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

Archive for October, 2011

That was interesting

I was feeling down in the dumps earlier, even had a post started on how I was feeling, but as usual, a good long hike in the woods changed all that. The one part of the draft I have started that the public will see is a list of some of the other blogs I read on a regular basis, like Bob Zeller’s Texas Tweeties and the photos he posts of the Big Bend Country. Emily Gooch’s blog from the Pacific northwest. Galen Leeds blog from the San Francisco Bay area. Rebecca’s Rebecca in the Woods blog from Wisconsin. I can’t forget Kathy’s Lake Superior Spirit blog that has me yearning for a trip to the Keweenaw Peninsula, I haven’t been there in years. I think the rest of the post will remain hidden, for my eyes only.

The weather wasn’t the greatest for photography, I thought, shows how wrong I can be. There were light showers moving through the area, nothing like the rain that’s falling right now, but sprinkles now and then. The sun popped out for a minute, and this is what I saw.

Right place at the right time

There had been enough rain to wet the leaves, and when the evening sun hit them, they practically glowed!

Then there was this shot taken of a pond as the sprinkles of rain fell.

Sprinkles on the pond

More leaves.

Wet leaves in the sun

And this one.

The yellow tunnel

My mood was improving dramatically, the woods were beautiful today, but the woods were in a county park near where I live, not the back country wilderness I was really wanting to be hiking in.

I was watching a few birds, mostly chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, and woodpeckers, oh yea, and a lot of robins. There was a spot where the trees were full of robins waiting their turn to bathe in a very small stream. Two or three at a time would be in the stream taking a bath, with the ones that had just finished their bath perched in the trees preening, and others still waiting their turn. That was kind of cool.

I was about half way done as far as distance, and I hadn’t seen any deer yet. I decided it was still a bit early for them perhaps, so I sat down on a fallen tree to take a break. I hadn’t been sitting for long when I heard the siren from a fire truck in the distance. Great, just what I need to remind me that I’m not really where I want to be right now is what I was thinking.

As I listened to the siren, I thought I heard a second siren, no, yes, no, it isn’t a siren, it is a coyote sounding like a siren. Then another, and another, and then still more. Then almost all at once, they broke into the full howl every one is familiar with. I didn’t get a count of how many there were, it sounded like around a dozen of them. I knew there were coyotes around here, I once watched from my living room window as one made an unsuccessful attempt to catch a turkey. I’ve never heard them howling around here, out west, yes, and up north, yes, but not here. And I have never heard them trying to sound like a fire truck siren before either.

So much for feeling bummed out about hiking around home, the hunter instinct kicked in, and I was off to find the coyotes if I could. From their howling, I knew they were on the other side of a marsh from me, in the area I normally see a lot of deer. I set out even slower than normal, eyes peeled to the marsh, but I never did spot one of the coyotes. There were a few times I saw the grass and reeds moving, but I was never sure if it was the wind, a coyote, or some other critter causing the vegetation to move.

I was still hunting my way around the marsh. As I described in an earlier post, still hunting is where you take a few steps, stop, look, listen, then take a few more steps. I had just stopped when I saw a nice whitetail buck come up out of the marsh headed straight for me. I thought that was really strange since the coyotes had to have been very close to where the deer and I were, and deer hate members of the canine family even more than they hate humans. OK, so deer don’t hate, they are even more wary of members of the canine family than they are of humans. Anyway, the buck stopped behind some brush, as they always do, but I thought I had this one for sure. It had been walking straight towards me, I never moved, and I had the wind blowing in my face, which meant there was no way the buck was going to catch my scent.

We stood there watching each other for probably ten minutes. I would see the buck looking around, but most of the time it was looking in my direction, I was as hidden from him as he was hidden from me, and I didn’t even twitch. I don’t know what gave me away, or if anything did, but eventually the buck turned and trotted back into the marsh the way it had come out.

A few more steps and this little doe came over the hill at me.

Whitetail doe

Followed by her mother.

Whitetail doe

I played with them for a while, making sure I didn’t spook them off, I was still hoping the buck would return, but it never did.

I ran into a few more deer, like these, sorry I cut one in half, but I wanted to get as much of the yellow leaves in the frame as I could, and the doe to the left took a step as I was shooting.

Whitetail doe

Then there was this one, part of a small herd.

Whitetail doe

And there were these very vibrantly colored bushes on my path.

Autumn leaves

Then I spotted the big buck from a couple of weeks ago.

Whitetail buck

He’s one of the bucks engaged in the shoving match that I got a photo of. I’m not sure if I posted it here, I’d better check. I did, but I’ll repost it here for you.

Whitetail bucks sparring last weekend

Here’s another shot of him from today.

Whitetail buck

I said that the shoving match last week was just a warm up for the real battles during the rut, must be the rut is about to start. The reason the buck looks like he does is that a fork horn had the audacity to step out of the woods in this bigger buck’s territory.

It’s a good thing I snapped the shutter when I did, because a split second and a loud snort later the buck was on his way after the fork horn. I don’t know how many readers have seen one of the male hoofed animals like a deer or an elk go into battle, but they don’t run, they don’t trot, and it isn’t really what I would call prancing either, but it is a very fun to watch gait. It looks as if they are throwing their front legs out in front of them as they move at a very fast walk.

I hadn’t seen the fork horn until the bigger buck went after it, but the fork horn knew the big guy was on his way. The fork horn took off running, trying to do a big loop around the bigger buck, who was having none of that stuff. He was on a mission, you could tell that from a mile away. The fork horn saw that the big buck was trying to cut him off, so the fork horn went from a whitetail’s regular running speed to the flat-out dead run that deer seldom use. When their belly is about two inches off the ground while they’re running, you know they’re going flat-out. The big guy fell in right behind the fork horn and kicked it up to full tilt as well, I guess he wanted a fight. The fork horn cut into the marsh with the big guy right on its tail, and that was the last I saw of them as they went crashing through the brush.

It was so much fun to watch that the thought of taking a picture never entered my mind, they wouldn’t have turned out any way as fast as the bucks were moving and as low as the light was.

So it was a very interesting day, hearing coyotes trying to imitate a fire truck siren, and watching the two bucks do their thing.

I still feel the need to get away from here for a while, but we have the long four-day Thanksgiving weekend coming up, so I better save up for that and plan a trip for then.

Thanks for stopping by!


Weekly Photo Challenge: Hidden

This week’s subject is hidden, and I couldn’t think of a better photo than this one.

Drunken raccoon

It is a raccoon that had been feeding on the fermented grapes growing in the area, and the raccoon had crawled into the hollow tree to sleep it off.

I am going to cheat and post two photos, as the raccoon woke up as I was photographing it, and rewarded me with this shot.

Raccoon

Thanks for stopping by.


It’s been a bad week

In some respects that is, in other ways, it has been a good week. My new Internet service is so much faster than the old Verizon wireless “broadband” that I used to have, so far I am more than pleased! I have now have Bloom Broadband, and it flies, at least ten times as fast as Verizon, and cheaper too.

The weather has been up and down around here. One day I wear nothing but a heavy long sleeve T-shirt, the next day I’m wearing a winter parka to ward off the wind and rain. Most of the time it has been cloudy, I took some photos today around noon, and the exposure settings were 1/40 of a second at F/4, and that was out in the open, not in the woods. Needless to say, I have been using the flash a lot for about everything.

The critters have been driving me crazy, either they won’t sit still, or they won’t move.

I have been trying to get some good photos of some of the smaller birds around here, and trying a new technique. That is, just keep shooting rather than trying to catch them sitting still. If you have ever tried to photograph a small bird like a chickadee, you know that they are perpetual motion machines, they never sit still for very long. Back in the old days of film, it made no sense to waste an entire roll of film hoping that you would catch a bird sitting still, you waited and hoped that it would pause long enough for a shot. Since digital photos cost nothing, when I see one of the small birds close enough for a photo now, I start clicking the shutter about as rapidly as I can, then delete all the blurry ones from when the bird was moving. It does take some time to sort through the photos as I end up with many like this one.

Black capped chickadee

But then, I do get a few like this.

Black capped chickadee

Or this one of a downy woodpecker.

Downy woodpecker

I’m sure that other people have figured this out before, it is a lot less frustrating to shoot a bunch of photos and get a couple good ones than it is to chase the little buggers through the woods trying to time when they are going to sit still for a split second 😉

I have been testing it on larger animals as well, that lead to this interesting little series. I was all set to photograph a small whitetail deer….

Whitetail deer

when the larger one in the foreground barged into the frame, startling the smaller one, which caused it to move enough to make the photo look out of focus. But, the next quick shot shows the small deer in the background in focus as I intended.

Whitetail deer

Then the auto-focus picked up the deer in the foreground…

Whitetail deer

This was one of the times the critters wouldn’t move when I wanted them to. There was a small herd of deer pinning me in to a spot I didn’t want to be in.

Whitetail deer

The deer kept milling around back and forth in front of me.

Whitetail deer

I didn’t want to be in the spot that I was as the light was too poor for a good shot of them, and there were even more around, so I didn’t want to frighten these and spook the others too. They finally moved off after about 15 minutes, and by then it was getting so dark that any photo would be an iffy one.

With the deer gone, I moved off and saw a small flock of wood ducks land in a small pond not far from me. There is an even smaller cove in the pond, which is where the ducks went. The cove is surrounded by large pines, so I thought it would be my chance to sneak up on the ducks, wrong. One of the ducks swam out of the cove enough to catch a glimpse of me through a tiny opening between the pine boughs. I froze, but too late. All birds seem to have incredibly good eyesight, and wood ducks must have some of the best among birds. That duck was off in a flash, and not the flash unit of my camera either, it was way too far away for that. Of course the rest of the flock followed the first one, so much for that idea. I should get to the pond earlier some evening and sit in the pines and wait for the ducks, that’s the third time I’ve seen them there. Maybe next weekend.

By then it was really dark, but I couldn’t pass up this shot.

Whitetail bucks sparring

The two bucks were pushing each other a little, a sparring match for the true battles they will have in a few weeks when the rut begins. I was hoping for a few more shots like that, but they back away from each other a short way, then went back to feeding again.

On one of the few sunny days, I did get a few shots like these.

Fall foliage

You can see that all the wind we’ve had has stripped many of the leaves off from the trees.

Fall foliage

On a more typical day, I was chasing some of the small birds around a stand of pines, never getting a shot of any of the birds, when  noticed an orange butterfly land near me. It was the first butterfly I have seen in a couple of weeks with the weather the way that it’s been. I moved to get closer to the butterfly, and spooked a small herd of deer on the edge of the woods near the pines I was in. No birds, no butterfly, no deer.

There are times I think wildlife does that on purpose, use decoys to confuse us. If I hadn’t been watching the birds, I probably would have noticed the butterfly sooner, and if I hadn’t been intent on the butterfly, I may have seen the deer before they saw me.

I did see the drunken raccoon again.

Drunken raccoon sleeping off its drunk

It had wedged itself into the opening of the hollow tree it lives in, and was sleeping soundly as I approached. As I tried to move around to get a better photo, I stepped on a twig which broke and woke the raccoon up.

Drunken raccoon

About that time, the batteries in my camera went dead, and as I was reaching in my pocket for some fresh ones, I managed to shove my hand into a briar I was standing next to, sticking a number of thorns in my fingers. After pulling the thorns out with my teeth, I changed batteries, only to find the set I thought were fresh were really the dead ones from my GPS unit, so there I was with a drunken coon watching me and no batteries for my camera. Not the best of days in a week that hasn’t been the best of weeks.

If that wasn’t enough, Monday after my walk, I started a number of blog posts for here that I intended to be just drafts for me to work on over time. I like to keep ahead on drafts, it works better than if I try to do an entire post all at once. It fits my method of writing better, which I won’t bore you with by explaining it here. I started a couple of drafts, including the Dumb Human Trick, but somehow either I clicked the wrong button or WordPress screwed up and it published the draft long before I was done with it. I think WordPress screwed up, because it didn’t take me to the page that tells me what a great blogger I am when I finish a post, it took me to the dashboard instead. Anyway, I rushed through that post a lot quicker than I wanted to since it was already published. I am going to go back and edit it heavily when I get a chance, I am sorry about the quality of that post.

Thanks for stopping by!


The dumb human trick

I promised I was going to create a new category and do some posts on the tricks I use to get as close to wildlife as I do, and this will be my first new post on the subject. The category is “Getting close to critters” and I will update some of my earlier posts that contain tips on getting close to wildlife so that you can click on the category for all the posts on this subject.

I chose to start the series officially with a trick I call the dumb human trick. It really has nothing to do with being dumb, but most people are so unobservant that they often walk right past wildlife that is very close to them. This trick works best on species that tend to favor cover over flight. One species it really works well on is whitetail deer, but there are others as well, and every once in a while, it works on almost all species. It works best on animals that are somewhat conditioned to having humans around, but you never know until you try it if it will work in any situation.

It goes like this, I’ll be hiking and see an animal in the distance, but I can tell the animal has already spotted me. As I wrote in an earlier post, you never want to stare an animal in the eye, they seem to sense that you have spotted them. What I do is to try to assess the situation over as quickly as possible, and see if there is a way I can slip out of sight of the animal and make a closer approach by stalking it through cover. That isn’t always possible, due to where the animal is, the way the wind is blowing, or for other reasons.

If I can see no way to sneak up on an animal, then as a last resort, I use this trick, and that is to act like the typical human that trudges through the woods blissfully unaware of anything around them. If I am hiking a trail and the trail will take me closer to the animal, I start walking down the trail at a steady clip, only glancing in the direction of the animal from time to time. If I’m not on a trail, I chose a path that takes me closer to the animal, but not directly at it. Once I start walking, I don’t stop, that could tip-off the animal that the jig is up, and that it should head for thicker cover.

As I am walking, I continue to size up the situation. I’ll glance at the animal to see if it is becoming agitated, but no more than a glance now and then. I’ll look for openings in the brush near where my closest approach to the animal will be, and where my best chance of a good photo will be.

When I can tell that the animal is about ready to take flight, or when I have reached the best spot that there is for trying for a photo, I stop, turn towards the animal, and start shooting. If the animal was on the verge of flight to begin with, I’ll make my turn and shoot as quickly as I can. If the animal was still relaxed, I’ll take it slow and hope for the best.

I should mention that I turn my camera on and get it as ready as I can for the shot I expect to take while I am still walking.

Sometimes you have time to get a few shots before the subject bolts, sometimes you get nothing, and that’s what prompted me to start with this tip.

A couple of days ago I was doing my daily walk around the apartment complex where I live. As I approached one of the creeks here, I spotted a flash of grey moving through the brush on the banks of the creek, it was a great blue heron.

Great blue heron in the brush

I think you can just make out the heron’s neck and eye in that photo, I wasn’t that close to it, that shot was taken at 300mm. I couldn’t tell if it had spotted me or not, I can seldom tell with birds. I did know that there was no way for me to approach the heron where it was and stay out of sight while I was doing it. I thought that I would give the dumb human trick a try, and see what I could get. I walked along as if I didn’t know the heron was there until I got to an opening in the brush, then turned and fired.

Great blue heron tail and feet

As you can see, what I got was only the heron’s tail and feet as it took flight. There must be more shutter lag in my Nikon than I knew, as I saw the entire bird in the viewfinder as the mirror locked up. This took place at close range, less than 15 feet, and very fast, so I suppose I was lucky to even get the heron’s feet. If I hadn’t turned to shoot, the heron probably would have let me walk right on by, thinking that I had never seen it.

It does work better than that most of the time, but you do have to be ready to shoot quickly.

I’ve had my best luck using the dumb human trick on whitetail deer, which are well-known for having nerves of steel when lying low, thinking that they haven’t been spotted. I’ve seen whitetail bucks stretch their necks out along the ground with their chin resting on the ground so that their antlers look like small branches that have fallen to the ground. When a whitetail deer decides to stay hidden, it takes a lot to get it to move, and you can get incredibly close to them as long as they don’t think you know they are there, sometimes to within 10 feet.

If the animal hasn’t spotted you, there is no reason to try this trick unless it is the only way to get close, you’re usually better off trying to stay hidden as you approach an animal. If the animal does have you dead to rights, then this is a trick to try. As I wrote about the heron, it probably would have let me walk right on by, and sometimes you can do that, walk out of sight of the animal, then stay hidden as you sneak up on it from the other direction. I have done that before as well, like in circumstances when the light was too bad for a photo in the direction I was going when I first saw the animal.


Hey, look at me

It’s fall here in Michigan, a great time of year made even better by the brilliant colors of the fall foliage, and one species in particular, staghorn sumac, really sets the stage. Staghorn sumac is a bush or small tree that grows aggressively, spreading from either seeds or by spreading rhizomes, and for most of the year, it is easily overlooked. Not in the fall though. When the leaves of sumac begin to change color, it is if it is crying out to us to say “Hey, look at me. Please don’t ignore me any longer”.

Staghorn sumac

While it is easily overlooked during most of the year, it is an important species in the grand scheme of nature, for it provides food and shelter for many species of animals, particularly some species of birds. Sumac is usually recognized by its flowers and later fruit, known as drupes, which are red and conical-shaped with clusters of small flowers, so small most people think that the entire drupe is one flower.

Staghorn sumac flowers

It is the drupes that serve as food for birds, animals and even man. Sumac is related to cashews, believe it or not, and used as a spice in some parts of the world, for its light, lemony flavor. The fruit of sumac can be collected, soaked and washed in cold water, strained, sweetened and made into a pink lemonade. The leaves and berries of staghorn sumac have been mixed with tobacco and other herbs and smoked by Native American tribes. This practice continues to a small degree to this day.

All parts of the staghorn sumac, except the roots, can be used as both a natural dye and as a mordant. The plant is rich in tannins and can be added to other dye baths to improve light fastness.

Staghorn sumac in the fall

As you can see, it grows in dense clusters, often forming a secondary canopy under the canopy formed by taller growing trees. There have been a few times when I have waited out light rain showers under this secondary canopy, and stayed as dry is if I had worn a rain jacket. During those waits, I have noticed that many birds and small animals make use of sumac the same way that I was, for shelter from the rain. In the fall when the sumac leaves are changing color, it is like a different world under the canopy, as the light takes on the colors of the leaves.

Staghorn sumac in the fall

It is known for its brilliant red color, but sumac isn’t content with just one color.

Staghorn sumac in the fall

The colors of its leaves run the gamut from pastel yellow, to fire engine red, to shades of purples.

Staghorn sumac in the fall

Staghorn sumac in the fall

Staghorn sumac in the fall

Staghorn sumac in the fall

Staghorn sumac in the fall

Staghorn sumac in the fall

Staghorn sumac in the fall

Staghorn sumac in the fall

Staghorn sumac in the fall

Staghorn sumac in the fall

Staghorn sumac in the fall

Staghorn sumac in the fall

Staghorn sumac in the fall

Staghorn sumac in the fall

Staghorn sumac in the fall

Staghorn sumac in the fall

Staghorn sumac in the fall

Staghorn sumac in the fall

Staghorn sumac in the fall

Staghorn sumac in the fall

Michigan fall just wouldn’t be the same without the sumac to create vividly colored frames and splashes of color for the larger trees to play off from. The right frame can make all the difference in the world in how a photo or a piece of art looks, even though we seldom give the frame any credit, and so it is with sumac.

Staghorn sumac in the fall

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by.


Another Enbridge oil spill and other updates

There have been a few new developments relating to the Enbridge pipeline that ruptured last year, spilling over 800,000 gallons of crude oil into a small creek that feeds the Kalamazoo River.

One is that Enbridge has missed a deadline for cleaning up at least some of the spill. According to the story I read about it, the EPA isn’t too concerned about the fact the deadline was missed. There have been many unforeseen problems in dealing with this spill, I am not sure, but I believe it is the largest oil spill in freshwater in history. Just this last spring, the EPA announced that the clean up was almost done, and that they would be re-opening the river for recreational use. Then they found that large amounts of the crude oil had sunk to the bottom of the river and had collected there. Normally crude oil floats, but because of the grade of crude that spilled, and the fact that it is in freshwater has meant that both Enbridge and the officials overseeing the clean up have been learning as they go along.

On a spill of this magnitude, I would think that any deadlines would be at least somewhat arbitrary anyway. It isn’t as if a spill of this type happens everyday, thank goodness, and we really don’t want to flood a river with oil now and then for clean up crews to practice on, or to learn how crude oil reacts in every type of water. As long as Enbridge is doing what it takes to do the job right and clean up all the oil, then I guess that’s all we can ask for.

The poor Kalamazoo River, I think it is the most heavily polluted river in southwestern Michigan. For over two hundred years, man has done his best to destroy the river, and it keeps bouncing back. The Enbridge oil spill occurred upstream of the city of Battle Creek, but several stretches of the river below Kalamazoo are, or were, EPA Superfund sites due to PCB contamination from the old paper mills that used the river as a dump. I have never canoed or kayaked the stretch of the river where the oil spill occurred, there are too many dams too close together to make for an enjoyable float of the length I normally do. I have floated the Kalamazoo River from downtown Kalamazoo all the way to where it empties into Lake Michigan, and like all rivers, it deserves better than we have given it. Nearly a dozen dams impeded its flow, a few have been removed, but many still remain.

A good source of information for you if you are interested in floating the Kalamazoo River is the Kalamazoo River Heritage Water Trail website. Maybe I’ll get around to posting some more information from my trips kayaking the Kalamazoo River soon. If you like doing the occasional larger river as I do, you will love it, especially the portion of the river that flows through the Allegan State Game Area. The sad thing is that before you set out to float the Kalamazoo, you have to check to see if the stretch of the river you are planning on floating is open or not. The stretch of river where the oil spill happened is closed until further notice, but there are also parts of the river farther downstream are closed to recreational users when the EPA is working to clean up the PCBs or is in the process of removing one of the dams slated for removal. I have no idea how much work remains to be done downstream from the oilspill, but I did read that Georgia Pacific was finally going to get around to capping two landfills in Kalamazoo that were leaching PCBs into the river. For more information about what the EPA is doing along the Kalamazoo River, you can follow this link.

Since  the deadline from the last clean up plan has been missed, Enbridge now has to formulate a new clean up plan and submit it to the EPA for approval. I am fairly certain the clean up will continue during this process, but it still irks me that this game has to be played. It isn’t just Enbridge and this spill, it is what happens in many instances the way our environmental laws are written. A company has to come up with a plan and submit it to the correct government agency, which then has to review the plan, and either approve or reject it.

If the plan is approved, all is well and good, but if it is rejected, the same process is repeated, maybe several times. Needless to say, the process never plays out quickly. It would seem to me that it would be much quicker to have the two sides sit down to hash out and approve a plan together. The government officials have a general idea what they want the plan to be going in, so why play this silly game all the time? If the company involved is dragging its feet or refuses to do what needs to be done, then take it to court and let a judge decide.

Maybe that wouldn’t work after all. The lower Kalamazoo River is a perfect example of how not to get things done. There has been decades of plan submissions, rejections, legal wranglings, and all the while, pollutants continue to leach into the river, making the eventual clean up even more costly. It makes no sense to me.

In other related news, Enbridge has received permission to begin replacing the pipeline that burst, they are in the process of replacing several five mile long sections of the pipeline at this time, including the stretch where the pipeline broke. Enbridge was already in the planning stages of replacing sections of the pipeline before it burst, it is a shame they didn’t get around to it sooner, and then none of this would have happened.

There has still been no word from the Federal Agency investigating the break as to what caused it in the first place, eight months after they promised a report, and well over a year since the pipeline broke.

In my last update on this, I wrote that Enbridge was working with the Michigan DNR and local officials in the Pigeon River Country, installing new equipment and holding training sessions for emergency responders so that something like this will never happen in the PRC. I also wrote that I thought that Enbridge was doing the same in other areas, but that I wasn’t positive of that, now I am. In the latest newsletter from the Anglers of the Au Sable, they reported that Enbridge is installing new safety equipment on a pipeline they operate that crosses the Au Sable River. Enbridge is also holding training sessions with first responders in that location as well.

The purpose of my writing this is not to do damage control for Enbridge, but to point out that once in a while there is a company willing to do the right thing. I have no illusions that Enbridge is taking the steps that it is in other locations for any other than for financial reasons. They have learned the hard way that prevention is the best medicine, and that it is better to spend some money up front than it is to wait until the worst happens and deal with it then. If it hadn’t been for the Kalamazoo River spill, I seriously doubt that Enbridge would be doing what it is to prevent future spills. No matter what their motivation is, at least they are taking the right course of action as of now. If that changes, I’ll be one of the first calling for swift and harsh retribution.

On the other hand, I can’t help but to contrast the way Enbridge is dealing with its mistake and the way that Golden Lotus is dealing with the issue of removing the dam that it operates on the Pigeon River that has been the cause of two major fishkills in the Pigeon River. I am not going to type out the entire story again here, if you’re interested, you can read some of my earlier posts about it here, and here. There’s not much news to report on that front. Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning Ranch filed an appeal of Judge Murphy’s order requiring full removal of the dam, that appeal was thrown out as entirely without merit or some equally as strong legal language, I have forgotten the exact phrase the Judge used in dismissing the appeal.

Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning backed themselves into the corner they are in, there would have been money from several sources available to aid them in removing the dam, if it wasn’t being done under a court order. Now that a judge has ordered the dam to be removed, Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning has to foot the entire bill.

One more bit of news, the public comment period is now open for the land use plan being reformulated by the US Forest Service for the Huron-Manistee National Forest. I first posted about this subject here. As a result of a lawsuit, the Forest Service was ordered to reconsidered a land use plan they had finalized in 2006. The point of contention is that the Forest Service plan allows hunting and snowmobiling on too much of the Nation Forest land for one person’s liking. Here’s a link to another news story about this.

Comments about the proposed plans can be mailed to Huron-Manistee National Forests, ATTN Kenneth Arbogast, 1755 S. Mitchell St., Cadillac, MI, 49601. They can also be faxed to (231) 775-5551 or emailed to comments-eastern-huron-manistee@fs.fed.us. Comments will be accepted through Dec. 21.

I think that’s about all for now. So much news, so little time for blogging about it all. I have several posts in the works about land use and related  issues, but they continue to grow in length with each new story I read. It seems like we are headed for a time when each individual has a small piece of public land where they can do exactly what they want, since no one seems to be willing to share public lands with other users any longer.

As always, thanks for stopping by to read my little rants.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Opportunity

This week’s topic for the Weekly Photo Challenge is opportunity, and the way I took the announcement is that they were looking for photos taken at the spur of the moment. To me, there are few situations that require a photographer to react quickly when an opportunity presents itself as birds in flight.

Canadian geese in flight

In fact, as you can see, I reacted a little too quickly and didn’t get all of the lead bird’s bill in the photo. I could have cropped it out of this photo, but I like the fact that I was able to get one goose with its wings on the downbeat, one with its wings level, and the last goose with its wings on the upbeat. This opportunity was too good to pass up, the geese were at close range, against a bright blue sky, and with the lighting about as good as it gets for trying to get a photo of a large bird in flight.


Back online

I signed up for Internet service through my apartment complex yesterday, and they got around to switching it on around noon today. So far, I’m loving it! It is so much faster than my old Verizon wireless service was, and cheaper to boot!

It will take me a few days to get caught up, good thing the weekend is almost here. There have been quite a few new readers signed up to my blog, and I haven’t been able to get back with them to thank them, so here’s a big

Thank you!

for right now.

I have a number of posts I am working on, and a huge backlog of photos to post.

After our two weeks of magnificent weather, last Thursday the wind and rain returned. It has been either extremely windy, rainy, or both, everyday for a week. Of course the wind kicked in just as the trees were getting to their peak of fall color, it seems to happen most years. I did manage to get a few good photos, although I didn’t make it up to the Jordan River valley like I had hoped. Oh well, there’s always next year, and maybe the wind won’t be howling with gusts over 40 MPH next year.

Fall foliage

While running around chasing birds and deer, I did manage a poor shot of an Eastern Towhee.

Eastern Towhee

And this photo of a hermit thrush, I believe.

Hermit Thrush

And one of yet another warbler I can’t identify, in fact, I’m not even sure it is a warbler.

Unidentified Warbler

As I said in an earlier post, the woods were alive with more birds than I have ever seen in one day last Sunday, but I couldn’t get close enough, get them to sit still, or get the lighting right most of the time.

I missed the weekly photo challenge last week, hopefully I will get a photo for this week’s topic. Not having Internet service at home seemed to be more time consuming than I thought it was going to be.

Well, that’s it for now, I have a lot more catching up to do, as always, thanks for stopping by!


Federal judge halts Paiute cutthroat trout recovery plan – Sacramento Bee

This is a story from the Sacramento Bee that I am posting in its entirety, since not every one reads the Bee.

Federal judge halts Paiute cutthroat trout recovery plan

By Denny Walsh

dwalsh@sacbee.com

Published: Saturday, Sep. 10, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 1B

A Sacramento federal judge has quashed a joint federal-state plan to improve conditions for a rare High Sierra fish, ruling that an auger driven by a gasoline-powered generator cannot be used in designated wilderness areas.

For more than 25 years, government agencies have sought by various means to increase the population of the Paiute cutthroat trout and restore this rare creature to its historical range.

Six years ago, U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. ordered a halt to the state’s plan to poison one stretch of a High Sierra creek and a lake as part of the recovery project.

This week it was Damrell again stepping in to block the latest plan with a permanent injunction based on the federal Wilderness Act.

Spokespersons for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service and the California Department of Fish and Game vowed Friday that the agencies will continue to work together to find a way to accomplish the recovery and restoration of the Paiute cutthroat trout.

“Our team of lawyers are currently reviewing the order to see what we can do to move forward,” said Fish and Game spokesman Kevin Thomas.

Critical to this analysis, he said, is the Forest Service’s decision to employ the auger.

“We can retool the project to address the court’s concerns, we can appeal, that’s two of our options,” he noted.

The plan was to poison with rotenone 11 miles of Silver King Creek to kill non-native fish that crossbreed with the Paiute cutthroat and then to stock the stretch with pure Paiute cutthroat from established populations in the upper portions of the watershed.

The creek is in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness section of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in Alpine County. The 11 miles includes six miles of the main stem of the creek downstream of Llewellyn Falls to Silver King Canyon and five miles of tributaries.

The auger would be used to distribute potassium permanganate to neutralize the toxicity of the rotenone further downstream.

The action was proposed to prevent extinction of the Paiute cutthroat, as required by the federal Endangered Species Act, the agencies say. The Paiute cutthroat is native only to Silver King Creek and is listed under the ESA as a threatened species.

The goal is 2,500 pure Paiute cutthroat greater than 3 inches in length in the pristine watershed.

The agencies recently announced they planned to begin the project in the late summer or early fall of next year. Rotenone was to be applied twice a year over two to three years; each application would take seven days.

Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, Wilderness Watch, and Friends of Silver King Creek, all nonprofit corporations, sued to stop the project.

They claim that the use of the auger does not qualify as an exception to the Wilderness Act’s prohibition of motorized equipment, that the project elevates recreational fishing over preserving wilderness character, and that the agencies failed to prove the project is necessary to meet the act’s minimum requirements for administering wilderness areas.

The agencies countered that using the auger is the most effective method of applying potassium permanganate compared to the drip system, and would minimize the human and ecological effects.

In his 63-page opinion issued Tuesday, Damrell agreed with the plaintiffs that, in choosing the conservation of the Paiute cutthroat over preservation of the wilderness character, “the agencies left native invertebrates species (such as stoneflies, caddisflies and mayflies) out of the balance, and thus improperly concluded that authorization of motorized equipment will comply with the act.”

The plaintiffs are entitled to a permanent injunction barring the project, the judge declared, because “they have demonstrated that rotenone treatment will kill sensitive macro-invertebrate species and that re-colonization will not occur for some species because they cannot adapt to the project area” once the plan has been carried out.

He said the facts tip in favor of the plaintiff “as no exigency exists to begin the project now,” and “the public interest favors preservation of the unimpaired wilderness.”

via Federal judge halts Paiute cutthroat trout recovery plan – Sacramento Sports – Kings, 49ers, Raiders, High School Sports | Sacramento Bee.


No Internet, week three

The end may be in sight! I have a week’s vacation time coming, and I think I have convinced the powers that be at work to give me the pay now. That will mean that I may be back online full-time by this weekend, early next week at the latest if I get the extra check.

Both Friday and Saturday of last week, my time at the community building was limited by other people using it. Friday they used it for an employee meeting, and Saturday, people who were renting it for a party that afternoon showed up early to decorate.

I have been taking a few photos, have lots more deer pictures, I haven’t decided when or if I will post them. No zombies in this batch. I had to rush the last post, “Attack of the Zombie Deer” due to my limited time online. Sorry about that. I did manage to capture two deer grooming each other, but it was nearly dark, so the quality isn’t the greatest. What the heck.

Whitetail deer grooming each other.

I guess to make up for that one, I need to post this one.

Whitetail doe chewing her cud

On the same walk as when I took those photos, I saw hundreds, if not thousands of songbirds, some migrating, some local residents. There are times that I think trying to photograph small songbirds is a fool’s errand, at least with the equipment I have now. I took many photos, but the ones taken with my Nikon aren’t close enough for identification purposes, and I couldn’t follow the small birds in the LCD screen of my Canon. I did manage to sneak up on this wren.

Winter wren

I’m not sure if it is a house wren that are locals, or a visitor passing through during its migration. It looks too dark and it has too many stripes for a house wren, I think.

An update: A big thank you to Bob Zeller of Texas Tweeties for identifying this wren as a winter wren! Turns out that they nest just to the north of where I live in Michigan. I have seen them before, but never close enough to identify them for what they are.

I think I saw more birds on Sunday than I have ever seen in one day before!

I tried to force myself to write this weekend, that didn’t go well, needless to say. I just wasn’t in the mood to write. I know I will end up editing what I did write, it will be nice to be back online so that I can do more as the mood strikes me.

I still have photos from two weeks ago that I want to post, I hope to get them posted this week. I can’t promise anything though. I have been tied up with some other things, like work. One night both the truck and the lift truck broke down, which meant several hours of overtime. Friday, I had a safety meeting to attend, more overtime. The extra pay will be nice, but it is interfering with my blogging.

That’s it for this one, hopefully, I will be online full-time by the weekend. As always, thanks for stopping by!