a photoblog of God's handiwork.

Archive for April, 2012

Tenants, Drifters and Freeloaders

I was able to stay close to home most of the last week, and the nice weather and longer days allowed me to get in a little evening photography just for fun and practice.  I’ve been honing my bird deception tricks (see Hide ‘n Seek), using a small, portable set of speakers for my iPad to play bird calls.  I took them out for a test drive on Wednesday, and was really tickled by how well it worked.  If you’ve ever seen the Hitchcock movie, The Birds, you will have an idea of how well it worked with the Chickadees and Nuthatches!  For awhile they were truly swarming around me, and landing within inches of my position.  The Ravens and Flickers responded, but still kept a fair amount of distance from me.  Until Thursday night, the temperature had been getting into the low-80’s during the days, and the ground was drying up.  In order to keep the birds from scattering too far, I artificially maintained a mud puddle in our driveway-this also proved successful!  Since Thursday, we’ve had steady rain with some intermittent snow, so I won’t be adding water to the potholes in the lane again for awhile!  So, here are some of the visitors and residents at  The 20-Acre Wood during the past week: [As usual, clicking on the images will display larger images, which you can then scroll through.]

The Grounds-keeping crew: The Mule Deer know we hate mowing the lawn, so we had 13 of them contracted to do the job!

White-breasted Nuthatches are tree creepers, and are rarely seen on the ground. Evidently the mud puddle was too enticing for this guy to resist!

A more traditional pose and habitat for the White-breasted Nuthatch.

A typical pose from this Red-breasted Nuthatch.

A Red-breasted Nuthatch trying to figure out where my bird call originates.

Even the Mountain Bluebirds took a turn at the mud puddle.

Meet Tobi, the caprine matriarch of The 20-Acre Wood

The “kids” enjoying some playtime during the nice weather.

Thus says the Lord of hosts…’I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are on the ground, by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and have given it to whom it seemed proper to Me.’ Jeremiah 27:5

Shroud over Zion

After being snowed-out at the Grand Canyon earlier this month (Who Stole the Grand Canyon), Alesia and I worked our way northward to Zion National Park.  To some degree, the weather was improved, but low clouds lingered, limiting our view of the higher elevation peaks and rock formations.  Still, we spent a few hours at the park, taking in what scenery was not obscured, and enjoying a day when the weather kept visitation minimal.  (Mouse-over the slideshow below to access controls.)

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My daughter and I had a brief visit at Zion National Park in February, which was documented in Zion: Stone for a Foundation.  You may want to visit that post to see some images from the western side of the park.

When first seen, the massive and spectacular rock formations at Zion National Park appear impregnable, but they are constantly weathering away by the forces of wind, water and temperature.  The image of Checkerboard Mesa shows obvious horizontal fissures caused by scouring wind, and vertical grooves etched by water flowing down the mountain.  A similar metaphor in the Book of Job is used to describe God’s rebuking power against our sinful lives.  When we live our lives apart from His will, in His anger He can wear us down.  It is because of His love for us that He does these things.  His purpose is to get us to a point of submission and obedience, that we may learn to walk in His righteousness, not that of our own.  And when we finally get to that point, then we can look forward to sharing in the other Zion, the kingdom of God.

But as a mountain falls and crumbles away,
And as a rock is moved from its place;
As water wears away stones,
And as torrents wash away the soil of the earth;
So You destroy the hope of man.  (Job 14:18-19)

Me? A Nominee?

It seems that His Creation has been nominated for the Reader Appreciation Award.  This nomination came from Karen at  Wyoming Life, a spot where she discusses the botany and culture of one of the wildest states in the U.S.A.  I encourage you to check out her blog, and appreciate the subtle beauty of nature she presents.

Two rules that nominees of this award need to follow are; 1) link the award image back to the nominator site, and 2) nominate six other blogs for this award.  With the image linked back to Karen, I have the privilege of making the following nominations (in random order):

lilies, sparrows and grass:  The messages and prose that Dee offers are often poignant, compelling and timeless, and always worth reading!

Thoughts from the Porch:  I feel like I’ve known April for years, but I’ve only been following her blog for a few months.  She has a unique way of weaving everyday life with antidotes for Spiritual well-being.

Bay Photos by Donna:  Donna has a backyard that would make any photographer jealous!  While she focuses on following the local osprey, she also shares with us a variety of other wildlife from the Chesapeake Bay area.

Walk Good:  Josh is a Christian minister and counselor who talks with you, not at or over you!  I find his messages pertinent and applicable to enhancing a daily walk with Christ.

5 G’s and a Cup of Joe:  God, Guns, Grub, Ground and Gold, pretty much sums up what Vernon (aka Regular Joe) tends to discuss.  Some might consider Regular Joe to be right-leaning, but as a fellow Montanan, I’d say he’s centrist!

Going Dutch:  What does a girl from the Philippines do when she marries a man from Holland and then lives there?  Well, Malou takes in all the sights of the countryside, sharing images of vast fields of brilliant flowers, castles, cultural snapshots and some cuisine.  Touring through her blog is almost like taking a European vacation!

Congratulations to the new nominees!

Arizona Birding

If you’ve been following this blog, you already know that we encountered some wintry conditions on our trip through the southwest.  However, we did have some nice weather in the Phoenix area for a couple days before heading into the weather.  I spent a few hours at the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert, and the following day Alesia joined me for a day at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.  As was the case last year, both locations were teeming with wildlife, particularly of the avian variety.  I had a couple birds on my wishlist, wanting to get better images than I made the previous year; Northern Cardinals and Phainopepla were at the top of my list.

Click on the thumbnails below for larger images:

I hope you enjoy the awesome beauty of these wonderful works of the Lord’s creative power.  You can see some of last years pictures in The Rejoicing Desert gallery or at The Desert Shall Rejoice and Blossom, from May 2011.

Just Kiddin’

It is that time of year again here at the 20-Acre Wood.  Kidding season is always accompanied by a lot of activity, as we welcome the new crop of goat kids to the world.  Only six does to kid this year, and we are halfway done.  [Edit: Actually we are kidding 8 does and have 5 yet to go!]  I say “we,” but it is actually Alesia and Leah doing the work…I get to take pictures!  Thought I’d share a few shots from the past couple days.

Leah with Duchess and her kids at 1 week of age

Duchess' kids a few days later, after dehorning

Happy Birthday Annie!

Only minutes old, and Annabelle is getting her first licking!

Just in case you’re wondering why we have goats, I thought I’d answer that question.  The base breed we have is Toggenburg, which is a dairy breed.  So Alesia milks them and she and Lauren drink the milk, but they also do a lot of cooking and baking with it and make cheese.  Alesia also makes goat milk soap, which she markets on her website, Hearts Toward Him.  But really, they just provide a whole bunch of entertainment!

“Know well the condition of your flocks, And pay attention to your herds,…And there will be goat’s milk enough for your food, And for the food of your household, And sustenance for your maidens.” Proverbs 27:23, 27

Who Stole the Grand Canyon?

Does doing the same thing two years in a row constitute a tradition?  If so, I just returned from my “traditional” April trip to Arizona.  Last year I spent most of my tourist-time in and around Phoenix, exploring several areas in search of photo ops.  My bride, Alesia, joined me on this year’s trip, flying into Mesa, AZ, where I picked her up for a touring road-trip back to Montana.  Near the top of our to-do list was a visit to Grand Canyon National Park.  She vaguely remembers seeing it as a child and I had never seen it, so we were both anxiously looking forward to taking in the majesty of this geographical marvel.  However, that tradition thing got in the way at this point.  You see, last year heavy rain and cold weather joined me on my trip south, creating some obvious challenges to wildlife and nature photography.  This year was similar, but worse, as snow decided to join us, as well!  How bad was it?  Maybe this image will give you a hint…

Driving along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon

Living in the north-country, we don’t scare easily from a little snowfall.  However, traveling through snow and sightseeing in snow are two entirely different things!  We made our way to the edge of the canyon near Yavapai Point, and with great expectation we walked to the edge to view this amazing site…

Yavapai Point of the Grand Canyon

As you might imagine, we were certainly hoping to see something more amazing!  After all, that first scene doesn’t look markedly different than many of our winter landscapes at home.  Having only that day to spend at the Grand Canyon, we determined to wait out the storm, hoping the weather would break and afford us better viewing opportunities.  We wandered around that area for a couple hours, and the snow did let up for a short while.  A couple elk were meandering through the area, following the Grand Canyon Railway through the tourist village.

Elk walking the rail through Grand Canyon National Park

Despite the relief from falling snow, the canyon remained heavily cloud-filled, only offering brief and murky glimpses of what lay below.  Eventually we decided to move on, following the South Rim upstream as we traveled eastward.  Intermittent snow continued through the day, but now and then, for brief interludes, the clouds would break and blue sky and sunshine shone through.  Fortunately we were able to stop at a couple of the canyon overlooks when the conditions provided a better view of the canyon.

Looking easterly, up the Colorado River, from somewhere near Moran Point

Looking westerly, from somewhere near Moran Point on the Grand Canyon

Although we were unable to clearly see the Grand Canyon, we are sure of it’s existence.  We’ve seen the evidence and heard the stories from competent witnesses.  Drawing a parallel to the Creator, we know He exists because of the evidence of His creation.  No, we don’t see Him as a physical being, in fact the Scripture tells us that, “Clouds and darkness surround Him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne” (Psalms 97:2).  Denying the existence of God simply because we can’t see Him is not a sound argument, because there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  I freely admit that faith is a requirement of a Christian worldview, but it actually takes a lot more faith (and really blind faith) to believe in many of the prominent creation theories that modern day science has proposed.  While the Grand Canyon is really a magnificent place, it pales in comparison to many other marvels of creation.  Each of us needs to consider the evidence and determine for ourselves if God exists, but choose wisely, because our eternal well-being is at stake!  “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

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To the end of the age

In the recorded history of man, I believe ravens and doves were the first birds mentioned by name.  In the Biblical account of Genesis chapter 8, Noah released a dove to see if it would find dry land.  Doves are still with us today, and there are a number of species resident in different regions of the world.  Some of the different breeds are so similar that, at a glance, they may appear to be the same.  Where I grew up the Mourning Dove was the commonly seen dove, so when I see one now, that is usually my default identification.  In fact, I had tentatively identified each of the birds below as such, and it wasn’t until I was post-processing the images in Lightroom that I recognized that they were all different.

Mourning Dove

White-winged Dove

Eurasian Collared Dove

Each of these birds has the same general coloration, but also each has very distinctive identification marks.  I have not studied doves in detail, but I have noticed that they are normally pacifistic, in nature.  Maybe this is why doves are often seen as symbols of peace.  Again, the Bible paints them as gentle, attractive animals with highly regarded characteristics.

Today, on Easter Sunday, we Christians celebrate the resurrection of the Prince of Peace, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  As the Biblical account of His life affirms, He was and is peace-loving, while at the same time He despises sin.  Very shortly after He was raised from death, He spoke to the disciples, saying; “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:18-20). There is a lot in this Scripture, and most Christians know it as the Great Commission.  However, there is also a promise of assurance in His words for us.  Jesus knew that there is a lot of danger when sending people across the country to evangelize and share His truth.  While they wouldn’t necessarily be protected from harm and humiliation, having the knowledge that the presence of the Holy Spirit would be with them would allow them to tackle enormous challenges, perform astonishing miracles, and reside with Him when their time on Earth was done.  As the dove has been with us throughout the age of mankind, the spirit of Jesus Christ is with us, and will be with us, for eternity.  That same hope in the living Christ that fueled the fire in the souls of His early disciples, can fuel our hearts and souls also.  The words of Bill and Gloria Gaither’s hymn states this message very well:

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, All fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living just because He lives.