Back at the old homestead last weekend, I checked out my former garden and found my perennials still going strong! Here are this year’s batch of “bleeding hearts” (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) for Cee’s FOTD 5/5/21.
For the last day of Becky’s April Bright Squares, this is a (double) rainbow, a perfect and complete arc that we were treated to yesterday evening at 7:00 after a brief storm blew through our area. Afterward, just about all my friends that live around here posted their rainbow photos on Facebook! I mean, WOW! This was a spectacular sight! A fitting end to a very BRIGHT month! Thank you, Becky!
Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #145, hosted by Scillagrace, has the theme “Getting to Know You” (I am already singing the next line of the song from My Fair Lady in my head: Getting to know all about you…).
This is how Scillagrace describes the theme: My invitation to you is to present a “Getting To Know You” post showing your relationship with a subject you’ve photographed. The subject could be a Person, a Place, a Culture, an Object…anything that has captured your attention, won your affection and taught you a thing or two.
I have chosen a selection of my photos and observations of the birds on the ponds of our community, especially the swans, but I enjoy the ducks too! While observing these birds (which was one of my main entertainments in 2020 during the pandemic), I was curious about some of their habits, and did some research to learn more.
We have two pairs of swans that arrive in March to occupy our ponds until late fall. Last year there was a contest to name the swans, but I had my own names for the swans, especially those on West Pond: Sidney (cob) and Celina (pen). Swans mate for life and we were able to observe their mating rituals. One afternoon in March, we actually saw them mating. I was so awed I didn’t even think to pull out my camera and take pictures, although I did get their post-mating “heart” – where they put their heads together and form a heart shape – it’s like their kind of kiss!
Two weeks later, Celina began laying her eggs. Swans lay one egg at a time, usually two days apart. Even though they may lay several eggs, their method of incubation causes the cygnets to be born about the same time. The pen doesn’t spend as much time sitting on her eggs until all have been laid. She pulls feathers out from her belly so that the clutch will have direct contact with her skin to maximize their warmth. One of our photographer friends spent a lot of time observing this pair, and he not only got photos of their actual mating, but even one photo of Celina in the process of laying an egg! With my cellphone camera, I only got a photo of her with two eggs, and then 5 eggs when she was temporarily in the water feeding. (She laid a total of 6).
To keep us entertained during the pandemic, there was another contest to predict when the eggs would hatch! I’d found out that the incubation period is about 35 days, so I calculated May 21 as the date we would see the hatchlings! Unfortunately, there was a huge storm that swept in on May 18 with high winds and rain. Alas, all the eggs were lost, blown into the water where their precious cargo immediately drowned! (Bird eggs cannot be saved from the water – since oxygen does permeate the egg shell, once they fall into the water, the babies drown.) It was a great disappointment to many in our community, since we were greatly looking forward to watching the cygnets grow. Because of the pandemic, their loss was particularly devastating for us.
But Sidney and Celina carried on, not laying any more eggs to replace those they’d lost (sometimes swans will do this). The photo below was taken the week before the storm. Sidney had been vigilant about keeping potential intruders away from the nest. Here he chases a Canada goose out of the water. (Once the eggs were lost, both swans lost interest in chasing geese away.)
More tranquil scenes, in July
A daily visitor to our ponds last year was this heron – he’s back again this year, but I haven’t taken any new photos of him (or her – I don’t know which it is)!
Sidney and Celina were returned to us this spring, but within two weeks, Sidney died of unknown causes! Instead of taking the pen back to choose another mate, a substitute cob was brought to the pond two days later. This year, Celina has laid 7 eggs, but I am unsure whether these were fertilized by Sidney or the new mate – perhaps a few of each. I haven’t been able to find out whether this is possible. As a stepfather, though, it remains to be seen whether the new mate will bond with the cygnets once they are hatched (if in fact, he is not the real father). Surprisingly, Celina and her new mate (I will have to come up with a name for him) seem to get along well, so I hope things will work out between them and their new family!
Although we had no cygnets last year, we did have plenty of ducklings! Ducks, unlike geese and swans, do not mate for life. In fact, they can be quite promiscuous, mating with multiple partners during one season! But usually they are seen in pairs, until the hen is ready to make a nest.
Once the female goes off to nest, the male stays behind and doesn’t participate in duckling rearing. Over time, as the females went off to nest, there were an increasing number of mallard drakes (males) hanging out together, which I dubbed “the bachelor club!”
I loved watching these families grow – the ducklings were so cute!!
It’s a new season and the life cycle of our swans and ducks has begun again. Celina has seven eggs, but the swans on East Pond, in spite of diligently working on their nest, and even squeaking at us when we got too close, have not produced any eggs – they didn’t last year either, but it was their first year as a couple. Often swan pens don’t produce eggs until three or four years old.
I was looking through my 2014 photos of Savannah and Charleston for another post, and came across this bright circle of stained glass from The Circular Congregational UCC Church in Charleston.
I also took this photo of other stained glass windows, the beauty in their simplicity, at the same church.
The church had a rather interesting graveyard in back, which we also explored, with some very old and historical graves.
This single tulip popped up in the small garden in back of our house – I had not planted it, and it looked a bit ragged – obviously some animal was taking bites out of the leaves. Probably a squirrel – it brought the bulb to that spot and buried it, so it grew…
Looking closely at the photo above, I saw something I hadn’t noticed before: another tulip stem alongside with the flower missing!
I loved the color of this single tulip and I am glad I took these photos when I did because the next day, we were sitting in our living room and Dale said, “A squirrel is eating your tulip!”
I looked and sure enough: the squirrel had bitten the flower off the top of the stem and would have absconded with it if I hadn’t charged out onto the porch and scared it away! If only the cat had been on the porch, perhaps the squirrel wouldn’t have dared to approach.
Anyway, that is the short and sad story of my one and only tulip. I miss the tulips at our old house, and have resolved to get some more tulip bulbs to plant in the fall. And I will find some sort of barrier or method of keeping those pesky squirrels away!
Posted for Cee’s FOTD 4/29/21.
We took our first cruise in 2015, on the Baltic Sea, stopping at interesting historic ports, such as Tallinn, Estonia and St. Petersburg, Russia, as well as some of the major Scandinavian capitals. I captured this wonderful scene in the town of Sigtuna, Sweden, which has a renowned boarding school and is often a destination for church retreats. The name of Sigtuna comes from an old English word for town (tuna), which was originally a Viking word.
After a wonderful lunch and a tour of the historic parts of town, learning about runic stones and mythology, visiting a 13th century church, and seeing a scary-looking contraption that was put on people who were jailed for drunkenness at the Town Hall, we were free to walk around on our own. We strolled down the street with lots of souvenir shops. Then we headed down to the lake on a sloping street past picturesque houses (some quite large) with pretty gardens. Along the lake was a park, including a spiral path with a faux runic stone in the middle, a miniature golf course that used tiny versions of local buildings for the holes, and many ducks who hoped for tidbits from an old couple sitting on a bench. There were lots of ducks in the lake as well, and this little girl on the lake shore trying to attract them. She was the picture of innocence and inquisitiveness of childhood and I loved her black hat! She is just one person (with many ducks!) in Sigtuna.
Here is a gallery of photos taken in Sigtuna.
Jez’s Water Water Everywhere is an open photo challenge, to post photos with water. Right now his theme is reflections. Here are some of our water fowl, reflected on the water of our campus ponds.
These whimsical animals were part of a sculpture garden next to an elegant restaurant in Antigua, Guatemala, and I think they are perfect for Becky’s April Bright Squares.
Antigua was part of an optional tour during our 2017 cruise through the Panama Canal. We crossed from east to west, and made several stops along the western coastal ports of Central America.
After touring the historic center, our tour bus took us on a narrow winding road up a hill, past the rich part of town. At the very top of the hill was a cultural center, Santo Domingo del Cerro, and restaurant called The Golden Fork. This is where we had lunch and afterward had some free time to shop at craft vendors or wander the grounds which contained interesting artwork by local artists, including various colorful animal sculptures – a rabbit, monkeys, snails, crocodiles, horses, and merry-go-round horses.