I am going to start with my oddball thought of the day, are there right-winged birds and left-winged birds? Most humans are right-handed, a few are left-handed, and then there are a few who are ambidextrous, are birds the same way? The reason that popped into my head is from having watched a number of raptors taking off recently. I notice that they tend to dip one shoulder as they take off, and they don’t fly exactly in a straight line. By that, I mean if you were to draw a line from their tail to their beak and extend that out, they fly at a slight angle to that. Here’s an example of what I mean.
I think you can see quite clearly in that photo what I am talking about. I notice that when I watch raptors take off, but not other birds. I think that’s because raptors tend to leave their legs dandling as they take off, now I am going to have to start watching other species and see if they do the same thing. Something else for me to ponder as I wander.
In weather news, three counties just north of here have declared emergencies due to the heavy snow, close to 24 inches in places, glad that one missed!
Still more news, the plans by the Michigan DNR to reduce the mute swan population has some people up in arms, on both sides of the issue. The animal rights people are opposed, and many lakeshore property owners want the DNR to go after the Canadian geese as well. I am somewhat ticked off by a recent development in that story. The DNR’s original plan was to donate the meat from the swans to soup kitchens, food pantries, and homeless shelters to help feed the poor, a good idea, I thought. But, the department of health stepped in and put an end to that plan because the department of health hasn’t studied swan meat to see if it is contaminated by what the swans have been feeding on.
How about a little common sense here please? Even if the DNR were to kill off every swan in Michigan at this time and donate the meat to feed the poor, the poor would only get one or two meals from all that meat, it wouldn’t kill any one or lead to long-term health problems, even if the swans had been feeding in contaminated areas. But, common sense doesn’t cost millions of dollars to find out that eating one or two, maybe even three meals containing swan meat isn’t going to do irreparable harm to any one.
I won’t even go into all the uniformed comments being made on the subject, I’ll hope that the plan works, and the trumpeter swan and loon populations can make a come back.
Now for my walk today. It sure sounded like spring out there, the birds were really singing today! It was the coldest day in a week as far as the actual temperature reading, but it felt like one of the warmest since there was almost no wind for a change. It was a typical Michigan winter nice day, clouds almost blocking the sun, and snow falling on and off, more on than off.
I didn’t take many photos, it would have been a good day for photography if I could have found birds low enough to the ground or close enough to make photographing them worthwhile. What I did shoot aren’t all that great. I did get this one of the pair of ring-necked ducks in the long back pond.
With the cold snap over-night, the ponds are nearly frozen over again, and the only open water always seemed to be on the parts of the ponds that I can’t get to. So of course that’s where all the waterfowl were today. I’m hoping the ring-necks stick around and I can get a really good photo of them. If they want, they can spend the summer here and raise a brood if they wish.
I guess the big story today was the snow. I don’t know why, but it was really quite annoying today for some reason. I had to wipe the moisture from it melting on my face every few minutes, and it was sticking in my eyelashes all the time also.
I thought about walking over to the chain of lakes, but the best of them would have been frozen over like the ponds here were, and the ones that would have had open water are the ones where photography is almost impossible due to the size of the lakes, and the way the sun hits them.
As it was, I took my time doing one long lap around here, enjoying the bird’s songs and the lack of wind. It’s supposed to get down into the teens tonight, and remain chilly tomorrow, then the warm-up is forecast to begin. I hope so, I am ready for spring, as if you all haven’t heard that too many times already.
After a very cold early March night, I woke up to hear the furnace running this morning. That’s unusual, I turn the thermostat down so low at night that the heat from the apartments below me is normally enough so that my furnace doesn’t run until I turn the thermostat up for the day. Brrr.
I have been fooling around inside, waiting for the snow flurries to end, and for it to warm up a little outside. That strategy seems to be working, I can see blue sky for the first time in nearly a week, the turkeys out feeding, and the fox squirrels playing in the tree tops. Time for a walk!
Ok, it is official, this place has gone to the critters! I went for my walk today and shot over 250 pictures, I haven’t even had time to view them all yet. Monday is the day I visit my mother in the nursing home, so I have less time to play.
Then, when I got home tonight, my Internet access is out, so I am typing this to be
First up, not far from the door to my apartment, there was a male cardinal singing towards the top of a spruce tree, but he was mostly hidden.
I told him I would try to make him an international internet star if he would pose for me, he said he had to think about it for a while. So, while he was mulling over my offer, I shot this bald eagle that was passing through.
I would have liked to have gotten a better pic of the eagle, but the way things are going around here, I’m going to wake up some morning and find one perched on the balcony. 😉
The cardinal saw that, and did come over to pose for me.
A chickadee was trying to tell the cardinal that the spruce tree was already spoken for, by him.
A few steps later, one of the sharpies flew over.
But, it didn’t bother the mallards sleeping in the front pond.
But all those raptors soaring over made all the fox squirrels nervous, I couldn’t get close to any of them. That’s OK, plenty of other wildlife to shoot. There were lots of herring gulls as always.
And Canadian geese.
The ring-neck ducks are still here.
The swans have returned.
While I was photographing them, a couple of turkeys ran over to have their picture taken.
Those two had just left, when three more showed up.
Now is this crazy or what? I’m in an apartment complex, and I need a wide-angle lens to shoot all the wildlife I can see at one time. Here we have turkeys, geese, swans, mallards, and you can’t see the ring-necked ducks off to the right. Is it any wonder that I am going nuts trying to photograph everything going on around here?
The mallards were busy making more mallards.
That got the gander all worked up, he thought that there should be more geese being made.
But the mute swans apparently don’t like other birds mating, because the cob came swimming towards the geese, which shut them up.
A cardinal perched in the tree above me to begin singing.
The geese had gone quiet, so the cob harassed the mallards for a while for starting it all in the first place.
The ring-necks came over to see what all the fuss was about.
I knew it was getting late and I didn’t have much time, so I left the Peyton Place pond to finish my walk. I was nearly done when I spotted another turkey off in the woods, I was standing there debating if I should get the camera out to shoot a picture. I should have, because about that time, a fox squirrel fell, or jumped out of the tree the turkeys were under, and came crashing to the ground. I was debating whether to shoot a photo of the squirrel that had just landed, when one of the sharpies came over to see what was making all the noise.
Then she posed for a few portraits.
After she showed up, it occurred to me that the squirrel may have taken the express elevator down to escape the hawk, I don’t know. Here’s the turkey in the distance, the squirrel hit the brushpile in the foreground.
By that time the snow had returned, the lake effect type of snow, but it was cold out there! I had spent so much time taking photos that my fingers were numb. I’m sure looking for the warm-up that is supposed to begin on Tuesday! February went into the record books as warmer than normal, but it was more winter-like the last two weeks of the month than what it had been all winter long up until then. March is just getting started, but it has been cold and windy just like the end of February was so far.
On to Tuesday.
I haven’t finished the Monday entry yet, no Internet last night has me way behind. I have been watching the red-tailed hawks gathering nest material this morning, along with the turkeys and squirrels doing their usual morning routines. The weather is great! It is already warmer than it ever got yesterday, one of the coldest days in some time.
I am almost afraid to walk out the door, with this weather, I may end up with over 300 photos today.
Well, that didn’t happen. I did take nearly 100 pictures, and deleted a good deal of them. I was trying to capture the ripples in some thin ice on the front pond for the weekly photo challenge, but none of them came out the way I wanted.
The swans and ring-necked ducks were gone, the geese and mallards were dozing for the most part. I did shoot this one of a male mallard in my quest for the perfect photo of every species around here, this one is darned close.
I shot a few of the tweety birds.
The weather was grand, but the smaller birds seemed to all be in motion, either feeding, defending their territory’s, in the process of nest building, or blowing around in the wind. Yeah, the wind was back, but this time it is a warm southerly breeze blowing warm air into the area. So warm that I found the first bee of spring!
There was a flock of sandhill cranes to the north of here, circling and calling as the flock formed, I presume to head farther north. It is so cool to hear what I describe as their warbling croaking as they call out to each other. They were too far away for anything other than a terrible photo, maybe next time they will be closer.
For my bad action shot of the day, a robin in flight.
And speaking of robins, this portrait of a robin.
Tomorrow is supposed to be even warmer, with a high near 60 degrees, before the rain moves in for the afternoon, I hope they are right!
Since I haven’t finished yesterday’s entry, I’m going to call this one done, finish yesterday, and look forward to Wednesday.
Spring is here! Just as if some one had flipped a switch. The high temperature yesterday was twice as warm as on Monday, and the warm weather is predicted to hang around for the foreseeable future. The wind is roaring out of the south today, blowing the warm air in, but there’ll be no wind chill today!
One thing I forgot about for yesterday’s entry, one of the hawks made another McMallard Meal here. I found another, much larger pile of duck feathers scattered around the same area as before. I think that the hawk uses that same tree whenever it makes a kill in the area. Still, there were ducks sleeping in the creek right where the hawk likes to hunt. It is supposed to cloud up later in the day, ahead of rain tonight, so I’m getting out there now.
What a great day! Maybe not as far as photography, but spring has sprung, and the critters and I were loving it. I actually took quite a few photos, but none of them are really any better than what I have already posted here, so I’m not going to bother with them. I started off shooting what would have been a very good photo of a nuthatch, but there was a twig full of buds right behind the nuthatch’s head, making it look like the nuthatch had some odd growth growing out of its head, it was that kind of day. I was either too far away, or the light was wrong for the best shots. The wind and the clouds didn’t make things any easier. I got close to a goldfinch singing, but it was bouncing around so much in the wind, and branches blowing in front of it, that the photos aren’t that good.
The new swamp is full of mallards, along with a few geese. The back pond still has me puzzled, just the same pair of mallards that have been there for weeks.That pond has the least human activity around it, it is fenced off, and normally it is where I have seen the most waterfowl and wading birds, this spring, nothing. I’ve looked for reasons why, but whatever it is, I can’t tell.
The two ponds with the most waterfowl this spring have been the center and long back pond, and those are the two with the most human activity around them. The swans are still here, the ring-necked ducks are gone, I wonder if those two things are connected? The interactions between the species of waterfowl is quite interesting. The geese and the mute swans seem to get along fine one day, not so fine on the next. Today one swan was laying on shore, surrounded by mallards and geese, the cob was feeding in the pond, also surrounded by mallards and geese. The swans only seem to react when there is mating activity occurring between the other species. Do mute swans understand that mating activity by other waterfowl leads to the other species nesting?
The mute swans tolerate the mallards and geese with in just a few feet of them, until the ducks mate or the geese begin their mating honking, then the swans become aggressive. Interesting, very interesting.
The turkeys are doing their typical turkey dances everyday now, and the flocks of hen turkeys are starting to break up as they prepare to nest.
I saw the red-tailed hawks, one flew close and low, but with the heavy clouds, the photos are bad. They were hunting today, yesterday I watched them gathering materials for a nest. I couldn’t see where they went, but I’ll keep an eye out for that.
It is so great to hear birds singing again! It won’t be long, and there will be brightly colored flowers to go along with the brightly colored birds!
It’s supposed to rain this evening, and it sure looks like it could start any time now. Tomorrow is supposed to be more seasonable in temperature, with the rain ending early. The first spring rain! Love it!
The winds and rains came last night, later than predicted, and the gloomy skies are lingering today. I stayed up late last night to process and upload two videos I shot of the turkey dance to my Facebook page, and as a result, I overslept this morning. It is almost noon, and I’m still sitting here.
I said the turkey flocks are breaking up, wrong, they all came together again for some reason. A huge flock of close to fifty have been feeding in the woodlot across from me this morning as I have been trying to wake up.
The news item for today, the Michigan DNR was doing a controlled burn in Saugatuck State Park the day before yesterday, and with the high winds yesterday, coals from the controlled burn started an uncontrolled burn. Somewhere between 30 and 40 acres burned, not really any big deal, but who does a controlled burn when winds are predicted to exceed 50 MPH? The Michigan DNR does, sometimes I wonder about them.
Overall, every one in Michigan should be proud of the job the DNR does here, but there are too many stories like this that leaves you shaking your head wondering what were they thinking?
Time to get moving!
The actual air temperature was 30 degrees colder than yesterday, and it felt like even more than that. There was still a stiff breeze blowing out of the west that seemed to be putting a damper on much of the bird activity around here. I also noticed that a large dead tree to the west of my apartment has fallen sometime this week in all the wind we’ve been having. Why I mention it is because it was one of the red-tailed hawk’s favorite places to perch while scouting for food. Over the winter, a smaller dead tree that was used by many species of male birds as a spot to sing from fell over as well. Now I will have to locate the trees the birds are using as replacements.
There were a few birds singing, not many, and I don’t think that I heard a single cardinal, not too surprising given the weather today. I did see a few male cardinals chasing each other around near the main creek that flows through here. By the way, I tried looking up the creek on my GPS mapping software, and it doesn’t even show up. I can tell from the topography of the area that the creek is a tributary of Buck Creek, which in turn flows into the Grand River.
I saw the male sharpie hunting along the creek, I could tell it was the male because he’s smaller than the female, and he hunts from treetops, while she hunts much closer to the ground.
I spent way too much time at the long back pond watching the mute swans and geese interacting.
When I first popped my head around the corner to look out over the pond, I could tell that the geese wanted to start honking. They did everything but honk, even opening their bills along with shaking their heads and the rest of the actions they take to signal danger. Then it dawned on me, that while the swans have been here, none of the geese in any of the ponds are as vocal as they normally are. Hmmm. You wouldn’t think that the presence of swans in one pond would affect the actions of geese in another pond, but it seems to. The mallards also act differently now that the larger waterfowl are around. They seem much more relaxed and not always on high alert as they were over the winter. It’s as if they depend on the geese and swans to warn them of danger, or it could be that they are all worn out from all the mating they are doing. For the last week or so, it seems the mallards are either mating or sleeping. 😉
The back pond still has me puzzled, just a lone pair of mallards there. I saw one heron at night in the front pond, and a flock of sandhill cranes in the distance to the north, but we’ve had no wading birds visit any of the ponds from what I can tell. The back pond has always been a stop over point for egrets, cranes, and herons in the past, I wonder if the swans being in the area has something to do with the fact that the wading birds aren’t stopping?
Back to the swans and geese. One goose seemed to be extremely curious about what the swans were finding to eat under water. It would swim over and watch the swans feeding until it was nearly touching a swan, then the swans would half heartedly chase the goose off, as you can see in the photo above, then the process would repeat. That made me extremely curious as to why the goose would be so interested in what the swans were feeding on, since geese feed almost exclusively on land.
So many questions to be answered, and so little time. I’m way behind on replying to the comments people have been making, sorry about that. I hope to catch up tonight.
Tomorrow is predicted to be cold again, that I wouldn’t mind if it wasn’t for the wind. Maybe the sun will be out and it will feel warmer, I hope so. I’m tired of the wind more than the cold. Nearly everyday for the last two weeks at some point in the day I have been able to hear the wind roaring outside. That’s it for today, on to Friday.
Great! Where did this snow come from? I’ll bet it was blown in here, carried on the 40 MPH wind gusts last night. The day before yesterday, we had wind gusts recorded at close to 60 MPH, when is this wind ever going to calm down?
You also have to love the local meteorologists who look out the window, see that it’s snowing, then update the forecast to include the chance of snow. 🙂
Oh well, as I was eating breakfast, a fox squirrel dropped by my balcony to remind me it was Friday, and time to toss out the stale bread and potato chip crumbs from this week. The turkeys are there under the balcony as they often are, and the sun is making a rare appearance, so I guess it is time to quit complaining about the wind and weather and get out there to join them.
I hate to do this, but I think I will have to put my action shots from today in a stand alone post. It was that kind of day today! It started out well, I had barely gotten out the door when one of the red-tailed hawks flew past me.
The pair of them were in sight for a good deal of the time today, I didn’t get any great shots, not that I didn’t try. 😉
I know I am repeating myself, but the back pond still is puzzling me, just the one pair of mallards there. I found a spot out of the wind, and in the sun, and stood there for some time, thinking about all the photos I have taken of the waterfowl and wading birds around that pond, and for the life of me, I can’t see what has changed that would make it so uninviting to them now. Maybe it’s a spring thing, but I don’t think so.
The swans were gone from the long back pond today, of course I have no way of knowing if that’s temporary or not. But I did perform a little experiment today with the swans gone. Normally I try not bother the wildlife, today, I pushed the geese to see if I could get them to honk with the swans gone. Not really, they had been feeding in the grass, and I followed them all the way to the water’s edge, and all I got were a few muted honks, nothing like I would have expected before the swans showed up. If you’ve been around geese, you know how vocal they are, that’s one of the complaints people have about them. That and the way they crap all over the place.
What does that say about us as a species, there are people who would like to see the geese eradicated simply because they are too lazy to look down and step around the goose crap. Look out, I am going to repeat myself again.
Thirty years ago, that would have been considered a special photo here in lower Michigan, there weren’t many geese left. There was even some concern that they would go extinct. Now, after banning DDT, better controls on hunting, and habitat improvement, the geese are returning to their rightful home. That’s correct, their rightful home! They have just as much right to live here as any of us humans do, and if you can’t be bothered to avoid stepping in goose crap, then maybe you are the one who should be relocated! You know, there are times that I think it would be a great idea if the animals could get together and decide on how best to control the human “problem” rather than the other way around, with humans deciding on how to control the animal “problem”. That may not be such a great idea though, the critters may vote to eliminate me, since I’m the one chasing them around with a camera. 😉
Back to my walk, I didn’t push the geese in the center pond as hard as I did the ones in the long back pond, but I was close enough and they were alerted enough that I would have expected some honking. I shot a large number of photos of the mallards chasing each other around the ponds, and got some of the very best mallard in flight photos I have ever taken, which is why I’ll put them in their own post.
I found this fox squirrel thinking it was hiding from me.
And a male house finch singing.
He must have been singing the right notes!
He was joined by a female which prompted him to ask for a little privacy…
So I obliged and continued on my way. I spotted a turkey vulture, and shot this bad shot of it, for a reason.
It doesn’t show up well in that photo, I’m going to have to do better. But, if you remember last week’s installment, a young eagle flew over and I pointed out that I could tell it was an eagle by the way its wings were flat across the top of the eagle’s body. I noted then, and I snapped this photo, to show how the wings of turkey vultures always start up from their body, then level off. It’s the way to identify between the two species at a distance.
I shot this one of a fox squirrel practicing its hand stands out in the street.
And, I played peek-a-boo with a few turkeys.
There are times when I think that they are actually playing with me and that they enjoy the game, as long as I don’t get too close to them.
I shot a few more of the red-tailed hawks that I was going to throw in, but they’re not that special. So, I think that wraps up the day. Tomorrow is predicted to be great, we’ll have to see what it is really like, maybe more snow.
I am determined to get an early start at least one day this weekend, dawn would be great, but that will have to be tomorrow. It should work well with the change to daylight saving time this weekend.
The news item of the day, the State of Michigan is going to start requiring a Recreational Passport for users of state forest campgrounds, trails, and other facilities with parking areas. I have no problem with that, in fact, I have even suggested that as a way for the state to generate revenue to maintain those facilities. I hope that they do eventually lower the per night fee for camping in a state forest campground, $15 a night is too steep for the rustic campgrounds that I generally use.
I got in a hurry and rushed right out there this morning, that wasn’t a wise thing to do, although it worked out in the end. It was cold, and as if I haven’t whined about the wind enough lately, it was very windy again today. Another high wind advisory posted, gusts to 35 MPH. A couple of times I let the hood from my parka blow up around my neck to keep the wind from blowing down my back. When I started out, I thought that the flower buds in the maple trees looked much larger than they have, I even tried taking a photo, which didn’t turn out since every branch in the woods was dancing around in the wind.
I did take a few photos for the weekly photo challenge, which I will work on shortly, but other than some same old same old red-tailed hawks soaring, I wasn’t getting many photos, there wasn’t much to shoot. The swans were gone, just a few mallards in the ponds, with a few geese as well. Even the tweety birds seemed to be hiding out.
By the time I got to the front of the complex, it was beginning to feel a lot nicer out there, even with the wind. My gut feeling all morning was that I should walk down to the chain of lakes to see if any wading birds were hanging around there. I usually go with my gut feelings, so down the road I went. There were very few birds other than herring gulls there. The swans were in the smallest of the feeder ponds that feed into the lakes, along with a pair of geese, a few mallards, and a pair of coots.
I did hear and see a flock of sandhill cranes off in the distance again, no photos though. By the time I walked back to the apartment complex, it was feeling really nice, that wind was blowing in some much warmer air. It felt like a much better day to be out enjoying it than sitting inside blogging about it, the wind had even died down a little.
As I turned the corner towards my apartment, I looked up to see that the maple buds had opened since I had begun my walk!
Best I could do in the wind, sorry. It was such a nice day, I decided to do another lap, after a short break. I also changed my boots from the Red Wings to the New Balance to save some wear and tear on my legs. The Red Wings are starting to get broken in, I can even walk quietly in them now, but they still weigh a ton, each! As I was lacing up my boots, I looked out my window to see one of the red-tailed hawks fly past just over the tree tops, so I knew I had to go for another lap. I had just started when I got this photo.
And this one of its buddy, the nuthatch.
I stopped at the center pond and took a slew of pictures of the mallards being mallards, they will be in a post of their own. I also saw either a gull attacking a red-tailed hawk, or the other way around, I’m not sure.
I think that a couple of the gulls were going to harass the hawk, and one of them got itself into a bad position as far as where it was relative to the hawk, and that the hawk let the gull know that it didn’t like being harassed.
I was also noticing that the buds on the poplar trees were opening!
They had been closed during my first lap, it looked as if they were popping like slow motion popcorn. Spring was springing right before my eyes! Hence the title of this weeks entry, sproing!
Out front I shot a few of this muskrat. It was digging roots and tubers out of the mud, then taking them to the creek to wash them off and eat them.
What an amazing day it turned out to be after such a cold start to the day! Being out there and seeing the tree buds opening, how cool is that? What a difference a short time made, from when I began in the first place until after I finished the first lap and a break, like a completely different day.
I know I am probably forgetting many things from today, I was too busy enjoying the second half of the day to do much thinking about it. So ends another week, I still haven’t decided what I am going to do tomorrow, other than I am going to try to be out there extra early. That may not have been the best thing today, but it is going to stay much warmer tonight, and I am missing going for a walk at dawn, so I am going to give it a shot.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!