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Resetting with a S24O of Nature

  Image copyright of Life is Good

I’ve been offline for two weeks. My sister had a health emergency. I spent a  week at the hospital with her, then had to catch up with work projects. Last summer, my brother had a life-threatening illness and I was at the hospital for a week with him too. It’s startling when your siblings face death. (They are both fine now.)

But now I wanted just a bit of time for myself, outdoors, staring at the green. And hopefully some stars. Then coffee by sunrise.

So Friday nite was my version of a “S24O” – shorthand for “sub 24-hour overnighter”. That’s a concept and term coined by Grant Petersen of Rivendell Bicycle Works for a quick, overnight, short bike tour. You start riding on one day, stop and stay the night somewhere, and then ride back the following day. It’s an easy way to spend more time outside. It’s an answer for those times in your life when you feel you just don’t have the time to get away for a week-long adventure.

I’ve borrowed the concept and apply it to camping. I love camping, sleeping outdoors in a tent. I used to think camping wasn’t “official” unless I spent a week somewhere. That’s just not feasible for me right now.

After reading about bike touring S24Os, I realized it’s pretty easy to toss some minimalist camping gear in my car, pack a set of clothes, grab food along the way, and just spend one night under the stars. There’s a state park along my commute route, which makes the idea so easy to implement.

So Friday nite was “A girl’s night out”. Now I’ve re-calibrated and feel energized and invigorated. Back to normal with a healthy dose of “Vitamin N”.

Do you use Nature to unwind when Life is crazy? What’s your favorite – adventuring? working in the garden? Just sitting and “watching the grass grow”?

All Nature – View from my Tent:


Bird Houses of the Ma & Pa Trail

The Ma & Pa Trail, in BelAir, Maryland, is the epitome of multi-use: Walking for fitness or socializing, solo or in groups. Runners and bikers. Senior adults to kids. The trail is home to everyone. I’ve walked and jogged the trail in every season. For the longest time though, I was so focused on my activity that I never noticed the bird houses scattered along the way.

Today, my purpose was to photograph them. Some are artsy. Some are basic. One has a snake living in it. I don’t know who put the houses there; some have not been tended in awhile. But they are fun to look for.

First, here are two views of the trail for those not familiar with it:

I’ll start with two bird houses that are on adjacent trees:

This bird house is close to the beginning of the trail, not near the others. It appears to be newer than the others, maybe hung more recently:

Two of the more basic bird houses, easy to miss while you’re walking:

I love where this one is placed!:

Peeking inside – the roof may be dilapidated, but there’s a nest:

Very amusing, this one has a cat painted on it, near the entrance:

An unexpected guest is living in this one:

At the back left corner of the house, a snake has its head poking out. You can see its body through the bird hole. I watched and took pictures for several minutes and it never moved. Honestly, I thought it was fake at first. But there’s no sign that the house has been touched, so no one could have put one in. Then I thought it was dead.

On my return trip though, the snake was poking its head out through the front door. Obviously not dead. But by the time I grabbed my camera, he disappeared. No sign of his head through the hole where he was earlier:

No sign of his body inside the house:

Returning to less adventurous bird houses:

This one is my favorite. Some one spent a lot of time painting it. It’s very noticeable from the trail, too:

This one may easily be overlooked:

The entrance looks like it’s been chewed:

Another fun, colorful one:

A more obscure one, to finish the tour:

If you visit the trail, I hope you’re inspired to slow down and look for these. For my other readers, I hope you’ve enjoyed these pictures!

Pre-sunrise Immersion in the Nature Just Outside My Door

By 5:15am, I’m on my porch sipping coffe and entranced by all the nature:

Chirping, tweeting, and trills of many birds. Some sounds that are new to me! One day I’ll get to identify them

The scent of rain (finally!)

The gentle patter of raindrops

Hazy view of a quarter-moon peeking out every so often from the clouds

Temps are warm enough to sit outdoors, but cool enough to feel fresh

Birds are zipping by, flitting here and there

Insect floating by

Thank goodness for the  partying teens and the neighbor’s dog incessantly barking, otherwise I still would’ve been asleep at 3:30am and missed all this ;).

Osprey Udate – April 14

A quick post to log the activity at the three osprey nests I’m monitoring.

The first stop was to the nest on the cell tower outside the Leight Estuary Center: mom was quietly sitting on the nest, dad was perched on a railing standing guard. Their nest is sprawled across most of the platform – it’s not deep, but wide. They could lease part of it to another pair.

Next I visited the two nests across the street from each other. I saw no activity at all, but sat and watched for awhile. Eventually, I saw some “fluffing” at the new nest, which is rather small and not very deep. An osprey was there. I had to use my binoculars, and I watched her (?) reach down into the nest with her beak and then come upright again, repeatedly. I saw tail, then head. Tail, head. Back & forth.

So if I almost missed seeing an osprey in the shallow nest, there very well could’ve been one osprey in my 1st nest, which is very, very deep as compared to the others.

So far, I’ve only made it to the nests in the evening. I’ll try today to get there at a different time today and see if the activity is different.

Unexpected Sighting of An Eagle Along Rt. 1

While I was driving south on Rt 1 on a sunny afternoon last week, after leaving the Scarboro landfill, a large bird swooped down ahead of my car and grabbed something from the road in its talons. I assumed it was a vulture nabbing road kill.  But as it took off, I caught a glimpse of white from its tail feathers. Could it be a bald eagle?

Luckily for me, as I pulled over onto the highway shoulder, the bird flew into a tree near my car. He sat perched on a branch, close enough for me to clearly identify it as a bald eagle.

I’ve never seen a bald eagle so close. He tore and munched at his lunch and calmly looked around as I took several pictures.

Bald eagles aren’t as rare in Harford County as they used to be. At one point these magnificent birds of prey were on the verge of extinction. One factor was the use of the pesticide DDT. Ingesting the pesticide left their eggs brittle or sterile; few eaglets were being born. Since DDT has been banned, the eagle population is rebounding.

Maryland now has one of the largest eagle populations in the entire country. One reason is because the  Aberdeen Proving Ground, with its miles of undisturbed shoreline, is an ideal home for  eagles.

In a news article by CBS last year, a spokesperson for APG said that in 1977, only one pair of eagles lived on the property. Last year, 154 eagles were counted. Harford County’s website reports over 200 eagles, making Aberdeen Proving Grounds one of the largest breeding grounds in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed for great blue herons and bald eagles.

But not all of us can get on the base to go bird-watching. In Harford County, there’s another great spot for bald eagle-sighting that’s more accessible to the civilian population: Conowingo Dam. A vast variety of birds can be seen at Conowingo. The dam is considered one of the best places east of the Mississippi River to view Bald Eagles because the birds are nearly always present in good numbers and viewing conditions are excellent.

As far as my sighting, I was very close to Wilson’s Farm Market on Rt. 1. I stopped in and excitedly told the staff person. She was used to seeing and hearing about the eagles though. Apparently, there are also nests along Forge Hill Road, which leads into the Palmer State Park.

What Happens When 2 Naturalists Who Also Blog Get Together & Explore

A fellow Maryland Master Naturalist invited me to explore one of her favorite places: North Point State Park. I’ve only been there once, for a rest break on a bike tour of Baltimore. She, on the other hand, has a long history of visiting the property.

As a blogger, she leans more toward photography; I lean towards the writing. It will be fun to see our perspectives of the same visit through different lens, literally and figuratively. Since we will have similar photos, I promised to let her post first. But this is one photo she does not have.

Walking along a trail, we spotted something pink in the woods. We had to explore further, because:

  • it was pretty
  • and we didn’t know what it was

I stood along along the trail while she bushwack’d through bramble and poison ivy to get a close-up pic (yikes!) , and so it could be identified later. Success! Click on the orange font to See a close-up pic of the pretty pink bloom, a pinxterbloom, on her blog.

After-Work Hike at PVSP

I am so fortunate that Patapsco Valley State Park is right along the route to the MARC train station, and my commute home. Now that daylight remains longer, I can often squeeze in an hour or so after work and be immersed in nature. Some pics of spring blooms and fields of grass today in the Orange Grove area.