Amazing Audubon Photos

I can only guess how the judges determined the best entries for the eighth annual Audubon Photo Awards.  Over 5,000 camera bugs from 49 states and eight Canadian provinces submitted their work, some of which has been put on display at the Smithsonian Natural Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC.

The best thing to do is just sit back and enjoy them.

From top left, above, Gentoo Penguin by Deborah Albert (overall winner), Great Gray Owl by Steve Mattheis, Carmine Bee-eater by Zachary Webster (youth), Mute Swan by Christopher Schlaf, Sandhill Cranes and Snow Geese by Karen R. Schuenenmann, and Varied Thrush by Heather Roskelley.

Work from other photographers in the best 100, above: Gary Rolinette, Carole Wiley, Brian Genge, Nancy Gaudiro (my personal favorite, a duck), Ralph Ganes, and Christ Hartzell.

John James Audubon, who had to rely on watercolor paints and paper to convey his images, would surely be marveling as much as we are.

To see more, including the stories behind the photographs, locations and types of cameras used, visit

Left to Us

After Theodore Roosevelt’s brief funeral service in January 1919,  mourners followed pallbearers up a steep grade to the burial place in Oyster Bay, Long Island.  The American flag was askew on the coffin, as Theodore’s clothes often were.  Today there are twenty-six steps on the hill, one for every president until him.  Descendants say one of their uncles used to make them recite the presidents from Washington to TR as they walked up.

We toured Youngs Cemetery on the day after the annual Theodore Roosevelt Association meeting.  Theodore and Edith, as well as many of their family members, rest here.  Since it was two days after the 158th anniversary of his birth, we were able to see the wreath from the White House.  Did you know the sitting president sends one to all former presidents’ graves on their birthdays?

Close by is the first national Audubon bird sanctuary.  Theodore’s cousin, Emlen, donated fifteen acres to honor the president’s efforts in saving America’s wildlife and their habitats.  When they were boys, the two had had their own little nature collection, the “Roosevelt Museum of Natural History,” in their bedrooms.  Only it wasn’t so small, growing to about 1,000 specimens!  Now people of all ages come to enjoy the same peaceful woodsy surroundings, watch birds, and learn about things Theodore loved all of his life.  Four hundred children a month attend camps here during the summer.

We watched as a group of kids learned about turtles in the crisp autumn air.  Certainly Theodore would have liked the program when he was their age.  When he grew up, he set aside almost a quarter of a billion acres of America’s land into national parks and sanctuaries so our children, and children’s children, would be able to see them.  He left to us an amazing gift.  It is left to us to continue conserving it.

The Birds Have Come Back

American Goldfinch by Deborah O’Sullivan

In a letter from the 1870s, a teenaged Theodore Roosevelt wrote about the greening of spring trees and flowers, but, “above all,” he said, “the birds have come back.”

Sentiments have not changed in the years that have passed.  It is still good to hear melodic warblers and see bright finches after their winter absence, and anticipate the near arrival of the hummingbirds.


Long-billed Thrasher by Hector Astorga


Winners have been published from Audubon’s yearly photography contest — as usual they are stunning.  The top 100 may be seen on the organization’s website (out of 7,000 entries).  Although there are many exotic kinds captured by the cameras, my favorites are of the hermit thrush and cardinal.


Eastern Screech Owl by William Kleinfelder


Check it out at

Great Shots

In case you haven’t seen or heard, the Audubon Society has published winners of their annual photography contest.  From top, I have pasted and copied here photos of a painted bunting by Zachary Webster, Edinburg, TX (youth award, which TR would’ve loved); black skimmers by Tim Timmis, Port Bolivia, TX; prothonotary warblers by Donald Wuori, Harleyville, SC; sandhill cranes by Jason Savage, Helena MT; and a great egret by Melissa Groo, Port Richey, FL.  Details about cameras and lenses used by the photographers, and 100 more shots may be seen at  And while you’re at the website, consider joining Audubon.  It’s a wonderful way to be a part of preserving our birds for future generations.






Making Suet Cakes

In light of their recent report on dwindling habitats, the National Audubon Society has urged us to provide space and food for our avian friends.  This month I tried some recipes for suet cakes.  I know you can buy these from hardware and home improvement stores, but I wanted to make a gift from me to the birds.

The first wasn’t exactly a recipe, but ingredients someone told me to use.  Maybe I didn’t hear right – I thought it included Crisco, which I had on hand.  The birds didn’t care much for it.  Squirrels did, though, and had no trouble polishing off the hydrogenated treats.

Then I did what I should have done in the first place, a little reading, at,  I was reminded that suet, an energy food, is animal fat, not vegetable fat.  I hadn’t had lard in my cupboard for quite some time so I went to the grocery store and picked up a tub (maybe I’ll make a few pie crusts).

Woodpeckers, chickadees, creepers and wrens like suet.  When temperatures rise, however, it can cause problems for them:  Soft suet can coat belly feathers of mother birds and prevent growth of embryos in their eggs.  Also, when the outside temperature grows still warmer, the fat turns rancid.

So I made two different mixtures using lard.

Recipe A:

  • one cup lard
  • one-half cup peanut butter
  • three cups cornmeal (yellow is preferable, but I had white)

Recipe B:

  • one cup lard
  • one cup peanut butter
  • one-fourth cup sugar
  • one cup flour
  • one cup oatmeal
  • one cup chopped peanuts
  • one cup sunflower seeds or wild bird seed

I melted the lard and peanut butter together for each batch, then added the rest.  Among the many recipes I read, the rule of thumb seemed to be one part melted fat/peanut butter to two parts dry ingredients, and I think I added a little more to make it thick.  Then I poured it into cottage cheese and margarine containers, and put them into the freezer to harden.   After a few hours I took them out, poured hot water over the containers, unmolded them and sliced one-inch cakes.  I put one of each kind in a wire feeder by our back deck and waited to see who answered the call.

And I waited.  The next day came and still no visitors.  Was my bird chefery destined for failure?  I moved the suet feeder several yards away close to some trees and our dry seed feeder, and advertised with broken up suet chunks in nearby bushes and saplings.  While I haven’t got a good picture of the birds chowing down on it yet,  I did see some evidence the squirrels had been performing circus tricks on the pole.

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, dried fruit, including raisins, can be added to suet cakes.  So can dried insects, but I don’t think I’m going there.  The birdies can dig up protein for themselves in the spring.