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

Archive for June, 2012

Decisions, decisions, decisions

There will be photos later on, I promise, but first, I have some thoughts to put into words for my own sanity, and maybe even another bad customer service rant to get off my chest before I get to the photos.

I am getting far enough along in my quest for a new place to live that I have begun to find the flies hiding in the ointment, and the hoops that I will have to jump through. Since I’m not going to have much of a down payment saved up, I will have to use a FHA loan to make the deal happen. I have learned that in order for FHA to approve the loan, the entire condo complex has to have been approved by the FHA in advance.

So, of course the condos that I liked best as far as looking online are not FHA approved, and that leaves them out, darn! They were mid-priced and had mid-levels of amenities, just what I was looking for. That leaves me with two options, go cheap, or go close to the maximum I want to spend right now.

Now I have many decisions to make, as part of planning the rest of my life also involves the purchase of a different vehicle to replace the Ford Explorer that I currently own, but is on its last legs.

If I purchase a really cheap condo, I can afford a brand new Subaru, which will probably be the last vehicle that I ever purchase. But, I’m not sure I’ll be happy in a cheap condo, and that means I’ll end up buying a nicer one later on, and moving one more time in my life.

If I purchase a condo that is on the upper end of what I can afford, it will probably do me for the rest of my life, but that means buying a cheap car that I know will have to be replaced in just a few years.

As part of the decision-making process, it helps to have some actual numbers to go by to help me make the decision. So, to that end, I paid a visit to a couple of car dealerships today in the attempt to get some real numbers. My first stop was the local Subaru dealership. There, I was waited on by a very nice young man, to whom I explained why I was there, and that it would be some time before I actually made a purchase. He grasped that no problem, and spent well over an hour with me going over Subaru’s product line and giving me numbers for their base models, and what my options for financing were. Now I have some real numbers that I can plug into a spreadsheet to help me set up my budget for when I make my move.

My second stop was at a local Ford dealership, and what a difference! I told the salesman why I was there, that I was in the planning stages of what I was going to do, and that I needed some information to help me decide. My first concern when buying any vehicle is will I even fit. I’m 6′ 6″ tall, and not a little guy as far as width, so I need to sit in a vehicle to see if there’s enough room for me.

(BTW, all the Subarus passed that test with flying colors. I owned a WRX at one time, the best vehicle I have ever owned, and it had a ton of head and leg room, even though it is based on Subaru’s smallest model.)

Anyway, looking around the lot, there were four Ford models I was interested in, and asked the salesman if he could grab the keys to one of each of the four models so I could see if they would even work out for me. He returned with the keys to one vehicle, a Ford Freestyle, and then he informed me he had other customers waiting, and that I should just look around. Once again I told him that looking at the outside did me no good, that I had to sit in them and see if they would hold all me gear and hold me, and I asked him if some one else could unlock a few of the other models I had in mind. He told me that he would be back, I waited half an hour in the hot sun, and gave up waiting. I forgot to mention that he was bad-mouthing the Freestyle and trying to push me towards a newer Taurus X or an Edge, both of which are well more expensive than I am looking to spend.

I headed over to the new truck section, as I wanted to check out a Ford Transit Connect van. Those are small delivery vans, something that would work out very well for my camping, kayaking, fishing excursions, as they have a very large cargo area. I had better luck there, at least the salesman took me over to show me one of the Transit Connects, and even let me sit in it.

One of those would work out very well for what I have in mind, I could finish the rear of it off exactly the way I want it to hold all my stuff in a well-organized manner. I did that with a 1972 Ford truck that I owned, and a buddy of mine and I did that to a commercial van that he bought just for that reason.

I am leaning towards crossing the Transit Connect off from my list though, it does have a ton of room and I fit in it, but it looks and feels cheap on the inside, they are under-powered, and they cost just as much as a Subaru Legacy or Forester, either of which get better fuel mileage than the Transit Connect does.

I suppose Ford gets away with pricing the Transit Connect so high because it is a cheaper option than the others available to businesses in the market for a delivery van. It’s a plain-jane vehicle with nothing finished in the rear cargo area, just two-wheel drive, and an engine that is really to small for a vehicle of its type. For the same money, I can get either a Subaru Legacy or Forester which are all wheel drive, completely finished in the interior, get better mileage, fit me better, and are way more fun to drive! I hate to sound like a Subaru commercial, but there are times when I wonder why they aren’t a lot more popular than they are, actually I know the reason, Subarus have the reputation for being practical.

Subaru builds safe, reliable vehicles that well suit the needs of their owners, which is why no one buys them. The buying public wants sexy, impractical vehicles, luckily, I do not suffer from that affliction.

To top it off, there’s the customer service aspect of today’s little jaunt, I will not go back to that same Ford dealer. The salesman that wouldn’t wait on me because I wasn’t ready to buy yesterday sealed that deal for himself. As did the other salesman walking past me shoving pizza into his face and trying to keep the pizza in his mouth while he asked if I was being helped. When I replied “sort of”, he thought that that was funny, and had even a harder time keeping the pizza contained as he laughed. Just a little note to any one considering a career in commissioned sales, do not go trolling for customers while shoving food into your face! Yes, you put in long hours and there will be times you need to eat while on the job, and you may even lose a customer or two by taking time out to eat, but, you would lose those same customers anyway by spitting pizza at them while you try to eat and talk at the same time!

As you may have been able to tell, I am leaning towards a cheap condo and a nice vehicle at this point, after being nearly homebound for the last two years because of my Explorer’s condition, I know that I wouldn’t be spending much time at home in the cheap condo if I had the ability to go places again.

On the other hand, I am not looking forward to moving again, once, let alone twice. I’m sure that a cheap condo will come with bad neighbors, too much noise, and some other negatives as well. The cheap condos don’t have garages, that means I have to continue to pay for a storage unit, but, since my mortgage payments would be around $150, I could easily afford the storage unit.

To help me pull more numbers together, I had already made an appointment with my insurance agent to run some numbers on the different vehicles, and on the cost of home owners insurance versus the renters insurance I have now. In the next two weeks, I hope to have a spreadsheet done with all my options plugged in to help me make the final decision.

Now then, for nature and some photos. The drought is getting worse. The media have just picked up on the fact that we are in a drought, I think it’s only because Michigan has begun to allow the sale of fireworks like other states have allowed for years. Give the media a cause, and they will ride that horse to death. They are more worried about people having fun than they are about everything that’s dying because of the drought.

Several of the creeks here have gone dry, meaning the fish and other wildlife that depended on the water in the creeks for life are dying or dead. I see more trees everyday that are turning brown and losing their leaves, and it just keeps getting worse.

Droughts breed droughts. It is so dry here that the soil and plant life is trying to absorb any moisture that there is in the air, so the humidity levels get even lower over time. Even if a more humid air mass moves over the area that could lead to rain eventually under normal conditions, the moisture in the air mass is sucked out of it by the soil and plants, which helps to perpetuate the drought. That may not be the best scientific explanation as to why droughts breed droughts, but I think that it is close enough.

The weather forecast calls for continued heat, and maybe a slight chance of showers over the next few days, but it may be too late for many plants and animals if the rain does come.

Here’s a few of my photos from the last few days.

Young cottontail rabbit

Young black-capped chickadee

Female Baltimore oriole gathering food for her young

Daylily

Female house finch gathering nesting material

A pair of house finches

Bullfrog caught mid-croak

Grackle eating a Japanese beetle

American robin

English sparrow with what looks to be several Japanese beetles in its beak

American robin in flight

12 spotted skimmer? Dragonfly

Thistle flower

The courtship of belted kingfishers

The courtship of belted kingfishers

The courtship of belted kingfishers

The courtship of belted kingfishers

The courtship of belted kingfishers

Eastern bluebird in flight

Male northern cardinal in flight

That’s all the photos for this one, but one more thing to say.

Today is the last scheduled day of Internet service for me, so I don’t know how often I will be able to post from now on. I will most likely get behind on replying to comments if you leave them, please bear with me as I will get to them eventually. That goes double for the posts of the bloggers that I follow as well.

When I do get back online, hopefully this blog will get back to what I intended it to be when I started it, a journal of my adventures in nature in the State of Michigan, and not so much of the same old, same old of my daily walks.

Until then, I want to thank those who read my ramblings on a regular basis, and even those that just stop by now and then. That’s all for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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I have never reblogged some one else’s post before, but this one has so much to say about society that I think that it’s worth sharing.

Kathryn Dawson Photography

“The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints.”

I was on my way to a meeting this morning, for work, when I happened across a quite devastating scene. Shortly before the junction I was due to take from the motorway, the few cars in front of me slowed to a halt in their lanes as policemen stood blocking the road. Now with three lanes of traffic you can imagine it fairly quickly built up, and slowly the police escorted one car at a time half a mile down the road through one tiny lane gap.

As I drew level with the officers, the cause for the mass convoy was immediately apparent. Cars lay abandoned in the middle of what tends to be a really busy road, and one in particular had spun round to face the wrong…

View original post 687 more words


A drought update, and more

The drought here continues, we had a little bit of rain on Thursday, and just a few drops of rain this morning. It’s getting ugly around here as far as the stress being shown by some of the plant life. Some of the creeks are nearly dry, and probably will be completely dry by next weekend.

There’s no real rain in the weather forecast, but that may be a good thing. If I remember correctly, the most significant rain we received since the drought began came when there had been no rain in the forecast 24 hours before it fell. And I sure wish that the local meteorologist whose blog I follow would stop predicting that there’d be no more heat waves for the foreseeable future!

This is what he wrote back on Wednesday of this week as our last heat wave was about to break, “Weds. PM – Last really hot day until July”. Guess what? They’re now predicting high temperatures near 100 degrees for later this week, and it’s still June unless my calendar is incorrect.

I want to become an “expert” so that I can be wrong most of the time, and still get paid handsomely for being wrong. It isn’t just meteorologists that I’m talking about now, it’s the “experts” who predicted that Americans would be paying $5 a gallon for gas about now. Didn’t happen, thankfully. The same “experts” are now predicting gas prices below $3 a gallon by this fall. Maybe prices will be that low, I’m not holding my breath. It’s the “experts” who make predictions about what the stock markets, or the bond markets, are going to do. And so it goes, which reminds me of the worst “experts” of all, the media.

They pick which of the “experts” they are going to quote, not on the basis of informing the public, but on the basis of creating the most sensational headlines and the most buzz about their stories, all in hopes of increasing ad revenue. The media do their best to misinform the public when they pick zany “experts” to report on, quote, and to use as sources, then the media is shocked and amazed to find out just how uniformed the public is, now there’s a racket if I ever saw one.

Anyway, my efforts to combat spammers seemed to help, by making the posts that were getting the most spam private for a few days, the level of spam I’m getting is now back to normal, one or two a day. Of course what I don’t know is if Akismet was tweaked to ward off that spam while I had those posts switched to private. All I know is that I’m no longer getting swamped with spam, which suits me just fine.

It seems that there’s another trend towards black and white photography going on among some of the bloggers that I follow. I shouldn’t be surprised I suppose. Back in the early 1970’s when I was getting started in photography, you couldn’t consider yourself a “serious” photographer unless you were shooting using black and white film. Back then I wanted to be a “serious” photographer, so I dutifully shot countless rolls of black & white film, and hated the results I got, except for the portraits of people I shot in B&W.

I think that I am a pretty good portrait photographer, and here’s why I think that. The subjects of the portraits I did almost always hated the photos of them I took, while friends and family members would tell me what a great picture I had taken of the subject. That I had really captured their personality. I thought so too, which is why the subjects didn’t like my results, I got a little too far into their shell.

But for nature photos, I hate B&W most of the time. I love Ansel Adams’ work, but it’s already been down. Shooting high contrast black and white landscapes won’t make you the next Ansel Adams, it will only make you yet another Ansel Adams wannabe. That’s my opinion anyway, for what it’s worth. But, I could be at least partially wrong.

We see the world in color, that’s particularly true in nature. Modern digital cameras eliminate most of the weaknesses that were present in even the best color films, and modern photo editing software goes way beyond what a photographer could do with B&W prints as far as color photography these days. I don’t see a reason to eliminate the color from nature, when it’s the colors that make nature what it is, and what most of us find so beautiful in nature.

But then, I was looking at a group of recent photos I had taken, wondering just out of curiosity what they would look like if I turned them into black and white photos when it hit me, I shoot many of my color photos as if I were shooting in B&W, or at least I think so.

I’m not going to say why I think that just yet, instead, I am going to post a few of the photos I was looking at with no other comments other than what they are of to see what you think.

Female rose-breasted grosbeak

Fox squirrel sunning

Canada geese

Northern cardinal

Turkey

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

Wild rose

Wild rose

Wild rose

Wild rose and bug

Tiger lily

Fox squirrel

Dragonfly

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Bullfrog

American robin

American robin

Blue jay in flight

I would appreciate any comments along the lines as to whether you think these would look good, as good, or even better in black and white than they do in color, and why, and if you see what I see when I look at these.

Now then, a few more photos to throw in of a red-winged blackbird doing a little “hawk surfing”, as my brother calls it. These have nothing to do with color vs. B&W, but I think that they’re interesting.

Red-winged blackbird chasing a red-tailed hawk

Red-winged blackbird riding on the back of a red-tailed hawk

Red-winged blackbird riding on the back of a red-tailed hawk

Red-winged blackbird riding on the back of a red-tailed hawk

Red-winged blackbird riding on the back of a red-tailed hawk

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


Having a bad Hair(on) day

Ever have a day when not much goes right? Well Bunky, you’re not alone, it even happens to birds on some days. Take this unfortunate heron as an example.

Great blue heron in flight

I heard it croak a warning as it took off, I don’t know what it was that caused it to take flight, but you can see from its outstretched neck that it had just taken off. It pulled its neck back to the normal position for flight as it went along.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

I didn’t pay too much attention to where the heron went, I have told myself that I’m not going to chase them around any longer, just for a few bad photos of their butts as they fly away from me. But, when they fly at me, they’re fair game.

Anyway, a bit later on, I found the heron trying to do a little fishing in a pond.

Great blue heron

Once again, I was going to stick to my vow not to chase the heron around, but then, three other intruders showed up, and I just had to shoot them!

Great blue heron and a family of raccoons

Great blue heron in flight and a family of raccoons

Great blue heron and a family of raccoons

The heron didn’t seem to be bothered by the presence of the raccoons, but it did stop hunting and kept a close eye on them as they made their way past him.

Raccoon looking for its young

A family of raccoons

The red-winged blackbirds were not happy with the raccoons being there.

Red-winged blackbird scolding raccoons

The mother raccoon would step out into the open once in a while, the young stayed back in the taller weeds, darn, they were so cute!

Mother raccoon leading her young

I stuck around for a while, hopping that I would get a better shot of the young raccoons, but they vanished somehow or another. With the raccoons gone, the heron thought that it was time to get back to hunting again.

Great blue heron with its catch

Great blue heron

Suddenly, the heron stood straight up, I thought that it had spotted me in my hiding spot in a bush, or maybe had heard my camera, because it was looking all around.

Great blue heron

Then I saw what the heron was watching for, a red-winged blackbird and its reflection on the attack!

Great blue heron being attacked by a red-winged blackbird

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

The poor heron was sure having a bad day, getting pushed around all over the place. But, this time I had nothing to do with it, all those photos of a heron in flight, and not a single shot of a heron’s butt! I guess that means it was my lucky day, I hope some rubs off on the heron so it can do its hunting in peace.

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


My Week…Suspended

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 June 17 to June 23, 2012

Continued from last week…

Just as I was finishing up last week’s installment, the first rain in two weeks was about to fall, and I was about to go out and play in the rain. I did, it was a pretty pathetic storm as thunderstorms go, a little lightning, a little thunder, a little wind, and a little rain. Not nearly enough rain to break the drought, but enough rain to do that all in one storm would have been too much too quickly, at least it rained a little. It cooled it down, and washed the crud out of the air at least, and I wasn’t the only one playing in the rain. A few robins joined me as well as a guy from the next building, just us bird-brains! 😉

Sunday

The weak little thunder shower that passed over yesterday was the baby of a family, some of its bigger brothers dropped some real rain farther north, and even did some damage as far as trees down and the like.

As for me, I got lots of good exercise tossing and turning last night, which is very rare for me. I never did get comfy, yet I don’t remember hearing it rain, and it must have, for everything was damp again this morning. I wouldn’t call the drought broken yet, I did that earlier this spring and I was wrong, it got worse instead of better.

I have been sitting here listening to the birds singing, or trying to over the noise from the AC units running, car alarms going off, and even the occasion fireworks being shot off. One of the singing birds is a catbird, my favorite, and he has obviously been listening to a towhee a lot, as the catbird is basing his symphony on the towhee’s “drink your tea” call.

There’s a light mist falling most of the time, which isn’t a bad thing, even though we need much more real rain. The mist will be absorbed and used by the plants to help them survive, but we do need to have the water table replenished.

I am drinking my coffee, getting caught up on a few things, when I would really like to be out playing in the mist. I got to play in the rain yesterday, so time to get some work done.

One of the things I tried to do was read the latest newsletter from the Pigeon River Country Association, but I couldn’t make it all the way through. The reason that I couldn’t make it all the way through the newsletter highlights what I see as a growing problem in the world of nature conservation and groups who work in that field, like the PRCA.

A good deal of the newsletter from the PRCA is taken up by the political rantings of the editor, R. W. Kropf, which from what I scanned through is the typical liberals good, conservatives bad BS that I get hammered with all the time lately.

You know, this should go in a stand alone post, for there’s no way that I can keep it short here, but this is becoming a major problem in many of the conservation groups of which I am a member, like Trout Unlimited and the Anglers of the Au Sable. As a conservative, I believe that we can’t, nor should we, rely on the government to fix every problem in the world. That’s why I join those groups in the first place, because they are much better at protecting the environment than the government is, and I believe in putting my money where it will do the most good.

Those groups love to take the money from conservatives, yet we’re not allowed to have a voice at the table when it comes to decision-making. It seems that the simple fact that I am a conservative automatically renders my opinion as wrong, simply on the basis that I am a conservative.

I do go off on political rants from time to time, but this is my personal blog, I am not speaking for a group as Mr. Kropf should be. He’s entitled to his own personal opinions, but when it comes to the PRCA, he should set those aside and represent the group, and not allow his own obvious disdain for conservatives who are members of the group take over.

Just because there are some lawmakers who call themselves conservative who want to roll back environmental protections does not mean that they speak for all conservatives, especially not for me. What Mr. Kropf does is paint all conservatives with a broad brush, exactly the thing good little liberals like Mr. Kropf admonish conservatives not to do to liberals.

But, maybe Mr. Kropf is correct about evil conservatives such as myself, for much of my anger over this boils down to money. I resent it when these groups, like the PRCA, solicit my money, then use the money I send them to attack my political beliefs in their communications to me, as well as in the political arena. If they don’t want conservatives to join their groups, then be up front about it and say so in the first place.

Well, it’s nearly noon, and I’ve prattled on for too long on that subject, so it’s time to grab a rain jacket and head out to play.

I didn’t need the rain jacket, there were a couple of drops of rain, but that was all. By the time I got about half way done with the first lap, there were patches of blue sky showing, and it turned out to be another nice day. Even though the temperature on the thermometer was lower than yesterday, it felt just as hot or even hotter once the sun came out and evaporated what little moisture that there was. We didn’t get much rain at all. The creeks are still dry, the ponds are still low.

It was an interesting day, that’s for sure. I was thinking that as active as the birds had been in the morning that they would all be taking a siesta by the time I got out there. Not hardly, all that singing must have made them hungry, for everything was out feeding today!

As far as photos, I didn’t get any great or even any really good photos, but I did get some interesting ones. Like this robin who obviously had berries on her shopping list to bring home to the kids.

American robin picking berries

One of the woodchucks thought that the berries looked pretty yummy as well, and climbed a tree to get some for himself.

Woodchuck in a tree to find berries

That was about the time that the sun came out for good today, and my best few minutes of the day. The wind came up very strong as the clouds cleared, and for a few minutes, I could only hear the wind moaning in the trees and the birds, no cars, no car stereos, no voices, nothing but nature.

The wildlife here is incredible, but there’s always human noise in the background. That few minutes of just the wind and birds singing was like a tonic, one that there wasn’t nearly enough of. Hopefully next year will be better, and I’ll be able to get back to some real nature.

Anyway, the squirrels had things other than food on their minds, apparently it was mating day here.

Male fox squirrels chasing a female

The female finally had to resort to taking flight to escape the herd of male followers she was gathering.

Fox squirrel in flight

This one was of two occasions today when I saw the squirrels going at it, the other time was back in the woods and there wasn’t enough light for photos. It’s strange that two females would go into heat at the same time, but I’m not an expert on the mating habits of squirrels either. We sure do have a lot more squirrels around here than I thought.

Then came one of those moments that only seem to happen around here.

A grey catbird and brown thrasher

All of a sudden, there were birds of many different species all around me, and I was trying to get photos of all of them. I failed on some, but my main focus was the brown thrasher, as I don’t have any good digital photos of them. I think that I shot close to 100 photos in that one small area, and no, I’m not going to bore you with all of them. I was so busy that many of them didn’t come out that good anyway. Her’s just a few of the highlights though.

Grey catbird in flight

Grey catbird’s rough landing

Brown thrasher in flight

Second brown thrasher laying low

Great blue heron in flight with its tongue out

Brown thrasher

Brown thrasher

I also shot photos of robins, a goldfinch, a house wren, the catbird and wren together, and didn’t shoot the grackles, cowbirds, or starlings that were also present, all in the area the size of a small house.

A little later, one of the red-tailed hawks was giving a red-winged blackbird lessons on how to soar.

Red-tailed hawk and red-winged blackbird soaring

Actually, the blackbird was trying to chase the hawk away, but the attack wasn’t that intense.

Red-winged blackbird attacking a red-tailed hawk

After the hawk moved off, the blackbird continued to circle high overhead for some time. Those red-winged blackbirds sure are feisty little guys, and they get around too, as you will see later on.

I stopped at the back pond, and one of the green herons was there, but after my vow yesterday not to bother trying to chase them or the great blues around any longer, all I got was this long distance shot. And, the only reason I’m posting it is because it plays into the story later on.

Green heron in the distance

That was near the end of the first lap, and since I always reverse directions when I do more than one lap, I knew that I would be back very soon, and I would decide then if I would try for a better shot if it was still around.

I was almost back to my apartment when I came across this female snapping turtle laying her eggs.

Female snapping turtle laying eggs

Everything in nature is so intertwined! If you read (and can remember) last weeks installment, there was a day when they edged the lawn around here. Apparently, moles are attracted to the area where the edging has been done, because they have been tunneling like crazy right along the edges of the lawn where they ran the edger. In turn, this female snapping turtle thought that the soil that was freshly loosened by the moles was a great place to lay her eggs.

So, I guess that there is a reason to edge your lawn, to attract moles to loosen the soil for snapping turtles to lay their eggs in. 😉

I took a short break, then started back towards the back pond, telling myself again that I wasn’t going to chase the herons around if there wasn’t a chance for a better shot of them than I have already. Sure enough, the green heron was still there, and it had been joined by one of its cousins a great blue. I was about to walk away, when the great blue chased the green heron off, and the green heron flew to the one spot around the pond where the cattails are high enough for me to use to stalk what ever is around them.

OK, this must be fate, I’m going to have to try it is what I thought to myself, so off I went. I hadn’t even gotten to the opening in the fence when the I saw the green heron fly off, well out of camera range. I was about to walk away again, when a second great blue came swooping down to chase the first one away! All I got of that was this bad shot.

Great blue heron chasing another

Since I had nothing to do with them taking flight, they were now fair game to shoot in any way that I could as far as I was concerned.

Great blue heron in flight

Then, the chaser became the chasee!

Red-winged blackbird chasing a great blue heron

The heron didn’t seem to be bothered by the blackbird too much.

Great blue heron landing

Notice the bonus killdeer in the upper left of that shot, it’s getting so I’m not content with shooting one bird at a time any more. 😉

Red-winged blackbird hovering over a great blue heron with a bonus killdeer on the side

Needless to say, the rest of the day was somewhat anti-climatic. I did try for a few other shot during the second lap, but I was having trouble getting a good focus on anything. Somewhere along the line, I must have bumped the switch to change the auto-focus area to the far left side of the frame again, or the camera changes it on its own.

Of all the directions I could accidentally move the auto-focus area to, the far left side seems to be the least likely, given the way I carry and hold the camera, but, whenever I find that it has been changed, it is always to the far left.

Of course I didn’t notice that when the sharp-shinned hawk made a loop over me, I could not get a focus lock on the hawk, and it could have been a great photo or two if I had.

In a way, that almost worked to my advantage a little later. Even though I have shot and posted quite a few photos of cedar waxwings lately, I found one that wanted to pose for me today.

Cedar waxwing

Since I hadn’t figured out that the auto-focus area had gotten changed yet, I had flipped to manual focus to get that shot. When the waxwing leapt into flight, I started spinning the focus ring and shot this one.

Cedar waxwing in flight

It’s not the greatest shot in the world, but I know from experience that the auto-focus would not have gotten it as well as I did manually. A small bird at 15 feet away, flying almost directly at me? No way the auto-focus would have caught that.

Well, all that singing in the morning, and chasing each other around in the afternoon must have tired all the birds out for the day, because there were very few around after that. I was feeling the effects of the heat and a lack of sleep as well. I finished the second lap, and almost fell asleep at the computer while sorting out the photos from today.

Tomorrow, the real heat is forecast to return, with highs in the low to mid 90’s for the first half of the week.  I am not looking forward to that at all,but at least there are some chances for rain in the forecast, and cooler temps for the end of the week and the weekend. On to Monday.

Monday

I woke up to clouds and the sound of thunder off in the distance, yipee! This thunder shower was a lot more potent than the one Saturday afternoon, and has dropped some significant rain here, just what we need. But, it is going to get very hot later today, so I am going to eat breakfast and get out there before the heat has a chance to build.

How quickly the weather forecast can change! They are now predicting another chance of rain for this evening, which wasn’t in the morning forecast. We need a lot more rain, the creeks are still practically dry, and the ponds are still really low.

And while I’ on the subject of weather, I wish that the local meteorologist whose blog I follow would quit saying that each heat wave forecast will probably the last hot weather we”ll see this summer. Every time he says that, we get another heat wave that’s hotter than the last, and lasts longer as well.

Anyway, my walk began under very cloudy skies left over from the storm, and fresh, rain cooled air. It didn’t take long for the sun to burn through those leftover clouds, and evaporate the water on the pavement, turning the area into a hot, steamy sauna.

Unlike yesterday, when the weather had everything out and active, the storm and following sauna today put a damper on most of the wildlife activity. About the only critters that seemed to be out today were the bunnies.

White rabbit

See, the white rabbit isn’t a figment of my imagination!

Young cottontail rabbit

Young cottontail rabbit

Young cottontail rabbit

Here’s a guy I haven’t posted in a while, mostly because he won’t sit still long enough.

Yellow warbler

The way that things seem to go is that I get close to a species of bird for a week or two, then, I either decide that I have shot enough photos of them, or they disappear for a while. That happens a lot, like with the cedar waxwings. Flocks of them showed up early in spring, then I hardly say any of them until a few weeks ago, now they are everywhere around here, and soon, they will all but disappear again until fall.

That’s because of two reasons, one is breeding season and habits, the other is available food. Of course you don’ see the females very often while they are nesting, or the males of species that help raise the young. As long as there are berries ripe around here, the waxwings will stick around, but when the berries are gone, they’ll move to feed on insects.

The only other thing that I have to say about today is that there’s a brood of mallard ducklings at the front pond that are driving their mother insane. Every other brood of ducklings I have seen stick close to their mother for protection. Not the brood at the front pond. Nearly every time I see them, the ducklings are way out in front of mom, and she’s scurrying to keep up with them. They aren’t that big, and even nearly full grown ducklings generally stick close to mom. The little ones out front race off ahead of mom when ever she gets close to catching up to them, or one or two will go back the other way to spread themselves out farther from the rest of the family. I’m surprised that the entire brood has survived with all the predators we have.

Well, I guess that brings up one more thing, with all the young of all the different species here, I’m kind of surprised that I haven’t seen any predator attacks on any of the young. I suppose that I haven’t been in the right place at the right time, not that I want to see a young critter die, but it is a sad fact of life and a part of nature.

That’s it for today, time to visit my mom in the nursing home. On to Tuesday.

Tuesday

No rain here last night, it did rain hard to the north of here though, which is good. That’s the way it has gone all this spring, the rain goes either to the north or to the south of where I live, and just a little falls here.

There’s been no break from the heat, either. It was still 81 degrees at 3 AM when I checked before going to bed. It’s already in the low eighties as I type this, I’m not looking forward to the next two nights at work!

I did finally hear from the mortgage broker. I have spoken to him on the phone twice, and both times I told him that I am looking for something in the $40,000 range on a ten to twenty year mortgage. The numbers he emailed me yesterday are for a $65,000 loan over 30 years, and how to work up from that. I don’t want to spend $65,000 or more, and I don’t want a 30 year mortgage!

At least his numbers confirmed what I had worked up on my own, so I know what I have to do, and I suppose it is nice to know that I can afford more than I want to afford, but, it still gets my goat. But, before I go off on yet another poor customer service, why doesn’t any one in any type of business listen to their customers any more rants, I had better get going on my walk.

It was hot, and no fun to be out there today. I didn’t shoot very may photos, there wasn’t a lot going on, and I had no energy to go and find something going on. I could have shot quite a few pictures like this one.

A maple tree losing its leaves in mid-June

More and more trees are showing signs of stress due to the drought, even after the little bit of rain we had of late. There are trees and bushes showing way too much brown for this time of year.

It isn’t as if all the plant life is wilting away, some seems to be holding up pretty well, and a few of the plants that are normally found in drier areas, like some of the pines here, are actually doing quite well.

That’s kind of ironic in a way, the native plants that you would expect to find in a wet area like this are stressed, and the “imported” plants that you wouldn’t expect to find in this type of area are doing well.

The birds were sticking to the shade for the most part, I didn’t see nearly as many flying around here as I normally do. But, that may be just perception on my part. It was so hot that I just wanted to get the walk done and over with and get back into my almost cool apartment. I was in survival mode, and I think that there’s a lot of that going on around here right now.

I know that most of the plants that are showing signs of stress will survive, although the ones showing the most stress are probably those that were already stressed from insects or diseases, and may not make it through the drought. But, trees will drop their leaves in a drought to conserve as much moisture as they can, and when the rains return, will sprout new leaves as if nothing had happened. I do notice a lot more openings in the trees and bushes through which I am able to spot birds, it’s almost like early spring again in that respect.

The birds will survive, there’s enough for them to feed on, and this heat may actually produce more insect life for the birds, since insect activity goes up in the heat.

As for me, I’m not that sure of my survival. I’ve camped in temperatures below zero before, that doesn’t bother me, but this heat does.

There is one thing about today that has me somewhat baffled. As I approached the center pond, the geese were there, and I could see one of the limping as it walked. A goose limping is not that rare, the female geese limp around for a while when their eggs finally hatch. Since the geese sit on the nest non-stop for a month, it takes them a while to get their leg muscles back in shape after not having used them for that month. Even the males limp from time to time, I think they are just like humans, in that old age or sitting in one position for a long period of time takes a while to work off.

But, most of the geese around the pond acted as if they had never seen a human before, and made a mad dash for the pond, as if I were an attacker rather than a daily annoyance to be avoided. When I got to the other end of the pond, all the geese were back in the shade as they had been when I first approached. They were all watching me intently, normally, as long as I am on the other side of the pond they pay me little attention. There was also a spotted sandpiper on shore near me, and it took off at a dead run for cover, when they usually stroll to cover when they see me.

Maybe it was the heat, but I think that something happened there that made the birds a lot more skittish than they normally are. I don’t know if the limping goose tells part of the story or not, because as I said, a goose limping is not unusual.

Anyway, that’s all for today. I may take a day off from walking tomorrow, I know that it’s been at least six months since I have done that, we’ll see. I am going to shoot the mortgage broker an email, then try to get a nap in before I have to go to work tonight. On to Wednesday.

Wednesday

It’s the first day of summer, so I have to go for a walk, even if I know that I am going to regret it later. It may be the first day of summer, but it looks and feels as if we are in the middle of the dog days of summer. At least today is supposed to be the last of the really hot days for the foreseeable future as far as the weather forecast. The bad thing is that there’s precious little rain in the forecast. Just a slight chance tonight into tomorrow, and then again on Sunday, we need rain! But, that’s what a drought is, lack of rain.

I’m back from my walk, and I am furious, that’s the only word that comes to mind that I can use in my blog. There are a good many other words floating around in my head right now, but I have tried to keep this blog suitable for all ages.

I have decided not to do any more of the My Week series, and when I am finished venting today, I am posting this and it will be the last entry in this series.

If you’ve seen my most recent post, then you know that the witch in charge around here had the banks of the front creek purged of any flowers, wild or otherwise, and the snapdragons really get my goat, as they were a reminder of when the landscaping here was something truly beautiful. It seems that the new manager will not rest until she has turned this place into a brown, barren desert! She is one deranged individual!

My reasoning for not continuing this series is because these posts could be construed as an endorsement on my part of Byron Lakes apartment and Edward Rose & Sons, the company that owns this complex, and there is no way that I want my name attached to anything that could be taken in that way.

I am tired of them trying to rip me off by claiming I was late with my rent payment, even though I personally hand them the check each month and get a receipt.

I am tired of being treated like less than dirt when I walk into the office for some reason. I avoid the current staff  like the plague, except for paying the rent. Jim, from up the street characterized the current staff as “mean”, I don’t know if I would go that far, but they are rude to the tenants here, and I’m not going to pay some one to treat me like scum!

I’m tired of garbage in the halls, hearing stereos and televisions blaring away all hours of the day and night, the trash strewn around the complex, the people racing in and out of here as if they were driving in the Indy 500, and the sounds of fireworks being shot off right outside my window!

If you’ve been a regular reader, then you will know that I was already making plans to move out of here, that can’t happen soon enough for me now.

I will continue to do my daily walks, because I need the exercise. I will continue to take photos, because I love nature and photography. I will continue to post now and then, but they will not be centered around my walks any longer, or this place.

Sorry about the rant, thanks for stopping by!


Who in their right mind does this?

I am furious! There were some snapdragons that had escaped the wrath of Mary Dye, the new manager here at Byron Lakes apartments, but she must have spotted them and ordered the groundskeepers to destroy them, as she obviously is a deranged individual that hates any display of color.

Dead snapdragons

Those snapdragons were flowers that had managed to re-seed themselves from back in the day when the landscaping around here was a sight to behold, with flowers everywhere. These had been growing in the crevices of a rock wall along one of the creeks. I had taken and posted a few photos of them, but I was waiting until they really got going as far as blooming, then, I was going to do an entire post on just them.

That obviously isn’t going to happen now, as they have all been ripped out of the ground and dumped into the creek to die. I just do not understand any one who has the flowers trimmed off from flowering bushes, or has people rip flowers out of the ground to kill them. I have got to get out of this place before I go even crazier than I am already!


Weekly Photo Challenge: Close

I have missed a couple of the weekly challenges, but this one is too good to let it slip by.

Mallard ducklings close together

A male mallard close-up

Many mallards close to each other

Starlings bathing together

Juvenile barn swallows

Young cottontail rabbits

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


Thanks Dad!

Today is Father’s Day here in the United States, and while I lost my dad to heart disease nearly a decade ago, I miss him more than ever.

My dad

So, I thought I would do a short post to say thank you to my dad, for taking me hunting and fishing when I was a kid.

Thanks dad, for getting me interested in photography, and for teaching me the basics.

Thanks dad, for teaching me how to work on cars and bikes, and how to drive them well. You’d love the World Rally Championship, those guys know how to drive!

Thanks dad, for taking me canoeing, and teaching me about rivers and lakes, and the wildlife associated with each.

Thanks dad, for passing on your understanding and love of wildlife.

Thanks dad, for passing on your love of reading and learning, and for teaching me that through books, one can learn everything there is to learn.

Thanks dad, for teaching me that anything that any one else does, I can do also.

Thanks dad, for teaching me that it doesn’t matter what other people think of me.

Thanks dad, for teaching me to respect women as equals, long before it was the norm.

Thanks dad, for teaching me the true meaning of the word gentleman.

Most of all, thanks for being my dad, I miss you, I love you!


My Week…The drought continues

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 June 10 to June 16, 2012

Sunday

The heat continues, the drought continues. There are a few trees that are beginning to show signs of stress because of how dry it has been, and this is a wet area. I can only imagine what it is like in drier parts of this part of Michigan. There were several large wildfires in the Upper Peninsula last week, and they have received more rain than where I live.

After yesterday’s fiasco, when I allowed myself to be beaten down by the sun and heat, I am not looking forward to going out there again today. I have a lot of reading to catch up on, and I could easily stay inside and keep myself occupied for the day, but I won’t.

I know that there won’t be very much activity as far as birds and critters today, but if they have to suffer through this weather, then I guess I can gut it out long enough to get in a lap or two today.

I had hoped to get an earlier start, when the critters were active, I have seen them through my window as I have been drinking my coffee and trying to wake up. That didn’t happen though, so I will be facing another very hot day in the sun, but I’ll be more careful today.

I was more careful with the heat today, and I’m feeling pretty good. I made bacon, eggs and taters for lunch, and have a big crock pot full of chili simmering away for later. I have gotten into the habit of making a double batch of chili when I make it, for one batch, I use ground beef and light kidney beans, for the other batch, I use stew meat and dark kidney beans. I put both batches in the crock pot together, that way I don’t have to decide, ground beef or stew meat, dark or light kidney beans, and it tastes really yummy!

Now then, for my walk. I was surprised, a couple of times, about how active the birds were. I shot a series of a red-winged blackbird in attack mode that I have put into a stand alone post “The new bantam-weight champion of the world?“.

I also caught the goose herd during its migration to the center pond. You may find these boring, but I kind of like the way that the geese spill out of the trees as they head for the pond, especially the number of geese.

Geese spilling out of the trees

More geese on their way

The geese keep on coming

Holy goose crap Batman, that’s a lot of geese!

How many geese are there?

The geese that conquered the back pond!

I’m being silly, I do know that it should have been a flock of geese rather than a goose herd, but the geese are flightless right now, and I do like to have fun with using the wrong words sometimes.

I saw something today that reminded me of something that I have been meaning to put into one of these posts.

A blue jay drying out after a bath

A blue jay drying out after a bath

You would think that as hot as it was today, that many of the birds that like to bathe would be doing so. But, I seldom see them bathing on hot days, it is most often on cool to even cold days that I see them playing in the water. I wonder why that is?

Anyway, since that blue jay had obviously been playing in the creek, I headed that way to see if any of the other birds were there, nope, just this bullfrog.

Bullfrog

On my way to the creek, I was delayed a short time because I had to stop and shoot this little bunny.

Young cottontail rabbit

The fox squirrels were also out in numbers.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

And, even the muskrat was out gathering food.

Muskrat gathering food

Muskrat gathering food

He sure does keep the ends of he grass neatly arranged on one end, doesn’t he?

With the heat, the dragonflies were out and about.

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

I also saw one of the male rose-breasted grosbeaks and managed a few bad shots of him.

Male Rose-breasted grosbeak

Male Rose-breasted grosbeak

He would not come out of the deep shade, I can’t say as I blame him, it was probably much cooler there, but I had to bump the ISO up to 400 to even get those shots. My old D50 works best at 200, and I can see the noise at even 400.

To make up for the bad grosbeak shots, I took these of a pair of goldfinches, since they are always more cooperative.

Female American goldfinch

Male American goldfinch

I guess that this day proves how very wrong I can be at times. I thought that with the heat that there wouldn’t be too much stirring, but there certainly was. On to Monday.

Monday

I had gone to bed early, and I woke up earlier than normal this morning, what luck on my part! The cement contractors are here to repair the damage to the curbs and sidewalks done by the snow non-removal contractors from the last two years. The unseen costs of going cheap.

I don’t even care, other than the noise from the cement contractors is enough to wake the dead, and I wouldn’t be too happy if I had been trying to sleep in. I’m still waiting for the mortgage company to call me back with some figures, so I ran some numbers myself. It’s looking very good as far as a senior condo, I can duplicate what I have here in the apartment as far as living space and amenities, and still save $300 to $400 a month on my living expenses!

Now then, for nature. We may get some rain later today, I sure hope so, but it’s iffy. If we don’t get rain today, it could be more than a week before the next chance of any precipitation, and that won’t be good. At least there are some clouds today, that’s a good sign!

There seems to be a pattern to our weather the last two months, it gets very hot on the weekends, cools off early in the week, then, the heat builds all week long until the next weekend. Most people probably love that, hot weekends, but I would rather have hot weather during the week while I am working, and cool weather on weekends for more time outdoors. Oh well, at least the clouds this morning are holding the temperatures down a little, it’s only 75 degrees out there right now, so it’s time for me to get moving!

Today turned out to be what I thought that yesterday would be, there wasn’t a lot going on. I took very few photos because of that, but I’m not sure that it was only the weather to blame for my not seeing many critters. There was a lot more human activity around here today than there normally is.

The cement contractors were working with jack hammers and a concrete saw on the deadend street I live on, which is where many of my best bird photos are taken. I’m sure that the noise from the contractors was the reason I saw only a few robins.

Then there’s the subdivision being built to the west of here, the roofers working on one of the new homes had their radio blaring out at full volume, to be heard over all the other noise they were making. I got to hear Sting “searching for and SOS”, “searching for and SOS”, “searching for and SOS”, “searching for and SOS”, “searching for and SOS”, “searching for and SOS”, and I hate that song, it is so boring!

The low-light of the day was coming up on a dying male mallard, poor little guy. I’m not going to go into details of how I know that he was dying or anything else, other than to say I felt like a heel for not finishing him off and putting him out of his misery. My only excuse, and it’s a weak one, is that I don’t know if he was carrying any disease that I could pick up.

Back in the seventies, I picked up a respiratory infection from working around bird droppings, and it took the doctors six months to diagnose it and treat it correctly. It’s the only time I have been really sick in my adult life, and I would rather not go through that again. I did tell the employees here about the mallard, and they have the proper means to do what needs to be done humanely. Still, it puts me in a bad mood whenever I see an animal suffering.

But, for every life lost, a new one comes along to take its place.

Baby barn swallow

Baby barn swallow

Those are the baby swallows that the couple I spoke with on Saturday were photographing, so even though they are on the pavement under a car port, I think that they will be OK.

More new life.

Mother mallard and her ducklings

Mallard ducklings

And, while I was there at the front pond shooting those, I also observed this.

Fox squirrel and red-winged blackbird

Fox squirrel and red-winged blackbird

The squirrel is licking the rocks, I assume to get some type of mineral lacking in its regular diet. I have seen squirrels licking rocks before, it’s something they seem to do quite often.

As for the red-winged blackbird, that’s not the same one who ran off the gulls and sandpiper in the back pond yesterday, but I thought that this one might try to chase the squirrel away. He didn’t, he was more interested in insects there along the shore of the pond than the squirrel.

A few other shots from today.

Oh no! More pollen!

Mushroom

Young cottontail rabbit

That reminds me off one more thing about the couple I spoke with on Saturday, they asked me if I had seen the white rabbit. Turns out that they have seen it and attempted to photograph it too. It isn’t a figment of my imagination, I suppose my previous photos of it would prove that, but sometimes I wonder about myself. 😉

That’s about all for today, hopefully we’ll get some rain tonight, and some cooler temperatures for at least a few days. On to Tuesday.

Tuesday

There was no real rain last night, just a few scattered sprinkles, it could get ugly around here, since there’s no chance of rain in the forecast for the next week. It has cooled off, a lot, I’m sitting here with the windows open, loving the cool breeze. So, I’m headed out to really appreciate it!

It was almost a nice day! The temperatures were pleasant, bright blue skies, I was really enjoying the day. Then, I saw the groudskeepers here trimming the flowers off from some of the bushes and I went over the edge and couldn’t contain myself any longer. I whipped up a quick post about that, “Flowers? We don’t need no stinkin’ flowers

I did take some good photos, but it will take me a minute or two to get out of my sarcastic mode from that post, and back to loving nature again. 🙂 Oh yeah, now it’s coming back to me, I even captured the rare eight winged dragonfly today!

The very rare eight winged dragonfly

Or was it six wings?

Then, there were a few of these butterflies floating around.

Butterfly on crown vetch

The geese are molting, and grounded because of that.

Canada goose molting

And, I’m still trying for a perfect photo of a fuzzy young goose.

Canada goose gosling

And, I found a robin playing in the mist from the sprinklers.

American robin playing in the mist from sprinklers

American robin playing in the mist from sprinklers

The milkweed is beginning to bloom!

Milkweed flowers

Milkweed flowers

And, I added more photos to my collection on barn swallows.

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

Barn swallow

One of these days I may even get the exact one I want! And since it’s now Wednesday morning, it’s time to get out there and try!

Wednesday

It cooled off so much last night that I shut all but one window, and left that open just a crack. There was frost overnight up in the Pigeon River Country, I really need to make it up there at least one time this year. But, before I go off on that subject, I’d better stick to the task at hand. The forecast is for temperatures near 90 degrees again for this weekend, what a rollercoaster ride the weather is this year. A few days of extreme heat, followed by a real cold snap, then back to extreme heat again. According to the local meteorologist, we’ve had less than 50% of the normal rain since the beginning of May.

The new swamp is drying up very quickly, so much so that I saw a deer wading through the middle of it a few days ago. The brush was too thick for any photos though. Time to get out there and enjoy the cool weather while it lasts.

It was cool starting out, and warmed up nicely to being just right. We do need rain and a lot of it. While the birds and critters know that it is still early summer, some of the trees look like it is getting on to fall already.

What season is it?

That’s not good! The river birch are looking stressed as well, along with some of the smaller bushes.

Speaking of bushes, I may as well throw in that as I got back to my apartment, I could see that the flower killers had been through here trimming everything to make sure that nothing ever blooms again. I am beginning to hate this place, something that I never would have imagined two years ago. My feelings about the management here is starting to affect my outlook while I’m doing my daily walks.

In years past, if I didn’t find birds to photograph, there were always flowers, lots of them, and very well maintained. Now, there are very few of the older flowers left, and what does try to blossom gets hacked up to make sure that the bushes “look neat and tidy”. The irony is that they are leaving the dead bushes that they have killed in place, or are allowing weeds to take over instead. I just do not understand it at all!

Well, at least some of the birds cooperated today, although not all.

Female red-breasted grosbeak hiding

Female red-breasted grosbeak hiding

I had much better luck with this chickadee.

Black capped chickadee feeding on pine seeds

Black capped chickadee feeding on pine seeds

Black capped chickadee feeding on pine seeds

And this chipping sparrow tried to cheer me up with his singing.

Chipping sparrow

For my bad action shot of the day, one of many cedar waxwings flying around here.

Cedar waxwing in flight

Since I think that I have missed a few days with bad action shots, I’ll throw this one in from earlier this week.

Male mallard in flight

Although, is it considered an action shot if the mallard in the photo is levitating rather than flying?

Here’s one I haven’t shot in a while.

Male northern cardinal

And here’s some never before seen footage of a juvenile downy woodpecker!

Juvenile downy woodpecker

Juvenile downy woodpecker

The reason that no one has ever seen that footage before is because the woodpecker was still in the nest until a few days ago. 😉

More young en’s.

Juvenile barn swallows

I wanted to get closer and get a better shot, but mom was upset.

Barn swallow

But, as long as I focused on her, things were OK.

Barn swallow

Up front, I saw a flash of orange between the trees, and thinking it could be a Baltimore oriole, I pulled up and shot.

Coast Guard helicopter in flight

But it was the Coast Guard helicopter, not an oriole, gee, sure looked like an oriole out of the corner of my eye, although it was making a strange sound for an oriole. 🙂

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

Thursday

The drought continues, and it’s warming up again, just in time for the weekend. At least there’s a chance for some rain in the forecast for early next week! Grass shouldn’t crunch underfoot in the middle of June, nor should trees be dropping yellow leaves!

I still haven’t heard back from the mortgage broker, that’s about par for the course these days. It ticks me off when businesses don’t know the meaning of customer service, but I’m not in that big of a hurry anyway. As much as I want to move out of here (I still can’t believe I’m saying that) it will take me a few months to be ready to make the move anyway.

When I drop my Internet service at the end of the month, I’ll start cleaning and packing everything that I can, it’s surprising how much stuff I have accumulated the last few years. I am also going to take that time to go through the thousands of photos I have stored on my computer and delete a very large number of them, along with do a better job of organizing the ones that I do save. That will keep me very busy up until the time I make the move.

Now then, for today, sounds like a broken record, but bright blue skies and pleasant temps to start the day. We’ve had more cloudless skies this spring than any that I can ever remember. I remember saying that earlier this year as well, we must be setting records for the amount of possible sunshine that we’re getting, or close to it. For an area that’s known for being cloudy due to the effects of Lake Michigan, this is a change, and the one bright spot in the drought. I would take some clouds if they contained rain. Time for me to get out there and start walking.

I don’t have a lot to say about today, I did shoot a series of photos of a robin chasing down a butterfly or moth, but the chase is rather boring in stills. I did capture the capture though.

American Robin catching its lunch

I tried very hard to get the exact moment of the catch, and I did, but looking at the photo, I probably would have been better off shooting a split second earlier, just as the robin was about to strike.

It was kind of funny though, watching the robin pounce and miss, then look to see where the bug had gotten off to.

American robin chasing lunch

That’s all for today, on to Friday (My dirty little secret, I didn’t have time to do this on Thursday, so I’m finishing it on Saturday, and I have already forgotten most of the details from Thursday)

Friday

I am finishing my coffee for the morning, and I had to look outside to see what the weather is like. That’s rather strange for me, normally I am looking outside to watch the birds as I am waking up. There’s a crew out there running all sorts of power equipment, and I guess that subconsciously, I didn’t want to see what they are killing now.

It’s the same old same old out there, bright blue skies. It’s kind of hard to explain the difference in this year as compared to other years. Let’s try this. Seattle is known for rainy and cloudy weather, well, this area of Michigan is normally about as cloudy as Seattle is, and we even get more rain than they do as far as total rainfall, although it does rain more often there.  This spring has been very different, with so many days of cloudless, or nearly cloudless skies. Having this many days like that is such a rarity here that it is worth noting, sort of like rain in the desert.

Anyway, today is the day when the heat wave hits, and sticks around for more than a day or two, so it’s time for me to get moving.

It was hot, I’m not looking forward to this next week, especially if we don’t get any rain soon. It’s official, what used to be a creek behind my apartment is now just a series of puddles with mud flats between the puddles. Even some of the weeping willows growing near the ponds are losing their leaves, and I don’t think I can ever remember seeing a weeping willow stressed from lack of water before.

Even the chickadees are looking skyward, hoping for rain!

Black capped chickadee

Some of the trees are still able to flower though.

A flowering tree

The last two days I have noticed that there are still plenty of birds singing, but in a more subdued voice. I hear them singing, and it sounds as if they are off in the distance, then, I spot the one singing, and it surprises me how close that it is. I don’t know if that’s because of the weather, or that it is getting that far along into summer. I am not looking forward to fall when there are no longer any bird songs to listen to for another six months, even if I love fall weather and colors.

Back to today. With the heat, I found the robins doing silly things again.

American robin

It looks as though the robin may be injured, but it’s not, that something robins do for some reason when the temperatures go up.

Something struck me today as I was walking, and listening to the power equipment that I mentioned earlier. They were edging the lawn with a gas-powered edger, then, there was another worker cleaning up the mess from the edging with a gas-powered leaf blower.

I said the robin was being silly, and we often use terms like bird-brain or silly goose when describing some human behaviors that seem illogical.

The birds are smarter than we are, they don’t create tasks for themselves to do like we humans do.

Think about it for a minute, lawns are nice, but they require a lot of work to maintain. But, just having a lawn isn’t good enough for some people. Once upon a time, some one with way too much time on their hands decided that having a “perfect edge” between their lawn and sidewalk was something that just had to be done, probably by hand.

Enough other people liked the look of that, and decided that they had to do the same thing as well. It wasn’t long before you couldn’t say that you had a nice lawn unless it was perfectly edged, but that took time and effort, so some one invented the gas powered edger to speed things up, and to take the work out of it. But that left a mess, that could be washed away with a hose, or swept away with a broom, but oh no, we needed a gas powered machine to blow the mess away.

We use the gas powered machines to do the work, while we grow fat from not working. That’s OK, the gas powered machines do the job so quickly, it gives us more time to pay to go to the gym, in our gas powered vehicles.

Then, we wonder why we have no time to enjoy life, because we are so busy not working to maintain the lawn, and going to the gym to work off the weight that we could have worked off by edging the lawn by hand. And we wonder why gas is $4 a gallon, it’s because we burn so much of it on what are really silly purposes.

What difference does it make if a lawn has a perfect edge or not? How many barrels of oil are used to make the gas that powers all the machines we have to do our work for us, so that we have more time to spend working off the weight that we gained by using machines in the first place? And we call geese silly?

Enough of that silliness, back to my walk. I got some of the best blue jay photos I have ever taken.

Blue jay

Blue jay

A a good photo of an immature rose-breasted grosbeak.

Juvenile male rose-breasted grosbeak

And, a so-so photo of a male catbird singing.

Grey catbird

By bumping the ISO up to 400 and using the flash, I was able to zoom in for this one.

Grey catbird

You can even see its rufus colored butt-patch along with the details of the bird’s feathers, but it’s still not that great of a photo. One of these days I am going to catch a catbird in better light! Even going into the tree after them, which is about the only way to see them in the first place.

The same holds true with the turkeys.

Turkey

Only I don’t have to go into the trees to get turkey shots, but they do love the shade.

That’s it for today, tomorrow is Saturday, and I’m looking forward to the weekend, even if it is going to be hot.

Saturday

No bright blue sky this morning, instead, there’s hazy sunshine that goes with the heat and humidity we have. I never thought that I would be cheering for humidity, but it is so dry around here that the only way we are ever going to get the rain we need is if the humidity goes up to the point that it can’t help but rain.

The drought here is not like the ones that they have in more arid parts of the country, like the southwestern deserts, where they would consider the year we’ve had so far as a wet year, and even laugh at the notion that we’re in a drought here. But, this is Michigan, where normally water is in abundance, and the plants grow lush and green this time of year normally. Seeing all this brown so early in the year just isn’t right. The plants and wildlife here are not used to this lack of water with the creeks and ponds going dry.

There’s a chance of rain this afternoon and evening, but it worries me that now the meteorologists are saying that rain is almost a done deal, and that we’ll get copious amounts of rain tonight. Every time they have made such a prediction so far this spring, the rain has fizzled, and we end up with just a few sprinkles or nothing at all.

Before it gets so hot that I can’t stand it out there, I am going to get moving and try to do at least two laps, wish me luck!

I’m back, and I’m even still alive (obviously), the heat didn’t kill me. It didn’t feel as hot as the thermometer says that it is, which is 87 degrees as I begin to type this. There’s rain on the radar, I sure do hope that t makes it here!

As I started out, there were birds all around, I could hear them, and even saw a few. I got down to the end of the deadend street I live on, and there were two or three male rose-breasted grosbeaks carrying on. Talk about frustration! They were alternately singing, feeding, and chasing each other around, and the only shot I got that was even close to good enough to post, I accidentally deleted. That’s OK, it wasn’t that good anyway, I failed as the human tripod today.

I sure that all of the birders who read this can relate, but every time I got one of the grosbeaks in the viewfinder, it flitted to another branch behind some leaves. I had one shot all lined up, and I swear that the grosbeak reached over, grabbed a leaf with its beak, and pulled the leaf in front of its face.

I was about to bump the ISO of my camera up to 400 to deal with the shade from both the trees and the clouds, when one of the grosbeaks landed almost at my feet and started eating something from the ground. I snapped off four or five quick shots, too quickly for the shutter speed I was shooting at, 1/60 of a second. So, I ended up with four or five really blurry shots of a grosbeak nearly filling the frame.

To make up for that fiasco, I did manage a good one of a young downy woodpecker.

Juvenile downy woodpecker

Then, there are those shots that are so bad that they are actually interesting, like this one.

Crow feeding along a shaded stream

That one would have been even better if I could have found a slightly better hole in the brush to shoot through, but I do like the creek showing up as green from the sunlight through the trees, and the 3D effect of the photo.

I got a fair shot of a song sparrow looking over the effects of the drought.

Song sparrow

The effects of the drought the sparrow was looking at

What season is it?

Fallen leaves in June

I chased a great blue heron around the back pond, I have some shots, none that great, and I have decided that I’m not going to bother the poor heron back there any longer. Until the brush grows back up around the pond, there’s no where for me to hide and get close to the herons, and I’m tired of shooting pictures of herons’ butts as they fly away from me.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Although I do need to work on my timing so as not to get a wing blocking the heron’s face.

One of the reasons that it felt cooler than it was is because of the stiff breeze we had, which made flower shots difficult. (That, and idiots trimming the flowers off from anything that blooms around here.) But, I did manage these two.

I took 100 photos today, nearly all of them in the first third of the first of two laps. By the time I made it half way around on the first lap, nearly all wildlife activity had ended, other than the ever-present robins looking for food. I took it slow for the entire first lap, and then did the second lap in just over an hour, not too bad for an old fat guy with the temperatures we had today. But the biggest reason I finished so quickly is that I saw nothing to photograph, or nothing that I haven’t already posted many photos of.

Unless this drought breaks, there won’t be many flowers to shoot, and unless I improve my skills, not too many bird photos that you haven’t seen enough already. I think that it has been due to the downs in the up and down weather that we’ve had, but I’m not seeing many insects, such as butterflies and dragonflies to shoot either. It will end up being 90 degrees today, or close to it, but earlier this week, there were frost advisories for not too far to the north, and it dipped into the low 40’s here. I think the cold snaps between heat waves have been suppressing the insects this year, or maybe that’s from the drought too.

Anyway, I think that’s it for today, which means it’s also all for this week. Thanks for stopping by!

A quick update before I publish this, I am hearing thunder off to the west, and the radar shows rain nearby! I’m going out to play in the rain!


Flowers? We don’t need no stinkin’ flowers!

Warning!!! Many flowers were killed in the making of this post! Please go elsewhere if you are one of those deranged people who enjoy seeing flowers!

Today, while I was doing my daily walk around Byron Lakes apartments, what I saw pretty much sums up the philosophy of the new manager here.

Trimming the flowers off from a flowering bush

Yes, you are seeing that correctly, the groundskeeper is using a gas-powered hedge trimmer to hack the flowers off from a flowering bush.

Getting rid of those stinky, nasty flowers that every one hates

I used to like flowers, in fact, I thought that I loved flowers, but I have the new manager here to thank for showing me the error of my thinking.

Thanks to Mary Dye’s careful re-education program, I have learned that flowers are to be destroyed! In the first place, the plants that flowers grow on are untidy and grow of their own accord, how dare they?

Then there are the flowers themselves, they are so brightly colored that they hurt the eye when you think about it. Who really wants to see things like these?

Those lilacs bring up another thing about flowers, they stink. Who would want to open their windows to smell those stinky old lilacs, when they could rather be smelling their neighbor’s trash rotting in the stairwell?

Ahhh, the sweet smell of rotting garbage!

Even better is the smell of dirty diapers hung out on a doorknob to ripen in the sun!

But who in their right mind would want to see this….

…when they could be seeing this….

Where the nasty wildflowers used to grow

…or this?

Where those nasty wildflowers used to grow

Yes, thanks to Edward Rose, Byron Lakes apartments, and Mary Dye, I now love the sight of barren ground rather than those unsightly flowers that used to grow here.

You may well ask why they don’t just kill all the flowers here at one time and be done with it. Well, there are those unreasonable holdouts who haven’t come over to the correct way of thinking yet, and still believe that they like flowers. So, management here has a plan, kill everything that flowers a little at a time, and eventually, every one will learn to love the dying and dead plants.

Besides, those plants used to cost money to maintain, and Edward Rose is now all about cheap. And, since all tenants are scum, they don’t deserve anything nice anyway. What am I saying? Flowers are not nice, they are nasty smelly things to be killed! Please forgive me Mary, I had a little slip there.