Roadside Attractions

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I live off of a county road in the Ozarks, a couple of miles from the pavement, deep in the woods a few miles from town. Everyday when I drive to work I pack up my camera gear – I pull out my camera and zoom and place it on the passenger seat, leaving it ready to shoot in case I see something amazing. This seems to happen daily and I do my best to catch it. These shots are all along the route of my daily travels to and from work.

The shot above is Krishna, he’s our neighborhood peacock. He showed up about 3 years ago, we don’t know of he was dumped or if he was attracted to the area by a female at a neighbor’s house. We tried to find his owner for about a year. When the female died, Krishna became fascinated with the glass windows on an old Grange hall on the highway. He puffs up as he tries to impress his own image on the glass doors. Another neighbor has adopted him, but he still crosses the road every day to take on that handsome guy in the window. On this afternoon he was avoiding me so I got low and shot through the weeds.

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This is a box turtle, the woods are full of them. I found this guy out on the road not far from the mailbox. When I see one in the road I like to stop if I can to set them on the other side of the road. These guys have no natural enemies except for automobiles. In the spring they are on the move and on any day you can encounter a dozen on the way into work. I read once that they travel on a path that is instinctive, a lot like salmon swimming up the correct stream to spawn. I found one in my wood shop one day last spring. I picked him up and took him outside and he ran right back into the shop to the same spot about 30 feet into the building. I put him back outside and pulled the door closed and he pushed against it for hours. I finally opened the door so he could go in, he was there a few days and moved on.

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This is a European Starling in the parking lot at work. They invade the siding and soffits every spring to nest until their babies are ready to fly. This one would dive bomb you if you got too close. They are often seen as pests here in the states, and it’s really not their fault. They were introduced into Central Park in the late 1800’s by a literary group who thought that every bird mentioned by Shakespeare should live in the park. They are not native to the America’s but they thrive here. They like to kick other birds out of their nesting sites and hijack them for their own.

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This is a cute little squirrel that I saw driving through town a few weeks ago. He’s cute because he is nowhere near my house. I think God made squirrels cute because they are so destructive. I have a pair of grey ones in my shop, I cannot get them out. They destroy everything they are evil, don’t be fooled. Evil, pure evil.

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I found this guy on my porch one night. His eye is so amazing. It’s like layers in a painting. I used a flashlight to get him lit like this. My dogs like to push on these guys so they jump. They will follow them all over the lawn on a spring night.

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This morning as I turned out of the driveway I saw a couple of deer crossing the road ahead of me. He stepped through the brush about. 20 feet away. I slowed down and opened the window and he froze. We watched each other for several seconds. I notice that if a deer is not running, just crossing, they often stop to check you out. After 15-20 seconds he made a puffing sound and took off into the woods. I see deer like this almost daily. Lots of fawns right now too.

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This robin was on a limb over the road. I have photographed robins in 6 states this spring so far. They are pretty calm birds and are large enough to get a good focus. Now that I am looking for birds I see these guys everywhere. I shot this one from the driver’s seat of my Jeep.

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I saw this water turtle I a couple of weeks ago while running errands in town. There is a small lake on a loop and I spotted him on a log floating. I was about 30 feet from him so I stopped the car and stepped closer. He let me get off a couple of shots and he dove out of site.

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I’m fascinated with cardinals, this isn’t a very good shot. I’m working on it though. They are very skiddish so they are tough to catch. This one is at a local amphitheater – his mate was in the woods fit above him. I have some at my house and have put out some feeders hoping to attract them and get them more comfortable with me, I hope to get a couple of good shots before summer is over.

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Swallow tails are a fixture in the Ozarks in the spring. This one was on the side of the road in the sun. I’m amazed by their color and the texture of their wings.

These are just a few of the things I encounter every day. What did you see on your commute today?

Thistles and Cones

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There may be 4 seasons on the calendar, but here in the Ozarks our days and weeks are filled with micro seasons, one following another. It’s a part of the rhythms of this place – redbuds, rains, dogwoods, whippoorwills, tiger lilies, fawns – that’s just three weeks in April and May.

Right now one of my favorite seasons is drawing to a close – thistles and coneflowers – both grow wild along roadsides. Both can be a rich pink, both reach skyward, and both wither leaving just a round silhouette that lingers for a few weeks.

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The coneflower is actually echinacea. This one is a part of a group that grows near the bottom of my hill. This group mostly have very thin petals.

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There is a thistle patch right across the parking lot from my office. The city cut a drainage ditch and the turning of the earth has created an amazing garden of volunteers.

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The patch is shot here seems to grow in groups of two or three. The soil on the roadside is rocky and steep, still they thrive.

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Last year we had some very heavy spring rains and a hillside below a spring gave way – the trees on the hill were destroyed. The city planted some wild grasses to stabilize the slope, it looks like the thistles have volunteered to assist in the process.

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On the steepest hillsides the cone’s petals dangle and sway with the wind.

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Both flowers have a distinctive radial geometry to their centers.

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This one makes me think of an umbrella frame.

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This one reminds me of a lampshade.

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The center of both flowers dominate their shapes.

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My 99 year-old neighbor, Mary Jane, introduced me to thistles a few years back. She asked me to go on a hike with her down into a hollow one Saturday. I thought we were going to see a waterfall. We got to the bottom and she sent me up the other side to a vantage point. I scouted a path for her, thinking we must be headed to an amazing place. She took the lead and we ended up in a completely desolate path on the side of a mountain. It was a spot that the local electric coop had treated with herbicide – cheaper to use poison than to employ some guys with chainsaws :/ anyway, we had climbed to this place with a purpose. She took off her pack and handed me a stack of envelopes. Each was full of wild thistle seeds. We scattered them and hiked home. When we got back to Mary Jane’s place she took me out to a spot in the woods behind her house – we could see the spot where we had just been clearly in the distance. That hike was not about a waterfall, it was about resurrecting the ground that progress had destroyed. Mary Jane could no longer bare to look at its deadness so we planted thistles. Years later they thrive.

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The thistles are fading, that can only mean that the season of air conditioning cannot be far behind.

Chip Munk-ee Business

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They are startlingly cute, fast as lightning, and cunning little thieves. While I was in Michigan last week practicing shooting birds (with a camera), I saw dozens of chipmunks racing around below the feeders – the one above fearlessly raced across the top of my foot to get to the bounty of sunflower seeds and suet.

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Cheeks so full he is weighted down by them and must rest his weary bones on the metal rail before cramming another 50 seeds and moving on.

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Gazing across the meadow – are their other feeders out there to conquer?

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Master of all he surveys.

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Fitting that last seed into inflated little cheeks – seriously, why not just eat the seeds to make more room in the cheeks?

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A profile pose – balance on the fence rail must require extreme concentration!

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He stops for a rest – and takes a moment to play his tiny harmonica.

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He has had enough and suggests that our photo shoot come to a close.

Alas, so my blog must also end…

Lorri

A Little Bird Told Me

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I have given myself a challenge this year, I want to practice shooting birds. It’s something outside of my comfort level as a photographer and I know if will make me technically better.

Last week I had chance to visit a sculpture garden in Grand Rapids Michigan. Of course as I stepped into the gardens the sculptures became the side dish as my focus was distracted by the hundreds of birds. I was particularly drawn to the wild canaries in the tropical garden. I have taken photos of my sisters pet canary and it has alway surprised me how something with tiny eyes and no lips can be so expressive….

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Listening

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Looking

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Wondering

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Thinking

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Posed

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Turned

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Curious

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Strait forward

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Singing

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Shouting