Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Stalking the Wild Heron

heron at Metrobeach
September 3, 2012
photo by me, Mary Stebbins Taitt

Stalking the Wild Heron

I spent my Labor-Day holiday stalking herons. I took a lot of pictures, downloaded them, and showed them to friends and family.
"Nice," they said.
I was a little disappointed.
Then I realized that, as I already knew, the photos aren't that great.
For me, however, something was wonderful, astounding, joyous, fulfilling.
I cogitated.
I realized, finally, that it was the experience of stalking the herons.
It was sort of like climbing a mountain. When I was younger, I climbed mountains. I would walk, hike, scramble and struggle upward over rock, climb cliffs. I needed a lot of attention on where I put my feet and hands. I had to concentrate. Then, finally but suddenly, I was at the top. The sky opened and the scenery was spread before me. It was a rush. Joy. Satisfaction. Accomplishment.
The day before yesterday, I sat in the thistles on the bank of the pond and inched my way closer and closer to this heron. The long, sharp thorns pricked my skin. It was hot hot hot; the sun beat down on my face, sweat ran down in rivulets, and I sat and watched and waited and inched forward. I was concentrating. I was aware of the smell of the pond and the mud, the view of swans and turtles, the sun and the sweat, the heron, panting in the heat, standing totally still, or walking a step, and then standing still.
I inched forward, over and over, until I was closer than I have ever been before to a wild heron. I sat and watched. I took a lot of pictures. I don't have the best camera or the best lens. The background was cluttered. The pictures are imperfect. But I was alive, awake, aware.
I was having a peak experience. I can't share that with my friends and family, the living experience.
For them, it was just another heron photo. They've seen hundreds, and many better than mine.
For me, it was a lot better than "nice."
Would I have been as happy if I didn't succeed at capturing any photographs? Perhaps not, afterwards. But during the stalking, I was so in the moment that I was beyond happy.


I hope to post more heron shots and some heron info, sometimes soon.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Poised to Strike

green frog
"Poised to Strike"
acrylic on paper
by Mary Stebbins Taitt

This is a Green Frog whose call sounds like a banjo string being plucked.  It has "seams" on it's back, unlike a bullfrog.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Beauty of Flight (Owl)

Watch on full screen.  Only takes a few seconds.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Tattered Swallowtail

From Laurel Hill State Park in Pennsylvania, Lake Trail. by me, Mary Stebbins Taitt. Click image to view larger.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Dragonfly Symbiosis

Dragonfly Symbiosis

A Story for Gretchen

Once upon a time, there was a girl who loved to go out in the woods and meditate. One of her favorite places to sit in ZaZen was Lycopodium Knoll, a small rise in the sandy woods above Blue Heron Lagoon. The knoll was covered with lycopodia, and the girl would sit with her back to a red maple and her middle finger touching her thumb and her hands resting on her knees. And sit.

One day, however, her serenity was disturbed by deerfly. The deerflies buzzed nosily around and kept landing on the girl’s arms and shoulders. They were trying to bite her.

Suddenly, there was a much larger, louder buzzing and a huge insect landed on her knee. In its mandibles was a deer fly. The dragonfly noisily chomped down the deerfly and a moment later, zipped out and snagged another. When it had eaten that one, it snagged a third, and continued until it had eaten the entire platoon

Then the dragonfly sat calmly on the girl’s knee waiting. Each time another deerfly or mosquito homed in on the girl, the dragonfly captured it and ate it. The girl acted as a food magnet for the dragonfly and the dragonfly protected the girl from insect bites. And this is a true story. Mary Stebbins Taitt (Click image to view larger.) This is a collaboration with Gretchen Owen.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day! WATER!

Water is everywhere. It sustains life. It makes our planet livable.

We drink it, we cook with it, we swim in it.

We sail on it.

But water is endangered! We threaten our own lives, our children and grandchildren, by polluting our water.

Yet there is HOPE!

Five facts about water:

  1. Unsafe drinking water and lack of sanitation kills more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. Unclean drinking water can incubate some pretty scary diseases, like E. coli, salmonella, cholera and hepatitis A. Given that bouquet of bacteria, it's no surprise that water, or rather lack thereof, causes 42,000 deaths each week.
  2. More people have access to a cell phone than to a toilet. Today, 2.5 billion people lack access to toilets. This means that sewage spills into rivers and streams, contaminating drinking water and causing disease.
  3. Every day, women and children in Africa walk a combined total of 109 million hours to get water. They do this while carrying cisterns weighing around 40 pounds when filled in order to gather water that, in many cases, is still polluted. Aside from putting a great deal of strain on their bodies, walking such long distances keeps children out of school and women away from other endeavors that can help improve the quality of life in their communities.
  4. It takes 6.3 gallons of water to produce just one hamburger. That 6.3 gallons covers everything from watering the wheat for the bun and providing water for the cow to cooking the patty and baking the bun. And that's just one meal! It would take over 184 billion gallons of water to make just one hamburger for every person in the United States.
  5. The average American uses 159 gallons of water every day – more than 15 times the average person in the developing world. From showering and washing our hands to watering our lawns and washing our cars, Americans use a lot of water. To put things into perspective, the average five-minute shower will use about 10 gallons of water. Now imagine using that same amount to bathe, wash your clothes, cook your meals and quench your thirst.

Blog Action Day 2010: Water from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.
Water is essential to nature, clean clear water!|Start Petition

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Anti-Homage to the Emerald Ash Borer

This is a "finger-painting" in "brushes" on my iPad of the view from the window of my studio. The tree in the foreground is a white ash which is dying as a result of the emerald ash borer. The painting was made at night, and the lower dead branches appeared bright, whereas the upper ones were dark. Click image to view larger.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Voracious Predatory Chipmunk

While We were at Bay Furnace Campground Near Pictured Rocks, and Keith was absent from the campsite, Mary watched a drama unfold. A chipmunk who had been nosing around the campsite all morning suddenly aroused the ire of a little chipping sparrow, who chipped madly and fluttered around sort of like a killdeer trying to lead a predator away from it's nest. The chipmunk paid no attention to it and began nosing around the area of open piney woods where the chipping sparrow was.

The sparrow then began attacking the chipmunk, pecking vigorously at its head. Then, Mary spotted a baby chipping sparrow fluttering about in the tall weeds and sparse tall grass. The chipmunk spotted it, too, and rushed after it and there was some furious scuffling where the baby was trying to flutter away, the chipmunk was trying to catch it, and the mother was pecking the chipmunk vigorously. Then, the chipmunk grabbed the baby by the throat and killed it and ran off about 20 feet and started eating it. Mary, who was trying to reposition herself to see better, accidentally scared off the chipmunk, who left the dead baby under a pine and never came back for it while we were still at camp. The mother chipping sparrow kept
searching and calling and searching and calling up until we left.

When we got back from our expeditions, hours later, we both checked, and the dead baby bird was gone from where the chipmunk left it. Since the chipmunk had already killed the bird, we hope he ate it.

This is not the first time that Mary has observed a chipmunk being predacious. She has also seen a chipmunk kill and eat a large water snake, big enough to have eaten it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Tortured Killdeer

Back when school was in session and it was cooler and quieter at the
marina, a killeer built its nest under a tree. Then one hot Saturday
when all the kiddies were out of school and picnics were in full
swing, someone occupied the cooker next to the bird's nest and the
people coming and going kept scaring the Mom off the nest. She'd run
back and try to get settled and get scared away again. I yelled at
one guy for scaring her. But we had to leave--I coudln't guard the
nest--I hope the nest, the eggs, the babies, the parents all survive.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

wild mushrooms

Last year, we found morels at the Pinery.  This year, things were
farther along, and though we searched, we found none.  We did find
wild mushrooms though, and ate them.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

In Every Yard

I think there is a robin's nest in EVERY YARD, at least one--I can't
beleive how many robis you see walking down the street.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Monday, April 12, 2010

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Spring Wildflowers

Hurray! Spring is HERE! Woohoo! It's still early, but there are
lots of wildflowers out.

Chickweed, Vernoica, Dutchman's breeches, cut-leaved toothwort, more
Dutchman's breeches, hepatica, trout lily, spring beauty, trillium, in

Click the images to view them larger.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

les petits fleurs

FLOWERS! The red and silver maples are in flower!  YAY!

flowers and buds

It's coming!!!  aconites, tulips, snowdrops, hellebore!  Woohoo!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mystery of the dead birds

Along a trail I walk almost daily, dead birds keep appearing,
sometimes, different kinds of birds, sometimes Emglish sparrows or
starlings. They are always in the same place. I don't know why. Is
someone shooting them and leaving them there? Is there something
poisonous that they're getting into?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


I never thought much about okra. I liked it in gumbo but never considered the plant, thought I'm educated as a botanist. A non-practicing botanist, however. I never thought about okra until on impulse, I decided to grow it. It's a lovely plant with large maple-like leaves and a tree-like form, but hibiscus-like flowers. A mallow, I said to myself, a hibiscus! I wanted to look it up, but I'm getting a little forgetful--I never remembered to do it! Finally, I did, and lo and behold, it's of course a mallow and one of its alternate generic names is Hibiscus! Wahoo.

Abelmoschus esculentus. Malvaceae. I'm not TOTALLY senile yet! How fun! It brought back memories of eating mallows and concocting soups and "poisons" as a child with hollyhock flowers and seeds. Sorry the bugs have gotten at this blossom. I use no sprays.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


in late summer, autumn intermeshes with spring. (See previous post).

First Fringed Gentian of the season

The very first. In a bog at Indian Springs. The phenology sites are
documenting the fall migration and the fall leaves are coloring up,
but some plants are still in their "springtime."

Dead bees

We found a number of dead bees attached to these bee balms. These are
two different one, and there were were more. I don't know why they
were dead or what killed them. Other years, I've found dead
grasshoppers attched to plants.