Turning 60 – A look back at the celebration

milestoneBack in October I celebrated my 60th birthday (Oct 4, 2016). The celebration actually started before then as all of my children had appeared and a giant party was set up on the Sunday before my birthday (Oct. 2, 2016). It seems like since that Thursday before my birthday party there had been some sort of celebrating and this had been the birthday that continued to give.
bdcake2Last year as I hit my 59th birthday, I decided to try (and did not succeed very well) to express daily gratitude for my blessings. I tried to pick out a theme every day and I did not do very well in this effort as life got very busy. One can never really plan for the future as the day-to-day events of our lives seem to dictate things and sometimes those things are unpredictable.

Despite my failure to succeed in my daily gratitude postings, I was definitely grateful for every day of life that I’d had and continue to be so to this day. But the last three weeks of my life I have been full of joy, sorrow and challenges. As I was originally writing this in late October (school teaching and other things made life way too busy to write), my father Joe Kravetz, who I grew up with, but is not my natural father, was on his deathbed at a hospice in Texas. My

Joe Kravetz as he was in the 1950s. Also in this photo is his gravemarker. He was buried in the Dallas-Ft. Worth National Cemetery.

sister Sherry stridently took care of him. He was not able to eat or drink and all was being done to keep him comfortable.  As I originally wrote this on October 25, he was still clinging to life after 12 days in hospice care without food or water. Somehow he kept hanging on.  However, on the next day, October 26, 2016, Joe Kravetz finally succumbed and passed away. (I will have a different post just about him at a later time).

Another one of my friends had a very serious motorcycle accident and it could’ve killed him. He has had to go through a number of surgeries and facial reconstruction. But he seems to be recovering by all indications (thank you Facebook). I saw a video of him today and he is able to walk again, but with assistance.  The accident appears to have been devastating. Fortunately, as I write this in December, he is back home and is already beginning to walk again.
These things break my heart and had been the downside of what had otherwise been an amazing three weeks.
So, the birthday shindig really started on September 29. Julianne decided to take a half-day off to help prepare for my Sunday birthday party with Marissa and Chelsea, my two daughters that live here in Lexington. Chelsea was supposed to pick Julianne up at the University and the car showed up to pick her up. As she walked out to the car, Marissa was there as well, with a video camera running live as the driver of Chelsea’s car was not Chelsea, but was our daughter Amaree who had surprisingly flown in from Washington State to surprise us!! Marissa caught it all on video and it was precious.

Flamingle!!

They then proceeded to come over to meet me because I was supposed to go to lunch with them, but I was tied up on some projects for my Japanese class that I was teaching at the University of Kentucky. So I went down to give Julianne the debit card so she could go to lunch with Chelsea and Marissa. I was expecting them to come in Marissa’s van and so as Marissa pulled up she got out of the van and had her iPhone in hand as if she was trying to video me and I didn’t think much of it because she does that a lot.

Got to hang with grandson Benson from Washington.

Turned out that Chelsea’s car was in front of the van.  I saw Julianne sitting in the passenger seat, so I walked over to give her the card and waved at who I thought was Chelsea and then started to walk away. Then I heard “hi daddy.” This was not Chelsea’s voice and it was a voice that I knew well. I peaked back in and did a double take!! There in the driver’s seat was my oldest daughter Amaree! My grandson Benson was also in the car. I was happily stunned!

At that point, I felt bad that I was not going to be able to join them for lunch but I really had work that had to be done. So off they went.  Needless to say, I was excited that my daughter Amaree would take the time to come out to Kentucky to celebrate my 60th birthday. She had flown in the night before and stayed at Chelsea’s house.
So that night, she came over and stayed with us. It was so wonderful to be able to spend time with her and to sit with my grandson Benson and read some books to him. Marissa also came over and they started making preparations for my birthday party which had been named ironically “Flamingle.”

The Chipotle Gang when we picked up our catered meals

This was not going to be a surprise party as we kind of expected to have some sort of celebration. For the previous three months Julianne and I had been going to Chipotle Mexican Grill for meals about 11 times a month so that we could land ourselves free catering for 20 in their summer 2016 Chiptopia promotion. Both of us succeeded at this and so we knew that we would be catered for 40 people with food from Chipotle Mexican Grill.

I also knew that the date of the party was going to be October 2 but I had no idea what else was going to go on.

Setting up flamingos

They had been secretly planning a number of things and with the theme being around flamingos there were flamingo things going on. Marissa had printed out dozens and dozens of photographs of me that she had painstakingly gleaned from Facebook. I don’t know why she couldn’t have just come and taken them off of my hard drive, but that’s OK. All of these pictures were pasted all over a couple of walls in the house and they covered all the way back from my early years of life to my 60th year. It was a fun gesture and also fun to look back on my life in these snapshots.

Flamingos everywhere

Julianne had picked up some plywood and had made some 5 foot tall flamingos which were painted pink and then had the word “Flamingle” painted on them along with an arrow pointing in the direction of the house. These would be directional signs to the house.

On that Friday evening as I read books to the kids, they were busily engaged in working in all of these projects. I was getting excited for the fun that would ensue and had heartfelt gratitude for the love and effort they had in this celebration of my life.

Reading books to the Grandkidz

Hanging with daughter Amaree who came from Washington to surprise me

As there were things that still needed to be done on Saturday morning, and as everyone was all busily engaged, I decided I would go out and run the errands for them to pick up things such as marshmallows and other stuff that they had planned for the party. Our granddaughter Autumn was to be picked up as well, so I headed over to get her. While I was out, Amaree called and kept asking when my ETA was to return home and I said I’m still tied up on picking up things. She said that I should just pick up Autumn and come home and that she would go run the errands with me. So I did that and I got home and dropped Autumn off in the driveway. I told her to send Amaree out.

While waiting in the driveway for Amaree, she called me and said “come in the house Daddy. We have some breakfast and then we’ll go.” So I went in and they had made a nice breakfast of eggs in the nest using pastry rather than bread. It was a nice breakfast.

Seth snuck into our hot tub and surprised us.

While eating, Amaree said “Look! I just got a funny Facebook message from Seth!” She then proceeded to show Julianne and me a photo of our son Seth sitting in our hot tub. Naturally, we thought this was an old picture of Seth being used as a surprise, but on a closer look we realized that Seth was ACTUALLY sitting in our hot tub at that particular point in time and Julianne went running out to the deck and look down and kind of yelled a little scream of delight and her funny laugh. I too was pleasantly surprised. Seth apparently rented a vehicle and parked down the street and then walked quietly around in and snuck into the hot tub. He told us that he had been transported via hot tub to get to our house. Ha ha!!

One of two Photo Walls set up b the kids. What fun these were!

So, at this point, two of my children had come from out of town. Seth had come up from Houston. He spent some time with us in the morning and then said he had to go to Georgetown to spend some time with his in-laws, but that he would return to our house later on. Because he had hotel points, he was staying in a hotel rather than at our house.

We proceeded to get all of the other things ready for the party and it was another late evening on Saturday. Around 9 PM I was asking if Seth was coming back as I thought he was and I was just excited to talk to my son.
He had been out shopping and purchased a giant beef brisket to put on the grill for the birthday dinner on Monday evening.
So, Seth finally did show up around 9 o’clock PM and we sat and talked and just had a nice little time. I had really thought maybe Solomon would walk in with him, but I was disappointed that my other son from Colorado Springs did not happen to be there with us.

Hanging with the boys…Seth and Solomon, both of whom showed up to surprise me (and Julianne!)

But, lo and behold, about 15 minutes later, we hear our front door open and peek over and Solomon walks in the door. Everybody gasped and was excited. Of course, my daughters all knew but Julianne and I did not.

For the first time in four years all of my children were together with with us and this was such a joy.
So, Solomon and Seth returned to the hotel later that evening after we sat and talked and had a few snacks and then we prepared ourselves for the big event on Sunday.
Since this was LDS General Conference Sunday for our church, there was no church at the building and the girls all listened to General Conference while they prepped for the ensuing party.
We had a lot of errands to run and ultimately I had to go to Chipotle and pick up all of our catered food. They were expecting us obviously because we had been telling them what we were going to do. It was fun. We got all of the goods and I took a big group picture with all the Chipotle gang that were there. I then headed back home with all the food as they set up everything else in the house.

Next door neighbor Mike LeMaster taking a selfie at the party

The time finally came in the late afternoon when the party was to begin. People began to trickle in little by little including our neighbors Mike and Lauren and Steve and Chris. Steve had worked really hard to help in our yard cleaning up the yard and is an amazing neighbor.

The first person to actually arrive was my old boss from iHigh, Tim Campbell. That was an amazing surprise to me. It was nice to see him and have a nice chat with him. I do some work for him and his new business lately,  but I haven’t actually visited with him for a long time.

Julianne in her self designed flamingo shirt

There were many friends from church that showed up and Stacey Edwards, who I worked with at BrainBox the last couple of years also came by. She was always like a little sister to me and I really always enjoyed working with her.

Birthday Cake with sixty little plastic flamingos. CLASSIC!!

At the party, we had all that food.  And Amaree had made four cakes and Chelsea had also made a chocolate Flan cake. So we had five cakes and lots of other goodies at the party. Of course the main cake of interest was the German chocolate cake with the amazing homemade German chocolate coconut frosting that Amaree made.

They finally got around to having me come over and sit by the German Chocolate Cake.  It had been decorated with 60 little flamingo toothpicks and then a six and a zero candle that was lit up. Everyone sang “Happy Birthday” and I blew out the candles.
I was next presented with some gifts. This was where the real shock took place. Julianne had quizzed me and had known for quite a while that my Nikon camera had broken and also kept questioning me as to whether or not I wanted a bicycle. I thought maybe they would come up with one of those things for my birthday, but really had no idea….

Picking up the bike on October 14

What really happened was the shocker. Marissa had gone to the point of group funding and had raised enough to get me a camera. I was able to get a new Nikon D5200 with a gift card that they had provided me for money raised for many of my family and friends. The other big stone to me was that my friend Russ Graves, from high school in Murray, UT had gotten together with some of the others that I went to church with in Murray in the 1970s. They all collected money and had purchased me a brand-new bicycle! It had been ordered and arrived on October 14..

Brand new Birthday Camera – a Nikon D5200.

A few neighbors and others had brought a few other little gifts and the kids had given me a big old box that had a bicycle bell and a couple of other bike things in it. It was really an amazing and fun birthday for me and just the event and love itself and made this the best birthday for me in all of my 60 years.

All in the Family…family photo on my 60th Birthday (L-R: Marissa, Solomon, Chelsea, David, Julianne, Seth and Amaree)

My fun family!

But alas, after Sunday was over it was back to work at University of Kentucky for me on Monday. Julianne was able to take some time off so she could spend time with Amaree. But, we did take time in the morning and went to the Lexington Arboretum to take some family pictures of the five children and of the five children with us, etc. That was a joyous time to be able to be with her children and get some wonderful photos with them after four years of not being together.

My sweet wife smiles with me on my 60th birthdaycelebration

So, part two of all of the birthday celebration was my taking the gift card and searching to find a replacement for my Nikon D 40. I had been brokenhearted because I had not had a camera for almost a month other than my iPhone, which takes great pictures, but still having my Nikon with my telephoto lens was always a wonderful thing. And, I enjoy going to the lake and taking pictures.

Ready to get some photos with my new D5200

I ultimately found the D5200 on Amazon.com and ordered it and received notification that it would arrive probably on that Friday. But it actually arrived two days later and I was so excited to have a new camera to be able to take it out on Friday morning and go to the lake and take some pictures. Those that know me also know that I am very fond of bird photos, especially blue herons. Following are a couple of photos taken with my new Nikon in October.

Photo of me with my new camera courtesy of fellow photographer Earlane Cox

A rare shot of the elusive Bald Eagle of Jacobson Lake. Taken with a zoom in bright light, I had to manipulate it a bit. It was my first sighting of this beauty.

A blue heron landing. Once again, I used some software to highlight the beauty of this bird

In mid-October there were egrets visiting the lake. I got this shot of one of them. Very happy

Finally, an interesting shot of a blue heron chasing an egret

Taking Solomon to the Cincinnati Airport

During the time family was in town, we had family dinners on Monday and Tuesday evening until Amaree left on Wednesday and Seth left on Tuesday evening. Solomon hung around until Friday so I took him to the airport on Friday morning.

Despite the children all gone by this time, the gifts keep on giving. Later in October I went with Julianne and Marissa to SW Virginia where we were to meet Julianne’s sister Laura and her daughter Emma. They were going to ride the Virginia Creeper Bike Trail.

Heading up the trail. Notice I had my Nikon around my neck as well.

Just in case, we took my bike as well.  I had only ridden it about a mile or two previously, and we weren’t sure if I would be able to.  But ultimately, while waiting for them down the hill from the start, I decided to give it a try and rode UPHILL for nearly 3 miles to meet them on the trail and then come back down the hill with them. It was fun to see the surprised look on Julianne’s face when she saw me sitting at a table waiting for them!

The biking gang somewhere on the Virginia Creeper Trail. My first REAL bike ride.

Not only did I use the bike, but also my new Nikon as I took photos along the way. It was a lovely time of year.

It has been more than two months since my birthday and I still have man fond memories. My life is filled with joy and there are the many precious moments I have had in this 60 years.  And it just keeps going.  Watch my blogs for more photos and more bike stories…and more grandkidz selfies and family stories.  Life is Awesome but its getting better.

My Favorite Animal and Bird Photographs

Antelope scamper across the prairie in Eastern Montana

Antelope scamper across the prairie in Eastern Montana

Though I am mainly known for my travel blogs and photography, over the years through my travels and at parks with the grandchildren and even at home in my own backyard, I have had the opportunity to capture some fun images of animals and birds.  This post will present a few of my favorites and the stories behind them.  I hope that you will enjoy this little “animal tour.”

A blue heron in flight over the Kentucky River, near Shakertown

A blue heron in flight over the Kentucky River, near Shakertown

I have always loved watching animals and birds.  And it seems that as I have gotten older, this fascination has grown deeper.  Here are few stories and photos of some of the animals I have come across, broken down by animals, birds and insects.

LARGE ANIMALS FROM ALL OVER

Antelope Family - A doe and her two calves scamper across grassland in central Colorado

Antelope Family – A doe and her two calves scamper across grassland in central Colorado

The photo at the top of the page along with the one directly above depicts North America’s fasted land animal, the pronghorn antelope. Throughout the years I have seen thousands of these, mainly in Montana, Colorado, Idaho and Wyoming.  I can recall seeing herds of them in southern Wyoming in the miud-1970s when I drive from Vernal, UT to Rock Springs, WY on business. I captured the photo of the four antelope at the top while driving from Miles City, Montana through the prairies to Shelby, Montana in March 2013.  There were actually about 8 or 9 along the side of the two lane highway.  I had to whip the camera out quickly to grab this lucky shot.  It is truly one of my favorites.  The other shot was taken in June 2013 on a road trip from Idaho Falls, ID to Dallas, TX.  I was north of Craig, Colorado on a two lane highway through the mountains.  This was captured with my telephoto lens as I took about 20 shots of them speeding across the grass.

Elk in Oregon

Elk in Oregon

I captured this shot of an elk relaxing in Western Oregon, west of aptly named Elton, Oregon.  This elk was roaming freely on an Elk Reserve with about 30 head.  I have seen similar reserves in Rexburg, Idaho and Jackson, Wyoming.  I have rarely seen an elk in the wild and usually it is cow.  The bulls are more difficult.

Longhorn Bull - Fort Worth, Texas

Toothy grin from Pecos Bill the Longhorn Bull – Fort Worth, Texas

Speaking of bulls, I got this shot of “Pecos Bill” the longhorn while visiting my sister in Fort Worth.  We went to the stockyards and this huge bull was being ridden down the street by a cowboy.  People can then pay this cowboy and have their photo taken while sitting on the bull.  No thank you….

Giraffes relax

Giraffes relax in the grass at Fossil Rim Animal Park in Glen Rose, Texas

On a separate trip for work to the DFW Metroplex, I had a weekend to spend with my sister and her family and we took a drive to the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, Texas.  This is a great place to see wildlife up close, and that is what we got with one of the giraffes!  We even had him licking us through the window with his long black tongue!! (See full details in my blog post here)

An upclose shot of a giraffe at Fossil Rim

An upclose shot of a giraffe at Fossil Rim

Fossil Rim offered the opportunity to see other animals such as zebra, oryx, Asian deer, cheetahs, rhinoceros and a variety of big birds (see below).

Horsing Around in the snow near Versailles, Kentucky

Horsing Around in the snow near Versailles, Kentucky

I live in Lexington, Kentucky, the Horse Capital of the World.  I have plenty of photos of horses grazing in the fields, but this is one of my favorites as a galloping horse eyed me during a photo shoot on a snowy winter morning in Woodford County.  About a dozen horses were racing around in the field and a got a number of other good shots.

Amish-owned horse in Charm, Ohio

Amish-owned horse in Charm, Ohio

I got the horse above while visiting the Amish Community of Charm in Ohio. This horse was attached to one of the Amish Buggies and was parked by a shop.

Crazy Donkey seen on a back road near Winchester, KY

Crazy Donkey seen on a back road near Winchester, KY

One nice spring morning I took a back roads drive with my wife and we came across this mule who stared at us and looked almost crazy.  Couldn’t resist snapping a couple of shots.  Indeed, horses are not the only four-legged equine in Kentucky.

Bison in Yellowstone

Bison in Yellowstone

Of course, how can I leave out the amazing Bison.  Though typically also called buffalo, they are actually really bison.  I got this photo of wild bison grazing in Yellowstone National Park.  It was one of dozens of shots I got that day, including one of a HUGE bison that walked right by my car and had to be over six feet tall.  It was an amazing animal!!

SMALLER CRITTERS

Priairie Dog at Badlands National Park

Priairie Dog at Badlands National Park, South Dakota

There are also lots of smaller animals to be seen in travels and even in my own yard. One of my most endearing photos was taken at Cactus Flats, South Dakota, near the Badlands National Park. I saw this mother coddling her young.  I took about 20 shots and this one really was an “Awwww” moment for me as she hugged her babies.

Prairie Dog Mama cuddling her kids at Cactus Flats, SD

Prairie Dog Mama cuddling her kids at Cactus Flats, SD

Of course, one of the most commonly seen little critter is the squirrel.  I have seen a number of varieties on the road, including black squirrels, red squirrels and gray squirrels.  I see dozens around my house, which I think are actually Fox Squirrels.  In fact, I got some great shots of them playing in the trees on a winter morning a couple of days ago (as I write this…)

Fox Squirrels playing in a tree

Fox Squirrels playing in a tree

The Fox Squirrel is the largest species of tree squirrel in North America.  They love our neighborhood because of the abundance of nut-producing pin oak trees.

A squirrel perches on my back yard deck

A squirrel perches on my back yard deck

The little guys love to visit our deck (as do many birds – see below).  I always try to keep my camera handy at the table as quite often these guys will appear, as did this one above.

Angry Squirrel at home in Kentucky

Angry Squirrel at home in Kentucky

I have posted this photo before, but need to include it here.  I took nearly 40 shots of this squirrel poking around in the snow in my front yard in early February 2014. They were consecutive shots, so I didn’t see this shot until I went through all the photos.  I had to crop it and blow it up a bit, but it was an awesome (and lucky) shot.  It almost appears that he is angry and getting ready to heave a snowball at me!

Red Squirrel in Nebraska City, NE

Red Squirrel in Nebraska City, NE

I got about 10 shots of this red squirrel in Nebraska City, Nebraska in late 2013.  He was obviously prepping for the winter, but I thought his mouth full of nuts was priceless.

Fox in Grand Tetons, Wyoming

Fox in Grand Tetons, Wyoming

I was on a business trip in Rexburg, Idaho in March 2013 and one weekend I took a trip to the Grand Tetons National Park.  Not all of it was open since there was so much snow.  But on one side road I caught this fox diving for mice in the snow.  He stopped for a moment to pose for me.  Another lucky shot taken with my zoom lens.

Meerkat at Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska

Meerkat at Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska

I was in Omaha for the 2012 USA Swimming Olympic Qualifying events and we were broadcasting some of the events.  As part of the broadcast pieces we featured some scenes from Omaha, including the Henry Doorly Zoo. It is famous for the big dome that houses their desert wildlife, including the meerkats.  The one above practically posed for me. I swear he was smiling for the camera!!

Dog in Black Mountain, KY

Dog in Black Mountain, KY

And, for the last of the animals is this happy little dog that my wife and I came across on a trek we made into southeastern Kentucky.  We made our way up to the top of Black Mountain, the highest point in the state and there were some other folks up there.  They had this dog in a basket in their motorcycle.  He seemed pleased as punch to have an opportunity to Enjoy the Ride!

BIG BIRDS, LITTLE BIRDS

Emu at Glen Rose, Texas

Emu at Glen Rose, Texas

I have a real fascination with birds and love watching them and love photographing them.  I probably have over 2000 bird photos I have taken and I’m only adding a few of them herein, including the Emu above, which was taken at Fossil Rim Animal Park in Glen Rose, Texas. I also got the angry ostrich below at the same location.

Angry Ostrich at Fossil Rim Animal Park in Glen Rose, TX

Angry Ostrich at Fossil Rim Animal Park in Glen Rose, TX

Seems like everywhere I go I can see ducks and geese, but only once did I get the opportunity to see a group of duck hatchlings in Georgetown, KY during a fall visit to Evans Orchard.  Talk about adorable!!

Duck Hatchlings at Evans Orchard in Georgetown

Duck Hatchlings at Evans Orchard in Georgetown

Then the ducks grow up to be quackers!! They have their own dynasty!!  I took the shot below at Jacobson Park on an icy winter day.  The ducks seemed to enjoy it.

Duck Dynasty at Jacobson Lake in Lexington, KY

Duck Dynasty at Jacobson Lake in Lexington, KY

One of the beautiful sites we see here in Kentucky are geese in flight as they migrate north and south. Many fly right over our house.  Here are a couple of geese shots that I am proud of.

A solitary Canadian goose glides in the sky above my house in Feb. 2009

A solitary Canadian goose glides in the sky above my house in Feb. 2009

Geese flying south taken in the skies of Lexington in February 2014

Geese flying south taken in the skies of Lexington in February 2014

While on the subject of big birds, one of my all time favorites is of the girl staring down a swan at Victoria Lake in Stratford, Ontario.  I was visiting the park and taking photos of the beautiful swans when I got lucky with this shot, taken in 2008.

Stare Down - taken at Victoria Lake in Stratford, Ontario

Stare Down – taken at Victoria Lake in Stratford, Ontario

On a visit to Idaho Falls, Idaho I happened upon an amazing sight…seagulls and geese fighting over bread.  With camera in hand I got some fabulous shots.  Here is the best of “The Fight”, taken in April 2013.

The Fight - Seagulls and a Goose fight over bread in Idaho Falls, Idaho

The Fight – Seagulls and a Goose fight over bread in Idaho Falls, Idaho

This party is for the birds - geese, ducks and seagulls socialize in Idaho Falls

This party is for the birds – geese, ducks and seagulls socialize in Idaho Falls

I frequent Jacobson Park in Lexington during the summer with my grandchildren.  I always have camera in hand.  I got a great shot of ducks taking flight one afternoon. Ironically, my grandchildren were the source of this as they were chasing the ducks around.  I love this shot because there are three others below all staring at me.  It was an awesome shot (if I say so myself)

Ducks in flight at Jacobson Park in Lexington, KY

Ducks in flight at Jacobson Park in Lexington, KY

Speaking of seagulls, I have photographed them in Oregon, on the east coast and a myriad of places in between.  Here are a couple of my favorites.

Seagull - Idaho Falls, Idaho

Seagull – Idaho Falls, Idaho

Seagull in flight over Oregon Dunes in Oregon

Seagull in flight over Oregon Dunes in Oregon

Seagull in flight over Egg Harbor, Wisconsin

Seagull in flight over Egg Harbor, Wisconsin

I was returning to Kentucky with my wife after a visit with my daughter’s family in Montana.  As we traveled in southern Montana, near the small town of Dell, I had hoped to take a back road to see some of the bison on Ted Turner’s expansive ranch off of I-15.  While casually driving down a dirt road overlooking the ranch I heard an eerie bird sound, almost a screeching sound, that I had never heard.  I grabbed my camera as I saw two birds in flight.  I took about 30 shots. The one below shocked me after I was able to sit down and review the photos.  What I saw were red-crested sand cranes in flight.  It was beautiful…

Sand Cranes in flight over the prairies of southern Montana, taken April 2013

Sand Cranes in flight over the prairies of southern Montana, taken April 2013

On another trip west in 2013, I was traveling across South Dakota on the Oyate Trail (US Hwys 50 and 18).  As I drove by Lake Andes, just a few mile north of the Nebraska border I saw a flock of white birds sitting in the lake.  I made my way into the town of Lake Andes and found that there was a park by the lake and the birds were all flocked on the park side of the shore.  I got as close as I could and was beyond joy to see a flock of pelicans.  Once again, I took a couple dozen shots of these beautiful birds.  Here is my favorite.

Pelicans on Lake Andes in South Dakota

Pelicans on Lake Andes in South Dakota

Water birds are not the only big birds I have come across in my travels.  On a trip in Montana I was just coming into Lewsiville when I spotted a bald eagle in a rare spot on the ground in a field, obviously looking for mice.  I had to stop and turn around and hoped that it would stay in place, which it did.

Bald eagle rests in a field near Lewisville, Montana

Bald eagle rests in a field near Lewisville, Montana

One Sunday I accompanied my wife on a church calling into the small town of McKee in central Kentucky.  On the way home we took a couple of back roads (my joy!) and came across these three turkey vultures guarding their prey. They stood firm!

Turkey vultures and dinner near McKee, KY taken in spring 2013

Turkey vultures and dinner near McKee, KY taken in spring 2013

But the all-time favorite big bird of mine is the lovely and graceful Blue Heron.  I have even nicknamed them “Herry” every time I see one.  At the top of this post I caught one gliding above the Kentucky River near Shakertown. I also see them often at Jacobson Lake in Lexington.  Here is one of my favorites. ( I will likely do a complete post just on these birds in the near future).

Blue Heron at Jacobson Lake

Blue Heron at Jacobson Lake

Blue Heron in Flight at Jacobson Lake in Lexington

Blue Heron in Flight at Jacobson Lake in Lexington

Of the large birds, I must include one more.  A few years ago we took a trip to the Cincinnati Zoo with my grand children.  While there I had the opportunity to get some close shot of a peacock.  Voila….

Peacock at Cincinnati Zoo

Peacock at Cincinnati Zoo

Then there are the smaller birds that hang around the neighborhood. Here are a few of them

A fluffy cardinal perched on snow covered tree in my backyard

A fluffy cardinal perched on snow covered tree in my backyard

A Blue Jay on a tree in my back yard

A Blue Jay on a tree in my back yard

A robin perched on my back deck

A robin perched on my back deck

Two doves in love on my back deck

Two doves in love on my back deck

A colorful bird I saw on a fence in central Missouri

A colorful bird I saw on a fence in central Missouri

A black and white bird on a fencepost near Yellowstone National Park

A black and white bird on a fencepost near Yellowstone National Park