Thursday, December 11, 2014

Looking Back on 2014

I got a gentle "scolding" from a friend recently who's been missing my blog posts. So I decided I'd get one more in before the end of 2014. Working two and three jobs for the last few years has pretty much kicked my ass to the curb and left me with neither the energy or initiative to devote to weekly (or even monthly) blog posts. But for those of you not on Facebook or also missing my blog posts, I'll recap my 2014 with one picture for each month of 2014.

A beautiful January sunset

A February snowstorm was beautiful only to those who didn't have to worry about moving all the snow or figuring out how to drive in it! 

In March I took a trip to California to visit my brother.  It was nice to see green grass, water that wasn't frozen, and birds that wouldn't be back to Minnesota for a couple months yet.

April brought a few spring birds back to Minnesota, including this Robin who was determined to battle that "other" robin taunting him from the window reflection.

In May the colorful summer birds finally arrived.  They're the hope we hold in our thoughts and hearts during the long Minnesota winter.

Backyard critters enjoying June clover and other treats falling from the birdfeeder above.

A long July weekend in northern Minnesota gave me the opportunity to photograph this rainbow over Snowbank Lake after a brief late afternoon thunderstorm.
Thankfully we saw more Monarch butterflies this summer than last year.  An August Monarch took advantage of the Rough Blazing Star blooming in my backyard wildflower garden.

In September, this first year Cooper's Hawk was trying its best to catch one of the birds hanging out on my deck.  Unfortunately, no birds were caught, but I did get the chance to capture this awesome photo!

Fall colors delighted the senses in October.

Early one morning in November, this small buck showed up in the backyard to sample some of the corn we put out for birds and bunnies.

Happy Christmas from me and my pretty girl Holly the Pibble!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

On Being Nice

Three months ago, I started a new part-time job at a convenience store.  Recently at work, one of my co-workers commented on how "nice" I was.  I'm sure she meant it as a compliment, but since we're all working in the same store and for the same organization, I thought her comment was kinda weird and it gave me something to think about....

Here's the mission statement from our store:  "To serve our customers and community more effectively than anyone else by treating our customers, co-workers, and suppliers as we, personally, would like to be treated and to make a difference in someone's life."  Simple, right?  Kind of a variation on the Golden Rule and I like this idea. 

If I walked up to a clerk in the store only to have them speak to me in a fast and impatient way, I'd be really put off by that.  And sadly, I've seen and heard several co-workers who respond to customers that way.  Yes, I know we're busy and yes, I see there are 6 customers waiting in line, but can we not still show each customer a few moments of courtesy and kindness? 

Years ago (>15 yrs) when I worked for an employer that utilized "peer reviews" for our annual appraisals, one of my co-workers stated that I was impatient and difficult to get along with (she was an extremely sensitive person and I probably was).  Sadly, that review stayed in my personnel file and prevented me from transferring to any other work areas at that company, because no supervisor wanted a "meany" working for them.  I eventually left the company, but the comments in that review haunt me to this day. 

Now, lest you think I'm a truly lovely person, let me set the record straight right here -- I'm Not!!  If thought bubbles were visible, I would have not made it past my first week at this new job.  I see a lot of things that truly piss me off and it's hard to bite my tongue and be the person who comes in and pays for Funyuns & a 12-pack or Mountain Dew with their EBT card, or the person who comes into "my" clean bathroom and creates a shit explosion that I have to clean up, or the person who does a gas drive-off for $93 on a pump I authorized.  However, to counteract that, there are all kinds of nice people who come in and really make my day better. 

There's no way to know what some of these people are dealing with in their lives, we have lots of senior citizen customers who maybe don't have any family members nearby and are lonely.  We have truckers who are only an hour or so away from home, but end up spending the nite because they are at their maximum hours for driving.  Many travelers stop by our store in the middle of a trip:  to a funeral, taking their child to college, or returning from a 24-hour vigil at the hospital where a grandchild just had surgery.  It's my pleasure to take a few minutes to talk with them.  Maybe I'll never see them again, but hopefully they will remember their visit to my store and possibly stop in the future, or at one of our other stores, based solely on the fact that someone was "nice" to them at a previous store visit.

So yeah, I think I'll just keep on being nice (at least when I'm being paid for it....)  Simple to do and makes most everyone feel better.  And if my co-workers think I'm weird, well, I guess that's their problem.  I'm not going to lose any sleep over it, cuz I know when I'm the customer in any store, even if I have to wait, I'm always going to choose that "nice" cashier I had on a previous visit.

So I'll end this rant with my standard farewell for my customers, "Thanks for stopping.  Please come see us again!" 


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy 2014 Everyone! I hope all of you survived the "Polar Vortex" with no lingering difficulties. Minnesotans expect this sort of weather in January, but I feel especially bad for folks in other areas of the U.S. who don't have the resources to deal with extreme cold and snowy conditions. Earlier this week we hit -25, not a new record, but still TFC for most of us. Fortunately the cold snap lasted only a few days. Yesterday we had temps above freezing and some freezing drizzle early in the day which changed over to light snow in the evening. That soft ice coating on the trees caught and held the snowflakes quite nicely and we woke up to a winter wonderland. Here are some of the images I captured while filling birdfeeders earlier this morning. Hope you enjoy them from the comfort of your warm house!

The butterfly garden is waiting for spring -- hopefully only 4 more months!
Frosty asparagus remains
Highbush cranberries will be a tasty treat for robins when the come back in spring

These were purple coneflower blossoms last summer

Swamp milkweed -- seeds have scattered in the wind

 Kokopelli windchime still dances from a tree branch

The birds have picked all the seed from this small sunflower clean
Crabapples provide a treat for chickadees, cardinals & starlings
A lone oak leaf remains on this tree
Apples that didn't get picked provide a feast for bunnies & deer
Common mullein
A frosty apple ornament still hanging on the tree
Mountain ash berries -- we've found that deer love feasting on these!
Frosty evergreen
Enjoy the beauty of winter!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Annual Pilgrimage to Crex Meadows

Last weekend, my sister, Holly the Pibble and I piled into the car for the annual visit to Crex Meadows in Grantsburg, Wisconsin to experience the Sandhill Crane migration.  I love Crex Meadows, it's one of my most favorite places in the world.  I could easily spend a couple days just driving around on all the roads through the wildlife area to see what's going on.  There are so many different types of habitat there, so you never know what you're going to see.  We were pretty excited to see these two adult Bald Eagles sitting on an Osprey nesting platform.

I did manage to get a photo of this pair in flight also.

There's a lot of water in the Crex Meadows wildlife area, from lakes to rivers and small streams and creeks.  This guarantees spectacular photo opportunities around almost every curve.....

The tamaracks were all displaying their golden fall colors.  It was neat to see them interspersed with the evergreens.  (Green & gold was appropriate for this adventure in Packer land!)

Holly is a very good traveler and loves any sort of new adventure.  She was happy the weather was warm enough to keep her head out the window.

Some parts of the wildlife area are quite boggy and this area of Wisconsin hadn't experienced a killing frost yet this fall, so I found these pretty fungi when Holly and I went off-road for a little walk.  Don't know what they are, but I thought they made a really pretty photo.

Pretty yellow leaves covered the roadway in this area sheltered from the strong winds.

And, of course we saw the sandhill cranes.  They are one of my favorite birds and I was thrilled to see this pair standing in an open field close to the road.

And there were plenty of flock flyovers also.  Such beautiful birds in flight.  I never get tired of watching them and even though this was a really quick and short trip, I'm glad we took the time to visit Crex Meadows again.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Holly the Pibble Rocks (& Walks!)

Next Saturday (May 4th) we're scheduled to participate in our second pet walk fundraiser for the shelter we got Holly from.  The theme  for this years' walk is "Rescue Rocks" and they've got a very cool t-shirt design to go commemorate the walk.  (I even found an awesome bandana for Holly to wear that coordinates nicely with the t-shirt design.) 

This post is to let you know about the walk and ask if any of you would like to help us reach our fundraising goal of $300 here's the link to our on-line fundraising page (click here).  We would sure appreciate your generosity if you're able to donate.  Plus for any donations of $10 or more Holly will send a special thank-you gift!

Holly also has her own Facebook page!  If you're on Facebook, you can become a fan and get regular updates on Holly who has a much more exciting life than I do! 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Checking out the Survey Route

To maintain my active volunteer Master Naturalist status, 8 hours of continuing education and 40 hours of volunteer activity must be logged for each calendar year.  Last week, my sister notified me of a Frog & Toad Survey project coming up this spring/summer and the Minnesota DNR was looking for volunteers to work on this project.  I was definitely interested and checked out their website to apply for a route.  Fortunately, there was a route available in rural Fillmore County, not too far from where I grew up.  I sent in my application and found out late last week that I had been accepted for this route.  Hooray!  Since the monitoring has to be done after dark and the roads are all mostly unmarked and in a totally rural area, my sissy thought it would be a good idea for us to check out the route in the daylight.  I agreed, mainly because this could also be turned into a birding trip!  Mom was supposed to go along with us, but wasn't feeling well today, so Mr. Johnson & Holly went instead. 

Here you go Mom -- a look at some of the sightings you missed.  We'll take the drive again someday soon when you're feeling better.....

There were still some winter birds hanging around.  We saw plenty of juncos and this nice horned lark who posed very nicely for us in the middle of the road.

A big surprise for me was finding the Minnesota Karst Preserve!  I had read about this cave and knew it was in Fillmore County, but had never taken the time to find it.  If you're a caver, or have any interest in caving at all, you will want to read the book "Opening Goliath" which takes place at this very site in Southeastern Minnesota.

While we were at the intersection of the Minnesota Karst Preserver and the turn to our next survey spot, Mr. Johnson spotted this large bird in the trees just ahead.  Could it be a Red-Tailed Hawk?

Yes, indeed!  Right on cue, this beautiful raptor made its distinctive "keeeyahh" call and took off from its perch so I started snapping pictures.  I especially love being able to capture these "in flight" shots!

There used to be a farmstead here, all that remains is the foundation of a barn and this windmill.

We drove through all types of habitat on this route -- tilled farmland, grasslands, and even some woods.  My observant sissy spotted this deer in the woods.  She's got good eyes, until this deer moved, it had blended in so well, I almost missed it.

In another tree near an old cemetery, a Rough Legged Hawk was perched.  Of course it decided to fly away as soon as the car slowed down, but I still managed to snap a few photos -- here's the best one.

The end of our survey route was pretty close to Preston, so we stopped for an early supper at our favorite restaurant, The Branding Iron.  We had a really fun afternoon and were glad that we took the time to explore this route in the light of day because it's going to be a little tougher in the darkness of this totally rural area.  We thought our adventures were done for the day and my camera and binoculars were already stowed away in the trunk, but on our drive home, Mr. Johnson spotted something in the ditch.  We stopped the car so I could get the camera out and then turned around to see if I could get photos of this last and best sighting of the day.

There it is!  Can you see that big dark spot in the ditch?  A Turkey Vulture feasting on a dead deer!

Aw cool!  Of course, it didn't want to stick around with a car driving past slowly.

By this time I had my car window rolled down and I was halfway out the window snapping pictures as fast as my camera could go.

Because you see, it's not very often you get the chance to photograph a Turkey Vulture up close, and certainly not with the sunset shining through its wings!

I know some people think they're ugly and horrible birds, but I also know for a fact that there are many of us who think they're fascinating and beautiful birds. 

What an awesome way to end a very special birding adventure with my loved ones.