My name is Jess Yarnell. I’m a software geek during the week and an amateur nature photographer on the weekend. I’ve been maintaining the catandturtle website since 2004. Keep reading to find out more about catandturtle photography.
The question that I am most often asked about my website is, “So why the catandturtle domain name? Your website is mostly about birds!”
Well…we selected the domain name when we just had a personal website. Our love for cats and turtles gradually grew into hobbies (obsessions?) for gardening, nature, and photography. The catandturtle domain name just sorta tagged along.
Jess likes cats and Rich likes turtles. Why not? :)
Once Upon a Time…
Once upon a time, Jess and her hubby Rich were standing in the pet aisle at Target. They spied a wild bird feeder and said, “Hey, Goldy and Squirt might enjoy watching birds out the window. Let’s get it.”
Little did we know what we were starting!
The wild grackles found the feeder in a matter of days. We learned to identify the Boat-tailed Grackles and their friends the Red-Winged Blackbirds. They tossed seed down to the ground, where the Mourning Doves were happy to sit and eat it. The next spring, a small red bird with the sweetest little song made his debut in the neighborhood. Our first House Finch!
Goldilocks and Squirt discovered that bird-watching was a very agreeable way to pass the day away. (It must be understood here that our cats are inside-only cats. We have bird feeders conveniently located outside the best windows, where the cats can sit and watch the birds.) Goldy would very carefully stalk the birds, whereas Squirt would walk right up to the window, meow a hello, and pounce, which of course scared away his entertainment. Goldy might be asleep anywhere in our house, but if I called out “bird-bird-bird”, she’d come racing out to see it.
Around the same time, Jess got the brilliant idea of trying to make a couple of flower beds around the back of the house. A friend told her about Lukas Nursery and all the wonderful plants there. Jess discovered that she had a green thumb, and she spent a year or so in a garden craze, transforming the barren backyard into a flowering insect paradise. One bed led to another, and in less than a year, we had one of the most colorful yards in the neighborhood, complete with a viburnum hedge “fence”. After all, we needed to attract more birds to the yard, right?
The birds came. So did the butterflies. Jess had always been a shutterbug, but now she needed more than a point-and-shoot to get decent pictures of all her flowers and new garden visitors. (Besides, she wore out the shutter on her point-and-shoot!) So Rich got her a DSLR. A week later, after seeing that the birds were tiny specs in her photos, he got her a 300mm lens. Happy Jess!
‘Spellbound’ was our first rose. It grew really, really well, and bloomed profusely. So much so that it began Jess’ obsession with roses. As she added more flower beds, she kept making space for more roses, until growing the collection to almost 50 bushes. That’s a lot of roses!
Next the gatitos twisted our paws into adding a screen room to the back of house. That way we could all sit outside and enjoy our pretty yard (and all the birds!) Soon we were using our porch table more often than our dining room table. The cats didn’t mind!
The cats liked the porch even more than we thought they would. Squirt began to spend his days pawing at the sliding glass door, begging to go outside.
Squirt discovered that a grill is a cat’s throne, and Goldy found that watching birds is much more exciting when you can hear them up close and personal. All plants planted on the porch become a smorgasbord for Squirt, whose favorite snack is a six-pack of pansies in the wintertime.
Jess found that many, many more kinds of birds come into the yard than she ever imagined. (Her neighbor Carla sometimes asks incredulously, “Do you really see all those in our backyard?”) Jess began perfecting her bird photography after reading an article about Oakland Nature Preserve’s (ONP) photographer Mike Brinkley. Rich and Jess also began visiting places like Oakland for hiking and bird-watching.
One day, Jess’s dad suggested that they visit the Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland. Wow! They visited in November and saw so many different species of birds. Although it was a bit of a drive from Orlando, it was an incredible place. By springtime, after seeing her first Sandhill Crane colts, Jess and her dad became regular visitors to the reserve, usually going at least once a week. It’s amazing how much you can learn about a place by photographing it regularly!
Over time, Rich’s interests turned in other directions, and Jess continued her photography with her dad and other friends. She discovered places like Viera Wetlands, Fort De Soto, and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Now she gets up willingly at 4 in the morning on the weekends to go out and shoot sunrise. As her photography interest continues to grow, she blogs about her adventures beyond the backyard. She spends less time with roses these days, but she continues to enjoy and blog about her garden and the birds that visit her backyard. And with the addition of Whiskey Loopy to our family, there are still plenty of bird-watchers in our house!
…And so began the obsession with birds, roses, and photography. Thanks, Goldy!