Venting!

So…earlier posts in the season demonstrated an all-out war between House Sparrows and Northern Flickers, as they fought for dibs on a vent across from my kitchen window.  In the end, the vent remained abandoned for the first round of nesting and egg-laying.  Well, not to be discouraged, look what’s happened.  Strange thing is, this morning two separate males were helping this young lady out.  I recognize the one male as the ‘old guy’ who was widowed earlier this year and the other as being the Casanova (thin, young and with a smoothed back feather style) that I observed when the male Northern Flicker showed up. This is a new female to this location. Don’t know what’s to come of all of it, but I plan on reading about the potential of such scenarios in nature.

Enjoy the slide show…this is a brief collection…two days out of four and a trip every 30 seconds or so, unloading grasses and nesting materials!  Such industry!

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For The Birds: May 19 – 27, 2018

I was down in southern Alberta for the long weekend and basically just sighted a lot of Mourning Doves and heard a lot of Mourning Doves.  For a good part of the weekend, it rained.  It was cozy inside with my auntie.  Walking the dog…early morning and in the quiet of evening, I loved the light and quiet of small town Magrath.

Back here at home, I’ve made visits to Frank’s Flats (the pond) and to the Bow River every day.  I guess I’ve got some questions about some of the birds I’ve spotted.

High School biology students have been down at the edge of the pond, collecting leeches again.  I’ve spoken to one of the Biology teachers…again mentioning that it isn’t the greatest of times for such activities, given that we have four Red Necked Grebe nests and a Black Crowned Heron nest, as well as countless other nests that are active.  She told me that this year they made certain that they told the kids to protect and watch for bird nests.  However, the way in which they were gallumphing about, the Red Winged Black birds were truly freaking.  Damage done.

I’ll post some of my photos…some not very focused, but, keep in mind that I am a bird enthusiast…not so much a photographer.

May 23rd Uploads

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Song Sparrow

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Mr.

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Male and Female Mallard…loved the colours here.

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Watched this chump cool off in shallow water.  Robin

May 25th Uploads

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Female Red Winged Blackbird

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Male Red Winged Blackbird

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Savannah Sparrow

May 26th Uploads

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Yellow Warbler Bow River’s Edge

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Song Sparrow

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Bow River Rising…Many upset Canada Goose couples

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Is this a female Brown-headed Cowbird?

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Dunno?

May 27th Downloads

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Mr. and Mrs. enjoying a Sunday morning over the river.

The Magestic Bald Eagle Takes a Bath!

I would typically do a little segment for the past week and title it ‘For the Birds’ featuring all of the birds I have observed for a week. But, after this evening’s observations at the Bow River,  I decided to make a post that does its best to capture a Bald Eagle taking a bath.  Again, I can’t promise crisp-edged images, but one thing is for certain, I have captured some pretty awesome facial expressions. Do Bald Eagles have faces? (likely heads…not faces…but, you’ll see what I mean)  Some little slide shows.  May 16, 2018

The mosquitoes were out and the electric blue wild violets were in bloom.

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The river is moving fast and the water level is moving up.  Over the past two weeks, I’ve been taking photographs at a single spot along the shore and will use those over the coming days for comparison.

Here’s our Eagle…

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A series of four…check out the fourth slide.  It makes me laugh so hard.

 

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I consider it an honour to be able to spend so much time observing unlikely magic at the river.  I don’t take any of it for granted.  I’ll find a piece of music to play while the slide show runs.

My father’s birthday, May 14, 2018

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Black-crowned Night Heron: 2018

I just wanted to make a quick post.  I’m elated that a pair of Black-crowned Night Herons has returned to Frank’s Flats (not to be mistaken for Frank Lake), this season.  I’ve watched the adults and juveniles at this pond location for about five years, a couple of years after I began my daily circling of these wetlands.  I purchased my Canon Powershot camera the third season I watched them.  I’ve captured the odd successful photograph since, but mostly out of focus bits from places well outside my zone. This photo from 2017 captured the gesture of the birds amazing feet/legs.

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They have this way of looking other-worldly…the red eyes…fantastic!

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It has also been explained to me that these beautiful and amusing males have long plumes at the crown that dominate during mating season.  I particularly enjoy this article that describes them as ‘masters of motionlessness’!  Somewhere in my archives I have my very first siting of a Night Heron at this location.  I will add it later.  I can remember how excited I was.

I particularly enjoyed watching the seeming-connection between the two juveniles of last season…they were wonderful to watch…early articulations, flying together, hiding together and practicing their fishing together.

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There has been such destructive development that has come with the South West Ring Road (Stoney Trail) that oft-times people like me who are crazy about birds feel their blood boil.  It has been difficult to watch the huge impact of human encroachment.  Such a dramatic loss of natural plants/shrubs and trees!  Loss of water sources…loss of shoreline and the addition of many fence systems, barriers and pavement.  It’s a wonder this sort of magic can surface in the fray.

Yesterday, I watched an adult Black-crowned Night Heron feeding on minnows/small fish for quite some time.  Statuesque stillness and then a flash of motion, followed by a big gulp and then repeat.  I think I laughed out loud.  These images, again, taken from a huge distance, but they capture the gesture of the experience.

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For the Birds! First Week of May 2018.

As I scroll ,daily, through the profoundly detailed images and exquisite moments photographed by my friends in Alberta Birds, I feel modesty take hold while I peruse my own captures of the week.  However, for my own enjoyment, I’m going to contain some of my own favourite bird memories in this single post, so that I don’t lose sight of the wonderful visual memories of this past week.  Since Venting! Again!  neither sparrows nor flickers have settled in.  Honestly, I have not seen a single appearance of either.  What??

So…I’ve focused my attentions to my little place at the Bow River and also, a stop at the Frank’s Flats to see who has come to town after a horrendous amount of development along the Southwest Ring Road/Stoney Trail.

Monday April 30, 2018

The spectacular thing about Monday was watching the mating rituals of two lovely geese in a quiet wetlands spot down near the river.  Dipping their heads and long necks into the water over and over again, the movements looked like a ballet, when finally Mr. mounted Mrs., her head fully submerging into the water and bearing his full weight on her back.  Once finished, only moments later, they continued in a choreographed ritual of arching and extending necks, until finally they swam to the shore where they continued preening like a couple of lovesick mates.

Tuesday May 1, 2018

A year of watching Bald Eagles and their behaviours from a distance…learning all of the time.

Wednesday May 2, 2018

Song Sparrow doing the splits and filling the world with a lovely song.

Northern Flicker at Bow River’s edge.

Mourning Dove

Thursday May 3, 2018

I saw my grandson and my daughter.  I am so blessed by them. Three nesting couples of Red Necked Grebes are back.

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The Red Winged Blackbird males are very visible at both the river and the pond…it’s good to hear their songs again.

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This year I’ve especially enjoyed the Song Sparrow’s melodic string of notes…overpowers everything for me.

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Female Mallard in a Magpie nest…

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Tree Swallows have been very entertaining.  Love watching their antics as they weave in and out of the tall trees.

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Heavenly observations at many different spots along the river.

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Friday May 4, 2018

A late evening walk at the river after a day of exploring space with Grade six students.  I live a beautiful life.  Sometimes I forget that and think that it is an ordinary life.  When I see the archive set down, I feel differently.

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Saturday May 5, 2018

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A bush that I photographed every day for almost a year…just checking in.

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Savannah Sparrow…a different song…just so lovely!

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Always looking at these guys…waiting for the females to return.  They typically arrive two weeks after the males.  This year is so much later than last, as I look at 2017 archives.

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Not certain what these are…a type of Merganser yet to be identified.

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And the Red Necked Grebes were out on a bit of a flotilla on yesterday!  It’s been an awesome week with the birds!

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Post Script: No sooner had I finished this post…closed it down…put the memory card back in the camera…got up to start tidying for the day and Max went crazy over the voice of the Northern Flicker!  Sure enough, when I stepped up to the kitchen window…there he was! He’s been rat a tat tatting inside the vent ever since.

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Venting…Again!

I give up on trying to understand who has or is going to claim territory where the vent is concerned. It truly seemed that the Northern Flicker had dominated the space for a few days, anyway.

On April 29, 2018 I made my first sighting of a female, but have never seen her from the kitchen window. If she’s hanging about, she’s being very secretive.

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On April 30, 2018 this goofus was observed hammering away at the interior of the vent. He seemed just a little frustrated and a video of the event would be most entertaining, but this is what we have, folks.

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I was out to the pharmacy to pick up some Buckley’s, on my father’s recommendation, and when I got home, light was fading and I saw a protrusion from the vent. THIS! I think we’d all agree that would not, in any way, represent a House Sparrow nest, so I was left thinking that perhaps Mr. and Mrs. Flicker had decided to settle down, maybe have some babies…it looks that way to me.

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It was a tough night of coughing and spewing, sleeping and waking and half sleeping and half waking. I found myself reading several chapters and drinking a full glass of orange juice at 3 a.m. At some point, I passed out again. I got up by 8 this morning. My son had already made a pot of coffee, so there was that comforting aroma in the air. I looked out the kitchen window to find the nesting material gone, but not on the ground below. Must be pushed in, right? hmmmm

I’ve seen our buddy only once today…and he hung for what seemed an eternity, simply looking into the black chasm of this piece of prime real estate.

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In the meantime, crazy shenanigans involving the House Sparrows carried on throughout my random observatuons…in and out, in and out, seeming to test fate at every entrance into the prized abode.

I think that Mr. Handsome, here, is the young fellow little Missy would like to settle down with. Remember the slicked back hairdo?

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But, this is the guy who wishes to win favour…looking a little pushy, me thinks.

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This little girl has been on the defense whenever I’ve observed her today, being threatened and chased by several males. It seems so violent to me. And all at the same time, it is unclear who dominates this location. It still seems there is no real winner.

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I know this for certain, however…this is Mr. Widow Sparrow…evicted some time ago. He remains depleted on my fence, observing as I do, all of the goings-on in the very place he had once chosen for his home. You’ll hear from me again, on this subject, when we have youngsters…not a minute before.

May 1, 2018

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You Know You Want to Ask!!

Meet Mrs. Flicker!

Upon my return to the house last evening, I saw this guy…he looked like he had been through the mill…he looked hot…he looked weary…but, heck if he was going to give up!  The new House Sparrow couple were moving from fence to eaves to fence to eaves, chattering and shouting at the top of their lungs.  Mr. Flicker just panted at them and then took to the air, chasing them both deep into my back yard.  It was very dramatic and I said to my son, “I don’t know why he wants that vent anyway…he can’t find a Mrs!  There are no contenders!”

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Evicted….after quite a dispute.

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Well…it’s amazing what a new day can bring!

I made my pot of coffee.  Max and I got up early this morning so that I could attend 9:00 Mass.  I curled in to the red couch and scratched his ear for a while.  It is after this initial relaxation each morning that Max and I walk to each of the windows to see what’s going on in the neighbourhood.

Quite a change in weather!  It was both windy and very grey.  Rain clouds were gathering.  I decided to get Max out to the park for some ball-throwing…but, before I did, I took a look at the back.  May Day is sprouting green…so beautiful to see.  Soon her boughs will be covered with aromatic white blossoms.  Movement!  Are you kidding?  Quick, I whispered to myself…”Get the camera!”  If I don’t whisper, Max barks loudly, especially where Northern Flickers are involved.  He can hear one coming by a mile!

Readers…meet Mrs. Flicker!  I think I laughed out loud.  She’s a doll and I’m sure my readers will agree…and, she is a first for me as I’ve only ever seen males.  And, if she and Mr. settle in across from my kitchen window, I will possibly see fledglings for the first time, some weeks from now.  One thing’s for certain, Mr. chased the House Sparrows away.  Patience and determination are sometimes rewarded.

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The Plot Thickens

As I looked out my kitchen window, yesterday afternoon, I observed new developments.  Dad Sparrow had been evicted days prior as I watched a male Northern Flicker move into town every morning for weeks.  In fact, now I realize that little Mrs. is the little girl that hit my window one night during a snow storm, having likely left the nest under duress at the time.  Mr. has been alone ever since, having determinedly defended the nest for about five days.  Finally, he abandoned the warm space for a place on my fence, barking unhappily ever since.

First nesters before the bad winter storms hit.  They had been collecting nesting materials for a week when this portrait was taken.

Early April storms and I gathered this wee lady into a warm towel and brought her into the house.  She had been sitting in the shelter of my bird feeder for two days and had hit my window in the night of the second day.  I found her, with beak buried in snow at the base of my fence.  By morning, she had passed.Mr. remained vigilant at the nest until you-know-who showed up and you’ve all been privy to my long winded blah blah about the eviction.

Well, yesterday, new developments.

First I noticed a male House Sparrow prior to heading for the river.  This was definitely our Mr. Perhaps the male Northern Flicker was gone and disinterested in the site.

When I returned home…this.

Was our fellow trying again?  Had he found another Mrs.?  For days he had been wailing on the fence wall.

Not long after…HE’S BACK!

Time passes….and on April 27, we have a new couple shopping for real estate…quite unaware that the villain has gone hunting for the ladies…again.  No nesting materials were brought in, but a lot of analysis was being made.  She is a pretty little thing.

New Mr. has quite a slicked back look compared to Mr. #1 who I have since photographed on the fence, while this insanely handsome young man decides that he is strong enough and determined enough to steal this place from the Flicker.

Poor sad sack…an older and more experienced fellow, but without a Mrs. and without the will to take the pecking of a Northern Flicker. 

Mr. and Mrs. work painstakingly at gathering nesting materials all morning of April 28, just to have this guy show up and tell the whole bunch of them that he’s got this property in hand.  (at the time of this photograph, New Mrs. is inside the vent…I’ll bet she’s shaking in her boots.  She flew out right behind him. As the Northern Flicker takes a place on my roof, the two of them make a statement about their intentions…and so, the plot continues. Oh!  The struggle for a place in the world!  The pain is real!

 

Walk With Our Sisters: Calgary

I sit here eating a hot bowl of hamburger soup for breakfast, nursing a cold that after days, seems to hang in.  The soup is comforting and healing.

There are no photographs on this particular post, but a link, here, for everything you might want to find out.  Calgary’s Walk With Our Sisters memorial installation has been two years in the works (maybe more) and has traveled Canada.  It has just a few more visits and will be retired to Batoche. This stop in Calgary is an amazing opportunity for us to connect with the journey…to think about our sisters who are missing and murdered and to think of their families and friends.  It is important for us to honour their lives and their life force because these sisters remain with us, as long as we remember.

As you will see, there are opportunities for volunteers throughout the coming weeks.  All are welcome.  Orientations are offered, but it was made clear yesterday, at my own orientation,  no volunteer will be turned away.

As most of you know, at the onset of Canada’s 150, I decided that I wanted to embark on a journey of gathering knowledge and understanding about Canada’s Indigenous Peoples.  I didn’t know how to begin.  Sable Sweetgrass hosted an online book club and this peeked my interest, so I began to read along and reflect on the authors and books that we were reading.  It was Sable who told me about the book club at Forest Lawn Public Library, hosted by Indigenous Pride with 12CSI and 12CSI Community Safety Initiative.

I attended my first monthly gathering at the library some time after that, intending to read a book a month, for a year, with a focus on Indigenous authors.  After bonding with this group and having my mind and awareness open up, I decided that I wanted to continue with the group and to enter into my own personal journey with Truth and Reconciliation and the 94 calls to action.  Michelle Robinson has been key in my life as an agent of change and her embrace is assisting me in becoming fearless in this journey.  I can not judge what other Canadians do with the knowledge of Residential Schools or with the initial shock of colonial movement across our nation.  I am responsible, first, to grow in knowledge and then to go forward to be a strong advocate on behalf of our brothers and sisters.

I was invited to volunteer with Walk With Our Sisters and this has also expanded my knowledge.  As a result, I am inviting all of my readers to participate at some level during the weeks ahead.

Last week, a lovely group of women gathered to tie tobacco and I grew new friendships and new knowledge.  I really love the fact that working with our hands created such a warm community feeling.  My mother would have loved it.

Yesterday, I attended an orientation and was blessed by Autumn EagleSpeaker’s clear and welcoming approach. Autumn is a strong woman who is a source of inspiration for these coming days.  It was evident how she has inspired so many others on this journey.  I am grateful for our meeting.  I was further blessed to  meet Christi Belcourt, artist and visionary where this memorial is concerned.  We were given an extended opportunity to preview the work that has been done to this point and to be given more information about the ceremony and protocol involved.

I loved being given the story of the shape of the Calgary installation, with consideration for the two rivers, the elbow, the native plants and medicines and the dress.  The configuration of the vamps has been very specific to each city’s Indigenous peoples along the way, while the vamps themselves represent and include a wide variety of peoples, even expanding beyond international borders.

I am really looking forward to my shift later on today, the final installation shift prior to the Opening Ceremonies tomorrow afternoon, at 2.  I hope my readers will attend.  I hope that you will even extend this to volunteering a few hours, if it is possible.

Just ending this post with a lovely video of Christi describing the world of plants represented in a large painting in acrylic.  Amazing stuff!

Firsts

This morning, I enjoyed a first…first walk along the river shared with Max, my grandson and my daughter.  It was a beautiful experience for me, so have to quickly archive.

The day began with a coffee on the red couch. Max stared longingly outside…but I wasn’t up for a rush, given that I’m struggling with a really bad cold right now and feel quite the ache all over.

Maxman April 26, 2018

I took a look at the male House Sparrow who also seemed despairing, perched for two full days on my back fence, looking at the vent where he once made a home.

And yes!  That sign does read Be Aware of The Dog, as opposed to Beware of Dog…a gift from my dear friend, Pat.  It makes perfect sense if you one day meet Max.

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At the base of the vent, all of the wee items of bric-a-brac collected over the years have been emptied out.

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No sign of Northern Flicker this morning.

All this aside, once out of my pajamas and into my sloppy clothes, I did a little bit of texting with my buddy, Wendy and headed to the river.

Near the Magpie Tree and saying ‘hi’ to Max.

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Mother Bald Eagle across the river from us…we should have hatching this week.

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Stopping at the Chickadee Wood.

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Stopping quite a bit to watch the fast moving water…the river is different from lake water or the swimming pool water…it makes noise.  Steven was enthralled.

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And the male Bald Eagle gave us a real surprise!  He rarely perches on this side of the river and I noticed him just as we were stepping toward this tree.  I quickly grabbed a couple of photographs, but directed Erin to follow me, away from the location…so as not to crowd him.  Sadly, before I could set up to take a well-focused photograph, he lifted off right in front of us and flew across the river.

I told Erin that it was a real blessing for Steven that this gentleman was waiting for us…a very unusual and amazing experience.

When an eagle appears, you are on notice to be courageous and stretch your limits. Do not accept the status quo, but rather reach higher and become more than you believe you are capable of. Look at things from a new, higher perspective. Be patient with the present; know that the future holds possibilities that you may not yet be able to see. You are about to take flight.

History

The indigenous peoples saw the Eagle as a symbol for great strength, leadership and vision. As if to seemingly mirror this, the eagle has been used as a ‘banner’ by many of the great empires throughout history, from Babylon to Egypt, through to Rome and even the United States. In early Christianity the eagle was seen as a symbol of hope and strength, representing salvation. The eagle appears twice in the book of Revelation; both times in a context that suggests it is on the side of God. In Islam, the eagle represents warlike ferocity, nobility and dominion.

In ancient Aztec tradition, the chief god told people to settle at a place where they find an eagle perched on a cactus eating a snake. This place is now Mexico City. Zeus changed into the form of the sacred eagle to help himself control thunder and lightning. The eagle was a strong emblem in the Roman Empire. The Hittites drew upon a double-headed eagle so that they would never be surprised. The Pueblo Indians associated the eagle with the energies of the sun – physical and spiritual – as well as symbols of greater sight and perception.

It may not be coincidence that such different cultures across thousands of years have adopted the same symbol.

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It was a magical morning, being with these two!

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Home building and insect eating.

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After our walk and as we returned to the parking lot, I looked up from the edge of the river, and saw Mr. perched nearer the nest and directly across from me.  I stooped and found a river stone to give to my grandson…a moment of today’s first.   In the water, the stone was golden smooth.  I love this little boy with my whole heart and my heart sings that I had  this opportunity.

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