Thursday, June 30, 2016

Rocky Mountains reunion

For several months Mary Lou and I made plans for a family reunion on the occasion of our 56th Wedding anniversary. We chose to locate it at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado. This was also the site of our 50th anniversary gathering. We had stayed there in past years with our children, where we enjoyed a great variety of activities for visitors of all ages. 

We reserved five cabins for five nights to house us as well as the anticipated 19 guests-- our three children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandsons, along with their loved ones and Mary Lou's brother Ray. We held our breath up to the last minute, hoping that all would be willing and able to endure the hardship and stress of flying and driving. It all worked out beautifully. 

The weather was fine, with cool nights and warm days. Four of the cabins were clustered together along a ridge with beautiful views of snow-capped peaks and verdant valleys:

View from Byenbye cabin HDR 02-20160612

As luck would have it, a scheduling glitch caused the facility to relocate our own cabin about a quarter mile away from the others, down-slope in a woodland. Note the bear-proof waste container at the door of our "Aspen" cabin:

Our cabin ASPEN HDR 20160612

This turned out to not be bad at all, as we enjoyed a measure of solitude and we also were spared the duty of hosting the evening gatherings which the younger crowd kept going until well after our bedtime. I was out exploring very early every morning, enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the wilderness. Just outside our door, two bird houses were attached to tree trunks. One was quaint and rustic:

Chickadee house 20160614

It was occupied by a pair of Mountain Chickadees with at least one nestling as well as a fledgling:

Mountain Chickadee 20160614 

Mountain Chickadee 02-20160615

In the other bird house, aptly-named Violet-green Swallows were busy bringing in nesting materials:

Violet-green Swallow 01-20160614

Violet-green Swallow 04-20160614

Violet-green Swallow 02-20160614

Another pair of swallows nested in an abandoned woodpecker hole in an old Aspen:

Violet-green Swallow HDR 4-20160612

Mule Deer roamed near the cabin. The bucks were in velvet:

Mule Deer buck in velvet 2-20160612

A small doe eyed me cautiously from a grassy opening, her generous "mule" ears outlined by back-light:

Doe 20160615

Pygmy Nuthatches were abundant in the Ponderosa Pines:

Pygmy Nuthatch HDR 20160612

Pygmy Nuthatch 3-20160615

Slate-colored Juncos (Gray-headed subspecies) sang vigorously from treetops. Like this one, a fair percentage of the small birds were banded, thanks to the active research which is conducted at the YMCA:

Slate-colored - Gray-headed Junco 03-20160614 

Slate-colored - Gray-headed Junco 02-20160614

A Ruby-crowned Kinglet appeared briefly and displayed its namesake headdress:

Ruby-crowned Kinglet HDR 01-20160611

A Hairy Woodpecker foraged on an Aspen which showed distinct scars from a bear's claws:

Hairy Woodpecker near bear claw scars 2-20160615

Colorful Cassin's Finches were busy finding food among the Aspen leaves:

Cassin's Finch male HDR 20160612

An American Crow spied on me from a high perch...

American Crow 20160612

...while another ventured into the shadows, where my murky photo needed tuning which brought out some vivid background colors:

 American Crow HDR 2016014

Our daughter's "Byenbye" cabin became the center for gathering and entertainment. We returned there after a a nature walk with some of the younger crowd:

Grandchildren 20160612

One of the granddaughters sighted a Mountain Bluebird atop one of the cabins along the way:

Mountain Bluebird 2-2160612

This is the "Byenbye" Cabin. Its deck proved to be a great spot for nature photographers:

Approaching Byenbye cabin HDR 02-20160612

Granddaughter Mary (and younger granddaughter Cari) captured some excellent shots of wildlife and scenery. I am encouraging them to start their own photo blogs:

Mary 20160612

These are my photos from the deck. I must admit that several taken by the youngsters are better than mine! A Green-tailed Towhee put on quite a show:

Green-tailed Towhee 02-20160612

Green-tailed Towhee 05-20160612

Green-tailed Towhee 07-20160612

The YMCA prohibits hummingbird feeders because they attract bears. The Broad-tailed Hummingbirds found many inconspicuous tubular flowers to provide them with nectar:

Broad-tailed Hummingbird 06-20160612

Broad-tailed Hummingbird 03-20160612

We drove up above the treeline on Trail Ridge Road. Among the furry residents of the alpine tundra were a chipmunk which appeared to be blowing "bokeh bubbles"...

Chipmunk with bokeh bubbles 20160615

...and a Hoary Marmot:

Hoary Marmot 2-20160615

Hoary Marmot 4-20160615

In the distance, a small herd of North American Elk browsed near an ice field:

Elk and snow field 20160615

Nearer, two elk walked along a ridge:

North American Elk 20160615

A Clark's Nutcracker was almost out of camera range:

Clark's Nutcracker HDR 20160615

Of course I must show off more of our grandkids. Here, our granddaughter Cari leads a pony carrying great-grandson Jayce:

Jayce Cari 20160614

Graci takes aim at the archery range while her sister Cari nocks her arrow:

Archers Graci Cari 20160615

Granddaughter Rachel displays her beautiful smile:

Rachel 2-20160614

Her sister Elizabeth was afraid of heights but conquered her fear by riding a full-sized horse for the first time:

Elizabeth 2-20160614

Grandchildren Mary and Glen return from a trail ride:

Mary Glen 20160614

Now that I have bored you with "grandpa talk" I will let you see all four generations of the Schneider Clan (with Mary Lou's brother Ray also in the photo)...

Family reunion HDR 02 grad filter -20160615

...and, of course, a special vintage rendition with our eight grandchildren:

Grandchildren KC ML vintage3 20160615

My only "reflection" this week is that from a rainbow, which also refracts and disperses light. This was the first earthbound rainbow I have ever seen, at 5:00 PM on June 13, 2016. It is an  iPhone 6 photo enhanced by layering 3 different exposures for HDR effect. This rainbow appeared suddenly during a brief local downpour. We were above it looking down into the valley:

Rainbow HDR 5PM 20160613

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to GOOD FENCES by Tex (Theresa). 

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy


Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to Today's Flowers Friday by Denise

Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue

Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Crops & Clips:Reclusive rails

Jones Meadow is a small "pocket" park within walking distance of our condo in NE Illinois.

Jones Meadow Park Batavia

It includes a variety of habitats. Near the entrance is a playground and then a pond which occupies about 5 acres: 

Jones Meadow Park 2-20160426

A marsh area about the same size is separated from the pond by a levee: 

Jones Meadow Park Wetlands2- MAR 17 2010

A paved trail leads about 3/4 mile along a strip of woods and wetlands. The entire park occupies about 30 acres and is entirely surrounded by houses, roads and cornfields:

Jones Meadow HDR 20150506

The old barn in the distance was a favored subject, but it has since been torn down to make way for more construction at the periphery of the park:

Jones Meadow Park HDR 20150709

Old Barn HDR 20130904

During my usually brief visits over the years I have observed 59 species of birds in this little park, not a very impressive total unless you weigh this against the minimal effort expended in my search. 

This spring, shortly after arriving in Illinois, I visited the wetlands in search of two rail species, Sora and Virginia Rail. I heard and caught fleeting glimpses of a Sora, but was lucky when a Virginia Rail appeared. It can be difficult to see amid the cattails:

Virginia Rail HDR 04-20160503

Virginia Rail HDR 03-20160503

Virginia Rail HDR 01-20160503

A Mallard eyed me suspiciously and then took flight:

Mallard HDR 20160502

Mallard in flight HDR  2-20160502

A Great Blue Heron foraged along the shore of the pond:

Great Blue Heron 02-20160502

The reflections of a Great Egret and two female Mallards were distorted by the breeze:

Great Egret with Mallards 20150918

A Muskrat nibbled on greenery:

Muskrat 2-20160502

Two Tree Swallows seemed to be disputing over ownership of the park:

Property dispute 20130509

When the winds let up, a Pied-billed Grebe reflected nicely:

Pied-billed Grebe 20150831

Overhead, Sandhill Cranes circled as if intending to land...

Sandhill Cranes HDR 01-20160502

Sandhill Crane HDR 03-20160502

...but continued on their way:

Sandhill Crane overhead HDR 20160502

My archives include over 500 photos taken in Jones Meadow Park. The earliest date back to 2008, when I started taking photos with my first DSLR, a first-generation 6.3 megapixel Canon EOS Digital Rebel 300D. A bicycle staged in a back yard along the trail provided the opportunity for me to do a bit of creative photo processing:

Bicycle ENAMEL 20150831

During a visit at sunset, a Great Horned Owl was silhouetted against the sky:

Owl at sunset 20130906

When younger, our Granddaughters begged to accompany us to the park:

Graci in JMP Playground- 20090429

Cari 3-20110817

An American Robin stood guard over the playground:

American Robin at playground HDR 20160501

New England Asters appeared along the path in August:

New England Asters 20150831

Bee Balm bloomed in the meadow:

Bee Balm flowers 20130709

Thanks so much for visiting! I will be on the road for the next couple of weeks and often away from WiFi and even out of cellular range. Mary Lou and I are celebrating our 56th Wedding Anniversary! Tending to my blog from a cellphone does not work out very well, so I have put my posts on "autopilot" in the interim, but promise to visit you as soon as possible when I get back to my PC.


= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to GOOD FENCES by Tex (Theresa). 

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy


Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to Today's Flowers Friday by Denise

Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue

Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display