I See

Words escape me this month, rarely do I ferment. Embraced understanding  and it dawns on me, she has become my best friend.

Willet above is guarding her nest. I’ve seen them eat small crabs, worms, clams, and other invertebrates from marshes along our coastlines in Florida, however not in this setting! Laying in these grasses made me smile. Didn’t know what would pop up and say hello! Friend photographer caught me in the element.

The routine was; wake at 0400 hrs, (had to have my cup of java), others would arise later and then meet at 0530 hrs for the trek at hand. We had the sweetest little cabins, propane showers, comfy queen sized mattress, lots of blankets, pillows and an inside toilet. Now this was my idea of the perfect wilderness adventure, well almost perfect. Between two sheets with my spouse would have sealed it, however then maybe we would have missed the sunrise?  In the long run it didn’t matter, capturing these critters expressions was healing my soul.

First day we were  -3 Celcius, hiking boots white, frosted from the morning crispness we saw even the gentlest of breath became vapor. A small price to pay for the chance sighting of trumpeter swan and cygnet! Not only did we spy this but also a WHITE PELICAN!

Tho I layered for cold temperature my body trembled, the elements were penetrating. Each day handpicked, each day we stayed fixed on a goal, dispersed the fear, and found the best was yet to come!  It did, every single day.

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On these treks saw some fall flat on their face, others fought letting go of “stuff” and despite sentences ending on a negative, by the end of the week,  all were made strong in their own uniqueness. We became quite a team.

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We were embracing the journey, a candle lit, toasts to the moment and scrumptious meals devoured at Elk Lake Lodge.  Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think such beauty could be contained. Actually it can’t and the reason why I blog

Had the coziest bed, and felt like a queen. No sharing covers and tho it’s not something I prefer, know embracing cleanliness and order has one waking refreshed! Would rather have my steps established,  so our journey would be a delight and a refreshing, especially to the Great I AM, the author of Love.

Every morning at 0415 hours the birds would start. Hearing such rejoicing is something I will never get use to, we can all learn from nature.

One evening while playing my flute on the back porch a MOOSE with fuzzy antlers walked out of the bush! Totally caught off guard, first thought,  TEXT, however we were off the grid, NO Internet NO Phone!

Yelling wouldn’t help either as my friends cabins were quite a distance away, and I didn’t want to spook him, so did the next best thing,  VIDEO TAPED WITH MY PHONE!! Gotta love technology!!

The next day we encountered a herd of moose, (females are called cows and actually that is exactly what I thought WAS in the road that morning!!) Again thankful for technology  and seized the moment!

The eye scapes this vaca were beyond comparison, beyond utterance. Clips make me smile only wish I could encapsulate the fresh air. Every night hit the pillow and was out, every morning adventure pulsated with a crimson glow and peaked into an organic syntheses of living. Each and every click of my shutter did it, captured heaven on earth. I was a witness, speechless and extremely full.

It was the last day and my co-horts were full, yet heard of this hidden lake, it would take quite a hike to get there not to mention a 4×4 just to get you to the pass at the bottom of the trail! I WAS GAME, so was my guide and dear friend and mentor, Ron Bielefeld,  his vision 20/20.

Years ago was seeded in a divine way; “this wilderness will change you forever”.  This statement was 100% correct. Viewing nature in its purest form, not rearranged or touched by human hands, I walked where my ancestors lived. Yes I conquered the mountain and made it to “Hidden Lake” . 

“But ask the animals what they think—let them teach you;
    let the birds tell you what’s going on.
Put your ear to the earth—learn the basics.  Job 7



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Purified Flight

Few years ago invested in myself, it was after my bro encouraged me to purchase a digital camera. His comment kinda speared reality into me; “Brenda when are you going to start living for yourself?”  He heard and knew my commitment to my family, my husband, our God, and yet he probed deeper, and it hurt. He must have realized and kinda said; “Well start eating Ramen noodles, put the extra money in a lens fund”.  Had no idea noodles could taste so good.

Tho pulling back on the reins of  “giving”,  revealed a whole new result; puppet strings were revealed, a co-dependent form of me was evident, I didn’t like it, or my photos. 

And it kept on coming and in forms I didn’t quite want. My heart was breaking. Change was overpowering the me, the I, and “we” was finally understood.

And I walked and tears streamed hot. One said “they will be collected in a bottle”  and I thought of the wife who loss her spouse to suicide, and my high school friend who also lost a son. My mind would say my tears were selfish, compared to them,  and I lay awake unable to breathe, and the Charmin was running out.

And then it happened, counsel kicked in, now unstuck was able to dismantle what I thought was healthy, despite the web of deception clinging on.

Today as I sit in the quiet of the morning, sipping my creamy warm coffee, can’t help but smile remembering what my son said to me; “Mom we live in a little bit of paradise”. He was right. Every person visiting this abode says; “It feels so peaceful in here”. The atmosphere HAS changed! The cuckoo clock was gone. Recognition of the promised land, the oath was established.

My heart was healing. Eyesight was returning. Dreams were remembered. Dipping into the miraculous was freeing my soul.

Today awaken to a periscope tweet. A call from Africa makes me smile. Deposited long ago was a hunger, so deep the echo penetrated even my senses and today the adventure begins yet again. No longer will I question the “why” and let the present daily bread sustain as we forgive those who trespassed against us, yes, delivered from evil, we smile.

How could you not smile at something this miraculous, new birth, and of course as adorable as this Black-Necked Stilt below?!!

And the above shot is only a portion of his legs, below is a snapshot of him out of the water!

During one of my Treks was just in time to witness the changing of the guard, all I could do was hold my breath and barely balance my 500mm during the sequence and bathing of a Purple Gallinule! When you see such unique species existing within their habitats its a banquet of sorts, flashes of Eden!

All of it, this thing called life, reiterates once again the power of grace, the power of forgiveness, yes, the power of truth. The fact is you might be scared to death starting “over”,  but this time deception is gone. 

“I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. Be as wary as serpents and harmless as doves”  Jesus

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SHOCK treatment for Polluted Waters

Observing this Juvenile Ibis the other day. It was close to sunset, pouring rain the last few days which delightfully left many pools of water for these creatures to investigate.

Knowing my passion for nature a friend invited me into their yard, the lighting was perfect, and I hear “click click click” why it’s a little woodpecker skipping in the gutter! So darn CUTE!

And then there was an Anhinga pose but it was Mr Vulture drying his wings! Not every day the Black Vulture will let you get so close. Like always, an honor to witness, such beauty within my visual field.

They were doing what birds do. However it was a blessing to be allowed so close. They must have been hungry, or just needing to rest.

Love it when they can exist without a care about your presence. They share intimacy with me, they let me partake in their space, their life. Even the leaves. Delicate green serrated sculpture, crafted perfectly from the mind of our Creator.

Could have stayed there till dusk, it wasn’t my property though. Creatures of the night were about to surface, need to have different mind sets for that; infinity and white balance set to tungsten to eliminate the yellow and orange hues brought on by light pollution. Imagine light as a pollutant. Ahh some light is though, for even Lucifer  can appear as such and seduction is real and one must take flight on the wings of Grace or become entrapped. 

Was observing this Glossy Ibis, glistening as oil in the sunlight. His glances were adorable!

He even was giving directions out this day! Just held my breath and snapped away. These moments fill me so, their beauty squeezes out every bit of angst.

Who would guess nature could bipartitely glimpse heaven on earth? Maybe today you will be led to walk a nature path and see home. 

And observe little messengers for the moment!  Did you know dragonfly’s feast on mosquito’s.!! So if they’re in your yard, skeeters won’t be!! They catch them in mid-air and suck their blood then and there and drop em dead. Gives a new meaning to “drop dead” gorgeous.

I think dragonflies are precious and recently my friend and photographer Betsy Stibal, captured one playing with a turtle!

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Here is an enlarged view of turtle (yup so my mom can see):)

© Betsy Stibal foto

Oh dear, and in Betsy’s video this might be one sucking the brains out of a Damselfly during copulation!!!!! Again another one of her amazing documented treks for you to visit. Click on the word; ENJOY to see!!

As I stare at the macro photo below it makes me aware of a whole other detailed world. If I didn’t know any better, this Blue Dasher dragonfly was smiling!

We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.  – Joseph Campbell

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The Intervals are the Tough Things

One needs to be led, not enslaved to a pattern, especially when meeting “another’s need“, unless of course you were asked to help. Then I happily give the shirt off my back. Again, the joy is in the sharing. So when they ask me where I capture award winning photos my response is simple, “in my heart first”.  

Great Crested Flycatcher

It might be as simple as desiring to see a certain species, or a conversation where someone might mention something fascinating; “Ever see a Great Blue Heron with a Siren?” And then I’m left asking myself what the heck is a  siren? And the research begins, yes the desire has been conceived.

Have a dear friend who is like a sister to me. A precious woman who I found is a surrogate mom to many all over cyber space, and live time. So she says to me one day; “I so want to see a Bobcat in a tree” and guess what..it happened!! Pondering how the desires of our heart truly can manifest! It makes me think of seeds and how they root.

© Rachel Warner foto

Oh and of course I love when nature is so comfortable in your presence they bathe!!  It always makes me smile, the unexpected refreshing!  It’s kinda like when an acquaintance comes to visit, from out of the country, because, well, it’s something they can’t quite put into words. A migration of sorts.  And then you watch the refreshing happen, yes, all while in the midst of a great drought.

“You can’t think and hit at the same time”  Yogi Berra

And you actually learn a thing or two, like when my friend mentioned; “Did you know there is a pouch under a white Ibis throat”? And amazingly so, we got to see it together!  Some incidences can’t be explained, just experienced. Words can’t even describe or define the expression hence the reason photographers were born I think. It’s the stuff of miracles.

As I’m writing this I get a call, my beloved friend lost her only living sister. I’m the first to hear, she was on my heart and I texted her, firstly to ask permission in using her bobcat picture for this blog, two, to tell her how I cherished our friendship. You know, we just don’t know the burdens our friends carry, not to mention our enemies. And then I find myself asking; “Who is the enemy of my soul? ” the answer comes STAT. Yup, it’s me.

Ever notice those who seek to “crush your spirit”  are those who died long ago.  Don’t take it personal, no, instead you realize hurting people hurt people. Sounds simple and it is. When our hearts become heavy. like lead, it’s the sign we’ve been hit. Unguarded we loved and trusted. Knowing your power will free you from their darkness. Yes, it’s time to take flight from blame.

Ahh to give up control and just BE!! All those things you know are within you. Yes, faith, hope, charity, fortitude, justice, temperance and prudence. Once you were intimate with them, as a child you romped and didn’t have fear, until…..(fill in the blank) Go back to that time and make it leave. Now your soul belongs to you again, from the beginning of time such power spawned. Ah to romp this world without fear, without malice, yes, with kindness and a twinkle of sass. They will look into your eyes and know you understand. 

Yes it’s time to learn the unforced rhythms of grace, living freely and lightly. It’s time to recover your life. It’s time to LIVE!

For some of us, it’s time to give birth to a new way of living. Yes, it’s time to glimpse curious wonder, recognizing refuge has always been present and grasp just how fully formed in love you are!

Today as I am sitting here typing, listening to the contentment from my ready to roost CAG, Yoshi, as he’s gearing up for a night of rest, chatting and now grating, he tries to touch base with the other members of his social group –me and my dogs, Freckles and Pickles! Their life is so simple. In the end we’ll meet our fate together. They’ve taught me. I see the answer in their eyes.

Black-bellied Whistling Duck

And as I view the next upload, penetrated by translucent silence, hot tears birth again. However this time, a new hope, a new reference, a new promise, yes, the purified will to keep on breathing.

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Horizon Reflections

It’s pouring here today, so you know what this means, sustenance for everyone. Love observing nature during the rain. Only the bold ones venture out. The sun doesn’t reveal their shadow. Maybe it’s kinda like fishing on a cloudy day.

Received incredible news as the Crested Caracara above actually made it on the top 100 Audubon Photo award! While viewing all the winners was thinking, each photographer had a story to share, where they were, how they got there, what was going on in their life at that very moment. We humans are observers gleaning answers from a chaotic world.

After the rain this actual Caracara, hangin with the vultures, flew down and started scratching the earth. For those of you who have visited Florida know one moment it can be torrential, the next glorious sunshine. It was after the rain he discovered and revealed his meal; turtle egg!  Yes, was there to catch the suddenly!

The Northern Crested Caracara is usually seen alone or in small family groups, however they may congregate in bigger groups and fly with the Vultures! My friend and I were checking out roadkill and lo and behold another Caracara was found in a nearby tree!!

Regal and glorious reflections of the rising sun on this threatened species, also protected by the Federal Endangered Species Act. No sooner did we see him….he was gone.

Onward we ventured towards the center of Florida and there in a tree so tall and bold, yes an Eagle! Sometimes when you least expect it, the strong and silent appear, just like my friend from Canada and yes, just like Our God, so mysterious, so majestic, so wondrous.

Juvenile Bald Eagle with his catch

We finally reached our destination; Circle B Reserve! What a glorious place, big ole Oak trees with hanging Spanish Moss, it was magical, every step. Refreshing washed over me.

We also met the warmest souls also present with the same goal. We were surrounded by passion, immersed with a knowing, we were walking on the path of new beginnings.  Thinking…may we never lose our wonder.  It was in one of these moments I was interrupted by a scuffle, a Red Shouldered Hawk and snake of all things!!  Turned to call to my friend, it was a suddenly, this time was left all to myself to witness the moment.

In Florida, Red-shouldered Hawks sometimes collaborate and peaceably coexist with American Crows, usually an enemy to all other birds because of their egg-hunting habits. Well these two cooperatively mob mutual predators, mainly Great Horned Owls and Red-tailed Hawks! Local forest re-growth and the ban of hunting has allowed Red-shouldered Hawk populations to become more stable again and the species is not currently considered conservation dependent. Love viewing them in the wild and was blessed to see them up close!

And when I say up close and personal it truly was.  While sitting by a canal bank heard rustling in the trees above, it wasn’t a squirrel nest! Just look at this cutie pie peeking out of a pretty cool camouflaged nest! The Spanish moss was perfect!!

They became restless though, maybe hunger? It wasn’t 15 min when they started BRANCHING! Branching refers to the hopping about and jumping from branch to branch around the nest. Fledging refers to the birds first flight and generally results in the bird landing in a different tree or on the ground. They still were so tiny!! Yet knew they would be flying from the safety of the nest soon, and it kinda saddened me.

Oh they were a curious pair, they saw me and I caught them glancing down a few times which delighted my soul! THEN held my breath as I thought they were going to fall!  Yet, they were doing what all species do, flapping and feeling their “Lift off power”. Soon these two would be flying away from the safety of their home.

Motherhood never quite leaves you. This human was concerned for them. I literally held my breath while observing these moments, and shoot away I did! They didn’t fall. Blessed to witness a very natural behavior, knew there was a transference happening, a personal message received.

Sure enough read the Hawk totem and smiled.
Many of the messages this bird brings you are about freeing yourself of thoughts and beliefs that are limiting your ability to soar above your life and gain a greater perspective. It is this ability to soar high above to catch a glimpse of the bigger picture that will allow you to survive and flourish.

And then reading this I almost spewed out my coffee. WOW was this right on!

Optimism is one of your strongest virtues. You love to share your visions of a better and brighter future. you tend to always be ahead of your time and it’s not easy seeing what other people are not ready to see. Often it is difficult for you to share your insights with others because the other person does not necessarily want to hear it. Learning to give your messages subtly is a must because becoming forceful will cause retreat.

As I was observing the branching of the Red Shoulder Hawk chicks, a sweet little voice interrupted me. Out of no where was this girl; “Are you Brenda?”  Laughingly responded yes and then realized I was receiving a “joggers text”  in female form!! See, sometimes there is no wifi or phone signal available in nature. It’s crazy fun to trust a message will get through when needed, isn’t it?

“Your friend needs you to come back to him as he found the baby Owl in a tree” was her retort. See John was determined to get a picture of an owl. He heard them yet we couldn’t see them. We knew they were there yet I wasn’t content in staying and waiting, fearing the light would be gone and I would miss out on seeing “something else”.   Yes I would be doubly blessed.  It took jogging with two cameras in tow, one a 500 mm under my arm and the light was going fast.  It was worth every bit of breathlessness, captured right about sunset! This baby Barred Owl chick was calling this high pitched trill and this is how I located him. Yup burst mode triggered in the middle of this sound while this little owlet was looking directly at me, barely peaking around his moss protection.

Of course my friends reward was a perfectly lit owlet. Venturing out before he knew of his presence. Yup, we are gleaning much from each other this trek! Supporting each others hunger to nail the essence, the nourishment, the wildness, as the portal leaked out heavens refreshment.

© John Loper foto

The sights were numbing us. Yet our fingers triggered the shutter knowing we would eventually digest the upload and share this Joy, this hope, with the living. Yes, we were becoming, unstuck.

I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in. ~George Washington Carver

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Incredible Vision, the Snail Kite’s and More!

On this particular day awoke early for a two hour northerly ride to launch on the waters of Lake Kissimmee. Today’s quest would be the elusive Snail Kites!!  Their population consists of only 400 to 500 breeding pairs today. So to think we might see them in their natural habitat delighted me! In the green lily pads would be the apple snail, the main diet of this endangered species. The blue pools beckoned us as we waited patiently for nature to show up, and show up she did!

If you ever see a bubble gum looking clump on a reed or tree, guess what, this would be the EGGS of the Apple Snail! The proper name is “egg cluster” And as we made our way to my mentor’s favorite spot we spied them. YEAH! A good sign of a natural cycle in progress.

© JOHN LOPER Awesome photographer and friend

Many Florida marsh birds were present, the vibrant Purple Gallinule was skipping over the lily pads and also seeking out the snails! And of course my fave Great Blue Heron also ventured so close had to switch to my 400mm to barely fit him in my viewfinder!

magic of the GBH.jpg

Then they started coming in! Such concentration and a few flew right over the boat! Here you can see their long talons and sharp beak!

What a site, what VISION, they laser in and BAM down they go and up to transfer the snail from their talons to their beak and then dangle on a delicate branch for consumption. They were trapeze artists!

To see them forage for food, gather nesting materials left us rapidly shooting, must have topped over 1K shots this day, worth every moment!

If you ever want to witness such vision contact my dear friend Ron Bielefeld, Whistling Wings Photography and set up a tour with him, whatever the species he’ll get you to them!  His extensive knowledge as an avian research biologist richly adds to the experience! Ron is located in Sebastian, Florida and can also be reached on Facebook!

here is a male, note the slate grey head

Really to balance on these branches and eat is masterful!

Here I caught the transfer!

TRANSFER! Talon to mouth!

We were out on the water around four hours and decided it was time to make our way back to port so to ride into town for some lunch.  A few more passes over the boat just took my breath away.

Such beauty in the sky

It was high noon when we made our way back, strong light and never would expect to see this, a lifer for me. My first Great Horned Owl in the wild and branching!!  The first step before attempting to fledge. Oh to look into those innocent eyes!!! Again keep your camera with you at ALL TIMES! Never know when nature will show up!:)

Mama flew in and to zoom and see her piercing eyes left me speechless. Captured this male spying treetops for predators. It was sweltering yet goose bumps were apparent all over me. Adrenalin rush. To witness the dedication of this pair to see their offspring to safety was an honor. Held my breath and machine gunned the shutter, my 500 mm would not disappoint.

The neck of the great horned owl can rotate up to 180 degrees to provide this species with almost all-round vision!! Just adore their ear tufts. These horned owls can live up to 13 years in the wild. Most mortality is related to man – shootings, traps, road kills and electrocutions.

The only natural enemies are other Great Horned Owls and, occasionally, Northern Goshawks during disputes over nest sites. Peregrine Falcons have also been observed attacking Great Horned Owls. Still haven’t spied the Northern Goshawks, a few Peregrine Falcons have been a delight! They are known to be the fastest falcon in the world! They are able to dive at 200 miles per hour! So yes, these parents were stalwartly on watch.

Waited two hours to catch the pics below of a much smaller and more delicate falcon; American Kestrel  They have double the facial stripes and just as fast.

If you want to capture birds, you have to be patient, you have to be dedicated, and I think you have to love them.

Springtime is great to find families together, they are so focused on copulation and maintenance of their homes, keep your eyes to the trees and you just may catch the silent owls!  Truly you can not hear them fly. Research found that many owl species have developed feathers which can effectively eliminate the aerodynamic noise from their wings as they cut through the air. If you learn their calls and hone in on their location then you may be blessed with a sighting!

This is exactly what happened and in the below tree are a pair of Barred Owls, can you see them?  And what happened next was nothing more then incredible. You think you’re ready for the “suddenly’s” in life until they happen! 
So there we are looking at them when one fly’s directly toward me! Holy crap is all I could think as I raised my cannon and said a quick prayer; “Please don’t see me as a threat” Unbeknownst to me, concentrating on the one, the other must have flown to a nearby tree and this one flew right after her and OVER MY HEAD!!!

Will never forget this moment as long as I live.

And I teared up when the upload revealed some of the magic caught with my handheld.

Every month I smile wondering what adventure I will get to share with my mom and anyone else who happens upon my blog. Nature is radical! Can’t thank our Creator enough for these moments of refreshing.  And yes, the JOY is in the sharing!

A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.- John C. Maxwell

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Hidden Traps

The only control we have are thoughts. Filtered through our heart decisions are made and actions ensue which aren’t always rational. Especially when we are struggling to make sense with the behavior of loved ones!

Why can’t people free themselves from past decisions?  Maybe it’s because we are unwilling consciously or not, to admit to a mistake. We tend to subconsciously decide what to do before figuring out why we want to do it. Certain choices compound an error and this may leave one flustered.

So how do you cope with the shock of abandonment from someone you love?  You know, that long term relationship someone. The someone who was always there and now isn’t returning home. That someone who lived in your heart, mind, body and soul.

Did you know Eagles mate for life? They engage in significant courtship and pair bonding behavior. However, if a mate dies or does not return to the nesting site for the breeding season, studies show that the surviving eagle generally will find a new mate very quickly and will likely use the existing nest with a new mate because of eagles strong nest site fidelity.

Their nest can be nine feet in diameter and weigh two tons! Last year I discovered one such nest near my home. Here is mama with her two little ones. This was the only visit where I saw them peep out their heads. The largest nest on record was 20 ft deep and I suspect this one was similar.

Thinking about nests and care put into making a home.  Fact is even in nature we may find nestseekers; shameless parasites, brood parasites that is, who deposit their eggs in another birds nest to have their young be raised by an entirely different species!

Some humans may nest with you for a season, yet their heart really wasn’t at home with you. Yet truth be told, faith has an odd way of letting you feel safe wherever you are planted, whatever situation you may encounter. It’s just takes time, time to retrain your mind, your perception of reality, your understanding of how life works.

Brown-headed Cowbird; brood parasite

Love jaunts in Nature as she teaches me, reflections of love everywhere and the infusion fortifies.

Made the above film with my handheld 500mm. Forgive the shaking, it was a suddenly, unplanned yet ecstatically documented. The joy is always in the sharing. Strolling in the midst of nature cleanses me.IMG_9118

This day at the canal banks, watched the water gently stream by when caught sight of this lone leaf. Today I was that leaf,  breathing in the beauty all around me, dying to an old belief system.  Love when nature isn’t afraid of me. Love when the animals stroll by and accept, tolerate my presence.

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As I was sitting, observed squirrel stretching for a morsel. So true in life, the cost of obtaining a goal needs to be balanced against it’s benefits. He had done this before, cautious yet agile and fascinatingly fearless.

Then Anhinga flew in. Clumsy in the tree yet so agile in the water. These birds always entrance me. The branch was bobbing up and down and this guy held on, sheer delight to watch.

Did you know they like to make their nests in trees that hang over water? The male collects sticks and twigs which the female weaves into a nest. Three to six eggs are laid and both parents incubate them. The chicks are blind and naked but soon grow a coat of white down.

They grow up so fast that when they are two weeks old they know what to do if danger threatens. They simply drop into the water and swim to a hiding place. Sadly the gators know this too.

After the danger is over they climb back to the nest if they can with all FIVE of their appendages; feet, wings and neck while climbing. After they grow their feathers, at six to eight weeks, they finally are on their own.

Thank you merciful Creator of Heaven and Earth. Thank you for letting me glimpse again the wildness of You. Extreme majesty, plumb line of balance, thank you for letting portals of understanding stream in. After all Your Son did declare it; “on earth as it is in heaven”.  Breathing this in, makes living worth while.

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