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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
As are the May apples.
I also was able to capture a photo of the extremely 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
But for every good shot….
…and for every bad shot…
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.
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!