Category: Birds

The Sacred in the Small

The Sacred in the Small

simonelipscomb (2)Yesterday the river was clear enough from recent rains to get out and enjoy a nice SUP board paddle. Recent heavy rains had shifted a downed tree almost completely out of the way and created a nicer, whiter beach at my usual put-in spot in our neighborhood. After a leisurely warm-up paddle I was ready to turn on the turbo when I spotted a mother wood duck and her brood of over ten babies.

Who could pass up such a delightful surprise? I stood on my board watching as the little ones scooted behind their mom…peep-peep-peeping. Oh…it was great to be back on the river!

photo copyIt was a quiet morning with only  a few boats so stillness prevailed. I saw the pine tree at Devil’s Hole had three great blue heron nests in it this year instead of one. Two of the nests had the tall gray-blue birds standing in them. I sigh now remembering the joy that sight produced within me.

And so I continued downriver a bit and decided to turn and head upriver. I had to stop and greet the osprey pair and watch as one of the parents chased a large crow away from the tall nest. Across from the osprey family a large group of turkey buzzards were perched on the tin roof of a boathouse. I could hear their long nails scraping against the metal and even though I’m not afraid of them, it sort of creeped me out. They eat carrion…dead things…and so I felt a little squeamish as I kept an eye on them and told them, “Not yet boys. Not yet.”

When I got to the big bend in the river just past the Devil’s Hole, I spied a tiny baby turtle attempting to climb up on a small, round piece of floating driftwood. He kept spinning it. So I gently reached and caught him and placed him on my board. I gave him a ride to the nearest pile of floating vegetation near the river bank.

As I passed under the bridge and then through the Cold Hole I neared the narrow stretch of river that would lead me home. I heard a peep, peep, peep. Hmmm…where was that coming from, I wondered. And then, as my eyes scanned the direction of the sweet sound, I saw a single wood duck baby. Mama and siblings were apparently gone. I sat on my board and listened carefully and watched for any sign of movement along the opposite bank but saw nothing.

So I sat with this amazing, fuzzy, precious duckling and waited. I talked with her, suggested she stay clear of bass and keep on peeping for her mom. My heart ached as I could sense the anxiety of this small, sacred life…desperately wanting the comfort of her mother and brothers and sisters. I gave her space and left at one point to paddle back toward the bridge looking and then upriver a bit but never saw a glimpse of mama wood duck.

With a deep sadness that echoed throughout my being and out into the world,  I paddled onward. Thirty minutes I waited, watched and searched but knew that the best chance this young one had was to survive long enough for mom to return and gather her into the fold once more.

Innocent beings, the smallest of the small, touch me and create such compassion and honestly, such heartbreak. I was telling a friend and fellow bird-lover about the baby duck and how heart-broken I was that I couldn’t do anything but witness the baby’s dilemma. He reminded me of the cost we pay when we are empathic. It hurts to care…and yet it is a reminder that I have such capacity for love and compassion. We all do.

800_0234Driving back from Gulf Shores today I saw a tiny inch worm crawling on my leg. I carefully placed my finger in front of him and offered safety until we arrived home. This tiny, amazing worm also reminded me that all life is sacred. All is worth protecting. And yes…all life is related…connected. The smallest creatures remind us of this truth.

Stay Wild

Stay Wild

SimoneLipscomb (6)A whistling duck stood in the sand frantically flapping his wings while three other whistling ducks stood in a semi-circle in front of him. They gave a half-hearted attempt but he kept whistling words of encouragement. It didn’t matter that he and his friends and many other shorebirds were in a permanent enclosure due to injuries. He refused to give up hope.

I stood witnessing the exchange and felt his wild heart yearning for, hoping for freedom. He was determined to keep his flight muscles strong so if the time comes, he will be ready.

SimoneLipscomb (31)An osprey was also on the ground looking up at me. Usually they are soaring high above looking down on me. To see such a majestic bird of prey grounded due to broken wings was heartbreaking.

I pondered the wildness still found in these precious creatures. They are fed and cared for by humans and yet there is still a spark of the feral within them at a very deep level.

SimoneLipscomb (40)Later as I wandered through Florida woods with stately palm trees, palmettos, spanish moss and sweet bays, I wondered how many of us stay connected with that wild part of ourselves. How many of us feel at home in the woods or a forest? Do we maintain that spark of wildness that helps us feel at home…in the truest sense.

Whooping of a breeding pair. These endangered birds are part of a captive breeding program....hope for the wild!

As I stood photographing an endangered whooping crane I made a soft, little whooping sound and she immediately looked skyward. I saw the kinship this regal bird still carries within her being for others of her kind that pass overhead in migration. She longs for flight. She longs for freedom. And even though she is in an enclosure, she maintains freedom of spirit.

SimoneLipscomb (7)The little whistling duck’s message will stay in my heart as a reminder. Stay wild! Stay connected. Be ready….and above all…don’t forget you can fly!

Paradise in the Palm of My Hand*

Paradise in the Palm of My Hand*

SimoneLipscomb (3)This morning while traveling along Highway 135 through Gulf State Park I came upon a tiny bird in the road. A larger bird was standing next to it and so my first thought was a baby bird had flown into the road. I slammed on the brakes and pulled over and by that time realized it wasn’t the correct season for baby birds to be flying.

The spillway where I stopped is in a large curve and as soon as I opened the door I heard a truck coming. I started waving frantically and the driver stopped. I ran out into the road and scooped up the little warbler. Since it was raining I jumped back in my car and simply held the little gal. The worst thing with injury is shock..and cold.

SimoneLipscomb (2)After a few minutes I opened my hand and honestly, it didn’t look very promising. The bird’s neck was okay but it was lethargic. Since it was 47 degrees and wet, keeping my little friend warm was imperative so I sat and simply held her cradled snugly in my hand. I felt slight movements and took this as a good sign. I have held far too many birds that passed away quietly in my hands after hitting a window or being hit by an automobile. And the little yellow-rumped warblers are notorious for darting out in front of traffic.

SimoneLipscomb (1)Twenty minutes passed and I opened my hand again wanting to get a better assessment of her injuries. She appeared more alert and even clumsily hopped off my hand onto the floor. I carefully gathered her in my hand and placed her on the dash. She sat there staring for a while and finally began to look around more..she looked awake! I opened the passenger window and let her feel the cooler air.

SimoneLipscombFinally, I picked her up and let her perch on my finger. I moved my hand toward the window and whoosh….off she flew. Strong little wings carried her to a bush not far from my car. I sat for a few moments longer observing, making sure she was okay.

My favorite images capture the soul, the spirit, of places and animals...and those of people lost in the creative process.

*Will Kimbrough wrote a new song called Paradise. The first time I heard him perform it at the Frog Pond it deeply touched me. It’s about this area along the Gulf Coast in which I was born and, after twenty years away, am happy to call home once more. As I sat and held the tiny warbler in my hand I thought of Will’s song and the line…”paradise in the palm of your hand.’

She left a little present for me on my dash...

I felt the connection to all life here as the precious bird sat in my palm…animals, plants, salt water, river mud…people. I feel so blessed, so full of gratitude for everyone and everything that makes this home to me.

For the Beauty of the Earth

For the Beauty of the Earth

Today I wish to let my photography speak of my love for this beautiful planet…Earth. Happy Earth Day to all my relations….two-legged, four-legged, winged, finned, creepy crawlers….my heart is filled with love and appreciation!

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Outsmarting the Wind

Outsmarting the Wind

At 6.15am my eyes popped open and I evaluated the wind situation quickly by glancing out the French doors. Perfectly calm…for now. I knew that sunrise would bring more wind. It is normal for winds to increase as the earth heats during the day but today–when the forecast called for 15 to 25 mph winds with 30 mph gusts–I knew my window for SUP boarding on the river (comfortably) was small. So I raced to get ready and was on the water by 6.45am.

Upriver, where I live, the river is narrow and calm
Upriver, where I live, the river is narrow and calm

Paddling so early almost insures a visit with the river before human activity begins, while it is quiet and peaceful. The two wood duck couples I greeted were not happy about the intrusion on their morning ritual. But it was glorious and I sang apologies for my disturbing their morning.

It was mostly calm in the narrow part of the river with ripples from gusts barely registering on the water’s surface. Green was exploding around me, reflecting in the water and filling my vision with beauty. As I warmed up I felt my relief to be back on the water. Joy at feeling my muscles find their strength. Delight as I got to my cardio pace. YES!

RIVER2 (3)Mullet were splashing so close to me that I wondered if there was such a thing as mullet armor or if I could invent it. Humorous perhaps but some of those fish get ambitious in their leaps. No joke!

Great blue herons fished peacefully along the banks. Green herons squawked, annoyed at my intrusion. The large pond slider on the log under the bridge was ousted by the tiny baby turtle. Both accepted me as a friend and showed no protest at my passing.

When I got to Bemis Bay, where the river opens up into a larger body of water, the wind was churning and gave me a good push. How nice to have this help. But I knew that upon return the wind would be gathering strength and I’d be facing it. But it was so worth the effort to be there, to be present on the Magnolia River.

On I paddled, now pushed by the gaining wind and happy to be sliding through a spring-time sunrise on my board, my ‘friend.’

When I got to my two mile marker–a tree that leans over the river, across from where the osprey perches in the cypress tree–I turned around and retrieved my water bottle to replenish my fluids. As I floated, beauty of the wild part of the river tapped at my heart and I returned the greeting by whispering words of gratitude.

The paddle back up river presented a kaleidoscope of patterns. Colors of gray, blue, white and green danced on the contours of small waves and I was lost in that world of shape and hue and wished I could paint what I saw. Then the sun broke through but it was a white sun, more like a moon glade and I paddled into the shimmering silver sunrise and gusting, whipping wind. I was sweating from the pace set but grateful to feel so present, so here in this body, and so surrounded by nature at its finest along the Alabama Gulf Coast.

Later in the day the blow lived up to the forecast. So glad was I that I had almost outsmarted the wind. Never would there be reason to claim a true one-upping something so big as the wind as there is always tomorrow….

It is so calm upriver....such a lovely way to end my workout and morning visit with the river and its residents
It is so calm upriver….such a lovely way to end my workout and morning visit with the river and its residents