How many bridges do you cross on any given day you’re on the road? If you took the time to actually count them, I bet the number would be surprisingly high. We cross bridges so often that we simply taken them for granted and pass over without notice. Bridges are simply a way we can cross over obstacles that would otherwise be difficult, if not impossible, for us to overcome. And of course, those obstacles are in between us and where we want to be.
There was a time a few thousand years ago when the Creator walked the Earth with a fellow named Adam. The fellowship they shared must have been truly amazing, however it came to an abrupt end when Adam disobeyed his Creator. That first sin became an obstacle preventing him, and all others to follow, from enjoying fellowship with God. Fast-forward to roughly two-thousand years ago, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to Earth to be our Redeemer. As people redeemed from our sins, we could again fellowship with God. When He died on the cross, Christ became our direct path to the Creator. In fact, Jesus Christ stated that very clearly, as recorded in the Gospel of John 14:6; “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” The crucified Christ became our bridge to return to fellowship with God.
I’ve driven by it, maybe a hundred times. The sign along Interstate 25 between Douglas and Glenrock reads, Ayers Natural Bridge. Sounds intriguing enough, yet it took me about 10 years to finally check it out. Actually, I tried last month, but found a locked gate and a sign telling me it would be open in April. So yesterday I took a short detour to find out what its all about.
Ayers Natural Bridge is one of only three natural bridges in the United States that have running water flow below. Located in Converse County, Wyoming, this state park is only about 10 minutes off the highway. From April through September visitors can explore this natural wonder, without paying an admission fee. As you exit the highway and head south, the landscape doesn’t compel one to expect anything unique, however after you crest the horizon, the geography makes a sudden change, with red rock outcroppings as you descend to LaPrele Creek. After another mile, you will find a small parking lot located only a short walk from the bridge. While this wouldn’t rank as a vacation destination for most folks, it is certainly worth the short drive if you are traveling through the “Cowboy State.”
When Burdens Become Bridges
Burdens, too, can often be stepping stones to higher ground! A biologist tells how he watched an ant carrying straw which seemed a big burden for it. The ant came to a crack in the earth which was too wide for it to cross. It stood for a time as though pondering the situation. Then it put the straw over the crack and walked over it! What a lessons for us! The burden can become a bridge for spiritual progress if we endeavor by God’s help to live the overcoming life! (H.G. Bosch)
- Natural Bridge Tale (biblioklept.org)
I arrived in Evansville, Wyoming this evening as the sun was setting. Wanting to stretch my legs after the 5-hour drive, I decided to make a quick hike through the Edness K. Wilkins State Park, along the North Platte River. On previous springtime visits to this area I have seen Great Horned Owls, but generally they see me first, so my first glimpse is when they decide I’ve approached too closely, and they take to flight. So tonight I determined to more vigilantly scan the trees ahead of me, in hope that I might actually get some owl photos in the golden evening sunlight. My planning paid off quickly, and I spotted an owl perched in the branching limbs of a tree in the flood plain adjacent to the river. The owls colors blend in with the colors of the dormant trees so well, that most people would walk right by without ever noticing the large bird above.
I was able to work my way closer to make a pretty nice portrait of this handsome bird.
Being vigilant in our lives is way to prepare us for what is ahead, keeping us safe and aware of dangers. Likewise, we should be vigilant in our regard to the return of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Lately there has been a lot of talk and speculation that we are currently in the end-times; but then there were some who thought so about 2000 years ago, too. While I am not making any predictions, I am certain that His return is getting closer everyday, and there are plenty of signs that it will happen sooner, rather than later. If God wanted us to know the precise time, I am sure He would have let us know in the Bible. While the Bible doesn’t give us the exact time, it does tell us how to prepare for it: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.” (Mark 13:32-33). Take heed, watch and pray – sounds to me like He is telling to be vigilant and prepare ourselves, so that when that time comes, we are ready to join Him.
- Great Horned Owl chicks grow and fledge in Golden Gate Park (raptorgallery.wordpress.com)
- Marcia Davis: Great horned owls are winter nesters (knoxnews.com)
March is not generally a month particularly known for patriotic celebrations in the US, but the early arrival of Spring brought forth a lot of colorful activity of the avian variety here in the Rocky Mountains. While working in Colorado for a couple weeks, I was able to schedule in a little time at Barr Lake State Park. Located near the airport and hotels I normally base from, Barr Lake is convenient to visit and relatively inexpensive. The weather was extraordinarily windy during my visit, so there weren’t very many critters out-and-about, however I did get several miles of exercise and a few photos for my efforts. During my visit I got my first Red-Winged Blackbird of the season, as he was crooning a hopefully seductive tune.
A number of birds remain resident year-round here on the 20-Acre Wood in the Bull Mountains of Montana, among them is the White-breasted Nuthatch. These busy little tree-clingers rapidly forage from branch to branch, searching for bugs, seeds and nuts. They will commonly place a seed (like the one this fellow is carrying) into a crevice of a limb or bark, and then pound the seed with it’s bill to open it. These courageous birds frequently fly directly at me when I am taking pictures, and will often land within only a few feet of my position.
In my March 10th post, They’re ba-a-a-a-ck!, I mentioned that the Mountain Bluebirds made a very early return this year. And, as is normal, it didn’t take them long to settle in and become relatively at ease around us. I haven’t seen them hauling nesting material yet, so perhaps they are still seeking a location to raise their young. This fellow’s mate remains camera-shy, but she is generally not far away.
So there you have it, a RED-winged Blackbird, WHITE-breasted Nuthatch, and Mountain BLUEbird celebration! There is a lot of social and economic turmoil happening in the world, and right here in the U.S.A. In the midst of an election year, it is easy succumb to a jaded-attitude regarding our country, and thoughts of patriotism may elude us. Patriotism can be defined as “devoted love, support and defense of one’s country; national loyalty.” While the colors of these birds may remind of us the colors of our flag, they should be an even better reminder of the love and loyalty our Creator has for us. He makes Himself known to us through His creation, and by other means. “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). The many frustrations we may have about life and the world we live in are really only temporary distractions to us. Our Lord has provided us an escape route, so that we may enjoy eternal salvation with Him in Heaven. The best part is that it won’t cost you a penny! Acts 2:21 cites a passage from the book of Joel, “And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Yes, it really is that simple; come to Him in prayer, serve Him, and devote yourself to Him. That is patriotism anyone can afford, and it will last forever!
- It’s Opening Day! (howtospyonbirds.wordpress.com)
- A Break in Winter’s Monotony (bigskyken.wordpress.com)
- Mystery bird: Mountain bluebird, Sialia currucoides | @GrrlScientist (guardian.co.uk)
- Red wing Blackbirds are Mating (cottonwoodaz.wordpress.com)
Until a couple years ago, I didn’t even know these birds existed. In fact, the first time I photographed a crossbill in May 2010, I posted the image to an internet bird ID forum and asked for confirmation that the bird’s beak was deformed. Over the course of a couple days, we had several crossbills foraging through the Ponderosa Pines here on the 20-Acre Wood, but then they disappeared. Despite my vigilant effort to find them, their return wasn’t apparent until January of this year. We have noticed them actively foraging in the morning hours, when I typically don’t have much time for photography. Two months ago I was able to get a couple shots of a male Red Crossbill, but the lighting was harsh, and he wasn’t a cooperative subject for very long. This evening I took a short walk, actually intending to get some Mountain Bluebird images, and found a “warp” (collective name for a group of crossbills; also called a “crookedness”) of them watering from snowmelt in a small horse feed bucket. Tonight they were fairly cooperative, but remained aloof, not allowing me to get very close.
Evidently the crossed bill gives these birds a unique advantage when it comes to extracting seeds from pine cones. I am not going to pretend that I know how it works, but pine nuts are a preferred food of this bird, and in 2010 I watched a bird successfully clean out a pine cone in short order. Crossbills are in the Finch family, and as you see in the slideshow, there is a lot of variation to their coloration. By the way, I was successful in getting a decent Mountain Bluebird picture. Yesterday’s post noted the early arrival of bluebirds, and I was hoping to get a better image to document their return.
Tonight’s photo-walk actually took an interesting and humorous turn. When I am photographing wildlife, I don’t take Luke (pictured on my avatar) because he wanders too much and tends to scare off the birds. Well, we have a young barn cat that must think he’s a dog, because he frequently tries to join me on my walks. Normally I lock him in the feed shed to keep him from following, but he joined me after I passed the shed, and with the rapidly falling sun I grumpily decided to end my walk and return home. Not wanting to come home with an empty memory card, I stopped to shoot a couple pictures of our horses. As soon as I did, a bluebird landed on the powerline above them. Then Dickon (the cat) began staring and quasi-stalking something across the horse pen, which turned out to be the warp the crossbills!
Call it what you will, but to me this was yet another life-lesson that God planned for my edification. Recently I have been studying the character and nature of God, and one of the Scriptures I read last night was Psalms 33:10-12; “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” I had a goal in mind, a plan to achieve it, and the execution of that plan was underway; in the end, my plan was useless and another means of success was chosen for me. When we are seeking direction in life, our path must be in-synch with God’s plan for us. Just as answers to prayer may be different from what we hoped to receive, God’s plans and our plans are often not the same thing. If He is truly the Lord of our life, we must be obedient to His will and instruction. We must recognize, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord (Isaiah 55:8). Many people view yielding to God as a threat to their own control, which it really is. But that is the whole point, God wants control of us, because His intent is for our benefit…“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). Besides, if we really think we have the ability to control our lives, we are really fooling ourselves!
- Jo’s Top 10 Target Birds (in no particular order): (notyouraveragebirders.wordpress.com)
- my birding badge has been revoked (rebeccainthewoods.wordpress.com)
- “On The Road” (abirdersnotebook.wordpress.com)
Well, our short trip came to a rather abrupt end, at least in terms of climate change. We departed sunny California on Sunday with 70 degrees weather, and woke up Monday morning in beautiful Fernley, Nevada, where it was 19 degrees and light snow! The remainder of the trip home was relatively uneventful, which is usually a good thing when I’m driving (and some would say miraculous, considering how I drive!). The past several posts on His Creation have featured a number of the landscapes and wildlife from our trip, but I still have a few more to share that didn’t seem to fit the other topics.
Whenever I am fortunate enough to photograph something that is rarely seen, I get pretty excited. And, because I mostly photograph wildlife, particularly birds, when I get am image of a seldom seen critter, it is really exciting. I was blessed with the opportunity to get some shots of a Greater Roadrunner. Now this isn’t the most attractive bird in the world, but perhaps having grown up with the Bugs Bunny & Roadrunner Show gave this bird a special place in my heart. It also may have something to do with a vivid memory I have of my brother and I chasing one of these birds through a sagebrush covered hill, actually thinking we might catch it! Thinking back, we probably looked the part of Wile E. Coyote to anyone who might have been watching us.
In our neck of the woods we have a lot of Magpies, and for many years I thought all Magpies were the same. It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I realized that here in the Rocky Mountains, we have Black-billed Magpies, but Yellow-billed Magpies reside on the west coast. So, after chasing several uncooperative subjects around, I finally found one that seemed to enjoy posing for a portrait.
I find it humorous that some critters are considered pests when they are in your yard or farmland, but when you see the same animals in a park or at the beach, they take on a different significance. Over the years I have spent hundreds of hours and untold cases of ammunition in attempts to reduce ground squirrel populations from the farms and ranches I’ve worked on. Yet now I find myself shooting them with the camera!
Because the weather was still cold and snowy at Zion National Park, wildlife was pretty scarce during our visit. We saw a few birds that were not particularly photo-worthy, but we did spot a Pacific Wren, which is another first-time sighting for me. This little guy was flitting around the Virgin River as we hiked upstream to the Narrows.
I consider myself truly blessed to have the opportunity to enjoy and experience so much of God’s wonderful creation. My routine travels take me to many wonderful and awesome places, some so unique that the camera can’t do justice in representing their grandeur. Over the course of last week’s trip, we crossed the Continental Divide several time, wandered through parts of Zion National Park at roughly 8000 feet elevation, and walked the beaches of the Pacific Ocean. We experienced beautiful, warm sunny days, fog-laden mountain passes and wind-driven snowstorms. As amazing and incredible as all this is, the pinnacle of the week was coming home. While we live in a nice home, surrounded by timber in a beautiful part of Montana, the excitement about coming home has nothing to do with those things. It is all about getting back to a place where I belong, because I am wanted there, loved there, and there is place for me to occupy. Coming home is always the best part, and I think it is just an inkling of how great it will be to finally go home to God’s kingdom. Just think for a minute about what we have to look forward to; “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, thereyou may be also.”(John 14:1-3) Sounds like a great place to spend eternity, does it not? Everyone of us has the option of taking up residence in His house, we only need to find the way. Fortunately we have been given the map to get there by the greatest Guide of all, Jesus Christ; “…I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) If you don’t know Christ, and if you haven’t asked Him to be the Lord of your life, you will never find the way.
- Some things just don’t fit! (bigskyken.wordpress.com)
Okay, perhaps the title of this post is a little deceptive. Some of you may be thinking this is another post about Loxo the Elephant, but you would be mistaken. (Although, if you haven’t kept up with the developing Loxo, I highly recommend you pay him a visit at home or on Facebook!) The title more correctly refers to Sea Lions, Elephant Seals and Sea Otters, but that seemed too wordy and descriptive. This post actually builds upon last week’s trip to the Pacific coast of California (see Long John Silver Slept Here, for the first installment), featuring some of the landscapes and wildlife encountered between Morro Bay and the Monterey Bay. We wound our way up the Pacific Coast Highway (US Highway 1) on a splendid day, filled with sunshine and mist from the ocean. For those of you who have never traveled this route, let it suffice to say that this is not a place to be if you are in a hurry. On the other-hand, if sight-seeing and enjoying the splendor of God’s Creation appeals to you, put this destination on your to-do list!
The image below will give you a glimpse of what the landscape along this portion of the coastline is like.
I had some phone calls to make, so Leah spent about an hour combing the beach at Morro Rock collecting sand dollars and sea shells. Afterwards, we wandered the wharf, taking in the sites and smells that are so unlike home at Montana. Most of the anticipated shorebirds were in plentiful supply as we traipsed our way around the docks, warehouses and shops.
We stopped in Cambria for lunch at the Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill, and I can give a hearty recommendation for their Moonstone Chowder (clam chowder in a sourdough bowl). However, make sure to fill your gas tank well-before arriving here, as their fuel was a full dollar per gallon higher than either San Luis Obispo or Monterey!
Not too far north of Cambria, at Point Piedras Blancas, there is a beach inhabited by a multitude of elephant seals. Having done virtually no research on what to anticipate on this trip, we were delighted to discover this popular tourist site. There were at least several hundred of these critters sunning themselves and sparring for space in the sand. One particular young elephant seal was barking and nudging at an adult female, which we guessed to be it’s mother. The youngster became annoying enough that “mom” finally barked back, and silenced the pup quickly!
Male elephant seals can grow to 15 feet long and weigh over 5000 lbs, so it was no surprise that this female let out a loud scream when the adult male ran over her!
Many years ago, I remember watching a television documentary showing male elephant seals doing battle for breeding ground. As large as these animals are, it is amazing how well they can “stand up” to fight, which consists of slamming their tusks into the foes neck. Far across the beach, a couple adult males were engaged in such a battle, and third eagerly joined in the games.
To the victor, go the spoils; but there is always a price to pay. The battle scars manifest in large callous patches along the neck, as shown on this male.
Arriving in Monterey, we were greeted by the ever-present Sea Lions. As in common for these animals, they often perch on buoys and socialize in the groups near the shoreline.
Walking along the shore at Pacific Grove, we encountered a Sea Otter enjoying a fresh shellfish breakfast. You may notice that he sports orange and yellow tags, as this endangered species is being closely studied as the population recovers.
Rounding out this portion of our travels were a couple birds that were first-time sightings for us. Leah was quick to notice a visit by a Black Turnstone that was picking its way through the rocks. The color of this bird allows it to blend in with the dark rocks, and become fairly inconspicuous.
A “gulp” of Brandt’s Cormorants was taking in the morning sun, and I was really taken by their bright blue throats and wispy,white plumes adorning their bodies.
And finally, another gulp of cormorants setting on rocks amid the incoming surf. They seemed to enjoy the regular spray of salt water from the crashing waves.
The Psalmist wrote, “This great and wide sea, In which are innumerable teeming things, Living things both small and great,” Psalms 104:25. Indeed, God created the seas to benefit mankind in numerous ways. Not only are these bodies of water a useful means of conveyance, they also play an intimate role is seasonal weather patterns, a source of food and industry, and abound in the beauty and magnificence of the Master’s hand. For all the space that oceans occupy across the globe, God did not create them in vain; they were created to be inherited by man for our service. As the products of His creation, He cares for us and seeks to guide us in our lives – we should do the same for what we inherit from Him. Our proper stewardship of the blessings He allows us, is a way we can show respect, reverence and gratitude to Him.
- Elephant Seals (hikercarl.wordpress.com)
- Sea otters face a growing threat: shark attacks (mercurynews.com)