Sunday, April 15, 2018

In Quest of a Scarce Bird

Words about a rare bird called white-backed woodpecker reached our ears. This is actually a hush-hush matter because of the governmental decree to protect it due to its declining population. I heard that only about 30 of them remain in the whole country. News about its existence in our city floated in secrecy, but we were fortunate to catch the words from a reliable source.

On March 8, we set out to a nature reserve where we hiked last summer and followed the snowy trail through the coniferous forest until we got to the local patch where some birds stop by to feed.

Total silence greeted us when we came to a halt and waited for our "quarry" bird.  Several minutes passed before I peripherally saw a silhouette of a bird flitting through the bare trees. And then we heard the familiar drumming of a woodpecker. It was a downy woodpecker.

A few minutes later, another winged creature flew by. And there it was, the white-backed woodpecker! I was so excited as I followed its flight from one tree to another until it stopped to feed.

As it kept appearing and disappearing, I kept waiting patiently and shooting frenziedly. It was so beautiful and luminous that I was utterly captivated!

When all the excitement abated, another bird showed up, a Eurasian jay, and perched still on a branch. I've seen one some months ago but I had difficulty capturing it as it was too afraid to sit still. This time, I had a good chance to take a lot of shots.

Satisfied at finding the white-backed woodpecker, we started back to our car while randomly shooting here and there.

As we exited the woods, my eyes were caught by an atmospheric optical phenomenon looming over us. It turned out to be a composite of 22° halo, parhelia or sundogs, upper tangent arc, supralateral arc and circumzenithal arc, each one heralding the presence of ice crystals in the atmosphere. This was an extra treat for us during that birding day!

Our quest was a success and my soul was fed, gratified and rejuvenated!

"Of the glorious splendor of your majesty they will speak
And on your wonderful works I will meditate."

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Pre-Spring Aurora Explosion

Throughout the winter, the northern lights were active most of the time, but on account of the snowy weather and overcast sky at night, we only had rare opportunities to see them, thus missing most of the powerful shows.

And then came March with its radiant sun and clear blue sky, which was a promise of upcoming aurora displays. Sure enough, our first chance came on the 14th. There was a lot of commotion in the "aurora-hunters" community in our city with palpable excitement in the air.

I usually watch and take pictures  from our balcony or just outside our apartment, but this time, hubby and I agreed to go some place where we could see the lights more clearly.

And so we took a drive to a lake in the countryside where some aurora fanatics previously took their shots.  We wheeled along a rural pathway with raised snow banks on both sides, and into the pitch darkness of the forests which emitted light only when the reflective sign boards or poles caught the car's headlights.

I wondered if we were the lone travelers as no other cars going that way. When we reached our destination, a few cars were parked here and there. Okay, we had company! Our fellow aurora hunters came earlier and found their own desired viewing spots. We pulled over the side of the frozen lake and trod the almost knee-deep untouched snow toward the open lake where we waited for any auroral activity.

And then the show commenced, faintly at first, which gradually burst and intensified. Oh, bliss! And, oh no, it was all over the sky and I could not fit the whole show in just one frame! I just kept on shooting frantically here and there, missing some spectacular shows going on while shooting another part.

One bonus that we get from watching the aurora in a place of total darkness is that we can see the whole sky richly studded with stars, their sparkles more intense. It's like they're competing with the aurora as to who performs the best show.  The starry sky actually enraptured me as much as the dancing lights!

And then we decided to find another spot that provided us a better viewing perspective. We parked near two cars on the roadside and followed the short trail to the forest that led to the lake. As expected, some "hunters" were busily shooting there. I took a few shots, which didn't meet my desired effects.

As the night advanced to midnight, we had to drive back home, even as the aurora kept on exploding on and off all over us. We had to stop at some points to get a few more shots.

The dancing lights seemed to go on endlessly as we rolled on, their brilliance spilled over the frozen road, making our drive colorful and the night exceptionally memorable.

What a tremendous gift from the "Father of the celestial lights"! (James 1:17)

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Saturday, March 24, 2018

Before Winter Completely Fades

Winter has officially ended when the spring equinox arrived on the 20th. And yet, winter is still hanging  around and bringing more snow to add a thick layer over the snowbanks and mounds that had started to shrink. And then again, the mild warmth of the spring sun melts the freshly fallen snow. Some nights we get snow dusting as revealed by the appearance of the trees and the ground in the morning.

Spring's sun shows up almost everyday with a burst of intense brightness. Although I liked those winter days when the sun rolled just above the trees across the horizon, I equally like seeing the sun rolling upward to the zenith, making the daylight much longer.


Spring is here, yes, but the awakening of the vegetation that has lain dormant throughout winter is yet to come. Before that happens, and before winter totally vanishes, I want to store a few of the thousand pictures that I took while taking notice and appreciating the things around me, the great and the small.

This is one of my favorite mid-winter scenes, when the low-lying sun at midday is reflected by the mist wafting over the frozen river.  Can you see that little solitary white-throated dipper bird hunting for food on the semi-frozen edge of the river?

I love the days when the trees are coated with hoarfrosts.

The sight of these snow-laden trees somehow elevates my spirits!

And I take pleasure in capturing the bluish long shadows on the snow.

When hubby and I, and at times with a friend, would go wild birding but we could not find the ones we were searching, we'd just shift our focus to the hibernal beauty around us and take a lot of shots.

Frosty mornings amaze me, especially when I see these tiny frost sticking on our window panes and glistening in the morning sun. Note: they're so small that one can't quite make out the designs and patterns unless they are magnified or macro-shot, such as what I did with these images.

Other icy things that fascinate me are these lacy edges of the snowy river banks, icicles dripping from the roofs and sparkling with rainbow colors, chunks of ice strewn over the frozen sea that glitter like spilled diamonds.

Ahh...some critters also play in winter even as they are digging for food buried in the snow! 

This is my lengthened shadow as I stood on a frozen river, joyfully taking pictures of the frosts that formed on this section of the river, the footprints of some critter, the bare trees in the background, the blue sky on this super cold afternoon.

Snow, snow everywhere....and I love every bit of it!

Here are other two white-throated dippers solitarily hunting for food in two different rivers.

The moon is shining brightly in the daytime.

The midday sun by the river is glowing in the mist and behind the clouds.

The snow is falling as the sun rises.

I love watching the snowy trees through our kitchen window!

These are the trees beside our garage.

Winter nights are my friends. Camera ISO and long exposure settings show the colorful, scintillating beauty of the night.  All these photos were obviously taken from our balcony.

And these indoor potted crocuses proclaimed the coming of spring!

Winter has left, but not altogether, and spring has come. But as I'm writing this, the snow is falling, and I feel euphoric!

Winter comes and winter goes. Our life keeps flowing with the passing seasons. We get old but the inner child remains within. Our life moves forward no matter the changing seasons. It goes on and on until it reaches the end. And the end is not really the end because this life is not all there is. Our Creator promised us:

"And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away. And the One seated on the throne said, 'Look! I am making all things new.' Also he says, 'Write, for these words are faithful and true.'" (Revelation 21:4,5)

When winter fades, we eagerly look forward to spring. Do we likewise look forward to the promised spring of life that will never fade away?

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