glen Ferris Inn in West Virginia. The bird was spotted over Kanawha Falls. I was out with my camera on the way home from my day job. I decided that I had time for a few quick shots of falls and kayaks when flash of white caught my attention. The largest lens I had with me was my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30. Knowing that the local eagles are dark in color and only the head is white I was fairly certain that it wasn’t an eagle but this was still a big bird and it was moving fast. Fighting to keep my hands from trembling with excitement I engaged the burst mode. This bird is really fast! I kinda felt like an old west gun fighter as I tried desperately to keep him in frame and in focus. (This is not a time for manual mode) The whole encounter was only about 30 seconds as this bird’s aerobatic maneuvers kept me shifting focus out of pure reflex! First he skimmed the water towards the falls only pulling up at the last second. I lost sight of him as he banked in front of the trees and disappeared behind the inn. I started to scan the falls with my camera hoping that he would come back for a second run over the falls. That didn’t happen. Instead he pops up from behind the inn directly overhead of me. I raised my camera one more time bending over backwards and trying to focus. I almost fell over backwards. I spun around while zooming in and out and praying for that little beep from the camera body to let me know that I have a lock on the focus. Finally I get the beep and green square in the viewfinder just as the raptor performs a figure 8 maneuver that would leave any jet fighter in pieces on the ground. As the bird dives and skims parallel to the falls this time I managed to get one usable image. This was an osprey! Only about half the size of the eagle but still a very special bird. I now have a second goal to catch a high quality image the osprey.

On a side note, the existence of bald eagle has been challenged. As proof that both birds are in fact inhabiting the area I’m sharing this photo of a juvenile bald eagle. The image is too grainy to sell as art but it’s the best I could get without a longer lens. It’s only a matter of time before I can either stalk in close enough for a clear image or afford an equipment upgrade. Both eagle and the osprey were taken with the same camera.