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

My Week…Spring is back

The My Week series of posts is a daily running journal that I do on the walks that I take daily around the apartment complex where I live. I’m located just south of the second largest city in Michigan, Grand Rapids, in the southwest part of the state. It was inspired in part by the phenology project done by Rebecca on her blog, Rebecca in the Woods.

Here you will find my thoughts about the wildlife that share this area, and maybe my thoughts on a news item I have read that pertains to nature or the environment.

This post covers the week from March 25 to March 31, 2012

Sunday

A beautiful spring day out there today! If you can picture the perfect spring day, then it would look just like today was! The temperature was in the mid-sixties, light breeze, and hardly a cloud in the sky for the first lap. On the second lap, a few very white puffy cumulus clouds formed.

I stopped to take pictures of the trout lilies that have begun to bloom.

Trout lily

Coming back out of the woods, I looked up to see this.

Red-tailed hawk carrying a chipmunk

I assume the hawk was carrying the chipmunk back to its mate.

At the first creek crossing, I watched as a pair of mallards were reaching up on the bank to pull leaves into the water, then eating something off from the leaves. I tried to get a photo to show me what they were finding to eat, but it didn’t work, I wonder what it could have been? Earthworms perhaps? Whatever it was, they must have found it tasty, they were both going nuts pulling the leaf litter into the water, then gobbling down what ever they found in the leaves to eat, as if they were starving.

At the back pond there were signs of life, human life. A family was there fishing, first time that I have seen that. I doubt if it explains why no waterfowl or wading birds are using that pond though.

At the long back pond, one of the mated swans was back.

Mute swan

And once again, it looked as if the gander was trying to chase the swan off.

Mute swan and Canadian goose

Once again, it didn’t work, the swan gets into its defensive posture, the gander circles for a little while, then swims back to his mate. I wonder how any times they play that game?

There seems to be a pattern, the lone swan arrives in the afternoon after spending its mornings someplace else. I still wonder about its mate, I did a drive by at the chain of lakes looking for the other swan last week and didn’t see it. There are so many little ponds and lakes around here that it would take me a day to check them all, and I wouldn’t be able to tell from that anyway. The swan could move while I was between bodies of water.

If I were a good wildlife photographer, I would be noting all the trees I see the birds carrying nesting materials to, so I could photograph the mothers on the nests, and the young when they arrive. But, I don’t do that. I leave nesting birds alone as much as I can, unless I stumble on their nests, like the ones under the carports here. Speaking of nests, I think the goose in the long back pond has nested.

Goose on a nest?

I gave her a wide berth when I noticed how she reacted to me spotting her, trying to make herself smaller than she is. She never moved or made a sound either.

I think that today was the first day in some time that I didn’t see a new arrival as far as migrating birds. It’s getting harder all the time to keep track of them, there is almost always a bird in flight in my view at all times. A good many of them are English sparrow and starlings, but there are dozens of robins, goldfinches, and other birds all zooming all over the place as they defend their territories and build nests as well. It is also getting harder to photograph them as the leaves bud out on the trees, as it gives them more hiding places. As if they needed more places to hide.

There were some first for the season today though, first bug in the eye, first bug in the ear, and first face full of spider web. It is definitely spring again!

Today was a photography kind of day, so I’m going to throw in a few more photos.

Black capped chickadee

Morning cloak butterfly on maple flowers

Robin grooming

Red-winged blackbird

Sharp shinned hawk in flight

Cedar waxwing

There’s another pattern around here on weekends when I do two laps like today. For the first lap, I have the place to myself, other than car traffic on the streets. By the time I start my second lap, then other people walking, jogging, biking, and so on come outside. It does’t seem to affect the wildlife much, although the other people sometimes spook off critters I was stalking. It’s not nearly as bad as in most of the parks near here, and not really a problem. The biggest problem I have is making sure that I’m not standing in the middle of the street. Sometimes I get so caught up in circling a bird or something, trying to get just the right lighting, and I find myself standing in the road. Oops.

That’s it for Sunday, on to Monday.

Monday

The weather forecasters were off by 10 to 15 degrees for today, they were predicting a high of around 60 degrees, that has been revised to the mid to upper 40’s. I don’t mind that at all, I should move to an even cooler climate than Michigan. Just noting how inaccurate the forecasts seem to be much of the time.

As far as I’m concerned, another perfect spring day! It was much cooler than yesterday, which suits me just fine. I like wearing a jacket. 🙂

The big news of the day, life in the back pond! As I was approaching, I could hear a pair of geese honking away in the pond, they took off before I got to the pond, circled a few times….

Canadian geese in flight

…then landed in the pond again. I would say that’s my bad action shot of the day, but it’s actually not too bad! The bad action shots are coming up in a minute or so.

The geese were nervous though, I wonder why. I stuck around for a few minutes, not only to watch the geese, but to watch this guy.

Kingfisher

It would hover over the pond…

Kingfisher

…then dive when it spotted a fish…

Kingfisher diving into the water

…it didn’t seem to be doing too well, and neither was I, it never got a fish from what I could see. I tried several times to get a photo of the kingfisher just before it hit the water and was too slow each time. Eventually the kingfisher flew off to another pond, so I continued on my way as well, with the geese still honking nervously, even after I left. I hadn’t gone very far when they left the pond for good.

It was nice to see something at that pond for a change. I had seen a great blue heron flying through the complex earlier, I was hoping it had stopped at one of the ponds, but I never found it, and I looked.

I have noticed some coyote or fox scat and tracks near the back pond, I wonder if that’s the reason the birds have been avoiding it?

The goose in the long back pond is definitely on a nest, let’s hope that no one does anything stupid to cause her to abandon any eggs that she has laid.

The swan was gone, I was early on my walk today, and as I said yesterday, she seems to return in the afternoons when she does come back.

The mallards continue to entertain me, I see them all over, sleeping under pine trees, wandering up and down the streets, and even feeding out in the fields next to the complex.

The rest of the birds are still busy building nests, as you would expect this time of year.

That’s it for today, on to Tuesday.

Tuesday

Cloudy, cool, and very breezy today, the temperature was less than half of what it was a week ago. It was even back to a winter parka today, as much because of the wind as the cool temperatures. Between the cool weather, my Achilles tendon that I pulled sometime ago healing up, and losing some weight finally, there was a bounce to my step that I haven’t felt in a while! I have dropped close to twenty pounds since the first of the year, that sounds like a lot, but on me, it is barely noticeable.

I hate getting old, over two years of walking two miles a day during the week, plus the workout I get at work, and I am just beginning to shed some of the weight I put on as an over the road truck driver. It has taken that long for my metabolism to speed back up.

Now, time to get really serious about quitting my other bad habit, smoking! I have let myself slide on that too much the last few months, and I’m back up to a pack and a half a day. 😦

Enough of that, on to my walk. It was a horrible day for photography, no light, and everything was moving in the wind. I tried taking some photos of a chickadee early on, I couldn’t even get a focus lock because of the way the wind was bouncing it around. Of course it was the same for any flowers I would have tried to shoot, except for these rhododendrons.

Rhododendrons

I watched two red-tailed hawks hunting for a while, I would normally think that it was the pair that live around here, but I would have thought that the female would have been on the nest. There may be even more hawks around than I thought. I also saw one of the sharp shinned hawks later on, it looked like the male, but it was too far away to say for sure. It was looking over the mallards in the long back pond, but never made a dive at any of them.

The goose is still on her nest near the long back pond, the gander standing guard a little way away from her. I should look up how long it will be before we have goslings running around here.

The back pond was empty again, I did see four large flocks of cranes on their way north, I wish a few would stop. I have noticed that it looks like the geese and ducks sometimes sniff the air much like a dog does. I know that some species of birds, like vultures, have very keen senses of smell. It was thought that vultures find their food by sight, spotting dead carcasses while they circle high above. But, further research has shown that the vultures actually locate much of their food by smell.

Yesterday, I noted that I have been seeing canine scat and tracks near the back pond, could it be that the birds who do visit the pond can detect that either coyotes or foxes have been around by scent? The only geese that have visited that pond acted nervous the entire time they were there, and other than one pair of mallards, no waterfowl have stuck around the pond for any length of time at all. Hmmm.

I hate to keep harping on the back pond, but that used to be the best of the ponds for getting photos of waterfowl and wading birds, and now it is empty almost all the time. I have also noticed that a trail of some type is starting to show up very near the pond, I’ll have to cross the fence tomorrow to see if I can tell what is making the trail, or other signs that may offer me some clues as to what is going on there.

The speed at which the plants have been growing has slowed down a lot with the return of some cooler air. That’s a good thing, there was some worry that there would be a frost last night, and if there had been, the area fruit growers would have lost much of this years crop.

On to Wednesday.

Wednesday

I’m going to start with a news item this morning, the Michigan Court of  Appeals denied Golden Lotus’ request for leave to appeal, from the Otsego County Circuit Courts 2011 Order requiring them to fully remove their dam on the Pigeon River. Golden Lotus’ dam on the Pigeon River failed for the third time in June 2008, resulting in massive sediment releases which killed an estimated 450,000 trout.

This is a story that I watch very closely, since the Pigeon is my favorite trout stream, and the Pigeon River Country is my favorite place in Michigan. Just so you know, as a member of Trout Unlimited and the Pigeon River Country Association, I am supporting the removal of the dam in full. You can read some of my other posts on this story here, and here.

Just how good of news this recent court victory is remains to be seen, Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning has vowed to fight a protracted court battle to let them not do what they agreed to do right after the last fish kill. Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning will probably appeal this latest court ruling just to drag things out even longer.

That story, while good news, has put me into a bit of a funk. For the first time in a decade, I won’t be doing my annual May trout fishing week in the Pigeon River Country, I’m bummed! I’ve missed years before, too many of them, but I was hoping to keep my current string going until I croaked, or was no longer physically able to go. Back when I was younger, it was easy to say that there would be other years, but now that I am getting on in years, I don’t know how many other years there will be left for me. I won’t be able to see for myself how well the trout are doing in the Pigeon after the last fish kill by Golden Lotus/Song of the Morning either.

I have checked the weather forecast, and it was one of the most incomplete forecasts I have ever seen. That’s usually not a good thing, it often means the meteorologists have no idea what’s in store for us. Oh well, I can tell you that it is extremely windy outdoors again today, and bright blue skies, so it’s time for a walk!

The wind severely limited my photographic opportunities! At one point I was trying to shoot a male cardinal singing, and because of the wind blowing the branches around, I couldn’t keep the cardinal in the viewfinder. I did manage this one of a tufted titmouse though.

Tufted titmouse

The grackles have discovered the new swamp, they were back there in force this morning. With the wind and the trees starting to leaf out, it’s getting hard to tell what’s going on back there. The wind was so strong that it was drowning out many of the birds songs I normally hear.

It seemed a perfect day to check out the back pond further, so I went all the way around it. A kingfisher was there, but some one walking on the other side of the pond spooked it off before I could get a good photo.  The trails I mentioned before are definitely game trails, and not made by deer. The only tracks I could positively identify were those of a house cat, either a feral one, or one let out to wander. The ground was soft enough that if the trails were being made by deer, I would have seen the impressions in the ground.

I also found evidence of two bird kills that were made near the pond, but I couldn’t positively identify either pile of feathers, other than they were medium size birds. Of course I can’t say what made the kills either, it could have been one of the hawks, or a coyote, or a fox, or a cat, although the flight feathers I found would lead me to believe the bird was too big to have been killed by a cat, but I could be wrong. I almost wish I had a trail camera to set up along the trails to see what go on back there at night.

One way or another, four-footed critters are making the trails along the pond, they are too narrow to have been made by humans, and I saw no human footprints other than mine.

In the long back pond, Mother Goose is still on her nest, with Mr. Goose patiently standing guard. Less than a month, and there will be goslings to photograph! No swans today or yesterday, that’s not surprising, I guess.

I was deep in thought for much of my walk today, and there was so much crap blowing around, it was hard to stay focused on anything. There was always something in motion that I would catch out of the corner of my eye to turn my attention towards it, and distract me from what I had been looking at.

That’s it for Wednesday, on to Thursday.

Thursday

I am sitting here drinking my coffee, looking out the window, waiting for the predicted sunshine and blue skies to show up. I can’t help but notice how much the leaves on the trees have filled out this week, it won’t be long and I won’t be able to see anything but woods out of my north windows, and the parking lot and woods out of my south windows. The trees on the north side almost touch the building I live in, and even block off my view of the creek that flows there, not more than fifty feet from my window. In some respects, living on the third floor here is almost like living in the forest canopy. I can sit in my recliner, or out on the balcony, and watch what the wildlife does high up in the tree tops.

When it rains, I can watch hummingbirds and insects take shelter from the rain under the leaves of the maple trees, watch the squirrels and birds feeding, and if the trees weren’t so dense, get some great photos from my balcony of the larger birds flying past. I have often thought how cool it would be to have access to the roof, and set up a photographic observation post there to give me a wider view of the area. It isn’t unusual for me to look out of the south window and see ducks, geese, and hawks on an eye to eye basis, they use the street I live on as a flyway so that they don’t have to gain as much altitude to get above the trees.

My apartment is like the world’s largest, most comfortable nature blind, who would have thought? It was with much trepidation that I moved into an apartment complex in the first place, it was the first time I had lived anywhere but a house, either rented or purchased. The first spring that I lived here I began taking photos of the birds from my balcony, the list of species that I was able to photograph was quite amazing to me. Then, it was the white tail deer, and I even got a bad shot of a wood duck swimming in the creek. When I saw a coyote trying to catch one of the turkeys living here, right from my window, I knew this place was special. I was still driving over the road for a living at the time, so I didn’t have very much time to realize just how special.

After I switched jobs to drive locally, and have time to care for my elderly mother, I knew I needed to do something to shed the weight I had gained as a truck driver. That’s when I started my daily walks around the complex. With the aid of my GPS unit, I found that it was exactly two miles around. I didn’t bring my camera with me at first, my walks were supposed to be for exercise, and I even timed myself each day, trying to complete the walks faster all the time. That didn’t last very long, I was stunned at the variety of wildlife around here. I think that what prompted me to start carrying a camera was great blue herons feeding in the ponds here.

The ponds are rainwater run off ponds, not natural, but they fit in well with the area. The area around my apartment complex is mainly low and wet, with a few small natural ponds scattered around.

The water in the creek behind my apartment comes from two small ponds to the east of the complex, and a combination swamp and marsh to the northwest of the complex, the two small creeks from them join to form the creek behind me, which in turn, joins the main creek that flows through the complex. That main creek is the drain from the chain of lakes to the west of here. They in turn are man-made, or at least man enhanced lakes. The one thing lacking around here is higher ground. I have to go half a mile in any direction to find anything that resembles a hill. It would not surprise me to learn that this area was a lake thousands of years ago, or possibly an oxbow lake left when the Grand River changed course over the millenia.

The entire area is low and wet, there are several spots in the complex here that have standing water most of the time, and only dry out during summer droughts. In a way, I’m surprised that some one would build an apartment complex here, as it is so low and wet, but it seems to work.

Now, for my walk. I must have known when I started describing the place this morning that it would be a slow day when I went for my walk. The sun never came out, and it was on the chilly side. We didn’t get a frost last night, but it must have been close, as there were few flowers out today.

I also knew the day would come when there wasn’t much to say about that day’s walk, other than I spent some time watching all the usual critters doing their thing. The muskrats were feeding in the ponds and creeks, the squirrels were scampering around, the birds singing and nesting, a typical day. The only noteworthy items, a great blue heron flying low overhead, I was hoping it would stop at one of the ponds, it didn’t, so this becomes my bad action shot of the day.

Great blue heron in flight

The other thing is that I spent some more time around the back pond. Some of the trails are being made by woodchucks or groundhogs, which ever you prefer to call them, and some by cottontail rabbits, but there are other critters, some canine, that use them as well. It has been dry here, so the tracks in the few bare spots were so old that I couldn’t identify them.

That doesn’t mean it was a slow day, at each of the bridges that cross the main creek, I paused for a while to listen to the water gurgling as it flowed downstream, and the birds singing along the creek. If you were to stand there with your eyes closed, you would swear that you were in the woods someplace far away from any human development, rather than on a bridge in an apartment complex.

The other thing to report is that as soon as I finished the download of the few photos I took today, the sun came out as if some one had flipped a switch. It looks as nice out there as they had predicted it would be. 🙂

On to Friday, which may be another slow day as far as photography. The weather report is for rain and high winds, great for a walk, not so great for cameras. 😉

Friday

I woke up around my usual time this morning, to the sound of thunder rumbling in the distance. I looked at the clock, looked out the window, rolled over and went back to sleep for an hour or so, and because of that, I’m late getting started today. I made matters worse by spending too much time looking for the Outdoors section of the online version of the local newspaper, what a waste of time that was. But, it has allowed time for the thunder showers to move out of the area, and better late than never, so off I go!

The weather? Perfect, temperature in the thirties fahrenheit , a stiff, bone-chilling wind out of the east, blowing drizzle, rain, and occasional bits of precipitation that bounced when they landed. I know, I’m crazy. Nature never stops, some species even become more active in this kind of weather as they search for food to maintain their high metabolic rates.

It was a day for thinking as much as observing, thinking about the constraints of time and space. I was already thinking about time earlier, since I overslept, the coffeemaker had turned itself off before I finished all the coffee in it. I stuck the last cup in the microwave, hit the quick start button, and watched a pair of cardinals outside my window as the thirty seconds on the microwave timer counted down. It seemed as if I had just hit the start button when the microwave beeped to let me know another thirty seconds of my life had just ticked away. I thought at the time that if I had watched the timer count down, those same thirty seconds would have seemed like an eternity, not the blink of an eye as they had seemed while I was watching the birds.

I had just gotten started on my walk, and I was thinking to myself what a rotten day for photography with the weather the way it was. My camera was safely tucked inside my parka to protect it from the wind-driven rain, and then the thought hit me just how many times I see something really spectacular on days like today. If as on cue, a great blue heron rose up out of the creek I was nearing, to fly off to better hunting grounds.

That’s what turned my thoughts back to the constraints of time and space, in the case today, the space of the apartment complex I live in.

I love it here, and I love my daily walks, but the kind of weather we had today drives something deep inside me. It was the kind of day when I want to lace up my boots, and disappear for an entire day……or two. That’s quite impossible in an apartment complex just outside of Michigan’s second largest city when I have to be at work at a specified time.

How did I used to do it? There always seemed to be enough time satisfy those urges when I was younger, even if I did have to work back then. In those days, I would have stayed out in the woods until the last possible moment, then rushed home to change for work, and clock in right at starting time. But, I still would have wanted more.

Weather like today drives me to push past the areas I normally walk, to see what lies just beyond the line of trees, or the hill that blocks my view of my surroundings. In the winter, deep snow will wear my legs out to stifle that urge to wander. The heat of summer will turn me into a mass of melting jello that just wants to find a cool spot to sit and rest. But give me spring and fall with cool temperatures, and I want to roam forever!

Part of that is all in my head, there seems to be more going on in spring and fall because they are times of transition. I want to watch the transition take place. During the winter and summer, there is almost as much activity in the outdoors, but it becomes more of the same old same old very quickly after those seasons set in.

There’s something else about weather like it was today, watching what wildlife has to endure. As I approached the long back pond, I checked to see if Mother Goose was still on her nest, she was. Just a short way away was the gander, patiently standing guard over her and her precious eggs. Each of them knowing in their instinct driven brains that if they thought of their own comfort and found shelter from the weather, that the next generation of geese would perish.

How we humans whine about any perceived discomfort! I’m guilty of it, and I try not to be. If there is any species well suited for the weather we had today, it is the goose. Their down is such a good insulator that we humans harvest it to line our winter outerwear. Their feathers are waterproof, so the rain falling on them runs right off. But still, it can’t be pleasant to sit there in the wind-driven rain for endless hours. I’ll think about those geese when the urge to whine about the weather, or anything else for that matter, tries to take hold.

One more thing about “unpleasant” weather, I got back to my apartment and made a cup of hot chocolate. Nothing special about that, most of the time. But after a day like today, wrapping my cold fingers around the hot cup to warm them, that cup of hot chocolate was pure delight going down! That always seems to be the case on a day like today, the simple things in life take on a special quality.

As far as make actual walk, not a lot to report. The birds were taking a break from their mating and nesting to feed, not surprising as cold as it was. The insects were all hidden away in places that shelter them from the weather. The muskrats are as waterproof as a goose, so they were out feeding, as were the squirrels, that did most of their feeding under a limb or branch that sheltered them from the rain. I took one photo, I haven’t downloaded it from my camera yet to see if it is worth posting, it is of a female mallard sitting out in the middle of the lawn for who knows what reason.

I wrote earlier in the week that the weather forecast that day was one of the most incomplete I have ever seen. I noted that when I have seen forecasts like that it usually means the forecaster don’t have a clue as to what’s in store for us. That is sort of continuing, the forecasts for this weekend are for weather. It may be sunny, with occasional rain maybe, maybe frost, maybe warm, maybe we’ll all have to wait and see what the weather is really going to be like. 🙂

On to Saturday.

Saturday

Another cloudy morning waiting for the sun to make an appearance. It seems that most of this week I’ve had my camera set at ISO 400 because of the clouds, and I want to be able to set it at 200 and get some great photos!

I am debating whether or not I should go off on one of my rants about the mainstream media, I have a draft post started explaining why I would love to see  Howard Meyerson, the outdoor editor of what used to be the Grand Rapids Press fired and replaced. He ticks me off to no end, as do most of the mainstream media.

What a bunch of simpletons! Democrats good, Republicans evil. It isn’t that simple, especially when it comes to the environment. Just for the record, I consider myself a libertarian, and find myself aligned with Republicans more than the Democrats, and I consider myself to be a supporter of the environment and nature.

Here’s a snippet from Howard’s latest column….

“Of course, Gov. Rick Snyder is a strong, pro-business leader. (Rodney) Stokes is the first DNR director to be appointed by a sitting governor. DNR directors used to be appointed by the Natural Resources Commission, themselves gubernatorial appointees on staggered terms. The system somewhat de-politicized natural resource decisions.”

At face value, what Howard wrote is true, Rodney Stokes is the first DNR director to be appointed by a sitting governor, however, what Howard left out is germane to that statement. It was Governor Snyder’s predecessor, her royal highness, Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, who changed the way DNR directors are appointed, not Governor Snyder. Just as she tried, unsuccessfully, to take over the Mackinac Bridge Authority and every other autonomous state regulatory agency.

Under Jennifer Granholm’s admistration, funding for the DNR was cut to the bone, and beyond. All general fund money going to the State Parks and State Forest Parks was cut, the DNR closed some State Forest Campgrounds, and more were scheduled to close, including my beloved Round Lake State Forest Campground.

Funding for important projects cleaning up past pollution was also cut, such as the clean up of the old Zepher oil refinery near Muskegon, Michigan. That project was scheduled to be shut down, leaving oil and other harmful chemicals to leach into the Muskegon River, Muskegon Lake, and eventually, Lake Michigan.

Last January, Governor Snyder, a Republican, took office, and both houses of Michigan’s legislature were also controlled by the Republican Party. Suddenly, many of the clean up projects were fully funded again, I remember writing about them as I read the stories in the press. In the case of the old Zepher oil refinery, not only was funding restored, it was increased to levels the manager of that project had requested in order to expand the clean up. The state came up with the money needed to leverage Federal funding of the dredging of contaminated soil from Muskegon Lake.

Under Rodney Stoke’s direction, the Michigan DNR has been restructured, the Recreational Passport system expanded to include State Forest Campgrounds, and for the first time in I don’t remember how long, Michigan has opened a new State Park, the Rockport State Park.

So, who has been better for the environment here in Michigan?

I’ll be the first to admit, there are some loonies in the Republican Party, like the one who wants to put a cap on the amount of land the state can own. But from what I can tell, that bill is dying the proper death in committee, and it won’t make it to the Governor’s desk. Since Governor Snyder used to be on the board of the Michigan Nature Conservancy, I would hope that he would veto that bill if it were to make it to his desk.

But getting back to the media, they gave former Governor Granholm a pass when she was cutting anything and everything having to do with the environment, Democrats good, no matter what they actually do in office. They give no credit to the Snyder administration for restoring funding to clean up polluted sites, Republicans evil, no matter what they actually do in office. And then you have jerks like Howard Meyerson taking a shot at Governor Snyder for following the law as set by his predecessor. And, to imply that Rodney Stoke’s appointment as director of the DNR was in any way political does a huge injustice to a man who is probably the least political of any of the recent directors the DNR has had!

Howard should be taken out and horse whipped, for perhaps he forgets this snippet from a previous Grand Rapids Press story…”Gov. Jennifer Granholm on Wednesday appointed Rebecca Humphries as director of the newly established Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment.”  That’s right, the DNR had been combined with the DEQ at that time, making Howard’s latest statement true, but only on a technicality.

I would hope that eventually, the appointment of DNR directors would be returned to the Natural Resources Commission, the way it should be, and I would hope that Howard retires soon before he makes a bigger fool of himself than he has already.

Looks like I lost the debate as to whether I should go off on a rant or not. 😉 I’m still waiting for some sun, but I guess I’ll venture out and hope that it shows up soon.

No sun on my first lap, I did stop off and watch a chickadee working on a nesting cavity.

Chickadee working on a nesting cavity

It was cool, cool enough that I could see my breath and see mist rising off from the ponds, not like yesterday, but close. I forgot that yesterday, all the ponds were shrouded in mist because the water is so much warmer than the air was. Today was much the same, and I knew I was going to do two laps, so I moved right along for the first one. Then, I took a short break, waiting for the sun, and eating lunch. About the time I finished eating, the clouds began to break up, and by the time I finished lap two, it was a sunny but cool day.

One of the muskrats was gathering more grass for its den.

Muskrat

Muskrat

Finally, some fairly good photos of that! The muskrats have created some bare spots in the lawn along the creek from all the grass they have been collecting.

Activity in all the ponds was about the same as it has been, one pair of geese, a few stray mallards, and that’s about it.

Since it had turned into a nice day, I wandered around in the field near the back pond which has been so lifeless this spring. The entire field is crisscrossed with small game trails. Some one told me today that people are seeing a fox in that area very often, and some of the trails could indeed be fox runs.

I also found the remains of another bird, this one appeared to have been a crow. Where I found the remains is very near a tree the red-tailed hawks use as a perch as they scout the field for prey.

All I can say for sure right now is that there is a predator large and wily enough to take down good-sized birds hunting around that back pond. That still leaves the question as to how the birds that normally would be using that pond know that the pond isn’t safe for them anymore? Is it by scent?

I wouldn’t think the hawks would explain it, even if it was a hawk that killed the crow. The hawks hunt over all the ponds, not just the back one. It was at the front pond that I witnessed the male sharpie make a pass at a pair of mallards way back a few months ago. The mallards are still there, and they have been joined by a pair of geese.

On the other hand, it would be hard to believe that a fox or a coyote wouldn’t venture a few hundred feet north to hunt the other ponds, except those other ponds have much more human activity around them. And, that reminds me of something else. Mother Goose is still on her nest on the long back pond, she built her nest right on the edge of where the  lawn service stops mowing, right at the corner of the building almost. Last year, all the geese nested on the back side of the pond in the weeds and willows, away from the human activity. Did Mother Goose build her nest on the human side of the pond this year to avoid any predators hunting the backside of the pond? Hmmm, I think I need to check the back of the long back pond for signs of predator activity there.

I may be on to something here. It does require further investigation, but that will be next week. I did get a few interesting photos today that are going to go into another post, as they aren’t specific to today, or this week.

I think (and hope) that these posts will start getting shorter as things settle into a spring/early summer routine, leaving me more time for other posts.

That’s it for this week. As always, thanks for stopping by!

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13 responses

  1. You are an excellent nature photographer! Every composition is well composed. My favorite is the Cedar Waxwing photo.

    March 31, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    • Thank you J. A., I don’t think that I do much as far as composition other than zoom in as tight as I can get and press the shutter release when it looks right through the viewfinder. It’s hard to get critters to pose in just the right place for really good compositions.

      March 31, 2012 at 10:35 pm

  2. It is so nice to have spring back again.

    Your images are lovely!

    Your animals appear to be doing the same as our animals – not surprising – ; only, you have a few animals living in your part of the world that we don’t have here.

    Your muskrats are gathering den lining materials, and I photographed a squirrel on Friday doing exactly the same thing.

    We both have exciting times ahead, in terms of wildlife photography.:)

    April 1, 2012 at 2:46 am

    • Thanks Mike! Yes, spring is my favorite time of the year. It is surprising how much the wildlife is alike in our parts of the world.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:54 am

  3. I love you bird pictures. Because of color blindness it’s hard for me to see some of them in the trees.
    Sorry to hear about your fishing spot. Chances are the company involved is worried more about money than killing the fish. Greed seems to be everything these days.
    I went to a hypnotist to quit smoking and rode home with a pack on the seat beside me and had absolutely no desire to light one. And I haven’t lit one since.
    Thanks for an excellent post!

    April 1, 2012 at 6:52 am

    • Thanks, I’ll try to keep posting bird pictures for you. 😉

      The dam in question is operated by a yoga retreat, supposedly in peace and harmony with nature. The truth is, the owners don’t give a whit about nature other than using it as a draw to lure the unsuspecting to the retreat.

      Quitting smoking is actually easy for me, but I blow up like a blimp every time, that’s the hard part.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:59 am

  4. Northern Narratives

    Your wonderful post is like a weekly nature magazine. I love it.

    April 1, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    • Thank you for such a great compliment!

      April 1, 2012 at 9:27 pm

  5. Chris

    Thanks for sharing another interesting week, every week you find interesting things right there at your apartment complex, amazing. Your photos are very good, I always enjoy the birds, I rarely get close enough to a bird to take its picture, I guess that is why I stick to the wildflowers. Congratulations on the 20 lbs gone, that isn’t easy. 🙂

    April 1, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    • Thank you! I’ll make you a deal, you keep the fabulous wildflower photos coming, and I’ll keep shooting the birds, with my camera of course. 😉

      April 1, 2012 at 9:24 pm

      • Chris

        Done, deal. 🙂

        April 1, 2012 at 9:58 pm

  6. Excellent work, I’m impressed! The hawk with the chipmunk was a great photo!

    April 4, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    • Thank you, those shots like the hawk carrying the chipmunk are mostly luck, just looking up at the right time, and having blue skies as a backdrop so the photo turns out well.

      April 5, 2012 at 10:01 am