It’s Still Summer, But Fall Is In A Hurry To Get Here This Year.

Today started out  cloudy, breezy and cool, with temperatures in the mid 40’s and, even though we still have some Summer left it felt a lot more like Fall.  I decided to again place my macro lens on my camera and take it along on my search for wild mushrooms. brown maple leaf sitting on ground

As I  walked in the mixed pine, birch and aspen woods in search of aspen scaber bloete or red tops, as my dad called them, I noticed a lot of the leaves are now beginning to show some color. bright red blueberry leaves

Many of the blueberry bushes, both low and high bush species, are turning a brilliant red. red blueberry leaf

And some of the leaves on the birch, yellow white birch leaf

and maple trees are also changing into their fall colors. maple leaf turning red

There were a few wild flowers still in bloom,  I don’t know the names of this one,purple wild flower

nor the name of this beautiful white late blooming orchard, white orchard in bloom

but I do know this is a species of ragweed, not well lied by those of us, me included, who suffer from allergies. insect on ragweed flower

I was disappointed I didn’t find any red top mushrooms but I did find a wild crab apple tree,wild crab apples

and sampled it’s very sour fruit. wild crab apple with a bite

I left the birch/ aspen/ pine woods and decided to search for some  hen of the woods or, as we call them, ramshead mushrooms. I didn’t find this one  in the woods. Some friends found it in growing in their yard and let me harvest it . These mushrooms grow mainly on old oak trees so the woods are very different. hen of the woods or ramshead mushroom

I usually hike second growth forests with a mixture of maple, oak, pine hemlock and the occasional ash and hickory nut tree. The ground is usually covered with many species of ferns, which are also changing color early this year. , close up of fern which has tuned yellow

and my mortal enemies,   brambles and thorn bushes,thorns on a thorn bush

and blackberry brambles which have caused me many scratches on my legs and tumbles to the ground when walking into them in the thick underbrush as I look for the old oak trees which may have a ramshead  mushroom growing on it. blackberry thorns

There were some mushrooms growing along paths, 

including what I think is a cauliflower mushroom and,

some old puffballs,

but, unfortunately I didn’t find what I was looking for, a ramshead mushroom. But there is always tomorrow and it is always good to be outdoors in the woods of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. Macro walk 

Summer ends and autumn comes, and he who would have thought it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night.”  –  Hal Borland

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Winter Creeps Into Northeastern Pennsylvania: A December Hike In Nescopeck State Park.

Winter doesn’t begin until eleven days but  some cold arctic air made it’s way down from Canada and it  sure felt wintry here in Northeastern Pennsylvania this morning. I was headed to the PPL Wetlands again. An  accident, probably caused by the snow  and cold weather,   on the local interstate highway redirected traffic and I was stuck in the middle of it for an hour. I finally decided to turn around and head to another of my favorite hiking spots, the Nescopeck State Park. img_7699

It was cloudy and windy when I arrived with some scattered snow flurries in the air.  The temperature was around 25 degrees. Lake Francis was still mainly ice free since it has been a mild fall until now. nescopeck-state-park-1

I walked around the deserted lake which took on a somber look under the cloudy and cold skies. In the other seasons hikers, fisherman and picnickers are always present on the shores of the lake. Not today. I didn’t see a soul on my hike. nescopeck-state-park-5

And not much wildlife either. I walked past the lake and onto the Nescopeck hiking trail seeing only one crow and a few juncos. nescopeck-state-park-7

The leaves are long gone now, even the stubborn oak, but down hear near the Nescopeck Creek there are plenty of beech trees and they have leaves clinging to them throughout the winter. nescopeck-state-park-11

Walking under the naked trees and over the carpet of fallen leaves put me in a reflective mood, knowing another year is ending and a cold Winter lays ahead before these woods come to life again in the Spring. nescopeck-state-park-13

There was still some signs of life to be found, like  some ferns still clinging to life in the frigid temperatures.nescopeck-state-park-10

I walked down to The Nescopeck Creek where i did encounter a few flocks of juncos and the always friendly black capped chickadees fluttering from branch to branch in search of food.,  The poor lighting under the clouds and trees prevented me from getting any good photographs. nescopeck-state-park-23

Even though i didn’t see a lot of animals I could tell they are there. I saw some squirrel and rabbit foot prints in the light dusting of snow and believe this trees bark was torn apart by a porcupine or an opossum .nescopeck-state-park-34

As I returned on the Fern Trail I noticed this large puddle of water on the path.nescopeck-state-park-30

I walk here often and never noticed a puddle here before, not even after heavy rains.  I was curious and looked around and I soon discovered what caused it. it was the result of some busy beavers in the area. .nescopeck-state-park-29

I found this  beaver dam on a small stream, which wasn’t there when I last hiked here a few months ago. nescopeck-state-park-31

I came across a lot more signs of beaver activity in the park and wondered if hey become more active in the Fall and Winter. nescopeck-state-park-47

I came across quite a few birch trees covered with birch polypore mushrooms. Although i have never tried it, I have heard the mushrooms have many medicinal properties and make a healthy tea. like any wild mushroom please don’t try any unless you are absolutely sure of it’s identification since many species can make you very sick and even kill you. nescopeck-state-park-8

As I walked back to the Nescopeck trail and Lake Francis I heard, and the watched, a large flock of late flying geese heading south. i think they heard the forecast too, even more frigid weather headed our way next week. nescopeck-state-park-43

The bare trees and shrubs exposed a lot of birds nests and  I was surprised to see some right along the trail .nescopeck-state-park-41

And, when I made my way back to Lake Francis, I saw these four mallard ducks who decided to stay here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, for a few more days anyway,. I think they will be heading south soon, since, if the forecast is correct, the lake may be frozen next weekend. But if hey leave, it would be for long now, int three months, they will return in the  Spring. And I will be counting the days until their return. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike today.

If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”
Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ode to the West Wind






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Turtles In November? A Warm And Sunny November Day At The PPL Wetlands.

We  had a Spring-like day here  today in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Temperatures neared 70 degrees with abundant,  but weak,  late Fall sunshine. I headed to one of my favorite hiking areas, the PPL Wetlands and Riverlands.ppl-wetlands-27

The temperature was warm but there is no mistaking it is late Fall, as almost all of the trees have shed their leaves now exposing the naked beauty of the limbs and branches. ppl-wetlands-35

The few remaining leaves added some beauty to the now brown landscape, glimmering in the bright sunlight. ppl-wetlands-2

And the warmer weather brought some of the birds to life, as there were a lot more fluttering about the trees than there have been the past few weeks. I saw this flicker high in the tree tops looking to pry some insects out of the tree bark. ppl-wetlands-1

And there were a lot of sparrows shuffling in the leafless undergrowth, including this, I believe , is a white -throated sparrow. ppl-wetlands-39

This, and I am not good at sparrows I think is a chipping sparrow,ppl-wetlands-4

And I am not sure of what kind of sparrow, if it is a sparrow, this fellow is. It looks like he was feeding on the last of the duckweed. ppl-wetlands-8

I also saw plenty of these friendly birds, the black capped chickadees, that remain here throughout the coldest of Winters. ppl-wetlands-13

As I walked along the canals I thought I heard a kerplunking sound, but decided it couldn’t be a turtle this late in the year, But sure enough I soon spotted a number of turtles talking advantage of the late sunshine and warm weather to bask on logs and the shore of the canals. I never have seen turtles this late in the season before. ppl-wetlands-14

I was also surprised to see a number of insects flying about including a few dragonflies. Again this is very late in the season for insect activity and I have never seen dragonflies in November before. bit there is a first time for everything, and after a number of tries I was finally able to get a photograph of one. ppl-wetlands-19

It was a lovely day to enjoy last beauty of Fall in the wetlands, knowing this weather won’t last, and as I type a cold front is passing through our area and there is ice and snow on my deck. I was glad we had this one last warm day. I am sure the turtles and dragonflies will be gone tomorrow, but, it is only four months until Spring and the entire cycle starts again.ppl-wetlands-40

And I  will be waiting anxiously too watch in unfold yet again.Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike today

It is a delightful pastime to sit in the pleasant sunshine of autumn, and gazing from this little spot of free earth over such a landscape, let the imagination luxuriate amid the thrilling associations of the scene! ~H.T. ppl-wetlands-33Tuckerman


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It’s Sunday, So Where Else? Another Fall Hike At The PPL Wetlands.

It wasn’t too hard of a decision where to hike on this cool, but pleasant, November morning. I always like to head down to the PPL Wetlands and Riverlands to enjoy the solitude of the ancient trees with the hopes of finding  some type of wildlife activity.  So that’s where I went. ppl-wetlands-3

In the Spring and Summer you are almost guaranteed to see a wide variety of wildlife, from the many turtles and frogs in the ponds and canals, to the many species of songbirds and waterfowl in the trees and on the waters. In the Fall and Winter there is a lot less activity but still there is a chance to see something interesting. Not today. I heard a few chickadees and crows but only able to see, and get a quick photograph of this little chipmunk ppl-wetlands-20

I was surprised to once again see no ducks, geese or herons.  Still, it was a nice morning to enjoy the last splashes of fall color. ppl-wetlands-9

The ponds are becoming clear again as the green duckweed that covers them slowly dies and fades away.ppl-wetlands-15

And, it always surprises me, as the trees lose their leaves and become bare, to see how many birds nests are uncovered. ppl-wetlands-28

It amazes me that so many are right along the path. I walked by this nest many a day and didn’t notice some bird family was raising their chicks  a few feet from me and my camera, completely unnoticed. ppl-wetlands-32

I walked out to the riverlands and lake Took-A-While, where a few folks still were trying to catch the last fish of the season. This is always a nice spot to sit down, take a rest, and enjoy the scenery. ppl-wetlands-25

As I returned to the wetlands part of the preserve I saw this leaf suspended by a spider web hanging in mid air. ppl-wetlands-2

And I enjoyed the beauty of the mighty Susquehanna river as I walked under the large, ancient trees along its banks. ppl-wetlands-39

There wasn’t much wildlife, mushrooms, berries or wildflowers but it was still a good day to be out and about,  surrounded by the beauty of nature, in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike today.


“Nature has been for me, for as long as I remember, a source of solace, inspiration, adventure, and delight; a home, a teacher, a companion.”
Lorraine Andersonppl-wetlands-37

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The Last Of Fall Colors Courtesy Of The Red Oaks: A Hike On The Rails To Trails

It was a chilly,  but beautiful,  November day  here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Cloudless , deep blue skies provided us with plenty of sunshine. I decided to hike close to home and drove out to our local  and often forgotten, Rails To Trails.rails-to-trails-3

I usually start my hikes at the entrance on the Stockton Road but began my hike at the Broad Street entrance this  morning. I was greeted by the friendly bears that have recently been placed here. I was hoping they may have attracted some of their wild kinsfolk, but no such luck today. rails-to-trails-1

I walked on the well maintained tree which meandered down to the Stockton road entrance under a canopy of a mixture of pine, oak, maple and birch trees. Almost all of the leaves have fallen off of the trees except the red oaks, always the last to bud and lose their leaves. rails-to-trails-35

These beautiful trees often have a few red leaves remaining even as the new buds appear in springtime. rails-to-trails-11

The woods were quiet now, the song birds are long gone and I  only saw  a few of our winter residents, some chickadees, blue jays, juncos and this tufted titmouse.  rails-to-trails-15

I was surprised how few folks take advantage of the beautiful trail, I only saw a few runners, a couple of bikers and a few folks walking their dogs during my three hour hike. rails-to-trails-17

I walked out to the picnic area near the Dreck Creek Reservoir and sat for a bit and enjoyed the scenery. There is a lot of history out here and you can  read some  more about of it in my prior posts in my blog archive. rails-to-trails-32

I walked out past the three mile marker, where the trail bends back in a westward direction and runs along “pine barrens” created by Native Americans but I was tired and decided to head back today. I saw a lot of teaberries out here and enjoyed a few on my walk back. rails-to-trails-38

In addition to the color provided by the oaks, I did find one last maple tree with some colorful leaves still clinging to its branches. rails-to-trails-22

And the blackberry and blueberry bushes still had many red leaves.rails-to-trails-24

Only some of the briars still had green leaves.rails-to-trails-25

There was a strong northwesterly wind blowing, and it was a lot colder heading back but it was still an enjoyable walk under the clear blue skies contrasted by the brilliant red leaves of the  oaks. rails-to-trails-12

There was not much wildlife, the few birds and one chipmunk, no insects and no flowers but it was still a pleasant walks and I was thankful for the last burst of color provide by the oaks. But this color won’t last much longer and we will soon experience the long, cold dark winter that always comes to Northeastern Pennsylvania. And when it ends we have another Spring! I am already excited. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike today. rails-to-trails-29


“There is something incredibly nostalgic and significant about the annual cascade of autumn leaves.”
Joe L. Wheelerrails-to-trails-40


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The End Of Fall At The PPL Wetlands

It felt more like Summer than late October this morning in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The temperature was a mild 65 degrees with cloudy skies. However, upon arriving at one of my favorite hiking spots, the PPL Wetlands, later in  morning, it was soon apparent that it isn’t Summer anymore and we are well into the Fall season.  ppl-wetlands-22

The first thing I noticed upon leaving my car was the rich and earthy  smell of the newly fallen leaves.  The decomposing  leaves, when combined with the usual smell of the swamps and standing waters in the canals, filled the air with an overpowering woodsy aroma which signaled the end of another growing season. ppl-wetlands-24

There were still some leaves remaining on some of the trees but many have lost all of their leaves, taking on their Winter appearance. ppl-wetlands-19

There were no frogs or turtles along the shores of the ponds and canals and no mammals either. I only saw one chipmunk on my entire six miles hike. But I was surprised with the many birds that still  fluttered and sang in the trees. ppl-wetlands-16

Yesterday, at Lake Irena, near my home, there was almost no bird activity . This was not the case at the wetlands this morning and the air was filled with the songs and calls of many birds. I don’t have a good ear for identifying birds by their song, but  I’m sure my birding friends could have identified them. One, which I didn’t hear all Summer sounded most unusual, as it rapidly flew over the ponds .It looked something like a kingfisher but I couldn’t get a photograph. I did recognize the song of  the  cardinals and was able to get a photograph  of this one. ppl-wetlands-40

Thanks to the zoom lens on my camera, I also was able to identify  the  bluebirds scampering about high in the tree branches. ppl-wetlands-17

And I spotted this flicker as it fluttered from tree to tree in search of the last insects. ppl-wetlands-18

The lush growth of the Spring and Summer is fading, leaving behind brightly colored berries on some plants. ppl-wetlands-28

And you  better not touch these berries, they are the fruit of the infamous poison ivy. ppl-wetlands-33

Poison ivy can grow in one of three ways, as a small plant, a woody shrub, or a vine, which can get quite large, as in the case of this vine wrapped around a tree. This is one vine you don’t want to play with.. ppl-wetlands-34

I walked over to the riverlands and Lake Took-A-While. There were quite a few folks taking advantage of the warm weather and trying their luck at catching a fish or enjoying a walk along the colorful shores of the lake. ppl-wetlands-44

I was surprised by the absence of ducks and geese on the lake. Usually they stay until the waters start to freeze up.  I did see a blue heron and also saw flocks of these sparrows gathering in the thicker swamps. ppl-wetlands-26

Although most of the plants have shriveled and died, ppl-wetlands-41

I did find a few of these hearty flowers still blooming and was buzzed by one yellow jacket on my walk. They may be the last of both the insects and flowers I see this season.ppl-wetlands-35

On my way back I found this huge chicken mushroom growing high up on an oak tree, too high for me to pick, this year, but I will remember the tree and come back with a ladder next year.ppl-wetlands-1

I didn’t see anything unusual, as I often do in the Spring and Summer, but it was still a nice reflective walk on this warm late October day. Hopefully, the warm weather will remain, and I will have a few more such walks, but realistically , next weekend could see the wetlands covered in snow, like it has been on many a November here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. But the snow will melt, and Spring will come, and the cycle of life will go on, long after we are gone. So let’s enjoy it while we can. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike today.


Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn.
Emily Bronteppl-wetlands-36



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All Of Spring And Summer’s Efforts Fade Away: A Fall Walks At Community Park

Once again the Earth revolves around our Sun and the seasons  change. Here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, in the Northern Hemisphere,  that means shorter days, longer nights and colder weather. And an end to all of the growth  put forth by the trees, plants and flowers. It seems like just yesterday these  leaves, now dead and falling from the trees,  filled us with so much excitement as they first sprouted in Spring. community-park-19

Now they cover the forest floor and provide a noisy and colorful.  carpet before the Winter snows. community-park-24

I decided to talk advantage of the sunshine yesterday and walked along the shores nearby Lake Irena at Community Park late yesterday afternoon and again this morning. community-park-1

The park was quite and empty yesterday. Only one elderly gentleman sat and watched the few geese and ducks that remained on the water. community-park-4

Except for the cawing of a fews crows, the air was silent. No song birds. No insects buzzing  in the air.  No crickets or cicada. Only a few last flowers remained, in defiance of the cold and long nights. But they won’t last long. community-park-9

There are still a lot of leaves remaining on the trees but they lack the vibrant colors of other years because of the dry Summer we have had. The paths now have a sullen and sad feeling about them. community-park-22

Today there  were more people at the park, a few joggers, some fishermen and families at the playground but still not near as crowded as those warm weekends in Summer.  There was plenty activity at the nearby airport, with many small planes taking off and landing.  .community-park-12

And some  with a few folks brave enough to jump out of them. community-park-28

It always makes me sad to see the warm weather end, but I always remember, nature isn’t dying, just going to sleep for the Winter.  And there will always be another Spring. In only a few months the first snowdrops,  crocuses  and skunk cabbage will be pushing through  the snow. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hikes at Community Park.


And every year there is a brief, startling moment
When we pause in the middle of a long walk home and
Suddenly feel something invisible and weightless
Touching our shoulders, sweeping down from the air:
It is the autumn wind pressing against our bodies;
It is the changing light of fall falling on us.”
Edward Hirschcommunity-park-17


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A Farewell Fall Hike Close To Home.

Sorry I haven’t been keeping up with my blog, but a lot going on, including my preparation for my trip to Africa tomorrow.  I am excited and hope to share some blog post on my adventures and lots of photographs. I am pretty much packed now and so have some time to share some photographs from my last hike hear in Northeastern Pennsylvania, earlier today, at Community park. community-park-1

It was a dry and warm summer, and it has stayed warm, so the colors of Fall are late this year. Some years we have already had killing frosts and freezes here in the mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania, but not this year. community-park-14

The leaves are just beginning to take on their autumn coats. As usually, it is the red maple and sassafras that start the show. community-park-15

It was cloudy today, and that made for a reflective walk along the shores of Lake Irena.  It seems I was just out here on the first day of fishing season on a cold April morning. community-park-19


Most of the song birds are gone,  as are the many geese that summered here, but I did see a hawk, a few crows and a lot of mallard ducks enjoying the cool autumn weather. community-park-9

I also saw this bird diving under the water, I think it was a loon that has been here all summer. The lake will freeze over in the winter so these birds will have to start heading south for warmer climes in the near future. community-park-3

In addition to the absence of songbirds there were no wild flowers in bloom around the lake.  However, the  fading ferns, having taken on their fall colors are just as beautiful. community-park-16

I have to admit, Fall is a pretty season, it’s what comes next that I do not look forward to anymore. I have seen enough snow and cold and Winter is not as much fun for me as it used to be. But we still have a lot of Fall left, and I will be in the much warmer jungles of central Africa, hoping to find mountain gorillas in their native habitat.  I hope to post plenty of photographs, so stay tuned!!! Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike today.


“Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves,
We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!”
Humbert Wolfecommunity-park-21


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A Mild, For December, Sunset

sunset (2 of 21)I decided to take advantage of the mild weather we’ve been having and walk out and watch the sunset. We had temperatures near 50 degrees again today, well above average. i remember years here in Northeastern Pennsylvania when it was below zero already. And no snow either. Just a thin coating of ice on the ponds.

The earliest sunsets of the year are now occurring here  here in the Northern Hemisphere right around 4:35 p.m EST.  sunset (13 of 21)

I hurried out to some ponds near my home, with a view of the western horizon, and got there just in time to watch the sun disappearing beyond the hills to the west. sunset (8 of 21)

It is always nice to be in the woods at dusk, even in December.  There are few birds singing now, today I only heard a few black capped chickadees. The only other wildlife I encountered were a few rabbits that jumped from the underbrush and startling me a bit. Rabbits are pretty skittish these days since there are not leaves or green plants to give them cover. sunset (7 of 21)

After the sunset I took a slow walk back under the naked trees. I wish i had time to build a fire. There is nothing as comforting as a fire on a December evening. sunset (20 of 21)

As I walked back I was surprised to find these oyster mushrooms growing on a dead tree. I never found them before in December and, while they are a little old, I think they may still be edible. I’ll find out in a little bit, going to cook them up for dinner.sunset (21 of 21)

I made my way home knowing that it’s less than two until the solstice when the days start getting longer. It was a nice December afternoon, but I still miss the warmer days of the Spring, Summer and Fall when the world is so much more alive with plants and animals.  Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike this afternoon. (17 of 21)

“Never waste any amount of time doing anything important when there is a sunset outside that you should be sitting under!”
C. JoyBell C.

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Backyard Critters On A Cold Sunny November Day In Northeastern PA

It turned colder overnight here in northeastern Pennsylvania. A cold front brought clear blues skies and more seasonable temperatures, mid 30’s,  to my backyard this morning.  So I was surprised to see this robin  still hanging around in my backyard. Although some robins  spend the winters in the creeks and along the rivers I never saw one this late up here on the mountain where I live. I hope it is a sign of a mild winter. Backyard robin  (1 of 1)

Since it gets dark early now, and there is little  daylight left when I get home from work, I decided to photograph some of the critters that visit my yard. backyard feeder 178 (1 of 1)

Although there are a smaller number of species that visit, the bird feeder is very active this time of year. backyard feeder 112 (1 of 1)

Nuthatches, like the one pictured above, are frequent visitors to the feeder. They also crawl along my trees, facing downward in their search for insects, but they also enjoy the sunflower seeds in my feeder. And I also have plenty of tit mice who also are found of the sunflower seeds. Backyard titmouse 005 (1 of 1)

Last week there were still a lot of house finches at the feeder but they seem to have been replaced with sparrows this week. Backyard sparrow 014- (1 of 1)

And of course there  are  the tiny, black capped chickadees, the most social of all my feathered visitors. These birds seem almost unafraid of my presence and often land on the feeder while I am still climbing down the ladder after refilling it with seed. backyard feeder chickadee  (1 of 1)

And in the trees there are plenty of mourning doves sitting and watching before they land on the ground and feed of the seed that falls from the feeder. backyard feeder  mourning dove (1 of 1)

The noisy blue jays also show up and share the left over corn I put out for the turkey and deer with the squirrels. Backyard 009 (1 of 1)

And today there was another uncommon sighting , a flicker, feeding on insects high in the branches of an oak tree. backyard feeder flicker (1 of 1)

For some reason, and it may be the beginning of hunting season, the turkeys and deer haven’t been visiting my yard. I hope they return safely soon. As usual there are an abundance of squirrels in my woods. I love watching them eat, and scamper to safety as a red tailed hawk flew overhead. Backyard nuthatch 111 (1 of 1)

I sure miss the flowers, leaves, song birds and insects of summer but as the days get shorter, and colder, I am glad I still have my winter residents to share the cold and dark days.  Here is a link to more photographs I took in my backyard today. squirrel  (1 of 1)


“Poor indeed is the garden in which birds find no homes.”
–  Abram L. Urban 

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