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

Archive for April, 2012

Four geese, two herons, two ponds, but not enough room

On Saturday of this week, I witness yet another example of the interactions between species of birds that some of you may find interesting, I certainly did!

It all started at what I call the long back pond. I saw a great blue heron headed that way, and never one to pass up an opportunity to photograph them, I followed in that direction. Sure enough, the heron had landed in the pond, and was beginning to hunt for its lunch.

Great blue heron

The heron was on the other side of the pond, and I was going to attempt to get closer to it, when I noticed that the Canada geese there were swimming towards the heron.

Canada goose

The heron must not have liked the look of the goose, because the heron exited the water to avoid the goose.

Great blue heron

Then, when it thought that it had put enough distance between itself and the geese, went back into the water to resume hunting.

Great blue heron

It looked like the geese were stalking the heron.

Canada geese and great blue heron

They were.

Canada geese and great blue heron

Canada geese and great blue heron

Canada geese and great blue heron

Then, the goose that seemed most intent on chasing the heron began to feed, so I took that opportunity to get closer to whatever action was going to take place. But, I didn’t quite make to a good spot before the action had heated up again.

Great blue heron and Canada goose

The heron took flight..

Great blue heron in flight

…and landed on the other side of the pond, where I had been to begin with.

Great blue heron landing

Great blue heron

I got distracted by some mallards fooling around.

Female mallard acting silly

When I looked for the heron again, it was back on my side of the pond again, with the geese headed in that general direction, and all the mallards headed the other way.

Geese, heron, and mallards

Once again the heron took flight…

Great blue heron in flight

…and flew to another part of the pond, where it once again tried to hunt for food.

Great blue heron

I moved to a different location, hoping for better shots of the heron, but when I got to where I wanted to be, the heron was trying to hide in the willows.

Great blue heron hiding in willows

I looked up to see another heron coming in for a landing, I thought.

Great blue heron in flight

But, the second heron didn’t land, it circled the end of the pond over the geese, as they watched the heron go past them.

Canada geese watching a heron circle them

The first heron watched the second one as well.

Great blue heron watching another in the distance

The second heron flew past again..

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Then, the first heron followed it.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

I thought that the two of them had landed in a corner of the pond, but only one had. I had to move again to see that, and by the time I got there, the geese had also.

Great blue heron and Canada geese

You can barely make out the geese and the heron through the willows. The heron had had enough by then, and off it went for good.

I thought that it was pretty cool, but I knew that my photos weren’t the greatest either. I wished that I could have another shot  at that again, but how often does one get to see geese chasing herons around. You guessed it, it happened again later the same day.

When I got to the pond at the front of the apartment complex, there was a heron there, I believe it is the first heron from the previous pond.

Great blue heron

Almost at the same time that I spotted the heron, two geese came around the corner of the pond headed towards the heron.

Great blue heron and Canada geese

This time, I had a chance to get a little closer to the action.

Great blue heron and Canada geese

The heron made a lunge for a fish.

Great blue heron lunging for a fish as Canada geese watch

I think that the heron missed.

Great blue heron and Canada geese

The geese were getting closer.

Great blue heron and Canada geese

And then, one goose charged the heron.

Great blue heron being attacked by a Canada goose

The heron landed on shore.

Great blue heron and Canada geese

Great blue heron

But, he decided that with the geese still headed in his direction, that moving on to some other place would be a good idea.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron flying past a lilac bush

I threw that last one in because it isn’t everyday that you see a great blue heron flying past a lilac bush in bloom. One more of the heron in flight, I’m not sure why I like this one, but I do, so here it is.

Great blue heron and Canada geese

The weird thing is, that after chasing the heron away, the geese only hung around for a few minutes, then they took off.

Canada goose taking off

Canada goose in flight

Who knows why birds do the things that they do? That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


Good Geese Gone Wild

On Thursday of this week, as I was doing my daily walk around the apartment complex, I witnessed the biggest fight between geese that I have ever seen. First, I have to apologize for the quality of the photos, it was a wet, rainy, cloudy day, and to top it off, the battery in my camera was about to go dead. I had to shoot some of these in manual focus for that reason, and I didn’t dare to shoot too quickly to give the camera time between shots.

The photos are self-explanatory, it was a goose fight, and an epic one at that, as you will see. But, not many words are needed to describe the action, so here goes.

It all started innocently enough, a pair of Canada geese coming in for a landing in a pond.

Canada goose in flight

Canada goose landing

The two new arrivals to the pond hadn’t even stopped moving before the resident gander charged them.

Canada goose wars

First one, then the other of the interlopers.

Canada goose wars

It’s hard to keep your balance when you’re being chased by a vicious goose!

Canada goose wars

The interlopers were hoping that if they ignored their attacker, that he would give up.

Canada goose wars

But that didn’t work.

Canada goose wars

Of course much honking had to go on during this opening skirmish.

Canada goose wars

Canada goose wars

It looked like the fight had become one of just words, with each pair of geese swimming in a different part of the pond, ut that was not the case for long!

Canada goose wars

Canada goose wars

Canada goose wars

Canada goose wars

It was mostly goose chasing goose for a while.

Canada goose wars

Canada goose wars

Then I lost all track of which goose was which, as the battle intensified!

Canada goose wars

Canada goose wars

Canada goose wars

Canada goose wars

Any slight lull was filled with honking.

Canada goose wars

Then the battle would resume, getting more violent after each lull.

Canada goose wars

Canada goose wars

There’s three geese in that pile, all flailing away at each other with their wings, and maybe their feet. I could hear their feet slapping the water when they were running, but the sounds coming out of that pile of goose made me think that they were slapping each other with their feet as well as their wings, plus, probably biting each other as well.

Then the pile began to separate.

Canada goose wars

And don’t you just love that one of the geese is sitting there watching its mate get the snot beaten out of it?

Canada goose wars

Then, as the battle gets close to it, the goose not fighting decides that discretion is the better part of valor, even if its mate is getting wailed on.

Canada goose wars

A second pile up, with more beating each other with wings and feet.

Canada goose wars

Then they separated again.

Canada goose wars

It was at this point that my camera needed a short break, but all that was left was for the interloper to fly to the other side of the pond as the resident gander gave his best Tarzan impression.

Canada goose wars

Canada goose wars over, time to let every one know who the winner was

That was followed by this.

Canada geese honking at each other

I’m not sure what that was all about, but then, I’m not fluent in goose yet.

That’s it for this one, stay tuned for the story of four geese, two herons two ponds, and more! Thanks for stopping by!


My Week…New Life

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 April 22 to April 28, 2012

Sunday

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may remember that I had been planning on kayaking the canoe trail at Ludington State Park today. My plans have changed, due to the weather. I had one of my gut feelings about today, which turned out to be correct, there’s a very stiff breeze blowing out of the east right now that is now predicted to get even stronger this afternoon. Funny, none of the weather forecasts that I read, even as late as last evening, mentioned anything about high winds. Yet this morning when I got up, I could see the trees bent over and several small to medium size limbs have been blown down.

If I had been planning on kayaking a river, the wind wouldn’t be an issue, but, I was planning on kayaking a good size lake, and I would have been on the side of the lake getting hit by the wind. Fighting the wind while trying to take photographs is not a good combination, so I’ll hold off for better weather. Other than the wind, it is a beautiful day today, so it’s time for breakfast, and a good long walk after to burn it off.

A bit of a strange day in some ways, I did two laps around here and only took around 100 photos, which is unusual for this place. For one thing, almost as soon as I got started, the clouds rolled in and with the wind blowing the way that it was, there weren’t too many chances for good photos. Most of the 100 photos I did take are bad action shots of the mallards fooling around, I’m not sure I’ll even post any, but there is a story there when I get to that point in my walk.

With the clouds and the wind, it was quite cool, and didn’t really warm up much until I was almost done with the second lap, which is when the clouds finally broke up again, once and for all. There were a few breaks during the day, but I’m sure glad I didn’t waste a trip on a day like today. The wind was strong enough that two trees that I know of blew down at some time today, both were dead and easily blown over with the ground as wet as it is, but still, it was not a good day to be kayaking a larger lake.

At the back pond, there is the pair of mallards that have been there all spring, now with their new brood. I walked all the way around the pond today, more in the hopes that something would turn up than for any other reason. The only things that did were another pair of mallards. When they landed in the pond, the resident male would go after the female of the new pair, and her mate would follow along as the resident male chased the female off. Then the resident male would return, things would be calm for a minute or two, then the second pair would return. Then they would repeat what had just happened, the resident male would chase the female away, her mate would follow, the resident male would return, over and over again. They did that at least half a dozen times, maybe more.

Sometimes I wonder if they do those things just to amuse themselves, or to irritate the other mallards. Whatever you may think about mallards, they certainly are entertaining to watch. In the front pond, the area’s unattached males were congregating for a while for a little guy talk as they were feeding. One by one they would land in the pond, and the other males already there would swim over to the new arrivals to greet them. They would all quack away at each other, but in quiet quacks, then they would all tip up to eat. They would move from spot to spot in the pond in a line, how do they go about choosing a leader?

The little pie-billed grebe was still there, looking very lonesome. I think that he would like to hang out with the mallards, but they don’t let him. Why? I see mallards allowing many other species of ducks to join their flocks, why not the grebe? Also, how to grebes find mates? Is the male there waiting for a female to find him in that pond?

Anyway, that’s about it from the first lap. The second lap was much the same, I spent more time watching wildlife in action than trying to photograph it. That didn’t change until I was close to being done for the day. I had checked out the back pond, then walked to the center pond, and as I turned around, I could see a great blue heron had somehow made its way to the back pond in the few short minutes it took me to get to the center pond.

By then, the clouds had broken up, and the light was right for me to try to sneak up on the heron. I was working my way to a good spot to shoot from, and paused behind a bush where I could watch the heron without it being able to see me. I was planning the next leg of my stalk when I saw some one else approaching the pond from the other direction, and knew that the heron would fly off when the other guy got close, so I stuck my head and camera out around the bush and started shooting to get what I could before the inevitable happened.

Great blue heron

And as I thought, it wasn’t long before the heron took off.

Great blue heron taking off

The bad thing was that the other guy spoiled what could have been a good stalk on my part, the good thing was that since the heron was fleeing the other guy, the heron launched in my direction.

As I was crossing one of the bridges over the main creek, I saw a male mallard coming at me, and I mean coming at me!

Ducking the duck

That was shot with my zoom lens set at 85 mm according to the shooting information, that’s how close the mallard came to me. He turned right over my head to land in the creek.

Male mallard landing

Then he started laughing.

Male mallard

By then I had regained my wits and zoomed in to 300 mm. That was just a warm up for some action shots to come.

I didn’t go back into the new swamp today, since I was back in the swamp yesterday, I wanted to give it a rest. I did walk along the edge of it though, and saw what I thought was a chickadee fly towards me and land in a small tree. Once it had landed, I could see that it wasn’t a chickadee, it was a yellow-rumped warbler. By the time I got the camera on him he was gone, but he didn’t go far, and, he had a few friends with him. I managed to get a couple of acceptable shots of them.

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Even when perched, they don’t sit still!

Yellow-rumped warbler

I told them that if that’s the way they wanted to be, I would shoot them while they were flying! They seemed to like that idea.

Yellow-rumped warbler in flight

Yellow-rumped warbler in flight

Yellow-rumped warbler in flight

I think that they thought I couldn’t do it and that they would be tormenting me by flying all around me, ha! Fooled them, didn’t I? That’s when all those bad action shots of the mallards that I take and then delete come into play, keeping me in practice for these shots.

I think that about wraps things up for today, on to Monday.

Monday

Yesterday’s strong east wind is now today’s light west wind, although the wind is predicted to pick up during the day. I can’t see a cloud in the sky, so it’s time for me to get moving.

I’m back, another action packed day with few photos to show for it, mainly because they are all beginning to look the same to me. The geese and hawks were flying overhead, as well as the mallards of course, and I took a few shots for practice, but I think I have hit my limit as far as quality of the photos. I get good shots of large birds flying at a distance, but when they get closer to me, then the auto-focus doesn’t keep up with them most of the time.

I did try something different today, a few crows flew low and very close to me, and I tried shooting in aperture priority to give me a larger depth of field, hoping that the crows would be in focus. They were, but then the shutter speed was so low that the motion of the crows caused blurring, even with a cloudless blue sky as a background. I think that crows were probably a poor subject for that experiment, since they are completely black, I will have to try that on another species and see how it works. But, I had the camera in aperture priority when the crows flew past me, so I thought I would give it a shot.

I could bump the ISO up to 400 even on a sunny day like today, which would help by boosting the shutter speed while the lens is stopped down. Something else to try. It would be just like the old days of film when I would load my camera with 400 ASA Ektachrome for action shots. I’m not dating myself there, am I? 🙂

The trees are about halfway leafed out right now, you would think that with the head start that they got during the first part of March would have them further along than they are. These cool nights with frost very often has slowed all the plants back down, and also killed many of the buds on the trees and plants that would normally be blooming right about now. That, and the wind storms every few days. Flowers just open up, and we get a windy day that shreds the flowers. That’s happening again today, the light breeze of earlier this morning is now quite strong out of the north. There are flower petals and maple seeds filling the air, I wonder how many pounds of maple seeds are falling off from the trees? It has to be a considerable number, but I’m not going to try collecting all those seeds to weigh them. 😉 Besides, the birds and the fox squirrels are doing their best to clean up the fallen maple seeds, they don’t need my help.

The photos that I am going to post today are of a pair of killdeer, since I haven’t posted many of them.

Female killdeer

A pair of killdeer

Male killdeer

The new arrivals are catbirds and brown thrashers, two of my favorite birds, I love listening to them sing! They’re related to each other as species, so it isn’t surprising that their songs would be somewhat the same. There was one of each in a row of trees near the long back pond, both of them were singing away like crazy, so I stood there for a while to listen, then tried for a photo. I saw the thrasher a couple of times, but it was too quick for me, I never caught a glimpse of the catbird, which is normal with them. After they are fully settled, I’ll make more serious attempts at photography. I know that I’ll end up going into the trees to catch the catbirds.

I have also become convinced that there are a pair of both sharp shinned and coopers hawks around here. The last few weeks, I have taken photos of the male coopers hawk soaring overhead, and have seen, but not been able to photograph the sharpie. He is tiny compared to the coopers hawk, and I am learning to correctly identify them better. Who would have thought that living in an apartment complex and walking around it everyday would help me to identify raptors?

Of course the red-tailed hawks are easy to ID since they are so much larger and with much broader wings than either the sharpies or the coopers hawks.  I am also sure that one of the red-tailed hawks I see on almost a daily basis is one of last year’s young, probably by the pair I see very often. I am learning to ID it because its tail isn’t as dark as either of its parent’s.

There’s certainly something to be said for walking the same place everyday, like learning individual birds and being able to recognize them on sight.

I think that’s all I have to say for today, on to Tuesday.

Tuesday

Another almost cloudless day, another very windy day. I may be wrong, but I don’t recall ever having a spring as windy as this one has been. It is also rather chilly again today, after the heat wave last month, it has actually been cooler than average around here, which I don’t mind a bit. That keeps the number of bugs down, I may love nature, but mosquitos and biting flies, not so much.

What a day! It was very windy, and cool to start, but it warmed up nicely as the day went along. Up in the front creek, a pair of muskrats were feeding on the water cress.

Muskrats feeding on water cress

Muskrat feeding on water cress

Muskrat feeding on water cress

It still bothers me that these completely harmless critters are being trapped just for their fur. I hate to sound like one of the nuts from PETA, but there’s no reason for any one to wear a fur coat.

OK, now for some great news, Mother Goose wasn’t on her nest today, her eggs have hatched!

Newly hatched goslings with their parents standing guard

Newly hatched goslings with their parents standing guard

As I circled the pond to try for better photos of the goslings, I watched a pair of crows put on an aerial ballet that I think is part of their mating ritual.

Crows in an aerial ballet

Crows in an aerial ballet

Crows in an aerial ballet

Crows in an aerial ballet

I knew that crows could be very acrobatic in flight when they wanted to be, I’ve seen them in action as they have attacked hawks and owls, but the moves these two were making surprised even me. Those photos aren’t very good, and the crows saved their best moves for times when they were partially blocked from view by trees in the distance, so no photos of that portion of the ballet.

I made it closer to the goose family, but I couldn’t see the goslings while I was there. The proud papa let me know just from the look on his face that one of us would die if I tried getting ay closer.

Father Goose, the proud papa ready to defend his young

Mother Goose seemed much more laid back about my being there, she was probably happy to get up and walk around for the first time in a month, to say nothing of eating and drinking again.

Mother and Father Goose

I circled around to the nest…

The eggs have hatched

…when Father Goose sounded the alarm…

Red-tailed hawk in flight

…the hawk circled the nest a couple of times as I was standing near it…

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

…the hawk was very interested in the nest. As good as the eyes of a hawk are, and as close to the nest as it was, it had to have seen the broken egg shells there in the nest. The question is, will it remember the nest, and circle past the area often trying to catch Mother and Father Goose off guard and pick up an easy meal of fresh gosling? Something for me to keep an eye on.

As I was checking out the back pond, I watched a pair of mallards land and go about their business with no response from the resident male there. The other day, the resident male was chasing the female of another pair of mallards out of the pond every time that they tried landing in the pond. OK, I have no way of knowing if the pair today was the same pair he chased out of the pond numerous times the other day or not, maybe he got tired of chasing them away, if that was the same pair. If it wasn’t the same pair, then how did the resident male know that from across the pond? By the way the pair quacked?

A couple of photos of butterflies that I saw at places during the day.

Butterfly

Butterfly

Then, between the center pond and the back pond, this female goldfinch was nice enough to pose for some good photos of her.

Female American goldfinch

Female American goldfinch

Female American goldfinch

And, to finish off the day, a picture of the sky.

Blue skies and clouds

That’s it for today, or I should say that’s all I have time for today, on to Wednesday.

Wednesday

The clouds are rolling in ahead of what could be some rain later in the day, so I have to get moving now!

As is so often the case, I spent way too much time out there today observing, and taking some really crappy photos. The darn critters just won’t cooperate and position themselves in perfect lighting when they do interesting things. Throw in some trees, signs, and buildings to get in the way of great photos, and it’s a wonder that any of us ever get the photos that we do. Oh, and I forgot to mention other people spoiling a good stalk by spooking off a bird that you had spent twenty minutes trying to get close to.

One thing that I have been forgetting to mention is that there has been a large number of songbirds all around the back pond that otherwise has seemed to be lacking in wildlife all this spring. By wildlife, I mean waterfowl and wading birds, for two years, that was the pond that held most of the wildlife of that nature. This year, just a few mallards fooling around with a few times other waterfowl have stopped in. I have been noticing the large numbers of songbirds around it for a couple of weeks now, I see the bluebirds back there quite often, but as yet, no photos.

That’s another thing, the bluebirds around here are harder to get close to than any of the other birds other than the wood ducks. I have never seen such skittish bluebirds before. But, back to the pond.

I think that the number of songbirds around it isn’t really much higher than it was the last two years, but since there aren’t other, larger species around, I am noticing the songbirds more this year.

As I was looking over the back pond, I could hear a lot of goose honking going on around the center pond, but that’s not unusual since the swans have left. (I miss the swans, I wish they would have nested here) When I finally got around to checking out the reason for all the honking, I was very surprised at what I found.

Canada geese and brood

Father and Mother Goose had brought their newly hatched goslings over to the center pond to go for a stroll. That had the resident gander all worked up.

Goose shouting match

And, before I forget, the resident female of the pond went on the nest yesterday.

Canada goose on her nest

Father goose is definitely the dominant gander, for the resident gander of the pond made several charges at Father Goose, but as soon as Father Goose moved towards the resident gander, it backed off and would go waddling back to the water, a few times, quite quickly. Maybe it was because Father Goose had Mother Goose for backup, but she didn’t seem to get involved in the skirmishes other than a little honking, she was more concerned with her new brood and hovered over them like any new mother would.

I tried for photos of the skirmishes, of course, but there was always something in the way. Their battles seem silly anyway, in a short time the adults will be as flightless as the goslings, and they will all get together in large flocks to feed. Geese lose their primary flight feathers every year when the molt, and for a while they are grounded. While they are grounded, the same geese that are now fighting over territories will all join together in one big happy family to raise their young.

Here’s the best shot of one of the goslings I could get.

Canada goose gosling

You can see that they start young as far as making noise, and you can also see where they get that from.

Canada goose and goslings

I wonder why the Goose family decided to take their young over to the center pond in the first place. Are geese like people in that they think the grass is always greener at another goose’s pond?

How well the newly hatched goslings got around sort of surprised me, they were doing better than Mother Goose who at times looked as if she were drunk and staggering around. After sitting on the nest for a month without ever getting up to stretch her legs it will take her a couple of days to get her legs working right again.

Leaving the center pond, I saw a few crows landing in the evergreens planted here. It took me a few minutes to figure out why. At first, I thought that they may have been looking for nesting spots, but that didn’t seem right, crows nest in larger trees than the 15 to 25 foot tall evergreens here. Then, it dawned on me, they weren’t looking for places to build their nests, they were looking for the nests of other birds who have nested in the evergreens.

Crows often raid the nests of songbirds to eat the young hatchlings in the nests. That’s one reason that some people despise crows. I knew that crows did that, but I have never seen them actively and purposefully hunting evergreens that way before. They were systematically going from evergreen to evergreen, with one crow perched in the top of a tree to serve as a look out.

When I approached the lookout to try for a photograph, it gave the warning call, and the entire small flock of crows left, for the time being anyway. I’m sure that they will return, as there are songbird nests in most of the evergreens here.

Nature may not always be pretty, but it is what it is. The crows eating the young songbirds is one of nature’s check and balances against overpopulation, as ugly as those checks and balances may be at times.

On a lighter note, a dark-eyed junco eating dandelion seeds.

Dark-eyed junco

I didn’t post it, but the other day, I took photos of a house finch also eating dandelion seeds, that’s one of those checks and balances most people would welcome. The more dandelion seeds that the birds eat, the fewer dandelions there will be showing up in people’s lawns.

That’s all I have time for today, on to Thursday.

Thursday

It is cloudy, very dark, and windy outside this morning. I have been holding off going for my walk, hoping that the clouds will thin out a bit. A flock of turkeys just went past, so maybe it’s time for me to go out and play hide and seek with them for a while.

Another day, another 100+ photos to sort through. I need an assistant, some one to sit at the computer and stay in radio contact with me so they can type as I walk and shoot photos.

It’s taken a while, but something is finally beginning to sink in to this thick skull of mine, the reason there are no waterfowl or wading birds in the back pond is because they are all hanging out in the new swamp. Isn’t that the way it goes, it is very difficult to even see into the new swamp, let alone get a good photo of anything there. That’s going to get even worse as the trees finish leafing out, I can barely see the new swamp unless I go wading through the mud to get to the edge.

Great egret

That’s an example of what I have to deal with back in the new swamp. I also saw a great blue heron, blue winged teal, wood ducks, gadwalls, Canada geese, and of course dozens of mallards as well. But getting good photos is close to impossible, the best on that I got of the egret is this one.

Great egret

To make getting around back there even more of a challenge, a Canada goose has built her nest right next what little high ground that there is around the swamp.

Canada goose on her nest

I don’t want to disturb her, and in avoiding her, it cuts down on my access to what few places there are to walk in the area.

That swamp didn’t exist a year ago, the pond next to it did, although I didn’t know about the pond until this spring. But, what I find interesting is how quickly wildlife has adjusted to the new swamp, and taken up residence there in some cases,  and how some species have had to move out of the area. The fox squirrels for example, they still move from tree to tree over the swamp’s edges, but they avoid the middle as swamps aren’t exactly squirrel habitat, at least not for fox squirrels. The turkeys and the whitetail deer have also had to adjust both where they feed, and their travel routes also.

The wood ducks living there don’t surprise me that much, swamps are ideal habitat for them, and I would sometimes see them swimming up and down the creek behind my apartment during the spring in years past. But where did all the blue-winged teal, gadwalls, and pie-billed grebes come from? Especially the blue-winged teal, there’s twenty to thirty in a loose flock here this spring. I don’t know if they will stick around or not, I took a few bad shots of them in flight, I am hoping for a better one to show how they got their name.

I really need to put on my mud boots and find out what blocked the creek behind my apartment to create the swamp, but I have been holding off on that.It’s nice knowing that there’s something left here to discover, something to explore. I was talking to one of the groundskeepers the other day, and he said in passing that I must know this place like the back of my hand, every tree, shrub, and edge, and in a way, I do. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing, it’s good in that it makes it easier to get the photos that I do, it’s bad in that I love exploring new places, and there’s no place other than the swamp left for me to explore around here. Unless I start trespassing, which I am not about to do.

Up in the front pond, there was a big fight between four Canada geese, I have many photos of it, but they will go into a separate post, Good Geese Gone Wild.

Here’s another new addition to the wildlife in the area., a young cottontail rabbit.

Young cottontail rabbit

And soon, there will be even more additions.

Canada goose on her nest with mallards as company

I love spring! It isn’t just the weather, the fact that the trees have leaves again, or the flowers blooming, it’s the new life all around. The next generation of critters being born or hatched. Soon, the whitetail does will be giving birth to their fawns and young squirrels will be chasing each other through the treetops as young birds try their wings for the first time. It’s a sign that everything is “right” in the natural world and that there will be a new generation of wildlife to bewilder, aggravate, amaze, and amuse me, and any one else willing to pay attention to the wildlife. I find it very sad that while nearly every one wants to “go green” and give lip service to the environment, very few people actually take any time to learn about it, or to even watch and listen to it in action. I’d better stop there, or this could become an extremely long rant. So, on to Friday.

Friday

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, it was a beautiful day and I spent so much time taking photos…..

OK, you’ve heard that one before, well, it was true. In my quest to take a perfect photo of every species of wildlife around here, I shot over 200 photos, and I think that there was only one species that I haven’t already posted many photos of.

Yellow warbler

I’ve been chasing them for two years, and that’s the best photo of one that I have managed, so far. Like all warblers, they stick to the thicker growth, and never stop moving. Nice to see them back though, even if they do give me fits when I try to shoot them. 😉

A few other shots from the day.

American robin right after a bath

Cottontail rabbit winding up

Cottontail rabbit in mid jump

Flowering tree

Female house finch

Chipping sparrow eating lunch

Chipping sparrow

Male American goldfinch singing

Male American goldfinch

A beautiful spring day!

Female red-winged blackbird

I think that’s all for Friday, on to Saturday.

Saturday

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, it was a terrible day for photography, but the critters were putting on such a show that I spent so much time taking photos…..

OK, you’ve heard that one before, well, it was true.

The weather, cloudy, cold, windy, with light rain most of the time. So what happens today? The geese were chasing great blue herons around as I was chasing them both of them around, with the mallards looking on and being their usual selves. I have more than enough photos for an entire post on just that, so that’s what I am going to do. Before I finish up this week though, I have to mention a few things about today.

As part of showing their new brood the neighborhood, Father and Mother Goose were in the back pond today.

Canada goose family

Why Father and Mother Goose are taking their newly hatched youngsters to a different pond everyday is beyond me, but they are. Maybe it is to teach the goslings the neighborhood, maybe it is to upset the other geese, I have no idea at this point.

Getting ready to post this, I have been proof reading it to fix my mistakes, and a thought has occurred to me. On the day when the goslings hatched, a red-tailed hawk made a couple of low passes over the nest, as you probably saw as you were reading this. Perhaps the reason the Goose family stays on the move everyday is to prevent predators from being able to zero in on the goslings. The hawk may know where the nest was, but it won’t do the hawk any good to go back there, since the Goose family is somewhere else. Are geese that smart?

Who know what goes on in the minds of birds. I got to the long back pond that had been the home to Father and Mother Goose for over a month, and did a double take, there was another pair of geese there, hanging out in the same area as Father and Mother Goose used to before she nested.

New geese taking over Father and Mother Goose's pond

Later, these two geese chased two great blue herons out of the pond. Are these two of the geese from the epic battle over the front pond? Do Father and Mother Goose know the intruders are taking over the long back pond? Do they care?

Thursday, four geese had an all out war over the front pond. On Friday, there were no geese there at all when I went past it. Saturday, there are two geese back in the front pond, and they are chasing a great blue heron away. Then, a few minutes later, they start honking like crazy, why, I couldn’t tell, but then they leave the pond after having just chased the heron away from it.

There’s a point to all this, actually several, but the one that I have been thinking about a lot is how different my observations of wildlife have become since I am “living” with the critters, seeing them on a daily basis, and I can identify at least some of them by sight to be able to keep track of who belongs where. Then, there is this blog, and keeping track of the goings on around here.

If you would have asked me just a few years ago if I knew about great blue herons, geese, or other birds, I would have answered “Sure”, but I would have been wrong. I knew what I had read in bird guides and a few other books. I knew habitat more than anything else. If you had asked me to find you a particular species of bird, I could have, because I did know which habitats each species was most likely to be found in, and, I knew what the bird’s diets were. I could identify most birds found around here by the way they move around, or by the way they fly, but I knew nothing, nothing at all about the way that they behave, or the way that they interact with other species, be those species other birds, or other types of wildlife.

Take the lowly mallard, there are a zillion of them in Michigan alone, or it seems that way at times. They communicate by quacking, right? Yes, and no. There’s hardly a day that goes by when I don’t hear mallards making sounds that I had no idea they made until I heard it. They quack, sure. But, they also peep, whistle, coo, along with a few others that I am forgetting right now. They have a very complex social structure, and sounds are just a part of the way they communicate, much of it is through body language as well as sounds.

It seems to be the same for most of the species of birds as I watch them. How little we know about them, or at least how little I have found by reading what I have read. Maybe there are studies that have been done on the complex social structures of birds that I am not aware of. And, it could be that the social structures of birds are changing as their populations increase.

It wasn’t that long ago that the numbers of almost all species of birds were still depressed, you didn’t see two male great blue herons in one small pond at the same time, or see them interacting with Canada geese, because there simply weren’t that many of them. As their numbers increase, competition for habitat increase, and interactions between members of the same, and of different species increase.

As this is getting quite long as it is, and since this is an ongoing series, I am going to end this here for now. I’m sure I will be coming back to this subject many times in the future. I have a couple of more posts that I want to get done, plus pack for kayaking tomorrow! Oh, and it was opening day of trout season today. I didn’t go, as you could probably tell, I never go for the opener. The weather is always bad, it seems as if every opener I can remember has been wet, cold, and windy. That, and I don’t like fighting crowds. Many of the people who go opening day may not go again until summer, I’ll be going before they return! That’s why I normally take one of the first two weeks of May off from work, but, not this year. Next year for sure!

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


Weekly Photo Challenge: Sun

I should be able to knock this one out of the park, since I love being out in the sun and taking photos. I think that the one of my photos that best represents this week’s challenge will surprise you though, but first, a few others that fit.

Sunlight playing on the raindrops of a fir tree.

Raindrops on a fir tree catching the sun

And, the sun shining through the leaves of a red maple tree.

The sun as seen through the leaves of a red maple

The sun shining through the feathers of a red-tailed hawk in flight.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

The sun shining on the back of the same hawk.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

I suppose that I have to throw in a few of the cliché shots that fit, like turtles sunning themselves.

Painted turtles basking in the sun

Or the sun shining through a dogwood blossom.

Dogwood blossom in the sun

But you haven’t been able to see the sun in any of these, so it’s time to get creative.

The sun's reflection in the eye of a mourning dove

The sun's reflection in the eye of a robin

Or, I could go really clichéd again.

The sun over a dandelion

Not great, maybe I should try that again.

The sun over a dandelion

But, the photo that I took yesterday that just screams sun to me is this one.

Young woman soaking up some sun on a cool morning

That wasn’t posed, I was “hunting” a gold-crowned kinglet in the brush along a creek, you can see the brush to the right in the frame, when I saw this young woman reading. When she looked up to let the sun shine on her face, well, I knew that one was the one.

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


My Week…Surrounded

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 April 8 to April 14, 2012

Sunday

The drought has ended, I knew throwing potato chip crumbs out on the balcony would do the trick and bring the rain we so badly needed! The rain began some time overnight, and continues on and off even as I type this at 10 A.M. When I first looked out the window, all I could see is that it had rained, as there were still raindrops streaking down the window, but when I looked again, I could see that the amount of greenery outside had nearly doubled from yesterday. That’s something that always amazes me, how quickly plants grow, especially after a rain. There have been times during spring rains when it seems that I could see leaves growing as I would survey the woods around me.

The rain is supposed to end soon, and the day become quite warm, how warm, no one is saying. You have to love it when the local meteorologists admit they aren’t sure exactly how warm it will get that day!

I think that a trip to Aman Park is in order today, to catch the wildflowers in bloom, hopefully. The forecast for next weekend is looking good, cool and sunny, so if that holds true, I will be headed for a day of kayaking in Ludington State Park. I’ll do the canoe trail and then make my way around the islands and bays to the north of the trail, as I really loved that area when I hiked it last fall. Right now, it’s time for breakfast and cooking for the week, be back later.

I’m back, and Aman Park was in full display today, the numbers of wildflowers has to be seen to be believed. I will do a separate post about my hike there, since it doesn’t really fit here. I will say this though, I loved being out and seeing all the wildflowers, however, I still was lacking motivation to photograph them for some reason. I’ll never get bored with flowers, but maybe I am bored with shooting them.

Monday

We received quite a bit of rain overnight, although by the looks of the creek behind my apartment, we could certainly use some more rain. I’ll know more about that once I have done my walk for the day.

One of the maples behind my apartment looks like it will fall over some time today, the winds are out of the west and gusting to around 40 M.P.H., and the tree is at more of an angle than I remember it being before. Luckily, if it falls, it will be across the creek and not into the building I live in. That will give the turkeys and squirrels another path across the creek. 🙂

All that wind is blowing in cooler air, after a high in the mid-seventies yesterday, the temperature is forecast to fall slowly all day long. So, it’s time to get out there and check it out for myself.

I’ve been out in some gales before, and this one is a good one! There were several times when the wind was strong enough to make walking difficult. Needless to say, I didn’t take many photos. Most of the wildlife was either laying low or being blown around so much by the wind that photography was close to impossible. When I did try shooting something, the wind make it hard for me to hold still. I did manage a few though.

Turkey chasing a mourning dove

Turkey chasing a mourning dove

And here’s another one of the reasons I love this place.

Turkey feeding while a squirrels scampers

That pattern continued at my next “stop”. I saw a white cup-shaped flower on a tree that I don’t ever recall having seen before.

Small white cup-shaped flower on a tree

As I was adjusting the settings on my camera to get that shot, I looked down to see this butterfly sunning itself.

Butterfly

And there was more of the same pattern back at the long back pond. I stopped to see if Mother Goose was on the nest, she was, but then this coot appeared out of the brush surrounding the pond.

American coot

The bad thing about the wind is that it is shredding the flowers from round two of the flowering trees, just as the flowers were beginning to open, sigh. Round two would have been the deep red flowers for the most part, with a few pink and white ones also, but there will be little left to photograph after this wind storm.

The temperature is falling, partly from cold air being blown in, and partly because the lake effect clouds are thickening up as the day goes on. I did see a tree limb come crashing down into the swamp with a big splash, but I was too slow on the draw to catch it falling.

The creeks and ponds are full again, that was good to see! There is more rain forecast for later this week, I hope that the forecast is correct for a change. That goes for the weekend as well, it is still looking good for a kayaking trip in Ludington State Park!

In the odd news of the day department, we have this, a tree eating a pine cone.

The rare pine cone eating tree

I stood there looking at this for several minutes, wondering how the pine cone got where it was, and why some one would put it there, if that was what had happened. Then, a stronger gust of wind came along, and explained everything to me.

During the strongest gusts of wind, the split in the tree would open up quite a bit more, and the cone must have fallen into the split during one of those times, higher up where the split was wider. Then, when the wind died down between gusts, the split would close back up, crushing the cone a little more with each cycle of gust and calm, with the cone moving down a little more each time as well.

I stood there and watched several cycles, a gust would come up, the split would open up more, the cone would drop a fraction of an inch, then the wind would die down, the tree would spring back crushing the cone a little more, it looked for all the world like the tree was eating the cone. Because the fibers of the cone were being crushed unevenly during the gust/calm cycles, the part of it not trapped in the split twisted and moved as if it were writhing in pain.

One of those odd moments in nature. I didn’t think about it at the time, but I should have removed the pine cone from the split, it is now acting as a wedge to split the tree further every time we have gusty winds. Oh well, the tree is doomed anyway, that split is way too large and close to the ground for the tree to survive as it is.

That’s all I have time for today.

Tuesday

The wind has subsided, thankfully. Blue skies have returned, and I am ready to go, so I’m going!

Wow! What a day. I am going to start with the good news, even though it happened at the end of my walk. I saw the injured fox squirrel today, at first, it didn’t look good. He was walking all hunched up, that’s never a good sign with animals. However, I watched him from a distance, and he seems to be healing up! The last time that I saw him, I thought that he had gone blind from the swelling around his eyes, but he was doing much better today. He was feeding on fallen maple leaves mostly, not moving well, but doing OK. I didn’t want to make his life any more difficult than it is already, so I didn’t try to get close to him. I did view him with the zoom lens of my camera, and most of the swelling to his face and neck, and in particular his eyes, has gone way down. For the first time since I saw that he was injured, I got the feeling that he is going to pull through!

OK, now, back to the start. A beautiful, although chilly start to my walk, I even considered stepping back inside and putting on something warmer, but I knew with the sunshine, it would warm up quickly enough, and it did.

I started by checking the new swamp for wood ducks, I heard them in the distance, but couldn’t see them. That’s OK, as long as they are sticking around. I did see and photograph the pair of gadwall ducks, but the photos aren’t the greatest, so I ‘ll try for some better ones. They may appear to be a dull brown, but at least the male has some interesting patterns to his plumage, the female may well have also, but she hangs back and I can’t get even a good photo of her to be able to tell.

While there, I shot this photo of a pretty yellow flower, but I don’t know what it is. It is from a low, bushy plant growing on the edge of the swamp.

Kerria Japonica

An update, thanks to Allen Norcross of the New Hampshire Gardening Solutions blog for identifying this flower for me. His blog is an excellent one, you should check it out!

Then, there was this goldfinch in a red maple tree.

American goldfinch

It’s not the best shot of the goldfinch, but I like the colors, although it didn’t come out as well as I had hoped. The dogwood and lilacs are still blooming.

Dogwood and lilacs

Boy, are they ever!

lilacs

Dogwood and lilacs

While I was there shooting the flowers, this robin stopped by to pose in the dogwood!

American robin singing from a dogwood tree

Now, if that shot doesn’t shout spring, I don’t know what would! Also while I was there, this chipping sparrow stopped by as well.

Chipping sparrow

I was hoping he would sing too, and he did, but not before he had moved to in front of a cloud.

Chipping sparrow singing

At the back pond, the kingfishers were both perched, I took some very bad photos of them I won’t bother to post, I actually got better shots of them flying.

Belted kingfishers in flight

Belted kingfishers in flight

Belted kingfisher in flight

I went all the way around the pond, hoping that they would return, or that I would be able to get close to the killdeer there, no luck on those counts. There were also several swallows flying around and over the pond, of course I tried for shots of them, no luck, they dart and change direction too quickly for me to keep up with them. I did just about get a good shot, but just as the auto-focus locked and I was about to shoot, a robin flew through the frame and caused the auto-focus to recycle. Isn’t that the way it goes sometimes?

I took a few more shots of the balsam fir cones since I received so many comments about them.

Balsam fir cone

Balsam fir cones

The wind yesterday knocked down quite a few branches, limbs, and even blew over a couple of trees in the wetter areas, but not the maple tree behind my apartment that I thought might go. It’s still standing, albeit at quite an angle.

A few of the flowers on the flowering trees managed to hang on during the wind.

Flowering crab

Flowering crab

Most of the flowers on the trees were shredded by the wind yesterday, it makes the ground look pretty underneath the trees with all the flower petals covering the ground, but they would have looked even better on the trees.

I’m going to end this one here, I want to save some time for myself, I have a complaint letter to write. The stupid manager here has the groundskeepers whacking down the brush so it can be turned into more lawn to be mowed and maintained. If that happens, the food, shelter, and habitat for some of the wildlife is going to be gone, and the wildlife with it. So, I am hoping a complaint letter to corporate put an end to that, we’ll see.

On to Wednesday.

Wednesday

I overslept this morning, so I am running way behind, as if I needed that. The weather outside looks pleasant, I know that it got quite cold overnight from the frost on the vehicles and mist rising from the ponds when I came home from work last night.

I am still planning on kayaking Ludington State Park this weekend, probably Sunday, as they are now predicting rain for Saturday.

I have also gotten both of my tax refunds, so I have some shopping to do one of these days, no hurry on that though. It will be good to have some new footwear for both work and play.

Since it is late already, I had better get moving, be back later.

Well, it was one of those days. It started when I was lacing up my shoes on the landing outside my apartment. Like most mornings lately, I could hear the phoebe in the woods across from me, very close to the edge of the woods. By the time I made it down the stairs, it was well back in the woods, and I have no idea how it knows that I am coming. That goes along with something else I have noticed, critters know what the beep of a camera obtaining a focus lock is. I can’t count the number of times I have had my camera on something, waiting for the auto-focus to do its thing, and as soon as the camera beeps at me to tell me to shoot, the critter is gone.

The phoebe goes out of its way to torment me. When I get close to the woods, no matter how far away from where the phoebe is singing, it stops singing. I’ll do my loop around the dead-end street I live on, then head south on the main street that also runs next to the woods. It’s about that time that the phoebe begins singing again, and even follows behind me as I go, but making sure that it stays well hidden back in the woods as it does so.

The other thing wildlife does to frustrate me is to gang up on me. Today, back on the edge of the new swamp, I shot one photo that has six species of wildlife in the frame at one time. Of course you need a magnifying glass to pick them out, so I’m not going to post it, but there were a pair of mallards swimming in the swamp, a blue jay getting a drink, a robin looking for a meal, a fox squirrel doing the same, a red winged blackbird singing from a bush on the back edge of the swamp, and what I think was a song sparrow also looking for food. Of course the mallards posed for me, I’m not going to bother with that one. I did get a photo of the blue jay.

Blue jay

Everything else got away. I moved slightly trying to get a clearer shot of the blue jay, and all of them except the mallards decided that it was a good time to go elsewhere. Oh, and that was all after having spooked off the wood ducks. I swear, they do nothing but sit there on the look out for me and stay just out of camera range, or behind vegetation. Wild wood ducks have to be the hardest critters to get close to that I have ever tried to photograph, bar none. They make the average whitetail deer look tame in comparison.

My bad action shot of the day is really bad.

Robin aerobatics

I have some better shots of the two of them going at it, some of them are even in focus, but that one is the one that shows just how good of fliers robins are.

Then there was the weather today, it was sunny to begin with as you may have been able to tell from the photo of the blue jay. That lasted only a short time, until about the time the phoebe began singing again to torment me. By then, the clouds were rolling in, it cooled off, and we even got a few light sprinkles of rain, enough for me to tuck the camera into my jacket to keep it dry. The clouds lasted until I was almost finished with my walk, now it’s a nice sunny day out there again.

The last photo of the day is of a female red winged blackbird taken at the front pond.

Female red winged blackbird

I have been trying to get a good photo of the female of the species without much success until today, that one will do.

I also saw a great blue heron fly over, very close to me, but with the clouds and sprinkles, no photos of it, the sharp shined hawk, the red-tailed hawk, or the gadwall ducks that I was close to at different times during my walk. The gadwalls are increasing in number, there has been just a pair of them around here, today, there was a small flock of six to eight.

That’s all I have time for today, on to Thursday.

Thursday

It is shaping up to be a repeat of yesterday, I slept in later than is my usual, and as I have been drinking my coffee this morning, the clouds have been thickening up. A quick check of the local weather shows a few showers moving towards the area, so I had better get moving!

I didn’t have the time to add a single word to this after my walk, but before work today. The sunny day only lasted a few minutes of my walk, then a light rain began to fall. As is often the case, a very light, warm rain seems to make wildlife more active, I think that birds love a little rain. They put on a few shows for me, the photos I took aren’t top-notch because of the lower light during the rain, but I think you will find them interesting enough to make up for the lack of quality.

I should start at the beginning, when I first stepped outside, for that’s part of the story from today. I always step off the stoop and pause, checking the weather, the number of birds singing when it’s that time of year, and getting a feel for the day. I don’t have a set routine for which direction I walk each day, sometimes clockwise, sometimes counter-clockwise, I go with my gut feeling for the day, and today, my gut told me to go clockwise, so I did.

The chances for good photos started right off the bat, as they often do, but I was a little slow on this one.

Female northern cardinal hiding her face behind a leaf

Just a short time later, I saw two turkeys coming my way, so I hid behind a convenient building waiting for them to get closer. The first turkey had just cleared the building when it stretched out its neck and let go of a gobble.

A turkey gobbling

The second turkey joined the first, and they did a double gobble.

Two turkeys gobbling at the same time

Wow, that was kind of cool, but I wasn’t ready for it. So, I stood there with the camera on the two turkeys waiting for them to both gobble at the same time again, and they would not do it, until my arms grew tired and I lowered the camera. At that instant, they both gobbled at the same time again. That game repeated itself several times, as long as I had the camera on the turkeys, they gave me the look….

Two turkeys giving me the look

…and as soon as I lowered the camera, they would both gobble at the same time again.

The light was fading as the clouds thickened, and I didn’t have the time to stand there and keep the turkeys amused by letting them torment me any longer.

I walked along the creek that runs across the front of the apartment complex, and heard a red bellied woodpecker in one of the few trees along the creek. I looked high and low for it, but never saw the one calling, but its mate soon joined it in that tree.

Red bellied woodpecker

I would have liked to have gotten a shot of the two of them together, but I didn’t see both of them at the same time until they were in the top of the tree too far away for a good photo.

Then, things got really interesting, as I approached the front pond. The pair of Canada geese that have claimed that pond as theirs were bathing and preening, not that unusual, but this time, it seemed different.

Canada geese bathing as a pie-billed grebe looks on

For one thing, there was a very little pie-billed grebe watching the geese intently, circling the geese as they went about their bathing.

Pie-billed grebe watching Canada geese

I have many photos of geese, but I don’t have a good one of a grebe, so I thought that this may be my chance to get one, so I stuck around, working my way closer to the birds. If the grebe hadn’t been there, I would have shot one or two bad photos of the water running off the geese’s backs as they bathed, like this one, and then been on my way.

Water running off from a goose's back

Then I noticed that this wasn’t just the typical geese being geese bathing and preening, they were getting romantic.

Canada goose mating rituals

Yup, you guessed it, goose porn!

Canada geese mating

Then, the celebration began!

Canada geese celebrating after mating

Canada geese celebrating after mating

And, the little grebe was still watching, just as intently as I was.

Pie-billed grebe watching a Canada goose celebrate after mating

Pie-billed grebe watching a Canada goose celebrate after mating

The gander sure was proud of himself!

Canada goose celebrate after mating

Canada goose celebrate after mating

Canada goose celebrate after mating

After the celebration was over, the geese retired to the edge of the pond to lounge, followed by the grebe.

Canada goose and pie-billed grebe

The gander let the grebe know just how close it was allowed to come.

Canada goose and pie-billed grebe

But, the grebe was determined to stick around anyway.

Canada goose and pie-billed grebe

As the geese continued to preen, the grebe got as close to them as they would allow, and began preening as well.

Canada goose and pie-billed grebe

Canada goose and pie-billed grebe

Canada goose and pie-billed grebe

What was that grebe up to?

Canada goose and pie-billed grebe

About that time, one of the male mallards that hang out in the front pond was feeling jealous because I hadn’t taken any photos of him yet today, so he swam over to insert himself into the story.

Male mallard

And, to make sure that he got his picture taken, took flight from right in front of the goose and grebe.

Male mallard taking flight

I wonder if that’s the same mallard that flew so close to my head that I could feel the air from his wings just a few days ago? That one landed in the front creek less than twenty feet from me, demanding I photograph him, which I did of course. There are a couple of the mallards around here that are complete hams for a camera, but that isn’t the story of the day, so I’ll save that one for a later time. Back to the grebe and the geese.

Canada goose and pie-billed grebe

Just what was the grebe up to? Did it think that it was going to mate with a goose, or was it just lonely and wanting to hang out with other birds? It sure stuck close to the geese until they walked up into the grass to lay down for a nap. Then the grebe swam around the pond by itself, and I left at that time. I am no expert on grebes and their behavior, I know that mallards like to hang out in flocks, maybe grebes do as well. Of course I have no way of knowing what was going through the mind of the grebe, but how close it stuck to the geese was interesting to say the least.

The male goldfinches have almost completely molted to their summer color.

Male American goldfinch

The male northern cardinals are still singing.

Male northern cardinal singing

Some of the flowering trees managed to hold on to their flowers during the windstorm the other day.

The scene around the pool on a wet spring day

The pair of geese in the center pond were enjoying the warm spring rain.

Canada geese in the rain

Then, for some reason, I can’t say why, I approached the long back pond by a route that I seldom use. For one thing, I have to pass very close to people’s apartments, and I try to give every one as much privacy as I would like to have, and the second reason is that on a sunny day, any shots I would take from there would be into the sun.

As I got near the pond, I could see a lone goose flying straight towards me as if it were going to land on the pond right in front of me. That would have made for some great photos, but I was looking through the branches of a weeping willow. I got the camera out of my jacket where it had been protected from the rain and prepared to photograph the goose as it landed, but it pulled up and banked to its left just as I was getting ready.

Canada goose in flight

It set its wings as if to land in the grass….

Canada goose about to land

…and did touchdown in a way…

Canada goose landing

…but it never really stopped…

Canada goose half running, half flying

…which I thought was unusual, so I kept shooting…

Canada goose about to be attacked

…and the reason the goose never stopped became very clear, for Father Goose came swooping in obviously intent on inflicting great mayhem upon the intruder to his territory…

Canada goose dogfight

…the intruder tried to escape the wrath of Father Goose by pulling up sharply, but in an amazing display of flying ability, Father Goose pulled up and cut inside the intruder’s planned escape route to deliver a vicious bite to the soft underside of the intruder…

Canada goose dogfight

…that move by Father Goose robbed him of the airspeed he needed to continue the fight and it gave the intruder a chance to escape…

Canada goose dogfight

…the intruder seized the opportunity, and dove to press his advantage in speed…

Canada goose in flight

…and Father Goose landed while continuing to let the intruder know that he had gotten off easy this time and that he had better never return again…

Father Goose proclaiming his territory

I walked around to the other end of the pond to check on how Mother Goose was doing, she’s still on the nest, how boring it must be to sit there 24/7 for a month in all weather extremes, waiting for the eggs to hatch. But, that’s a bird’s like. By that time Father Goose had taken up his usual position for guarding Mother Goose and the nest, and as soon as he saw me, he began swimming in my direction lest I get too close to his mate and her nest. I thought about how I would like to be able to let him know that if anything threatened her or the nest, that I would be joining him in protecting them, but that isn’t possible.

I also thought that if I were of a different nature, and wanted spectacular action shots of a goose, all I would have to do is wait until the light was just right, and then advance on the nest until he came after me. But, that isn’t my style. I stopped following a few blogs because of the way the authors went about getting good shots of wildlife, like releasing mice to attract owls up close, and things like that. I know, owls kill mice on a daily basis, or close to it, but I’m not going to turn loose tame mice that have no idea what’s in store for them out into the wild just to get a photo, no matter how spectacular the photo would be.

I’m not going to claim that my photos are all that great, I know better than that, but I think I do OK with the way that I go about getting the photos I do.  I don’t stake out the nests of birds, don’t bait animals, and try not to disturb any wildlife more than I absolutely have to.  OK, so I do check out Mother Goose nearly everyday, but I stick my head up above the berm just enough to see if she’s there or not, then leave. If she hadn’t nested where she had, I would actually walk farther in her direction than what I do, and spend more time there because I have a good view of the pond from that point. In a way, she’s cutting into the photos I could be getting if she hadn’t nested where she did.

I would like to think that nature rewards me for being the way that I am. People often remark about the shots that I do get, that they had never seen those things before as far as animal behavior. Some of that comes from how much time I spend outdoors, but as far as my being in the right place at the right time so often, I can’t explain that other than nature’s karma coming back in a good way.

That goes back to the beginning of today’s entry, going with my gut feeling as to which direction to go, which path to take when, and those types of things. If I had gone the other way around today and not walked a path that I normally don’t, I may have missed the two turkeys gobbling at the exact same time, the geese mating, the grebe watching them, and Father Goose warding off another gander. Is that all just pure dumb luck? I’d like to think that it wasn’t, but who knows for sure.

Anyway, I shot a few more photos later on, nothing worth posting except for these flowers which I haven’t had time to look up yet.

Purple wildflower

I was actually looking at a squirrel I saw sitting in a tree, trying to see if it was the injured fox squirrel or a different one, when I saw these flowers below the squirrel.

Purple wildflower

When I looked back up for the squirrel, it was gone.

That’s it for today, on to Friday.

Friday

Yesterday’s warm soft rain has given way to a cold hard rain, at least to start. When I first stepped outside, I had to listen for a few moments to detect the sound of a bird singing, that changed later during the day. I took very few photos, and I haven’t even downloaded them from the camera as of yet, they are mostly water drops on vegetation shots for the most part. I may add one or two here tonight when I get home from work, it depends on how they came out.

During my walk, the rain let up, and that gave way to a cold mist and light fog, so the camera stayed tucked inside my parka most of the time. What a difference, yesterday, it was so warm that a number of times I stepped under a car port when I was near one so I could unzip my light jacket to cool off, while still keeping my camera dry. Today, I wore my parka, and had no urge to unzip it.

Oh, one thing I forgot from yesterday, all the singing the phoebe has been doing has paid off! No, sorry, no phoebe porn, I was too slow, and they were too far away, but Mr. Phoebe has certainly attracted a Mrs. Phoebe!

What reminded me of that was how I was going to comment on how active the birds became today once the rain had let up. There was no need to listen hard to hear a bird’s song after that. At one point during the day, I thought that it would be a nice challenge to see how many photos I could get of robins with beaks full of grass and mud to build nests with, but the number would be so large that I would bore all of you with them anyway.

I watched the gold-crowned kinglet for a while, it seems to have taken up residence along the main creek through here, and as always, it was too quick, and in brush too thick for any kind of photo.

I know that this isn’t much for today, I spent so much time on yesterday’s entry that I am behind again. On to Saturday.

Saturday

Bright blue skies, and chilly! I had my doubts about this morning while I was coming home from work last night, it was still foggy then, but it has cleared up nicely. I haven’t decided if I am going to do one or two laps today, I have to prepare for the kayaking trip tomorrow, making sure that I have everything packed and picking up my boat from the storage unit I rent. One way or another, I had best get moving, as it is getting late. I woke up when I wanted to this morning, but my body and my brain had a debate as to whether I should get out of bed or not, and my body won, so I went back to sleep for an hour or so.

After completing my walk for the day, I am rethinking going kayaking tomorrow, it was a bit on the cool side, and Ludington will be even cooler yet since it is so much farther north, and on Lake Michigan. If I’m going to drive that far, I want it to be as close to perfect as I can get. Besides, there is more wildlife here at my apartment complex than I can handle anyway. I took 277 photos today, a lot of them bad, some are for the weekly challenge, and there will be at least a few posted here. Not only did I have to sort through all of them, I had to do some bird identification to make sure I saw what I thought I saw. Yup, one of those kinds of days. Oh, and I only did one lap, plus hung out in the new swamp for a while.

The day started out like any other day, a so-so shot of a goldfinch..

American goldfinch

…then played peek-a-boo with another one, and lost.

America goldfinch hiding

One of the red-tailed hawks flew over to give me my bad action shot of the day.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

The cute little pie-billed grebe was in the front pond, and I got a couple of good photos of him.

Pie-billed grebe

Pie-billed grebe

He is just so cute! And speaking of cute, the last couple days of rain must have been good duck weather, because suddenly, there are broods of ducklings following the female mallards all over the place.

Mama duck and her ducklings

I wanted a better shot of the ducklings, but mom was obviously upset with my being so close so I left after that one shot.

Mama duck and her ducklings number two

This mother should be a little more careful with her brood, because this was circling overhead.

Coopers hawk in flight

I felt bad after taking the next shot. I was standing on one of the bridges over the main creek, looking downstream, when I heard a quack echo from under the other side of the bridge, so I walked over and waited, and scared the crap out of this new mother as she led her ducklings out.

Mama duck and her ducklings number three

She began to take flight instinctively, then remembered her new brood, and landed before she really got off the water. I had no idea that it was going to be a female and her brood, and once the action started I shot from force of habit, I will be more careful now that I know that there are ducklings all over the place, no more playing games with the mallards until their young have been raised.

It hadn’t warmed up as much as I had expected it to, it was still quite cool, and a bit on the breezy side, but what a day, and it wasn’t even finished yet. Sunshine, and fresh air lightly scented with pine, honeysuckle, and lilacs, you couldn’t ask for anything better!

As I approached the new swamp, I thought that since I hadn’t been back in there for a few days, today would be a good day to follow the deer trail back in as far as I could go. I spent a long time back there, taking some not too good photos of hundreds or yellow-rumped warblers.

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

The warblers were everywhere, so many of them that I had a very difficult time trying to track one to get a shot of it, they were literally everywhere back in the woods. As a matter of fact, there were too many birds all together, for there were also robins, grackles, red-winged blackbirds, blue jays, chickadees, and that’s just a few of the small birds I saw, then there were the waterfowl. The warblers were hard to photograph because they never stop moving very long, they only paused until they heard the beep from my camera as it focused on them, then they flew off to their next stop before I could finish pressing the shutter. The ducks were like ghosts moving between the trees, which left me very little time to find an opening to shoot through, without making so much noise that I would have spooked them.

Wood duck

Wood duck

Canada goose

Male blue-winged teal

Male blue-winged teal

Assorted female ducks

First-year male hooded merganser

Canada geese

On top of all those, there were mallards swimming, flying, resting, and doing all the typical mallard stuff all around me, one of the red-tailed hawks flew over, and there were other birds or their shadows all around me all the time. Oh, and how could I forget the kingfishers, either flying over or perched in one of the trees. I was going crazy back there today, I couldn’t pick one target and stay with it, too many other things were distracting me! I would be waiting for one of the ducks to swim through an opening, and a warbler would land nearby. I’d try for a shot of it, then the shadow of a bird would pass over me. I’d try to ID it, and a duck would show itself for a second or two, what a terrible problem to have!

While I was back there, I got a better shot of one of the phoebe.

Eastern phoebe

And, here’s what the new swamp looks like in the largest clearing in it I have found so far.

The new swamp in my apartment complex

Looks like a swamp, doesn’t it?

I hate to end on that note, but this is already much longer than I would have liked. As always, thanks for stopping by, and I hope to see you again next week!


Aman Park, On the shores of the trillium seas

On Sunday, April 15th, I took a long hike in Aman Park to view the wildflowers in bloom there. I try to make there every spring, as the display of wildflowers really has to be seen in person to be appreciated, my photos will only hint at how beautiful it is there this time of year.

Redbuds blooming in Aman Park

I walked almost all the trails in the park today, and here’s a preview of things to come.

Trilliums

There aren’t many places along the trail where you can go more than a few feet without seeing some type of flower this time of year.

Dogwood

Mixed wildflowers

Trillium and trout lily

The back of a trout lily

White Virginia bluebells

Virginia bluebells

Virginia bluebells

Virginia bluebells

Periwinkle

Periwinkle

Trillium from behind

Buttercup

Redbud

Redbud

Wild phlox

Wild phlox

Spring Beauties

But the real stars of the show are the trilliums, acres and acres of trilliums!

Trilliums

Trilliums

Trilliums

Trillium

There are also large masses of Virginia bluebells as well.

Virginia bluebells

All those flowers attract many insects, unfortunately, this is the only butterfly I managed to shoot.

Admiral butterfly

There were a few other species of flowers there today as well, but the photos of them that I took didn’t come out well enough to post here, I was not on my game today as far as photography. If I have identified any of the flowers incorrectly, please let me know.

That’s it for this one, thank you for stopping by!


Weekly Photo Challenge: Two subjects

What a timely topic for me, as you will see. But where should I begin, I guess with this one of geese and fountains.

Canada geese and fountains

The fountains seemed to confuse the geese, they were looking underwater as if they were trying to figure out what made water spray upwards, rather than rain falling as they are used to.

Canada geese and fountain

OK, seriously, I have been attempting some shots this spring trying to catch birds as they perch in the flowering trees around here. My first attempt was OK, except the flowers had already bloomed.

American robin

My second attempt worked out a little better, a chickadee in a flowering crab, but the chickadee was too bashful to have its photo taken.

Black capped chickadee in a flowering crab

But you know me, I don’t give up easily. I talked the chickadee into posing for me.

Black capped chickadee in a flowering crab apple tree

That just made try that much harder, like these next two.

Flowering tree and American robin

Maybe it would look better with the robin in focus?

American robin and flowering tree

Not too bad, I can do better.

American goldfinch in a flowering crab

Come on little guy, turn your head towards the camera, please?

American goldfinch in a flowering crab

Good, but still not great, I need a break, maybe some turtles and a gadwall duck will cooperate better for me.

Painted turtles sunning as a gadwall duck swims past

Of course, I could just take the easy way out of this.

Maple flowers and bumblebee

Or this.

Morning cloak butterfly and flowers

But if I took the easy way out, then this post wouldn’t get the Three Butts Up seal of approval from the local mallards.

Three male mallard butts pointed skyward

That’s it for this one, hope you enjoyed it, and thanks for stopping by!


My Week…Drought

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 April 1 to April 7, 2012

Sunday

I know that last week I said that I was going to go somewhere other than around here this weekend, but I didn’t. For one thing, I had forgotten that it was Easter weekend this weekend. For another, I thought that it was about time to do my taxes. Yet another reason was the weather forecast, it was supposed to cloud over yesterday afternoon, with some rain overnight, lasting into this morning. That didn’t happen, we received a few sprinkles late last night, and when I got up this morning, I was greeted by bright blue cloudless skies. I woke up fairly late as well, so nothing went as planned.

As it was, I didn’t begin my walk today until nearly 1 P.M., much later than I normally start. I only did one lap as well, so I would have time to complete my taxes, which I am happy to say, have been completed. I considered doing another lap after my taxes were done, but the clouds predicted for yesterday afternoon showed up this afternoon instead. We could use some rain, after the thunder showers last week, the creeks ran high for a few hours, then, dropped back to about average.

The big story today was the wind, very strong out of the west, strong enough so that power lines were knocked down in several areas around here. The wind was so strong that it made any of my attempts to photograph the flowers around here useless, except for these Spring beauties, which grow so low the wind doesn’t cause them to move around as much.

Spring beauties

I spent some time poking around the back of the long back pond again, it’s tough going back there! The brush is so thick that in many places I couldn’t bust my way through, and in any of the openings, the briers, brambles, and other prickly plants made walking unpleasant. I did find large numbers of wildflowers that are about to bloom, but other than that, just more game trails.

I saw the first barn swallow of the spring, it will be great once they are back in numbers and filling the skies around here with their darting about.

Some of the oak trees are sprouting new growth, I was going to check to see if it was flowers or leaves, either way, it is really early for oaks to be sprouting any type of growth.

One of the other things of note today, a robin feeding on sumac.

American robin feeding on sumac

American robin feeding on sumac

This was interesting on several counts. You could tell that robins aren’t normally perching birds by the way it was having trouble staying on the sumac branch as it was swaying in the wind.

American robin feeding on sumac

Another was watching it try to find the last few edible seeds.

American robin feeding on sumac

American robin feeding on sumac

American robin feeding on sumac

Then, there’s the question of what was a robin doing feeding on sumac when they are known for feeding on earthworms? Well, I suppose that birds need to eat a balanced diet, just as we humans do, or should. And, sumac is used as a spice in some parts of the world, so it probably tastes good to the robins.

My string of bad luck when trying to photograph wood ducks continues.

Wood duck in flight

The wood duck was flying with a couple of mallards, and I didn’t identify it as a wood duck at first, when the light would have been better. And birds of a feather do not always flock together.

Male wood duck and mallard in flight together

Mallards seem to enjoy being around other birds, if the other birds are mallards, that’s fine by them, but I also see them “greeting” other waterfowl that land in the ponds, and I see time and time again how other species of ducks seem to “hide” in with a flock of mallards. Most of the time that is, this one seemed to want some “me” time all to itself.

Male mallard sunbathing

I’d be willing to bet that there was a female around close by, probably on her nest, but I didn’t go looking for her.

The last interesting thing of the day, I spotted the ghost of Byron Lakes here today. We have this weird ghost that only appears on windy days.

The Byron Lakes ghost flying over the trees

The ghost of Byron Lakes

OK, so it isn’t really a ghost, it was an escaped shopping bag, it sure looked like our ghost.

One more thing. If you’re ever in Prescott, Arizona, you’ll have to stop at the Aloha Grill, the best food anywhere!

I think that’s all for today, on to Monday.

Monday

It is nice and sunny outside right now, that’s predicted to change soon, with rain moving in by this afternoon, and sticking around most of the week. We can definitely use the rain, it is so dry around here that there have been numerous grass and brush fires this last weekend. The bad thing will be the wind, if it is like what they are predicting. I’m afraid that I’ll miss a few flowers that will bloom, then be blown apart by the wind before I get a chance to photograph them well. One day at a time I guess, right now, it’s time for breakfast and to get out there and take advantage of the sunshine while it lasts.

In a way, I am going to be sorry to see this glorious weather that we’ve had for the last week come to an end, but we need rain, badly.

To start the day, my bad action shot of the day.

Male mallard in flight

I thought that it had come out better than it did, I guess he was moving too fast for me.

A little farther on, I looked up to see a fox squirrel feeding on the fresh maple seeds of the year. I had the camera on him, debating whether to shoot or not, as the light wasn’t the best. When the squirrel slipped and nearly fell, my finger pressed the shutter release without thinking.

Fox squirrel nearly falling out of a tree

Once he recovered, he ran over to a safer spot and began eating maple seeds again. I have more shots of him chowing down, but I’m not going to post them. This poor guy was really beaten up. He was missing some patches of fur, one eye was swollen shut, the other eye wasn’t in much better shape, and he looked all swollen and bruised in other places, especially his face. I don’t know if he was hit by a car, quite possible the way the idiots drive around here. Or, if he had survived an attack by a predator, a fight with another male squirrel over territory, or what. Once I had a few shots to document his injuries, I left him be to hopefully heal up again.

I found these pretty yellow wildflowers blooming in the woods under the squirrel, I’m sorry, I just don’t have the time to look up what they are.

Yellow wildflowers

Yellow wildflower

I’m glad I found them early in my walk, as the wind was growing in strength all the time I was out there. Flower shots became nearly impossible because of the wind, and I even had trouble shooting pictures of birds as well. I did manage this one of a blue jay.

Blue jay

At that point, the battery of my Nikon went dead, my fault, I forgot to charge it last night. So I had to break out the trusty Canon and try for a better shot through the branches, without much luck.

Blue jay

The Canon does a darn good job when you can compare photos from it side by side with photos from the Nikon. I had already been thinking about the differences between the two of them, and how that has effected the way that I compose photos. With the Nikon, hardly anything is in focus due to its extremely narrow depth of field. With the Canon, everything is in focus, whether you want it to be or not, due to its extremely wide depth of field.

I should back up a little here, before the battery went dead, I managed a few good shots today.

Admiral butterfly

Red maple leaves

Lilacs

I was near the center pond when I heard the pair of geese there start honking in their very high-pitched, very agitated manner, and I wandered over to see what was going on. Another goose had landed there, and the two resident geese where chasing the intruder around the far side of the pond. I took photos, but stills are not good for depicting a chase, the photos make it look like three geese out for a stroll rather than a goose fight.

That made me wonder about something else though, there are a pair of geese in each of the three ponds here, but only one goose is nesting. Is it that the other geese are slower to nest, or what’s the deal with them? They appear to be mated pairs the way they act, and maybe the pair in the front pond is getting ready to nest, we’ll have to see. I wouldn’t have thought that there would be several weeks differences in the nesting times for the geese, but maybe there is.

On to Tuesday.

Tuesday

Well, no rain as they had forecast, instead, we’re getting snow. It isn’t sticking on the ground of course, but when I woke up, it looked as if I were looking into a snow globe when I looked out the window. It will be a winter parka with the camera tucked safely inside kind of day today.

I woke up later than normal as well, so I’m getting a late start on today as well, but better late than never!

That was lucky, by getting out there a little later than normal, I missed most of the snow, and as I was sorting through the few photos I took, the rain hit in earnest. It is hard to believe that just a month ago we were in the middle of a record-breaking heat wave with temperatures in the mid to upper 80’s. It was cold, windy, and snowy today, more like the middle of March should be than the middle of April.

Most of the animals were busy looking for food today, not surprising given the weather. I heard a few birds singing, but not many for example. This song sparrow perched on a branch long enough for one song.

Song sparrow

Then went back to looking for food to fuel his high rate of metabolism.

Song sparrow

The first of the honeysuckle blooms are beginning to appear.

Honeysuckle

As well as the first wild cherry so far that I have seen.

Blossom from a wild cherry tree

The clouds parted for a few minutes, I tried the impossible, getting a red-tailed hawk, crab apple blossoms, blue skies, and clouds all to show up in one shot.

Blue skies between squalls

As the next squall moved in, it cast an eerie light on things.

Snow/rain squall moving in

Following up on something from yesterday, I guess Mother and Father Goose in the long back pond did get a head start on most of the rest of the geese. I watched a territorial squabble in the center pond yesterday, saw a major gander fight last night while driving for work, and a Facebook friend has posted several photos of geese fighting in her area. I never knew geese to be so violent, the pair I saw from the truck last night got a running start at each other, then body slammed themselves into their opponent. If I had known what was coming, I would have stopped the truck, I just happened to have taken my point and shoot with me.

I guess it shouldn’t surprise me in the way geese fight, having inadvertently gotten too close to goose nests at times while paddling, I know that they use every available weapon they have to wage war on an intruder. They will slam into you, beat you with their wings, claw you with their feet, and bite you with their bill, which alone is enough to make you wish you had paid more attention in the first place.

To change the subject, here’s my rare find of the day.

Maple tree seeds on a spruce tree

OK, so the wind blew the maple seeds down and they stuck to the spruce tree, but it sure made me do a double take as I was walking past.

Not much else to say about today, because of the weather and my late start, I went much quicker than I normally do, which worked out well, I missed getting rained on.

On to Wednesday.

Wednesday

Another epic fail by the local weather forecasters this week. As late as Monday afternoon the predictions for this week were occasional rain and snow all week except for Friday. There isn’t a cloud in the sky as I look out my windows, and all mention of any type of precipitation has been removed from the updated forecasts. While it was cloudy most of the day yesterday, we received very little rain from the squalls as they passed over, and we really need the rain.

We are predicted to receive close to an inch of rain over the upcoming weekend, I hope that forecast pans out. That may sound funny, some one wishing for rain on a weekend, but I don’t care when it rains when we need it as badly as we do right now.

I spent far too long out there, for a number of reasons. I was talking to the groundskeepers for a while, they saw an egret in the front pond a few days ago, good news. Also, all the ash trees here are going to have to be cut done because they have become infested with the emerald ash borers, bad news. Last year they tried to have the ash trees treated, but it costs a small fortune per tree, and it only helped on a few of the trees, which isn’t unusual. So this year, corporate has decided that it would be better to cut all the ash trees down so as to try to halt the overall spread of the ash borers. All the dead and dying ash trees are home for the next generation of ash borers right now, so cutting the trees down and burning them will be about all any one could do.

I saw the injured fox squirrel again today, he’s looking really rough, I’m not sure if he’s going to make it, poor little guy. I won’t post photos of him, for some reason, it just doesn’t seem right. I’m not going to take advantage of his suffering that way. He was sunning himself today, the warm sunshine probably felt good to him.

I saw a double crested cormorant again today, flying overhead. Since they are black, they are hard to photograph, but I did shoot this “artsy” one.

Double crested cormorant

I’ll call that my bad action shot of the day and not bore you with any of the shots of one of the red-tailed hawks soaring overhead.

I also spent a lot of time chasing two chickadees around in one of the flowering trees. I have been trying to shoot photos of birds in with the flowers, but so far this year, I have struck out. The stupid chickadees would perch in a great spot, just long enough for my auto-focus to almost get a focus lock, then flit off before I could shoot. When they did sit still, it was in a bad spot where I couldn’t get the flowers in the frame at the same time. This is the best I could do today.

Black capped chickadee

I’ll keep on trying! 😉 I would like to get one something like this one…

Black capped chickadee

…but with some flowers, even if the flowers aren’t fully in focus. I’m not even fussy about the species of bird, I have tried several times to capture robins in the flowering trees, but they won’t cooperate any better than the chickadees.

The landscaping service was here today working on the lawns here, and it struck me just how much environmental damage we do in order to have neat, well manicured lawns in this country. I’m not saying we should give up lawns entirely, but in a place like this, much of the grass that they mow, fertilize, treat with herbicides, and all the other things that they use gas-powered equipment to do, could be planted in native plants which would improve conditions for the wildlife, and save hundreds of gallons of gasoline each year.

Thursday

Another bright blue day out there today, that’s supposed to last until tomorrow, then the rain is predicted to be heavy over the weekend. It got cold overnight, there was already frost on my vehicle at 1 A.M. when I finished work last night. What that means for round two of the flowering trees that were just about to bloom remains to be seen, I will check on that today, along with the lilacs that were just beginning to bloom. It’s been so nice to smell real lilacs rather than the heavy artificial lilac scents that manufacturers add to products, nothing like the real thing!

The phoebe that I have been trying to photograph is giving me a hard time. After its preferred maple limb fell, it hasn’t picked one branch on any tree to sing from, it moves around all the time now, and is often so far back in the woods that I am not able to spot it before it spots me.

I haven’t seen any wood ducks in the new swamp, I have heard them a few times though. That’s a tough spot too, for as I am trying to spot any wood ducks, I also have to be on the look out for the pair of flickers that are often feeding right on the edge of the swamp. There is also a small, sparrow-like bird that I have seen hunting the edge of the swamp that I have not gotten a good enough look at to identify yet. It is very good at keeping branches between itself and me as I try to take a photo of it, or get close enough to identify it.

I was about to write that I haven’t seen much going on outdoors as I look through the window while drinking my coffee, when I saw three ducks circling the woods across from me. They didn’t look like mallards, they weren’t, it was two male and a female wood duck, so I guess it is time to get moving!

The problem with my leaving earlier to walk is that I end up taking more photos, leaving me less time to work on this, and I could use a few more hours today.

First, some very sad news, I don’t think that the injured fox squirrel is going to pull through. If this were the old days when I walked out in the woods someplace and it were safe for me to do so, I would put the poor little guy out of his misery. As much as I dislike the idea of killing anything, seeing a critter suffer makes me even sadder, and he is suffering. It broke my heart to see him, and it put a damper on what otherwise would have been a great day.

Now, for the good news. I saw some wood ducks back in the new swamp, managed a few shots of them…

Wood ducks

Male wood duck

…as I was shooting those photos, I found a deer trail around the edge of the swamp, so I followed it trying to get a better shot of the wood ducks. I didn’t, instead, I found a pond or small lake that I didn’t know was back there! The deer trail took me along a narrow length of high ground between the pond and the swamp. In the pond were two different species of ducks that I have never seen here before, Pied-billed Grebes, and Gadwalls, along with mallards and Canada geese. The photo I got of the Pied-billed Grebe isn’t great, but it was good enough for me to make an identification. The male Gadwall was nice enough to pose with some painted turtles for me.

Male gadwall and painted turtles

The pair of red-tailed hawks showed up, I had a hard time getting photos of them through the trees, and one of them came even closer to me much later during my walk, so I post one of those photos later.

The biggest problem I had back there was how thick the brush was around the edges of both the pond and the swamp. I think that I am going to do something I have never done before and clear a few very small “shooting lanes” through the brush in places so I can sneak back there from time to time and photograph the waterfowl.

The hard freeze overnight has damaged some of the flowers around here, but it is hit and miss, which I’m not sure I understand. For example, there are two trees right next to each other of the same species, on one tree, all the flowers had obvious freeze damage, and the other tree showed very little. It does look like the lilacs took a major hit, again, I had already noticed that this years bloom was going to be subdued compared to last year.

Here’s the hawk photo that I promised earlier.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

I caught a few of the wild turkeys basking in the sunlight, something I have a hard time doing it seems. They tend to stick to the brush on nice days, and only come out into the open on dark, dreary days.

Turkey

That reminds me, this one is actually from a few days ago, I forgot to add it, it is the white rabbit that I have been chasing for several years.

Cottontail rabbit?

I don’t know if this is a hybrid, or partial albino, or why the rabbit is so white, but I have seen this same rabbit a few times over the years, and this is the best shot I have gotten of it.

I am going to throw in one more photo of the turkey, just because I can, and I like it.

Turkey

He sure looks mean, doesn’t he?

I’m sorry, that’s all I have time for today, on to Friday.

Friday

It is warming up, there’s a layer of high clouds overhead, and the meteorologists are backing off from their predictions of heavy rain for tomorrow. I guess I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to decide what I am going to do. If the weather is nice, I will go to Aman Park to photograph the awesome display of wildflowers that bloom there. I have to get through today first, so off I go!

Once again, I spent way too much time taking photos, and left myself short of time to work on this. It’s been a struggle since I have started trying to do this series. The critters keep doing things I want to photograph.

Rooftop geese

Silly goose

Silly goose dive bombing me for calling it silly

That last one was with no cropping at all, that’s how close the goose was to me at that time, I did get one more of it even closer, but the auto-focus couldn’t keep up with how fast the goose was coming at me, so the photo is out of focus.

And, that all goes along with my thoughts I was thinking today, I am having a hard time getting motivated about taking pictures of flowers. The last two springs I took thousands of photos of flowers, and while the flowers this year are very good, they pale in comparison to the displays the trees and bushes put on in previous years.

That, and my current equipment, just a 70-300 mm lens, isn’t very well suited for photos of flowers. I really need a macro lens, or at least a lens that will focus closer than my current lens. The past two years, I used my Canon point and shoot which works well, but, because of the depth of field difference, using the Canon after the Nikon DSLR is like having to learn all over again.

Then, there are the other blogs that I follow. They seem to fall into two categories, one is people who take much better photos of flowers than I could ever hope to take, mostly because they have the proper equipment for it. The other category is bloggers who are very well-educated as to the identities of the various wildflowers and they are far better educated than I am, so what I would post would be lacking.

That brings up an interesting dichotomy that happens often to me, both in real life and through this blog. I will take a photo of a wildflower or other interesting plant and I don’t have a clue as to what it is. Some one will identify it and say something to the effect that those plants are rather rare, and ask where I found them. I thank them for identifying the plant in question, then say that those plants aren’t rare to me, I see them all the time at such and such a place. To me, it has always been the finding that has been the most important aspect of being out in nature, correct scientific names has always been secondary, a huge failing on my part.

There’s only one reason for me not to have looked up and identified things before, laziness. Well, laziness and time constraints, for spending hours trying to identify something cuts into my limited time for finding.

There is yet one more reason I haven’t shot as many flower photos this spring as I normally would, and that is my current “quest” to take an excellent photo of every species of wildlife that I possibly can. Getting an excellent photo over just a very good photo takes time. For example, I spotted a male cardinal singing from the top of a tree today.

Male northern cardinal

I think that many people would be happy with that shot, but there’s a branch behind the cardinal’s head that looks like it is going through the cardinal’s head, so I started moving around to find an angle to shoot from that would give me exactly the shot I wanted. Every time I moved, so did the cardinal.

Male northern cardinal

No more branch through the head, but now there were shadows preventing this from being an excellent shot. And so it went, I would move, the cardinal would move, and there would always be something in the 25 or so photos I took of him that kept them from being what I wanted. Not only did taking the photos consume a lot of time, then, I have to go through those photos and analyze them, sort them, delete the ones I don’t like, and so on. Oh, and no, I didn’t get the perfect photo of a male cardinal singing, so I will have to try again.

As the photos I have saved on my computer improve, my criteria for judging them becomes more discriminating. I would have been very happy with the last cardinal photo, last year. This year, I want better! Every time I take a picture that is an improvement over what I already have, it raises the bar yet another notch, making it even tougher to do better than that in the future. Getting the next better shot then requires even more time and effort.

Then there are fun photos of wildlife doing things that you don’t see everyday, like geese on the roof of an apartment building. I knew that those photos weren’t going to fit my quest for the perfect photo of a goose, but I took them anyway because they tell a story.

And this quest for perfect wildlife photos doesn’t leave me with enough time to view hundreds of individual flowers looking for just the right one with just the right lighting to make a great flower photo. Every once in a while though, one jumps out at me, like this one.

Flowering crab apple

And I haven’t even touched on other things in nature that I see and photograph, like this.

Balsam fir cone

I guess that technically, that could be considered a flower in a way. So many things to photograph, so little time. There are times when I wonder if I should narrow my focus to just birds, or just mammals, or just flowers, but that’s not me. I photograph what catches my eye, be it animal, vegetable, or mineral. When I post those photos either here or on a social media site, I find that people have never seen these things before, like balsam fir cone above. And here’s a little secret, I had to look up to see that the photo above was a balsam fir, something I knew once upon a time.

Maybe I spend too much time outdoors, for after a while, some of the identifications I used to be able to make don’t seem to be that important, or they didn’t until I began this blog. Now I really should be able to identify what is in the photos I post here.

In a conversation I am having with Allen from the New Hampshire Gardening Solutions blog along these lines, I said that I have become like an animal, very aware of my surroundings, but don’t have a clue as to the exact names of what the things surrounding me are. By that, I mean that I know exactly where the trees are, where the wildlife lives, and how to use the trees and the lay of the land to sneak up close to the wildlife, but it doesn’t make much of a difference if the tree I use for cover is a pine, fir, or spruce, as long as it blocks the view of wildlife as I stalk it. I guess that’s partly mental laziness as well, not bothering to remember.

Anyway, that’s enough of that, at least for the time being. On to Saturday.

Saturday

Why do I bother with weather forecasts? It is cloudy, and warmer than it has been, but now the forecast is for just a slight chance of rain today, with the heavy rain coming tonight. Tomorrow may turn out nicer than they were predicting as well. We’ll see. We could really use rain, lots of it. The creeks are drying up, they look like they do in late August, and it’s only the middle of April. I think I’ll do my rain dance when I go for my walk.

The rain dance hasn’t worked so far, still no rain. So, I dumped the end of a bag of potato chips out on my balcony for the birds, that usually brings the rain.

I got back to my apartment, plugged my camera in to the computer and thought to myself, how the heck did you manage to shoot 177 pictures on a day like today? I started the day bumping the ISO on my camera up to 400, and I should have gone to 800 at the start of my walk. I took a few pictures of the wood ducks in the new swamp, not one came out worth saving, not enough light, they were too far away, and too much brush in the way. They sure are skittish birds!

I also took a few more of the gadwalls in the pond I discovered, none of those came out well either. Not a good day for photography, so I did a little more exploring back in the woods between the swamp and the pond, and discovered old signs of beaver activity!

A tree that was felled by beavers

At first, I thought that humans had cut down the trees, but I saw unmistakable teeth marks from beavers on the trees. Could it be that the new swamp is a beaver pond? I thought about trying to find the spot on the creek where the water is being dammed up, but since I had already chased the wood ducks once already, I thought it best to let them rest for a day or two before I go crashing around back in there again.

It is an interesting area back there, even if there isn’t much solid ground to walk on. I found many species of mushrooms and other fungi as you would expect.

Fungus

As thick as it is back there now, by the time summer gets here, it will be almost impossible to see anything in either the swamp or the pond then.

As I approached the back pond, there was still now waterfowl or wading birds there, but there were flocks of different species of songbirds feeding in the grass around the pond, more than I can remember having seen there before. There were robins, starlings, grackles, several species of sparrows, several species of finches, and cardinals , just to name a few, all in the grass or brush around the edge of the pond. I also spotted a flicker and began shooting, even though I doubted that what I was getting would be worth posting, and they weren’t, but another flicker landed in a bush closer to e and I was able to get a few good shots of it.

Northern flicker

If only the bush behind it wasn’t giving it “rabbit ears”! Here’s another.

Northern flicker blinking

As you can see, they are quite bashful around a camera, which may explain why I have had such a hard time getting even a good photo of them. 😉

Something interesting happened at the center pond while I was there, two male mallards started one of the little fights over a female.

Male mallard chasing another

Nothing unusual about that, right? It happens all the time, except that today, the gander in the pond broke up the fight.

Canada goose breaking up a mallard fight

I can’t say that I have ever seen that before. Maybe the goose is buddies with the mallard that was being chased or something, all I know is that the gander purposely swam over to intercept the fight while it was in progress. Of course, as soon as the gander rejoined his mate, the mallards went back at it again.

Mallards fighting again

Mother goose is still on her nest by the long back pond, it shouldn’t be too much longer before the eggs begin to hatch.

Here’s a humorous shot from today.

Fox squirrel

That’s not the injured fox squirrel, I didn’t see him today. I did see it yesterday as I left for work, not good, that’s all I am going to say.

For my bad action shot of the day, I could use one of many of the mallards chasing each other around the pond, either in the water or while flying, but I have posted enough of those, so here’s a couple of robins going at it.

Robins fighting over territory

For the first appearance of the year by a reptile, the award goes to this garter snake.

Garter snake

Or are turtles considered reptiles? In that case, the snake loses to the turtles I have already posted pictures of. OK, so the snake wins the award for first appearance by a reptile with no legs.

And to wrap this week up, A photo from yesterday. I broke out the Canon and used it for this shot of a crab apple blossom.

Crab apple blossom

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


The scent of spring continued

During the last week, I have taken many flower photos that I didn’t include in my weekly journal, so here’s another photo dump of flower photos.

Dutchman's breeches

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Tulip

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Tulips

Tulip

Tulip

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

Flowering tree

And for Easter Sunday, a dogwood, why? Does anyone know the religious story about the dogwood? It’s beautiful.

  • The Cross
    Respresented by the four “petals” (bracts) of many dogwood flowers which form a cross.• The Nails
    The “petals” often have marks on the outer edge said to be nail marks.

    • The Crown of Thorns
    The centre of the flower can sometimes resemble a crown.

    • The Blood
    The red dogwood berries are said to represent the blood of Christ.

    Dogwood

    Happy Easter to every one, He is risen.

    Thanks for stopping by!


The Weekly Photo Challenge: Journey

I’ll bet you already know where I’m going with this one, don’t you? Since the challenge this week is “Journey”, it could only be one thing for me, that’s right….

Coopers hawk in flight

…birds in flight.

Migrating birds make some of the most incredible, and longest journeys, other than man. I believe that the arctic tern holds the “record” for the longest migration, 25,000 miles (40,000 Km) of any animal. There may be some species of whales that come close to that, but I don’t have any photos of whales, or arctic terns for that matter, but I do have many photos of birds in flight.

Sandhill crane in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Canada geese in flight

Canada geese in flight

The birds seem to do quite well on their own, but I would like to offer them a couple of tips based on some things that I have observed. First, you’ll find your journey much easier if you let go of the branch you were perched on before you decided to go on your journey.

Black capped chickadee

And secondly, if you’re needing a little motivation to get you started on your journey, there’s nothing like having some one trying to bite your butt and remove a few of your tail feathers to get you on your way!

Mallard taking flight

Mallards taking flight

So, to all you birds out there, it doesn’t matter if your journey is just a quick lap around a pond…

Mallards in flight

…or if your journey never seems to end…

Herring gull in flight

…I’m wishing for safe and soft landings….

Great blue heron landing

…for all of you.

That’s it for this little journey into my somewhat warped sense of humor, thanks for stopping by!