Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Today's Walk

....took us to Great Falls Park again. I haven't been out walking as much as I would have liked lately, because my back still isn't a hundred percent and whenever I started feeling better I did stupid things like yardwork to mess it up again.  This morning I did feel well enough to grab the dogs for an outing. For the first time in a long time we walked the trails leading towards River Bend Park, which is upriver from Great Falls. The dogs had a great time sniffing and exploring and the temperature was perfect - just a little bit below 40 F. Up the hill we went  on a path that lead away from the river, but was accompanied by a small creek which made it a nice change to the raging river. Once we reached the top, we continued walking towards Riverbend turning into a trail across the woods and back towards the Potomac.

Tessa was being a totally silly goose bouncing around like a puppy dog and throwing big wooden sticks through the air, which in turn didn't make her the most popular doggie companion in the Budelheimer's view. The went into hiding behind my back for me to be the lucky one who got hit by sticks the size of a medium tree.

For some miraculous reason they did survive Tessa's silly attacks and when we got to the top of the ridge we took a little break to enjoy the view below us, where the Potomac raced along in breathtaking speed. As I was sitting there taking it all in, I all in a sudden noticed a bald eagle soaring above us. What an exciting view ! I've been walking at this park for about 20 years now and at least a couple of times a week, but had never ever seen one of these majestic raptors. Oh wow ! I was so excited that I immediately had to call Rui and my friend Baerbel to tell them about my observation. Later I found out that there had been a bald eagle sighting earlier this spring and they were even seen building a nest on one of the small islands in the river. Unfortunately, the nest was destroyed and the pair hadn't been seen since.  Now it is all the more exciting to see that they have returned and are probably rebuilding their nesting site. I am thrilled ! By the way - if you want to observe nesting bald eagles, go to the website of the Norfolk Botanical Gardens and check out their eagle cam - it's really worth taking a look:
Another great link will lead you to the site of a great photographer, who took the most amazing pictures of this bald eagle pair:

As far as my photographic skills go: There are none today, because I left the cam at home. Not even the pocket cam got to come along. That's why I saw all these neat things today........ Happens to me all the time. Oh well - it felt good to be out in nature again ! I definitely could not be without !

Open Your Window And Shoot

No, don't shoot a gun and hurt someone ! Shoot a picture is, what I was trying to imply above.  It is still way too soon to start thinking about macro shots of nectar harvesting bees or dancing butterflies. The bird feeder in front of the house will have to do for now.
As they say: Practice makes perfect and here is a little collection of my latest photographic explorations (As always - clicking on the image will let you see it full size):

Always love to see the male cardinals. They do look like little tree ornaments and their red plumage shines even brighter during mating season.
This picture was taken two days ago, and if you think you detect snow on the branch you are right. We did get a dusting of the white stuff in the morning and that's why Madame Cardinal looks somewhat in disbelief. 

Here we have a red bellied woodpecker sharing some morsels with a sparrow. This is one of only a few pictures I was able to get of a woodpecker. They are extremely shy and the slightest noise or movement makes them fly away. So I have to admit, that I took this shot through the closed window. Considering the circumstances, it didn't come out too bad. 

This feisty looking guy is a male house finch. At first I didn't get to see any finches at all. Started putting out some thistle seed and voila - they appeared. :-)

Here you see a couple of gold finches attached to the net with thistle seed. Bon apetit ! 

 After waiting what seemed forever, I finally succeeded in getting a good shot at a nuthatch NOT hanging off the tree upside down. They also never seem to sit still long enough to focus. I'm pretty happy with this outcome. 

The picture of this little sparrow is one of my favorites. I love his expression and the way his attitude comes across. Even though it's "just a sparrow"........

Another one of my favorite birds, a tufted titmouse. Isn't he cute ? 

And guess what ? Where there is bird food, there is a squirrel. In our case multiple congregations of little thieves assembling around the feeding place. I am convinced that our dogwood tree shelters the fattest tree rodents on this planet. 

This feral cat has taken up residence in front of our door to prey on birds. So far he hasn't been successful - thank God ! Pretty much every morning I find him sleeping in the flower pot, all curled up. Life of a feral cat is tough ! He doesn't look malnourished though, and besides a few scratches appears healthy.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

That Thing About Taking A Somewhat Decent Picture. . .

I always admired people who seemed to be capable of taking these stunning pictures of everything. Be it dogs, people, landscapes, was always breathtaking to look at them and the quality seemed perfect. Down to the last pixel. As you may have noticed,  I am desperately trying  to turn into a photo-achiever myself. Yeah ! The best hubby of all got me an Olympus E-620 with three different lenses as birthday-easter-christmas-and-whatever-day-you-could-give-a-gift present and it's been the BEST present EVER. Granted - I haven't figured out yet how to transport this exquisite piece of machinery around while walking the dogs, but the day will come, when I manage three dogs in the left hand, a backpack and a tripod all at once. Just kidding. I'm afraid I'll have to separate my photo outings from my doggy outings. I will still haul the pocket size camera around with me to do, what Rui calls "walk-by-photography". The definition of which is as follows: You see the object of desire, pull the cam with one hand, flick the switch to turn it on and ! That easy ! Granted, on occasion you may want to get a close-up of a wild flower, and that will actually make you stop, put the dogs in a sit-stay and start fumbling with the camera settings. The furgang is used to sudden stop-and-shoots and they all take it in stride. Unless, of course, just the moment I'm getting down on my knees to get that once in a lifetime flower portrait, an unsuspecting passer by with dog attached will show up in the distance and destroy the equilibrium of flower, photographer and guessed it ........ mad Rodmeister.  He's always been kind of resistant to any form of dog training and the little bit he knows flies out the window, once he decides it's time to let it fly. Therefore: Any dog, that's closer than half a mile to the flower I had set my heart on taking a picture of, is toast !
This picture pretty much gives you an idea on how little Mr. Eagle-Eyes is surveying the landscape. Now imagine the whole scenario from above with this equipment in hand:

I know, I know.........There's just no way. Picture I'm in the middle of changing lenses when out of nowhere a person with his dog, a bunny, a deer or something else he can't stand, appears.  I got different options. Let go of Monster.........drop the expensive camera with the equally as expensive lens in the dirt.........send Tessa out to be my canine ambassador......... tie all of them to a tree and hope the roots will withstand the force !

You see there's just one option, when out with three dogs: Walk by photography, shot from the hip ! Stay tuned for some pictures taken with the new equipment. I am slowly, slowly getting the hang of it.  When it comes to technical things I am not the brightest. I'm the type of person who would rather paint a picture, than read a manual or tutorial. So bear with me. We'll get there.........some day. With lots of pioneer spirit to figure this thing out. :-))

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Abandoned Houses In Palmyra

As we were driving along Rt. 15 towards Orange.......

...we came upon these old houses

which probably have a story or two to tell.

Situated in quite a serene and scenic place,

it was hard to imagine

that some day soon

these old buildings, which were surrounded by really old trees will have to give way to a four lane highway going right through the hearts of their history. These pictures are testament of a time gone by. Soon these old houses and their stories will be forgotten. Also forgotten will be all the wildlife that had to give way to progress yet again as man yet again saw the need to move in onto their habitats. Progress doesn't even stop in the most rural areas of the country. It's a pity...............

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring has sprung

 ........and Rodney is testing the new grass with a vengeance !

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Earthdog Training in Palmyra, VA

Granted, it was two weeks ago, but I finally got around to posting the pictures and here they are. The Rivanna Earthdog Training day in Palmyra, VA. It was a three hour and then some drive, but it was a pretty drive and so we didn't mind at all. Could have been a bit warmer, and again it proved that little boys who lie grow up to be meteorologists. It was nowhere near those 60 degrees and we were cold and shivering most of the day. The farm was located in the midst of a beautiful countryside...........and the spectators were a charming bunch of cows, slightly curious about the going ons:
There was also a very eager dachshund participating at the event. Yes - none other than Mr. Rodmonster who enthusiastically pursued the rats which were cleverly hidden underground somewhere. Not to worry - he found them !

Others didn't show quite as much enthusiasm and would have loved to adopt a rat to be friends with. The rats were totally at ease with the dogs and seemed to know that no harm could and would come to them. My initial worries about stressed out vermin were unfounded.

Here a young Border Terrier is introduced to the "quarry".

Our doggie friend Tilly was somewhat mesmerized by the rats and is trying to understand the purpose of pursuing them.

For the more advanced and more eager beavers......uhm dogs........there was a maize of tunnels under all these grasses and one had to zig-zag on a trail of rat pee to find the quarry. Not as easy as just going straight in for the rats.

Rodney has never done this before and showed immediately, what he was bred to do. Take up the scent and follow it......

...and if it means to dive underground, underground we go ! He worked beautifully and announced his "find" after tunneling through 30 ft. of mud and water. We were so proud of him !

Even after he was done, Rui had a hard time convincing him, that his deed for the day was done.

Not fair - others still got a go at it !

Over all it was a long and fun filled day and everybody pretty much fell asleep on the drive home.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Colvin Run Mill

Yesterday the new camera got its first outing. I was not sure if I was going to make it hauling the cam and the lenses around with my bad back but at the end I was glad I did. (...and I survived.) My little companion for the day was Bicalina, who enjoyed the one on one time very much.

Here a few pictures of that short excursion. (Please click on the single images to view them full size)

First a couple of shots of the buildings:

Even a place to sit and relax we found:

This Canada goose was quite intrigued by my photographic efforts:

If you want to learn more about Colvin Run Mill you can check the website: