My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

It’s been a good week, the cute and cuddly

In my last post, It’s been a good week, I posted all flower photos from last week. I’m sorry that I can’t identify more of them, I really need to study up on a lot of things. I would love to find a set of Michigan specific field guides to help me identify plants, flowers, insects, etc. I have found a few published by university professors that are meant as text books for classrooms, but nothing for the average Joe to take along while hiking. I don’t need to get so deep in the taxonomy of a species that I have to count chromosomes, do DNA testing, or question whether the mark on the second segment of some species of insects denote an entirely different species, or a sub-species.

In my perfect little world, I wouldn’t have to look through 50 species that are never found in Michigan, and have to read through the range distribution of all 50 to find that out. Sizes would be given in inches first, then in the metric system, and size comparisons would be to other Michigan species that I am familiar with, not a species that lives on the other side of the planet that I have never seen, or ever will see. There would be photos of course, good ones, and enough of them to enable you to make a solid identification. The books I have in mind would be simple enough for older kids, so they would be able to use it, but detailed enough for a serious amateur. I know I am asking a lot, but I am sure that there would be a market for such a series of books. So if there are any publishers reading this, get in touch with me. I’ll do the photography, find some college professors to identify the species for me and to write the details about each one, then I’ll translate that into simple English that every one can understand.

On a related note, the basis for what I know and my interest in the out-of-doors came from my parents. My dad was the bird and animal expert, my mom was the wildflower and plant expert. She knew the names of many of the species I can no longer identify, because I have forgotten what she taught me and my siblings. I never thought to question it at the time, but now I wonder, who taught her? I know she went to college, but to a business college to become an accountant, and I doubt they covered wildflowers in accounting classes. Both my parents were voracious readers, of non-fiction, mostly nature books, especially my dad. I know how and why my dad knew as much as he did, he was a hunter and a fisherman, and you have to know nature well to excel at either of them. But, I don’t know how my mom came to learn as much as she did. It’s too late to ask her now, Alzheimer’s has robbed her of her memory.

When you are ten or eleven years old and you ask your mom what that pretty yellow wildflower is, and she says “That’s a buttercup.”, then you know it’s a buttercup. At that age you don’t think to ask her how she knows that, or at least I didn’t, but maybe that comes from having two very intelligent parents, I don’t know. I do know that I can remember my mom telling us about the different species of flowers, but I never had call to use that knowledge over the years, and I have lost it. I guess what the point of this is, don’t wait until it is too late to learn all you can about your parents and how they became the people they did.

 Anyway, on to some photos. We had some heavy rain Saturday, and it was breezy on Sunday, good conditions for deer “hunting” with my cameras. The heavy rain the day before made it easier to be quiet in the woods, and a breeze also helps by masking any noise I do make, as long as the breeze isn’t too strong. Deer don’t like high winds, they rely on scent more than sight, along with their hearing. Too much wind makes them nervous and skittish, as they can’t depend on their senses of smell and hearing to keep them safe. Sunday was about the maximum for wind, I was able to see a lot of deer, but they were at the point where they more nervous than they are typically.

For the first part of the day, I was getting shots like this one.

Whitetail deer

Or this one.

Whitetail deer

The deer were staying well back in the woods, and any attempt I made to get closer sent them trotting off with their tails up in the air. That may have been because there were still quite a few people in the park, many of them walking their dogs. Deer and dogs do not mix well.

Later, as the wind began to die down a little, I was able to sneak up on this one.

Whitetail doe

I think she thought that she was hiding in that fallen tree, and that I didn’t see her. She wasn’t the brightest deer I have ever seen. As she was feeding, she managed to get a dead leaf stuck to the side of her face.

Whitetail doe

She knew I was there, or at least had an inkling I was there, because she would never step out into the open. They sure are pretty animals in their summer coat.

Whitetail doe

In a few months, their reddish-brown coat will give way to their winter coat, which is darker, with much more black in it. Even though the wind had died down a little, the deer were still on edge, the next one stayed somewhat hidden as well.

Whitetail doe

I was trying to work my way to where I had a more open shot, but it was tough.

Whitetail doe

I did manage to get this one.

Whitetail doe

That’s why I gave up hunting with a gun, it would be too easy for me, and they are just too pretty to shoot. Well, I still shoot them, but now I shoot portraits. I did catch that deer out in the open, but just for a split second, and I was too slow getting the camera on her before she wheeled and ran off. That happens, I waited until she wasn’t looking, and started around a pine so that she couldn’t see me. I didn’t know that she had begun moving about the same time, and we startled each other as we both rounded the pine at the same time.

I really wanted to get a buck with velvet still on his antlers, but I didn’t see any. Not surprising as skittish as the does were, maybe this weekend.

I did get this bunny though, a cottontail rabbit.

red eye rabbit

I love it when I get so close to critters that they end up with red-eye from the flash!

red eye rabbit

Practice makes perfect, and practicing sneaking up on rabbits is what makes me so good at sneaking up on other things, like deer.

This guy isn’t cuddly, but he’s kind of cute in a turtle kind of way.

Eastern Box Turtle

They are becoming rare here in Michigan, yet no one seems to know why. I think this is a male, but I’m not positive. The males have reddish eyes, the females have brown eyes.

Eastern Box turtle

I think his eyes were redder than the photo shows, and I didn’t use the flash, so that doesn’t have anything to do with it. It is strange that the population of box turtles is falling though. We saw them everywhere when I was a kid, now it is rare that I see one.

Let’s see, what else do I have that’s cute and cuddly. How about a goldfinch? This one is perturbed by me interrupting his bath.

American Goldfinch

This one was too busy singing to notice me.

American Goldfinch

And finally I have one of a juvenile great blue heron.

Great blue heron

That’s all I have time for today, the bugs and creepy crawlies will have to wait until later this week.

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2 responses

  1. Great photos! It’s always a special moment when you’re taking a picture of something observing you.

    For what it’s worth, I have an Ohio wildflower guide (Wildflowers of Ohio by Roert L. Henn) which is handy, but the Ohio-specific bird guides I’ve seen usually need to go more in-depth species-wise- they usually don’t cover all of the warblers, for instance.

    Sounds like you get your love of nature from your parents- very sorry to hear about your mother.

    August 24, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    • I’m lucky in that I have a way with animals, I am able to get much closer to them than most people are. And I do think of my pictures as portraits of the animals, I try to capture their personality.

      My earliest memories are of outdoor adventures my parents went on, my mom was a better shot with a long bow than my dad. My dad and I talked a lot about his experiences while we were hunting and fishing, I have no idea how my mom became such an outdoor’s person at a time when few women were.

      I feel a post coming on about a set of field guides, I have been giving them much thought.

      August 25, 2011 at 3:18 am