WINTER SCENES – MARILYN ARMSTRONG

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Winter Scenes


It certainly is winter here and today, it was actually cold. The earlier parts of the month were springlike, sometimes downright summery. Today, cold. Tomorrow? Snow? Sleet? Rain? Cold? Warm? All of the preceding?

NOW you’re talking. our precipitous winter days have mostly been a bit of everything, usually in about 12-hours. Although we have rapidly changing weather, it doesn’t usually all happen in a single day between dawn and the late news.

Junco in a bird’s winter

Waiting to a place at the feeder

Home in the snow – Photo: Garry Armstrong

A bench on the Common with snow – Photo: Garry Armstrong

ONE MORE SUNSET #16 – Marilyn Armstrong

ONE MORE SUNSET

Yes, I know my numbers are out of order. That’s the price we pay for trying to work with material coming from the other side of the world. Posts show up late, sometimes a couple of days late and since I can’t control when they wind up in my “inbox,” I just do the best I can. Hope no one minds!

The west-facing road that passes our house and travels from route 146A all the way to Johnston, Rhode Island, a big area for antiques. I don’t go there because I’ll buy something. I don’t go to antique stores, book stores, or art galleries. These are places I find irresistible. Not only do I not have extra money to spend, but I need more antiques like I need a hole in my head.

Along this little road are at least three small towns, all located on a waterway. There is a lot of water around here and it all flows south towards the Atlantic Ocean and exits via Narragansett Bay. Which is, of course,  the outlet of the Blackstone River and almost every other river and stream in the Blackstone Valley.

On the road to Rhode Island

In case you didn’t know, the Blackstone Valley runs through two states. It begins at the head of the Worcester Hills in Massachusetts and continues through Rhode Island until it runs into the ocean. Along its route are more rivers most of which are tributaries of the Blackstone. Also interesting are the ponds, lakes, streams, and rivulets, often unnamed. Just more water.

Route 98 runs through inhabited areas. Lots of small farms and tiny groups of homes too small for maps to name them as a village, though most places have a name. A few have no names. They are simply a crossroads with a shop and a couple of houses. But of course, we have towns that look like that too.

MORE RED FINCH AND FRIENDS – Marilyn Armstrong

Since I couldn’t square up most of these pictures, I thought I’d just post them because I like them. Red birds always get a lot more attention than other birds. They are so striking. We had a Cardinal visit the other day. It must be the same Cardinal because they are so territorial, we can’t have two living in the same area. He was a much duller red a couple of weeks ago. Now, he is brilliantly red. I wish he had held still and let me take his picture, but he was in a shy mood and flew off.

The red finches are surprisingly friendly. You can see where you might think of them as potential pets. They are all kinds of adorable.

Three feathered friends on a feeder

Fine day on a feeder

When the food is good, the birds like to hang around

Three birds and it is lunchtime

Today, all three feeders were occupied by Goldfinches. They simply took possession of and held onto it. They come in flocks and I swear they sleep on the feeders to keep other birds away.

 

AUTUMN AFTERNOON AND AMBER SUNLIGHT #14 – Garry Armstrong

Day and Light

It was one of only a few golden autumn days. I had gone into town for a haircut, but I’d also taken the camera. It was a beautiful day with the sun at its most golden amber. I took a few pictures. Eventually, I took a lot of pictures. It was so lovely, I couldn’t stop.

Sunny Autumn afternoon in downtown Uxbridge

The old library in the autumn sun

Sunshine on an old church

Along a road in fall. This photo is not processed. It’s straight out of the camera.

We didn’t have much autumn, but I think I managed to catch the best of it. Maybe next year, it will be better? We can dream.

BIRDS CAN BE SQUARE TOO #10 – MARILYN ARMSTRONG

BACKYARD BIRDIES IN WILD ABSTRACTION (AND THE NUMBER ISN’T IN ORDER, EITHER)

It was a sunny afternoon and my camera was ready. I was ready. Were the birds ready? That is always the question. As for light, see that hint of golden sun on the trees and the birds? That is the reflection of the late afternoon winter sun. Photography is all about light.

I take pictures every day if there are active birds on the feeders. It’s a timing issue and I have to hope it isn’t the exact same group of birds that seem to actually live on the feeders. When I see enough interesting birds or types of birds, I try sneaking up on them and hope they won’t hide or fly away. I think they are laughing at me as they fly into the woods.

Flying: the bird in front is a Tufted Titmouse and the bird in the back is a woodpecker, either a downy or a hairy.

Last week, I dumped the flat feeder and the very damaged wire feeder. I got a smaller feeder with smooth sides and a rim for birds to hold onto. It is designed for smaller birds. I already owned a finch feeder, but I’d never bought food for it. I had Owen put up a third hook and invested in a small bag of finch food.

A Goldfinch on the finch feeder

It took about 72 hours for the birds to discover the new feeders. For a few days, there were almost no birds. On Sunday, I woke up and looked at the feeders and they were empty. I don’t mean that they needed filling. They were 100% empty, down to the last seed.

Woodpecker and Titmouse

I filled everything up and waited. The Goldfinches are back and so are the woodpeckers. The Cardinals have come home, though they refuse to sit still while I take their picture. I think they should show some appreciation, but they aren’t here as my friends. They just want to eat. I still think they could at least let me take pictures. Show me a little bit of gratitude.

Hairy Woodpecker

They hide on the opposite side of the feeders where I can’t see them. I have to wait for them to decide to ignore me and some days, they manage to elude me until I get tired and give up.

A beautiful Tufted Titmouse … and a surprisingly big oneToday I decided to exhume the SD card from the OMD and see what I had collected. I decided to play around with this batch. Others are less abstract. I admit it. Sometimes, I just want to play with pictures.

HOMEWARD BOUND #7 – Marilyn Armstrong

HOMEWARD BOUND INTO THE SUNSET – BECKY B’S JANUARY SQUARES

It was just another day coming home from the doctor. Our house is due west from the doctor’s office. I knew this because the sun was in our eyes all the way home. I thought it would be dark when we got back, but there was absolutely no traffic and we swept home at a brisk pace.

Which meant there were a few pictures to take on the way. Not as glorious as the last ones, but still, very pretty (and entirely square) sunset pictures.

About a quarter of a mile from home, heading west

About 4:30 in the afternoon in January

This was the first time I’ve used my new Panasonic camera since I got it a couple of months ago. I’m not really used to it yet, but it does seem to do a pretty nice job especially considering it was quite dark by this time.

THE WHITE OF A WINTER SKY #4 – Marilyn Armstrong

WHITE WINTER SKY – Marilyn Armstrong

The sky is as white as the snow. That was winter. Now, it’s just dull gray, day after day. With rain, with sleet, with ice. Warm enough so the fleas don’t die and the dogs need flea and tick collars. I’m not sure what this season is, so here’s to winters in years gone by.

As winter ends, a bit of snow still remains along the road

BIRD OF THE WEEK – Marilyn Armstrong

With some time available, I took these pictures and spent hours messing with the software. I still don’t think I’ve quite got them exactly how I want them, but I think they are okay. These are two pictures of the same chip. I have more, but they are all similar, I haven’t done anything with the rest of them. Yet.

Taking off

Yet one more Tufted Titmouse.

THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND A WORD I WOOF – Marilyn Armstrong

Today we vacuumed the living room and changed the sofa covers. We moved all the things out of the way, including the step stool Bonnie uses to get up on the sofa. Some hours later, I was doing something on the computer and Bonnie was barking and whining at me. She barks a lot anyway, but she never whines.

It was too early for dinner — even for her — so I finally asked her “What’s the matter? What do you want?”

She walked over to her step stool and walked back and BARKED at me.

I put the stool back where it belongs and she happily jumped up on the sofa. I could almost hear her saying, “Those dumb two legs. They never understand a word I say!”

COUNT THE BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

The windows through which I shoot bird pictures had gotten dusty. Owen went out to clean them for me. All the birds around the deck and on the feeders flew up and into the trees. Owen said it sounded like something from “The Birds.” I wasn’t outside, but I was watching from the window in the kitchen. I watched this flock take off — maybe 100 birds  — many of them doves, took off.

Chipping Sparrow

When they settled down, I realized there were birds on pretty much every branch in the woods. I couldn’t tell you which birds were which — my eyes aren’t that good — but you could see their outlines against the fading sky.

A little downy woodpecker. He’s still a baby!

We have a lot of birds of every kind you might expect in this part of the world. We may be facing serious climactic change, but so far, at least we still have birds. So far, so good.

Birds in our bushes … er, feeders

The weather has been very up and down. Two days of extremely cold weather, followed by a few days in the mid-60s. That’s 17 or 18 C for those who aren’t good converters. I finally gave in and put the tick and flea collars back on all three of them. The bugs aren’t dying like they used to. The moment it warms up, the ticks and fleas appear like magic. It’s going to be a very buggy year.

Sharing

I didn’t take any picture or at least, any new ones. I still have a lot of pictures I’ve taken over the past week or two. And there was a lot of cooking getting done. And baking. There’s at least one more big meal coming out of that lamb — my joyful lamb curry.

Downy Woodpecker

I’m taking the rest of the season, such as it is, off. I’ve been looking for a good time to take a few days off and this seems a better time than most. So I’ll be back after the year turns. Let’s hope this one is better than the last few.

THE “OLD PERSON” WEATHER REPORT – Marilyn Armstrong

These days, watching television and seeing even the finest meteorologist give a forecast that is everything other than summer would be a lot funnier if it didn’t mean that climate change is hitting this area — New England —  harder than it is hitting other places in the world.

Nobody ever said it would hit every place equally at the same time, although somehow that’s how I imagined it.

This idea came to me as I commented to Garry that my sinuses were throbbing, my lower back felt a little better than it had earlier, but both hips were pulsing in pain. also, I have a massive headache and both eyes feel like someone poured sand into them. Translated into meteorologist-ese, it means:

Chipping Sparrow

Humidity is rising, barometric pressure is dropping, probably fast. Temperature is falling quicker than my head can handle and the air, for the moment, is very dry (eyes), probably because I ticked up the heat by a couple of degrees.

I suddenly foresaw a new kind of weather report. Traditional and “old person” weather.

First, the modern, up-to-date scientific meteorologist gives his report. Maps, stats, wind directions, where it’s coming from, going to. When we’ll get sleet, freezing rain, blinding snow, less blinding snow, total amounts from Connecticut through Maine. How much of whatever falls will fall on us?

How long will it last?

Next snow?

By the time he’s done, he has forecast every possible form of winter weather and all anyone knows it that is will be cold, wet, and ugly. I better make a new doctor’s appointment in the morning. No matter how good a driver Garry is, he isn’t the only one on the road. There are an awful lot of people who don’t “get” that simply slowing down would prevent a lot of weather-related accidents. Four-wheel-drive doesn’t help on ice or sleet.

The weather report’s not over yet. Winter weather reports take up at least half our news broadcast, just as — when one of our teams is winning — sports takes up at least half the report. Especially baseball and football.

Photo: Garry Armstrong –Winter at home

Part two of the report has no stats, numbers, or maps. There’s an old person, male or female —  both? — in comfy chairs, rambling on a bit. Local color. “Remember that 24 inches we got on April 1st in the 1990s? That was some storm … and it all melted in three days. Lots of flooding,” she says.

“My right shoulder is bad,” he says. “Suppose that means cold with snow.”

“My spine hurts bottom to top. Rain first. Likely sleet, then snow. The boiler is in overdrive, so temps are dropping. Bad day tomorrow. Coming from the west. so it’s packing a lot of water. Unless we get lucky, we’ll have a nor’easter along the coast. Good thing we don’t live on the coast anymore, eh?”

“We’ll get twice as much snow as they get along the coast, but at least we won’t flood.” says the old guy.

“Not yet,” she points out. “When it melts, it’ll be dicey.”

“Figure six inches at least, depending on how much sleet and freezing rain we get before the snow. With the falling temps? Gonna be black ice under the snow. Time to cancel that appointment with the doctor.”

Everybody over fifty will relate. Anyone who plays sports will get it. What’s more, we will be accurate — at least locally. Can’t do national forecasts, but we can tell you how it’s gonna be right here in the lower Massachusetts section of the Blackstone Valley.

A heating pad really helps.

CHRISTMAS EDITION – SHARE YOUR WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

Christmas Edition – Share Your World

QUESTIONS FOR THE WEEK – 12-16-19:

Much better than the pictures with the slower lens.

Do you enjoy receiving Christmas cards through snail mail? 

As long as they don’t include a fake picture of a gloriously happy family posed fakely in front of their (never used) fireplace along with a 4-page single-spaced letter about what a FANTASTIC year they had.

Do you like the taste and/or smell of peppermint?

Yes. A lot, actually.

What is your least favorite holiday side dish?

We don’t have standard holiday dinners, so I really can’t answer that.

What is the coolest (best) gift you ever gave someone?

We haven’t been giving gifts much in recent years. Retirement isn’t a time for giving richly. But I did — for Chanukah — give Garry the camera he wanted, my little Leica. I had to give myself a little camera too — but it’s not nearly as good as the Leica. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

Bonus question because I thought it was nifty:   What is a Christmas song that makes you cringe?   (Please insert the word “Holiday” for Christmas if Christmas isn’t your thing or bothers you or something)

Almost all of them. I can’t think of any of them you might hear on the air — in other words, one with words — that doesn’t make me cringe. With the exception of actual carols which can be beautiful.

Please share some of your favorite music around this time of year.  

Leroy Anderson composed “Sleigh Ride” in 1948; he released his own version in 1950. Arthur Fiedler and The Boston Pops released three versions of “Sleigh Ride” – in 1949, 1959 and 1970. We used to go hear the pops every year, but it finally got so expensive, it was totally beyond our means. I got some great pictures while I was there, though.

SantaSYW

MORE SNOWY MORNING BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

Staring me down

It didn’t snow last night, or at least I don’t think it did. I slept late this morning. The bed was warm and I was so comfortable. By the time I got up, it was really lunchtime. If any new snow had fallen, I couldn’t see it.

Pretty sure it’s a Carolina Wren, but it might be a chipping sparrow. I get the two of them confused. They probably get me confused with all OTHER humans.

My Lady Cardinal

Watching our Cardinal get fat makes me happy. They used to get so thin in the winter.

In the tree, watching me watching him

Pretty sure this one is a Hairy Woodpecker because he is much bigger than the Downy

I thought about taking more pictures, but I’ve got so many that still need processing, I thought I’d give myself a break.

Another Downy Woodpecker

We are growing some really huge Tufted Titmice!

A well-rounded Cardinal

Gray Junco

What’s over there?

LIVING THE GOOD LIFE. SLOWLY. Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #52

The question?

Given the realities of who we are and what we need, I think this is a pretty good life. I might wish for gentler weather and a bit more money, but overall? I’m glad to be here. I’m glad to live in a place where most people are on the same side I am on. Where getting around (unless there’s a lot of snow) is pretty easy. No traffic jams. No parking meters.

Life is simple, peaceful, and sometimes, joyous.

Short of suddenly becoming physically young (that would be quite a trick!), this is “the good life.” For us. Maybe it wouldn’t be for you, but it works for us. We live “the good life,” but slowly.

THE JUNCOS ARE BACK – Marilyn Armstrong

You know it’s winter when the Juncos appear. This year, they showed up in force. Maybe a dozen of them, though it could be more since they do all look alike. I’ve seen a dozen of them on the deck at one time. They will eat from the feeder, but they will also walk around the deck and eat from the ground, too. They are also very amusing flyers. Like the Chickadees, they will just drop off the feeder and not open their wings until they are just an inch from the ground. I think they enjoy flying just because they have wings.

If I were a bird, I’d seriously consider being either a Chickadee or a Junco. They are the fun flyers of the group.

We’ve also seen a lot of the Cardinals — boys and girls — and various configurations of woodpeckers. The Cardinals will hang out on the feeders, but the moment I show up with the camera, they vanish. The blink of an eye and they are gone.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker and a Junco

The woodpeckers are such a tease. They go to the opposite side of the feeder where I can’t get a picture. Sometimes I’ll see a piece of wing or the top of their heads, but usually not the whole bird. I got one really nice shot of one today with a Junco enjoying seed on a different part of the feeder.

Junco on feeder with seed

Another Junco

And this one, framed