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

Archive for May, 2012

Muskegon Wastewater treatment facility, drive-by birding

On Sunday, May 27th, I went to the Muskegon wastewater treatment facility for a day of birding. OK, so who goes to a wastewater treatment facility to do some birding? Apparently, quite a few people do, as the Muskegon County wastewater facility is well-known among birders as being a great spot to go. There are even several websites devoted to birding there. That’s where I went this past winter to get photos of the snowy owls that had come south out of Canada. You can see photos of the owl, and learn more about birding at the facility, including info on obtaining a pass by clicking this link to my previous post about the facility.

As so often happens, I went there to attempt to photograph a couple of specific species of birds, in this case eagles and kestrels, but came away with out photos of them, but of many other species instead. I saw both of the species I went there for, but never close enough to even attempt a photo. But, I do love it when I get back from one of these trips and have to do some bird identifications before I can post something here. And, I love it when I come back with a personal best photo of a subject!

Now then, as for why I included “drive-by birding” in the title of this post. For one thing, that seems to be the way that every one else goes about it there at the facility. I noticed that the first time I was there, except for with the snowy owl, every one drives very slowly along the roads in the facility, using binoculars and spotting scopes to view the birds. On my previous visit, I thought that it was because of the bone chilling wind, and at first during the trip yesterday, I thought that it was because of the heat. I don’t think the weather has anything to do with it, it is because of the birds and the lay out of the facility.

When I arrived there yesterday, I drove to the place where I wanted to start looking for birds, parked my vehicle, and began walking, despite the heat. That didn’t work very well at all. Except for the turkey vultures that came over to investigate me….

Turkey vulture in flight

…and this young red-breasted merganser that didn’t know any better…

Horned grebe

… the rest of the birds were long gone before I could get them within camera range, or I should say within range of a good photo.

A mixed flock of ducks

A mixed flock of ducks

I walked the entire half mile down one side of the man-made lake, and it was like the parting of the Red Sea as I went along. All the ducks in the previous two photos were on, or close to shore to begin with, but as I got closer, they headed out into the lake. Once I had passed them, they returned to shore.

OK, this isn’t working, there’s no place for me to hide, no cover at all on top of the berm that contains the lake, I’ll have to try something different, I thought to myself. So I walked back to my vehicle, chasing the ducks away from shore on my return trek, but with a difference. I caught this little fawn in all its cuteness on the other side of the berm.

Whitetail fawn

Whitetail fawn

Those are my best photos of a fawn, ever, so I was very happy about that!

I made it back to my vehicle, drove about half way down the end of the lake, and tried again, same result, the birds all swam or flew away before I could get good photos. But, I could see other vehicles parked on the road with ducks staying right on shore for the people in those vehicles.

I may be dense, but not so dense as to see that the birds are used to cars driving slowly along the road, but not used to people walking, so I did what every one else does, drove slowly along the road.

Male northern shoveler

Female northern shoveler

Male northern shoveler

Female northern shoveler

Male gadwall duck in flight

A pair of gadwall ducks

Spotted sandpiper

Spotted sandpiper

This seems to be working much better! What else can I photograph from my vehicle?

Spotted sandpiper in flight

Tree swallow

Horned grebe diving

Red-tailed hawk

Sure glad my vehicle has a sunroof to make some of these shots possible!

Killdeer

Since we’re on deer…

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer

Whitetail deer fawn sleeping

Whitetail deer

It quite surprised me how many deer I was seeing out in the open during the middle of a very hot afternoon, the place is crawling with them!

Herring gulls by the thousands!

But even the number of deer paled in comparison to the number of gulls!

Herring gull in flight

Herring gull in flight

It isn’t just the waterfowl, wading birds, gulls, or deer that you’ll see if you visit the facility, there are far too many other species to list, or post photos of.

I saw, but didn’t get good photos of, meadowlark, both eastern and western, indigo buntings, eastern kingbirds by the hundreds, bluebirds, orioles, grosbeaks (both rose breasted and evening), and far too many others to even list. But that’s not all.

There are plots planted with lupines and other flowers for the endangered Karner blue butterflies, so there are the flowers to photograph as well.

Wild lupine

Yellow wildflower

Wildflower

I didn’t catch any of the karner blues, by then it was late afternoon/early evening, and I didn’t have any eagle pictures yet. There is a trail (road) that runs around the northern border of the wastewater facility, in a more wooded area as opposed to the southern part which is the man-made lakes and open farmed fields that I spent some time both driving and walking, I need to go back and walk most or all of it. There’s cover there for me to do my birding in my usual way. 😉

But, since I didn’t have any eagle photos, and I know that I’ll be back there again, I’ll try for the karner blues another time. Instead, I headed a few short miles west to Muskegon State Park, one of my favorite places close to home., and one of the best places to get eagle photos in lower Michigan.

I went to the eagle nest that I know about, and staked it out for a good hour or more, but never saw either of the parents return to the nest. I did manage a few no so good photos of the young ones though.

Eaglets in their nest

Eaglet in its nest

Eaglet in its nest

In a way, I’m jealous of those people who are able to photograph eagles that build their nests on platforms out in the open where the photographers can get spectacular shot of the eagles. On the other hand, it’s nice to see native eagles nesting in real trees again! Even if the nests are messy things in bad locations for photographers like me.

One other thing to note here, I found a fern flower!

Fern flower

Yes, I know, true ferns don’t produce flowers, they reproduce by spores. What I don’t know is if this was part of a real fern that produces the spores, or if this was a fern look a like that was flowering. I did try to look it up, but didn’t find the answer, besides, finding a fern flower is supposed to bring the person finding it luck, and I need all the luck I can get.

If you hadn’t noticed, I had to use the flash to get that photo, as it was getting dark by that time. I spent the entire day there in the Muskegon area, the lion’s share at the wastewater treatment facility, and yet, I feel as if I have just scratched the surface. I can’t say that I am a huge fan of birding while driving, but you have to do what you have to do to get the photos. I will be going back, there’s still too many birds left there for me to photograph for me not to go back.

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


It’s good to be goose

This last week I got to see something that was both very humorous, and heartwarming at the same time. All the geese from the neighborhood ended up in the same pond at the same time. Up until this day, that would have meant that fights would have broken out as the geese fought each other to claim the pond as their territory. Today was different.

It all started when the young from a brood of three began diving underwater.

Canada geese playing

Canada geese playing

All the goslings would dive underwater. Then, they would surface, get together, and either talk about what they had seen underwater, or challenge the others to stay under as long as they had.

Canada geese playing

Canada geese playing

Canada geese playing

Then, those three goslings began racing each other across the pond.

Canada geese playing

The rest of the goslings there thought that what the first three were doing looked like so much fun, all of them joined in.

Canada geese playing

They were splashing one another.

Canada geese playing

Then, they would all get together in a tight group…

Canada geese playing

…then all dive at about the same time.

Canada geese playing

Canada geese playing

Once they popped back up, they would all go racing back to mom.

Canada geese playing

And soon, mom and dad joined in on the games as well.

Canada geese playing

It looked as if the parents were playing hide and seek with the kids, as the adults would wait until all the goslings were underwater, then dive themselves. When the goslings would resurface, the parents would be under, causing the goslings to scurry around trying to find their parents again.

Canada geese playing

The adults even joined in on the races.

Canada geese playing

Canada geese playing

They were having great fun, rolling, splashing, and carrying on.

Canada geese playing

Even the geese without any young got in on the fun.

Canada geese playing

Canada geese playing

Canada geese playing

Canada geese playing

Canada geese playing

This all went of for quite some time, and I couldn’t decide if I should zoom in on one goose to catch its antics, or to pan out and try to show the scope of what was going on. There were close to 50 geese there all together, spread out over close to two acres of water I would estimate, and I’m afraid that my photos didn’t do a very good job of either.

It was fun to watch, as the geese were definitely enjoying themselves. As the goslings spread out among the geese without any young, they would join in with the goslings and their parents. They were all having so much fun that I wanted to join in, but I don’t think that would have gone over well with the geese.

Of course scientifically, all that playing is important for the goslings in developing their muscles and motor skills needed as they grow up, but that doesn’t apply to the adults. Sometime you just have to act like a kid again and have some fun whether you’re a goose or a human.

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


My Week…Summer arrives

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. You can click on any of the photos to get a larger view of them.

This post covers the week from May 20 to May 26, 2012

Sunday

I should have known. The way that the heat hit me yesterday, I slept much longer than I had hoped to, and it is already later than I would like if I were to do a trip to Muskegon. That’s OK, the Memorial Day weekend is forecast to be very hot as well, so I will make the Muskegon trip then.

Besides, I am behind on some things that I have to do around the apartment, so I may very well not even go for a walk today. If I do, it will be in the evening when it has started to cool off at least a little. It also gives me a chance to touch on some things here that I have wanted to say but I haven’t had the time to get to.

One, I am continuing to lose weight! How much weight, I’m not sure, there aren’t many scales heavy-duty enough to weigh me. The industrial scale at work would do the trick, and it’s what I’m going by, but like everything else there, it doesn’t work that well. If I step on that scale three times, it comes up with three different readings. But, I know that I am losing weight because I have dropped over a full size in the last couple of months.

Why am I mentioning this? Because it seems that there are many of us trying to shed a few pounds. I’m not going to claim to be a weight-loss expert, but I do know what works for me, and what doesn’t work.

You can’t starve yourself skinny, at least I can’t. When I started driving truck over the road, I tried to just cut back on how much I ate to compensate for my lack of exercise, it didn’t work. When I began really trying to lose the excess weight I had gained, I ate almost nothing, and that didn’t help. I was tired and run down all the time, and still fat. People told me that my metabolism was adjusting to make up for the lack of food I was eating, I guess that was true.

So, how did I begin losing weight? I started eating again, more specifically, I began eating my own cooking most of the time. What’s funny about that is that I’m not a health nut when it comes to what I cook.

The first thing that I noticed was that I had more energy, the bounce has returned to my step, and it isn’t from all the flab flapping around either. When I am making breakfast in preparation to go for my daily walks, I find myself stretching and doing isometrics while I’m waiting for the food to get done. I find it very difficult to sit still anymore, I want to be moving.

At work, while I’m driving, I am bouncing around inside the cab of the truck, literally. Trucks have an air-ride seat, and they work really well for bouncing, almost like a trampoline. 🙂 When I’m sitting at the computer trying to type things like this, I get up and take a stroll through the apartment every once in a while to help burn off the excess energy that I have. And that’s the real key to weight loss in my opinion, burning off the excess energy through movement before it turns to fat.

It helps that I don’t watch TV, it has been several years now since I last turned on my TV. The downside of that is that I find it hard to carry on a conversation with most people, as their lives’ center around what they watch on the boob tube. I have never seen any of the shows that other people talk about, do I feel left out? Hardly. I may not have much of a life at this time, but at least it’s my life that I’m living and not the life of some asinine made for TV reality “star” life.

So, if you want to lose weight, I think there are only a few things that you need to do. There is no magic bullet, no one thing to eat or not eat, but there are a few things that seem to always hold true. One, stop eating empty calories. Sugar is sugar, whether it comes from sugar cane, sugar beets, or high fructose corn syrup. The current fad is to blame high fructose corn syrup for everything, but it makes no difference what the source of empty calories is, only that they are empty calories.

Beef is not to blame either, since I have been cooking for myself most of the time, I have added more beef to my diet and have been losing weight. Neither is it carbs like potatoes for example, they are another thing that I am eating more of since I have been eating my own cooking. In fact, what I cook for myself would have the food nazis all up in arms.

That brings us to the dreaded word, exercise. You don’t need to sign up at a gym and work out for a few weeks until you get tired of it and stop going. It is much easier than that, all you have to do is move more than you are already. Find something that you enjoy doing that involves moving, and do it.

When I was gaining weight, it surprised me that I was. After all, on my weekends I would go hiking or kayaking nearly every weekend. But, that was the problem, I was only moving on weekends, the rest of the week I was sitting inside of a truck for 14 hours a day, then, too tired to do anything but crawl back in the sleeper berth and sleep. But, part of the reason I was so tired is that I had tried to stop eating. Looking back, what I should have been doing is going for a walk when I finished my day, but I didn’t.

Find something that you enjoy doing, and do it, everyday. It doesn’t have to be strenuous like jogging or lifting weights. For me, it’s my daily walks around the apartment complex, and I take my time while I am walking to watch the wildlife and take photos of them. Anything that gets your butt up off the couch and gets you moving will work, even housework. That’s actually very good exercise in fact.  That’s what I am doing today between bursts of typing this.

In fact, I couldn’t stand sitting around the apartment, even though I still have things to do. I went for a walk despite the heat. How hot was it? Hot enough to make a goose pant.

Canada goose

Following up on something from last week, about birds panting in the heat in much the same way that dogs do to try to keep cool in the heat. I hadn’t known until last week that scientists had actually studied the panting of birds, it was something that I had observed and sort of joked about. That goose was definitely panting.

And since I am on geese, even though I saw this about halfway through my walk, check this out!

A flock of Canada geese relaxing

That’s at the long back pond, where during the middle of last week Father Goose beat the tar out of several other geese for  stopping off at “his” pond. Today, there were 14 geese there, but not Father Goose and family. He wasn’t there today, I last saw him, the wife, and kids headed west a day or two ago, no doubt on their way to harass the home owners in the subdivision there by crapping all over the lawns there. All six of the kids were alive and doing fine, and I know they will return one of these days.

In a sick way, I would have liked to have seen what would have happened if Father Goose had returned today, to see all those intruders taking over his pond. Would he have challenged all those other geese? Would they have ganged up on him?

Canada goose relaxing

I threw that last one in because I could. 😉

Now, back to the beginning. As I was approaching the new swamp, I heard the croak of a heron, and decided that today was as bad as any to see what was going on back in there. I haven’t mentioned the new swamp in a while, it’s dark, grown over, full of mosquitoes, and the smell isn’t very pleasant either. I did manage to catch a glimpse of a green heron as it flew off. The swamp is nearly impossible as far as photography is concerned. In the fist place, with the tree canopy covering it, it is dark. Secondly, because it is a new swamp, most of the smaller trees and bushes are still alive and have leafed out, meaning it is hard to see more than a few feet in any direction. But, the rotting vegetation from the leaf litter and plants that have died since the swamp formed last summer makes a trip back there rather unpleasant this time of year.

Then there are the mallards, dozens of them. Males, females, and ducklings, and they all act as an early warning system for any other wildlife back in there.

The wood ducks are still here, but getting a photo is close to impossible right now. I know, I can start a new game, try to find the brilliantly colored waterfowl hiding in this picture.

A male wood duck hiding in the brush

A male wood duck hiding in the brush

The wood ducks are such beautiful birds, and so very good at avoiding the lens of my camera. It doesn’t help when they have mallard bodyguards as well. It is so frustrating to see the flashes of colors of the wood ducks, and not to be able to get a clear shot of one!

Also a carry over from last week, the flocks of goldfinches. I found out today why there are dozens of the goldfinches in some of the trees right now, it because the seeds of those trees are so tasty to goldfinches.

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

Those are the seeds of a river birch that the goldfinch was feasting on, along with many of its closest friends.

At the back pond, a young kingfisher.

Young belted kingfisher

On my way around the pond in an attempt to get a better photo, I caught this guy trying to fly through a chain link fence.

Unidentified trying to fly flycatcher

Also, this mushroom.

Mushroom

And, these miniature azaleas.

Miniature azaleas

I think that’s what they are, the plants and leaves look like azalea plants, even though the flowers are only about an inch across. The kingfisher was still there when I had made it all the way around the pond.

Young belted kingfisher

Young belted kingfisher

I’m not sure, but it looked to me as if the kingfisher had gotten its feathers wet, and couldn’t fly. It did try one take-off, which landed it back in the water again, so I left as quickly as I could so that it would have time to dry its feathers for the flight back home.

It was a rather quiet day, I think that most of the wildlife other than the goldfinches were resting in the coolest spot that they could find. That takes me back to the new swamp, it was cooler there, much cooler than any other place I went today. If it hadn’t been for the smell, it would have made a great place to hang out on a day like today. I’ve already done a post on micro-climates, so I’m not going to rehash that now, but I wanted to go back to the swamp anyway, as I had forgotten about this wildflower I found there.

White wildflower

I have been trying to learn to identify wildflowers, I really have, with the help of some of my fellow bloggers, but just when I think that I can make a positive ID, I notice a subtle difference between what I have seen in other people’s blogs, and the flower that I see, and it turns out to be a different species than I thought it was.

That’s it for today, on to Monday, when storms are forecast to cool it off for a day or two.

Monday

The storms came last evening, and they did cool it down, a lot. It was so nice to turn off the AC and open the windows and let the cool, rain-scented air into the apartment! I slept like a log.

Now it’s time to start a new week, it is still cloudy and cool outside, I have been listening to the birds singing as I have been drinking my coffee, a lovely morning even with the clouds.

It has definitely cooled off! I felt so good to be out there in the coolness of the day, even a bit chilly at times. Anything is better than 90 degree heat like we had on Sunday.

The clouds held on all day, which was somewhat of a bummer, since as soon as I stepped out of the door, a great blue heron flew directly over me, giving me one of several bad action shots of the day.

Great blue heron in flight

Why don’t they ever fly over on a nice day?

The same holds true of this next series of shots. I had stopped at the back pond and thought that I had looked the area over pretty well as far as looking for wildlife, but as I was walking away, I looked back to see a red-winged blackbird chasing a great blue heron across the pond.

Red-winged blackbird chasing a great blue heron

Where those two were hiding when I first looked over the pond I have no idea, but they put on a nice little show for me after they got to the other side.

Red-winged blackbird chasing a great blue heron

Red-winged blackbird chasing a great blue heron

Red-winged blackbird chasing a great blue heron

The herons can’t catch a break around here, if it isn’t the geese chasing them around, then it’s the smaller birds like the Red-winged blackbird giving them grief. I suppose that a heron would find young red-winged blackbirds to be easy pickings as far as a meal, since the blackbirds often nest right on the ground. I can’t say as that I have ever heard of herons eating young birds, but it wouldn’t surprise me, herons are carnivores, eating fish, frogs, insects and even snakes.

Speaking of food, here’s a mother robin feeding one of her young.

Mother robin feeding one of her young

Mother robin feeding one of her young

Mother robin feeding one of her young

Mother robin feeding one of her young

Mom didn’t look too happy with my being that close to her and her baby, so they both left right after that last shot. I was hoping to get the exact moment when they both had a hold of the worms, but the little one was too quick for me.

Last up for today, yet another bird that I haven’t been able to identify yet.

Unidentified bird

Unidentified bird

The bird was nice enough to pose so that I got good enough photos to really show its markings, so given enough time, I should be able to ID this one. Since Monday is my ‘short” day, that’s all I have time for today, on to Tuesday.

Tuesday

The sun and blue skies have returned, without the heat! The turkeys are out there strutting their stuff, time for me to get going!

What a beautiful day! Too bad the heat is predicted to begin building again tomorrow, it was perfect today. I didn’t catch the turkeys out in the sun, by the time I tracked them down, they were resting in the deep shade, which makes for bad photos of birds that are almost black to begin with.  I did track down the world’s fastest butterfly though.

Unidentified butterfly

That thing could fly, much faster than any butterfly I have ever seen before. I also have another bird to identify, actually two, but I only got half way good shots of one.

Unidentified bird

On second thought, I saw three birds that I couldn’t ID, there was another bird in the same tree that had a darker face. I was trying to get a clear shot of the other one when this one landed in the same tree. I never did get a good look at the first one. It could have been a male and female of the same species, I’ll try to look them up later.

The other new bird was a spotted sandpiper I think, it was in some rocks at the back pond, I took photos, but the bird blended in with the rocks so well, that at the distance I was away from the bird, you can barely tell that it is a bird.

At the long back pond, a goose was going crazy while taking a bath. It was diving underwater and swimming for ten to twenty feet at a time, then would surface and roll around for a while, then dive again. I have photos, but they are rather boring for what was actually going on. The photos show a splash as the goose would dive, then nothing but bubbles while it was underwater, then more splashing as it surfaced again. I have never seen a goose dive underwater before.

I did get photos of it drying off as well.

Canada goose drying itself

Canada goose drying itself

Then, there is this one that looks like another goose telling the first one not to be such a show-off.

Canada geese

But in fact, a tussle had broken out between some of the geese there, and the one honking is doing so because of the fight. There were several pairs of geese with broods there at the one pond, including Father Goose, Mother Goose, and brood.

Canada goose family

The goslings sure are growing!

Canada goose goslings

And, I think that this pair was babysitting a few goslings for other geese.

Canada geese

There’s 14 goslings there, I don’t think that geese lay that many eggs at one time. It also looked like the goslings were from two different broods.

OK, back to the skirmish between the geese. Father Goose wasn’t involved, which kind of surprised me when I saw how many geese were there, and that some had goslings, and others didn’t. One of the other ganders that was there with its young chased one of the ganders without any young, but it wasn’t much of a fight compared to others that have occurred there. Maybe Father Goose went in to action after I left. It was odd seeing him acting so calm when he’s normally the most aggressive goose around here. The geese may not be as comical as the mallards, but they are still interesting to try to figure out.

The eggs of the pair that nested at the center pond have hatched, but the geese were at the back pond. That seems to be what the geese do, when the eggs hatch, they take the goslings to a different pond almost right away. It must be a way of protecting the young from any predators who had been watching the nest, waiting for the young to appear.

I have a couple of “artsy” shots from today.

Dames rockets

Blue jay

Flowering grass

Also, a great shot of a young robin, if I do say so myself.

Young robin

I took a few of a mother robin and her young as well, but you’ll probably be seeing lots of those in the coming days, so I’ll not post them today.

I heard the green heron back in the new swamp again today, but with the mallards on guard duty, I didn’t bother go in after the heron. It’s cool that it is hanging around though, especially the way the geese have been chasing both species of herons around.

All my bad action shots of the day are so bad that I’m not even going to post one today. I think that I have more than made up for that in the past.

That’s about it for the day, on to Wednesday.

Wednesday

Another beautiful day! You’re all probably getting tired of hearing me say that, sorry. I can’t remember a nicer spring than the one that we are having this year. A few hot days, but most of the time it has been much sunnier than most years, with pleasant days and cool nights.

Today’s entry may be short, this last weekend I placed orders for clothes that are due to arrive today, including a new pair of Keens! Yes! My old ones lasted nearly ten years, and were the most comfortable sandals I have ever worn, can’t wait to try out the new ones. I guess that will have to wait until tomorrow though, as it is time for me to get moving.

My new Keens have arrived! But, that isn’t the reason that I am running behind again, they arrived yesterday after I had left for work. The reason I am working on this on Thursday rather than after my walk on Wednesday is because the geese put on quite a show for me to watch. I am still debating whether to post any photos, if I do, it will be in a stand alone post.

The short version, the entire eastern end of the long back pond erupted into one giant goose playground yesterday, the young geese from this year started it, and eventually, most of the adults joined in. They were diving, rolling, running across the water, splashing one another, carrying on like a group of kids playing in the water. I shot over 100 photos, but I’m not real happy with them. Stills don’t capture action very well, and for many of the photos, I was panned out trying to show how many geese were involved.

Other than that, I shot a few bad photos of a pair of rose breasted grosbeaks, and a few of a great blue heron.

Male rose breasted grosbeak

Female rose breasted grosbeak

Great blue heron

Great blue heron in flight

The weather forecast is for a high near 90 today, so I’m going to get out there and try out my new Keens before it becomes so hot that I wilt under the sun. Sorry for the brevity of today’s entry, on to Thursday.

Thursday

The heat has definitely returned! My new Keen sandals arrived just in time for a day like today. I hate to keep raving about them, but I have learned the hard way how important good footwear is when you walk as much as I do.

Now, for the walk, the temperature has certainly soared, the saving grace today was a strong southerly wind that at least made the heat bearable. But, the wind is also a good news bad news situation. Most of the small birds and flowers that I attempted to photograph were being tossed around in the wind like a small boat on the ocean in a storm. That, and the amount or pollen being blown around was enough to make my allergies kick in, with watery eyes and a runny nose. Not great for photography. It didn’t help that the birds were playing games today as well.

It started right off the bat, a blue jay landed very close to me in a tree, but just hidden enough to make a photo impossible. I saw that if I moved a few inches to the right that I would have a clear shot, before I could shoot, the blue jay moved a few inches to the left to remain hidden. So it went, it would move to a different branch, but hidden, I would find a clear view, the blue jay would move again before I could shoot. The darn thing was taunting me, I know it was, because I gave up on it several times, and each time I walked away, the blue jay followed me, landing close to me, but just out of sight. At least it didn’t laugh at me out load, but I could tell it was enjoying the game.

As were a pair of cedar waxwings feeding on the early berries in another tree, they played the same game as the blue jay did, taunting me. I think that I spent nearly half an hour between them and the blue jay, and got one bad shot in all that time.

The wind didn’t help at all either, as I thought that I was all set for a clear shot of something, only to have the wind blow it out of focus, or place a branch with leaves between the subject and myself just as I was about to shoot. I more or less gave up early on, and suffered through the heat which wasn’t a wise idea either. I did miss a few shots, like of one of the red-tailed hawks fly low and close with something in its talons. I wasn’t thinking of photography, my mind was on other things, so I was way to slow to catch the hawk.

One of the things on my mind, remembering to call the Muskegon Wastewater facility for a pass for this weekend. With the heat predicted to hang around for the weekend, I’ll be headed to Muskegon on Sunday to chase the eagles and kestrels around, and escape the heat. With the water temperature of Lake Michigan still in the fifties, the cool breeze from the lake will sure feel good!

If you remember back to the snowy owl post I did this winter, the wastewater treatment facility for Muskegon County is a birders paradise.

Now that I have called and reserved a pass for the weekend, here’s a few photos from today.

Iris

Yellow daylily

Buttercup?

Blue jay

Turkeys

That’s all for today, but I did remember something from yesterday that I wanted to note. I saw a cardinal feeding a young brown headed cowbird yesterday, which is one reason that I haven’t seen many young cardinals yet this year. Cowbirds are parasitic nesters, that is, they don’t build a nest and raise their own young. They lay their eggs in the nests of other species of birds, who then raise the cowbirds as their own. The young cowbirds are more aggressive, and usually grow faster than the young of the birds who belong in the nest. The young cowbirds out compete the other young, or even push them from the nest.

I knew that cowbirds often chose the nests of eastern bluebirds in which to lay their eggs, I didn’t know that they went after cardinal nests as much as they apparently do. When I was young, I was taught to shoot cowbirds on sight because of the way they reduce the population of more desirable songbirds, but now, the cowbirds are protected by the same Federal law that protects the other songbirds. I suppose that it’s natures way of controlling the bird population, as much as I dislike it.

On to Friday.

Friday

I have one more thing to say about footwear, and this isn’t about my Keens so much as all footwear for outdoor activities. I will never, ever, buy another pair of leather boots or shoes for hiking, or any other outdoor activity. That has nothing to do with a moral stance, I am not a PETA nut in any way. It all boils down to performance.

I’ve owned many pairs of leather boots over the years, and hated them all. They are heavy, and none are really waterproof, no matter what you do to them. I tried mink oil, silicone, even baking bear grease into the leather by placing my boots in the oven on low heat, none of those things work, well.

At about the same time, I bought both the first pair of Keen sandals, and a pair of New Balance hiking boots, both made out of synthetic materials. The New Balance boots amazed me at first, less than half the weight of any leather boots I ever owned, and they were truly waterproof! Yet, they breathed, keeping my feet cooler and more comfortable than any other boots I have ever owned. I bought the Keens mostly for kayaking, and it was only after I had them a few years that I began to use them for summer hikes. I will not go back to leather! No more slogging around in wet, heavy leather boots that weigh a ton extra when wet, and take days to dry out for me.

Now that that’s out of the way, more about today. The heat is gone for a day, predicted to return this weekend. So, with some pleasant weather, I’m headed out to go for a walk under bright blue skies, and looking for birds in the vividly green and lush foliage of late spring/early summer. I love this time of year, every time I look out one of the windows, I am struck by how green the trees are. I wonder if the trees only seem greener now than in the summer because the green is still new to me after a long brown Michigan winter? That question will have to wait, the outdoors beckon.

What a beautiful day! Most of the shots I took today went straight to this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Summer. I have a few more bad action shots to add in just a few a few words first. Sorry, I got distracted by a young squirrel learning how to navigate its way through the treetops. That reminds me of another thing, along with some badly needed footwear and clothes that I recently purchased, I also broke down and bought one of those folding camp chairs that every one else in the world has had for forever. When I get the time, I am going to sit out on my balcony, and maybe even take a few photos from there on occasion.

Now then, finally getting around to my walk. Things are settling into a summer routine around here, most of the territorial battles have ended for the most part. The birds seemed to have paired off, the early nesters are on their second brood, the late arrivals are raising their first. The flowers are blooming, and the pretty insects such as butterflies and dragon flies are all over the place now. Life is grand!

But, that also means that these posts will probably be getting shorter until the fall transition begins, which isn’t all bad. That will give me more time for other projects.

So, here’s a few of the bad action shots from today, I’m posting more than one since I have been lax in adding any at all lately.

Red-winged blackbird in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

Turkey vulture in flight

Great blue heron in flight

With the long weekend coming up, it will be nice to relax for a while. With the weather forecast as it is, with heat all weekend, and storms possible on Saturday and Monday, I may get a chance to try out my new chair for a while.

I wish I were headed up north, but it would be a risky proposition with my vehicle in the shape that it is in. Here it is almost June, and not only haven’t I been fishing yet this year, I haven’t even purchased my licence yet. That’s unheard of for me. But, my hobbies do seem to run hot and cold, I didn’t do much fishing last year, I have gotten more into photography again instead. One of these days, the urge to go fishing will become overwhelming, and my photography will get placed on the back burner while I flail the water to a froth chasing trout up and down the streams again for a while. 😉

That’s it for today, tomorrow is Saturday and the first of a three-day weekend, YIPEE!!!!!!!!

Saturday

I am trying to be lazy this morning, but that is only partially working. There’s a line of showers headed this way, and should arrive here shortly. So, I have been drinking my coffee, listening to the birds in the woods outside my apartment while waiting for the showers to come and go.

Since it is still cool, and I have time to kill, I am also doing my baking for the weekend before the temperatures soar, which brings me to another point.

It is cool outside, I have my windows open, but, I can hear other tenant’s air conditioning units running. What’s up with that?

It is the simple things like shutting off the AC and taking advantage of nature’s air conditioning that could reduce pollution, along with lowering people’s electric bills.

In its infinite wisdom the Federal Government recently banned the sale of the higher output incandescent bulbs that are the most commonly used type of lightbulb, in an attempt to make us all convert to more energy-efficient types of lightbulbs, such as compact fluorescent bulbs.

Since I try to do my part, I had bought a pair of the compact fluorescent bulbs to use in the kitchen, since that’s the only light in my apartment that is on for any length of time. I hate them, I detest them, and I seriously doubt that they are saving any electricity at all. Despite being rated at a high output as far as the amount of light that the bulbs I bought claim to produce, I can’t see a darned thing with them on. Now, I have to turn on the task lighting over the sink and/or the stove in order to be able to see what I am doing. Now, instead of two incandescent bulbs in the overhead fixture on, I have the two compact fluorescent bulbs in the same fixture on, plus, two incandescent bulbs so that I can see what I’m doing. I know that my electric bills haven’t gone down a bit, but that may be because I use so little electricity in the first place.

We should all be doing our part to reduce our dependence of fossil fuels, and not because of the so-called global warming, but because they are finite resources, and burning any of them releases pollution that is harmful to life.

So, since people are too lazy and dumb to open their windows during a cool night and morning, and instead, run their air conditioners, the government has to ban lightbulbs that actually produce light. It all makes perfect sense to me, not!

I guess that’s why I consider myself to be a conservative, government actions invoked because people won’t do the right thing seldom have the desired effects. It’s like the low flow toilets required now, I hear that the newer ones are better, but the ones in my apartment sure are not saving any water.

But, maybe the liberals who want the government to step in and force people to do the right thing are correct, as far too many people can’t be bothered to make any effort at all to anything that would benefit the environment unless they are forced to. I don’t want to believe that, but the evidence points in that direction.

My electric bill averages just over $30 a month over the course of a year. It runs a little higher in the winter when the furnace is running a lot, and higher in the summer when I turn the AC on. During the spring and fall months, my bill is often less than $20 for a month. After an extremely hot month one summer, I asked if maintenance could check my AC unit to see if it was running at top efficiency because my bill was just over $100. I was told that I was darned lucky, many of the people here pay over $200 a month during the summer. If people are too dumb, or too lazy to take the few steps that it takes to save themselves hundreds of dollars a year on their utility bills, then maybe the liberals are right, and the government needs to force them to save energy.

Now, after that little morning rant, about my walk. The clouds held firm, with a few sprinkles of rain on and off. We need some rain, badly, it is very dry here and has been for much of the latter part of spring. The rain we did get today was just enough to make me keep my camera tucked inside my rain jacket, but hardly enough to do any good. Hopefully, it will rain more tonight, even if that means the warm front is going to the north bringing the higher heat and humidity.

Most of my photos from today are not that great, due to the weather, and nothing that you all haven’t seen before, so I’m not going to bore you with any of them.

I did have an interesting conversation with a couple of other residents down the street today, concerning the wildlife around here. I was listing a few of the species that I see regularly, when right on cue, a great blue heron flew past us not more than forty feet away from us. Neither of the people I was talking with knew that there were herons around here. Oh, and yes I took photos, in a couple of them the heron nearly fills the frame, but I still haven’t figured out how to get a good exposure when the background is grey overcast sky.

At the back pond, I paused for a while to watch the kingfishers, killdeer, and spotted sandpipers for a short while. I suppose I’ll have to include one photo as my bad action shot of the day.

Belted kingfisher diving

As for the rest of the day, the one thing that struck me was how many young birds I could hear calling for more food. Earlier this spring I noted that nearly every evergreen had at least one nesting bird in it, now, all those nests are full of hungry young birds that never seem to get enough to eat.

Some of the young robins are flying already, making their demands known all the time. They follow their mothers around as the mothers search for food, and as soon as one of the young thinks that mom has something, it is right there with its beak open waiting for whatever mom has found.

This year’s young cottontails are already spreading out on their own, I see them all over the place. Spring and new life all around, I love it.

I think that’s about all for today, and this week. I am still on the fence over doing a post of just the geese playing from the other day, I’ll have to look through the photos again now that some time has passed. Tomorrow, it will be off to Muskegon for eagles, kestrels, and who knows what else, as long as it is cooler there than it will be here, I’ll be a happy camper. Thanks for stopping by!


Weekly Photo Challenge: Summer

All photos, no words, well, except for this intro.

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


Weekly Photo Challenge: Blue

This one should be right up my alley! After all, there are many things that are blue to be found in nature. Like flowers…

Blue flower in the rain

Blue flowers

Blue flowers

Blue flower

And, there are birds that are blue…

Great blue heron

Belted kingfisher in flight

Yeah, I know, I

Recycle

recycled that last shot.

Blue jays are blue, of course.

Blue jay

And, this guy is wearing a blue shirt.

A man and his puppy

But how can you be

Blue

with a cute puppy like that with you? Oh, and by the way, do you know how hard it is to get a shot of nothing but blue sky?

Blue sky

Nope, there some sun and a tree in that one.

Blue sky

Nope, still some trees.

Blue sky

OK, I’ve had my fun, thanks for stopping by!


My Week…Perfect Weather

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. You can click on any of the photos to get a larger view of them.

This post covers the week from May 13 to May 19, 2012

Sunday

What a day! I filled the SD card of my Nikon in a lap and a half around here, over 350 photos to sort through. I did cheat though, I took most of the photos will sitting at the back pond. I am going to do a separate post on that which I will give the incredibly creative name of “Sunday at the pond“.

To begin, it was another absolutely wonderful spring day here, I don’t think that saw a single wisp of cloud the entire day. I started off wearing jeans and a T-shirt, as I got started a bit later than I would have liked. That’s the reason I didn’t go chasing eagles and kestrels over in Muskegon, I slept in too late.

First up, a few photos of the rhododendrons blooming here.

Rhododendrons

Rhododendrons

Rhododendrons

And I don’t know why, but I really like this one that I took of pine cones and the bright blue skies coming through the gaps between the green boughs of the evergreens.

Spring

I spent a considerable amount of time chasing some small birds through the trees and bushes out front. They were really make me work, and use all the skill that I have, which I guess isn’t that great, since this is the best that I could do.

Unidentified flycatcher?

I believe that’s a flycatcher of some type, but I haven’t had a chance to look it up yet. I really need to pick up a bird guide one of these days, hard to believe, but there are so many “new” species that are increasing in number to the point that I am seeing them for the first time, and because what I gather from checking online, some species have been renamed.

There were other small birds in the area, but the photos I took of them were so bad that I couldn’t use them to help me ID the birds, so I deleted those pics.

Here’s one I will never delete! I heard the song of a rose breasted grosbeak, looked up, and saw that he was flying as he was singing. In one of those rare instances where both I and the camera did what we were supposed to, I got this.

Rose breasted grosbeak in flight

I was doing my happy dance, let me tell you! All those “bad action shot of the day” shots that I take sure paid off for me this time. Best of all, I have several others that are almost this good.

Then, I spent quite a bit more time chasing a pair of cardinals through a tree. Neither of them would pose pretty for me, so I had to take what I could get.

Male northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

At the long back pond, there were four geese and a number of mallards all playing nice with each other. Why is it that one day they’ll be trying to kill each other over one of the ponds, then, they’ll be feeding together in the same pond a few days later?

Speaking of trying to kill one another, here’s two photos of eastern kingbirds going at each other in mid-air.

Eastern kingbirds in flight and fight

Eastern kingbirds in flight and fight

And while those two were going at it, the warbling vireo decided to begin singing.

Warbling vireo

I was having better luck spotting the small birds today, there was hardly any wind to speak of. I find it easier to spot birds in light winds as almost any motion that I see is from the birds causing leaves and/or branches to move, and it’s not the wind doing it.

No wind also makes it easier to get flower pictures.

Iris in bloom

And, butterfly photos.

Unidentified butterfly

Unidentified butterfly

That was about it for lap one. I stopped at my apartment and took a short break, and also changed from jeans to shorts, as it had gotten warm out there during the first lap.

My second lap started much like the first, I shot this butterfly that I haven’t looked up yet.

Unidentified butterfly

I have a few other photos, that I’m not going to post. The weather is predicted to be very nice all week, and even though I am going to do a separate post about the pond with plenty of pictures, I’m sure I’ll be getting more this week.

On lap two, I made it as far as the back pond.

Painted turtle

I don’t know if that was a female looking for a place to lay her eggs, or why the turtle was in the parking lot next to the pond, but it was, so there you see what happens when I see a turtle. Or, a kingfisher.

Belted kingfisher flying past mallards

Great blue heron

Seeing the heron, I decided to go around the pond and get to a spot where the lighting would be better. I sat down and started shooting, and shooting, and shooting, until my camera told me it was full.

Back to my apartment I went, I thought about just switching SD cards, but I was too anxious to see what I had gotten, so I did the download then.

After sorting through those photos, I took off to finish my lap. By then, the sunlight was fading, and it was beginning to cool down again. I was deep in thought about what had happened at the pond, and I had already filled the SD card once today, I didn’t want to get greedy and try to take even more photos. Besides, the first time I turned the Nikon on, it told me the battery was dead. Yeah. I never got a low battery display at the pond, it must be that the download to the computer killed the battery. That brings up a point I have been thinking about for some time now.

Both of my cameras do the same thing as far as battery life warnings. When you see the warning that the battery is getting low, it’s too late, the battery is about dead. I’ve seen in some product reviews that I am not the only one who believes that the manufacturers could do a much better job of displaying the life left in the battery.

With my Canon, I can slip in another pair of AA batteries and keep shooting, not with the Nikon which takes a special battery. I suppose I should pick up a spare battery for it one of these days. Maybe that’s why the manufacturers program the low battery display the way that they do, so that you will have your battery go dead on you, and you’ll buy a spare to prevent that from happening again.

Anyway, Not a lot happened until I got to the long back pond. This is going to be another mallard story, so if you’re bored with all my mallard stories, you can skip ahead. As for me, the more I watch them, the more they fascinate me.

As I was walking toward the pond, I see a pair of mallards slithering through the grass staying as low as they possibly could. OK, now what are those silly birds up to? Suddenly, they both flattened themselves down in the grass and disappeared.

A pair of mallards hiding in the grass

Believe me, there’s two mallards in the grass next to that sign. They were hiding, but from what?

I was looking around trying to spot the predator that had the mallards acting so scared, it turned out that the predator was another male mallard. He splashed down in the pond and set out hunting the pair hiding in the grass.

Male mallard hunting the pair hiding in the grass

Sorry about that photo, I forgot about the shutter lag that the Canon has. It looked like the jealous husband looking for his unfaithful wife and her lover.

The pair stayed hidden.

A pair of mallards hiding in the grass

I started to walk away, but for some reason, the female bolted. The male looking for them came after the pair full tilt, and that’s when I wished that the Nikon had been operational. I was trying to photograph the fight by looking at the screen of the Canon, but I couldn’t see what was going on. I heard bodies hit, saw feathers fly, and the three of them took off for other parts of the country, the female in the lead with her two suitors following her.

Mallards sure do make things interesting around here.

The only other thing of note from this lap, the white rabbit!

White rabbit

Maybe I should call it the grey rabbit, as it has to be quite old for a cottontail. It’s been around here for a couple of years now, and it was fully grown when I saw it the first time. There for a while I felt like Alice in Wonderland, chasing the white rabbit around, and never getting a good photo of it. All of a sudden this spring, it poses for me.

That’s about all from today, and what a day it has been. If Monday is anything like today was, I may have to call in sick to work for the very first time in three years.

Monday

Another fine spring day in West Michigan, it doesn’t get much better than this. After a cool night, it warmed quickly, and there was very little breeze again today. I was hoping to spot a few songbirds, but the impenetrable green wall has filled in almost completely.

What I mean by “impenetrable green wall” is that the foliage begins at ground level and goes all the way up to the top of the larger trees here. There are a few small gaps in the leaves, but on a sunny day like today, it is like looking into a room at night with the lights turned off. My eyes don’t adjust to the dim light quickly enough for me to see very much back in the woods. I have been trying to locate birds by sound, that works for the males when they are singing, but unless the females are moving around, it’s hard to spot them.

And that’s another thing, how do brightly colored birds like orioles and tanagers manage to hide so well in a sea of green. You’d think that they would stick out like a sore thumb.

But, back to the green wall, that’s one reason we have so many varied species of birds around here. There’s a little bit of every type of habitat, from the stands of large hardwoods left from before they built this place, to the evergreens that they planted here after it was built, to open grassland, both lawn and almost like prairie. There are creeks and ponds for water and waterfowl, and the green wall provides a lot of cover for all species.

Not many birds today, mostly insects, none of which I can identify. I’ll get to those photos in a minute. First, another goose fight story.

I got to the long back pond, and there were more geese there than I have seen together in some time. There were four on shore near the center of the pond, and at the time I couldn’t tell how many, but there were more under the weeping willows on the west end of the pond. I thought that it was strange with those geese suddenly sharing the pond that they had been fighting over before, but they seemed to be. Seemed is the keyword here.

One of the geese from under the willows, which I later identified as Father Goose, whose mate had nested at that pond, and began honking and taking an aggressive posture. That only lasted a few moments, then Father Goose went back to his family, hidden in the willows. There was a lone male mallard between the two groups of geese, and he was looking mighty nervous. His head was swivelling back and forth between the two groups even more than mine was. I guess he didn’t want to get caught in the middle of a goose fight.

I should have taken a cue from the mallard and stayed where I was at, but I circled around until I could see under the willows, and saw that there were two families of geese there, four adults, and nine goslings. OK, I’ve got lots of goose and gosling photos, nothing to shoot there, so I headed for the far end of the pond.

I was about to walk away from there, when Father Goose decided to clean house and rid his pond of all the other geese but the other family. One of the other ganders made the mistake of trying to take on Father Goose in a head to head fight. That did not work out well for the other gander, and it took off across the pond with Father Goose in hot pursuit. Father Goose caught him and body slammed the other gander into the water, pounced on its back, and proceeded to wail the crap out of the other gander with his wings and bill. The other gander was finally able to escape Father Goose, but the last gander wasn’t so lucky.

With one foe soundly defeated, Father Goose turned his attention to that last gander, who tried to escape on land. Father Goose caught him, body slammed it to the ground, and wailed on that one until it played possum. I thought that Father Goose had injured it for a minute or so, even when Father Goose relented and ceased his attack, that last gander just laid there not moving at all for several minutes.

When it did finally move, it ran off between some buildings, and never came back. Its mate saw that and began to follow him, also on foot. Father Goose let her pass, but not without letting her know that they were not welcome there.

There’s just so much about all this to try to understand, why some geese are welcome and others aren’t. The personalities of the individual geese, how aggressive Father Goose can be at times, contrasted with how meek the gander at the center pond is in defending his territory, and on it goes. And who knew that geese will play possum when they have lost a fight?

And yes, I took more photos, but they aren’t very good since they were taken from all the way across the pond, and looking into the sun, so I’m not going to bore you all with more geese fighting photos, unless I get some really good ones. 😉

It’s now Tuesday, I’m behind again. I have a few other photos from yesterday as well, I think that I’ll throw them in with any I get today, as they are flower and butterfly pictures.

Tuesday

Another picture perfect spring morning, clouds are predicted to move in later, so I’m moving outside before the clouds get here.

No clouds, just brilliant blue skies, perfect for the photo challenge this week, which just happens to be “Blue”. I spent quite a bit of time collecting photos for the challenge, which I hope to post tonight or tomorrow.

I hate to sound like I’m rubbing it in, but there are too many things to try to photograph around here, and so many stories to tell. Not big stories for the most part, but little ones. For example, there is a trucking company on the south side of the apartment complex. There’s a story in itself, why are zoning laws written as they are so that a trucking company with all the noise and all sits right next to an apartment complex. But that’s not the subject of this little story, what is, is the way that they have done the landscaping at the trucking company. The front is lawn, as you may expect, but the sides and back have been planted with various flowers, native and non-native, and just allowed to grow. To me, it is absolutely stunning.

Flowers

I have taken some of my best photos of flowers through their fence, I could easily do an entire post on their small “yard”, and I think that I will try one of these days. I will go in and ask if I can photograph their beautiful flowers so that I don’t have to try for what I can get through a chain link fence.

In another month, the flowers will really be blooming, they’re just getting started now. With the flowers, and the grasses, it is also a haven for small birds and animals. But it’s not a neatly manicured lawn, so there are probably many people who would say that it looks shabby. Argh! We really need to get over the love affair that we have in this country with the idea that the only acceptable landscaping is a few patches of flowers surrounded by a sea of fescue grass cut down to exactly 2.25 inches.

Some of the trucking companies flowers have escaped to our side of the fence, but, they don’t get a chance to really take off before they get hacked down. Argh! again!

Now, back to too many things to try to photograph. I saw several birds that I wanted to photograph, and did end up getting this one.

White-throated sparrow

What started it all was that I saw a brownish bird land in a sumac bush and didn’t pay much attention to it at first, assuming it was a robin, it wasn’t. It was a flicker, and I was closer to it than I have ever been to a flicker before, and I would have had a great shot, if I had been paying attention. Nope, it flew off before I came to my senses, but at least in looking for it, I found several other birds in the same thicket, the sparrow among them. I spent so much time chasing the sparrow that I forgot about the other birds.

And so it goes, I see the shadow of a bird go past me and assume that the shadow is being cast by a starling, robin, or one of the other very plentiful species of birds here. Then, I see from the shadow that the flight pattern isn’t the same as the common bird I assumed was throwing the shadow, look up, and see that I have missed a great shot of a Baltimore oriole or some other colorful bird in flight. There has to be over 100 each of the following species here, robins, goldfinches, starlings, English sparrows, and house finches. With all those birds flying around, it makes it hard to make note of every bird that I see, in fact, it is impossible to check out every bird I see flying, hopping, or even perched in a treetop.

At the long back pond, the Goose family and their friends were gone, the four geese that Father Goose beat the snot out of yesterday were back??????????

For my not so bad action shot of the day, I’ll throw in this one.

Canada goose in flight

And, it is almost time for me to fly as well, and it seems like I am just getting started. There was a news item about the way that the Michigan State Forest Campgrounds and trails are being reorganized that I wanted to get into, I touched on that once before, but the latest story I read had many more details about the reorganization, the price drops, and more. All I can say right now is that great management produces great results, or at least holds the promise of great results. Rodney Stokes and his staff at the DNR are working their rear ends off and our system of parks and campgrounds which was already one of the best in the nation is getting even better! More access at lower prices, plus, you’ll be able to make reservations at some of the busier State Forest Campgrounds soon. Even better, they are saying that they see no reason to close ANY of the campgrounds! Yahoo! That means that Round Lake State Forest Campground is safe for the foreseeable future!

On to Wednesday.

Wednesday

I forgot to mention the  weather other than the clear skies yesterday, warm and breezy. We received some rain overnight, now the brilliant blue skies are back, with just a slight breeze from the looks of things out my window.

I slept in late, too late. I stopped at the grocery store on my way home from a long night at work, made even longer by poor customer no customer service at the store. It worked great for them, I left without getting the issue resolved. That’s what I get for trying to avoid crowds, which I detest. Then, to make things even worse, when I did wake up, it was to no water, again.

When I did make it home last night, I noticed that the water had been shut off while I was at work by the blast of air out of every faucet when I turned them on. The water was off just long enough this morning for it to be an inconvenience. It’s on again now, but now I’m running even further behind than I was.

Time to get a move on!

As so often happens, when I was out for my walk today, I realized that I had forgotten write about something from a previous day. Yesterday, while I was tracking down photos for the Weekly Challenge, I stumbled across where many of the swallows and the pair of kingfishers are nesting. It’s an old pile of topsoil left over from when the condominiums to the southeast of here were built. The swallows and kingfishers have dug their nesting burrows in the face of the dirt pile. That explains why I would see the kingfishers perched near there, or circling the area, as I knew there was no water there. Maybe this weekend I’ll stake that area out and see if I can get a good photo of the swallows to get an exact identification of them, maybe even a great photo of one of the kingfishers.

Now then, for today. It was a bit cooler than yesterday, and the wind came up quite a bit during my walk, but it was still about as perfect of a day as one could ask for. It could be because of my very late start today, but there didn’t seem to be much going on around here. I say that, but that’s never really case, it more that I didn’t spot any new species, nor were there any great battles, just a little one.

Two male house finches fighting

Those two were engaged in one of the longest lasting aerial dogfights between house finches that I have seen. I snapped half a dozen photos, the auto-focus only picked them out of the trees for this one. I would say that’s my bad action shot for the day, but there’s this photo to take that honor.

Blue jay in flight

The Baltimore orioles were singing…

Male Baltimore oriole

..and singing.

Male Baltimore oriole

They are sticking towards the tops of the trees now, it’s going to be hard to get a good close-up of one for the time being. But I’ll keep on trying.

It is now Thursday at noon, I didn’t get a chance to work on this post or the Weekly Challenge last night after work, and I slept in later than I have in a very long time, so, on to Thursday.

Thursday

The beautiful weather continues! I considered taking a day off from my walks to work on this, but this kind of weather is all too rare! Bright blue skies, pleasant temperatures, it is too darn nice to sit inside and type, looking out the window wishing I was out there, not in here. So, off I go!

I’m sure glad that I didn’t sit inside, even if it means that I am even farther behind than I was before. For one thing, good shots of an eastern kingbird!

Eastern kingbird

Then, there was another of my they had me surrounded stories that unfolded. I saw a blue jay land fairly close to me, and began to go after it. But, I also noted a brownish bird off to my left, which turned out to be a flicker.

Northern flicker

Blue jay

And, as I was photographing those two, the place erupted in cardinals.

Male northern cardinal

Spoiling for a fight.

Male northern cardinal in flight during a fight

I missed the second one in that shot, but they both landed to face off with one another.

Male northern cardinals facing off

And, along came a fox squirrel to break up a good fight.

Male northern cardinal and fox squirrel

Fox squirrel ruining a good photo-op

So for my bad action shot of the day, one of the male cardinals flying away from the squirrel.

Male northern cardinal in flight

I also got a bad shot of the object of the male cardinal’s battle, but since I limit myself to one bad action shot of the day, I’m not going to post it. Oh, what the heck, here it is.

Female northern cardinal in flight

Those types of things happen everyday around here, the only difference this time is that I was able to spin around quickly enough to capture at least some record of most of what was going on. I did miss a few things, like goldfinches chasing each other through the scene, and probably half a dozen robins as well.

Later, I saw a shadow of a bird and could tell it was a swallow by its shadow, and that it had perched near to me, on the lamp-post I was standing next to in fact.

Barn swallow

It must be recharging its energy supply. 😉

At the back pond, I was able to get a couple of fairly good photos of a kingfisher in flight.

Belted kingfisher in flight

Belted kingfisher in flight

Belted kingfisher in flight

While I was there at the pond, I also got some really bad shots of swallows skimming insects off from the surface of the pond, that I’m not going to bore you with now. But, I think that I learned a great deal about the best way to get such a shot, we’ll see.

Since I’m behind, I’m going to call today’s entry done. I wish that I had more time, as always it seems, but too many critters doing too many interesting things. On to Friday.

Friday

The fabulous weather continues, although we could use some more rain. Maybe late this weekend. It’s been getting a little warmer each day, today, they are predicting a high near 80 degrees, with it getting even warmer this weekend. That’s getting too warm for my taste, so maybe this will be the weekend that I go to Muskegon to chase eagles and kestrels. It will be 10 degrees cooler at the lakeshore, plus, a partial solar eclipse on Sunday evening. That is, if the clouds from the approaching front predicted to move in don’t obscure it.

Anyway, time for breakfast, and another action packed day here at the apartment complex!

Call me crazy, but I swear that the critters read and respond to my blog. It wasn’t long ago that I noted that I wasn’t seeing the hawks as much lately, so they showed up in numbers today, making sure that I saw them.

I had just stepped onto the sidewalk when I heard a woodpecker drumming on a dead limb in the large cottonwood tree to the left of me. I was thinking of trying to track the woodpecker down, but I looked to the right first, and saw the brilliant white underside of a red-tailed hawk making a turn. Not only that, but the hawk had a flock of blackbirds on its tail. I pulled the camera up, but they all disappeared behind the trees before I could get a shot. I was a bit disappointed, but I shouldn’t have been, the hawk was leading its escorts closer to me for some better photos.

Red-tailed hawk being attacked by blackbirds

Red-tailed hawk being attacked by blackbirds

Red-tailed hawk being attacked by blackbirds

After making sure that I had enough shots to satisfy me, the hawk ditched the blackbirds, then came back for its close-ups.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Then, to make sure that they got mentioned again for a change, the hawk went off to find its mate so that they could make a joint appearance.

Red-tailed hawks in flight

In fact, for the better part of today, at least one of the red-tailed hawks was in view. But, they weren’t the only birds to provide me with opportunities for bad action shots, so did a pair of swallows.

Swallow hovering

They thought that the dryer vent on the side of a building looked like a good place to nest. I hope that they don’t try it though. Also flying about was the eastern kingbird.

Eastern kingbird landing on a fence

And, a boattail grackle.

Boattail grackle in flight

I was getting tired from all the swiveling and twisting I was doing to keep up with the birds, I really wanted one to sit still for a second, so this cardinal helped me out.

Male northern cardinal

But, it was only there for a second or two before it flew off, the distractions around here are incredible!

Beautiful distraction

I’m sorry, I just had to throw that one in. The very nice young woman had spooked the cardinal off as she walked by us, then apologized for messing up my photo shoot. You know, I remember that there was a time when I chased very nice young women rather than birds, but with every passing year, I have a harder time remembering why I did.

We have a new spokes-model here at Byron Lakes, no, not the pretty blonde, a blue jay who posed on the sign.

Blue jay

Then, gave me yet another action shot for the day.

Blue jay in flight

At the long back pond, there was a flock of eight geese, all together, some resting, some eating, none of them fighting. I still haven’t figured that one out, especially in light of what happened today at the front pond. One day, they are practically killing each other, the next day, they’re all one big happy family again.

And, this is what happened at the front pond today. I saw a green heron fly to the pond, and land near the pair of geese there.

Green heron and Canada goose

Mr. Goose didn’t like that, and started towards the heron to let it know it wasn’t welcome at that pond.

Green heron and Canada goose

Green heron and Canada goose

The heron didn’t go far, I did. I circled the pond to get closer and to get better lighting, but it didn’t pan out how I had hoped.

Green heron taking off

I never got a close-up, or even a bad action shot of the heron. It’s the first time that I have seen a green heron this spring, they’ll be around till fall, lot’s of time left to get some better photos of them.

But, why do the geese chase away the herons, when the herons are no threat to them, nor competitors for food?

I see that I have been lax in adding photos of flowers, so here are a few that I have taken the last few days.

Flowering tree

Orange flowers

Iris blooming

Raspberry flower?

Yellow flowers from a cultivated bush

And now, I’m going to call today’s entry done, and move on to Saturday.

Saturday

The warm-up is beginning today, with high temperatures predicted to be in the mid-eighties. That’s much warmer than I like, so I’m going to take my time today, and enjoy myself. I will most likely do some sitting, as I am not feeling the greatest either. Some of it is from allergies, some, I have no idea, but it feels like a good day to relax.

So much for our perfect weather this week, it was hot, too hot, too darned hot! The official high was 87 degrees, but it felt like being in an oven out there, probably because it has been so pleasant up until today. I’m still trying to shake off the effects of the heat, and not having very much luck so far.

It was already very warm when I started out this morning, with very little in the way of a breeze. I thought that it would be a good day to photograph some of the flowers here, but for some reason, the blooms are already wilting on some of the bushes that just began to flower during the week. I was waiting for the bushes to get covered in flowers before taking photos, but as with most of the trees and bushes this year, waiting was a bad idea. I did get this though.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

You can see that the flowers this butterfly was feeding from don’t look very photogenic.

I went back past the back pond and staked out the area where the kingfishers have their nest. I did manage a few so-so photos of their coming and going.

Belted kingfisher in flight

Belted kingfisher in flight

Belted kingfisher

Look closely and you can see that they were bringing food back to their young.

Belted kingfisher in flight

Belted kingfisher in flight

I’m not completely happy with those photos, they should have been sharper. I shot this one of a goldfinch at about the same distance away as the route the kingfishers were taking to and from the tree that they always stopped at before entering their burrow.

American goldfinch in flight

A goldfinch is a fraction of the size of a kingfisher, if I could do that well on the goldfinch, it seems the kingfishers should have come out better.

Belted kingfisher

I suppose that I’ll have to try again one of these days. I don’t normally sit near where birds have nested, but it didn’t seem to bother the kingfishers that I was there. Their nest burrow is practically in some one’s backyard, and it was very interesting watching them come and go. They would arrive by doing a wide arc to the south of the nest, perch in one of two trees while they made sure the coast was clear, then fly to the nest. Then, they would land in a tree again, chatter away like crazy, then leave by doing a wide arc to the north of the nest.

Belted kingfisher in flight

I also got more shots of goldfinches in flight.

American goldfinch in flight

American goldfinch in flight

A blue jay searching for food.

Blue jay

Even the birds seemed to think that it was too hot today, I noticed a few of the robins seemed to be panting.

American robin

OK, I didn’t actually know that birds panted much like dogs do to stay cool, but I have often seen birds with their mouths open when it is very hot out. I just did a quick web search, and sure enough, birds do pant to help regulate their body temperature when the temperatures get too high for them.

Now I have a new weather saying, “Hot enough to make a bird pant”. That can be taken a step further by specifying which species is panting, because it seems different species of birds have different temperatures that they find oppressive. The robins were definitely feeling the heat, the goldfinches seemed to love it. They were everywhere today, I saw  close to a dozen of them at a time in some of the trees. I knew that there were a lot around here, but I didn’t have a clue as to how many there really are.

American goldfinch

I think that I could have filled my SD card with nothing but goldfinch shots if I had set out to do that.

But, back to the heat, and how birds react to the heat. Another thing that I see robins do when it is very hot is to flatten themselves down on a cool spot of ground.

American robin

I know, it’s a crummy shot, but as I was circling the robin to get a better shot of it, the robin flew off. I did see several of them doing that today. They’re not dusting, as the there wasn’t any dust where the robins were flattening themselves to the ground. I can only assume they spread themselves out like that to put more of their body’s surface area in contact with cooler earth.

The heat didn’t seem to be bothering the cedar waxwings either.

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

Cedar waxwing

I have a couple of other shots from today that I want to post, then, I’m going to bore you all with a short mallard story.

Iris in bloom

Some of those are from my second lap today. I really had to push myself to go back out into the heat, but I did. I wish I hadn’t, but I did.

Now the mallard story. I was headed toward the long back pond when I saw a half-hearted fight break out between two male mallards, over this female, I thought.

Female mallard

It wasn’t much of a fight as mallard fights go.

Male mallards fighting

The geese were unimpressed.

Canada goose

But, there were a couple of things that I found interesting. One was the amount of conversation taking place.

Female mallard

Mallards in a conversation

Mallards in a conversation

And the other thing that struck me is that the two males fighting took their tussle back on shore, near several other males that were resting there. One of those males waddled over to the two fighting, and said a few quacks to them, and the fight stopped. Not only that, but the two that had been fighting sat down and started grooming together. Not grooming each other, but both of them sat down right next to one another as they preened.

The female swam off by herself for a while, and when she returned, one of the males waddled over to her, and they had another little chat. They were in the shade then, and the photo isn’t very good, besides, how many photos do you need to see of ducks quacking?

OK, if the female was in heat, and it sure looked to me as if she was giving the guys the come hither look in the beginning, then why weren’t all the males after her? Or, for that matter, why didn’t any of the males take her up on her offer? And, what did the third male quack to the other two to end the fight so abruptly?  And how did they become best buddies so quickly after they had been chasing each other around the pond?

I know, they’re only mallards doing what mallards do, but why do they do the things that they do? They sure do fascinate the heck out of me, the more I watch and listen to them, the more that they fascinate me.

Well, my headache from the heat is almost gone, I still feel run down from it though. If I do anything outdoors tomorrow, it will be near Lake Michigan where it will be cooler.  I could go on about how wrong the weather forecast for this weekend was, but I won’t. I swear, the more hi-tech gadgets that meteorologists get, the more unreliable the forecasts become.

That’s it for this week, thanks to every one who stops by!


Sunday at the pond

It all started innocently enough, I intended to get a few good photos of a great blue heron I saw hunting in a pond. I was taking my daily walk around the apartment complex where I live when I spotted the heron, and I circled the pond so that the lighting would be better for the photos I planned to take. When I go to the other side, I decided it was such a nice day, that I would sit there on the hill overlooking the pond, get a few heron shots, and spend some time soaking up the sun. Almost as soon as I sat down, the heron leapt into flight.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Fortunately, it didn’t go far, must be the fishing wasn’t very good where it had been.

Great blue heron landing

Great blue heron landing

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

It didn’t take the heron long to make its first catch in its new location.

Great blue heron swallowing a fish

Then, a mother mallard and her brood swam over near the heron.

Great blue heron and mallards

The mallards didn’t seem to bother the heron, it went on fishing.

Great blue heron catching a fish

Great blue heron with its catch

Great blue heron with its catch

Great blue heron swallowing a fish

Great blue heron swallowing a fish

Great blue heron swallowing a fish

That one must not have tasted very good.

Great blue heron

In the meantime, one of the mallard ducklings decided it was time to spruce up a little, while mama looked on.

Mother mallard watching her duckling bathe

Mother mallard watching her duckling bathe

Mallard duckling bathing

And, the heron kept on fishing.

Great blue heron

And to add some more action, a kingfisher began hovering over the pond, then began its dive.

Belted kingfisher diving for a fish

I missed the splashdown, but I caught the kingfisher just after it came back up.

Belted kingfisher in flight

Belted kingfisher in flight

The heron kept on fishing.

Great blue heron

I heard the mother mallard give one quick alarm quack to her young, and I looked around to find this.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

The heron kept on fishing.

Great blue heron

And it kind of surprised me, but the rest of the mallard ducklings decided to spruce up, even though the hawk had just been overhead.

Mallard ducklings

Mallard ducklings

The heron made another catch.

Great blue heron with its catch

Then, three male mallards swam over…

Male mallards

…and began showing off.

Male mallards

The heron kept on fishing.

Great blue heron

The male mallards got out of the water, and started quite the discussion.

Mallards

One of the males must have said something the female didn’t like, for she attacked one of the males.

Female mallard attacking a male

Female mallard attacking a male

He didn’t like that at all, and turned on her.

Male mallard attacking a female

Male mallard attacking a female

She turned the tables back on him.

Female mallard attacking a male

Female mallard attacking a male

Female mallard attacking a male

Female mallard attacking a male

Female mallard attacking a male

Then the two of them started jawing back and forth.

Mallards quacking at each other

Mallards quacking at each other

He must have really insulted her, for she leapt up into the air….

Female mallard attacking a male

…and dive bombed the male.

Female mallard attacking a male

Female mallard attacking a male

One of the other males got between the two of them, and broke up the fight.

Mallards being mallards

The female declared victory.

Female mallard declaring victory

And, they all head back to shore, where the conversation continued.

Mallards talking

The heron kept on fishing, as if none of that was going on just a few feet from him.

Great blue heron fishing

The female mallard left with one of the males.

A pair of mallards in flight

A pair of mallards in flight

One of the other males took off to follow them.

Mallards in flight

Leaving the third male and the ducklings behind. He didn’t stick around for long though.

Male mallard taking flight

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard in flight

And, the heron kept on fishing.

Great blue heron with its catch

That’s when the SD card in my camera reached its capacity. As I was headed home to swap to the spare card, the female returned, minus the two males, I was wondering if she was going to leave her ducklings for long.

In all, I was there at the pond for a little more than half an hour. I didn’t include shots of robins, red-winged blackbirds, or the bad shots of a killdeer flying overhead that I also took there. There may have even been others, so much was happening that it was hard to keep track of it all.

As I was walking away, I pulled out my back up point and shoot camera to show you that the heron kept right on fishing.

Great blue heron

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


Weekly Photo Challenge: Unfocused

With as many bad photos as I take of birds when the auto-focus can’t find the bird I intended as the subject of the photo, you would think that this challenge would be a cinch, but I actually found it somewhat difficult. Here’s what I could come up with.

Flowers and frog

Good, but I think I can do better.

Flowers and frog

The moon always comes in handy for these types of photos.

The moon and leaves

Sometimes, raindrops work also, as the individual drops are next to impossible to focus on.

Rain hitting the pavement

And when the rain lets up…

Wet pavement

…and I have to do a bird or two.

Grey catbird

Baltimore oriole in the treetop

That’s my take on this challenge, hope that you enjoyed it, and thanks for stopping by!


My Week…The Birds II

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. You can click on any of the photos to get a larger view of them.

This post covers the week from May 6 to May 12, 2012

Sunday

I am going to start by going back to yesterday evening. I finished the entry for last week on a down note, and felt that I needed to do a lap around here “off the record” that is, I hadn’t planned to write about it. However, several things happened that changed my mind. I will say that it felt good to tell myself that I was free from my blog even if that didn’t last long. Don’t get me wrong, I love blogging, much more than I thought I would, but there are times that my self-imposed standards and deadlines get in the way of my enjoying my time outdoors. Conversely, most of the time I don’t articulate the small, simple pleasures that I feel while I am out and about.

So, it was nice just walking along, absorbing the nature around me, hearing the birds singing in the evening, the scent of the flowers that are blooming here, the soft glow of the evening light, and the stillness of the air. Then, the stupid mallards brought me back to the real world.

It started innocently enough, there was a lone female mallard under a tree getting ready to settle in for the night, and I thought that she would make a good subject to photograph. I was about to snap a photo of her, when a small flock of other mallards burst out from under a car very close to me, and nearly hit me as they flew off. No, I’m not going to post the bad action shots that I took as they went screaming, or I should say quacking, past me.

They didn’t go far, and one by one, the flock began to return. I thought that one male was going to land on my head there for a second, but he realized that I was a human and not a post at the last second, and flew off to do another lap of his own before he settled down near some other trees. It was pretty cool seeing them in flight so close to me, well, not only seeing them, but hearing the air through their feathers.

At some point, I looked down at the female that I had originally intended to photograph, and I swear that she was trying to identify who I was by scent. She was moving her head and bill in a way that reminded me of how dogs and other mammals sniff to pick up the scent of something that they aren’t sure of. After a few sniffs, she settled down and relaxed, I guess that she didn’t identify me as a threat.

Then, one male landed near her, and the two of them had quite the conversation. I sure wish I understood mallard, I would have loved to know what the two of them were talking about. Another male landed and tried to join the conversation, but I guess the first two told him that he wasn’t welcome there, and he waddled off to find another friend to talk to. He joined a group of three other males on the other side of the street, and the four of them had their own conversation going for quite some time.

Why am I boring all of you with yet another mallard story? It’s my blog and I find it incredibly interesting to try to figure out the complex social structures of animal life. They definitely do “talk” to one another, and I’m sticking to my theory that birds use their sense of smell far more than anything that I have read on that subject. I could be wrong about that, it wouldn’t be the first time, but I think that science has overlooked how important the sense of smell is to birds.

The other big news from yesterday evening the scarlet tanagers have returned! I got one bad photo of a male before he disappeared into the tree canopy and gathering darkness.

Male scarlet tanager

Hardly a great shot, but I’m happy with it since it was shot hand-held with the lens set to 300 mm at 1/30 of a second. They don’t call me the human tripod for nothing. 🙂

Now, the reason I ended last weeks post on a down note was because the workers here had cut down all the brush on one side of the long back pond. What I saw last night only made me even madder. They had all winter to clear that brush, but they chose instead to do it in the spring. Here’s why it really ticked me off last night.

Cottontail rabbit mother nursing her young

I don’t think that you can make them out in that photo, but that’s a mother rabbit nursing her young in the area where they had cleared the brush Friday afternoon. Obviously, she had set up house in the brush where it had been safe, and she and her young were hidden by the brush from all the airborne predators we have around here. With the brush chopped down, she and her young have been left exposed, not only to me, but also to any predators.

Many of us get upset when we hear that a big company is going to log off a large tract of old growth forest, but there are times when we should be just as upset if some one clears a small area of brush. The effects are just as devastating to the critters there. And yes, I did send an Email to corporate about the way the landscaping is being done around here this year.

Now, getting to Sunday, when this post is supposed to “officially” begin. It’s cloudy right now, our “mainly dry weekend” is now predicted to get much wetter this afternoon. It sprinkled most of yesterday, and heavy rain is now forecast for later, so I had better get my butt in gear, eat breakfast, and see what there is to see before the storms hit.

No heavy rain, but we did get some light rain during my second of three laps today. I don’t have many photos to show for over six miles either, which is really strange.

Starting the first lap it was cool and cloudy, with very little wind to speak of. It warmed up very quickly, even though the clouds were getting thicker and darker for the entire time it took me to do the first lap. The only photo of note is a very bad one of a catbird that I went in the brush after. He thought he was safe, I sure fooled him!

Grey catbird

His job today was to distract me with his beautiful singing while other critters romped all around me. While I was trying to get a clear view of the catbird, I saw a baby bunny, one of the kingfishers, a song sparrow, and a warbler with a black face that I only caught a glimpse of and couldn’t identify. Of course I missed shot of all of them, I was in the middle of a thicket going after the catbird. Oh well, his singing made it worth it.

I’ve been trying to cut back on the number of mallard shots I take, really, I have. But, there are days when the mallards are the only species that will sit still for a photo.

Female mallard drying her wings

I wanted to see if I could freeze the motion of her wings on a day like today, no, not quite. They sure do generate some wing speed when they are drying their wings. No wonder they can fly as fast as they do.

Some one’s iris are blooming.

Iris blooming

As are the May apples.

May apple in bloom

I also was able to capture a photo of the extremely rare green throated robin!

The rare green throated robin

Hey, what can I say, it was a slow day. The way that the leaf is positioned did cause me to do a double take to be sure that it was a robin behind the leaf.

After the first lap, I stopped at my apartment and ditched the jacket that was too warm now that it had warmed up outside, and grabbed a rain jacket instead. Good thing that I did. I hadn’t gone very far and a light rain began to fall. At first, it sounded as if every male robin for miles around began to sing, then, as the rain continued, they set off to search for earthworms brought to the surface by the rain. The male cardinals took up singing where the robins had left off, I don’t think I have ever heard so many cardinals singing at one time as I did today.

Of course with the rain, there are no photos, I was bummed about that in a way. On the other hand, it was nice just strolling along watching and listening to the birds, and watching people trying to avoid getting wet as if it were a death sentence or something. Like I told my neighbor as we met on the stairs, I’ve been rained on before, it probably will be rained on again.

I did hurry a little, the thunder and lightning in the distance made me pick up my pace somewhat. I used to love being out in thunder showers, but since the lightning bolt incident back in the early 90’s, I’ve grown a bit more cautious about lightning. I wasn’t struck by lightning, but it was so close that the concussion from the lightning bolt nearly knocked me off my feet. Scared my dog half to death too.

I came back to my apartment, did some online things I needed to do, and was about to begin writing this, when I noticed that not only had the rain stopped, it was brighter outside than it has been for several days. Well, time for another lap.  It was much the same as the first two, but brighter. I could hear birds that I wanted to photograph, and every once in a while catch a flash of color as they moved in the treetops, but never a good opportunity for a photo except for this catbird.

Grey catbird

He was singing his fool head off. I stood in the area for some time, waiting for a better shot, and so that I could listen to him singing away. I’m sure that I have said this before, but there’s nothing like a day of fly fishing on a beautiful river somewhere with a catbird singing in the brush along the bank as I fish, I love it!

Lap three started out bright, but the clouds soon returned, ruining what would have been two great shots.

Coopers hawk in flight

Great blue heron in flight

As you can see, I was close to both of them as they flew over me, but I still have not figured out how to get a good exposure against a cloudy sky.

I think that’s it for today, I need a nap, so it’s on to Monday.

Monday

The rain and thunder returned last evening and we received a considerable amount of rain. The thunder showers have passed, but a light rain continues to fall this morning. Checking the radar, there will be no end to the rain this morning, so today’s walk will probably be quick, and possibly photo free.

The light rain continues to fall after I have finished my walk for today, it’s nice to see the creeks full for a change, and not with muddy water the way that they fill up after a quick downpour. They are running the way that they should be, we really needed this soaking rain!

I did take a few photos, but I haven’t downloaded them from the camera yet, I have the battery charging right now, so I will do the download tonight and see if any are worth posting, I doubt it.

I love walking in the rain, but there are some downsides. Photography for one, I don’t want to risk my cameras getting wet, plus, unless you set up on a tripod and take long exposures, you’re not going to get many photos anyway.

The other thing is how much wearing a hood cuts down on my field of vision and also effects how well I can hear things. I heard a catbird singing today and tried to locate where he was for future reference, but I couldn’t pinpoint where he was until I pulled my hood off.

About the wildlife specifically the birds. The robins, finches, and cardinals were singing, not much else was though. I think the thing that surprised me the most today was how skittish the mallards were. I am used to them paying very little attention to me unless I get very close to them, today, they were taking flight when they saw me fifty feet away. I’ll have to see if they act the same way the next time it rains.

As for the geese, except for the pair at the center pond where the female is on her nest, I didn’t see any. They fight bill and webbed foot (and every other means they can) over who gets to claim the ponds, then they turn around and leave for long periods of time. That makes me wonder if they fight over territory, or if the fights are all about who was there first that day, until the female’s nest of course. Since I have no way of knowing if it is the same pairs claiming the same ponds all the time, I wonder.

I took a break from working on this to catch up on a few news headlines, and I really wish that I hadn’t, for here’s one story that should get nearly every one enraged.

Bill giving Homeland Security control of public lands sparks concerns

Are they going to start strip searching grandmothers who visit our National Parks? I didn’t do any follow-up on the story, I never trust just one source, so I’ll have to read more, but I can see NO reason for Homeland Security to control all of the United State’s public lands, or any lands for that matter. The story says public lands within 100 miles of the Canadian and Mexican borders, but that would include some of the Federal Public land here in Michigan. The last thing I want to deal with is Homeland Security if I were to go hiking in one of the National Forests, as I have been known to do.

This scares the crap out of me, and it should scare every one in the US who is concerned that we are becoming a police state, and we are!

So, time to do some more reading about this bill, on to Tuesday.

Tuesday

The rain has ended, unless you count the fog that remains as rain. While I have been waiting for the fog to burn off, I did a little more reading about the proposed legislation to give Homeland Security control over all Federal lands within 100 miles of the border. What the intentions of the bill are, is to give the US Border Patrol the ability conduct operations without seeking permission from other Federal Agencies who have jurisdiction over those Federal lands. That includes giving  the Border Patrol permission to build roads and fences anywhere the Border Patrol sees fit, without having to comply with any environmental laws or regulations.

Knowing what the way that the dingbats in Washington think, they’ll be building a base on Isle Royale to catch people trying to swim across Lake Superior to enter this country illegally. Yeah, right. For those of you unfamiliar with Lake Superior, it is several hundred miles across, and the water temperature always remains so cold that hypothermia sets in on any one in the water for more than a few minutes, even in late summer. Isle Royale is an archipelago located in Lake Superior and is a National Park and wilderness area.

After reading more, I now have two reasons to oppose this bill, one is that it would bring us even closer to being a police state, and the other is because of the environmental impact that having the Border Patrol running wild would have. I really don’t want to have to deal with Homeland Security if I go hiking or kayaking in an area where they are in control.

I have a rather unique perspective on the problem of illegal immigration to begin with. I have nothing but respect for any one with the guts to give up everything that they have and risk life and limb to get to this country to make a better life for themself. If I ruled this country, and it’s a good thing that I don’t, rather than deport the illegal immigrant, I would revoke the citizenship of the whiney, lazy Americans who believe that they are owed a comfy lifestyle with no effort on their part just for having been born here and deport them to the country the illegal immigrant came from instead. Let them see what the rest of the world is like, and maybe it will change their thinking, but I doubt it.

I certainly didn’t set driving truck as my goal, but when the economy tanked, I found a job that would pay my bills, even if it was a huge step down. Too many Americans think that it is the responsibility of the government or business to provide for them for life. I had better stop here, or you will all think that I really am a nutcase.

Wednesday

I didn’t have time to add a single word to this yesterday when I should have worked on it, I took too many photos again, as you will see. I may end up doing much of yesterday, and even the rest of the week as a photo dump. Not only do I have many photos from yesterday, but after a light shower this morning, it is turning into another beautiful day. On top of that, there’s a sale starting on Thursday on some clothes that I need, so I should take some time off from blogging and pick up what I need. I’d like to hit the sale during the week, before all the good stuff sells and I have to settle for what’s left.

I also received a reply to the Email I sent to the corporate offices of the company that owns the apartment complex where I live. It was one of the finest examples of corporate doublespeak that it has been my misfortune to read in quite some time. More on that later.

In spite of the fact that I am way behind here, today I took the time to sit down in the grass on the side of the hill overlooking the back pond. Obstensibly, I did so trying to get some better photos of the kingfishers in action, but it was such a beautiful day that I sat there listening to the birds singing, watching them (especially the swallows) flying around the area, and more than anything, relaxed.

Thursday

I’m getting even farther behind, I have many photos to add here, but haven’t had the time so far. It is another absolutely beautiful day outside today, so do I sit here and try to catch up, or do I go out there and take even more photos.

Going outdoors wins, it almost always does! I would like to capture all the migratory birds in their brilliant spring plumage, there will be other times when my life slows down for me to write here, but there are only a few weeks in spring when the weather is this great to be outside and alive. So I am going to get out there and live, and I may even sit down somewhere for a while again today. I’m sorry that this weeks post is not going to be what it should be, but, there are only 24 hours in a day.

Wow, I made it back much earlier than I expected. So, what I am going to do is post a few of the photos that I have taken the last few days.

Grey catbird

White-crowned sparrows

White-crowned sparrow

Male Baltimore oriole

American robins

American robin bathing

American robin in flight

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Rhododendron

Assorted wildlife

Cedar waxwing

Fox squirrel eating maple seeds

Unidentified warbler

Male Baltimore oriole

Song sparrow

American robin caught in the nesting material she was collecting

Somehow the robin’s leg got tangled up in some string that I assume she was picking up for her nest. She was caught, so I freed her by breaking the string loose for her. She flew to a nearby tree and freed what was left of the string from her foot.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Canada goose stretching its wings

Blue jay in flight

Belted kingfisher in flight

Male northern cardinal

Monarch butterfly

Red-tailed hawk under attack

Mourning dove in flight

Iris in bloom

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

Chipping sparrow

Downy woodpecker

For some one who questioned whether he would be able to get good photos of songbirds less than a year ago, I think that I am proving myself wrong, and doing a very good job of it if I do say so myself.

There are so many left to go though. The rose-breasted grosbeak eluded me again this morning, as he has the past few mornings. I got a few photos of the female a few days ago, but they were junk, so I deleted them.

With all the beautiful songbirds around here, you would think that the company that owns this apartment complex would use that as a selling point to attract people to rent here. They did when I first moved in, and I thought that they were pulling my leg, just telling me what I wanted to hear. See how wrong I can be?

I am trying very hard not to go off the deep end and declare an all out blogging war on Byron Lakes Apartments, and Edward Rose & Sons, the company that owns this complex.

At some time yesterday afternoon, they whacked down more of the brush along the back fence. There were several sparrow nests in that brush which were destroyed when the brush was cut down. I’m getting ahead of myself here.

This is the response that I received from corporate headquarters to my e-mail concerning the habitat and wildlife here.

“Dear Jerry,
Thank you for your e-mail in regards to the landscaping at Byron Lakes Apartments.  There is a fine balance between a manicured landscape, a maintained natural landscape, and a native landscape.  It has always been the goal of Edward Rose and Sons to create landscapes that are aesthetically appealing and functional to our residents, but also take into consideration the environment.  Our landscaping decisions are based on a number of factors, including safety, functionality and overall appearance of the property.  We appreciate your opinions and will look into addressing the issues of which you are concerned.”

Like I said earlier, corporate doublespeak for “We don’t care what you think, we only want you to think that we care”. Needless to say, I was hot when I saw that they had cut down more of the brush and destroyed several bird nests in the process.

So, I sent another e-mail, reminding them that migratory songbirds and waterfowl are protected by various state and federal laws. Their nests are protected by those same laws for the period of time when there are eggs or the young of those birds present. Destroying the nests when there are eggs or young birds present is a violation of those laws. We’ll see if that makes a difference, but I doubt it.

I would think that they would have the groundskeepers cleaning up all the trash around here rather than doing what they are doing. They had all winter to remove the brush if that’s what they had in mind, they sure didn’t spend much time on snow removal this winter as we didn’t get much snow, and the workers sure took their sweet time clearing the walks around here when we did get snow.

I had better calm down or I’ll blow a gasket. Besides, it’s time for work, and I can stew about the dead birds all night. On to Friday.

Friday

After two perfectly wonderful examples of mid-spring weather that we’ve had the last two days, it is hard to believe that we’re getting a third, but we are! Bright blue skies and vivid green leaves, I love it! So, it’s time to get moving.

What a beautiful day, except for one thing. They were spraying the lawn here, I don’t know if it was a pesticide or a herbicide, but the thick, heavy smell of it was overwhelming at times. Other than that, you couldn’t ask for a nicer day.

I have spent some time trying to identify a bird that I photographed today, it is the most nondescript bird that I think I have ever seen. Here’s a couple of photos, if you can help me out, I would appreciate it.

Warbling Vireo?

Warbling Vireo

It was flitting about in the low brush around one of the ponds, and as you can see, he was quite the singer. He was about the same size as a yellow warbler, in browsing All About Birds, a Warbling Vireo is what I have come up with for an identification. If I’m wrong, please let me know.

I have photos of what I believe is a warbler that I have yet to identify as well, I’ll post photos of it if I can come up with an ID. I saw yet another warbler that had a black face, but no photos of it so I’m not even going to try to ID that one.

Most of the day I spent deep in thought. I have many hard decisions to make over the next few months, from employment to where to live. In July, I get three extra weeks of pay from my current employer, one week of unused sick leave, and two weeks of vacation. I’m sure not going to quit that job until after I have collected that extra pay.

My current job has no redeeming qualities to make me want to stay. The hours were what I needed at the time to care for my elderly mother, but those needs no longer apply. The wages and benefits, what little that there are, suck! In addition, the way that the South Bend, Indiana branch is losing business, the company would probably be better off closing it, and if that happens, I would be out of a job anyway.

As to where to live, I used to love living here at the apartment complex where I am living now, but it isn’t the same place that I moved into. I hate what they are doing as far as clearing the brush and small trees out and turning them into lawn, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I am fed up with the loud parties every weekend, the trash, office staff that is rude, them claiming that I was late with my rent check on a regular basis, even though I hand deliver it to them on time every month. Two years ago, I would have recommended this place to any one, and I did. Since the new manager took over, this place has changed so much that I don’t recommend that any one move here.

Sorry, sometimes life gets in the way of blogging. Let’s see, what else was there about my walk. I did see both the male and female coopers hawk at the same time today, it’s been a while since I’ve seen them together.

Male coopers hawk

Female coopers hawk

He was flying towards the new swamp, she was flying away from it, with several red-winged blackbirds hot on her tail. It’s hard to tell the difference from those photos, but she’s slightly larger than he is, and she is more brown, while he is a blue-grey color.

Well, that was interesting. In the middle of this, I received a call from corporate of the apartment complex asking me about my concerns on the way things are being done around here. I was told some things would definitely change, that they would hold off cutting brush and the like until fall, that’s a good start anyway, we’ll see what comes of the rest of it.

I think that the time I spent on the phone with her was productive, but only time will tell. So, it is on to Saturday.

Saturday

We received a little rain overnight, not very much from the way that it looks from my windows, and the clouds remain. It may clear up a little later on, I hope so. I may go to Muskegon tomorrow and check out the eagles there, if we do get some sun. For right now, I’d better get moving, I’d like to get at least two laps in, and I still have that shopping to do. I don’t want to miss out on getting two shirts for the price of one!

I’m back. The rain returned, for most of the day. I was less than half way around on my first lap, when a short cloud burst hit. It didn’t last very long, I stood under a car port during the worst of it. For the rest of the time, it was just a light rain. Enough to make me keep the camera tucked away inside my jacket most of the time. I did get some surprisingly good photos today though.

Red maple leaves in the rain

But for every good shot….

Darn clouds!

…and for every bad shot…

Tom turkey

…good shot…

Darn poles!

…bad shot…

Young cottontail rabbit

…good shot…

Darn buildings!

…bad shot…

Northern flicker

I think that you get the idea.

Up at the front creek, I witnessed another event that seems to confirm my belief that birds use their sense of smell far more than is thought. As I crossed the bridge over the creek, there was a pair of mallards resting on the bank on the east side of the bridge. When they saw me, they moved a little farther upstream, and into the brush along the creek bank. Just as I was coming back across the bridge, another male mallard landed on the west side of the bridge, and was heading upstream in a hurry. He went he seemed to be sniffing the air as he went. In going upstream, he was also going into the wind, so he was catching the scent of whatever was upstream of him.

I hurried to get back to a position where I could see what happened when the new arriving male got to the side of the bridge that the first pair was on. The second male looked all the world like a dog on a scent trail. He tracked the first pair down until he could see them, then tried to pounce on the female as if to mate. She and her male companion took off, I was expecting another fight, but there wasn’t. The second male only watched the first pair fly off.

I can only assume that the second male was catching the scent of a female, possibly in heat. Of course that’s speculation on my part, but that’s what it looked like to me.

One last photo, then I think that I’m done with this one.

Horned lark

Oops, not done, I had better finish the story. Since it had rained most of the first lap, and was still raining when I finished, I went to the store and did my shopping, then came back and did a second lap. Still more rain, it was only predicted to rain in the morning.

I know that this week’s installment isn’t the best that I have done, I do apologize for that. With so many newly arriving species of birds, I spent more time each day trying for photographs than I should have, leaving me little time to work on this. Hopefully, I’ll do better next week, and hopefully, you’ll all return to see how it turns out. Thanks for stopping by!


My Week….The Birds

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 29 to May 5, 2012

Sunday

On Sunday, I drove up to Ludington to kayak the canoe trail there, that will be covered in a separate post.

Monday

The rains have come again! The rain started last night, not long after I got home from my kayaking trip, and it was still raining when I got up. At some point during the night, I was awakened by the sound of thunder and heavy rains falling on the roof of my apartment. We really needed the rain, and the forecast, what there was of it, calls for more rain this week. It always worries me when the weather forecast doesn’t even mention the next day of the week, and the entire forecast is one paragraph long.

That’s usually a sign that the meteorologists don’t know what’s in store for us, and if they say nothing, they can’t be wrong. 😉  They are saying that it is going to get warmer. After one hot week in early March, it has been cooler than average most of the time since, and the month of April is going into the record books as being colder than March for the first time in over 100 years. We tied a record for low temperature on Sunday morning, and there has been widespread damage to the fruit trees that west Michigan is famous for. Many of the blossoms on the flowering trees around here were killed as well. I hate when that happens, but it has happened before, and it will happen again.

The rain has let up, it’s getting a little brighter outside, so it’s time for me to see if anything has changed since Saturday. 🙂

Well, not a lot has changed, but then I didn’t really expect that it would. The rain we received was much-needed, things are looking greener, and more trees are sprouting leaves. The creeks and ponds are full again for the time being, and we’ve acquired an “extra” pair of geese.

The gander in the center pond must not be too much of a fighter, he made a few rushes towards Father Goose last week, which Father Goose rebuffed easily. Today, another pair of geese were resting in the grass around the center pond, and the resident gander was trying to stare them away, which didn’t seem to have any effect on the new pair at all.

Speaking of Father Goose, he and the rest of the Goose family were in the back pond again today, and here’s a cute picture of junior using dad’s tail as an umbrella to shield him from the mist that was falling.

Gosling using its parent’s tail as an umbrella

There were a few light sprinkles of rain from time to time, and mist in the air in between. There were times I could see my breath, which surprised me, it didn’t seem that cold, although it was cool. My being able to see my breath may have been because of the very high humidity today.

I would say that there wasn’t a lot going on today, but that wouldn’t be true. The wild cherry trees are about to bloom for real, as well as a few other wildflowers, maybe this rain and some warmer temperatures will help them along.

There were no fights between large birds, but the goldfinches are chasing each other all around, males chasing other males out of their territories, and males chasing females because that’s what males do.

That applies to most of the species of songbirds around here, lots of territorial disputes going on, but trying to photograph two small birds chasing each other is next to impossible. I almost got a good shot of a male cardinal in flight. I had him in the viewfinder, he looked to be in focus, and I was jabbing away at the shutter release trying to get the camera to fire, but it didn’t until the cardinal was some distance away from me and out of focus, Argh!

So, for my bad action shot of the day, a Canada goose from the front pond who felt the need to stretch his wings.

Canada goose in flight

He took off, did a circle around the pond, then left for a few minutes as his mate honked at him to return, which he did after his short trip.

I think that’s all I have time for today, I’m still working on the post on my kayak trip, so on to Tuesday.

Tuesday

We received more much-needed rain yesterday afternoon and evening, the clouds are still lingering overhead, but I am beginning to see a few breaks in the clouds. Today is going to be the first warm day in some time, and the warmer temperatures are going to hang around for a few days, then, it is supposed to cool back down for the weekend. During this short warm stretch, there are supposed to be on again-off again showers and thunder showers, so I don’t know how many photos I’ll be getting this week. That’s OK, I could use a short break.

I am way behind again! I’m sorry, but this will probably be quite short, as I would like to get caught up again.

The news, both the wrens and the towhees are back! I heard them singing in the woods, but never caught a glimpse of either of them. I will though! 😉

I did something that I rarely do, I sat and waited for a bird to return. I saw a barn swallow perched on the maintainance building here, and shot a few bad shots of her while perched. I know that swallows don’t sit still, so I kept the camera on her and got this.

Barn swallow in flight

She and some of the robins were gather mud from a puddle near the building to use for their nests, and the swallow was waiting its turn to gather mud.

Barn swallow and robin

Barn swallow and robin

The swallow politely waited until the robin had gathered a beak full of mud, then hopped in the puddle to do the same.

Barn swallow gathering mud for its nest

Barn swallow waiting her turn at a mud puddle

Those shots were taken as I sat in the grass waiting for her as she made several trips. During one of my waits for her to return, I shot this one of the brightest house finch I remember ever seeing.

Male house finch

For my bad action shot of the day, two jet propelled robins in flight.

Robins in flight

And I am going to throw these two in just because I like them, and I can.

Mourning dove

Mushrooms

Other than that, I don’t have a lot to say about yesterday anyway. I was deep in thought concerning my post about my kayaking trip to Ludington, and wasn’t paying much attention to the goings on around me. So, on to Wednesday.

Wednesday

Today was a perfect example of why I never post the temperature outdoors when I go for my walks. I don’t know what the official temperature rise was today, but it was cloudy and cool when I walked out the door, sunny, hot, humid, and oppressive when I finished my walk. It was like two different days. We tied a record low temperature on Sunday, now, a mini heat wave is hitting us. At least this one won’t break any records, or last long, I hope.

First up today, I managed a so-so shot of the female eastern towhee that has just arrived!

Female eastern towhee

Towhees are one of those species of birds that you seldom get a clear shot of, they stay hidden in the brush most of the time. That photo is far from great, but to me, it is a much better photo than this one.

Bald eagle in flight

At least the first one was harder to get anyway. People will “ooo” and “ahh” over the eagle, but getting a good shot of a towhee is a lot more work and much more of a challenge.

Oh, and by the way, how cool is it when you can go for a walk around your apartment complex, look up, and shoot photos of bald eagles in flight? (OK, Donna, I know you shoot them from your balcony, but you live on Chesapeake Bay 😉 )

Here’s another species that won’t attract as many comments as an eagle will, but is much harder for me to get a good photo of.

Yellow warbler

Yellow warbler singing

Yellow warbler and insects

Yellow warbler singing

I don’t want to sound jaded, but it is fairly easy to shoot a good photo of an eagle here in West Michigan these days, their population is really on the rise! But, to go sneaking through the underbrush to get good photos of elusive small birds such as towhees and warblers is hard work!

Another easy subject these days, geese in battle!

Canada geese fighting

And I finally got a half-way decent shot of the body slam!

Canada geese fighting

Since they started it, I suppose I have to add a few more from both rounds of this brawl.

Canada geese fighting

Canada geese fighting

Canada geese fighting

Canada geese fighting

Now, for the second bout on the card today.

Canada geese fighting

Canada geese fighting

Canada geese fighting

Canada geese fighting

Then,it was all over.

Canada geese done fighting

I watched for a few minutes longer, and you would have never suspected that the geese had been fighting like that earlier, all four seemed to be getting along great. Sometimes I think they are like humans, they fight just to fight.

Even more confounding are the robins. Every once in a while, I’ll come across one that is frozen in place in an odd position as it has been injured or something, like this one.

American robin

I walked over to see if it was OK, and it didn’t move.

American robin

That photo wasn’t cropped at all, I was standing that close to the robin, and it didn’t move for some time.

American robin

Then, it turned its head slightly, blinked, turned back into a normal robin, and hopped away looking for food. I don’t know if they behave that way because they have been anting, or if something else triggers it.

Some birds will grasp ants in their beaks and rub the ants over their feathers. Scientists aren’t sure why birds do that, but it is believed that the formic acid secreted by the ants could act as an insecticide, miticide, fungicide, bactericide, or to make the ants edible by removing the distasteful acid. It possibly also supplements the bird’s own preen oil. But birds often exhibit strange behavior while, or just after, they have been anting.

One more short series of photos of some not so strange behavior. In this series, a woodchuck comes to the edge of the brush near the street.

Woodchuck

It looks both ways for traffic.

Woodchuck

Then, lowtails it across the street.

Woodchuck

Woodchuck

Woodchuck

I guess I could count that last one as my bad action shot of the day, but that honor goes to this one.

Barn swallow in flight

I think that’s it for Wednesday, on to Thursday.

Thursday

Yahoo! I’m caught up again!

It is already 70 degrees outside, during the entire month of April, the temperature only got above 70 once. That’s my kind of spring! Today, it is cloudy again, and I assume that it will be muggy as well. The weather forecast has been for some torrential downpours with one to two inches of rain possible, but all the rain has missed us so far.

Large amounts of rain in a short period of time are not what we need around here anyway, we could use a light, steady, all day rain.

All rainfalls are not created equal. If we were to get an inch of rain in an hour, most of the water would run off into the creeks, streams, and rivers, headed to Lake Michigan in a surge, and eventually, the Atlantic Ocean.

But, if we were to get .10 of an inch of rain for 10 hours, most of the water would soak into the ground for the plants to use over time, and replenish the water table underground.

The records for either type of rainfall would show that we received an inch of rain on this day, but the effects of how the rain fell would be entirely different on the natural world.

That’s one reason why weather records, like so many statistics, can be misleading.

Yeah, I’m being lazy this morning, taking my time before heading out for my walk. It feels good to be all caught up for a change. Time to head out, take lots of bad photos, and get behind again!

Now why did I have to say that? I didn’t take that many photos, 77 if I remember right from the transfer, but none are what I would consider to be great. I don’t understand that, it seemed like a good day for photography. It was bright, but there were enough clouds to diffuse the sunlight to reduce any harsh shadows. I think some of my problem today was the high humidity, I never seen to get great photos on hot humid days.

Some of that may be me, I was dying out there today. My walk to longer than normal, because I couldn’t make myself move any faster. It takes me a few days to get used to this kind of weather, and I never am really comfortable in it. Give me 55 to 70 degrees, low humidity, and some sunshine, and I’m in heaven!

Anyway, my first stop was along the edge of the new swamp, and before I forget, it is swarming with mallard ducklings! I have been forgetting to mention that for the last week or so. As soon as I get near the swamp, I can hear the mallard ducklings peeping like newly hatched chicks. They can’t fly of course, but they sure can scoot across the water quickly when mama calls them, or when they realize that they have gotten too far away from the rest of the brood.

Two first of the season sightings today, on the edge of the swamp, rose breasted grosbeaks and Baltimore Orioles!

I missed my only opportunity to photograph the grosbeak, that’s OK, one of these days I’ll sit out on my balcony and get some good close ups of them, possibly the orioles as well. I had many opportunities with the orioles, both a male and a female. I took a few of the female before she disappeared, and thought that I had some good ones, wrong! They all came out too dark, and I don’t understand why. They looked so good when the shutter fired. But then, I thought that I had some excellent shots of the male who was alternately calling, singing, and feeding. These are OK, but I thought that I had done better.

Male Baltimore oriole

Male Baltimore oriole

Such a beautiful bird deserves the very best in photography, I will have to try again.

Yesterday, when I was photographing the yellow warbler, at one point, it flew to a honeysuckle bush that was full of purple blooms. I thought to myself what a great photo it would make if I could catch the bright yellow warbler perched in a sea of purple flowers, and I spooked the warbler off while trying for such a photo.  At the time, I thought to myself, that’s what you get for getting greedy, trying too hard to get too good of a photo. Maybe that’s what happened today, I was getting too greedy. Trying for the grosbeak, the orioles, and a few other species all at the same time, like this boat-tail grackle.

Boat-tail grackle

That isn’t a bad shot, but it isn’t as good as it could have been either.

Maybe I am setting my standards too high, but I don’t think so. If you settle for just OK, then, that’s probably all you will ever get.

I have to remember that patience is a virtue. For two years I have been trying to get a clear shot of one of the yellow warblers, then yesterday, one perches right out in the open and very close to me, then proceeds to sing for me as well. And, as so often happens, once I get one good shot of a species, the good photos keep on coming.

Yellow warbler singing

It’s just that it is so much easier when a subject walks up to me….

Canada goose

…and strikes a pose for me to photograph.

Canada goose

If only I could figure out how to get all critters to do that everyday, I’d be all set. That’s one of many things about animals that I’ll never understand. Why on one day, they will run at the first sight of a person, then on other days, the same animal will sit there nicely while I photograph it. That doesn’t happen with just the mallards, or the geese, or the fox squirrels, it seems to happen with all species.

That’s all for today, on to Friday.

Friday

Yesterday’s high temperature was 86 degrees, no wonder I was moving slow, it’s a wonder I didn’t melt. The torrential rains have come and gone. I don’t know how much rain we received here, I’ll know more after I get out there. I drove through several downpours last night for work, it would rain very hard with even some hail in many of the storms, but they were all small storms and somewhat scattered. It didn’t look like that much rain fell here, but I woke up early this morning because it was raining so hard that it sounded like some one was beating drums in my apartment. I would have preferred a slow, steady rain, but any rain at all is very welcome.

I was about to head out the door, but that may have been thunder that I heard, better check the radar before I go.

No thunder, no rain, just as well for a few days since we got the type of rainfall that we did. I heard from a friend that the east side of Michigan is all but shut down due to flooding from the rains last night. Even the major freeways are closed.

We didn’t get that much rain here, fortunately, we could still use a light soaking rain, but after the surge from the storms is gone.

I have noticed that my blog has become more or less a blog about birds, funny how that happened. Part of it is because I have always been interested in birds. I grew up in a family that knew all the birds that regularly visited the feeders we always had, and could identify most of the species that didn’t.

There’s another reason as well, it was less than a year ago that I opined that photographing small songbirds with the equipment that I have was a fool’s errand. I love proving myself wrong almost as much as I enjoy doing things that other people tell me are impossible for me to do.

I also find it strange that the species that I am photographing goes in spurts. What I mean by that is, it seems like I try forever to get a shot of one particular species of bird and fail time after time. Then, doing nothing different, the members of that species seem to start posing for me every day for a while.

Take the yellow warblers for example. For two summers I have tried to get a good, clear shot of one and couldn’t do it. Every photo was either of a yellow blur as the bird moved, or a small patch of yellow in between green leaves, and you couldn’t tell that the yellow patch was a warbler. Then, a couple of days ago, one perched right out in the open for me. He must have told the rest of his species that it was OK to perch out in the open when I am around, for now, there are a number of them doing so.

Yellow warbler singing

Yellow warbler singing

I am now deleting photos of those little buggers that I would have been thrilled with last week.

Another reason the species I photograph goes in spurts is due to their behavior and availability for lack of a better term. It is close to impossible to photograph a female cardinal right now. They are all on their nests hidden back in an evergreen someplace, and I’m not going to bother them while they are on the nest.

I don’t understand why this is, but the hawks are less visible these days as well. During late winter and early spring, I could hardly step outside my door without seeing  the various species of hawks around here, either flying at treetop level, or perched. I do see them once in a while, but lately, I see them soaring high and out of camera range. Last week, I had four red-tailed hawks in the viewfinder at one time, but didn’t shoot the photo. Three of the hawks would have been nothing but dark specks, and the fourth, just an identifiable bird in flight.

Yet another reason to focus on photographing birds at this time of year is because they are still somewhat visible. When the trees and bushes are fully leafed out, it becomes that much harder to see, and shoot, many of the birds that live in the tree canopy. I have to admit that leaves make a better backdrop than stark, bare branches, but it is a lot easier to see and photograph birds before the leaves are fully out.

So, I am going to post a few bad shots from today, hoping that things will go the same way with these species as it has with the yellow warblers.

Catbird in the new swamp

Catbird singing

Male rose-breasted grosbeak

And I hope to get better shots of these species as well.

Red-bellied woodpecker

Belted kingfisher in flight

Maybe someday I’ll get photos of those species like I do of the northern cardinals.

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal in flight

Male northern cardinal

One thing is for sure, I’ll keep plugging away at it whether I am successful or not. 😉 You can see that I keep shooting cardinals even though I have dozens of photos of them already.

The weather today was hot, though not as bad as yesterday. It is forecast to cool off a little over the weekend (yipee!) and a lot next week. Highs are predicted to be in the low to mid-sixties, yes!

I have a couple more photos to share, of young cottontail rabbits staying out of sight of the dangers that lurk around here.

Young cottontail rabbit hiding in the tall grass

I wouldn’t have seen it if it weren’t for the sun shining through its ears. This other one has found a great place to hide from the hawks, but I’m not sure it is really as safe as the bunny thinks it is.

Young cottontail rabbit hiding under a car

Critters, you never know where you will find them, or what they will be doing when you do find them.

That’s all for today, on to Saturday.

Saturday

Some weather forecast, a “mainly dry weekend” except for the rain Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon and evening. There was no mention of any rain this weekend in the forecast I read before work yesterday, except possibly late Sunday evening. That forecast called for a sunny and pleasant morning, so I was quite surprised to wake up to dark, cloudy skies looking like they could drop rain at anytime.

I am being lazy this morning anyway, doing laundry and other household chores while I wait for the threat of rain to pass. Time to quit be lazy and head on out, rain or no rain.

And, there was rain. Not a heavy rain, but soon after I got outside, a light rain began to fall on and off. It’s actually what we need, it is stilling raining lightly at 4 PM. So much for scattered morning showers and a sunny afternoon 🙂 .

Let’s start with some great news! The injured fox squirrel is alive and doing well.

Fox squirrel

It has been a while since I have seen him, I was thinking the worst had happened. But, it is getting very hard to see any of the squirrels now that there are leaves on the trees. You can’t see it in this shot, he still has a big patch of fur missing, but you can see his big bright eye(s) again!

I was going to make today’s entry a bird free day, but I am going to post a photo of Father Goose and family to show how fast the little ones are growing up.

Canada goose family

Since it rained most of the time while I was outside, I don’t have any more photos from today that are worth posting. I tried shooting a few photos of the largest flock of tufted titmice I have ever seen, but none of them came out well, and then today wouldn’t be bird free. I don’t know what was up with the titmice anyway, there were 15 to 20 of them all in one medium size maple tree, and many of them were singing more than they were eating. I don’t remember ever seeing so many of them in one small group like that before, normally they are spread out more, and there are other species with them.

Now, the bad news. They are hacking down all the brush surrounding the ponds around here, in fact, they mowed to within less than three feet of one of the nesting geese. At first, I thought that maybe they had destroyed the nest from my first view of the area, but she is still on the nest. They cleared ALL the brush from one side of the long back pond, now the cover that the birds and other critters used to use is gone. Time for that Email I keep talking about writing to the management.

I was fuming when I saw what they are doing to the ponds, so for most of my walk today, I was busy composing that Email, and it’s time to get to it.

The next item could a bad news/good news thing. From the amount of beer my downstairs neighbors carted in a while ago, I am going to be up late tonight, and I won’t be enjoying the party. I hate to sound like an old fuddy duddy, but parties every Saturday and Sunday night is getting real old in a hurry. The joys of apartment living!

That could be a good thing though, it will give me more time to work on the list of species that I’ve seen here and maybe even post it tonight. It won’t be complete, but at least it will be a start.

I’ve got a few other things to do, so I’m calling this week over and done with, I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did! Thanks to every one who has stopped by!