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

Archive for January, 2012

Weekly Photo Challenge: Hope

Young male northern Cardinal singing

This is my take on the Weekly Photo Challenge for this week, Hope. Of course the male cardinal in the photo is singing, hoping to attract a mate, but, it is also a harbinger of spring, and the hope of a new year. It won’t be long now and there will be flowers blooming, butterflies fluttering about, and the return of the songbirds that have gone south for the winter.

I know, both the cardinal and I are jumping the gun, spring won’t arrive for a couple more months, but at least his tuning up his vocal cords for the spring  gives hope that it won’t be long.

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The eyes have it!

When I photograph wildlife, I try to do one of two things, either tell a story, or to do a portrait of the critter. Sometimes you luck out and can combine the two, but it doesn’t always work out that way.

Generally, I’ll save and possibly post a photo that tells a story but isn’t a technically good photo, on the other hand, I prefer that portraits of critters be very good to great shots. But, what do I do with a shot like this?

Fox squirrel

Or this?

Fox squirrel

Those aren’t very good photos, but the fox squirrel is just so darned cute, how can I not post them?

For photos that tell a story, those aren’t too bad, but there’s not much of a story there. Squirrel interrupted while digging for nuts, I’ve got at least a hundred others, most are better, but the squirrels in those photos weren’t nearly as photogenic as this one was.

Part of my criteria for whether or not to post a photo is how many other photos of the same species I have already posted, therefore, I keep raising the standard for some of the more common species. I have already posted quite a few photos of some species, such as chickadees, nuthatches, and great blue herons, so any newer ones I post will have to be exceptional in some way or another.

Then there are those species that I haven’t posted many photos of, like titmice.

Titmice

So I need to add more photos of them, hopefully good ones.

Titmouse

They are really kind of an odd looking bird when you see them at this angle.

Titmouse

When I am going for portrait shots like these, I try to get a clear view of the subject’s eyes, as if I was doing a human portrait.

Titmouse

Of course it helps if I can get close…

Black capped chickadee

…and I mean really close!

Black capped chickadee

Sometimes I focus so intently on the eyes of a subject that I forget to see what else is going on as I snap the shutter.

Male mallard giving me the evil eye

Like weeds.

Male mallard

Male mallard

But then sometimes I get it right.

Female mallard

Mallard mates

Mallard mates

And sometimes the results can be humorous as well, like in this series of a red bellied woodpecker searching for food.

Red bellied woodpecker

“Come on out, I know that you’re in there!”

Red bellied woodpecker

“Don’t make me dig you out!”

Red bellied woodpecker

In the world of birds, there are no eyes better to photograph than the eyes of raptors.

Sharp shinned hawk

Sharp shinned hawk

Sharp shinned hawk

Sharp shinned hawk

Sharp shinned hawk

If only that branch wasn’t in the way, I would say that the last one was just about perfect!

I guess I’ll have to keep on trying until I get a photo that captures the intensity of a raptor’s stare, but without the branch in the way.

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


Which way did they go?

It was a few weeks ago that Bob Zeller of Texas Tweeties blog posted a photo of a robin, and in the comments, the discussion turned to the fact that some robins seem to be wintering farther north than they used to. It was an interesting discussion, one commenter said that they put raisins out for the robins, which the robins wolfed down in short order. I opined that I thought that one of the reasons that some species of birds spent winters farther north in recent years was due to the large number of ornamental trees that bear fruit have that been planted giving birds access to more food.

I can’t prove that of course, but my observations seem to show this to be at least part of the reason, along with more people feeding birds in their backyards. Seed eating birds such as finches and goldfinches no longer have to travel south of the snow cover to find seeds to eat, they only have to locate a convenient bird feeder.

The subject came up in the same time frame as I posted “Class, please raise your hand” which featured photos of robins gorging themselves on mountain ash berries. The flock of robins that was hanging around here feeding on the different types of berries isn’t around any longer, I wonder which way they went. The snow cover we had disappeared about the same time as the robins, so I wonder if they headed back to the north again, or south. I can’t say, but on Friday, I witnessed American goldfinches feeding on crab apples here, and I’ll get to those photos shortly.

Before I get to the photos, there are a couple other things I would like to say about birds and their feeding habits. One is that most small songbirds are far more omnivorous than we generally think. We tend to pigeonhole some songbirds as seed eaters, others as insect eaters. But, as I noted in my post about the nuthatches, although they are considered to be insect eating birds, they will feed on seeds when the seeds are available. Conversely, I have seen many cardinals and sparrows, which are generally classified as seed eating birds, chasing and eating moths and other insects.

This is especially true when adult birds are feeding their young, the young birds need a wide variety of nutrients to grow, but I think it happens more than we acknowledge. The best example I can give of this is hummingbirds. We all know that hummingbirds feed on the nectar of flowers, right? But, did you know that insects make up a large part of a hummingbird’s diet? The hummingbirds need the high sugar content of nectar to fuel their high metabolism, but nectar alone doesn’t provide the other nutrients that hummingbirds need to survive. I have sat in my apartment and watched hummingbirds zipping around the in woods, where there are no flowers, eating the small insects that do live there.

The other thing that I should mention is that my brother suggested that I do a post about finding the food sources of critters, and how to use that to get good photos. That’s a good idea, but I would end up doing post after post on that subject, at least one post for every species of critter that there is, and even that probably wouldn’t be complete. My brother just purchased a Pentax DSLR, and I’m going to share one of his photos, because I think it is fantastic!

Cedar waxwings feeding on grapes

Now, on to the fun. I was thinking about the robins, wondering which way they went when they left this area, when I came to a fir tree full of chickadees. I don’t know how many were in the fir tree, but I was going nuts trying to get pictures of them. They would not sit still at all.

Where did the chickadee go?

As fast as I could point and shoot, the chickadees would be gone. Not only was I wondering which way the robins went, I was wondering which way the chickadees went!

Chickadee blasting off

It was one of those days, as far as chickadees, good thing I was able to get this series of photos of goldfinches feeding on crab apples.

American goldfinch eating a crab apple

American goldfinch eating a crab apple

Which brings me full circle in this post. One, these crab apples are of the ornamental variety. Crab apples are native to this area, I believe, but the ornamental cultivars produce far more flowers, and therefore, far more fruit than do the native bushes. Also, goldfinches are known primarily as seed eating birds, and maybe these were eating the seeds within the crab apples, but they were definitely eating the fruit as well.

American goldfinch eating a crab apple

American goldfinch eating a crab apple

American goldfinch eating a crab apple

American goldfinch eating a crab apple

The mountain ash that the robins were feeding on a few weeks ago are not native to this area, but the birds in this area have learned to make use of the berries of the mountain ash as a food source.

American robin eating mountain ash berries

So, is there a point to all of my ramblings? Several.

One, birds feed on a variety of food sources, they aren’t as limited as we tend to think.

Two, we continue to make widespread changes in habitat, and it isn’t always a bad thing. We may not think of it as changing a habitat, but hanging up a bird feeder or planting ornamental trees and bushes that provide a food source for critters is changing the habitat.

Three, birds don’t migrate south in the winter, or north in the spring, because they feel that they need the exercise that flying hundreds or thousands of miles provides, they migrate due to food supplies, and when we change the habitat, we change the migration patterns of birds.

Four, if you find a food source that critters are feeding on, stake it out and get some stunning photos, like my brother did..

Cedar waxwing eating grapes

And finally, when photographing birds…

American goldfinch in flight

…you’ll often be asking yourself, which way did they go?


Listen, stop, look!

I’ve written before about paying attention to the sounds you hear while you’re outdoors, and how that can lead to some great photos, if that’s what you’re after. That point has been made many times to me again the last few days. Starting with the great horned owl I was able to get a picture of.

Great horned owl in the wind and rain.

I heard the hoot of the owl long before I was able to spot the owl itself. As long as it continued to hoot, I continued to search for it, and was able to get that photo because of that.

But, you don’t always hear the subject you end up photographing first, it is often another species that you hear, but that leads you to find something worthwhile. For example, jays, robins, crows, and squirrels can be used to locate other species of wildlife, especially predators. The species I mentioned are the self-appointed watchdogs of the animal kingdom, they’re good at spotting danger and issuing their warning cries, sometimes too good. They can be like the little boy who cried wolf too often, it is easy to dismiss their warning calls because you hear them so often. The deciding factor for me as far as investigating what they are warning is the intensity of their warning calls. Like in this example.

Crow attacking a red tailed hawk

Crows have a definite dislike for birds of prey, especially owls, and in particular, great horned owls. Why? Because great horned owls like crows, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even a midnight snack. In many areas, the number one predator of crows is the great horned owl. Crows know this, since they are one of the more intelligent species of birds, and crows do their best to harass any owl they find in the open during daylight. If you hear a large flock of crows going crazy, it could well be that they have an owl treed someplace, and you may find it worthwhile to check it out. Of course, it could be that the crows have found a feral cat to harass, but that could be interesting, also. Crows are very acrobatic in flight when they want to be, and watching a large flock wheeling, diving, and attacking a predator is something to see, even if the predator is a house cat in the wrong place at the wrong time. You may even get to see some feathers or fur fly. I didn’t in the photo above, there were only two crows, and they gave up on the hawk after just a few attacks, but, the possibility of a great shot was there, so it pays to pay attention.

Now, for the story that prompted me to write this post. I was doing my daily hike, and I heard turkeys begin to give their call that means they are agitated about something. I wasn’t close enough for it to have been me, I couldn’t even see the turkeys when I heard them start calling, so I headed in that their direction to investigate.

I saw a small flock of turkeys, some still resting on the ground, but all of them where craning their necks all around, as if trying to spot something. I stood there watching as all the turkeys eventually got to their feet, and I began to think that maybe I was the reason they were agitated, but they weren’t focused on me the way they would have been if I had been the reason.

Then I heard ducks in the nearby creek begin to sound off as well, also in their agitated voices, and I couldn’t even see the creek, let alone the ducks. I wondered if the ducks were reacting to the turkeys’ calls, when a female sharp shinned hawk came flying towards me through the woods, and landed low in a tree. This really got the turkeys and ducks going, which kid of surprised me. I don’t know if a sharp shinned would try to tackle a mallard which is as large or larger than itself, and I seriously doubt that even a starving sharpie would try for a full-grown turkey. A poult, yes, but this is January, and last year’s poults are about full-grown.

I got this photo of the sharpie.

Sharp shinned hawk

With a couple of shots in the can, I was just beginning to plot how I could get closer to the hawk, when it flew off to another wooded area, but I could watch where it went. So, off I went, and got this photo.

Sharp shinned hawk

Or is it a coopers hawk? I have had some birding experts tell me that it is sharpie, others tell me it is a coopers, I can’t tell for sure either way.

Anyway, I was going to try to get closer, but I don’t like trying to sneak up on an animal from behind when it already knows that I am there. No critter likes to be approached from behind, that’s the classic action of a predator. I have much better luck if I can circle the critter and approach it head on if it is aware of me. So, I decide to try to circle around to get in front of the hawk, and I snapped this one on my way.

Sharp shinned hawk

I had to work my way around some wetlands to get to where I could approach the hawk from the front, I didn’t make before the hawk flew off again. I saw the area that it landed in, but not the exact spot. From the movements of the hawk so far, I could tell it was working its way from one patch of trees to another, moving generally to the north.

Since I had been pushing the hawk to at least some degree, I decided the best course of action was to let it rest for a while, and to try to get all the way around in front of its general heading, that way, if it did take fight again, maybe I could catch it coming towards me. At one point, I could see that a woman had parked her car, and was photographing something, I couldn’t see what, but I was pretty sure it was the hawk, and it turned out that it was. There wasn’t much I could do at that point, other than hope that since I had made it all the way around the hawk, that if it was spooked off by the other photographer, it would probably come in my direction. Turned out, I didn’t need to worry, the hawk decided it was going to pose for any of us who wanted to take its picture.

Sharp shinned hawk

I would take a couple of photos, then step slowly closer, and repeat.

Sharp shinned hawk

Sharp shinned hawk

Until I was as close as I wanted to be, due to the angle I would have had to shoot at if I had gotten closer.

Sharp shinned hawk

Sharp shinned hawk

Sharp shinned hawk

After those photo, I just stood there with the camera on the hawk, waiting for it to take flight. That didn’t happen for quite some time, several minutes at least. When I saw the hawk spreading its wings to fly, my brain told my finger to shoot, but by that time, my finger wasn’t working any longer.

Many years ago, as the result of an act of industrial stupidity, I dropped a 400+ pound piece of a machine on my right index finger as I was removing the part from the machine. I can’t call it an accident, because I knew better than to try what I tried, and I paid for it. I won’t say much else about it, other than the sound that it made when my finger was driven into the concrete floor was almost enough to make me toss my cookies right then. I thought my finger was gone, but luckily, it was just a very painful learning experience, although my finger does still stiffen up in cold weather to this day.

So it was when the hawk was taking flight, my finger wouldn’t work at first, but I did catch this one.

Sharp shinned hawk in flight

Not very good, but it was cold and very cloudy that day, here’s one of her landing, and not being very graceful while doing so.

Sharp shinned hawk landing

She nearly fell off the lightpost, but recovered nicely.

Sharp shinned hawk

I thought about trying to get close to the hawk again, but decided against it. It is winter, although a mild one, and I don’t like to bother critters too much when they are obviously out hunting for food. Besides, the light wasn’t going to be any better than for the shots I had already taken, so there wasn’t any real reason to chase her around any more.

Going back to the beginning, I would have never gotten any of the hawk photos if I hadn’t paid attention to the agitated calls of the turkeys in the first place. It was only because I stood there trying to learn why the turkeys, and later ducks, were agitated that I saw the hawk. Then, it was watching it as it flew, and noting the direction it was heading each time. Most critters work their way in one general direction as they are looking for food, even if they seem to use a zig-zag pattern as they do.

Well, that’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by.


Some odds and ends, maybe a photo or twenty

After my hike in a county park yesterday, I really have the urge to do a post about cross-country skiers and how rude they can be. My feelings towards them goes back a long way, all the way to the 1970’s when cross-country skiers first started showing up in the woods. We had several winters where we received way above average snowfalls, and I would be out walking on trails I had broken in my snowshoes, when out of nowhere, these people driving mostly Volvos began cussing me out for messing up their trails. Their trails? I had made those trails in the first place, as I walked everyday back then, just as I do now. Back then, there were no defined trails for the most part, so I made my own systems of trails, which the cross-country skiers tried to take over and kick me off from.

But, it got worse. The Michigan DNR tried to cater to the new sport, and opened up some of the state game areas to skiers, but that didn’t work well. It wasn’t long before the cross-country skiers where pressuring the DNR to close off the lands to hunters, when it was hunters who bought and paid for the land.

Then, it got worse. The cross-country skiers began to demand that the DNR groom the trails for them before they would go. Makes sense to me, fire up a gas-powered, air polluting machine to make skiing easier, so the cross-country skiers could claim they were getting back to nature, and getting their exercise as well.

Then it got worse. Building miles of trails made to the specifications cross-country skiers demand, marking the trails so the idiots who can’t find their way around the woods don’t get lost, and grooming the trails cost the DNR millions of dollars, but do the skiers want to pay for it? Of course not! Anytime that a proposal comes up to extend the Pittman-Robertson excise tax hunters and fishermen pay on their gear to cross-country skis and other skiing equipment, the skiers make sure that the proposal gets shot down. They want their cake and the ability to eat it, for free.

For the record, I have met a few friendly cross-country skiers, I think I can count the number of them on one hand. I even had one thank me for breaking trail in my snowshoes, which he was following, which caused my jaw to drop all the way into the snow. I told him about all the times skiers had cussed me out for being in the woods on snowshoes, and he told me it was because they weren’t very smart, that it was a lot easier following a snowshoe trail than breaking it on skis.

Also for the record, I try to avoid cross-country skiers and their trails whenever I can, but the jerks insist on skiing whatever trail they can find, even if it is marked for hiking only. It’s funny, they insist that their trails be groomed, and they’ll cuss me out for breaking a trail by hiking or snowshoeing, but that doesn’t stop them from taking the trails I break, just so they can cuss me out for ruining “their” trails.

As a nature photographer, I am used to people walking right in front of me as I am trying to take a picture. I am also used to people yelling out “Hey, what ya taking pictures of” just as I am trying to photograph a bird or animal, to which I usually reply, “That critter that you just scared off by yelling”. But, cross-country skiers take it to another level, yelling out things like “Coming through!” or “Step aside please!”, at least a few do say please. It’s their attitude that bugs me, as if they own the woods and every one else has to get out of their way.

So it was yesterday as I was trying to shoot the interactions between the nuthatch and the woodpecker. I was on the hiking trail that runs parallel to the cross-country ski trail. I had been watching the nuthatch, but wasn’t going to photograph it as it was a bit too far away for a great shot. Then, the red bellied woodpecker landed on the same tree just below the nuthatch, and bullied its way up to where the nuthatch had been, but it had flown to a branch of the tree and had started chattering away at the woodpecker. I was about to get that shot, I had them both in the frame, I was about to press the shutter release, but it was then that I heard the familiar “Coming through!” from approaching skiers.

I should have waited and snapped a couple of photos before I moved, but skiers always seem to get so huffy if they have to stop, or even slow down a little, after all, they’re holier than the rest of us. They’re out there getting their exercise. Right, that’s why they ski groomed trails, so they don’t have to work to get their “exercise”. They’re getting back to nature. Right, that’s why they ignore the chance to actually witness nature in action, and seem to try to do their best to interfere with those of us who do pause to watch nature in action.

OK, enough of that rant. I have added a link to Rob Slaven’s Photography blog, a very talented photographer from Zionsville, Indiana to the right under blogs I enjoy reading.

I find that I am getting behind in posting photos again, so here are a few I took last weekend. It started with a glorious sunrise.

Sunrise on a snow covered world

It had rained heavily before the snow began, so everything was coated in ice, then covered in snow.

Ice and snow

It was a beautiful day in the marsh

Sun and snow on a marsh

And by the creek

Sun and snow on Buck Creek

The ice that remained on the tree branches resembled miniature ice carvings.

Ice on a branch

Made me wish I had a macro lens for my camera.

Ice on a branch

This one looks strange due to the reflections off from the water.

Reflections

It seemed like the whole world was sparkly.

Ice on a branch

Everywhere you looked.

Sparkly

A bit of a breeze came up to blow some of the snow off from the trees at times.

Snow

It was hard to see very far because of the snow stuck to the trees.

Snow on the trees

It was all so beautiful against a bright blue sky.

Blue sky

This is from one of the smaller creeks.

Circle

I didn’t see much wildlife..

Red bellied woodpecker

Red bellied woodpecker

Since I don’t have bird pictures from last Sunday, I’ll throw in a couple from this week.

Fox squirrel feeding on leaf buds

Canadian geese in flight

Black capped chickadee

American goldfinch

American robin

I almost didn’t bother with the robin photo, I have so many pictures of them, but something made me at least look at it through the viewfinder, and when I did, I saw how dramatic the lighting was, and had to take it! I know that technically it isn’t that great, the robin’s breast is way over-exposed, but I love that photo!

Anyway, sorry for the rant about cross-country skiers, especially if you happen to be one. But a little common (or not so common anymore) courtesy on the trails would be nice. There’s no reason we can’t all share them.

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


The Weekly Photo Challenge: Simple

Now you think a subject like “Simple” would be easy, not for me. In going through my recent photos, there were a number of them that seemed to fit at first glance, but most of them are not as simple as they seem. For instance, today I took a fair photo of a red bellied woodpecker with a seed in its beak, pretty simple, right? Not really, because if you go back to my last post “Sometimes you feel like a nut(hatch)” you’ll see that I photographed a white breasted nuthatch storing sunflower seeds in the bark of trees. Well, the sunflower seed in the red bellied woodpecker’s beak was “stolen” from a nuthatches’ cache as the nuthatch looked on, chattering nonstop in an attempt to chase off the much larger woodpecker. To add to the complexity, I missed some of the photos I would have liked to have taken of this situation because a group of cross-country skiers came by at the wrong time, interrupting me. But since I spilled the beans, I suppose I have to post what I was able to get, first the woodpecker and seed.

Red bellied woodpecker with a stolen seed

Then the nuthatch trying to intimidate the woodpecker.

White breasted nuthatch

Then, the woodpecker sticking its tongue out as if to say “Take that!” after it had stashed the seed in another tree.

Red bellied woodpecker and tongue

Nature is never simple, ever! But going through the photos, this is the one I have chosen for the challenge, the patterns in the ice on a frozen pond.

Patterns in the ice covering a frozen pond

And, if I were to try to explain how patterns like these are formed, this wouldn’t be simple any longer, so I’ll save that for another day.

That’s it for now, thanks for stopping by!


Sometimes you feel like a nut(hatch)

The subject of this post is the white breasted nuthatch, one of the more common woodland birds here in Michigan.

White breasted nuthatch

You can see that their beak is relatively long and thin, they feed primarily on insects, using their long thin beaks to probe the crevices in the bark of trees to find the insects hiding there. Sometimes they will chip away at the wood of trees to get at food, much like a woodpecker does, but nuthatches aren’t as well equipped for that as are the woodpeckers.

Over the winter months, nuthatches join loose flocks of mixed species with chickadees and titmice mainly, but often with a few brown creepers, woodpeckers of different species, and other birds as well.

The white breasted nuthatch is the largest of the nuthatch family, but they are still a small bird, about 5 inches long. Nuthatches are active, agile little birds that creep along trunks and large branches, probing into bark furrows with their straight, pointed bills. One of the first things you’ll probably notice about them is that they are almost always upside down.

White breasted nuthatch

They usually start towards the top of a tree and work their way down as the search for food. In fact, I took one of my photos of them and rotated it 180 degrees to see what they look like in a “heads up” position…

White breasted nuthatch

…and it just doesn’t look right, as you seldom see them in this position. They never hold still for very long, they are always on the move. They are one of my favorite birds to watch, as they work their way around trees and branches. One thing has me really puzzled about them though, they will spiral their way around a tree limb, hanging from the bottom of the limb at times, but they are able to defy gravity and hop their way under a limb. How do they do that? Even the ultimate little clowns, the chickadees, can be seen hanging under limbs, but you can also see that they hang on to do so. Not nuthatches, they go around and around under limbs as if there were no such thing as gravity trying to pull them down.

While they feed primarily on insects, they also feed on seeds and nuts they find, and readily come to a bird feeder. They often store seeds and other morsels of food that they find for later on, by jamming the food into crevices in the bark of trees. Here’s a series of photos showing a nuthatch doing just that.

White breasted nuthatch

It doesn’t show up well in this photo, but the nuthatch has a sunflower seed in its beak.

White breasted nuthatch

You can see the sunflower seed a little better in that photo, and even better in this one.

White breasted nuthatch

The seed is about to disappear, and not by being eaten!

White breasted nuthatch pushing a seed into the bark of a tree

With the seed safely jammed into the bark, it’s time for a quick look around to see if the coast is clear as far as predators…

White breasted nuthatch

…then back to the bird feeder for another seed to hide….

White breasted nuthatch in flight

I didn’t put up a bird feeder, I should, but then I would sit in my warm apartment and shoot great photos without having to work for them.  🙂 The feeder that this nuthatch was using was right on the edge of the park I walk often, and the nuthatch was flying back and forth with the seeds, posing for me.

When they aren’t storing seeds for later, they do about the same thing with seeds that they intend to eat. They bring the seeds to a convenient tree, drive the seed into the bark of the tree, then they crack open the seed by pecking at it. Here’s a series of shots of a nuthatch cracking open a seed and eating it.

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

Down the hatch!

White breasted nuthatch

Or should I say up the hatch, nuthatch that is, how do they do that? Swallow up?

I’ll finish this up with a few of one particularly photogenic nuthatch, who stopped by to see what I was up to while photographing a red bellied woodpecker. First the woodpecker…

Red bellied woodpecker

Then the nuthatch….

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

Here’s looking at you, kid! If you would like to learn more about these gravity defying cute little clowns, you can find more at the All About Birds website.

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


Taking a day off

Not from work, can’t afford that, but I’m not going for a walk today, the first time in so long that I can’t remember the last time that I didn’t. I’ve been feeling run down lately, I slept off and on for a total of about 12 hours last Saturday, I never do that! I usually sleep about six hours a night, I don’t know if my run down condition is due to the roller coaster weather we’ve had the last two weeks, of if I have come down with something. I’m odd, but I seldom know when I am sick, I keep right on going until the time my body gives up on me, then I sleep more than normal for a while, then I’m fine again. The weather is nasty as well, 13 degrees with snow and a 30 MPH wind out of the northwest, which normally doesn’t stop me from going out, but today, I hoisted the white flag and surrendered. We had a storm over the New Year’s Day weekend, then back up into the 50’s, then a three-day snow storm, then back to near 50, and now we’re in the middle of another storm. It’s been a wild ride the past two weeks!

I have some house keeping to do as far as blogging.

First, I would like to thank Bob, Cee, Emily, and Kerry for taking the time to comment and try to help me out after my post “Can some one help me out here?“. With four such talented photographers taking the time to help me out, well, I am very thankful for blogging friends like them. I have come to the conclusion that the problem I asked for help on is due to a glitch in my camera, you can click the link to the original post to see the update that I did explaining why I believe it to be a glitch in the camera. The short version is that it happened again, and I can see a pattern in the way that the camera malfunctions after it happened in so short of a time frame since the original post.

Secondly, I have fallen behind in adding links to some of the great blogs I have found out there in the blogoshere, something I am correcting. I have added links to Cee’s life photographyGardening in New HampshireKerry Mark Leibowitz’s nature photographyNorthern NarrativesFrom Moments to Memories, and Xandre Verkes. I’ll have a few more to add shortly, so I hope no one feels left out, there’s only so much I can do at one time.

A little about each of the new additions.

Cee’s life photography blog is a little of everything, backed up with some truly excellent photography. It’s hard to sum her blog up in a nutshell since she does cover such a wide range of topics, from nature to health to photography tips. I highly recommend her blog as well as all the new additions I am making to my list of links.

Gardening in New Hampshire is focused on native plants, and is always informative, even to some one such as myself who spends so much time outdoors. There are times that I think I spend too much time outdoors, and not enough time reading blogs like this one to learn about what it that I see outdoors. I have already learned the identity of several plants that I have seen and wondered about, but never took the time to research them, in the short time I have been reading Allen’s blog.

Kerry Mark Leibowitz’s nature photography is the blog of a professional landscape photographer, with some really stunning photos on display, along with helpful tips on how he goes about getting such beautiful photos. If you love beautiful landscapes, this is a blog you’ll have to check out!

Northern Narratives is a blog that also covers a range of topics, from the perspective of some one who lives in Duluth, Minnesota. I have been fortunate enough to have visited the area a few times, but not recently. It’s a beautiful area, and she does well in capturing just how beautiful it is.

From Moments to Memories is Sheila’s blog from near the twin cities in Minnesota, focused on nature photography, and how discovering nature has led her to greater self discoveries. She has a great natural eye for photography, and her blog is always a fun read as well.

Xandre Verkes is the blog of a young woman of Dutch descent I believe, I could be wrong about that, but being of Dutch stock myself, the name sounds Dutch. Her blog is a combination of travel, nature, and everyday life from Pretoria, South Africa, though she travels many places and is a very skilled photographer to boot.

OK, now for a few of my own photos, starting with a couple of the male sharp-shinned hawk that lives in the area.

Male sharp-shinned hawk

Male sharp-shinned hawk

Male sharp-shinned hawk

Then, I am going to throw in some bad photos of a muskrat collecting grass for its den, for a reason I’ll get to after the photos.

Muskrat collecting grass

I knew that the light was wrong for a good photo, so in between trips the little guy was making….

Muskrat collecting grass for its den

…I tried to work my way to a better position…..

Muskrat spotting me

But it didn’t work, it spotted me, and headed back to its den.

Muskrat

The reason I added these pictures is this. Just last week I read in the local paper that prices for muskrat pelts was way up, due to demand for fur from Asian countries. When will we ever learn? I hate to sound like a nut from PETA, but there’s no reason in the world for any one to be wearing a fur coat! There are few critters that I can think of that are as harmless, quiet, and unassuming as a muskrat. There’s no reason to kill them other than to feed the human ego that wants the “status symbol” of wearing a fur coat. Muskrats may not be cute and cuddly like some other critters, but they are completely harmless to us, unless we force them into defending themselves, and just go about living their quiet little lives’. Most people don’t even know what they are if they ever do see one.

I don’t have a problem with killing an animal for food, and I believe that if we do kill an animal, we should use as much of it as we can, as in making leather from the hide of cows. But, to kill an animal just for the fur, discarding the rest is just wrong!

I’m stepping off from the soapbox now. I have enough nuthatch photos that I am going to do an entire post devoted to them, and I still have the ice photos I mentioned before, that will be a post of its own, so let’s see, here’s one of a sumac branch that I like.

Sumac in the rain and fog

One of a fox squirrel attempting to stay dry on a wet dreary day.

Fox squirrel trying to stay dry

A closer view of its built-in umbrella.

Fox squirrel trying to stay dry

Then it played peek-a-boo with me.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Yes, I flashed it for the last ones, it was almost like dusk that day.

Oh! I almost forgot, another bad photo!

Great horned owl in the wind and rain.

It is almost as if I live on a nature preserve around here! I love it! This was taken back behind the apartment building I live in, I have heard the owls hunting at night many times. I was out for my daily walk, and heard the owl, so of course I tried tracking it down, and I did get a few bad photos of it before it flew off. What’s remarkable about that photo is how bad the weather was that day. You can see the ear tuft of the owl is being blown by the wind, I had to time my shots trying to get ones without trees and branches in the way as they were blowing around in the wind. Considering the rain and wind, that’s not too bad.

I am going to finish with another bad photo, of ducks disappearing downstream in a creek and snow.

Cold duck(s) in the snow

I promise some better, and some worse photos for the next post. 😉 Hopefully I will get to that soon, but with the weather we’re having, it looks like another long night at work. And that reminds me, I wrote earlier that I really dropped the trailer at work, and there was an outside chance I could be fired. That didn’t happen, the driveshaft that operates the landing gear on the far side of the trailer had rotted away due to rust because the trailer is older than dirt and not maintained well. The place that made the repairs told the boss that there was nothing left to repair, everything on the landing gear was too rusted to trust, so they replaced the entire landing gear assembly.

Last year, they had to cut the rear of the trailer off and weld a new one back on because of how rusty the trailer was, they never learn! The repairs have cost them more than a new trailer would have.

That’s enough of that, I don’t even want to think about work, even though I am ending this to get ready for work.

Thanks for stopping by!


Dumping the moldy leftovers, Part II

I know I promised this one several days ago, but life , or I should say work, has gotten in the way of my blogging once again. I don’t want to go into great detail other than lots of snow made my runs longer the last two nights, and I may even be out of a job come Monday. After finishing my run Friday night/Saturday morning, I had to drop the trailer off at the dock, then take the truck to the leasing company for service over the weekend. When I dropped the trailer, I really dropped the trailer! One of the legs that are supposed to hold the trailer up when it isn’t connected to the tractor collapsed when I pulled the tractor out from under the trailer. It’s pretty ugly, the trailer tipped to one side, slamming into the wall of the loading dock, I don’t know how much damage was done, I really don’t even care. At least it collapsed then, not when people were in the trailer unloading it, but, the boss may not like the huge bill he’s going to get to have repairs made. I’ll worry about that come Monday.

Two other news items before I get to the pictures, one is that one of the snowy owls that have shown up in the area died unfortunately. It had been seen hanging around the Kalamazoo, Michigan airport, which is about 45 miles south of me. They were being careful with the bird there, even disrupting flights trying to keep the owl safe. According to the biologists who examined it, they think it died of starvation, poor thing.

The other news item, winter has finally shown up around here! It started snowing on Thursday afternoon, and hasn’t quit since as I write this on Saturday evening. This is more like a typical winter here, you have to love living close to one of the Great Lakes, lake effect snow is the gift that keeps on giving, and giving. For the New Year’s Day storm that wasn’t, they were predicting lots of wind and lots of snow, we got the wind, but very little snow. They predicted high winds and some snow for this storm, we didn’t get the wind, but we’re sure getting the snow!

I made my daily hikes yesterday and today, there wasn’t much to photograph but the snow still on the tree branches, but even that was difficult as the auto-focus of my cameras were trying to lock in on passing snow flakes.

OK, on to the photos.

Red fern-like plant

Ornamental grass in the sun

Nature as abstract art, a fallen tree

Cattails against a shimmering pond

These can't be pine flowers in January, are they?

Female northern cardinal

Snowflakes on ice

Robin

Blue jay in flight

Robin in flight

Robin in flight avoiding the camera

Slate-colored Junco

Slate-colored Junco

Slate-colored Junco

Slate-colored Junco

Slate-colored Junco

Slate-colored Junco

Slate-colored Junco

Blue jays in flight

Canadian Geese on an ice covered pond after a rainstorm

Canadian Goose on an ice covered pond after a rainstorm

Canadian Goose on an ice covered pond after a rainstorm

Canadian Goose on an ice covered pond after a rainstorm

Mute swans in flight

Mute swans in flight

Mute swans in flight

More geese on ice

Water drops frozen on a maple tree

Water drops frozen on a maple tree

Ghostly images in the ice during a snowstorm

Ghostly images in the ice during a snowstorm

Turkey in the snow

The last nice day we'll see for a while

And finally, one more of mallards in flight.

Mallards in flight

Sorry there’s no witty commentary to go with these, I’m not feeling very witty tonight, just tired. At least I have the fridge about cleaned out for the time being, and it may stay cleaned out with the way the weather is going. There’s so much snow on all the tree branches that seeing more than a few feet is difficult, it is like living in a world of white around here right now. It’s tough enough spotting birds like this female sharp-shinned hawk as it is when they hide in the branches..

Female sharp-shinned hawk in the branches

Female sharp-shinned hawk in the branches

Female sharp-shinned hawk in the branches

Those shots would be impossible right now due to the heavy snow covering everything.

Anyway, that’s it for this one, hope you enjoy it, thanks for stopping by!


The Weekly Photo Challenge: Peaceful

I received the Email letting me know that this week’s photo challenge was “Peaceful” on the same day as we had a significant snowfall, only our second of the year. Freshly fallen snow is something most people find peaceful, as long as they are looking at it from someplace warm. 😉 So, I rushed out to take a few photos, like this one.

Fresh snow and a winter creek

Of course my favorite out of the bunch would be one that included a stream in it. Then it dawned on me, the times I find that are the most peaceful to me are times when I am fly fishing for trout on one of the beautiful streams we have here in Michigan. So I am going to cheat again, and rather than post just one photo, I am going to post several, interspersed with some quotes about fly fishing that help to illustrate why I love it, and find it so peaceful.

“Often I have been exhausted on trout streams, uncomfortable, wet, cold, briar scarred, sunburned, mosquito bitten, but never, with a fly rod in my hand have I been unhappy”~ Charles Kuralt

The Jordan River in May

“They say you forget your troubles on a trout stream, but that’s not quite it. What happens is that you begin to see where your troubles fit into the grand scheme of things, and suddenly they’re just not such a big deal anymore.” ~John Gierach

The Jordan River in May

“Be patient and calm – for no one can catch fish in anger.” – Herbert Hoover

The Pigeon River in May

“The angler forgets most of the fish he catches, but he does not forget the streams and lakes in which they are caught.” – Charles K. Fox

The Pigeon River, mid-summer

“If I fished only to capture fish, my fishing trips would have ended long ago.” Zane Grey

The Pigeon River, mid-summer

“To go fishing is the chance to wash one’s soul with pure air, with the rush of the brook, or with the shimmer of sun on blue water. It brings meekness and inspiration from the decency of nature, charity toward tackle-makers, patience toward fish, a mockery of profits and egos, a quieting of hate, a rejoicing that you do not have to decide a darned thing until next week. And it is discipline in the equality of men – for all men are equal before fish.”- Herbert Hoover

The Manistee River, mid-summer

“I have never seen a river that I could not love. Moving water has a fascinating vitality. It has power and grace and associations. It has a thousand colors and a thousand shapes, yet it follows laws so definite that the tiniest streamlet is an exact replica of a great river”- Roderick Haig-Brown

Manistee River, mid-summer

“For the supreme test of a fisherman is not how many fish he has caught, not even how he has caught them, but what he has caught when he has caught no fish.” – John H. Bradley

Daisies along the Manistee River

“Some go to church and think about fishing, others go fishing and think about God.” – Tony Blake

The Manistee River

“When you pause to reflect on fishing, you often find out that the pursuit of fish has no bearing on your pursuit of fishing, or your enjoyment of the experience”~ Me

Me, fishing the Pere Marquette in early autumn

“More than half the intense enjoyment of fly-fishing is derived from the beautiful surroundings, the satisfaction felt from being in the open air, the new lease of life secured thereby, and the many, many pleasant recollections of all one has seen, heard and done.” – Charles F. Orvis

Iris along the Pere Marquette River

“There will be days when the fishing is better than one’s most optimistic forecast, others when it is far worse. Either is a gain over just staying home.” Roderick Haig-Brown

Mute swan on the Jordan River

It doesn’t get any more peaceful than that!

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