Wednesday, December 24, 2014

2014: The Year in Review

Here's a little recap of Things with Wings in 2014, my third year of nature blogging:

Spring at the Daffodil Field, Tower Hill Botanic Garden

Summer at Breakneck Hill Conservation Land

Fall view from the Washington Tower at Mt. Auburn Cemetery

Winter at Salisbury Beach State Reservation

I wish that I were a better writer.  I think of beautiful, somewhat poetic things to say while I am on a hike, inspired by the sights, sounds and scents of the moment.  Then, I get home and that inspiration is gone, lost to more robotic temperature readings and itemized lists of what I saw.  

I wish that I were a better naturalist, more careful with my identifications and research into what I've seen.  The details are often lost on me.  If I have Broad-winged Hawks in my yard, then I assume the hawk that landed outside my office window is just that, when in fact, it is a Coopers.  I am a lazy naturalist.  In the summer, I can be even worse, because the amount of things I see in any one day exceed the time I have to work on photos, write up a summary and properly ID the mysteries.  

I wish that I were a better photographer.  Bad weather, poor lighting, lack of bird activity, lack of motivation all played a factor in whether I had anything worth photographing and if so, whether or not the photos are worth sharing.  I do occasionally get a winner, but I wish that was the norm instead of the exception.

Still, I forge on.  A hike is often the best part of my day, away from mindless emails and boring proofreading, away from viral videos and celebrity gossip.  I get lost in my hikes, not geographically, but emotionally.  I am connected with the moment, excited to share in a bird's mothering skills or a butterfly's flight, mesmerized by dewdrops on a pink wildflower.  Time flies by when I am outdoors.  There is often so much to see and take in, so much that I missed during the great majority of my adult life, stuck in an office in a big city or sitting in front of the TV.  I am glad, that in spite of my shortcomings as a writer, naturlist and photographer, this blog is keeping me out there, on my quest to enjoy Mother Nature and all she has to share with me.

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Butterflies:  65 species (up from 63 in 2013); 4 of them were new "life" butterflies!!!

Birds:  164 species of birds (down from 180 in 2013); but 28 of them were new "life" birds!!!  

Memberships:  Tower Hill Botanic Garden, Massachusetts Audubon Society, New England Wildflower Society/Garden in the Woods, Forbush Bird Club, North American Butterfly Association (local chapter is Massachusetts Butterfly Club), Fine Art America, and The Trustees of Reservations.

Insects:  4 tick bites

# New Places I Visited in Massachusetts: 14.  This a very important statistic!  It forces me to explore my home state and go beyond my comfort zone.  

Field Trips:  3 trips, 2 butterfly censuses and 1 butterfly festival with the Massachusetts Butterfly Club and 1 pelagic trip with the Forbush Bird Club.  

OK.  Are you sitting down?  You may need to be seated in order to get through all the flower photos that I pulled together from this past year.   I couldn't stop.  I really do love them.

Did you have a favorite?

As for birds, stumbling upon juvenile birds in their natural habitat continues to be a big thrill.   My favorite from this year is a toss up between the fledgling blue jay and the tiny killdeer.

It's also great fun to find a bird with its mouth full!  I feel like I am getting a sneak peek into how hard they work to bring food to their family or just to feed themselves.

I attended several beautiful festivals, including the Gloucester Schooner Festival, Buttonwood Farm Sunflower Festival and the Barbara Walker Butterfly Festival, one local whale watch, and went on a wonderful, bucket-list family trip to Alaska that included a wildlife cruise.

I also had a fun year amphibian-wise.  I saw my first-ever Red Efts and many interesting turtles and frogs.

Here are some of my favorite photos from all of 2014:

Did you have a favorite?

When I think back to the things that stood out for me this past year, some of them surprised me by how ordinary they might seem:

1.  An Evening Primrose Moth resting inside an Evening Primrose bloom.  (I had read on line that these moths, which are noctural, rest inside the blooms of Evening Primrose during the day but are so well camouflaged they are often missed.  I made it a point to scrutinize every plant I saw and I finally found one!)
2.  My very first Red-Banded Leaf Hopper (even though I didn't get a good photo).  I also had seen these beautiful insects posted on line and wondered why I hadn't seen one before....until someone commented that they are quite tiny.  I did finally spot one in my own yard late summer!  They are a very beautiful, colorful little insect!
3.  Dozens of Red Efts walking in the woods after a rainstorm.   I was out on a hot, humid, rainy day, perspiring and struggling with repeatedly fogging eyeglasses. When the rain stopped, I walked into the forest which was alive with dozens, possibly even hundreds, of these tiny orange amphibians crawling around.  I was so thankful the humidity and rain hadn't kept me away!
4.  Red fox kits romping like puppies in my backyard.  A fox family moved into our yard when we were away on vacation, and for a short while after our return, I enjoyed watching the three kits.
5.  One day several birds of multiple species were sunbathing in my backyard (lying still, wings and tail feathers splayed out).
6.  I was thrilled to get a crisp photo of a tiny insect called a Green Lacewing.  I had seen it before, but had not yet captured the detail of its beautiful wings.  
7.  Sharing the joy of seeing Giant Swallowtail butterflies with my Mom and Dad and sister!
8.  The crazy hitch-hiking butterfly that hopped a ride in the gasket of the car door and flew out to its new home when we opened the door. 
9.  Watching a Baltimore Oriole use her bill to peel long strips of vegetation from plant stalks in order to build a nest while the male observed and encouraged from a distance.

This blog is as much about photography for me as it is about nature.  A hike is memorable for me when I get a great photo that thrills me.  It isn't enough just to see something.  I want a good photo to bring home with me.  I take a lot of pictures, and I don't often come home with "the one".  I only hope that all this practice will help me improve!  It sure has been fun trying!

Merry Christmas, all, and I hope 2015 is filled with good nature sightings for us all!

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