As I’m out and about walking the dog or mowing the lawn or peering out a window or whatever, I’m keeping an eye on nature. I’m not sure if that makes me a naturalist or a phenologist or just curious about what’s going on around me, but I especially enjoy plants and birds.
This year, a pair of woodpeckers built a nest in one of our oak trees. I had noticed that woodpeckers had made fine work of pecking several holes in the tree earlier this spring. Because the branch they were attacking is near the front sidewalk, I was concerned we’d have to remove it so it wouldn’t fall on anyone.
Our neighbors across the street alerted us to the woodpecker nest and the babies inside. (Obviously that changed our plans for tree-trimming.) We think they are red-bellied woodpeckers, but haven’t gotten close enough to get a good look. I now recognize one of their calls. (UPDATE: After publishing this blog post, I spotted one of our woodpeckers outside the window, close enough for me to examine its markings. It was a Northern Flicker, a member of the woodpecker family, so we had Northern Flickers nesting in our oak tree.)
Yesterday evening, while Erik and I were in his office space, I looked out the window and saw the family of 4 hanging out near the sidewalk, eating in the grass. It appeared to be one adult with three immature birds who had gotten pretty big.
I grabbed my phone and took a few photos from various windows of the house. I had to zoom in, which does not produce clear photos, but at least I got a few shots. They happily nibbled away near the sidewalk for some time, not departing until I had to go outside through the front door.
Aside from our family of woodpeckers, I have also noticed that the thistles this year are crazy-big and super obvious, springing up in places I haven’t seen them before. It’s like a bumper-crop season for thistles.
Here’s one on our shop property.
Here’s one at Erik’s mom’s house.
Thistles have an other-worldly beauty about them. They hurt like the dickens if you trod on or brush up against one, but the spikiness makes them interesting and pretty.
I had to take some photos of the one at our shop using the negative setting on my camera. Here is the result.
Doesn’t it look like a magnified cell? Like it might be some kind of virus or bacteria?
This morning, I took one of my unsuccessful woodpecker photos, one that focused on the window screen instead of the bird, and one of my thistle photos and combined them to make digital art.
I used this photo plus the shot above of the thistle in my mother-in-law’s yard to make the following art.
I have skipped some of the steps between iterations. Plus, when I’m working on digital art, if I don’t like a particular effect or iteration, I back up to the previous iteration and try something new. It’s fascinating how I can start with something asymmetrical, like iteration 1, and return to symmetry, like iteration 6.
Also, my final black and white iteration (I used the emboss effect), reminds me once again of something smaller magnified, just like the negative thistle photo above.
A thunderstorm is rolling in. Time to get this posted so I can get off the computer.
2 thoughts on “Woodpeckers & Thistles”
On a vaguely related topic, I (and I believe other readers) would be interested to get your take on MyHeritage’s new (as of this summer) digital photo enhancer. Revolutionary? Evolutionary? Overly proprietary (those logos that they leave on your photos!) or fair play for a free service?
Hi, John – I was not at all familiar with MyHeritage or its photo enhancer until you mentioned it. Hard to keep up with the gazillions of online services that have cropped up over the years. I’m doing some research on it now. The fact that they put logos on your enhanced photos doesn’t thrill me. I can’t find anywhere on their website where you can pay to have the logos removed. Naturally, it’s a subscription service for anything beyond the basics, but I wonder if there is a fair trade-off between everything users share in terms of genealogical information and the profit the company makes by using it as content on their site. Same goes for Ancestry and FamilySearch.
We once had folks from the LDS Church, who own FamilySearch, visit our museum and ask if they could copy all of our files. Literally … ALL OF OUR FILES. Won’t that be great, they indicated, all of our material would be digitized and available through the LDS Church. Why would we do that? No one would ever have cause to visit our museum again for research. We refused and I tend to hold all of these services at arm’s length because at least two of them are in it for profit (not sure about FamilySearch, with its affiliation with the Mormons) while most museums and historical societies are nonprofits and are primarily concerned with sharing our collections with the public in ways that are free or of minimal cost.
While these services certainly provide people with a great deal of family information, because of the volume of info people find I wonder if they assume they can find everything they need online. There’s loads of information tucked away in museums all over the world that will probably never be digitized and made available online for a variety of reasons (cost, time, lack of equipment or expertise, etc.). To find it, you’ve got to be willing to contact and visit museums directly.
Well, that turned into a little bit of a rant, but thanks for your question, John. 🙂
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