Close Encounter with a Hawk

I recently was pruning a shrub when Lou, who was standing nearby, whispered, "You have a visitor."A Red-Shoulered Hawk, photo taken in my garden on another day

I looked around, and not ten feet from me on a low tree branch, sat a large hawk. My heart thumped a bit, for he was clearly watching me. Sizing me up for prey? I doubt it; I would have been more than a mouthful!

He was nearly level with my head, and for a few moments I found myself locking eyes with him, briefly transcending the gulf that naturally separates humans from wild creatures. Finally, in no hurry at all, the hawk lifted his wings and took flight.

My garden is blessed with several predatory bird families, including both hawks and owls. I am thankful, for they help keep the vole and chipmunk population down. Voles have been the nemesis of my garden, destroying the roots of many valuable plants.

The chipmunks are much cuter than the mousy-looking voles, but they are cohorts in crime.He just looks innocent!They have dug an extensive series of underground tunnels for themselves, and the same tunnels are also used by the voles who want to snack on my roots.

This was not the first time predatory birds have shown an interest in us. An owl once followed Lou around the garden, flying from tree to tree to keep him in sight. Maybe his nest was nearby; maybe he was just curious!

It is always a delight to be outside this time of year, as the birds and other creatures go about the business of building nests and making babies. A symphony of twitters, chirps and calls of all sorts greets me every morning. New life is emerging along stems and branches, and many plants are blooming. Spring's verdure seems premature this year. We are expecting freezing temperatures this week, but the birds are telling me: No worries; spring is here!



February Beach Trip to Gulf Shores

February at Alabama's Gulf Shores can be iffy. The weather can be cold, windy, and rainy; or it can be warm, sunny, and wonderful. Or some combination. My family's recent beach trip to Gulf Shores was perfect! During the day, the temps were warm enough to be on the beach in shirt sleeves and shorts. I even saw people in the ocean. No doubt these were "snow birds" escaping the frigid air of places like Michigan and Minnesota, where temps in the 70's are considered high summer and as good as it gets for dipping in the water. Nope, not for me. The water was still cold, despite the balmy air. I did enjoy our condo's hot tub and heated indoor pool, however.

The beach is photogenic year-round. Here are a selection of images from among the many I took:

A view from our condo of the State Pier at Gulf State Park:

What people do at the beach in February:

Besides the usual beach activities, we enjoyed a 3-hour kayak tour of the nearby Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge with WildNative Tours.

We also spent time exploring inside Gulf State Park, which was very close to our condo. The park has an amazing series of trails. These photos were taken inside the park:

Lake Shelby is the largest of three freshwater lakes inside Gulf State Park, just across the road from the salt waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The ecosystem here is amazing.

The next two photos may look a little dangerous, but be assured I used my telephoto!

I visited the State Pier, which stretches out into the Gulf, a couple of times to see if anyone was catching fish. Once I heard a guy say, "I told you chicken would work!" When I turned, I saw him hauling a decent sized fish up. That was the only fish I saw anyone catch.

I wasn't the only one watching the fishermen. Pelicans were hanging around the fish cleaning station, clearly waiting on handouts.

Our condo had wonderful views. Sunrise and sunset over the Gulf is always something special. This view from our bedroom wakened me one morning. I took a photo right through the window. It was worth waking up for!

Now I am home, and it is time to turn my attention to my garden!

Best wishes to you all!  Deb