Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In search of a snowy owl....

In the last few weeks there have been many reports of snowy owl sightings along the northeastern coast of the US including sightings in Massachusetts. Duxbury Beach was the closest area where a snowy owl had been reported from so a little over a week ago my sister and I headed off Cape to see what we could see.
I'm sort of embarrassed to admit that I'd never been to this beach before but I had not--and what a beauty it is! Snowy owls spend most of their time in the arctic tundra where they can watch for passing lemmings from atop low hills and grassy hummocks and our barrier beaches seem to offer a similar habitat.

Unlike many of their relatives, snowy owls are diurnal, meaning they hunt and hang out in the daylight, hence their light coloration. Well, there is that snow thing, of course, as well, but even without the snow they blend in extremely well.
We walked on the beach side and also along this dirt road that ran along the backside of the dunes and along the harbor. We knew the owl would most likely be way out and when we saw someone with a big scope and camera coming off the trail from up ahead we asked if they had seen the owl. Indeed they had. It was on the beach side and down about a mile or so. He said we'd see the people watching it.
We walked and we walked and we walked but we eventually saw the people standing in a group looking at something and we were pretty sure it was probably the owl so we picked up our pace and headed in that direction. By the time we got within a close distance the group dispersed and the owl seemed to have left. We headed up that way anyway, ever hopeful but alas, the owl was indeed gone. The view above is looking back from where it seemed the owl had been perching.
We were pretty discouraged...we had come a long way for....not much. Well, to be fair it was an absolutely beautiful day for beach walking and we saw a marsh hawk as well as many loons and other birds. We saw lots of people clamming, too.

Because we didn't know where to park we ended up parking way, way, way far away from where we ended up....like about 3 miles away so we decided to walk back along the dirt road. I was trying very hard to be cheerful and upbeat but I was very disappointed....I have seen snowy owls before but this one had been so close!
In a move that will no doubt go down in family history as a true Mary bird nerd moment I stopped, stretched my arms out and spun around saying, Okay, owl, where are you?

And then I saw it.....it wasn't in the dunes...it was on a tiny spit of rocky sandy mud sticking out into the harbor...this photo is with my full zoom so you can see it was quite far away. The shape was too hunched over and the head too wide and rounded to be a gull....

I got a bit closer to be sure it really was the owl....
and then it turned to look at me and there was no doubt! It flew a while later and landed in the dunes nearby.
I have to say....it was a long but joyful 3 mile walk back to the car....it was indeed a day well spent!

The snowy owl was still there as of yesterday so if you get a chance to go see it, please do!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Showing our thanks....

The following is my most recent "Nature's Ways" column for the Cape Codder and Register newspapers and since they don't post it online I thought I'd post it here for Thanksgiving.
It’s easy to find things to be thankful for when out in nature. There’s all that air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat and all those trees, flowers and grasses. There are beautiful birds making beautiful music, deer posing like svelte models in sunlit meadows, squirrels flicking fat furry tails and whales leaping out of the waves to name a few. There is the salt air upon our skin, the first summer rain, the quiet night filled with stars in the sky and bats over the pond and the silky sand squishing up between our toes. There is the silence of the first winter snow, the mystery of an autumn fog and the drama of a thunderstorm full of lightning shows as well as whimsical rainbows following summer afternoon sun showers. With all this beauty and bounty around us, how could we not be overflowing with gratitude?
  And yet, sometimes we forget to show how grateful we are. We litter the landscape with trash, we clog the ocean with plastics and we poison the air, water and land with careless abandon. We forget to use what we are given so freely with reverence and respect and sometimes treat nature with disdain and disrespect instead. Most of us do not do this deliberately but more like absent minded and self-centered children that don’t mean to be wasteful and take advantage but who make a big mess anyway.
 As Thanksgiving approaches in what seems to be an onslaught of holiday commercialism by businesses that would probably like to just eliminate a holiday without gifts altogether I have been reminded more than ever this year that the real joys in life are not in cardboard or plastic packages but in the connections we make and have made with ourselves, each other and with nature. We all know this, we all talk about it and yet the mall parking lots are always full and trucks full of garbage barrel down the highway each day. Something like only 10% of us actually recycle anything and if that’s true here on the Cape where so many seem to be environmentally aware then over the bridge must be even scarier….The majority of people use some sort of fertilizer, weed killer or pesticide at least now and then and most homes have bug killers, bleach and other toxic cleaners or pest eliminators in their closets or basements. We use strong laundry detergents and take clothes to the dry cleaners and according to recent articles we flush a lot of left over medicines down the toilet. And let’s not forget what all the cars and trucks do, not only with their emissions but with the effects of tires and oils on the roads that eventually wash into our waterways and ground water. There are all sorts of toxins in TVs, computers, cameras and cell phones, especially in their batteries and that doesn’t even begin to count the possible effects of radiation emanating from all these things, all the time, all around us even if we don’t own a single one of these items.
 I know, it feels a bit overwhelming and discouraging but what if as we give thanks this year we also pledge to say thanks with an action or two. If you already do many things that help rather than hurt nature and the environment, perhaps volunteer in a capacity that will help teach others the advantages of living without toxins and poisons. Maybe as we give thanks for all that we have we could pledge to accept clothes that aren’t bright white, gardens that have a few weeds and food that is smaller and has a few spots. 
   It really doesn’t take much to make a difference. We can start small and it will still add up. Just as that famous journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, so can being truly thankful begin with our small individual actions.
          As our annual day of national ‘thanks giving’ approaches, wouldn’t it be great to make giving thanks a daily thing with our own conscious actions? Nature would be very grateful indeed. Happy Thanksgiving, 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Craft show at Green Briar Nature Center tomorrow!

and I'll be there--It was sort of a last minute invitation so I've been crazy busy getting ready and finishing holiday orders and meeting early holiday writing deadlines and phew! I'll catch up here next week.

If you're in the area please stop by and say hi tomorrow--I'll have lots of cards, watercolors, my new pendants and some ornaments. A percentage of all sales goes to Green Briar's educational programs and we will be in the Ed Building!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What's up in my studio....

for the holidays? All sorts of things....

I am now making pendants from some of my watercolor birds and bunnies
there are round ones and square ones
and even some oval ones
There are ornaments with bunnies, too
and ornaments with birds...
For those of you who are local I will have a table selling these and more at Green Briar Nature Center's annual holiday sale on Saturday, November 19 from 10-4. They are also available in my Mary Richmond Design Etsy shop.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Early morning walks....

are really my favorite. I love seeing the sun rise and filter through the trees
and seeing the patterns on the ground made by shadow and light
I love the color of still water under the early morning sky
the color of berries in early morning sun
Early morning frost gives texture to already fuzzy plants as well as silvery glow...
Starting my day this way gives me a peaceful feeling all day as well as energy to face whatever challenges the day may bring...
Enjoy your day, everyone....and get outside if you can!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Migrating sea ducks and more....

Just after the recent storm I went looking for ducks. Sea ducks, that is. Each winter our bay area beaches are host to thousands of diving ducks, including various scoters and eider ducks as well as loons and grebes. Most come from farther north and west and visit our area for the warmer, more open waters.
At Sandy Neck the other day there were thousands and thousands of scoters and eiders. They were pretty far out and it was hard to really get a good picture of them.
Mostly all you could see for miles in either direction were thousands of these little dark dots on the water....

Many of these birds blew in with the storm and probably found shelter here. Many will disperse and spread into other areas but for this one day it seemed as if all the sea ducks on the east coast were hanging out at the neck.....a pretty amazing sight.

At the canal there were still some young cormorants--note their light necks and chests--
There were some brant--note their dark chests--and they are smaller than Canada geese, which they can resemble from a distance...
and there were about half a dozen loons--some of which were still in between their summer and winter plumages,,,
getting ready for a dive--check the back--
another view
sorry the pictures aren't better but if you head out in that direction yourself you may be able to get better views!