A Writing Conference, a Publication Note, and Summer

Iris May 7

I recently registered for the 2015 Hampton Roads Writers’ Conference. (September 17-19 in Virginia Beach) This conference is one of my favorite events each year, and I’m already counting the days.

In other writing news, my poem “The Tracking” was published on May 12 at vox poetica. A version of this poem won first place in the Barbara Dunn Hartin Memorial Poetry Prize contest at the 2014 Hampton Roads Writers Conference, and I’m delighted that editor Annmarie Lockhart accepted it for publication.

Dragonfly June 11

And in news only vaguely related to writing, I’ve been spending a lot of time with my camera. Despite summer’s growing heat and humidity, the yard is hard to resist this time of year. Everything is blooming, the baby rabbits are thriving, and birds are everywhere.

Hover Fly May 12

Rabbit June 12

Robin May 15

Thrush June 10

In mid-May a dove decided to nest in the front petunia basket. Now her two nestlings are ready to fledge.

Dove May 18

May 18

Dove June 11

June 11

The yard’s most curious visitor, lately, is a very bold squirrel that follows me around as I take photos. If I sit still for a while, he sidles closer and closer until he is within a few feet, pretending he is burying something nearby. His jaw quivers nervously as he mumbles and grinds his teeth, but he comes back time and time again. It makes me wonder if he was raised by a rehabilitator, if he somehow equates humans with food and safety, yet also with peril.

I’m trying not to encourage the squirrel’s behavior, but I can’t resist photographing him. He’s very handsome.

Squirrel June 11

If he hangs around much longer, I might write him into a poem.

Between Seasons

I had hoped spring would chase winter’s gloom into memory, but it hasn’t yet. Instead there are all these photos of hunger and snow, dating back to October.

Warbler Oct 28

Warbler Jan 15

Cedar Waxwing Jan 15

Tufted Titmouse Jan 29

Squirrel Jan 16

Squirrel Jan 16

Squirrel Jan 29

Dove and Finch Jan 29

Snow Jan 29

Snow Jan 29

Woodpecker Jan 29

House Finch Jan 29

Along with hunger and snow, this winter brought weeks of numbing cold.

Doves Jan 29

Cardinal Jan 29

Squirrel Jan 16

I was glad I had left the bird houses hanging because I saw chickadees retreating into them at nightfall.

Chickadee Dec 30

It’s not that winter was completely cheerless. The yard had a few winter blooms, and there were certainly days of sunshine.

Honeysuckle Jan 1

Paperwhites Jan 2

Warbler Oct 29

But I’m ready for spring. Real spring, with hours on end of warmth and nest building and bird song.

Squirrel Jan 15

I can’t be the only one who is fretful and impatient. Maybe that’s why it seems as if spring is embarrassed to be arriving so late. Instead of rushing in with thunder and rain-scented gusts, spring is edging into the yard like a guilty ticket holder who overslept and missed the opening scene. Bees are sluggish, the irises and pear tree bloomed while I wasn’t looking, and the house stays chilly despite bright sunshine and open windows.

Bee March

Irises April 5

Pear Tree April 5

I suppose I’ll be complaining about the heat, before too long, and wishing for a cool draft in the house. Because summer always follows, and fall after it. And then there will come a day, sometime in early September, when I will wish for winter. But for now all of my wishes are focused on spring.

January Birds

The yard was full of birds today. Flocks arrived in waves, flashing in and out of patches of sunlight as they foraged. Rather than braving the cold, I sat in the window with my camera and enjoyed a long, quiet afternoon in the warmth of our kitchen.

Starling Jan 4

Robin Jan 4

Dove Jan 4

Cardinal Jan 4

The chickadees, warblers, and woodpeckers were too busy to stop for photos, but a small flock of sparrows spent nearly an hour grazing in the half-frozen grass and weeds. They stayed in a part of the yard that had already fallen into shade, pointedly avoiding sunlit areas.

Sparrow Jan 4

(There were four of these little sparrows, and I’ve had no luck identifying them. Chipping Sparrows? Swamp Sparrows? Am I getting close? Please comment if you can help!)

Sparrow Jan 4

Sparrow Jan 4

Tomorrow is forecast to be a bit warmer with lots of sunshine. I wonder if the birds know?

Ready for Summer

Petunia April 27

Despite winter’s lingering chill, the yard is ready for summer.

Iris April 30

Iris April 30

Tulip April 29

I’m looking forward to the warm months ahead, to days filled with honeysuckle blooms, nesting doves, and cardinal fledglings…

Honeysuckle April 30

Dove April 29

Cardinals April 30

Feeder Photos for a Cold, Cold Day

Dove Jan 17

Today’s rain swirled on a bitterly cold wind. Given the conditions, I can’t blame the birds for seeking an easy source of food.

Sparrow Jan 17

(I would love a little help identifying the sparrow above. Is it a song sparrow?)

Flock Jan 17

I can’t blame the birds because I was seeking my own easy fare. The weather was simply too miserable for a walk, or even for a long stroll around the yard. So I stayed indoors and took photos through the kitchen window.

The doves and robins looked so cold that I wanted to invite them to join me.

Dove Jan 17

Robin Jan 17

The cardinals seemed less affected by the cold.

Cardinal Jan 17

They had more troublesome things on their minds. It started with a small flock of red-winged blackbirds.

Flock Jan 17

Flock Jan 17

Cowbirds appeared next, as if responding to an alert about freshly filled feeders.

Flock Jan 17

Flock Jan 17

Flock Jan 17

The cardinal female tried to claim her share of the seed, but the flock ignored her fretful complaints and fluttering attempts to land among them.

Cardinal Jan 17

Cardinal Jan 17

She even tried eating on the ground, where she was forced to dodge between and around a milling crowd of larger birds.

Cardinal Jan 17

After a few desperate mouthfuls, the cardinal gave up and moved on.

The flock stayed for another half-hour or so, growing more and more nervous as the feeder’s contents dwindled. They stampeded into flight over and over again, then returned for a few more minutes of ravenous feeding.

Flock Jan 17

Flock Jan 17

Flock Jan 17

Finally, there came a time when they burst into the air on a loud flurry of wings and did not return. I saw them twice more, passing overhead as they visited other yards, but they were finished in our yard for the day.

I was puzzled by their retreat, because the feeder wasn’t completely empty. I wondered if they might have seen a hawk or cat, but the only thing left in the yard was this squirrel.

Squirrel Jan 17

Is it possible that they left because of the squirrel?

Squirrel Jan 17

Perhaps they were simply bored, or the feeder ran too low to make their continued efforts worthwhile. Or maybe they tired of my lurking presence in the kitchen window and my clicking, whirring camera…

Flock Jan 17