Kiawah’s Magnificent Marsh – Weekly Photo Challenge: Muse

 “What begins at the water shall end there, and what ends there shall once more begin.”  

Doug Dorst

(9 photos)

AFTER THE STORM

AFTER THE STORM

This week Brie Anne has offered us a most interesting challenge; to illustrate our personal “muse” – that to which we turn time after time for inspiration. For me, the answer is an easy one; the beautifully varied vistas of Kiawah’s marsh.  Above, in a shot taken from my back porch, I’ve captured its creeks reflecting the clouds immediately after a summer storm.

TANGERINE SUNSET

TANGERINE SUNSET

“Praised be my Lord, for our sister water.”

Francis of Assisi

One of the reasons I love the marsh is that it is ever-changing. It can be many things, depending on the season, the time of day, the weather, or the tide. Above, a second shot of the marsh during a beautiful tangerine-colored sunset. Below, on a crisp, clear, early summer’s day.

A SUMMER'S DAY

A SUMMER’S DAY

“The places where water comes together with other water. Those places stand out in my mind like holy places.”

Raymond Carver

RAYS OF GLORY

RAYS OF GLORY

“All water is holy water.”

Rajiv Joseph

Above, yet another sunset over the marsh. In this capture the sun’s rays remind me of the spreading fingers of God on the cover of my second grade catechism 😊. Does anyone else out there remember that?!

BIRDS ON THE MARSH

BIRDS ON THE MARSH

“Water belongs to us all. Nature did not make the sun one person’s property, nor air, nor water, cool and clear.”

Michael Simpson

Beyond the beauty of the marsh itself, the presence of some of the most interesting and often beautiful creatures within its boundaries creates a powerful draw for a nature-loving photographer. Above, an ibis launches from the marsh grasses, leaving its companion behind. Below, a somewhat more dangerous resident! Although our native alligators strongly prefer fresh water, they can tolerate the brackish water of our marshes for a short while, and often show themselves as local fishermen or crabbers haul in their catches.

LURKING BELOW

LURKING BELOW

“Water’s water and that’s why it’s beautiful.”

Alberto Caeiro

Of course the favorite creature found in the creeks of our marshes is the playful bottlenose dolphin. Often times as we kayak along with the current, the dolphins will come out “spy-hopping” to see who’s entered their realm. Here in South Carolina they have been studied by as illustrious an organization as National Geographic because of their strand-feeding behavior. Working together, they push bait fish to the shore, and then push themselves out of the water to dine on their prey. Scientists are interested in the activity because it is a learned behavior that the dolphins pass on to their young. I’ve observed it several times, and am fascinated and excited every time. Below, a quick capture I shot of a marsh visitor enjoying the dolphins up close and personal, followed by a capture of dolphin strand-feeding here on Kiawah.

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

“The next time you think you’re perfect, try walking on water.”

Ziad K. Abdelnour

SUCCESSFUL STRAND-FEEDING

SUCCESSFUL STRAND-FEEDING

“No water, no life. No blue, no green.”

Sylvia Earle

I’ll close with a capture of our lovely marsh as the full moon’s rise is reflected on its waters. As you can see, it has been a favorite subject throughout my time on Kiawah. Here in our backyard, we enjoy a beautiful beach, lagoons ripe with fishermen’s bounty and of course the glorious maritime forest complete with grand, moss-covered oaks . For me though, the marsh tops them all.  It grows on you like a good friend – the more time you spend with it, the better you know it. The better you know it, the more you love it.  How wonderful is that?!

MOONRISE OVER THE MARSH

MOONRISE OVER THE MARSH

 “What begins at the water shall end there, and what ends there shall once more begin.”  

Doug Dorst

To see what inspires some other bloggers, click here.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Colors of the Rainbow

“Without the rain, there would be no rainbow…”

G. K. Chesterton

DOUBLE RAINBOW, PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

DOUBLE RAINBOW, PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND, CANADA

This week my husband and I are “somewhere over the rainbow” enjoying Fathers’ Day with family in New York City. I’ve chosen to respond to Michelle’s challenge with a favorite double rainbow shot taken several years ago on a vacation in Prince Edward Island.  It’s a very fond memory of a beautiful moment shared with good friends.

For reasons I choose not to explain, for me the rainbow has also become a reminder of the power of spiritual connection. As our friends and neighbors in Charleston struggle to understand the tragedy in our backyard, may we find strength in that same spirituality. We can hope that like rain and rainbows, tragedy can beget change – and the lives lost will not have been in vain.

Warmest Fathers’ Day wishes to all of the dads out there. Here’s hoping you too are sharing the day with those you love.

To see more colors of the rainbow, click here.

Weekly Photo Challege – Off Season

“To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

SUMMER'S END

SUMMER’S END

This week, a simple response to Krista’s “Off-Season” challenge. I captured this scene last year at the end of summer on our beautiful Kiawah beach. The fog was rolling in, a lone walker was taking advantage of the solitude, and some end-of-season shore birds dotted the landscape. The tourists had returned to their lives offshore and it was time for those of us who make our homes here to reclaim our peaceful little island. Our lovely, serene off-season is my favorite time of year.

Off-Season

SUMMER’S END-II

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”

Henry David Thoreau

The second version of my off-season shot has been texturized with some effects by French Kiss. To quote Sally of Lens and Pens, which do you prefer and why? 😄. Once you’ve given me your thoughts, click here for some other bloggers’ off-season offerings

Weekly Photo Challenge: VIVID

It’s hard learning to live with vivid mental images of scenes I cared for and failed to photograph.”

Sam Abell

(11 photos)

VIVID BLUE

VIVID BLUE

GREAT BLUE II

GREAT BLUE II

Well I guess this is my month for birds . I’m opening this week’s challenge response with two captures of a beautiful, vividly blue heron balancing on a slender branch as he prepares to launch into the unknown.  I shot these on a second trip to the rookery I posted about last week. As I mentioned in that post, I was happily entertained by the bird chicks as they ventured out of their protective nests for the first time, but I failed to capture any shots of their antics. I was determined to correct that with a second visit.

PRECARIOUS

PRECARIOUS

“Somewhere, things must be beautiful and vivid.”

Lisa Ann Sandell

Lest you think my task might be easy, consider the challenges. First; find a bird who is old enough to climb, but too young to fly. Next; find a vantage point that allows a clear shot within the dense foliage that protects the birds’ nests. Finally; without disturbing its natural environment,  find a chick intent on venturing out and about. Exhibit A: the young chicks in my captures above and below. 😄

READY TO LAUNCH

READY TO LAUNCH

“No man-made invention will ever be as clear, or as vivid, as the image captured in your mind of a loved one who’s gone.”

Larry Wilder
After observing the birds for a bit, I learned that before they seriously consider an adventure, they puff their little wings out and assume what I can only describe as a pre-dive position. Much like an olympian about to launch from the high-dive, they move into a tuck position like the one above, poised and ready – but often this results in a false alarm and no jump occurs.
ABOUT TO JUMP

ABOUT TO JUMP

“It is a gift to see life around you clearly and vividly, as something that is exciting in its own right.”

Bill Brandt

Speaking of vivid, how about the color of the waters over which the young birds were frolicking? The brilliant green was a lovely background for my shots, but I wouldn’t want to have to swim in it!

BEAK TO BEAK BROTHERS

BEAK TO BEAK BROTHERS

“Vivid images are like a beautiful melody that speaks to you on an emotional level.”

Steve Bochco

SPREADING WINGS

SPREADING WINGS

 “A vivid imagination compels the whole body to obey it.”

Aristotle

Once I became acclimated to the movements of the chicks, I began to get a sense about which of them would be active, and when an adventure might begin. Then it became a waiting game – how much patience did I have and what might I have been missing at some other nest while waiting at this one! Sometimes there’s a reward like the shot above and much more often, not so much. The little chick below, for example, never got much farther than his nose/beak.

EAGER TO EXPLORE

EAGER TO EXPLORE

“The impressions of one’s youth remain the most vivid in manhood.”

Gustav Stressmann

I found myself wondering what it must be like for a chick about to make its first dive. As the youngsters mature, their nests become increasingly smaller. What seemed a cozy, protective environment soon becomes crowded and restrictive, and although mom and dad have worked hard to deliver meals, the lure of the fish swimming below must become harder and harder to resist. What’s a baby bird to do???

DARING TO DIVE

DARING TO DIVE

“Vivid simplicity is the articulation, the nature of genius.”

Criss Jami

Happily, I was able to capture some of the bravery of the little chicks as they tested the limits of their newly-found abilities. None of the birds in my post were yet able to fly, but they were exploring their little patch of the rookery as far as their scrawny legs and oversized talons would allow. Clearly it would not be long before they’d be soaring overhead, seeing the world from an entirely new point of view.

ALMOST THERE

ALMOST THERE

“Every child is born blessed with a vivid imagination. “

Walt Disney

For the moment though, the chicks are restricted to an area within which they can climb or hop. Because their claws and beaks are large and strong they travel quite effectively, hopping from branch to branch and tree to tree.  Interestingly, each set of siblings seems to have it’s own little home, within a small “neighborhood”. They could clearly travel farther but seem to choose to stay within established boundaries. How they know the extent of their reach, and why they stay within it, are questions for another day.

THE LONG HARD CLIMB

THE LONG HARD CLIMB

“Open your eyes to life: to see it in the vivid colors that God gave us.”

Nancy Reagan

Next week — ABB (Anything But Birds!!) Stay tuned 😄

To enjoy the vivid examples of  some other bloggers, click here.

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: On The Way

“May flowers always line your path and sunshine light your day. May songbirds serenade you every step along the way.”

Irish Blessing

(16 Photos)

FULL HOUSE

FULL HOUSE

This week Michelle has challenged us to illustrate “On the Way”.  I’ve chosen to highlight an incredible experience I had last week photographing some baby birds “on the way” to adulthood.  I observed literally hundreds of wading birds in a rookery they’d created in the center of a long narrow pond – herons, egrets, cormorants – dozens of interesting species cohabiting peacefully at every stage from egg through adult.

SNUGGLED SIBLINGS

SNUGGLED SIBLINGS

“A bird is safe in its nest – but that is not what its wings are made for.”

Amit Ray

A DIFFERENT POINT OF VIEW

A DIFFERENT POINT OF VIEW

As I wandered about poking through the bushes lining the sides of the ponds I was amazed at the number of nests, their proximity to the ground and water below, and the skittishness of the bird parents who clearly were neither accustomed to nor happy about human intervention. The baby birds, on the other hand, were much less bothered by my appearance and depending on their age, were either curious or protective of their nest-mates.
FUZZY FELLA

FUZZY FEATHERED FELLA

“I want to be a bird that is not afraid of falling since it’s been flying for so long.”
Iva Marija Bulic
BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING

BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING

Interestingly, I recently learned that baby birds are born with an “egg tooth” which can be seen clearly on the chicks above. According to Wikipedia “Since the beak and the claws of a bird are not fully developed and cannot penetrate the eggshell, the ‘egg tooth’ is the unusual structure that helps the bird break through the shell. It is only found in emerging chicks and lost soon after hatching.”
WAITING FOR COMPANY

FIRST OF FIVE

 “I would like to paint the way a bird sings.”  
Claude Monet
I  saw some comical bird “antics” while learning firsthand that young birds leave the nest and make their way through the branches of a tree by using their beaks as well as their feet to hang on, since their wings are not strong enough to hold them. Sadly I saw a baby bird that had fallen out of the nest and was unable to get back from the ground, and another that ended up in the water where it was unable to swim back to safe ground.
SEEING DOUBLE

SEEING DOUBLE

“A bird does not sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”

Chinese Proverb

The two beautiful egrets above look nearly full-grown but are actually still too young to fly and hopped from branch to branch using their strong claws and long yellow beaks to steady themselves. I found myself wondering if they are actually as identical as they seemed to me, or if to another bird they might look totally and distinctly different 😀. Another example of “identical” siblings:

ON ALERT

ON ALERT

“Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.”

Salvador Dali

I found myself wondering what the young chick below had just tasted that clearly was not to his/her liking! Perhaps regurgitated fish isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? Do wading birds eat worms? Insects? Frogs? I’m thinking his obvious displeasure could have any number of sources when judged by human taste buds!

AAAACK!!!

AAAACK!!!

“God loved the birds and invented trees. Man loved the birds and invented cages.”

Jacques Deval

Next, a little family that was working hard to climb out of the nest but unwilling to travel very far and clearly nervous about their first foray into the world beyond. It’s a literal depiction of the term “out on a limb” because a fall to the ground or water below means certain death at this age – there is clearly no way back.

OUT ON A LIMB

OUT ON A LIMB

 “I hope you love birds too. It’s economical. It saves going to heaven.”

Emily Dickinson

The most adventurous (and probably oldest) of the siblings seemed to think that keeping his head in the leaves made him invisible but my lens caught him just before the leaves did!

BIGFOOT

BIGFOOT

 “The reason birds can fly and we can’t is simply because they have perfect faith,  for to have faith is to have wings.”  

J.M. Barrie

WILD AND CRAZY

WILD AND CRAZY GUY

“No matter wings so small, keep vision bright; just dare to learn, for you are born to fly.”

Vikrmn

Lest I leave you with the impression that only the baby birds were interesting (although they truly were spectacular), I shall close with a few shots of some of the magnificent adult birds that surrounded them. Hardworking parents every one of them, each possessing their own unique beauty.

ANGEL WINGS

ANGEL-WINGED EGRETS

CARROT TOP CATTLE EGRET

CARROT TOP CATTLE EGRET

PERCHED

PERCHED

MULTIPLE UNIT DWELLING

MULTIPLE UNIT DWELLING

“Not every winged Creature is considered a bird or a bat. Some wings are made of magic.”

Raani York

Seems to me we could learn a bit from our avian counterparts, who seem quite able to live together in harmony, sharing the resources that are available to them all.  Perhaps we’ve lost a bit of common sense on our way to the top of the evolutionary ladder.

My real challenge this week was holding back from posting even more photos, as my experience that day was so rewarding. Thanks for sticking with me this far, and  if you still have time, pop over here to see some other challenge responses to “on the way”.

Weekly Photo Challenge – BROKEN

“Broken Glass. It’s just like glitter, isn’t it?”

Pete Doherty

(5 Photos)

STILL BEAUTIFUL

STILL BEAUTIFUL

This week our challenge is “Broken” – which on the surface might suggest an accident or a disappointment in life. But broken can also be a positive thing. I’ve chose to open my post with a capture of one of our gorgeous magnolia blossoms, which have broken out all over Kiawah this month. The slight tear in the top leaf does nothing to minimize the beauty of this beautiful flower.  I’ve used Nik Silver FX Pro to convert it to pure B&W.

PAST PRIME

PAST PRIME

“Life was such a precious thing, easily broken.”

Shaun Jeffrey

Like the magnolia above, as we age there are those who may think we become somewhat broken – contending with issues like failing eyesight, hearing difficulties, and the aches and pains that come with aging bones and muscles. But again like the magnolia, there is also beauty that comes with aging. Dignity, wisdom, and freedom to act without worry about what others think of us are some of the benefits that offset the downside of aging.

SHINING THROUGH

SHINING THROUGH

“We are all wonderful, beautiful wrecks. That’s what connects us–that we’re all broken, all beautifully imperfect.”

Emilio Estevez

Each year here in the south, I look forward to the blooming of the magnolia trees. For me they signify the arrival of summer – which comes early in our part of the world. This year we’ve noticed that the magnolia trees are incredibly lush and the blossoms are much more plentiful than in previous years. None of us is sure why they are so bountiful but we are all glad they are. The photographers among us are especially happy to see the large number of flowers blooming low on the trees as they are much more accessible than usual 😄. Unfortunately along with the magnolias, summer can also mean the arrival of  pesky mosquitoes –  which severely punished me last week as I worked to capture these shots.

YOUNG AND OLD

YOUNG AND OLD

“Take these broken wings and learn to fly.”

Paul McCartney

I especially loved the capture above, which to me shows the beauty of the creamy white magnolia in full bloom nearly but not quite eclipsing the lovely softness of the aging blossom behind it. Again, to me it is a metaphor for our own species, where youth makes a showy presence front and center – not quite managing to obscure the beauty of those with quiet grace in the background.

HEART OF THE MATTER

HEART OF THE MATTER

“Part broken – part whole, you begin again.”

Jeanette Winterson

I’ve chosen to close with a final B&W version of the heart of a blooming magnolia. I loved the way the center stands out when the color is removed from the image. This part is hidden until the flower fully blooms, and it is also the part that remains as the petals fall away one by one until it is all that is left. It serves as a reminder that no matter how beautiful we may be on the outside, it is always the heart that is most important, and that remains when all else fades away.

To see more broken examples, take a minute to click here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Enveloped

 “True love is boundless like the ocean and…envelops the whole world.”  

Mahatma Gandhi

(6 photos)

UNDER MAMA'S WING

UNDER MAMA’S WING

I suppose our friends at WordPress are doing their best to throw us some curveballs these days, and this week’s “enveloped” is no exception. According to the dictionary, one definition of the word is to be “completely surrounded”. Happily, this week I spent time with some fledgling egrets who were completely surrounded by their leafy nest and more importantly by their parents’ loving care.  I thought they just might fit the bill for this week’s challenge and also illustrate my opening Gandhi quote at the same time😊.

SUPPERTIME

SUPPERTIME

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark.

Carl Sagan

I was surprised to learn that Great Egrets such as these mate for life, and that their chicks take 6 to 7 weeks before they can leave the nest – growing almost to full size in that time. The nest above houses 3 egret chicks – imaging how hard the parents will have to work to keep them fed, and how crowded that nest will become before the chicks depart!

MOTHER'S WORK IS NEVER DONE

MOTHER’S WORK IS NEVER DONE

“We are . . . enveloped in a cloud of changing and endlessly shifting images.”

C.G. Jung

Life can be perilous for the young chicks. Unlike most birds, egret parents incubate their eggs as soon as the first one is laid.  The chicks often hatch at different times and it is not unusual for the strongest to kill the weakest. Because the nest can become quite crowded and feeding several chicks at once is very challenging, the parents allow nature to take its course. There is also a serious danger that the chicks will begin to attempt flight before their wings are strong enough. They often fall from the nest and become victims of nearby predators such as the alligators who live in the pond below these particular nests.

PREENING

PREENING

“The purity men love is like the mists that envelop the earth, and not like the azure ether beyond.”

Henry David Thoreau

Egrets are beautiful birds, especially during breeding season. The photo above shows both the long white tail feathers and the bright green eye markings that they display to attract their mates. Below, an egret exhibits another courting behavior – stretching of the characteristic long white neck.

LONG AND LEAN

LONG AND LEAN

 The wind envelops you with a certain purpose in mind, and it rocks you.

Haruki Murakami

Egrets nest in colonies and the area I visited this week had at least a dozen nests, each in a different stage of development. While the chicks in the nests of my opening photos were quite active, the one below held younger, sleepier chicks. The nests are high enough and deep enough within the trees to be out of reach of predators (and challenging for photographers😀). They are usually near a pond or wetlands, making it easier for the parents to capture the fish they feed on and regurgitate for their young.

NAPTIME

NAP TIME

“The singing enveloped me. It was furry and resonant, coming from everyone’s very heart.”

Anne Lamott

A big thank you to my friend Diane, who let me know the chicks had hatched and gave me some insight into their development. Should you care to see some other examples of envelopment, click here.