Cherish is my favorite word, and I cherish the ability of turning the routine into a beautiful moment.
Nature creates in me, a spiritual and meditative time to bring peace, harmony and balance, into an otherwise ordinary day~
Mary Howell Cromer

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Farewell to 2023...Sharing a Few Favorite Highlights~

 ~An Ermine/Stoat in it's Winter white at Sax Zim Bog Minnesota~

Happy New Year to those who shall come to visit this blog presentation.
I am hoping that each of you are enjoying good health and spending cherished times with family and friends.  
For many I am certain I have lost track of in my lack of being present and I can only hope that some will see this post entry so that we might reconnect.  
The memes I have enjoyed in the past 13 years, some no longer exist and others I had trouble getting my work attached to and so I am going to just post and hope I can reach a few you as well as those that I have invited through my 
Facebook page that attaches members to this blog:
Photography by Mary Howell Cromer  
It has been a very long year and I have enjoyed some amazing experiences and have seen so much beauty very near where we live.
I have highlighted some of my memorable encounters in nature.
This past January I made a lifelong awaited journey up to Sax Zim Bog and the opportunity of seeing a Great Gray Owl.
Let me begin with this...we never saw a single one. In years past people saw hundreds of them during a Great Gray Owl eruption. 
Last year one person we met had 27 sightings and this year they saw none. 
It certainly wasn't for a lack of trying to locate them either.
This coming February Christine and I will be flying up to Minneapolis and rent a car to drive to Duluth and then on out to Sax Zim Bog.  Once again we will spend many hours out looking for what has become my greatest project on my very short bucket list.
Below are some of the lovelies that we saw on our previous journey~

*Remember to double click on the first image, to view a larger slideshow presentation after  you have read the narratives. Thanking you so very much~

The following eight images, and mosaics are from Sax Zim Bog in Minnesota as is the one above of the Canada Jay which is a beautiful bird and so enjoyable to observe!

                               A gorgeous duo are Mr. & Mrs. Pine Grosbeak~

                                       A stunning pair of Evening Grosbeaks~

You got to where you hoped to see cars pulled over, especially those with people that had camera equipment.  
It gave you hope that they were getting a look at a Great Gray Owl~

       The roads were so pretty.  Everywhere you looked, you saw Winters white!

A Hairy Woodpecker and a Northern Shrike.
These two would never desire to be perched side by side.  
Northern Shrikes kill birds and rodents using their sharp beaks~

                           These little Red Squirrels are just too adorable and oh 
                                               wow their bark is crazy loud~

Such a lovely scene as we traversed near the lakefront one early morning~

This Trumpeter swan was in real trouble.  

We didn't realize how bad until we had returned home~

            Last December a single juvenile Trumpeter swan showed up in my county                      of Oldham and stayed a few months.  These are very rare to our area.                                 As you will see we had a few rare birds here this year~
 day in late Spring, early Summer an adult Trumpeter swan showed up and they stayed together and one day just left and I felt great about it~

          A very rare occurrence took place this past Summer when a Roseate                                Spoonbill showed up at the Falls of the Ohio in Southern Indiana.                             At times it was also seen on the Louisville, Kentucky side of the river.  
      I had always wanted to see one on our many travels to Florida, and yet had               never seen one until this one arrived on the banks of the Ohio River just a                                             thirty minute drive away from our home.  
              The Spoonbill stayed around for a few weeks, much to my delight                                                       and everyone else that loves birds~

A Roseate Spoonbill and "Pink" American Flamingo in Kentucky! Oh My!

This past Autumn we had an American Flamingo show up just under 100 miles away from where we live in Oldham County, KY.  It stayed for a few weeks before hopefully heading South~

Above is a rare site to my area also this year.  A white winged scoter above.  What a gorgeous bird and I believe that I was present when it made it's final flight heading Northwest.  It was never seen again afterwards~

Limpkins have been seen in twenty locations in Kentucky this year!  That is a lot!  Limpkins are tropical wetland birds whose range reaches into Florida. They specialize in eating apple snails, which they hunt both day and night. This bird’s haunting cries, heard mostly at night, are otherworldly and unforgettable~

Oh My Goodness, Goodness!!!

Barn owls are such a rare sight to see around here.  Once in 1981 I was invited to visit my next door neighbor's barn.  In the loft was such a beautiful Barn owl.  The landowners had never seen it in there before and we hoped that it might stay, but it was gone the next evening and never returned.  

This year my friend heard about some in a silo in Northern Tennessee.  We decided to make the journey and we were so fortunate to see all of them.  What interesting owls they are.  Those heart shaped faces are strikingly beautiful~

Kentucky had a few of these lovely visitors this past Summer as well.  These are called Scissor-tailed kites and they are fascinating.  Really stunning birds~ 

Another rare bird to visit our area was an American Bittern that showed up in our Parklands park system in Jefferson County, Kentucky.  I believe that I heard that there may have been two of them at one point. This beauty was very much photographed often too. 

There are all sorts of reasons that these rare bird occurrences happen and since we cannot ask the bird how it came to arrive so far from home, we shall never know the exact answers~

Another very rare bird alert came about when we found out about an Allen's Hummingbird being in a rural area about a couple of hours, or so away.  
These guys are supposed to be eating happily in Southern California and even South of there for the Winter.  This was a lost juvenile bird.  
When we do have lost hummingbirds it is very special that landowners do contact people to see what they can do to help them.  We have a wonderful contact who will drive many miles to make sure that these wee visitors will have food provided from an electric heated feeder and a small place to perch at night if needed.  He will also place a band on the bird if possible~

Seeing this River Otter with this fish that was almost the same size ;) was crazy wild! 

My friend Christine took me to see Snow Geese for the first time.  Until this journey I had only seen two in a field with a flock of Canada geese...and Oh My Goodness there were many thousands of them on this day! What an impressive display of action and beauty!  It was one of those outstanding memories made in birding for me~

Above is a pair of  Hooded Mergansers which I am always very fond of seeing.  Beautiful birds~

Yes indeed Tom Turkeys do strut and this one was magnificent in display as he searched for females nearby~

 Only one Short-eared owl has arrived near where we live in the fields where two years ago we had 4 to 6 every night.  I just love these guys.  They are so much fun to see and hear as well~

Two nests of Great horned owls, also known as the "Tiger of the Forest"



For many years now I have enjoyed listening for the magical sound of the Sandhill Cranes.  They have a beautiful voice and I have two friends that even have a baby monitor.  One of the stations is set up inside and the other outside so that they can listen for when the cranes fly over.  I have seen thousands of these birds flying in huge groups over me and then all converging in the corn fields like large rocks scattered everywhere.  Their height and wingspan and those red hearts on the top of their heads are gorgeous and cannot be missed easily!  Every once in awhile the more rare Whooping cranes, as in one, or two will join the flock~

One of my favorite flowers are Poppies and on one Summer day I went into town to the Parklands park system to see a field of these stunning flowers.  An Indigo bunting even landed in the flowers on this afternoon~

When we first moved to our woodland home in 1981 we could hear the sound of a Chuck-will's-widow in the dusk of the evening sky.  I had not heard, or seen on for decades until this Summer when I was invited to see one that was calling on a regular basis down the lane from where a friend of mine lives~

The Red River Gorge is a canyon system that has a  byway that is approximately 46 miles long. There are a lot of points of interest and at every turn was a new scenic surprise.  Lots of birds and the azalea bushes were ginormous.  They were as large as trees dozens of feet high with gorgeous flower blossoms~

I miss the quail when they are gone for the heavy Winter months~

If and when the Northern Harriers arrive near our home, I know that I can hope for the Short-eared owls to join them.  Only one owl has shown up this season and only a couple of harriers, both female to date...I am still hoping more will show up with this milder weather~

Highland cattle originated in the Scottish Highlands.
TC Highlands Farm is about a half an hour drive away from home and what a pleasure it was to be invited to visit there yesterday. These are such beautiful cattle and our tour guide was Tristan whose parents own the farm and what a delight she was to spend time with and learn about this breed as well as learn about the running of the farm.

         This Eastern Cottontail showed up while I was looking for a hummingbird near by~

Did you know that Groundhogs can climb trees...climb trees very well?!?  
I did!  
This one was trying to reach leaves remaining at the top of this tree~

A Beaver was swimming at the Falls of the Ohio one early morning while I waited for better light to bird and then began to snack on something it had found in the water~

Ruby throated Hummingbird.  I love them and will look forward to seeing them once again next Spring.  For now they are far far away~

       A Northern Flicker, also called by many a Yellow-shafted Flicker was busy                        snacking on tiny berries on our land this past late Autumn~

      Yellow-rumped warblers were in abundance here as near as just a week ago.                  They love the many fruit bearing trees and bushes that we have here~

On a recent visit to the Louisville Zoo, I happened on this zebra as it had laid down to take a dust bath.  The shots to me came out interesting and I really liked them.  These are just a few from that set~

~The Bumper~

Meet Bumper. 

 She came to me as an orphan late October of 2022 and has become a very important part of our lives.  Let me explain...

I rehabbed small mammals after we no longer held our Raptor rehab and release permits.  I did rehab and release under a blanket permit called Kentucky Wildlife Line.  I had not done any rehab for them for several years when I received a message that a single gray squirrel had been found and needed help.  She was brought to me from a small town about a half an hours drive away. She being a single was new to me as I always had more than one to raise together.  I made calls to others that could maybe help out and was told that since my permit had expired that someone could come and take her and also fine me.  I was also given the opportunity to take her in to a Vet's office and they would either turn her out, or put her down.  I immediately called my person with Kentucky Wildlife Line and was immediately reinstated with permission to raise and release her.  Bumper was only about five weeks old and needed to be on formula for another ten weeks, along with the introduction of other foods like veggies, grains and a few fruits.  She thrived!  It is difficult releasing a single because when they are very young, they learn from each other.  I kept her in a large cage in the heated garage all Winter and continued to feed her formula and gave her new foods daily.  I tried to get wild things as often as I could find them, especially mushrooms.  Once Bumper was old enough to be transferred to her final cage, a soft release cage set up, I would no longer touch her.  That was so hard because she loved her cuddles and it slowed down and then came to a complete stop five weeks prior to her release date of March 2oth.  Her release was amazing!  She had learned to bark, to flag her tail, to listen to the alarm calls of adult squirrels, and also paid attention when something large passed over her...well all but once.  That picture will be shown below~ 

Bumper had only been out one, or two days when a Red-tailed hawk watched her playing in the garden and flew down right above where she was.  I had a panic immediately and began screaming at the bird to leave and I tried to keep Bumper near me.  The bird finally gave up on any idea of snagging her at least for that day~

Bumper became pregnant her first heat in June and raised 4 kittens.  She was a fantastic mother and pulled her hair from her tail to help warm the nest she had prepared for them.  She made three squirrel drays and one of them in a blue spreader bush became her nursery choice.

My husband loves her almost as much as I do.  He still watches for her and gives her handouts often!

                 This was one of Bumper's kittens at close to 7 weeks of age~

My great-grandfather was Dr. Joseph Morton Howell.  He was the first United States Ambassador to Egypt and I have done a lot of research on him the past fifteen years in particular.  My father was raised by this man he fondly called Father Howie and his wife Eva, or Mother Howie.  
Robert Breslin Howell was my father and he lived in Egypt with his grandparents during the four years that Dr. Howell was in his leadership role. 
For many years I have read articles about Zahi Hawass who is an Egyptian archaeologist, as well as an Egyptologist.  He was also twice named the Minister of state for Antiquities Affairs. 
In May when I learned that he would be speaking in Columbus, Ohio I made arrangements to stay with dear friends there and went to see him speak in person.  I also purchased one of his books and was introduced to him briefly.  A missed opportunity was offered me to be taken back and meet him behind the scenes prior to the program and I made the mistake of not going.  Huge sigh!

My Father Howie in front of the famous Sphinx right at 100 hundred years ago.  He was such a handsome, dignified gentleman.  
He was shown in many images of the 1923 National Geographic Book showing him entering King Tutankhamen's tomb as well as other very nice entries.  I found the book while on my search and was able to make the nice purchase.  
A very dear friend that I met while doing my research purchased the original photo of him in top hat and this is a copy of it below.  I have another friend that was able to clean up the photograph.  
I treasure all of the things that have been shared with me by my friends Peter and Cynthia.  They have opened up such grand pages of interest to me and so much more~

A life-size bronze sculpture of Secretariat running at the legendary Claiborne Farm and a three-story mural of him winning the 1973 Kentucky Derby are the centerpieces of a new park on Main Street in Paris, Kentucky.

The park opened November 11, 2023 — 50 years to the date that the Triple Crown champion arrived at Claiborne for his breeding career.

My friends Christine and her husband Chad took me to the Secretariat festival in November.

Next April I will get to go to tour the horse farm and see where this amazing, famed racehorse is buried. If you know nothing of this great horse, it would be worth the looking up to read about him. He was a marvel~

~Happiest of New Year Blessings~
One of my most recent acrylic paintings.  I used a sand paint for parts of it~

1 comment:

  1. A fascinating look back over your year. Not sure how I missed this post when it was first published. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading it now though. I hope this is the year you get to see a Great Grey Owl.


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