SUNDAY’S BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

It was “fill the feeder” day. I didn’t put out the new fancy birdseed because I decided I needed to use up the older stuff first. For a long time, there were no birds.

Later in the afternoon, there was a birdie fiesta in progress. I took pictures. I would have taken more pictures, but (1) I was hungry and needed lunch, and (2) I needed to leave some time to process the photographs.

Chickadee and Titmouse – two birds that seem to get along pretty well together

That’s what I’ve been doing most of the day. Developing pictures. And I ate a sandwich. Which the dogs wanted very much. But I wanted it too. I asked them, “Hey if I’m hungry because you ate my lunch, are you going to give ME treats?” Not one of them could give me a solid “yes” on that, so I went on eating. I actually ate the entire sandwich, but Bonnie cleaned up the crumbs. It’s her job and she’s good at it.

If that isn’t a Black-Crested Titmouse (on the right), I don’t know what it is. But they don’t live up here. The book says so.
And if you don’t believe me, here’s another shot. One impossible Black-Crested Titmouse and his pal, the Nuthatch.

A good friend of mine who lives in Australia reminded me that you can’t always believe the maps in the bird books because he sees birds in his yard that supposedly live hundreds of kilometers to the north, yet there they are.

Notice how he’s using his wings for balance!

He pointed out there are trains, trucks, cars and all the other kinds of transports. Birds travel. They don’t have to fly all the way. Instead, they hitchhike. These birds live in Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma. They also, apparently, live in my woods.

These two little guys were squabbling over who got whatever the other thought was “the prime” position. Lots of flapping!
I love the way Chickadees dive off the feeder. They don’t even open their wings until they are halfway to the ground.

I’ve learned a lot about how birds fly. That they always put down their landing gear before they touch the feeder. That they dive off the feeder with wings still folded and I think they really enjoy doing it. They really like flying. It’s not just how they get from place to place. They seem to have fun, too.

Landing gear is down!
Coming in for a landing!
Don’t you love the way their wings fold and flex?

There was a lot of flying going on. It got pretty competitive. Despite the fact that I really wanted to get more flying, even with my finger ON the shudder, I can’t hold the really big lens up all the time and the moment I let it down for a minute, I miss the take, the landing, and the little in-the-air kerfuffles of bird-on-bird.

Two Chickadees. They like to knock each other off the feeder too. It’s the bird version of “king of the hill.”
Three birds. I think the big one is a Tufted Titmouse, but I can’t tell for sure.

Don’t think bigger birds necessarily win these battles. As often as not, the little ones push the bigger ones away. It’s more about the aggression level of the bird than it’s inherent power.

Yet one more Nuthatch!
A Tufted Titmouse and a Nuthatch.

I took more than 100 pictures today and I don’t think I processed even a quarter of them. I ran out of time before I ran out of photographs. More will come.

Part of the clean-up crew: a Mourning Dove on the deck

AND THEY FLY! A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Things with Wings

I have a bird feeder on the back deck. Mostly, I see birds eating, but every now and again, one of them flies. I don’t get a lot of birds in flight, but I have some herons, seagulls, and the occasional little bird when my camera gets lucky and grabs a picture … often quite unexpectedly.

Shooting wildlife. Not merely birds, but any wildlife is difficult. It requires patience. I have a friend who shoots pictures of wildcats and mountain lions. I asked him how he did it.

He said: “Lots and lots of patience and a high-quality long lens.”

Luck helps too. Sometimes, there you are and the birds just take off. You just happen to have a camera ready. You can’t plan it, but it’s great when it happens. Makes you look like a genius and all you really did was point and shoot.

Chickadee in flight
Eat, then fly!
Taking wing
Two Chickadees, one flying

OVER AND OVER AND OVER – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Over


I have always loved flying.

I never went sky-diving (Garry did and I envied him … and wondered how in the world he managed to actually jump out of that plane into the air), but I did go gliding. Twice. I loved flying in small planes and I was lucky enough to have two good friends who flew and took me with them. One of them got permission to fly very close to the ground so I could fly 500 feet over my house and wave to my flowers.

I discovered that when you fly in a small airplane, no matter how hot it is on the ground, at 10,000 feet, you really wish you were wearing insulated shoes. I learned I was too short to see over the dashboard of a Cessna, so if I took up flying, I would have to do it entirely using instruments.

I got to be “co-pilot” on all these little flights and discovered my main job was to “look for airplanes.” With all the technology involved in flying, planes, especially small planes without flight plans, hit each other.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

When you are looking for other planes, you have to look up, and to both sides. I couldn’t look down. I was too short but I discovered the world had more directions than I ever imagined.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

My cousin Roberta lived in northern Virginia, right outside of DC. From when I was 9 or maybe 10, I used to fly there and back. Alone. That was before they made you wear special badges or anything. You just got on the plane, sat in your seat. Up in the air and half an hour later, descending again. Seeing tiny people get bigger and bigger until they were full-sized and the plane bumped to a stop.

Watching all those cars travel at high speeds through the most astonishingly complex intersections and mostly, don’t hit each other. It’s like an enormous dance done on the roads.

When Garry and I were courting, I hadn’t yet gotten a job in Massachusetts. Most weekends, Garry drove to New York and stayed with me, but sometimes, he’d buy me a ticket. I’d fly from La Guardia to Logan. Once, I was due in at 6 pm. We took off a little late and minutes later, the plane was hit by lightning. Twice. There was only one working engine.

Nobody talked. We just listened to silence, followed by the wail of the engine as it lifted the plane. One of the passengers was a pilot, probably going home to Boston. Everyone watched him, holding our collective breaths, wondering if we were going to land or crash.

We landed. Garry picked me up and started to complain I was late and he’d had to circle the airport a dozen times waiting for my plane to show up. I pointed out that I wasn’t sure I was going to get there alive, so he should be saying “Oh glory, you’re here and alive!” and after that, he fed me lobster for three days straight. I deserved every piece of lobster, not to mention one fabulous North End Italian dinner.

Photo: Garry Armstrong –

I don’t know exactly when the fun went out of flying. When airports went from being inconvenient and ugly and became houses of torment. When airline seats went from being small to being torturous. When all the little niceties of flying disappeared and then they wonder why people try not to fly if they have any other choice.

Unfortunately, our rail infrastructure has been neither maintained nor expanded. For example, you can’t take a train from Boston to Arizona. There are many areas where the tracks are not functional. Not only can you not take the train from point A to point C, but you have to detrain with all your luggage, take a bus, get another train which may or may not have the same seats or type of seats … all while juggling your luggage. You may need to do this several times and it will take days rather than hours.

I was still willing to give it a try until I read the notice that the train would not provide assistance with transferring luggage. I gave up.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

So if you are traveling a long distance, unless you are still young enough to like driving all day — and there was a time when I thought driving was fun — you can fly or stay home. Given one thing and another, we stay home. Mostly.

It doesn’t mean we’ll never fly again. I think now that Garry can hear better, we might fly somewhere, sometime, someday. England or Australia or New Zealand or the south of France. Paris or Tokyo. Who knows?

Meanwhile, a dozen or more Chickadees have discovered our bird feeder and they fly up and over and around it.

TRAVEL ANXIETY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I’m getting ready to leave on a weekend trip. I am not a relaxed traveler. I have never been able to throw a few things into a bag at the last minute and head for the door. I’m more of a planner. And a worrier. Starting a week before I leave.

In my defense, I have to make sure that all the clothes my husband and I want to take are clean. I also travel with a mini medicine chest and I have to make sure nothing in there has expired. I haven’t traveled in a long time, so this time, almost everything had expired which required a trip to the pharmacy.

See why I have to plan ahead? Way ahead?

Members of our group performing

This trip is not just an ordinary pleasure trip. This trip requires another level of planning and obsessing. We are traveling with our audio theater group (Voicescapesaudiotheater.com) to perform a 90-minute show on Sunday at Youngstown University in Youngstown, Ohio.

Eight of us are traveling together so the trip will also be a fun social experience for all of us. It’s the first time we’re traveling a long distance to the venue. It will also be the largest audience we’ve ever had. It’s a big deal for us!

Because we are going to perform, my usually laid back, easy going husband is joining me in my packing panic. He has to bring all kinds of equipment for our performance. So he’s packing a whole suitcase full of wires and chargers and connectors, two computers, two telephone handsets for sound effects as well as his own scripts and headphones.

Some of Tom’s equipment

In addition, I had to fit six carpet samples squares and two square pieces of foam into my suitcase. Why? The actors need these to buffer the sound on their music stands when they turn the pages on their scripts. Amazingly, I had just enough room.

Carpet samples in my suitcase

Now we’ve got everything packed except for a few last minute items. We go online to check in and get our boarding passes. Tom gets his boarding pass but for some reason, I can’t get one. The computer says I have to get my boarding pass in person at the airport. That’s annoying. We call Delta and the representative on the phone can’t figure it out either. He gets a message that says that I have to check in tomorrow due to government regulations! No idea what that means. Very strange. I hope this won’t be a hassle at check-in. Another thing to worry about!

Traffic is terrible going from our house in Connecticut to La Guardia airport in Long Island, New York. Especially on a Friday. So we’re leaving extra early so we don’t have to bite our nails if we hit traffic en route. At least that’s the plan. Another way to try to minimize anxiety.

Once we get to the airport on time, I get my boarding pass without incident and we check in our bag, then I can relax and have fun. I can start to enjoy my friends. And look for a Cinnabon or an Aunt Annie’s Pretzels, my guilty treats when I fly!

So, here’s hoping for a routine flight, an eventful, exciting trip, and a successful performance!

DRIVING, RIDING, PILOTING AND CAPTAINING – Garry & Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge:
Things People Drive, Ride, Pilot, or Captain


Lots of ways to get around! You can ride, pilot, drive, captain. You can ride a horse, a bicycle, a motorcycle, an ATV …

Captain Tom and his boat (Serenity) and dog – Photo: Ellin Curley
It is a motorcycle — with four wheels!
Photo: Garry Armstrong
Very small boat captain …
The lonely cyclist

Little plane and a big sky …

Horse and hoofs – Photo: Garry Armstrong

Old car to new … and Garry unpacking the car.

LOOK UP! A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE

A Photo a Week Challenge: Look Up


From Nancy Merrill:

Looking back through past challenges, I found that I haven’t done a “look up” challenge for a long time, if ever. Trying a different perspective is a great way to enhance your photography. Looking up, looking down, taking a picture from ground level or from an airplane window. All of these are fun ways to change things up. My photo is the ceiling of the Fribourg Cathedral in Fribourg, Switzerland. I’m really glad my husband said, “Look up!” Otherwise, I would have missed this amazing view.


Looking up. Ceilings, of course and some of the concert halls we have visited have ceilings almost as amazing as a cathedral. Clouds and sunrises and sunsets are always worth looking up.

But there are other things in the air …

Little plane up in the air!
Into the clouds
Photo: Garry Armstrong – Police helicopter searching
Seagulls on the roof at sunrise

 

UP, UP AND AWAY AT THE TUSKEGEE AIR HANGAR

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: ASCEND


Up and away, the little two-person antique flying machine went. From the leafy green lawn in front of the hangar, into the skies and then it was gone into the clouds.