Thursday, February 28, 2008

For The Birds

Spent quite a few days down at the Farmington Bay Refuge last week, before the big thaw this week. It has been just great, and resulted in many pictures. While I don't have the lens needed to really capture things up close, some turned out pretty well, and I was happy with them. So here are a bunch of pics from the Refuge.  The first one shows my home town of Bountiful in the background. 

The prime draw is still watching the Bald Eagles soar and roam.  They are so graceful.

The number of Bald Eagles has grown substantially--I'd say there are almost 100 down in the vicinity of the Refuge on a good day. Here is a sample of how they congregate on the ice.

Sometimes  you get the feeling that they scare the other birds, seagulls included, half to death.

The Eagles even occasionally engage in aerial acrobatics which are amazing to watch (though unfortunately they were too far away for my lens to capture).  However, Eagles are not the only reason to visit the refuge.  There have been  hosts of trumpeter swans.  When they gather like this, the sounds they make at sunset are so wild and primordial.  It is a great experience just to listen to them.

There are also owls aplenty. In addition to this short eared owl (Steve???) we saw a number of barn owls hunting.
There are also many Harriers out and about.

Then of course there is just the beauty of the place, especially in the evening.  The first picture is Mount Ben Lomond, one of the really beautiful peaks along the northern Wasatch front.  The second photo is Francis Peak, the highest peak in Davis County.

 And of course, there are always the sunsets.

Sunset around here usually includes flocks of birds, flying in for the night. If you look closely to this photo, you can see them silhouetted against the sunset.

Not a bad place to spend a dusk or two, right?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Here's Hoping. . .

That today is an altogether better day than last Sunday. That should be easy to do. Last Sunday began with Kathleen dropping a plate on the floor, which shattered, and Keegan, in his usual place grasping at her leg, immediately grabbing one of the sharp shards for all he was worth. It cut him deeply across three fingers. He didn't cry much, and was mostly interested in watching that red stuff flow out and get all over his fingers and hands, as he clenched and unclenched his fist and fought like heck to keep us from putting band-aids on.  The blood flowed so fast that once we did get band-aids on, they would get soggy almost immediately, which allowed Keegan to easily pull them off again. After several rounds it finally stopped enough to keep the band-aids on, and today he seems none the worse for wear.

That, however, was nothing compared to how we ended the day last Sunday. We had an evening family get together, with all of the cousins, out at Kathleen's sister's house in Salt Lake City.  All was fine and dandy, until Kate ran at full speed, mouth first, into the forehead of her poor cousin Molly. It broke almost a quarter of one her upper front (and permanent) teeth off, leaving it deep in Molly's badly bleeding forehead. It bent Kate's other upper front (and permanent) tooth backward into her mouth, and it was bleeding.

I was the first adult to know about this. Kate came running up to me, not crying at all, and told me, in just a bit of a whimper, that something bad happened and she needed help.  Almost no crying at any time thereafter. She is so tough. Well, chaos ensued, which included fishing Kate's tooth-chip out of Molly's deep wound (poor Molly ended up with five stitches). We then raced for home, tooth chip in hand, madly calling every dental student we ever knew. Some of you were on the receiving end of that. A huge thanks for all of your help. While I was talking to you, Kath was madly dialing every Bountiful person we knew, trying to find a dentist willing to look at Kate at 9:30 p.m. on a Sunday evening (over a holiday weekend, no less). The first local dentist we were able to talk to was Mark Blaisdale, who said he would be there in two minutes, and whose office was very close to our home.

Imagine our peace when we found out that he had graduated from none other than UOP. We felt truly blessed. He glued Kate's chip right back onto her tooth, straightened out the other one, and an hour or so later we were on our way home. Here is a picture of the operation.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Trees in Winter

All winter I have been trying to get out and photograph trees. There is just something about the courage of trees in winter. There they stand, stripped of all that gave them food, in waning light, enduring snow and wind and biting cold, the kind that makes sandpaper seem warm and fuzzy. To me, they are hope. They have done this hard thing countless times and survived, even thrived and grown, and the hard times only drive their roots deeper, stouten their limbs, make them stronger and tougher and more ready than ever to face what comes. There is much to learn from a tree. And then there is the stark and spare beauty they reveal, always at twilight.

(Yes, those are eagles out there).

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Da Boys

Kath was out and about with Kate on Saturday, leaving me with Da Boys. We played in the snow (well, mostly shoveled, but when you are three and one, just being outside around here counts as play). Here are a bunch of photos from our day.

At the end of the day, Keegan did not want to go inside at all. He sat and watched the sunset for a full 15 minutes with his dad. The evening was very peaceful, and he was enchanted by the colors -- could not turn away. How fun to watch him being captivated by one of the things I really love. Maybe there is a little of me in him after all :-).  The best part of the whole thing, though, was that as I held him, I said "hey, give me a kiss." And he did!

Eye of the Beholder

After a day spent in the snow, we came in to shed our clothes. Alden walked over to his sunglasses, put them on, and said, "Look dad, Sunglasses. Isn't this cool?"

Then he wanted the camera, and took the oh so very fine photo of me below. As he reviewed the picture on the LCD, he said, "Dad, you're so beautiful!" Wish I could capture the tone of absolute, three-year-old sincerity that went along with it. A comic moment, yes, but I'll take what I can get.

Keegan, embarrassed by all that schmaltzy stuff, just tried to hide in the heater vent. He was clearly pleased with himself for having learned a new trick.

Monday, February 4, 2008

These Kids

Just a couple of quick notes to say that these kids will either kill me or make me stronger. Or both.

As you can see, Keegan loves messes. He is a walking disaster area these days, and not just when he helps his mom cook chicken pot pie. It is not unusual to find him in the kitchen, climbing up on top of a stool and emptying every drawer within reach, just to watch things fall to the ground and see what kind of noise it might make. If he is on the ground, he is into every cupboard without a child-proof lock (which is most of them), pulling out pots that weigh almost as much as he does, and everything else he can find. Unless of course he is engaged in his favorite sport: toilet fishing. (You drop it in, you pull it out, you drop it in, you pull it out. Attempt to put it in your mouth so you can watch mom and dad move really fast. Repeat.) There are times when you want to get mad, but then he looks at you like this:

so you just smile back. He is getting very close to talking these days, and just loves books. He insists on at least a half hour a day in each of our laps, looking at books. His favorites have pictures of birds, which he will review again and again, saying "whooo! whooo!" while getting so excited he bounces up and down waving his arms. Just makes you laugh.

Then there is Kate, who is becoming quite independent. She will often head to her room at night with a kiss and a quick "don't worry, I'll say my prayers alone." (AKA 'don't bother to check on me, I am perfectly capable of putting myself to bed, thank you.') A week ago on a school night, after just such a statement, I went down to her room at around 11:30 p.m., and there she was, listening to Styx and intently reading a very large "Modern Bride" magazine that she had coerced her mother into buying. 

I am just not ready for this. Isn't she supposed to be a teenager sometime AFTER she turns 12?

Then tonight, I checked on her at 9:30 p.m. (learned my lesson last time) and she promptly asked me to bring down the CD player so she could "do her visualization."

 "What do you mean by that, Kate?" 

"Oh, you know, the music helps me visualize images, like, say, a unicorn, and that helps  me go to sleep." 

There were no extraneous pharmaceuticals hanging around. I checked. But she is still visualizing unicorns, probably to dad's old Beatles tunes. I am in so much trouble.

And don't even get me started on Alden. Tonight, we had our normal battle over food, in which he refused not only to eat what was served, but even to sit at the table for more than five minutes. And so I gave him a time out. Did he cry? NO. Sat there waiting patiently and just took it like a little man. When I came back in I said, "Are you ready to eat now?" He just looked at me and said, "no dad," and headed back for the bed. No crying. Just a resigned but determined look that said "I am not losing this contest of wills for anything."  The second time I came in, he said "Dad, are you feeling happy now?" with a semi-sheepish, 'c'mon-dad-can't-we-just-get-past-this' half-smile on his face. 

So much for being the terrifying embodiment of authority to a three-year old.  What the heck am I going to do when he turns 13?   I may as well cash it in now.

Of course, there are some rewards. I took a little break from work one morning last week, and he and I sat down to watch a little Spongebob Squarepants and share a power bar and some chocolate milk for breakfast. After about two minutes, he said, "Dad, I'm really glad you're here."

 It was enough to keep me alive, for at least a week anyway.  But I am in so much trouble.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Maybe I'm Just Getting Old . . .

But I really like Birding. I have none other than my good friend Steve Frank to blame for this AARPish behavior. When we first arrived in San Francisco, he immediately hauled us out to Lodi, of all places, in the dead of winter, to see Sandhill Cranes. It was a profound experience. As the sun set, hundreds if not thousands of these giant birds converged on the wetland we were watching. The sound, a din of primordial cackle, will be with me for the rest of my life. I was hooked.

I am not the fanatic that some are or the professional that my friend Steve is (and in fact I shamefully post most of the photos below so he can call and tell me what I saw), but I will now definitely look for opportunities to see birds. As you may have observed from Kate's prior post, Farmington Bay is such an opportunity, and it should not be missed. Here are a few of my photos from that trip.

Ok, so this photo has nothing to do with birds, but is full of nostalgia for me. My grandpa Aldin, after whom our first son is named, had several pieces of property, collectively known as "The Farm" down by Farmington Bay. This is one of them. I helped fill that barn to the top with hay bails for many summers. In fact, I helped dig the post- holes for that fence when I was only a few years older than Kate, and helped string the barbed wire too. (Looks like no one has touched it since). I was only a little older than Alden is now when my Grandpa dug the pond in front of this property. I very clearly remember the back hoe that dug it out, and using the irrigation system to fill it with water. I also remember day after day of tadpole and frog hunting that followed thereafter. It was just a great place to spend summers as a kid. I really miss Grandpa, and think of him a lot, even though he has been gone almost 20 years now. Glad this place was still here to show Kate and Aldy. OK, enough of memory lane, and on to the birds.

Oddly enough, the bald eagles will sit not only in dead trees, but just out on the ice, as in this photo. We live up on the hill directly above the bald eagle on the left.

This open water was very active with birds. If you look at the egret-like wading bird on the right, you will see a fish in its mouth. The wading bird on the left is some type of a Heron, I think (Steve?)

I have no idea what this bird is, but he was beautiful, and on the hunt.

I gained a great appreciation for the art of Bird photography just in this short trip. It is so hard to get these little guys in focus, let alone have them fill the frame. Of course some made it easier than others . . .

I am quite curious about the bird of prey in the bush above. Anyone know what type of bird it is? Also, what kind of duck? Sorry, I know that is lazy, and I should just go look in Sibley's (that was for you, Steve) but it would be so much nicer if someone just told me. . .:-)

If you have never seen a Bald Eagle fly, you are really missing something. The power and speed of it can send chills down your spine. Our founding fathers chose the national symbol very well. What a great day!