Thursday, July 24, 2014

Oops, is this better?

Couldn't stand the lousy iPhone picture in yesterday's post so I recaptured it this morning with the Nikon.  Blooms are a day older, but I think this is better, don't you?  And it's 'Blue Skies', not 'Blue Girl'.  I don't grow 'Blue Girl'.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Heavenly Glory

Yesterday morning, in the cool dawn, I was out with my camera trying to immortalize a few new roses in the soft light of the sunrise.  I moved quickly throughout the garden, pausing here and there, eyes looking down, studying flowers and insects and cracks in the clay.  I pulled up a few prominent weeds, pondered when to move a particularly striking daylily, and checked the Japanese Beetle trap for prisoners.  I was lost, lost in the world at my feet, lost in the microsphere of green foliage and silken petals.

Suddenly, the bray of a donkey caused me to look up and opened my eyes to greater possibilities.  Over my neighbor's house, the sun of the new day was kissing the clouds as it rose.  Kansas, my friends, is a vast series of trials for a gardener, a punishing mix of drought and wind and harsh sunlight.  But we receive payment for our tribulations in the form of magnificent sunrises, golden rays of pure pleasure melting into pastel palettes of perfection.  It is these moments, stopped dead in mid-step by a glorious heaven, that I desperately try to freeze in memory and then carry into eternity.  Sheer beauty, waiting to be noticed by the puny gardener.

Oh, the rose photos didn't turn out so bad either.  Morning light brings out the best colors here, before the afternoon sun tires the blooms and washes them pale.  I've taken some better pictures of 'Blue Girl' with my Nikon than this mildly blurry picture with an iPhone shows, but this moment on the same morning couldn't be missed.  Whether on iPhone or Nikon, my best moments are captured in the morning, and so I rise with the sun, greeted by the sunshine, and joyful in each new day.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Fence-Sitters & Ground-huggers

Western Meadowlark
On the prairie there are few bushes and even fewer large trees for birds to perch on or hide in.  The endless grasses provide ample chances of concealment, but there are few opportunities to seek the high ground, to scan for approaching danger or food.  Consequently, most of the prairie birds can be characterized as either "ground-huggers" or "fence-sitters."  

The ground-huggers are elusive creatures, hidden both day and night, often nearby, but revealed only when they are disturbed, if then.  I've yet to see a Greater or Lesser Prairie Chicken, but I've heard their spring mating calls.  In contrast, I've often been startled by quail exploding at my feet.  Killdeer and Common Nighthawk, and turkeys are more abundant.  Getting a photo of any ground hugger, however, is difficult at best and requires more patience than I'm made of. 

The fence-sitters use any manmade or natural elevation to gain advantage, and although they are easier to spot, they are just as difficult to photograph.  They're able to see me coming a long way away, and hence they tax the abilities of my largest lense and my ability to hold it steady.  I was lucky however, last week, to capture these shots of the Meadowlark seen above and to the right.  This is probably a Western Meadowlark, but I'm told that I can't reliably tell Western from Eastern outside of song.  This guy was singing his head off, but I'm afraid I don't yet know the tune. 

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Even more fortuitously, I was happy to snatch  these blurry photographs of this Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher living nearby.  This beautiful male has been coming back every summer for five years to the Osage Orange tree across from my driveway. I often see him sitting on the fence in the early morning as I drive to work.  He always flits away just as I'm about to get within good photo range, every time that I stop the car and roll down the window, or even when I'm on foot trying to sneak up on him.  The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher's natural range is only up to the northern border of Kansas, so this guy is pushing the limits of his species.

I'm lucky to be blessed with his acrobatic performance flying from time to time, the aptly-named scissortail sailing like a kite in the wind;  A kite in the wind over a sea of endless grass, floating and buoyant on the currents of summer air.  I just wish he'd let me be closer before he soars, so I could properly admire the beauty of grace married to perfect form, the envy of many an aerospace engineer.

Ground-huggers and fence-sitters, the birds of the tallgrass prairie.  Each adapted in their way to hide or to flee, to fly for life and food, or to run for their life deeper into the grass.  Each successful at that most important game, survival and reproduction, over and over, on and on.         


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