It seems that way, at Huntley Meadows. At least in wintertime. The warblers are harder to find, the wading birds are much more plentiful. And once in a while, an unexpected guest. The clapper trail has left everyone buzzing about. And today was a good day to get a picture of this skittish bird.
As the day winds down, I turn the TV on and sit transfixed. Mesmerized by the colors and the beauty of the latest Pixar movie – Soul. What can I say. This is another masterpiece from the geniuses at Pixar. This film has so many levels that I think it will take dozens of viewings before I even begin to digest the messages that the movie has to say. The most important thing that it brings to my mind, however, is that we as people waste so much time thinking that things can be so much better that we forget how to live life. It isn’t the glories, the heights of fame and success that defines a person. It’s how we live with our family, how we live in our community. How we touch the ones we love and the people around us. We live a life and we forget that every moment is special. I needed this reminder today. I need to remember this message every day. We obsess and work hard to get somewhere and then when we get there, it often feels like a disappointment. There is an emptiness, a feeling that we must have missed something. What we miss is the part of life that makes it worth living. Being alive means looking around, taking a breath, and watching the world around us. Whether it is in the company of others or in our quiet corner of the house, life is around us. In the warmth of the early morning sun. In the cold stare of Orion as he marches in the winter sky. Life is everywhere. Each step forward, backward, sideways takes us somewhere new. Each step is an opportunity to give meaning to the lives of others. And in so doing, give meaning to our own lives.
A nice Saturday morning – sunny and cool. A typical mid Atlantic November day. Huntley Meadows beckoned. It’s never a good sign when you get there a half hour after sunrise and people are leaving. And truth be told, it was three hours of looking for something other than a red winged blackbird. You can hear the kingfisher, but it was far away. You can see the mergansers but they were far away. A blue heron flew in but it was far away. Heck, I probably should have stayed far away from Huntley as well, and catch a few more ZZZs. Oh well, at least there was a collection of water on the ground over some leaves. You just go with the flow. Even if the water is at a standstill (or nearly so).
The birds were a bit further from me than I wanted. Heck, they’re birds. They are not going to perch five feet from me, at least not when they can see me. Zoom out, press the shutter button. The images are small, but the birds are beautiful.
A black bird. We see crows, grackles (not really black) and don’t bother looking at what they’re doing. They’re not easy to photograph well, with the dark feathers demanding great dynamic range to render the bird with detail while the bird stands against lighter backgrounds. I was intrigued by this bird, perched on top of a dead tree, looking about, calling out. I thought it was calling for its partner. Soon enough, another bird flew to its side and in a moment of surprise (for me), their beaks locked. And then the surprise. Needless to say, anything can be a revelation, if you look hard enough. On this warm November day. And every day, if you are willing to look. And learn.
Another Saturday, another walk at Huntley Meadows. This time, on the larger wetland area, the water reflected the yellow flowers on the opposite shore while barely perceptible breeze distorted the mirrored image almost imperceptibly. I waited for a duck, a goose, anything to swim in the middle of the scene while in the corner of my eye I was watching two shorebirds on the same opposite shore. After a while, I started thinking about impressionist paintings, namely the water lilies of Monet. Handel will have to wait.
I’ve taken a lot of pictures of birds, animals, insects and water drops at this small suburban sanctuary in Alexandria Virginia. Here is a short video featuring swallows and an egret. Pictures from this visit were posted a few days ago.