Making Connections: Birds and Humans

Watching a bird preen his feathers reminds me of watching a girl brush her long hair. It’s pretty special to watch wildlife behavior and learn about what birds and other wildlife do naturally. But the cool thing about observing preening — or hair brushing in humans — is that you feel like you catch a glimpse of private time, where the bird (or the girl) takes a few minutes to think of herself and make herself look good and feel good. In a way, it’s intimate.

This Great Blue Heron was taking time to preen before low tide, which is time to hunt for food. Early in the morning, he was getting ready for his day. (I assume this heron was male, due to the breeding plumage, the long wispy feathers in front.) Here are a series of photos:

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Great Blue Heron preening, with his neck twisted around into an S curve. Sanibel Island, Florida.
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With his head tucked under his wing, this Great Blue Heron’s head is hidden. Sanibel Island, Florida.
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With a bit of down in his beak, this Great Blue Heron is preening his feathers. It’s a privilege to observe this beautiful bird up close in Sanibel Island, Florida.

As I photographed this preening session with the Great Blue Heron, I thought of Renoir’s paintings of his red haired daughter brushing her long hair. Are you familiar with that painting? Do you share the connection I make with hair brushing and preening?

He Will Not Be Stepping Back

This Great Blue Heron looks like royalty and he knows it. He lives a great life on Sanibel Island, Florida and he doesn’t mind a few photographers pointing long lenses at him first thing in the morning. In fact, he rather enjoyed it until the photographers got bloody sick of it and packed themselves and their gear in the car to go home. He just stood on the rock, posed and stared us down.

While Prince Harry and his wife Megan will be “stepping back as senior members of the royal family,” this character likes the spotlight and doesn’t mind the paparazzi. This Great Blue Heron is indeed royal.

I loved the close up view of the Great Blue Heron’s intricate feathers, brilliantly lit by the direct sun. We photographers we so lucky that he lingered with us.

What Will 2020 Bring?

This month we start a new year of sharing our creativity and goodness with each other. Today I took a nature walk in the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Naples, Florida, hoping to see the world in a new way and make some new images with my camera.

When I spotted a newly unfurling fern, I thought, “What a perfect way to say Happy New Year.” The fern is as ancient as the dinosaurs*, yet today this new frond showed me the delicate shapes of new life: the unfurling spiral. In New Zealand I learned that the spiral of a new fern, the “koru,” is a symbol of eternity — as it combines the very old and the newest forms of life.

fern, koru, eternity, beginning, plant, new zealand, florida, nature, ancient, new
The fern as a plant species goes back more than 40 million years. Yet today, this individual fern regenerates. Do you see the unfurling spiral? Known as the “koru,” in New Zealand, it symbolizes eternity.

Today, my new year’s wish for you is to hold fast to the wisdom of the past generations, while you use your energy to create bold new connections, relationships and improvements. You can do it!

  • Most modern ferns are descended from the ferns that coexisted with the dinosaurs 40-50 million years ago. The first ferns appeared on Earth 360 million years ago.

The Puddle Challenge

Here is a challenge to all of you photographers out there. Yes, this includes all of you with an iphone camera! After the next big rain storm, take a walk and look for reflections in the puddles. Maybe you will see your surroundings in a whole new light!

Cathedral Rock of Sedona reflected in a puddle I discovered while hiking Red Rock Crossing.

Coconino sandstone does not absorb water quickly. The bad news is you need to be wary of a flash flood while hiking a low lying canyon. The good news, is the rain will erode the soft sandstone over time and in the short term leave some puddles for your visual enjoyment.

Rock or Ice Cream? Erosion Tales

I’m fascinated by erosion patterns in rock that make solid rock look like ice cream that has been scooped with a spoon or carved with a giant fork. So, I was transfixed by this “fork action” on the red rock in Sedona.

Seeing this horizontal pattern in the sandstone along Oak Creek made me wonder how Nature made this carving. So I asked my geologist friend, Steve Austin. Location: West Fork Trail, Sedona, AZ, USA.

It’s amazing what Steve can tell us just by examining this photo and knowing its location. He said, “The sandstone has horizontal layers but also has inclined layers internally (25 degrees). The cliff shows these inclined layers because rockfall has sculpted the surface. These inclined layers were formed in underwater sand dunes by flow velocity of 2 meters/second.”

Wow! That’s why they call Steve “Mudflow Man.”

Crossing Oak Creek 26 times

Both Charlie and I slipped and got one shoe wet while crossing Oak Creek, hiking the West Fork Trail in Sedona. Only one slip for each of us was pretty good considering the rocks and logs we needed to balance on while crossing the ice cold water. I snapped a few candids with my new iphone 11 Pro Max as we crossed a few times, to show how tricky it was.

With his Steeler hat and jacket, Charlie is ready to talk NFL football with anyone he meets, while climbing boulders and trying to stay dry crossing Oak Creek.
You hope that the rock you step on is sturdy and won’t tip over, sending you and your backpack into the water. Crossing Oak Creek on the West Fork Trail, Sedona in November.
After 5 hours of hiking and plenty of quad and knee exercise, we were a bit tired, but we paused and made a strategy for one of the last crossings of the day on West Fork Trail.

Rewards of West Fork Trail

Sedona’s West Fork Trail is described in the guide books as iconic with towering cliffs and 13 stream crossings as you follow Oak Creek for 6.4 miles round trip. The elevation change is moderate (245 ft.), so I considered it doable with camera equipment on my back.

It took us 3.5 hours to reach the end point, as I stopped for photos so often, but the exertion was well worth it. You know you have reached the end when you can’t go further without getting wet, and in November it’s too cold for that!

A mirror-like reflection was the reward at the end point of the West Fork Trail. Sunny conditions were perfect for the hike, as rain can create dangerous flash floods, and snow would make the hike too slippery.

The cave like erosion you can see along the left side of the creek reminded me of “the subway” in Zion National Park created by the Virgin River. I had to explain myself to my husband after exclaiming, “there is the subway!”

I find myself fascinated by the power of moving water that erodes rock over time. Are you?