Only one (r)egret
I woke up on Monday morning, (I wouldn’t be typing this if I hadn’t) still thinking of the previous day’s hike and the turkey at my doorstep. I went through my usually routine of several cups of coffee while I catch up with people on Facebook, and read the news. Monday is a big news day for me, as the outdoor section appears in the Sunday press, but I seldom read it on Sunday, rather I read it online on Monday mornings. (There will be nature pictures later in this post, I promise)
I want Howard Meyerson’s job! He’s the editor of the outdoor page for the local paper, the Grand Rapids Press, and has been for decades. I’m not sure why. One of the reasons I read the outdoor section online is that I get the feed from many of the other papers in Michigan that are owned by the same conglomerate that owns the Grand Rapids Press. I get more useful outdoor news from the Kalamazoo Gazette, the Muskegon Chronicle, and the other papers than I do from the Grand Rapids Press. I better stop now, I could do an entire post on why I would be better at his job than Howard is, in fact, I may just do that, but not today.
The only reason I brought the subject up in the first place was that I read a one paragraph blurb about Cranefest. The blurb made it sound as though it was an event aimed at children, but it mentioned a bird sanctuary where the event was going to be held. Bird sanctuaries are places I like to hang out, so I looked up the one mentioned online, and I was somewhat stunned.
I drive truck for a living, and as part of my run every night, I take I 69 south from Lansing to I 94 near Battle Creek. There are a number of swamps, marshes, wetlands, small lakes and ponds in the area where the two highways intersect. As I have been driving by, I have noticed them, and the waterfowl that make their homes there. I have thought of driving there to see if I could get close to any of the wetlands. Well, it turns out that the sanctuary mentioned in the blurb contains one of the marshes I have been eyeing from the highway, how cool is that?
Further checking told me Cranefest isn’t just for kids, it is an event put on by the Michigan Audubon Society, and it sounds like a pretty big deal. The sanctuary where some of the events take place is the Bernard W. Baker Sanctuary.
Here’s a description of the sanctuary from the Audubon’s website….
Baker Sanctuary is North America’s first bird sanctuary dedicated to the preservation of a crane species, the Sandhill Crane. At 898 acres and the second largest of Michigan Audubon’s sanctuaries, it is a refuge for nesting and migrating Sandhill Cranes. The area is dominated by the 200-acre Big Marsh Lake, a restored wetland flooding. More than 200 species of birds and dozens of species of mammals have been recorded here. There are two groomed trails in the sanctuary.
If you follow the link above, you can see more about the place, and download a map.
I used to be a member of the Audubon Society, but as in the case of many conservation groups like the Nature Conservancy, they alienated me by making all their sanctuaries and nature preserves off-limits to the general public, and the membership. It seems these groups get too big or something, but they all seem to get to the point where they tell you to send them money, and they’ll tell you about the places they preserve, but you aren’t allowed there. If you send them enough money, they may even say thank you, and send you a crappy photograph of the places your money paid for.
I know, there are some places that are too environmentally sensitive to let the general public roam free on, but they should be the exceptions, not the rule.
I was glad to hear that the Baker Sanctuary is open to the public. I marked it on my GPS unit, and I’m sure I’ll make it there, if not this fall, then early next spring at the latest.
By the way, I am trying something in this post to make links to more information more visible. I like WordPress, but I wish I could make links stand out more for people looking for information.
As I was checking out Cranefest and the Baker Sanctuary online, a small thunderstorm rolled through the area, delaying my walk for the day. No, no turkey showed up this morning, clucking at me to get with it. Instead, I spotted a great egret at the first pond I came to.
Of course it was on the wrong side of the pond as far as getting good, well lit, close shots. There was another guy walking on the side of the pond closer to the egret, and I watched, hoping the egret wouldn’t fly off. It watched the other walker, and stayed behind the grass, but didn’t fly away. So I took off to circle the pond, hoping the egret would still be there when I got around the pond.
It was still there, and it had just caught a fish, which you can just make out in the egret’s beak. It swallowed the fish…
…saw me, and took to flight.
Luckily, I was using my Nikon, so I got some great flight photos.
Even if I was leading it too much. I thought that it would keep going, but it turned at the other end of the pond and came in for a landing.
Egret flight 101 cleared for landing…
Landing gear down…
ready for touchdown…
You can see the muddy water from the storm run-off from the earlier thunderstorm entering the pond, creating the line in the water where the muddy water met the pond’s water. Now the egret was on the other side of the pond again, so I went back, trying to stay out of its sight.
I could tell it was wary of my presence, a flock of ducks was also there in the pond, I was hoping they would distract the egret.
No such luck.
Off it went.
And it didn’t stop on the other side of the pond this time.
I knew that I should have moved slower, and been more cautious in my approach! I could tell I was pressing the egret more than it wanted to be pressed. I was in a hurry to get back to my apartment and continue working on yesterday’s post. That is never a good idea, you can’t hurry critters.
My regret is that I didn’t take the time to let the egret get used to my being nearby. But I also find it a coincidence that I found information about a cool bird sanctuary where I will probably see many other egrets, cranes and herons to photograph on the same day as this egret stopped off here at the pond. I see herons there regularly, but this was the first egret, I hope it isn’t the last.